Signs and Ceremonies

I just finished reading Teaching Truths by Signs and Ceremonies or The
Church, Its Rites and Services Explained for the People
by Rev. Jas. L. Meagher
(1882, New York: Russel Brothers). I acquired a second edition copy from my grandfather’s
estate in 1998. He was one of the very few Catholics in my family. It’s too bad
I didn’t convert until two years after his death. I’d love to have a family member
to fully share my faith with.

This book is full of nuggets of wisdom and I’ll be posting some of them for the
next few days. Some of them are eternal Truths, others are sad reminders of the
damage done by “progress”.

“In this Ritual [of the Mass], every sign recalls a doctrine, every movement has its meaning,
and every action breathes of mystery.” (Preface)

“Thus all in the Church, the plan, the foundation, the music, the ornaments,
the style, all point to the altar, telling of the unchanging faith, the belief of
past ages in the Real Presence, of God in the Sacrament of the altar.” (Ch.
1, p. 9)

“[S]how me a religion without rites and ceremonies, and I will show you a people
drifting rapidly toward infidelity and the denial of all religion.” (Ch. 1,

“Sometimes you will see the Church as a great building on a rock in the sea.
That is the true Church built by Christ on the rock, that is on the Papacy, in the
sea, in the midst of the changing governments and institutions and peoples of this
world, who are ever fluctuating like the waves of the sea, but the Church is on
an impregnable rock, for the Church never changes. You see the waves dashing against
the rock-bound shores, but beaten back. Thus the Church built on Peter and his successors
stands alone in the world; it never changes; it remains the same; it is attacked
on all sides by the waves of error, the storms of persecution, the roar of the elements
of passion, of governments, of politics around it; it is attacked by these, but
they are driven back; they go down. Governments may change, nations may rise and
fall, people may change their forms of laws, their idea, their manners, but the
Church alone, as an institution founded by Jesus Christ, stands to-day and ever
will, a thing that can never be destroyed. “And the gates of hell shall not
prevail against it.” (Ch. 3, p. 51, quote from Matthew

This entry was posted in essays, editorials, fisks, and rants and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , on by .

About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

9 thoughts on “Signs and Ceremonies

  1. Funky Dung

    “The ceremonies have by no means held constant throughout time.”

    From what little I’ve read and what I’ve learned from the Oratorians, you might be quite surprised at just how similar the ancient Mass was to ours.

  2. Funky Dung

    “You can’t ask people to give the Church credibility while simultaneoulsy refusing to admit that it is responsible for its wrongdoings.”

    I’m doing no such thing. There is a distinct difference between doctrines and the sinful acts of man. Acknowledging wrongdoings by the Church or her representatives is not one in the same with challenging the Deposit of Faith. To give a secular example, one could take Bush to task for his misdeeds without blaming the works of the founding fathers, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights (It’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s good enough for spur of the moment.)

  3. John Thompson

    Another shining monument to the fact that, no matter how patently absurd an idea is, if you simply repeat it over and over and over again, eventually even otherwise perceptive people will eventually fall for it.

  4. John Thompson

    The most pious mass that you can imagine would have been dismissed as heretical at one point or another. The ceremonies have by no means held constant throughout time.

    Also, enough of this nonsense argument aobut “the pope saying we should burn peope alive for disagreeing with him isn’t really the church doing somehting because…”. No. That’s garbage. You can’t ask people to give the Church credibility while simultaneoulsy refusing to admit that it is responsible for its wrongdoings.

  5. John Thompson

    The notion that the Church is unchanging is not at all accurate. It has been in a constant state of change. What’s more, the vast majority of the changes have been very good. It’s certainly nice that we no longer have a pope who swears that if his own parents spoke against him that he would “carry the faggots to their pyre”

    It’s good that the Church no longer decides whether a person is moral by scalding their hands and seeing if the burns getting infected.

    The Church has been slowly but surely casting off the vestiges of savageness with were left over from the dark times when it rose as an institution.

    These changes in no way limit its ability to o’erwhelm the gates of hell. (although to be fair, that’s really a poorly selected metonomy. Gates by their nature not threatening. They could only prevail against us if our goal was to get into hell.)

  6. Funky Dung

    What you address is not what the author or Joe Theologian means by “unchanging”. The atrocities you describe are not issues of dogma, doctrine, or devotion. Meagher is referring to unchanging and unwavering faith. Since in his time the Mass was chock full of symbolism of dogma, doctrine, and devotion, he thought that it was immune to change as well. Sadly, he was wrong. The vernacular is fine; clown “Masses” are not.

  7. Pingback: Ales Rarus - A Rare Bird, A Strange Duck, One Funky Blog » Signs, Symbols, and Reality

  8. Pingback: Ales Rarus - A Rare Bird, A Strange Duck, One Funky Blog » Signs and Ceremonies: Sacrifice

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *