Thursday, January 28, 2016

Harbinger of Lent

Painting of St. Benedict at St. Meinrad Archabbey

The envelope was the size of a Christmas card. It was from the Archabbey. Inside was a booklet of Lenten reflections written by one of the monks and a short letter. The most important thing, however, was a small form on light card stock.

Benedictine Oblates (please don't judge them by this disreputable Bear) must submit their "Bona Opera" proposals to the abbot. This is according to Chapter 49 of the Rule of St. Benedict.
Everyone should, however, make known to the abbot what he intends to do, since it ought to be done with his prayer and approval. Whatever is undertaken without the permission of the spiritual father, will be reckoned as presumption and vainglory, not deserving of reward. Therefore everything must be done with abbot's approval. 
So, the card to be returned read:
Right Reverend Father, in keeping with the spirit of St. Benedict and the custom of St. Meinrad Archabbey, I resolve faithfully to add the following acts of prayer, fasting and charity to my usual measure of service.
The reason St. Benedict required monks to receive approval for anything not required by the Rule is that he had no doubt seen how some monks would not wisely limit extra devotions or penance. Worse, what is supposed to be an offering to God can instead become an occasion for pride. The devil is subtle. There are many monitory tales of such deception.

This is one reason the Bear accepts his plain ol' Roman Catholic Church parish. He is doing what the Church does where he lives. No less, no more. He is literally making a virtue of necessity. It seems the Benedictine thing to do. Certainly the Archabbey uses the new liturgy. The Bear and his mate assisted at a Pontifical Mass that was very beautiful at the Archabbey.

The Bear's attitude toward the Pope may be inconsistent, true. But Pope Francis did say, "If we annoy people, blessed be the Lord." We know from recent reports that the Pope is annoyed by ephemera that criticize him. Perhaps a bit of Jesuitical casuistry from the Bear.

The kicker from Chapter 49 of the Rule: "In other words, let each one deny himself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking, and idle jest."

Ernie Kovacs
The chief influence on this ephemeris of the Bear's is Ernie Kovacs, of whom many of you, sadly, will have probably never heard. He was the original genius of television. He created many memorable characters in his sketch comedy.  But he played with the medium itself, turning television from the broadcast of characters into a character itself. Tragically, he was killed in a car wreck at the age of 42. Anyway, the Bear hopes you enjoy the "meta-ephemeris" along with the content.

Even so, St. Benedict's Rule condemns idle chatter, laughter, and especially grumbling. The Rule states that one should refrain from even edifying speech, as silence is better. Permission to speak should be granted seldom.

It's tough to be a Benedictine ephemerist.

But enough stalling. Clearly, Lent must be marked by a change in this ephemeris until the joy of Easter. The Bear will try to grumble less, be more edifying, and more charitable.

In other words, this ephemeris will probably suck during Lent. The Bear hopes you'll stay with him. Consider it a penance. And, despite his resolutions, there's always the chance the Bear will eat a  horse or two.

Ernie Kovacks Tribute

And now, Ernie Kovacs with his famous oscilloscope version of the original German version of Mack the Knife and trademark short, visual gags. It probably won't appeal to modern audiences, but it doesn't mind being a little rough around the edges. Kovacs was extremely influential. Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, and Monty Python's Flying Circus are just two of the shows acknowledged as owing a debt to Kovacks.  Chevy Chase thanked him when accepting an Emmy for Saturday Night Live. If you remember Ernie from those long-ago days of the 50s and 60s, this will put a smile on your face.


  1. I need to grumble less too, so I will give up Facebook for Lent.
    It's gonna be hard.
    Maybe I'll watch some old Ernie Kovacs instead.

    1. It never fails to put me in a good mood. That and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Since you seem to know your Ernie Kovacs, I'm adding the first music I remember (when my humanoid consciousness was sufficiently developed). Die Moritat von Mackie Messer.

      Giving up Facebook is pretty heroic.

  2. That is a great Kovacs bit. That must have totally freaked the average "I Love Lucy" TV viewer. Thanks

    1. Yes, he never got high ratings for his shows. It was really experimental TV that sometimes worked and sometimes didn't, but always was uniquely Ernie.

  3. It would be great to just follow Lenten ramblings such as this throughout the season. Edifying. The idea of silence is quite appealing.

    1. Agreed. But the numbers don't lie. The Bear knows what pulls traffic. Even so, it will be very different around here during Lent. This is serious business, man.

  4. What about one sentence only contributions for Lent ?

    1. That might be a little challenging for an ephemeris. But good for Twitter ;-)

  5. Over this past summer I kept the book "Ear of the Heart" in my car and read it whenever I had a few minutes. It was the story of Mother Dolores Hart, the pretty amazing story of the Hollywood actress turned nun. As an actress Dolores Hart worked with the biggies, she really did leave a budding career for the monastery, where she still is! I enjoyed the book, and I recall that of all the people she had worked with, she had a special affinity for the person of Ernic Kovacs.
    I agree with you on the Lenten practices Bear. If we don't live out our Catholic faith in a tangible way, what's the point. I'd like to do something similar.


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