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If you think this is about YOU, maybe you should go reconcile with your parent and work to get back your kids instead of continuing to be a jerk. If you think I am you, or similar to you, welcome! :-)

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Note of Grace (Family Acceptable Television)

Everything last year stopped in our house on Fridays at 9 or 10 PM, for the entire first season of "Blue Bloods." The DVR might have recorded it, but that was only to play back the highlights. We had it etched in our minds.

Tom Selleck as Frank Reagan has been a treat for the Mister and me. We remember "Magnum, PI" with great fondness, and wonder only why John Hillerman hasn't been worked into an episode. It's nice to remember Lulabelle's gigantic crush on all the Wahlbergs back in the 1980s and 90s, because there stands Donny Wahlberg, all grown up and playing a cop. Belle gets her hair cut "exactly" as Sami Gayle does. And for a show on during the prime time (whoopie) hour, it's pretty clean and sticks to the subject matter at hand, the extended family of the New York City Police Commissioner and how they solve crimes and family issues.

Our only beef: The Reagans' Sunday dinner. Not that we don't approve of Sunday dinner. We do! We also approve of Hollywood food, sitting on the lovely table. It warms our hearts to see reinforced on the small screen, an extended family sitting down to Sunday dinner, politely and correctly (most of the time), and grace being said in gratitude for all God has bestowed.

It's the grace that's the problem.

Catholics are said to be hung up on rote prayers, often by those who call it vain repetition. But our memorized prayers help us, in times of stress as well as times of grief and excitement. Catholics are taught to pray always, and sometimes the words just don't come. Ask anybody who has been in the heat of battle or robbed at gunpoint just how quickly one's mind goes to, "O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins..."

The Reagans got it all wrong the first season, at least in our opinion. "Bless us, O Lord, for these gifts which we are about to receive from your bountiful hands through Christ our Lord," whereupon the Reagans all chime in the "Amen" and commence chowing down.

Both Belle and Baby were horrified. 

In our old diocese, every child learns the Prayer Before Meals early, in Catholic preschool if the children attend it. The former bishop might have been a lawyer who is recognized for his hard ability to get things done, but he is also the priest who insisted the children in his diocese learn rote prayer, and start learning it early. None of this light-hearted "in choosing to do wrong, and failing to do good" stuff! It was the same Act of Contrition the Mister and I learned so many years ago, with "heartily sorry" and "detest all my sins" and no namby-pamby patty-cake, but "firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to sin no more, to do penance and avoid the near occasion of sin" brass tax and that was by second grade!

The Latin version of the prayer they learned at my knee and in preschool is, "Benedic, Domine, nos et haec tua dona, quae de tua largitate sumus sumpturi. Per Christum Dominum nostrum." And the present-day translation, used at almost every English-speaking Catholic table in the world, even today and at my table, is, "Bless us O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, Amen." No "bountiful hands." No playing with the words.  No "your" for "Thy." Thy is a familiar term in colloquial English, that denotes at least familial familiarity. God is our Father, and He gets thanked as Family.

We explained that, after all, the real commissioner of police in New York City was not Frank Reagan, and in fact the Reagans were fictional people, actors who played various roles and then went home to be whoever they are when they aren't being Reagans. They weren't quite convinced, and corrected the Reagans at every Sunday dinner in every episode where grace was said.

The second season hasn't been as well received here as the first. Nobody likes the new mayor of New York, although I personally think he would be an improvement over Bloomberg. If they're trying for for a copy of the present POTUS, well, none of us think so. This mayor has slightly more backbone, grounds his politics in King and not Alinsky, but he does have that One-Hand-Washes-The-Other mentality. I don't like him because I'm not suite sure he likes Frank, for all his little sidebar on the young cop in the 'hood who was nice to the neighborhood kids.

And our kids have activities on Friday nights, activities that take up time, including the "Blue Bloods" time slot. I find myself calling the title when I do the weekly cleanup of the DVR, "Has everybody seen this?" along with "Chopped" and "Pawn Stars."

So as I sifted through the episode that aired March 30, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Donny Wahlberg's character, Detective Danny Reagan, not only volunteer the grace at the end of the episode, but to recite it correctly, complete with requisite Thy and bounty.

The Wahlbergs were raised Catholic, but it was post Vatican II, and who knows if he was as uncatechized as the rest of the kids from that time period. It was a time when memorizing prayer was seen as some sort of pressure, and even memorizing the Our Father was somehow suspected by catechists. 

But Mr. Wahlberg rattled off that prayer as if he's been saying it all his life- which is a good possibility. So thanks from the old and young folks alike, Donny Wahlberg and "Blue Bloods," for getting it right this time.

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