Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake ...

... and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. (Colossians 1:24)

As many of you know, Matt B goes in to surgery bright and early in the morning. Last night when we were talking, he said the following, in response to what must be, of late, a rather maddening question, "So how are you doing?" (paraphrased here with his permission, of course):

"I'm hanging in there. You know, and this might sound strange or weird, but I take a lot of inspiration from Pope John Paul II, especially the way he suffered in the end. I pray that this is over soon, but I hope that in some way this suffering can benefit others. I want to offer it up."

O most beloved Pope John Paul, I pray from the depths of my heart, if it be the will of the Lord, that through your intercession, Matt be healed of his cancer, that the surgery be safe and successful, and that he recover quickly. Ora pro nobis!

Matt, dilectissime frater, we're all praying for you in this holy season of hope, that you be cancer free soon!

Folks, whenever you see this, please offer up a Memorare tomorrow for Matt.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that any one who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help or sought thy intercession,
was left unaided.

Inspired with this confidence,
I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins my Mother;
to thee do I come,
before thee I stand,
sinful and sorrowful;
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in thy clemency hear and answer me.


I am very grateful to report that Matt's surgery today went off very successfully. It lasted nearly six hours. The surgeon was very optimistic, and there seemed to be no immediate visible sign of the spread of cancer in the ear. The final results will be known after the pathology reports of the glands they removed. This is all good news so far. "He's young, he's healthy. He has everything going for him," were the surgeon's words.

Please continue your prayers, especially that he be cancer free soon!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A plenary indulgence

To mark the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

Notification from the Apostolic Penitentiary (no, that's not a prison!) in today's L'Osservatore Romano (Latin and Italian only).

Here's the relevant bit (followed by my translation. Yup, my Italian is a whole lot better than my Latin):
Perciò il Beatissimo Padre, al quale sta molto a cuore che aumentino l'amore e la fiducia dei fedeli verso la Vergine Madre di Dio e che la loro vita, con l'aiuto e con l'esempio di santità di Lei, si conformi fedelmente ai sapienti insegnamenti del Concilio Ecumenico Vaticano II, nella comunione gerarchica con Lui e con i propri Vescovi, ha benevolmente concesso il dono dell'Indulgenza plenaria, ottenibile alle solite condizioni (Confessione sacramentale, Comunione eucaristica e preghiera secondo le intenzioni dello stesso Sommo Pontefice), con l'animo totalmente distaccato dall'affetto verso qualunque peccato, nella prossima solennità dell'Immacolata Concezione, dai fedeli, se parteciperanno ad un sacro rito in onore della stessa, o almeno offriranno un'aperta testimonianza di devozione mariana davanti ad una immagine della Madonna Immacolata esposta alla pubblica venerazione, aggiungendo la recita del Padre Nostro e del Credo e una qualche invocazione all'Immacolata (ad es. "Tutta bella sei, Maria, e in te non c'è macchia originale", "Regina, concepita senza peccato originale, prega per noi").

Infine anche i fedeli, impediti per infermità o per altra giusta causa, nel medesimo giorno potranno ottenere lo stesso dono dell'Indulgenza plenaria in casa propria o dovunque si trovino, purché, con l'animo distaccato da ogni peccato e con il proposito di compiere le suddette condizioni, appena sarà loro possibile, si uniscano nello spirito e nel desiderio alle intenzioni del Sommo Pontefice in preghiere alla Madonna Immacolata e recitino il Padre Nostro e il Credo.

Therefore, the most Blessed Father (referring to the Pope), who desires in his heart that the love and fidelity of the faithful towards the Virgin Mother of God increase, and that their lives, with the help of the example of her holiness, are conformed to the wise teachings of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in hierarchial communion with him (the Pope again, ie.) and their own bishops, has benevolently granted the gift of the Plenary Indugence, obtainable under the usual circumstances (Sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion, and praying for the intentions of the same Supreme Pontiff), with a spirit completely detached from any affectation towards sin, in the upcoming Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, by the faithful, if they participate in a sacred rite in honor of the same, or, at least, offer an open witness of Marian devotion in front of an image of the Immaculate Conception exposed for public veneration, adding a recitation of an Our Father and a Creed and any invocation to the Immaculate Conception (for e.g. "You are completely beautiful, O Mary, and there is no stain of original sin in you" or "O Queen conceived without original sin, pray for us.")

In addition, the faithful who are constrained by illness or another just cause, can on the same day receive the same gift of the Plenary Indulgence in their own homes, or wherever they find themselves, as long as, with a spirit totally detached from any affectation towards sin, and with an obligation to fulfill the above-mentioned conditions as soon as it is possible for them, if they unite (themselves) in spirit and desire to the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff in prayer to the Immaculate Mother and recite an Our Father and a Creed.
So, make note! A plenary indulgence coming up!

I just love these paragraph long sentences. And oh the absolute particularity of all of this -- do this and this and such and such, on such and such a time and in such a way, with a clear conscience and ... no purgatory! The audacity! The boldness! "Whatever you loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven ... " Oh I love it! :)


Fifty babies a year are born alive after an abortion. (UK Sunday Times).

A GOVERNMENT agency is launching an inquiry into doctors’ reports that up to 50 babies a year are born alive after botched National Health Service abortions.

The investigation, by the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH), comes amid growing unease among clinicians over a legal ambiguity that could see them being charged with infanticide.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which regulates methods of abortion, has also mounted its own investigation.

Its guidelines say that babies aborted after more than 21 weeks and six days of gestation should have their hearts stopped by an injection of potassium chloride before being delivered. In practice, few doctors are willing or able to perform the delicate procedure.

There's nothing delicate, I would suspect, injecting KCL into a baby's heart. It's delicate, perhaps, because doctors know that what they are doing is killing a human being.

“They can be born breathing and crying at 19 weeks’ gestation,” he said. “I am not anti-abortion, but as far as I am concerned this is sub-standard medicine.”

Yup. The standard to which medicine is held is how well it kills.

Read the rest of it. It's sickening.

Don Jim (Dappled Things) has an interesting thought. As does Amy.

Oh, and here's another nice little story. Sheesh.

1000 Executions

The United States is going to execute it's 1000th convict soon.

In South Carolina, we have our own execution this week.

(For those in the area, I invite you to a prayer vigil at the St. Thomas More Center chapel at USC on Thursday, December 1, from 6:30 -- 7:00 p.m. The Center hosts an anti-death penalty vigil on the eve of every execution.)

Again, here's a link to the US Bishops' recent statement: "A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death." (.pdf link)

An interesting article by Joseph Bottum in the September 2005 issue of First Things: "Christians and the Death Penalty."

Is God an accident?

Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology at Yale, writing in the latest Atlantic Monthly.

Of course, the title is provocative. It really is an interesting article, however. And a bit sympathetic to religion, and critical of some of the scientific understandings that try to explain religion -- the opiate of the masses (sorry Marx!) or from the social function that religion fulfilles (sorry Emile Durkheim. He's not mentioned in the article, but he was a champion of this view in the early 20th century.) Of course, in the end, we now know what caused this religious sensibility to emerge -- this interaction between these two "computers" as it were, in the human brain.
Understanding of the physical world and understanding of the social world can be seen as akin to two distinct computers in a baby's brain, running separate programs and performing separate tasks. The understandings develop at different rates: the social one emerges somewhat later than the physical one. They evolved at different points in our prehistory; our physical understanding is shared by many species, whereas our social understanding is a relatively recent adaptation, and in some regards might be uniquely human.


At this point the religion-as-accident theory says nothing about supernatural beliefs. Babies have two systems that work in a cold-bloodedly rational way to help them anticipate and understand—and, when they get older, to manipulate—physical and social entities. In other words, both these systems are biological adaptations that give human beings a badly needed head start in dealing with objects and people. But these systems go awry in two important ways that are the foundations of religion. First, we perceive the world of objects as essentially separate from the world of minds, making it possible for us to envision soulless bodies and bodiless souls. This helps explain why we believe in gods and an afterlife. Second, as we will see, our system of social understanding overshoots, inferring goals and desires where none exist. This makes us animists and creationists.

Oh dear me. How foolish of us. Most of us, as Bloom explains later, are hard wired to be creationists. I guess Bloom (and others of his persuasion) has simply triumphed the cold hand of natural selection, and broken free of the shackles of thought that is bound to simple genetic predetermination?

At least he is magnanimous enough to concede that he himself is not going to perpetuate this liberation in his offspring. In an online interview on the subscribers-only Atlantic Unbound portion of the site (Wired for Creationism?), he says:

And then in some very interesting sub-societies, like my house, the parents don't believe in any of these things. I don't bully my kids into my way of thinking, but when we talk about it, they know my view. And they're free to make up their own minds. Actually if they're like most people, they'll probably end up a lot more religious than I am.

Sarcasm aside, the heart of the article, the unproven, asserted, assumption in this worldview lies here:

This notion of an immaterial soul potentially separable from the body clashes starkly with the scientific view. For psychologists and neuroscientists, the brain is the source of mental life; our consciousness, emotions, and will are the products of neural processes. As the claim is sometimes put, The mind is what the brain does. I don't want to overstate the consensus here; there is no accepted theory as to precisely how this happens, and some scholars are skeptical that we will ever develop such a theory. But no scientist takes seriously Cartesian dualism, which posits that thinking need not involve the brain. There is just too much evidence against it.
(Emphasis in original). The mind is what the brain does. That is not a conclusion. That's an assumption, a claim as he puts it. One assumes the mind is what the brain does, because one has no other way of empirically getting at the mind. How do we know that "our consciousness, emotions, and will" are indeed the products of neural processes? Not just the physical reflections of the same? We don't (I'm no neuroscientist, but I wonder if we can ever know this, empirically). This is not a scientific conclusion, but a philosophical position: an empiricist, materialist one.

Anyway, there's some great gems in the article, such as this one:

An article by Steven Waldman in the online magazine Slate provides some perspective on the divide:

"As you may already know, one of America's two political parties is extremely religious. Sixty-one percent of this party's voters say they pray daily or more often. An astounding 92 percent of them believe in life after death. And there's a hard-core subgroup in this party of super-religious Christian zealots. Very conservative on gay marriage, half of the members of this subgroup believe Bush uses too little religious rhetoric, and 51 percent of them believe God gave Israel to the Jews and that its existence fulfills the prophecy about the second coming of Jesus."The group that Waldman is talking about is Democrats; the hard-core subgroup is African-American Democrats.

Heh. :-)

And finally, this:

Religious authorities and scholars are often motivated to explore and reach out to science, as when the pope embraced evolution and the Dalai Lama became involved with neuroscience. They do this in part to make their world view more palatable to others, and in part because they are legitimately concerned about any clash with scientific findings. No honest person wants to be in the position of defending a view that makes manifestly false claims, so religious authorities and scholars often make serious efforts toward reconciliation—for instance, trying to interpret the Bible in a way that is consistent with what we know about the age of the earth.

If people got their religious ideas from ecclesiastical authorities, these efforts might lead religion away from the supernatural. Scientific views would spread through religious communities. Supernatural beliefs would gradually disappear as the theologically correct version of a religion gradually became consistent with the secular world view. As Stephen Jay Gould hoped, religion would stop stepping on science's toes.

But this scenario assumes the wrong account of where supernatural ideas come from. Religious teachings certainly shape many of the specific beliefs we hold; nobody is born with the idea that the birthplace of humanity was the Garden of Eden, or that the soul enters the body at the moment of conception, or that martyrs will be rewarded with sexual access to scores of virgins. These ideas are learned. But the universal themes of religion are not learned. They emerge as accidental by-products of our mental systems. They are part of human nature.
::Sigh:: What was it that St. Paul wrote? About the truth of God being revealed to all human beings? (Romans 1).

Dan Kennelly at the American Interest blog has some decent criticisms of the article. As does The Daily Eudemon.

Fr. Newman has some thoughts on the liturgy ...

... or rather, on the re-enchantment of the Roman Rite. Over at Pontifications.

Worshipping the Lord in Beauty and Holiness

I was baptized in the Episcopal Church, and there I learned to worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. When I became a Catholic, one of the most difficult adjustments for me was learning to accept the generally wretched state of the sacred liturgy in most parishes: banal language, casual atmosphere, mediocre secular music, ugly buildings badly decorated. In all too many places, the result is simply unspeakable. But this need not be.

The Catholic Church gave us Chartres and Canterbury; she gave us plainchant and Palestrina. The Catholic Church saved the language of Cicero, and gave birth to the Christian poetry of the West. The cultural and artistic riches of the Western Church are still in our storehouse; we need only deploy them in a way adapted to the present structure of the Roman Rite.

Do read the comments as well. And Todd at Catholic Sensibility has some critiques. And more comments. Oh the blogosphere!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Anch'io sono pazzo!

(From L'Osservatore Romano's online gallery "The most beautiful images of the Holy Father." Via Zadok)

That says it all! "All Krazy about Papa Razzy!" (As Zadok notes, the Italian is deliberately misspelled.)

Uh ....

The things that make it to one's inbox.

Grand Theft Auto: Vatican City?


Help for Katrina Victims ... from Uganda

This story from The Times-Picayune is just mind-blowing. (Via Get Religion)

The Kireka slum clings to a stony hillside above Kampala, Uganda, home to at least 5,000 impoverished refugees who live in hand-fashioned shelters bordered by outdoor latrines. The hillside is not only home, but work: Strip quarries line its face. Men dig out its larger rocks, while hundreds of women spend their days in stooped manual labor, pounding the rocks by hand into walnut-sized stones for sale as construction material. They earn about $1.20 per day.

So American aid worker Amy Cunningham could scarcely believe it when she was summoned to Kireka last month for a festive celebration in which dozens of women handed over nearly $900 in wages: their gift to victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.


And that's not all. In a country where the average annual income is about $300, Archbishop John Baptist Odama raised $500 over several weeks among Catholics in northern Uganda in special collections for New Orleans relief, Aldrette said. In that part of the country, a 19-year civil war continues to disrupt life.


Many of the women of Meeting Point International -- in fact, most of those who donated their work to New Orleans -- are infected with HIV, Busingye said.

"There are so many groups out there that would basically give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it," Cunningham said. "They are so empowering. These are very strong women who identify, in particular, with suffering.

"We would consider them disenfranchised, but they are just extraordinary. They just said, 'We can do this.' And they did it."

Talk about living the Gospel!

Fr. Cantalamessa: Advent's Wake Up Call

On the physical plane there are substances that "induce" and aid to sleep; they are called sleeping pills and are well known by a generation such as our own, sick with insomnia. Also on the moral plane there is a terrible sleeping pill. It is called habit.

A habit is like a vampire. The vampire -- at least according to what is believed -- attacks people who are asleep and, while it sucks their blood, at the same time it injects a soporific substance which makes sleep even lovelier, so that the unfortunate individual sinks into ever more profound sleep and the vampire can suck all the blood it needs. The habit of vice also lulls the conscience, so that one no longer feels remorse; one believes one is very well and does not realize that one is dying spiritually.

(Via Zenit)

Veni veni emmanuel ...

... captivum solve Israel.
Qui gemit in exilio
Privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!

Oh how I love Advent! Especially because I hate waiting. I am not patient at all. I want it now. Yesterday! Agere contra as St. Ignatius advises ...

Michael Dubruiel at Annunciations has some great posts as we enter this holy season, including the text of the Holy Father's Angelus from earlier today.

I found the commentary by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, from today's Office of Readings, to be particularly inspiring and helpful.

The twofold coming of Christ
We do not preach only one coming of Christ, but a second as well, much more glorious than the first. The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom.In general, whatever relates to our Lord Jesus Christ has two aspects. There is a birth from God before the ages, and a birth from a virgin at the fullness of time. There is a hidden coming, like that of rain on fleece, and a coming before all eyes, still in the future.At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming he endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels.

We look then beyond the first coming and await the second. At the first coming we said: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. At the second we shall say it again; we shall go out with the angels to meet the Lord and cry out in adoration: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.The Saviour will not come to be judged again, but to judge those by whom he was judged. At his own judgement he was silent; then he will address those who committed the outrages against him when they crucified him and will remind them: You did these things, and I was silent.

His first coming was to fulfil his plan of love, to teach men by gentle persuasion. This time, whether men like it or not, they will be subjects of his kingdom by necessity.The prophet Malachi speaks of the two comings. And the Lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple: that is one coming. Again he says of another coming: Look, the Lord almighty will come, and who will endure the day of his entry, or who will stand in his sight? Because he comes like a refiner’s fire, a fuller’s herb, and he will sit refining and cleansing.

These two comings are also referred to by Paul in writing to Titus: The grace of God the Saviour has appeared to all men, instructing us to put aside impiety and worldly desires and live temperately, uprightly, and religiously in this present age, waiting for the joyful hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Notice how he speaks of a first coming for which he gives thanks, and a second, the one we still await.

That is why the faith we profess has been handed on to you in these words: He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
Our Lord Jesus Christ will therefore come from heaven. He will come at the end of the world, in glory, at the last day. For there will be an end to this world, and the created world will be made new.
Hmm. This also reminded me of something C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity. But more on that later. Maybe I'll just copy out the relevant paragraphs. Here we go, from Chapter 5 of the book:

Another possible objection is this: Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it that He is not strong enough? Well, Christians think He is going to land in force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you and I would have thought much of a Frenchman who waited till the Allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side. God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realise what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else -- something it never entered your head to conceive -- comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lied down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we have really chosen, whether we realised it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.
Phew. Keep awake!

The Season of Advertisement

The Curt Jester does it again! (Via Maggie)

"There are also other joyful greetings like Season Greetings and 40 percent off."

Absolutely hilarious! Read it!

I've been tagged with a Meme!

Oh boy oh boy oh boy. Thanks to Maggie (Transcendental Musings) in the comments below. (My first ever meme-tag! Yipee!)

If I understood correctly, one looks up the chapter and verse in the four evangelists corresponding to one's birthday. (This obviously only works if one is using the American convention for dates. :)).

That's 12:30 for me. (Yes, it's coming up. I'll take presents early ... :)).

Matthew 12:30 He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.

Mark 12:30and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.'

Luke 12:30 For all the nations of the world seek these things; and your Father knows that you need them.

John 12:30 Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.

Oh my. Maybe there's a message here, eh? :)

Maybe my seven faithful readers can write theirs in the comments? :)

And, I tag ..... um ..... Mark!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Ave Maris Stella

Pictures of Stella Maris Catholic Church, Sullivan's Island, SC Posted by Picasa

So much for lasting till Monday. :) Was down at the Isle of Palms over the break, and went over to Stella Maris. What a beautiful little church, right next to Ft. Moultrie!

So why, o why, don't they build churches like this any more?
Anyway, it seems appropriate to start out this holy season of Advent in a church dedicated to Our Lady.

Ave maris stella!
Dei mater alma,
atque semper Virgo,
felix coeli porta.

Hail O star of the ocean!
God's own mother blest,
Ever sinless Virgin,
Gate of heavenly rest.

PS: I've just created an account at Flickr. You can check the rest of the pictures of the church there!

Friday, November 25, 2005

See y'all Monday

So with the Thanksgiving break, I'm going to take a break from blogging as well.  See y'all Monday (when I'll probably produce fifteen posts or something like that ... :) ).

Thursday, November 24, 2005

More on Islam, the riots and the economy

Been meaning to share a few articles I'd read for a while. Seems to me they have a slightly better grasp of what's going on than the "All Muslims are evil let's send them away" kind of stuff.

Here's a news report from yesterday's Zenit: Coexistence with Islam is possible.

A journalist who covers the Vatican has written a book showing 150 episodes that reflect the good relations with Muslims in Italy. "Good coexistence is frequent, but rarely does anyone talk about it," commented Luigi Accattoli, a reporter for the newspaper Il Corriere della Sera.

His book "Islam: Italian Stories of Good Coexistence" was published by Dehonian Publications of Bologna. The Italian bishops' National Service for the Cultural Plan contributed to the volume. "I would say that the stories came to me spontaneously," the journalist recalled. "It was enough for me ask, for example, when arriving in a city or a parish of Rome for a conference: 'Do you know a Muslim who lives peacefully and is well integrated?' The response was immediate: 'Go to this association, speak with that Caritas volunteer, visit this bookstore,' etc."


"For example," he said, "the discovery of seven Muslims who study at the Gregorian University, of a Muslim who works in the Vatican, of another who is sacristan in a Milan parish, of Muslim immigrants who have become directors of Caritas; mayors; heads of ACLI [Christian Associations of Italian Workers] departments."

Accattoli insisted that "four Muslim interlocutors must be distinguished: prayerful Islam, Muslim fundamentalism, political Islamism, and Muslim terrorism."
The aftermath (latest Economist, full text available online):

As France picks itself up after the riots, hard questions are being asked. Nobody can agree on the riots' underlying causes, which include joblessness, segregation, hard-line policing, discrimination, drug mafias and a lack of parental control—especially, according to one outspoken minister, in polygamous families. But all recognise that something must change. Even President Jacques Chirac, invisible during most of the rioting, acknowledged on television this week that there was a “profound malaise” in France.


Usually, politicians on the left and right dismiss calls for more ethnic representation—on television, in debating chambers, in the police or in boardrooms—as a dangerous step towards multiculturalism. Few distinguish between a system of quotas and a voluntary approach that relies on peer pressure and self-interest. This week, however, Mr Chirac spoke of the need to recognise “the diversity of French society”, adding that companies, unions, political parties and the media should “better reflect the reality of today's France.”
An American Imam: From Time (full text available to subscribers only).

IT WAS ON SEPT. 10, A DAY SHY OF THE fourth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, that Imam Mohamed Magid met terrorism's victims face to face. He was presiding at the funeral on Long Island for the daughter and son-in-law of Bangladeshi Americans from his Sterling, Va., mosque. The children, who were at work in the North Tower, perished in the Sept. 11 attack, but not until this past August had medical examiners identified enough of their charred tissue and bone fragments for the parents to hold a funeral. Staring at the two wooden boxes covered with green embroidered cloth and surrounded by grieving family members, the Muslim cleric was gripped by both sadness and rage. "The terrorists who kill in the name of Islam claim they are the martyrs," Magid told TIME later, the anger still roiling him. "But the victims are the martyrs. The terrorists are the murderers, and God will deal with them on Judgment Day."


Born 40 years ago in the northern Sudanese village of Alrakabih along the Nile River, he studied Islam under African Sunni scholars, who included his father. Magid immigrated to the U.S. in 1987, when his ailing father came seeking medical treatment. Unlike many foreign imams, who find America's open society too jolting and withdraw to their mosques, he reveled in the cultural diversity. "I never had a Jewish friend until I came to the U.S.," says the gregarious imam. "And the questioning of all religions here helped me strengthen my own beliefs."


Magid has no qualms about grappling with problems that Muslim families often don't deal with openly. He has organized mosque programs to treat depression among Muslim teens and stocks the women's restroom at ADAMS with brochures on where to get help if they have an abusive husband. Teenagers and young adults come to him with questions about everything from underage drinking to premarital sex to whether the Koran allows a woman to have a bikini wax. He advises abstaining from alcohol and sex before marriage but knows his advice won't always be followed, so he also counsels on safe sex and the health dangers of binge drinking. As for the bikini wax, Islam's rules on female modesty allow it, he decided--if a wife's husband will be the only one to see the result. "He's not some big, scary imam sitting in his office passing judgment," says Zohra Atmar, a 25-year-old legal assistant who is a mosque member.


But progressive imams like Magid realize they are on the front line between the Muslim community and a country awakening--often fearfully--to the knowledge that it has a Muslim community. "It's time for Islam in America to be American," he says. For the FBI, that kind of thinking may be one of its best weapons in the war on terrorism.
(I must say, that while I get what he's saying about Islam in America being American, that kind of language makes me uncomfortable. Especially when it's used in a sense of criticising, say, the Catholic Church for being too un-democratic, and therefore un-American, or what have you.)

And finally, the Economist again, on the assimilation of Arab-Americans in the US. Hyephenating beats Segregating.

Mr Ahmed, the executive director of ACCESS, a social-services agency for Arab immigrants, reckons there are clear reasons why the sorts of immigrant-driven riots that have recently shocked and shamed France seem hard to imagine in Dearborn, or in other ethnic Arab communities across America. In contrast to the situation in France and in many other European countries, he points out, the children and grandchildren of Arab immigrants to America, both Muslim and Christian, climb the same ladder of education, income and advancement that other immigrant groups have scaled successfully, from Asians to the Irish.

That does not mean that most Arab-Americans, even in well-integrated third- or fourth-generation families, feel at ease these days. The new museum in Dearborn highlights many of their worries and frustrations. Its main exhibits—which look at how Arab immigrants come to America, and how they and their descendants have contributed to American life—make strenuous efforts to dispel stereotypes and point out discrimination, especially since the terrorist attacks of September 2001.

Happy Thanksgiving

Well, it's Thanksgiving Day in the US. In a few hours some friends will gather for a good ol' Thanksgiving meal. I'm bringing the Indian stuff -- chicken korma and pulao. [Hey, this is what they'd have eaten, perhaps, if Columbus hadn't screwed up, you know! :-)]

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, Whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
[Composed in thanksgiving at the end of the Thirty Years War, by Martin Rinkart, c. 1636]

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Pope and St. Francis

Not Innocent XIII and Francis himself, but Benedict XVI and Francis' followers in Assisi. They're being brought under the jurisdiction of the local bishop again.

Story from AP:

Benedict's decision, announced Saturday, came after the outgoing bishop complained he had virtually no power over "autonomous enclaves" the Franciscans exercised over the basilica, its adjoining convent and a nearby church. The basilica is known for its frescoes attributed to Giotto and is a major pilgrimage and tourist destination.

"The local church is a family that lives around the bishop," the outgoing bishop, Monsignor Sergio Goretti, told the ANSA news agency. "In Assisi, it was absurd that there existed true and proper autonomous enclaves over which the bishop had no power."

He complained that he regularly found out about monks' initiatives from the newspapers, and that their work caused him problems.

Amy Welborn has the text of a Vatican Information Service piece which reveals that Benedict issued a motu proprio ("on his own authority") authorizing the changes. The full text is on the Vatican website.

Further commentary from the Independent, that this goes back to the brouhahah over Assisi in 1986.

Vittorio Messori, a conservative Catholic commentator, said: "The Church has a long memory. Joseph Ratzinger has had an account to settle with the friars of Assisi since the inter-religious meeting of 1986. Now he has fixed it."

He went on: "Ratzinger has not forgiven the Franciscan community for the excesses of the first day of prayer of the religious leaders with [Pope John Paul II]. It was a mockery, as many said, that forced the hand of the Pope, and it was the friars who broke the agreement they had made. They went so far as to allow African animists to slaughter chickens on the altar of the basilica of Santa Chiara, and American redskins to dance in the church."

[I'm sure there's a translation issue with "American redskins!" Anyway, Cardinal Ratzinger's disagreement on this with Pope John Paul II were quite public.]


The friars themselves were more diplomatic. "One Pope gives, the next takes away," said Fr Vincenzo. "When we decided to invite Tariq Aziz, one meeting was enough. Now who knows what we would have to do."

But what about that invitation, extended to the right-hand man of a bloody dictator? "Whoever arrives among you, friend or enemy, thief or brigand, welcome him with goodwill. That is the rule of St Francis, and that's what we follow."

(I wonder, though, what the Poverello would have said about inviting a thief or brigand? Anyway, he was in Italy at the invitation of Pope John Paul.)

Rocco Palmo has more as well, especially on the fallout in Italy (where this, like practically everything else, has political ramifications it seems). Interesting that he sees this an end of the honeymoon and the real beginning of the Ratzinger papacy. I don't think he means that this is the sign of the beginning of the Grand Inquisition, though that is how it certianly sounds.

La Repubblica's op-ed piece today reads this entirely as "restoration" and a blow to ecumenism (and tries to make a connection with the presence of Cardinal Lustiger at the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate as being a sign of intolerance. Apparently the Chief Rabbi of Rome didn't like the idea of a convert from Judaism being present. How this is a sign of "restoration" is beyond me.). I couldn't find anything on the websites of Corriere della Sera or ANSA.

I am not sure what to make of all of this. I think there were legitimate issues with the way Assisi 1986 played out (and, by the way, it seems that Cardinal Ratzinger didn't have any problems with the way Assisi 2002 was done). I think it obvious that a Basilica should be under the jurisdiction of the local bishop, who should, of course, respect the traditional autonomy of the religious orders as well. Anyway, I don't know enough about the background here.

I'm sure John Allen will write about this this week.

The Work of God

Reviews of John Allen's new book on Opus Dei. I can't believe I haven't read it yet!

  • Fr. Richard John Neuhaus in First Things. (It's in his monthly Public Square column. Well, if one can call something that takes up a third of the print publication a column! Search for "Opus Dei" on the page.)

  • Fr. John Jay Hughes in the National Catholic Reporter. His "best work to date."

  • Renée LaReau in Busted Halo.

  • Christopher Howse in The Tablet. (Why the page says "Lead Book Reviews - May 2020" is beyond me. A prophesy?)
An interview with John in Newsweek on the book.

The Kumars at No. 42

The DVD of this hilarious Britcom is finally available in the US!

Check out the Kumars webpage at BBC America. Can't wait!

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Scrolls are coming! The Scrolls are coming!

The Dead Sea Scrolls. To Charlotte. Next Spring! YAY!

And, they have some of the real scrolls on display! Including the War scroll. And the Community Rule. And the Isaiah scroll!

Oh yipee! Oh wow! I cannot wait! ROAD TRIP! (Ok, it's like 90 miles up I-77, but that's road trip enough). Twenty bucks? Ok. Still worth it!

The arrow is pointing to the Holy Name. (Picture from here.)

School of the America's protest

From today's Gamecock.

Rather than worry about the Carolina-Clemson rivalry over the weekend, three S.C. Honors College students traveled to southern Georgia to protest a controversial center that some claim trains Latin American soldiers in torture.


The rally coincides with the anniversary of the murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter at the University of Central America in El Salvador. A UN Commission in 1993 cited 27 Latin American soldiers as responsible for the murders, 19 of which were graduates of the Institute.

SOA Watch alleges that many human rights violations and murders were conducted by SOA graduates in their Latin American home countries and that the school trains personnel in torture. The Army denies that it trains soldiers in anything that violates human rights standards.
SOA Watch

An article by a pastor who was tortured in Brazil in the early 70s, allegedly the same techniques used by US soldiers in Iraq.

Editorial from Foreign Affairs in 2000.

Given the ludicrous debate we're having about torture (ludicrous that we need to debate it at all) , it's important not to forget the goings on at SOA!

The Last article

The First Things article on God on the Internet, i.e. Check out Amy's review (Also check out the comments, particularly the ones by Mike Hayes, Old Zhou and Peter Nixon.)

While I tended to be sympathetic to the criticism that Last has of blogs that they tend to just reinforce the like-minded, and lead to a disembodied sense of community, Amy has some good points that counter that. And as one of the commenters on her blog remarked, First Things itself is a journal for the like-minded! ( I must admit, a lot of my blogsurfing tends to be among the somewhat like-minded. How's that for something for Advent: read more left-of-center blogs! :))

What's also interersting is that Mr. Last does not mention the whole phenomenon of podcasting at all, which has exploded in recent months. Heck, even the Vatican has its own podcast (and it's immensely popular too!).

My main beef with the article was its treatment of Busted Halo, the Paulist young adult ministry portal.

Busted Halo calls itself a site for “seekers,” meaning those interested in finding a spiritual home. But more often than not it is simply a clearinghouse for leftist discontent. After Ronald Reagan died, the site’s director emeritus, Father Brett Hoover, wrote,

I couldn’t help it. “Good riddance,” I mumbled, as the news came through that Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th President of the United States, had died on Saturday, June 5, 2004.

In these days following his passing, it has seemed like nearly every other American was praising his achievements—the president-savior who gave us “morning in America,” the tough guy who felled the Berlin Wall, the grandfatherly “Great Communicator” who reassured us.

I scowl, feeling like the man in Bermuda shorts at the winter formal. By my accounting, President Reagan bequeathed our world one nightmare after another. How does someone like me honestly mourn his passing?

About the election of Benedict XVI, Busted Halo’s managing editor, Mike Hayes, wrote: “As the Papal conclave closed, fear crept into my heart. ‘Anybody but Ratzinger,’ I prayed. Moments before the announcement of who was to succeed Pope John Paul II, I even said to myself, ‘If it’s Ratzinger, I’m becoming an Episcopalian.’” Unlike the websites of Popes Michael and Pius XIII, Busted Halo carries the official seal of an actual Church-sanctioned society, which might leave some seekers confused. Blogger Amy Welborn says the Internet gives seekers the opportunity to “quietly observe the church or the faith; it’s like sneaking into the back pew of a church.” The problem is that in the virtual church of the web, the hymnal one finds in the back pew may be quite different from the hymnal in the front pew.

Now there's no denying that Busted Halo is left-of-center. But to focus on these two articles as indicating that it is "often no more than a clearinghouse of leftist discontent" is quite unfair, and its ludicrous to compare it to the likes of Popes Michael and Pius XIII! Halo tries to present stuff in a hip manner (I admit it sometimes feel forced) that will appeal to a certain set of today's young adults -- those on the margins of the Church. I don't think it's designed for the set that Colleen Carroll wrote about. Nor does it have to be. There's tons of useful information out there, and to the best of my knowledge, while the site tolerates a variety of viewpoints (they have their token conservatives on there too, you know) in its forums, they never present anything as being doctrine that is in fact not doctrine.

Is this confusing? Does a site with an "official seal" of a Church-sanctioned society (I'm quite impressed that Last seemingly understands that the Paulists are a Society of Apostolic Life and not a religious order in the strict sense of the term!) have to have ONLY doctrine on its site? Does it have to be nothing but a mouthpiece for the official teaching of the Church? Is this the only acceptable speech within the church? And don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about tolerating dissent, or presenting dissenting views as doctrine. However, how on earth is one supposed to dialogue with the broader culture if the only thing one can repeat is doctrine? Is the goal simply to have people memorize certain positions? Or is it to actually present them with the beauty of the Christian vision of things, in a way that invites them to discover this for themselves? In a way that actually leads to conversion of heart and mind (and not brainwashing into a party line? I often fear that this is indeed what some people desire, and expect that the Church's mission should be) And that this is something that people do in a variety of different ways, under the guidance of the Spirit, across the timespan of a life?

Now, it would be a valid question for discussion whether Busted Halo actually does this. But this, at least, seems to be the intention. It's part of the Paulist charism of reconciliation.

Angelus: Christ the King

The Holy Father's Sundayangelus.

Christ's royalty remained totally hidden until he was 30 years old, spent in an ordinary life in Nazareth. Later, during his public life, Jesus inaugurated the new kingdom, which "is not of this world" (John 18:36), and he realized it fully at the end with his death and resurrection. Upon appearing, risen, to the apostles, he said to them: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18). This power arises from love, which God has fully manifested in the sacrifice of his Son. The kingdom of Christ is a gift offered to people of all times so that whoever believes in the incarnate word "should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). For this reason, precisely in the last book of the Bible, Revelation, proclaims: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end"

True and False Religion

Cardinal Cormack Murphy-O'Connor on true and false reigion. (Via Zenit)

Saturday, November 19, 2005


13-9 Clemson.

I'm going to cry. I wish I had the motivation to make the background black.

Many thanks to T, P and R who loyally sent text messages while I was down in Summerville. And to T, who was on the phone as I drove back and got a running commentary of those heartbreaking last 4 minutes.

Time for a stiff drink. Or three. Nothing more to say.


TODAY IS THE DAY! The biggest rivalry game ever! I am so bummed out that I can't be there (Fr. T, you owe me big time! :)). And I even sold my ticket at (gasp) face value! Well, at least three people will be texting me the score while I'm down in Summerville. :: sigh ::

Well, maybe selling that ticket at face value wasn't that bad of an idea. And, it turns out that we have traitors in our midst! (Maybe they won't be as annoying as that Florida fan at last week's game, face and hair dyed orange and purple, who sat right above the student section, and blew a little horn whenever Florida scored -- which wasn't too often. Heh! Cheeky fellow!).

Seems our boys in Iraq are gettin' in on the rivalry too. And here's the story of a true, die-hard, Gamecock. (Links to The State might not work after a couple of days.)

And, we are ranked no. 19 in the country (AP Top 25)!

And yes, USC's favored (MSNBC Predictions 101), 26-24.

Just pray that there ain't no more brawls! I will cry if we lose bowl eligibility because of such stupidity. Heck, I'll weep if we lose too.


Friday, November 18, 2005

God on the Internet

(got the link from a commenter at Amy's site, from Alicia of Fructus Ventris). A great article on religion on the Internet in the new First Things by an editor of the Weekly Standard. Blogs get a lot of space and analysis. The Paulist are mentioned too (not too flatteringly. But more on that later).

I'll share my thoughts on the morrow. Off to bed now.

Mark Mossa on "conservative" young Catholics

In an absolutely excellent article in America. That's actually available to non-subscribers. (Nope, this print issue isn't here. It always arrives a week after the latest issues goes online).

With these students, I have learned this year to question the inclination to see them as strange or dangerous. It pains me to see how some of my colleagues do not appreciate these students I’ve grown to love. Their devotion and eagerness to do what God wants (as they understand it) is often met with suspicion and consternation. They can become scapegoats for people’s animosities toward conservatism, especially heightened on a college campus. And I have grown weary of being congratulated for the great sacrifice I have made in choosing to be with these students. They are not perfect; they don’t have it all figured out. They’re adolescents, after all. But should they be disdained and spoken of in negative, hushed tones because they prefer to kneel at Mass, even in the absence of kneelers? Yes, they make us uncomfortable with their questioning, sometimes because they are arrogant and impertinent when they do it. And we should call them on that. But sometimes it’s because they are right.

My experience this past year has taught me a few things. When it comes to these students, ultimately it is not a matter of who is on the right or the left, or even who’s right or wrong, but of who they are and, to invoke the old Baltimore Catechism, who made them. The biggest detractors of these students were those who had made no effort to get to know them. The prejudices against them are born of old fights, old animosities and anxieties that too much love for the institutional church will somehow force us through a time-warp back to the 1930’s. That may be the desire of some of the Baby Boomers, but that’s not what these young people want. Rather, they want to be connected to their Catholic tradition in an age when it sometimes seems we are meant to apologize for it. Perhaps they have a rosary tucked in their pocket next to their cellphones and P.D.A.’s, but these are 21st-century kids. They have never known a time without John Paul II, the Internet, vernacular liturgy or the pop singer Madonna, even if they are more partial to the mother of God. They are their own new breed, thoroughly modern and unapologetically Catholic—which you will find out for yourself, when you get to know them.
And here's some very good advice, not just for campus ministers, but for all of us:

I had no agenda for my work with them. I just wanted to get to know them, and I hoped they would want to get to know me. What good could I do them if I didn’t start there? So often what we know of such students is not who they really are, but who we imagine them to be (usually either someone who thinks as we do, hence worthy of praise, or someone who thinks the opposite, and so subject to our criticism)—not unique individuals with names, just some predetermined set of character traits and opinions.
You know, this is perhaps the most rewarding part of working with college students. Actually getting to know these kids. As human beings, with all their struggles and triumphs. And my experience jives completely with Mark's. Yes there's a turn to the "conservative" for sure (it mirrors this trend in my own life. Or rather, my life mirrors this trend?). But there is such a desire for a vibrant, unapologetic Catholic identity, such a deep thirst for the riches of the heritage. It is quite heartening.

Of course, I haven't really encountered the prejudice Mark writes about (campus ministers worrying about "conservative" students). Well maybe a little in a different context (when talking about seminarians) from several DREs. We're in a part of the world were being conservative is, I guess, quite acceptable. Or maybe it's because there are so few Jesuits down here .... :-).

The vignettes of the students in the article are wonderfully done! I found myself thinking about so many of our kids here. And what really shines through is his love for these students. And one is reminded of St. Augustine's quote (not in the normal antinomian context this is often used): "Ama et fac quod vis."

[Mark, incidentally, is a USC alum. I believe, however, that he went to St. Peter's during his sojourn at Carolina. I guess not everyone is perfect ... :). He's also the author of the wonderful blog, "You Duped Me Lord." Here's a neat Advent suggestion: scroll through the archives and read along his posts on the text and commentary of St. Igantius' Spiritual Exercises.]

US Bishops call for an end to the death penalty

(Again. They launched a renewed campaign last year. One just doesn't hear about this as much as some other stuff, it seems). Via Zenit.

The bishops voted 237-4 on Tuesday for "A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death," which says that the use of the death penalty contributes to a cycle of violence in society that must be broken. "The sanction of death violates respect for human life and dignity," the statement contends. The statement describes the death penalty as a continuing sign of a "culture of death" in U.S. society. "It is time for our nation to abandon the illusion that we can protect life by taking life," the bishops' document asserts. "When the state, in our names and with our taxes, ends a human life despite having non-lethal alternatives, it suggests that society can overcome violence with violence.
Also see the CCEDP website.

Link to the Bishops' statement (.pdf).

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Mass is not entertainment

Or so quoth Cardinal Francis Arinze (Zenit, which gives selections from an interview with Inside the Vatican.)

Regarding "music in the liturgy, we should start by saying that Gregorian music is the Church's precious heritage," he said. "It should stay. It should not be banished. If therefore in a particular diocese or country, no one hears Gregorian music anymore, then somebody has made a mistake somewhere.
YES! :-D And a pox on those who equate a desire for Gregorian chant to Restoration and a betrayal of the Council. Such folks haven't actually read Sacrosanctum Concilium too carefully, methinks. But, a long way to go -- you won't see much Gregorian chant from OCP and GIA. And I suspect the knowledge of parish musicians in this area is minimal. It's Christ the King this Sunday -- how many parishes will sing "Vexilla Regis Prodeunt?"
"However, "the Church is not saying that everything should be Gregorian music," the cardinal clarified. "There is room for music which respects that language, that culture, that people. There is room for that too, and the present books say that is a matter for the bishops' conference, because it generally goes beyond the boundaries of one diocese."The ideal thing is that the bishops would have a liturgical music commission which looks at the wording and the music of the hymns. And when the commission is satisfied, judgment is brought to the bishops for approval, in the name of the rest of the conference."What should not be the case, insists the Nigerian cardinal, is "individuals just composing anything and singing it in church. This is not right at all -- no matter how talented the individual is.

That brings us to the question of the instruments to be used."The local church should be conscious that church worship is not really the same as what we sing in a bar, or what we sing in a convention for youth. Therefore it should influence the type of instrument used, the type of music used.


I will not now pronounce and say never guitar; that would be rather severe," Cardinal Arinze added. "But much of guitar music may not be suitable at all for the Mass. Yet, it is possible to think of some guitar music that would be suitable, not as the ordinary one we get every time, [but with] the visit of a special group, etc.""The judgment would be left to the bishops of the area. It is wiser that way," he pointed out. "Also, because there are other instruments in many countries which are not used in Italy or in Ireland, for instance.
You know, I hope there is never an outright ban of guitar music. That would be idiotic. And an extreme reaction to the rightful criticism of parts of this repertoir. There's nothing wrong with guitars per se.

"People don't come to Mass in order to be entertained. They come to Mass to adore God, to thank him, to ask pardon for sins, and to ask for other things that they need"
I could be really really really petty and say, "and receive the Lord in Holy Communion," but I'm sure the good Cardinal doesn't think this is ancillary to the celebration of the Lord's day!

The Pope and Prada

I know these stories are a week old now, but how could I not blog on this?

The Pope loves Prada! (nice pic of the red shoes too!)

A peace plan for the gender war

Timothy George writing in Christianity Today has some thoughts on how "complementarians" and "egalitarians" on the issue of gender can behave with each other.

That polarization is found even in our seminaries. Evangelical theological schools tend to fall into one of three camps. Some are unequivocally egalitarian and would not likely hire a faculty member who did not share this commitment. Fuller, North Park, Palmer Theological Seminary (formerly Eastern), Ashland, and the Church of God School of Theology are among the schools that hold this view. Other theological institutions take the opposite view. Westminster, Dallas, Covenant, and, more recently, the six seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention fall into this group. Beeson, my school, belongs to another group of theological institutions, including Trinity, Gordon-Conwell, Denver, and Regent College (Vancouver), which do not make this matter a test of fellowship but welcome faculty and students who hold differing convictions.

The ferment is further agitated by language changes. "Christian feminists" have become "biblical egalitarians," though the former term is still used by some. Likewise, "patriarchalists," "hierarchalists," and "traditionalists" have become "complementarians." Of course, no one denies that men and women are equally created in the image of God and share an equal access to salvation and Christ. Likewise, everyone in the debate recognizes, in some sense, that there are key distinctions as well as similarities between men and women. We have become all things to all people that we might confuse everybody!
George suggests that two poles form the backdrop for this conversation: abusive sexism and radical feminism (he clarifies both in the article). I found this to be a rather helpful way of framing the discourse.

I wasn't quite aware of how much of an issue this is in the evangelical world. It is, obviously, with us in the Catholic world as well, manifesting itself in battles over inclusive language (which, in my opinion, has really been settled. The Vatican won.) and in a myriad other ways. The CDF document on the relationship between men and women is decidedly "complementarian." Read anything from the Women's Religious Conference, the National Catholic Reporter or Joan Chittester and you're in good "egalitarian" territory.

I'm not sure I like the labels. It implies that the complementarians are against equality. Of course, that is correct, if one means equality in the sense of identity. But the way "equality" is used in common parlance, it implies that complementarians think that women are not equal in dignity to men. Which is not correct at all, I'd hazard.

Another twist in Catholic discourse is of course the fact that authoritative pronouncements of the magisterium are just that: authoritative. For all Catholics. It would seem that the complementarian position (in as much as it is one "position") has been articulated by the magisterium authoritatively.

Anyway, George's suggestions (following evangelical theologian Roger Nicole) are quite laudable and salutary, and applicable to all the polarizing opinions that exist in the Catholic world as well.

What do I owe the person who differs from me? We have obligations to people with whom we disagree. We deal with them as we ourselves would like to be dealt with, Roger says. We owe them love. We do not owe them agreement, but we should ever seek to understand what our interlocutor means. We also need to understand their aims. What are they seeking to accomplish in this dispute? What are they reacting against? What are their legitimate concerns?

What can I learn from those who differ from me? "The first thing that I should be prepared to learn is that I may be wrong and that the other person may be right," says Roger. "Apart from issues where God himself has spoken so that doubt and hesitancy are really not permissible, there are numerous areas where we are temperamentally inclined to be very assertive and in which we can quite possibly be in error. When we are unwilling to acknowledge our fallibility, we reveal that we are more interested in winning a discussion and safeguarding our reputation than in the discovery and triumph of truth."

To ask this question is not to relapse into wishy-washy relativism. It is simply to proceed in a spirit of humility, believing, as Pastor John Robinson said to the departing Pilgrims, "The Lord hath yet more truth and light to break forth out of his Holy Word."

How can I cope with those who differ from me? Our theological opponent, our "enemy," may be (and, in the judgment of charity, we can suppose is) a brother or sister in the Lord. Just as in evangelism, where we can win an argument and lose a soul, so in church polemics we can squash an adversary and damage the cause for which we are striving. As Paul says, "And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 2:24-25)
In this sidebar, George has nine proposals for egalitarians and complementarians to pursue together. Worth a read!

The President of Israel in the Vatican

A historic visit.


President Moshe Katsav traveled to the Vatican on Thursday for talks with Pope Benedict XVI, marking the first official visit to the Vatican by an Israeli head of state. At the end of their 25-minute private meeting in the Pope's library, Katsav presented Benedict with framed photos of recently discovered mosaics that are believed to be from the Holy Land's oldest church.
This really makes me happy! Any sign of further reconciliation with the Jewish people is good. He's invited the Pope to go to Israel as well. I do hope the Holy Father accepts!

And maybe, this means that nasty little row from a few months back is behind. I guess the talk about visas and taxes will continue though ...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The world is here ...

So yesterday a student came into the office, "G -- there's a gentleman out there with some questions, and I think you can speak to him in his native language."

Turns out there were two gentlemen and a toddler, recently arrived from Kerela. Apparently the local hospitals have hired 16 nurses from India recently, and these gentleman are the now stay-at-home husbands ("no no, not all Keralite! Some are from Bombay!). Or rather, fly-across-the-world-and-stay-at-home. Schedule A at work (a newly passed law that provides for rather rapid immigrant visas, i.e. green cards, for nurses and physical therapists, since there is a critical shortage of the same in the US. Go to a hospital and there'll be nurses of every race and tongue. Even in South Carolina. I've even heard that physicians in the Philippines are retraining as RNs in order to immigrate to the US more easily!).

Of course, I couldn't converse with them in their native language. I don't speak a lick of Malayalam (Well. I can count up till 29. And we were taught "O Come All Ye Faithful" in a variety of Indian languages back in 2nd grade I think. Yes, in a non-Christian private school in New Delhi. The only one that has stuck with me [apart from the English and the Latin, aquired much later] is the Malayali version. "Vishwasi galeva, dushta manasarayi, vanni dugava nigal Bethlehem ... " My transliteration and recollection, no doubt, are quite faulty. But, I digress). Like most other Indians across the North-South divide, we spoke in English. After assuring the good nurse-husbands that this was indeed a Catholic parish, letting them know about catechism classes for the kids and the Mass schedule, I offered them a ride back to their apartment (not too far, but it had started raining quite heavily). "There's a Malayali Orthodox congregation in Augusta (about 60 miles away)" I mention. "Oh no! We're Catholic" (there's that distinctive South Indian head wobble). Syro-Malabar, to be precise. But, I guess, a Latin parish will have to do for now. :) However, they've been getting some good help and pointers in things American (and rides to Wal-Mart no doubt. Public transportation is pretty non-existent in most of the States) from a Pentecostal Keralite pastor in Columbia (it took me a second to figure out what "Bunthukostal" meant. I realized how much I miss hearing Indian English in all its resplendent variety!). A Malayali Pentecostal pastor. Here. Wow.

After I dropped them off and headed back to the office, I reflected on just how intolerant Americans are of foreign accents. It makes a huge difference on how smooth things go for immigrants, the ability to sound "American." There seems to be a sheer laziness when it comes to trying to make an effort to understand someone whose English is broken, or has a different accent. Perhaps not in New York City. But definitely here. And in most parts of the country, I'd hazard. Simple things become incredibly difficult. Barriers go up. Decibel levels rise. Patience is visibly strained. Often, otherwise smiling faces scowl. Tempers shorten. I've seen this at the Post Office, the grocery store check-out line, the bank. Comments about foreign TAs. And oh yes, in all those comments about foreign sounding customer service reps on the phone. Perhaps its just a reflection of the incredible parochialism of American society, or xenophobia, or more likely, from simply being in such a monolingual world, with an inability to imagine otherwise.

[Pet peeve. When people say that I speak excellent English, "without an accent" I always wince. Of course I have an accent. It's an American one. Sometimes (especially after Carolina football games) a distinctly Southern twang emerges. Yes, I can switch to Indian English when necessary. But please, everyone has some kind of an accent. And no, for some reason, neither requires conscious effort.]

Slowly, but surely, and despite all those nay-sayers, the world is arriving here. And a good thing too.

Stealing from the Trevi ...

(Trevi Fountain, photographed by yours truly, March 2002)

From Yahoo news (link sent by a dedicated reader):
ROME (Reuters) - Italian police arrested four street cleaners Monday as they tried to pocket hundreds of euros scooped from Rome's famed Fountain of Trevi.

Each day, thousands of tourists stand with their backs to the Renaissance masterpiece and throw coins over their shoulders into its shallow basin in a tradition which is supposed to ensure they return to Rome.

The money, which adds up to several hundred euros a day or more, is regularly swept out by a cleaning firm with half of the proceeds handed over to Roman Catholic charity Caritas.

However, Caritas workers had noted a sharp decline in recent takings and alerted the police, who caught the quartet of cleaners Monday trying to walk off with some 1,200 euros.

A police official estimated they might have stolen as much as 110,000 euros in recent weeks before being stopped.

The quartet were not the first to try to cash in on the Trevi Fountain. In 2002 police arrested a homeless man, dubbed d'Artagnan, who made up to 12,000 euros a month with his pre-dawn raids on the tourist attraction.

(Dedicated reader caught a coin stealer at the Trevi in flagrante, early 2004)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Br. Antonio Moscheni SJ

A very interesting article [linked over at Open Book], on a 19th century Italian Jesuit and his artistic contributions to India.
No account of the paintings of Antonio would be complete without a reference to his far-sightedness and liberal outlook. He painted Saraswati, the goddess of learning, as the centre-piece of the Academy Hall of St. Aloysius College, with the baseline reading: Sathyameva Jayathe … Om. He also used Indian attire in religious paintings at the dawn of the 20th century. In today’s interculturation context this may not surprise many; but it reflected the foresight and tolerance of the Italian Jesuit. It is also ironical that though Antonio was buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Cochin, there seems to be no gravestone left in it.
Very interesting indeed! "Sathyameva Jayathe" (Only in truth there is victory) became the motto of the Republic of India after Independence. It's Sanskrit, but I'm unsure of its provenance.

I had no idea of the connection with the Cathedral of the Holy Name in Bombay, the parish where I first started going to Mass. Here's a great photo of the beautiful interior.

Incidentally, the last photograph in the column (which I first thought might be of Holy Name Cathedra, though I'm not so sure) has a date of 15-8-94, which is the date of my baptism!

Monday, November 14, 2005

A sacredotal reality show ...

From Christianity Today. Interview with Fr. James McCaskill, an Episcopalian/Anglican priest who has his own British reality TV show. His mission: Save a dying church.
How many American priests end up in their own reality show on British television? James McCaskill did just that when he moved last year from Pittsburgh to the town of Lundwood in England's South Yorkshire district. He was brought in to revitalize a church whose congregation had dropped below ten, and his turnaround efforts were filmed for one year by a camera crew. The results will air—under the name Priest Idol—in a three-part series in November on the UK's Channel 4. Nate Anderson sat down with McCaskill on a recent visit to the U.S. to talk about ministry and media.


The filmmakers brought in a marketing firm to help you sell the church to the town. Was this a positive experience?

It really was. The marketers—a firm called Propaganda—were very respectful and sensitive. They brought a fresh perspective from the world. I don't think it was selling out to the world. I think it was a way of learning what is going on in the culture, what does the immediate society want, how do they view church? I don't know the story very well, but I wonder if Bill Hybels used a similar approach when he went knocking on the doors around Willow Creek, asking what folks would like to see in a church. The most positive thing this did was to raise the profile of the parish in the community, to say, "We're here and open and alive."

What would you say to those who argue that the church does not need to market itself?

I would say that we did not take a secular approach and put the label 'Christian' on it and therefore redeem it. What I would say is that we used a tool available in Western society and used it in such a way to produce something that is worthy of the church. For instance, the marketers challenged us to say, "What is special about the Christian faith?" It was a challenge for us to articulate it; in fact, the congregation was not able to articulate it. By taking a sales point of view and asking, "How are you are you going sell this place, if you can't tell people what's great about it?" the marketers weren't asking us to make things up; they were asking us to genuinely examine ourselves. It sounds pathetic that the congregation was not able to articulate those things already—this is our faith we're talking about, after all—but obviously it wasn't happening.

Does the show play into the idea that "bigger is better" as opposed to "deeper is better"?

I don't think it does. Certainly, the first thing everyone looks at is numbers, and numbers are played up in the show. The marketers asked the archdeacon, for instance, "What is success? 30?" He said, "No, I think for the church to have a viable future there needs to be 70 people there." There is a sense that the church really does need a certain number at the core to be a self-sustaining ministry. For me, success would be reaching a place where the church would be able to take care of itself, and sustain ministry in the community. Whether that's at 50 people or 200 people is not the point, I don't think.

The real issue is quality of faith. Liturgical traditions—places where there's an emphasis on the sacraments, the mystery and the holiness of God—look at the mega-churches and say that you'll never experience the holiness of God in those big places. But on the other hand, they're not always the best at evangelizing and spreading the Word. I think it's good for the Christian church perhaps to have both things, to have that tension. A little place like Lundwood is in no great fear of being too big and not having any quality of faith.


What do you think the airing of Priest Idol can accomplish?

It tells a really positive story about our particular church and about the church in general. That was one of the concerns of the bishop. He thought that if this was a success, it would be a success not just for Lundwood, but for the Christian church in the UK. It shows hope, it shows excitement, it shows people rallying around a church. It shows a church willing to take risks. It raises a lot of issues for churches to think about how, why, and to what extent they can reconnect with their communities.

The Church of England has done a really good job of compromising itself, lowering the standard to where people are, rather than calling the people to something greater in the church. I think we sell ourselves short when we sing only one song, because it will make the service thirty minutes instead of forty minutes, but will take away from the beauty of the service. Maybe it's actually the beauty of the service and not the timing [that draws people].
Read the whole thing!

More on the IRS and All Saints ...

from Amy. Good comments too.

Italian birth rates

A piece on MSNBC (kindly forwarded by Dogwood).

Well really, like it's only the Vatican that's concerned about low-birth rates. All of Europe ought to be. Recall that France just recently offered cold hard cash to families who'd have more kids! This is a serious problem. Weigel's phrase, "demographic suicide" comes to mind.

Anyway, it's no wonder that the Pope raised up Mamma Rosa, mother of 11, as an example.

In a recent piece on European birth-rates and their implications, the Economists' columnist Charlegagne ruminates that Europe's demographic disaster is self-inflicted (full text for subscribers only), but not terminal, and suggests some solutions: welfare reform, pension reform, getting more healthy older workers into the workforce, and, of course, immigration. What's quite striking is that there is no mention of actually trying to encourage people to have more kids. Perhaps that's because unless a whole bunch of Italian women became Mamma Rosas tomorrow, this won't really affect the precipitously low birth-rates. Or, maybe it's because there is an ideological barrier that refuses to admit that contracepting the future might be a bad idea for a whole lot of other reasons than just the Pope being a mean old celibate man who doesn't get it.

Or, maybe, he does get it.

Pat Robertson vs. the Pope

Will Saletan in the Slate.

I'm not sure it's really fair to compare the two, as if their statements were of equal weight as far as figuring out what the "designer" is up to. Besides, I'm really not sure it's at all fair to call Benedict as being part of the "Intelligent Design movement", if by that one means the political movement in the US to get ID taught as science in school classrooms. Like the Pope structures his angelus address to respond to the the goings on in Dover, Delaware.

Robertson's fulminations are, as always, quite entertaining.

The point about science being taught in science classrooms is well taken, however.

Armistice Day, Part II

Another perspective. The following is from a Canadian reader who lives in Australia.
It was Remembrance Day yesterday on November 11 and the old guys were out in the malls selling poppies. Coincidentally it was the day that a dozen would-be Muslim terrorists were arrested in Sydney and Melbourne.

The old fellows were selling poppies at five bucks a pop and were extremely hostile. Awkward. Tricky time to sound American, as I do to anyone with a less acute ear than my astonishingly keen friend S ("Oh, North of England! Where precisely?" "Well South African isn't it. Durban? Cape Town?" "Canadian -- but Western, isn't it! I had some people in from Ontario yesterday...sure can spot 'em, isn't it!" [:) -- "isn't it" is ineradicable!].

But to return to the infelicitous encounter with the veterans. "American bullies like you know nothing about Remembrance Day. Go to hell! You guys don't know anything about freedom; your idea of 'freedom' is everyone to be enslaved to America!" I of course point out "In Flanders Fields" on the card that the poppy comes on and recite the whole thing, even the omitted bloodthirsty third verse -- as every Canadian on earth can do -- and point out, "Sorry, not everyone is as they might seem. I'm Canadian. And we lost more young men than anyone else -- ANYONE else -- in World War I and we choose our wars judiciously. Meanwhile, it's these young guys with me right now who are going to get blown apart in another war ("Quick: I've forked over five bucks for each of you: now put on these poppies, eh?"). Mr Bush's "War on Terror" doesn't seem to count with the Vets.

Perhaps we can figure out an alternate reading of verse 3. Doesn't need to mean Germans in World War I.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
[And in case any of y'all are wondering about the provenance of his moniker, "assiniboine" in the comboxes, wonder no more:
The Assiniboine are an aboriginal tribe on the prairies; the District of Assiniboia in the Northwest Territories became the southern half of the province of Saskatchewan; there is Mount Assiniboine in the Canadian Rockies, the town of Assiniboia in southern Saskatchewan (a godforsaken hole, according to Northrop Frye, whose one and only stint as a practising clergyman was there in the depths of the Great Depression) and the Assiniboine River runs through Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Said contributor is a native of Saskatchewan.]

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Armistice Day, Part I

Armistice Day, 11.11.1911, is marked as Veterans Day in the United States. And, as is custom, the half-time show at the Carolian home game that weekend is a tribute to the Armed Services. Usual, good, solid, patriotic affair. Martial music, specific veterans honored, war heroes extolled. It really struck me just how martial a society this really is, and how much a part of life the military is, especially in the South. The battles in far away Afghanistan and Iraq are actually quite close -- a USC alum who lost his life in Afghanistan is honored as 83000 people bow in silence. His widow is present on the field, and is cheered loudly. Anoter alum, now serving in Iraq sends his best wishes to the Gamecocks (more cheers). Yes one is quite aware how close this is, given the number of people I know who are about to be commissioned, and will quite likely end up in Iraq, sooner or later.

I found myself wandering to that oft-quoted line from Horace, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. And recalling Wilfred Owen's WWI poem that ends with that line (we had to memorize it in 8th grade after all). There's warring sentiments for you.

Proper patriotism is, however, a virtue. And one's politics should not blind one to the duty to support our troops.

I find myself quite moved by such displays of patriotism. Maybe it's a sort of naya musulman kind of thing, you know (a Gujarati phrase meaning "new Muslim," or "the zeal of the convert" in its English equivalent). I do love my adoptive homeland [obviously, a little too much. Unlike my compatriots here, who hoot and whistle loudly during the "Rocket's red glare" (as fireworks are fired from one end of the stadium. Would they ever do that during Jana gana mana in India? I think not!), I solemnly sing the National Anthem to the end, and then cheer loudly]. I joined in the singing (rather hoarsely and lustily) of "God Bless America", as four low-flying F-16's thundered overhead, and as red-white and blue balloons rose up in the clear deep blue sky.

Pray for all our veterans, and for our troops.

Here's a picture of the field at half time (courtesy Joe M)

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On ensoulment ...

Dev ("Against a Dictatorship of Relativism") has a great post on the distinction between human "life," "individual," and "person." Check it out. Great cartoon too! :)

More on the Dateline Program

Now I'm really sad that I missed it. No, I shall resist and not look to see if I can buy a tape/DVD of it ... :) I did read the transcript on NBC's website. I found it to be surprisingly rancor free, and Crossan to be rather subdued (Ok, I must add, that all barbs aside, the man is a deeply learned scholar. His early work, especially on the parables, and the peasant social structures of ancient Palestine are superb. And I do think the felicitous phrase, "open commensality" is of his coinage). Actually, was also surprised by just how much it was not in the "the assured results of schoarship disproving traditional dogmatic Christianity" vein, a trope that gets way too much breathless airtime in introductory Biblical Studies courses, at least to my jaundiced eye. It was quit balanced, overall.

Justin Nickelsen (Ressourcement: Restoration in Catholic Theology) has more.
I have said elsewhere, however, that much of the scholarship today starts with the presumption of an "inept God"--one that philosophically can not enter the world. Hence, some people start with that assumption and bring it to the text of Scripture without even giving the stories a chance. This is one of the points that Ratzinger brings out in his new book, On The Way to Jesus Christ. I am not sure if Crossan is one of those who begin with this presumption.
I'm not quite sure what "philosophically cannot enter the world" really means. But, if referring to simple philosophical naturalism, then yes. For sure. I've just started reading "On The Way to Jesus Christ," so I cannot wait to hear the Pope expound on this more. He's said before (in a 1997 symposium on the state of biblical scholarship, that made it to a little book, "Biblical Scholarship in Crisis" edited, if I recall correctly, by Frs. Neuhaus and Ray Brown) that basically, the crisis in historical scholarship is really a philosophical one, not a historiographical one.

Anyone taped the program? :)