Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Holy Father's addres to the Roman Rota

The story was picked up by the secular press, and mainly given the spin of a "relaxation" of "rules" on "divorce." So, one knew immediately, that they'd gotten it wrong. :)

Here's Zenit's summary of what the Pope actually said:
The canonical processes for the declaration of marital annulment do not seek to complicate life, or to sharpen tensions, but only to serve the truth, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope addressed the argument Saturday, at the start of the judicial year, when receiving the judges, officials and collaborators of the Roman Rota, the Church's central appellate court.

"The canonical process of annulment of a marriage is essentially an instrument to verify the truth of the conjugal bond," the Holy Father said at the audience.

"Its objective is not, therefore, to vainly complicate the lives of the faithful or much less so to sharpen the disputes, but only to offer a service to truth," he clarified.
Can one get an amen to that last line?
"On one hand, it would seem that the Synodal Fathers invited the ecclesiastical tribunals to do everything possible so that the faithful, who are not canonically married, may regulate their marital situation as soon as possible and again approach the Eucharistic banquet," he said.

On the other hand, the canonical legislation, and in particular the instruction "Dignitas Connubii," published last January by the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, seems to place "limits to this pastoral drive, as if the main concern were to comply with the established juridical formalities, with the risk of forgetting the pastoral end of the process," the Holy Father said.

According to the Pontiff, this apparent contradiction is not real, as there is a "fundamental meeting point between law and pastoral care: the love of truth."
True. Yet, so often, in the real world of marriages ending, of lives being turned upside down, it does appear to be a contradiction. When the local Tribunal is making the IRS seem friendly and efficient, it doesn't help.
However, the Pope indicated that "the truth sought in the processes of marital annulment is not an abstract truth, separated from the good of the individuals. It is a truth that is integrated in the human and Christian itinerary of each of the faithful."

Therefore, it "is extremely important" that the declaration of the ecclesiastical tribunals "take place in a reasonable time," he noted.
I would say, though, that what "reasonable" means in, say, US culture (i.e., "yesterday") and in churchese (~500 years) might be different. Perhaps there can be a happy medium?

Amy links to a CWN News report that clarifies things more, and then adds this very salient bit:
And to me, this translates (properly or not) into: stop witnessing the marriage of every baptized Catholic who walks into the rectory and asks for one.

There is much discussion of the high number of annulment cases processed in the US, in particular, but I have just a couple of things to say. First, the majority of couples coming to the Catholic Church to be married are a)living together and b)contracepting and are c)rarely challenged on this by those preparing them for marriage. Many of them are barely catechized on anything, are not regular Mass-goers until Mama gets it into her head that they must be married in the Church and the pastor sternly berates them for not being registered and not having envelopes - a far greater sin that cohabitating, you know - and you're telling me that these marriages are not rife with potential problems with validity?
I'm going to try and avoid a rant on the whole envelopes-as-canonical-requirement thing. Especially given the experience of one of our alums at a big parish in the area just last week. That aside, the point is, no pun intended, very very valid. One always struggles to see a non-practicing Catholic coming back to the Church for marriage as an opportunity for evangelization, for re-connection. But,obviously, this has to be done in a way that invites them to a re-connection with the truth as well. About marriage and human sexuality, and not just signing the attendance sheet at Mass. She then follows with this quote from a traditional Catholic who started working in a Tribunal, who realizes,
However, my Tribunal experience has been a real eye-opener, especially in light of the contraceptive and divorce mentality I encounter in most people, including Catholics. In fact, these mentalities are so pervasive within North American society that after four days on the Tribunal I found myself declaring as many marriages invalid as the next judge, often on a canon 1095 basis, and wondering to myself whether any marriage attempted today in North America is valid. In short, as a Traditional Catholic canonist, I can safely say that since the sexual devolution of the sixties, the rise in marriage annulments has not been because of the Second Vatican Council and a more liberal application of canon law, but because of a selfish and unrealistic understanding of what marriage entails by your average person entering into it.

But then again, we're often looking at people who have grown up watching pornographic sitcoms, who have been subjected to sex-ed programs more graphic than a gynecologist textbook fifty years ago, engaged in pre-marital sex since their early teens, most often shacked up two or three times by the time they marry, see children as an inconvenience, and suddenly we expect them to enter into a sacramental Christian marriage?
That may very well be true. I do hope there is an alternative than the Church just abandoning the whole realm of marriage, which is what such gloomy prognostications would lead one to think. I wonder though, for instance, whether the disappearance of the stigma of divorce has something to do with this as well. Perhaps in earlier times similar problems existed, similar (or other -- say, the lack of freedom on the part of the woman who is being sent off into an arranged marriage somewhere?) impediments were quite common, but couples stayed together because of social pressures? Yes, the degradation of human sexuality in the culture is a huge part of the problem. I don't know that it's the only problem, though.

Wow ...

So, blogsurfing a bit -- and came across this rabid site. The Conversion Agenda. Out to expose the lies, trickeries (and worse) of Christians trying to undermine India's spiritual values.

Here's some mind-boggling quotes from the sidebar.
The concept of religious freedom espoused by America is a Euro-centric definition imposed upon the world after the Second World War, in the form of Article 18 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Promoted as a universal doctrine, though not founded upon genuine international consensus, this concept has been used by Western nations to advance their own religion and culture and impinge upon the religious freedom of other nations and faith groups.
That's from an article that says that the US was being hypocritical in denying a visa to Narendra Modi, the Butcher of Ahmedabad, the Chief Minister of Gujarat who was behind the horrifying pogroms of 2002.
The world would be a much safer, happier place if Christians were to convert themselves to Christianity. Minus its superstitions and minus the mafia-like activities of the Vatican, Christianity is a beautiful religion. We could then bid goodbye to a lot of evils: from colonialism to neo-colonialism to consumerism, from inquisitions to conversions to the Holocaust to India's partition, from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Vietnam, Iraq, Kosovo and East Timor.
Mafia-life activities? Partition? The Holocaust? Hiroshima? Vietnam? Though the point of Christians converting to Christianity is very well taken. Something that, you know, for instance, the Holy Father keeps saying.
It is wrong to draw ideological parallels between Christianity and Hinduism. It is pointless to contrast dogmas as original sin, eternal damnation, and the absolutism of the Kingdom of God with that of the experiential reality of the Hindu Darshanaas which proclaim: "Each soul is potentially Divine", and teach the authentic way and means to discover, realize and manifest in day to day life the inherent divinity equally present in all. Hinduism and Christianity represent incompatible modes of thought and irreconcilable value systems.

Hinduism is dedicated to individual freedoms and rights. The philosophy of Hinduism and Christianity does not mix. Equating Hinduism (or, indeed, any religion of the book) would be doubly regrettable. A strict ban on religious conversion is in the best interest of all Indians because, to quote the wisdom of a common sense poet, "Good fences make good neighbors".

Christian missionary efforts at conversion under the guise of social work do not take place in places, say, like the Brahmin-dominated ward of Mylapore in Chennai. They are conducted in poor, illiterate and innocent tribal areas and in remote jungles far from the prying eyes of authority.
Yep. Sure. Rave and rant about spiritual destruction, and treat Dalits and tribals and the poor like human excrement. As a commentor remarked below, so much of the passion of the opposition seems to be because what is being challenged here is not just the "religion" per se, but a culture of deprivation and repression. Needless to say, this site, which waxes eloquent about the glories of Hinduism doesn't once mention caste. The point isn't that Christians are perfect and Hindus are not. It's just one sided and hypocritical. I don't even know where to begin. Actually, there's no point in beginning really. This is about as one-sided as, say, that pamphlet I once saw at a Baptist church urging all Christians to join in the campaign to save the Hindus from their spiritual darkness. This is pure and simple porpaganda. It has RSS/VHP/Sangh Parivar written all over it. And, ironies of ironies, they quote Gandhiji on the evils of conversion (his virulent opposition to any Christian missionary activity is well known), but ignore practically everything else he was about - communal harmony, (I'm sure Gandhi would just love Narendra Modi), religious amity, the rights of the "untouchables," the opposition to caste, non-violence. Gimme a friggin break.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Mahatma and the Cardinal ...

One of the things I discovered in India last month was that "Lead Kindly Light," that beautiful hymn composed by John Henry Cardinal Newman was among Gandhiji's favorites. [This was in a conversation with an old family friend, a neighbor of the 'rents. Incidentally, it was he who inspired my first travelogues. After graduating I moved to Pune, near Bombay for a year, and I'd write letters of my various jaunts around this new place -- yes, as in real letters, on that now rare bit of postal stationery, the Inland Letter Card -- a trip to the peths [old city], or to the shrine at Alandi.] So lying around on the bookshelf at the 'rents place was an Ashram Bhajanavali -- the hymnbook of Gandhiji's famous Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. Apparently "Premal Jyoti" (Cardinal Newman's hymn in a beautiful translation by the poet Narsinhrao Divetiya) was sung every day at sandhya (evening prayer).

Here's what Gandhiji wrote in the introduction to the hymnal (this is my translation of the Hindi, which is most likely a translation from his original Gujarati).
... in this collection, there has been no single editorial perspective. Whatever gems we found anywhere have been collected. This is why many Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Zoroastrians read this with delight, and find some spirtual nutrition from it.
Here we go
પ્રેમળ જ્યોતી તારો દાખવી
મુજ જીવન-પંથ ઉજાળ
દૂર પડ્યો હું ને ઘેરે ઘન અંધાર,
માંગ સુઝ નવ ઘોર રજની માં, નિજ શિશુ ને સંભાળ
મીરો જીવન પંથ ઉજાળ.

ડગમગતો પગ રાખ તું સ્થિર મુજ, દૂર નજર છો ન જાય
દૂર માર્ગ જોવા લોભ લગીર ને, એક ડગલું બસ થાય
મારું એક ડગલું બસ થાય.

આજ લગી રહ્યો ગર્વ માં હું ને માગી મદદ ન લગાર,
આપ-બળ માર્ગ જોઈને હામ ઘરી મૂઢ બાળ
હવે માંગું તુજ આધાર.

ભભકભર્યાં તેજથી હું લોભાયો, ને ભય છતાં ધર્યો ગર્વ.
વીત્યાં વર્ષોને લોપ સ્મરણથી સ્ખલન થયાં જે સર્વ,
મારે આજ થકીં નવું પર્વ.

તારા પ્રભાવે પ્રભુ આજ લગી પ્રેમ ભેર,
નિશ્ચે મને તે સ્થિર પગલેથી ચલવી પહોંચાડશે ઘેર,
દાખ પ્રેમળ જ્યોતીની સેર.

રજની જશે ને પ્રભાત ઉજળશે, ને સ્મિત કરશે પ્રેમાળ
દિવ્યગણોંના વદન મનોહર મારે હ્રદય વસ્યાં ચિરકાળ
જે મેં ખોયા હોતા ક્ષણ વાર
This is Newman's text
1. Lead, kindly Light, amid th'encircling gloom,
lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

2. I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

3. So long Thy power hath blessed me, sure it will,
will lead me on.
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile, which I
Have loved long since, and lost awhile!

[Yes, the Gujarati is longer, because of an introduction of a repetitive parallelism to make it more lyrical, in the style of a Hindu bhajan.]

A miracle by the intercession of John Paul!

The Vatican may have found the "miracle" they need to put the late Pope John Paul II one step closer to sainthood -- the medically inexplicable healing of a French nun with the same Parkinson's disease that afflicted him.
Via CNN. Yes! Santo subito!

My life is my message

January 30, 1948. It's 58 years since that fateful Friday, when an assasin's bullet felled Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. In India, January 30 is marked as Martyr's Day, in remembrance of those who gave their life in the cause of freedom.

Something that our visiting priest said in Sunday's homily reminded me of this poem. In refering to Mark's account of Jesus' teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, he said that the evangelist doesn't tell us what Jesus said that had the crowds astonished. This is a useful reminder that often it isn't what one says, but how one lives that is most important.

The following poem was composed by the great Gujarati poet Umashankar Joshi as a tribute to the Mahtma. "Maaru jeevan ej maari vaani." My life is my speech/witness.

મારું જીવન એ જ મારી વાણી
બીજું તે તો ઝાકળ પાણી
મારા શબ્દો ભલે નાશ પામો
કાળ ઉદરમાંહી વિરામો
મારા ક્રુત્ય બોલી રહે તોય
જગે કેવળ સત્ય નો જય
મારો એજ ટકે આધાર
જેમાં સત્ય નો જયજયકાર
સત્ય ટકે, છો જાય આ દાસ
સત્ય એજ હો છેલ્લો શ્વાસ
એને રાખવાનું કોણ બાંધી
એને મળી રહશે એના ગાંધી.
જન્મી પામવો મુક્ત સ્વદેશ
મારું જીવન એ જ સંદેશ.

This is a really rough translation, which really does not convey the beauty of the original.

My life is my witness
Everything else is like waste water.
If my words be destroyed
ruined by the effects of time
If my deeds say anything
Let it only be the victory of truth.
My only worth is in
the victory cry of truth
Let truth remain, let this servant pass
Let truth be my last breath
Who can tie it down?
It will find its Gandhi.
To bring to birth a free nation,
My life is my message.

[For those interested in a transliteration:
Maaru jeevan ej mari vaani
Beejun te to jhaakar paani.
Maara shabdo bhalay naash pamo
Kaal udarmaanhi viramo
Mara krutya bolay rahay toy
Jagay keval satya no jay.
Maaro ej tako aadhaar
Jemaan satyano jayjaykaar
Satya takay chho jaay aa daas
Satya ej ho cheelo shvaas!
Aynay raakhvanu kon baandhi
Aynay maali rahshay aynaa gandhi
Janmi pamvo mukta svadesh
Maaru jeevan ej sandesh.]

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Xīnnián kuàilè

2006 is the Year of the Dog

Happy Chinese New Year!


Or, the more traditional Gōngxǐ fācái 恭喜发财

Adoro te devote...

In honor of the Angelic Doctor, whose feast is today (Jan. 28)
Adoro te devote, latens Deitas,
Quae sub his figuris vere latitas;
Tibi se cor meum totum subiicit,
Quia te contemplans, totum deficit.

Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur,
Sed auditu solo tuto creditur;
Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius,
Nil hoc verbo veritatis verius.

In Cruce latebat sola Deitas.
At hic latet simul et humanitas:
Ambo tamen credens, atgue confitens,
Peto quod petivit latro paenitens.

Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intueor,
Deum tamen meum te confiteor:
Fac me tibi semper magis credere,
In te spem habere, te diligere.

O memoriale mortis Domini,
Panis vivus vitam praestans homini:
Praesta meae menti de te vivere,
Et te illi semper dulce sapere.

Pie pellicane Iesu Domine,
Me immundum munda tuo Sanguine:
Cuius una stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.

Iesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro, fiat illud, quod tam sitio,
Ut te revelata cernens facie,
Visu sim beatus tuae gloriae. Amen.

China's European past ...

I recently met someone who's Polish-American, born in Rio de Janiero, while their family was migrating to America after fleeing China as the Communists came to power in 1949. Didn't really know much about this fascinating chapter in China's history. In this article in Prospect magazine, Robert Skidelsky, of Russian origin, gives a moving account of his journey back to his hometown in Harbin.

East is east and West is west ...

A fascinating essay on Western versus Eastern (Indian and Chinese) philosophy. Don't know much about any of these, but still an interesting read.
Kumarila claims that something that is called an "I" exists, established by the fact that an I is constantly present in thinking. Sankara, however, argues that this only shows that there is subjectivity —the presence of consciousness—not that there is an object named "I." The apparent existence of an objective self is an illusion, created by the logic of the grammatical use of "I" in language.

Strange names, certainly. Strange thoughts? Anybody who has read philosophy in the west will not think so—provided that Kumarila (7th century) is replaced with Descartes (17th) and Sankara (8th) with Kant (18th). The point is not the polemical one about whether it was Indians or Europeans who had these thoughts first (the ancient Greeks and early Islamic thinkers are also in the running). The point is not that the Indians deserve study because they thought like Europeans. The point is simply that, for many reasons, the Indian thinkers are unknown to contemporary western philosophy, and are likely to remain so. The same is true of Chinese thinkers.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

On dating ...

Never heard of n+1 mag before. But, they're linked from AL DAILY.(Infinitely better than Al Jazeera, lemme tell ya :)). Why aren't they on my links? Hmm.) Can't be all that bad.

And what they write about? Sheesh. So true. No wonder Josh Harris kissed dating goodbye. Besides, I think other parts of the world might not be so crazy to arrange marriages and stuff, ya know. Some of my best friends have done it. And seem to be doing swimmingly.
With how many people did people used to sleep? It’s hard to tell. Language changes, and there’s the problem of bragging. Take the French. Stendhal in his treatise on love is expansive on the seduction strategies of his friends (hide under the bed; announce yourself so late in the night that kicking you out would already be a scandal), but in The Red and the Black Julien Sorel sleeps with exactly two women—and for this they cut off his head!
Twenty years later, there was Greenwich Village. Edna St. Vincent Millay, riding back and forth all night on the ferry, was the most promiscuous literary woman of her time. But her biographer puts the grand total of her conquests at fourteen, and some of these, according to a rival biographer, are questionable—and three were “well-known homosexuals.” So ten. For the modern college senior, this is a busy but not extravagant Spring Break.
Dating presents itself as an education in human relationships. In fact it’s an anti-education. You could invent no worse preparation for love, for marriage, than the tireless pursuit of the perfect partner. Keep Looking, says dating. You’re Not Done Yet. What About That One? And That One? Dating, like the tyrant, seeks perfection (within a certain price range). Whereas the heart, like the eye, can only cling to imperfections: her funny stride, and the way her voice breaks, child-like, on the phone. And so the dater, self-baffling, seeks what the heart cannot understand.
Hmm. Maybe other cultures, and that bossy mama, Holy Mother Church, might be onto something? :-)

[Neat find, this site. Two very interesting Rome diaries.]

Walmart and academia

They're not as dissimilar as one would think. (Hattip to Coray for the link :)).
Retail giant Wal-Mart has created its share of enemies for its competitive practices, low wage and benefits packages, and for putting mom-and-pop stores out of business. Some localities have successfully kept the company from building stores in their communities and, earlier this month, Maryland passed a law forcing Wal-Mart to devote 8 percent of payroll spending to employee health benefits.

Despite all this, the store received 25,000 applications for 325 openings for a new Chicago area store. Critics charge that this will encourage a race to the bottom, as the store fills many of these vacancies with part-time employees and offers lower wages and benefits than the competitors that will inevitably fold against Wal-Mart’s enormous buying power.

Meanwhile, Chad Donath, the corporation’s Chicago area manager argues, “That incredible number of applications shows the community thinks Wal-Mart is a great place to work.”

Well, not exactly. What it shows, though, is that 25,000 people would prefer to work in those jobs than the jobs they have -- or don't have -- at the moment.
This isn't just an educated professional talking about situations that "those people" find themselves in. I have a doctorate in political science and have found myself in precisely the same situation as those Wal-Mart applicants when on the academic job market. Indeed, there were often many more than 79 highly qualified applicants -- Ph.D.s with publications and teaching experience -- for each college teaching position that I applied for.

Because the academic market is so tight, universities have adopted virtually the same attitude toward aspiring professors as Wal-Mart does to prospective stockers. They demand heavy teaching loads, substantial committee work, a rigorous pace of professional publication -- and offer rather paltry salaries. And that's for people who have, on average, twenty-two or more years of schooling.
Read it all! :) So, I have a feeling that of my 7 dedicated readers, there may be a few in the "Wal-Mart is evil" camp. Thoughts? Personally, I found the comparison with academia to be right on. I'm working as an adjunct right now -- well, this is an elective thing -- you know, teach before I'm in seminary, a student again. But the pay? Sucks. Totally.

Annullment decisions must be rapid: Benedict

Via AP.
"It could seem, at first glance, that the pastoral concern reflected in the work of the Synod and the juridical rules" for church tribunals "almost end up conflicting," Benedict said.

"On one hand, it would seem that the Synod fathers had invited church tribunals to act so that the faithful not married under church law can regularize the marriage situation as soon as possible and approach" the Communion banquet, the pope said.

"On the other hand, though, canon law and recent (Vatican) instruction would seem, instead, to put limits on this pastoral push," which makes it appear "as if the principle concern was that of completing the judicial formalities," Benedict said.

The pope also said it was important that the church help couples try to work out their problems and "find the path of reconciliation."

Friday, January 27, 2006

Pope in the US?

According to Cardinal Keeler plans are underway for a trip in 2007. (Via Amy, via Rocco .... doncha love blogsurfing!).

Oh I wish it's true. Let's see, if all goes well, I will be a novice, even a religious by then. So, mayhap, I might have a reason to be within, say, 10 miles of him, as opposed to 500.

The Word on the Encyclical...

John Allen's Word from Rome, i.e. Lots of neat background stuff. Also a fascinating account of the conference held just prior to the release of the Encyclical by the Pontifical council, Cor Unum. An interesting repartee between James Wolfensoh, former president of the World Bank and the Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, on the role of bodies like the IMF and the Bank. But the most fascinating thing was this neat exchange between the Archbishop of Tehran and the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago.
Archbishop Ramzi Garmou, the Archbishop of Tehran in Iran, said during the question and answer period that he felt the conference "has not tried sufficiently to define the causes underlying inhuman situations of poverty." One such cause, he said, "is the policies of countries with economic, military, and scientific power, seeking to impose their priorities on others to protect their selfish and illegal interests."

Though Garmou was not specific, the reference to the United States seemed clear.

"What kind of appeal," he asked, "can we launch?"

In response, George said the question "from my brother in Iran" was "profoundly important for me as a citizen of the United States," and vowed that he would take it home.

"I will try to tell my fellow Americans how the world resents us, not because we are rich and free, but because too often we're deaf and blind," George said. "We find it difficult to break out of our own world, to place ourselves in the position of another, and to be available in such a way that we can be changed," he said.

"Many Americans recognize the truth of this, and we are working," he said. "It's not enough, it's not even a majority, but the possibility of redemption is there."

Yet George went on to nuance his response.

"An adequate analysis is also necessary about the sources of injustice in the world," he said. "We are all agents in some sense. No one is simply a victim, and no one is simply an actor."

George cited the growing conversations between bishops of the United States and Latin America as an example of fruitful exchange.

"The bishops of Latin America recognize that corruption and a history of authoritarian government in their own culture is also responsible in part for poverty and injustice," he said.

"All of us are called beyond resentment, some of it justified, towards the love that the pope speaks of in his new encyclical," he said.

Speaking directly to Garmou, George said, "I have to hear you, and I will say it in the United States. But if the United States ceased to exist tomorrow, there would still be poverty and injustice in Iran. We need a more ample conversation born in mutual trust and mutual love."
You go George! Called beyond resentment. I really don't know all the remarks that Archbishop Garmou said, but I've heard similar sentiments all the time in India, this claiming of victimhood because of colonialism, which justifies every current mess, and condones the status quo, which, of course, tends to benefit only those with access to power.

Not that there isn't some substance to such a critique of the United States. Yet, maybe the good Archbishop should also tell the president of his country to stop denying the Holocaust, wishing for the disappearance of Israel, and destabilizing the whole region by pursuing the bomb?

[A complete aside, that these remarks brought to mind: an essay in the latest issue of Foreign Policy, "David's Friend Goliath"
The rest of the world complains that American hegemony is reckless, arrogant, and insensitive. Just don’t expect them to do anything about it. The world’s guilty secret is that it enjoys the security and stability the United States provides. The world won’t admit it, but they will miss the American empire when it’s gone.
Haven't read the whole thing, so don't know which direction its going. But it should be interesting.]

[Cardinal George is indeed among the most brilliant figures in the US hierarchy. He's in hospital right now -- not a stroke, but they're monitoring him. Prayers will help!]

End of the Spear has an openly gay actor

A neat Christianity Today story on how an openly gay actor was cast in a lead role in End of the Spear.
Chad Allen, who plays Nate Saint (one of the martyred missionaries) and the grown-up Steve Saint (Nate's son), is an outspoken homosexual actor who has lobbied for gay rights and gay marriage.
Chad Allen played dual roles of Nate and Steve Saint
Chad Allen played dual roles of Nate and Steve Saint

Allen told Christianity Today Movies that he didn't tell End of the Spear's filmmakers about his sexuality until after they had offered him the job in late 2003. The filmmakers also say they didn't know about Allen's lifestyle until after they offered him a contract, but they felt obliged to honor it even though it had not yet been signed.

"We found out Chad was gay after we offered him the parts," said executive producer Mart Green of Every Tribe Entertainment, the production company behind the movie. "We felt like when we offered him the contract, we were obligated to honor it."
"This is one of the most extraordinary stories of love and forgiveness that I've ever known," Allen said. "But I also realized the incredible responsibility of playing these two men, especially as I learned more about how important Nate Saint and Steve Saint are to people around the world. I really felt the weight of that."

Allen didn't meet Steve Saint until about three months after he was hired, when shooting began in January 2004 in Panama. When they finally met, Allen says he told Saint, "If you don't want me to do this movie, because I respect you and your family so much and I respect this story so much, I will walk away from this—contract or no contract, even if that means I'm liable for breaking the contract."

But Saint had already decided to keep Allen on board. He said he had been praying about it, and that God clearly revealed the answer in a dream.

In the dream, Saint says he was "being chased by a mob of Christians who were angry with me for having desecrated 'their story.' The answer to their hostility was easy: Just ask Chad to remove himself. But as quickly as this thought came to me, I found myself standing before God. His look was not as compassionate as I had expected. God said, 'Steve, you of all people should know that I love all of my children.With regard to Chad Allen, I went to great lengths to orchestrate an opportunity for him to see what it would be like for him to walk the trail that I marked for him. Why did you mess with my plans for him?'
Very encouraging story, about true dialogue. And yes, compassion and love. Would that more Christians would, indeed, love the sinner.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ...

... well it's past. And in the busy-ness of things and with the encyclical and what not, I didn't get around to blogging on it.

Here's the Holy Father's address from last Sunday's Angelus.
This Sunday is celebrated in the midst of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which takes place every year from Jan. 18-25. It is an initiative, born at the beginning of the past century, which has undergone a positive development, increasingly becoming an ecumenical point of reference, in which Christians of the various confessions worldwide pray and reflect on the same biblical text.

The passage chosen this year is taken from chapter 18 of Matthew's Gospel, which refers to some of the teachings of Jesus that affect the community of disciples. Among other things, it affirms: "If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:19-20).

These words of the Lord Jesus infuse much confidence and hope! In particular, they invite Christians to ask God together for that full unity among them, for which Christ himself, with heartfelt insistence, prayed to the Father during the Last Supper (cf. John 17:11,21,23). We understand, therefore, the reason why it is so important that we, Christians, invoke the gift of unity with persevering constancy. If we do so with faith, we can be sure that our request will be heard. We do not know when or how, as it is not for us to know, but we must not doubt that one day we will be "one," as Jesus and the Father are united in the Holy Spirit.

The prayer for unity is the soul of the ecumenical movement, which, thanks be to God, advances throughout the world. Of course difficulties and trials are not lacking, but these also have their spiritual usefulness, as they drive us to have patience and perseverance and to grow in fraternal charity. God is love and only if we are converted to him and accept his Word will we all be united in the one Mystical Body of Christ.

The expression, "God is love," in Latin "Deus Caritas Est," is the title of my first encyclical, which will be published next Wednesday, Jan. 25, feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. I am happy it coincides with the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. On that day, I will go to St. Paul's Basilica to preside at Vespers, in which representatives of other churches and ecclesial communities will take part. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, intercede for us.
At that Vespers service, in his homily (not yet on the Vatican website in English), the Pope says:
Deus caritas est (1 Gv 4, 8.16), Dio è amore. Su questa solida roccia poggia tutta intera la fede della Chiesa. In particolare, si basa su di essa la paziente ricerca della piena comunione tra tutti i discepoli di Cristo: fissando lo sguardo su questa verità, culmine della divina rivelazione, le divisioni, pur mantenendo la loro dolorosa gravità, appaiono superabili e non ci scoraggiano.

["Deus caritas est, God is love. On this solid rock hangs the entire faith of the Church. In particular, the patient search for full communion between all the disciples of Christ is based on this: fixing their gaze on this truth, the summit of divine revelation, the divisions, while maintaining their sad gravity, appear surmountable, and do not discourage us"]
Check out more links at the Graymoor Friars (who started the Week over a hundred years ago), and read some reflections on the theme over at Catholic Sensibility.

Just too funny!

Many dioceses have outlawed the Da Vinci code? Read on! (Via the Curt Jester)

Zombietime ...

... photoessay on the Walk for Life in San Francisco. Zombietime is famous for his coverage of various protests, and is generally more sympathetic to the conservative side. Anyway, this is just crazy stuff -- regardless of what I thought of abortion, I know which side I'd call more civilized. [Via Relapsed Catholic]

At least we were spared this in DC.

Cardinal Telesphore on Catholic Education in India

Not for conversion (in India this is always understood as proselytism).
NEW DELHI, India, JAN. 26, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Telesphore Toppo of Ranchi has indicated that Catholic education in India isn't about proselytism.

"The Catholic Church believes in empowering people and in nation-building through education," said the cardinal during a recent press conference.

The cardinal, who is president of the bishops' conference of India, was addressing the topic on which the episcopate's next General Assembly will focus: "Catholic Education and the Church's Concern for the Marginalized."

On that occasion, Bangalore will be host to the biannual meeting, scheduled for Feb. 8-15.

During the press conference last Saturday, Cardinal Toppo, 66, was asked to respond to the allegation that, from the religious point of view, the Church converts people through education.

"If that were true, the BJP leader, St. Patrick's School alumnus Mr. L.K. Advani, would have been converted," he noted. BJP, the Bharatiya Janata Party, is India's Hindu nationalist opposition party.

The Catholic Church in India runs some 20,000 educational institutions, 66% of which are in rural areas. Of the 6.3 million who study in Catholic institutions, 77% are non-Catholics, according to the bishops' conference.

Catholic institutions have also contributed greatly to the education of girls in India, "which is also a national priority," said a bishops' conference communiqué. Fifty-five percent of girls, as contrasted with 45% of boys, study in Catholic schools and colleges in the country.
Well obviously, not everyone who goes through the portals of a Catholic school ends up Catholic. Some do. Such as yours truly. Not because anyone consciously tried or forced me to, I should add. Besides, the Archdiocese required that I make a notarized affidavit that I was becoming Catholic of my own free will, and had not been offered any incentives or enticements. "Conversion" is quite an incendiary topic in India. Literally.

Brings to mind something that the Holy Father just wrote:
A Christian knows when it is time to speak of God and when it is better to say nothing and to let love alone speak. He knows that God is love (cf. 1 Jn4:8) and that God's presence is felt at the very time when the only thing we do is to love. He knows—to return to the questions raised earlier—that disdain for love is disdain for God and man alike; it is an attempt to do without God. Consequently, the best defence of God and man consists precisely in love. It is the responsibility of the Church's charitable organizations to reinforce this awareness in their members, so that by their activity—as well as their words, their silence, their example—they may be credible witnesses to Christ.
One of those many "wow" moments in this encyclical. The best defence of God and man consists precisely in love. This brings such richness and light on that ancient maxim (from St. Augustine, wasn't it?), ama et fac quod vis?!

Theology on Tap --- in Rome!

Elizabeth Lev writes an occasional but always informative piece for Zenit's daily dispatches. Here she talks about the famed Theology on Tap program (startd in the Archdiocese of Chicago) reaching the Eternal City itself.
Strong Brew, Theologically

The ancient Greeks invented the "convivium," pleasant gatherings where youths and adults, mellowed by food and wine would talk of gods, politics and culture. While this custom had problematic elements for Christians -- namely polytheism and a males-only rule -- the last few years have seen the spirit of the convivium Christianized.

Theology on Tap was started in the United States as an initiative to get young people to talk about Catholic faith and issues in a less formal setting than a church or classroom. Invited speakers give a short talk and then answer questions afterward. The relaxed atmosphere (and happy-hour prices) tends to draw considerable crowds.

Here in Rome, Theology on Tap has been gaining momentum ever since it was started last year. Last Thursday, a particularly interesting talk demonstrated even greater values to Theology on Tap than just getting young people to talk about God in the pub instead of just sports or movies.

Father Robert Sirico, president of the Michigan-based Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, opened the 2006 lectures with the provocatively titled talk, "Can a Rich Man Go to Heaven?"

With hundreds of business students arriving that week to get their dusting in humanities, the talk couldn't have been better timed. The aptly-named Scholars Lounge in Rome was packed.

Father Sirico approached the scriptural question with scriptural answers. He reminded the young people of Genesis, the creation of the world and that God deemed it "good." He spoke of Adam and Eve and the dignity of human work. He reminded a rapt audience of how "God takes the material world seriously." So much so that the Redemption took place in the material world.

With a few well-delivered phrases, Father Sirico knocked down the barriers between business students and theologians, and he then went to on to find common ground for the politically left or right. Elucidating the dangers of "canonizing the poor while demonizing the rich," Father Sirico also warned against "Calvinism on steroids" policies, which imply that attainment of wealth is a sign of God's favor.

In one of the most engaging moments of the evening, Father Sirico waxed autobiographical, revealing that briefly in his youth he had worn tie-dye and dreamed of redistributing wealth. The crowd, their jaws dropped in wonder, stared at the starry-eyed socialist turned captain of a Catholic think tank.

The discovery of Father Sirico's remarkable transformation also answered the question that had brought everyone to the pub that night -- "with God all things are possible."
Oh boy -- would I have loved to be present for this? [Also, stories on Mozart in Rome and the Caraffa chapel in S. Maria sopra Minerva with its beautiful frescoes of Filippino Lippi. Having seen these in person, I can attest to their beauty!]

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Defending the Society ...

... the Society of Jesus i.e. Go read Mark's summary of his "those-darn-Jesuits" posts, even as his response to Fr. Neuhaus's attack on the Society is sizzling in the comboxes.

"Don't be evil"

... unless, you want to make money, I guess? Slate has a roundup of the reaction in the blogosphere to Google's decision to censor it's search engine in order to get better market access in China.

Outlawing abortion ...

Heather has some questions and thoughts on abortion restrictions. I've had this conversation with her (and many others who have similar opinions) before. I don't have time right now to put together a good response, so I invite others to share their thoughts on her blog. Respectfully, please. No point in having shouting matches. And, "you're Catholic how dare you think these things" is not a response, but a threat, I'm sorry.

Read it! Read it! Read it!

.... just go and read it for yourself!

I got distracted by the latest Commonweal (major piece by LTJ there. Oy, more reading), but finally got to reading Part II of the Encyclical. Oh wow. There's so much there! And again, I'm taken aback by how simple the message is, and just how powerful and beautiful it is.

The Church institutionalizes love. Justice and charity are not opposed. Everyone needs love. the Church's "charity workers" must be on fire with love. The Church is not into politics, even as she influences society and forms consciences. A solid critique of Marxism -- it was loveless and utilitarian! Evangelization is not proselytism -- workers need to know the difference. We are not God. We cannot change the world. Yet our suffering cries to heaven! A reflection on Job. The saints are our models. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Saint Martin of Tours. And most preminently, Mary, our mother. The very conclusion is breathtakingly Marian, and, at the same time, Christocentric.

And -- oh how delicious -- the first pope to quote Julian the apostate, and positively!

Here's some bits from Part II:
With regard to the personnel who carry out the Church's charitable activity on the practical level, the essential has already been said: they must not be inspired by ideologies aimed at improving the world, but should rather be guided by the faith which works through love (cf. Gal 5:6). [#33]

Saint Paul, in his hymn to charity (cf. 1 Cor 13), teaches us that it is always more than activity alone: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (v. 3). This hymn must be the Magna Carta of all ecclesial service; it sums up all the reflections on love which I have offered throughout this Encyclical Letter. Practical activity will always be insufficient, unless it visibly expresses a love for man, a love nourished by an encounter with Christ. [#34]

Often we cannot understand why God refrains from intervening. Yet he does not prevent us from crying out, like Jesus on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). We should continue asking this question in prayerful dialogue before his face: “Lord, holy and true, how long will it be?” (Rev 6:10). It is Saint Augustine who gives us faith's answer to our sufferings: “Si comprehendis, non est Deus”—”if you understand him, he is not God.” [35] Our protest is not meant to challenge God, or to suggest that error, weakness or indifference can be found in him. For the believer, it is impossible to imagine that God is powerless or that “perhaps he is asleep” (cf. 1 Kg 18:27). Instead, our crying out is, as it was for Jesus on the Cross, the deepest and most radical way of affirming our faith in his sovereign power. Even in their bewilderment and failure to understand the world around them, Christians continue to believe in the “goodness and loving kindness of God” (Tit 3:4).[#38]
I'm going to stop. I need to sleep on this. There will be tons of reflections out there in the blogosphere for sure. Right now, digestion. Rereading tomorrow. And avoiding reading other reflections for a while ...

Let me just share the closing prayer directed to Our Lady, seemingly composed by the Holy Father himself:
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
you have given the world its true light,
Jesus, your Son – the Son of God.
You abandoned yourself completely
to God's call
and thus became a wellspring
of the goodness which flows forth from him.
Show us Jesus. Lead us to him.
Teach us to know and love him,
so that we too can become
capable of true love
and be fountains of living water
in the midst of a thirsting world.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

"Tu es vas electionis, Sancte Paule Apostole"

A special day for all religious orders who follow his charism.

Lead us Great Teacher Paul
Lead us, great teacher Paul, in wisdom's ways,
And lift our hearts with thine to heaven's high throne;
Till faith beholds the clear meridian blaze
And sun-like in the soul reigns charity alone

Praise, blessing, majesty, through endless days
Be to the Trinity immortal given;
Who in pure Unity profoundly sways
Eternally alike all things in earth and heaven.

[Alfred Young CSP]
[This is a sort of anthem for the Missionary Society of St. Paul. I couldn't find the text online! Wow. Google isn't omniscient ... :)]

Blown away ...

... I read the first half of the encyclical over lunch. It is simply beautiful. I was moved deeply by the Holy Father's rich reflections on the love of God and human love. While a serious and weighty work, it flows naturally, and is not hobbled by footnotes everywhere. And shining right through it is the simplicity of the Christian message, -- that God is love, and the only way to true happiness is to live in God's love. It's deeply scriptural -- Johanine (the First Letter of John figures prominently) -- and evangelical.

St. Paul would rejoice! :)

Won't get to part II till later tonight, most likely.

God is love

In Latin.
In English.

Wow. The Latin is up already. Instead of weeks later (or never). :) Now to read it ...

In the morning .... an encyclical ...

Zadok has some predictions. Good ones.

And Rocco covers the sneak-previews.

Oh I cannot wait!

Oh my word ...

In the latest First Things, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus wonders about a "Truce of 2005" akin to the one of 1968 (basically, non-enforcement of Humanae Vitae) over the whole gays in the priesthood flap. While a fan of Fr. Neuhaus' delicious polemic in his "Public Square" ramble in First Things, on many subjects, I find myself disagreeing. This particular one covers a lot of ground What is eyebrow raising is not the subject matter (opinion on what the recent Instruction actually means is, as is well known, quite divided, and it will be interpreted in a variety of different ways, for sure), but the ease with which Fr. Neuhaus seems to suggest that this issue will test the mettle and determine the legacy, in a sense of this papacy.

It's all very good to be for the Pope. But he could do with a reminder from the us once in a while, about What Really Matters?

Anyway, Mark Mossa, full of umbrage, defends the honor of the Society of Jesus, and rips into Fr. Neuhaus.

You go Mark!

[Sorry, no comments on this one.]

Don Jim on Pro-life

To round up the pro-life weekend blogging, here are Don Jim's thoughts.


Read Catholic News to find out! :-D

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

SC March for Life

Decent coverage by the State.

Website of SC Citzens for Life.

An interesting chart [pdf life](also from SC Life) on the decline in the number of abortions in South Carolina -- a fifty-three percent decline since 1988! -- because of a variety of legislative initiatives. Some recent research seems to back up this correlation.

March for Life out west...

Gosh. This is how clueless I am. I didn't even know there was a March for Life organized out West. Well, obviously there would be. I think there's one in every state. Check out Amy Welborn's post on the protests there (I didn't see any in DC. Either they were far away from us, had left, or decided the rain didn't make it worth it). Who's showing the love? [Also see the post at After Abortion.]

Americans on Call

How may I help you?

A very intriguing idea. And simple. I do hope it takes off. I want to help this way. Ideas on how to help spread this locally?

Here's After Abortion's take. Amy's plugging this too.

March for Life: Catholica-palooza!

Or at least that's how it seemed, after this, my first time ever, at the national March for Life, which is held on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, now going thirty-three years strong. While other groups were present (I saw banners for Anglicans for Life and Orthodox Christians for Life. I was told that there were other Christians, Jews and even this organization, that participate), this is easily the largest gathering of Catholics in the United States. Becassocked priests and seminarians, the occasional prelate, nuns galore, all kinds of habits, and Catholics of every shape and size and stripe, from all over the country. That, in of itself, is quite invigorating.

The day started early -- we left Leesburg, VA around 6:15 am and drove to the house of the parents of one of our students in Sterling, VA, who had, with great love and generosity, put together a huge (and delicious) breakfast for the whole group! "Our contribution to the cause." Not only that, but we all got water and sandwiches to take along as well.

Driving into DC is never fun, especially at rush-hour (that's VA-7 at about 7:50 am).
At 8:30 am or so we park the vans at West Falls Church metro and take the Orange line into the district, a quick change at Metro Center and we join the hordes streaming out to the MCI Center at the Gallery Pl-Chinatown metro, for the Rally and Mass organized by the Archdiocese of Washington. The 20,000 seat building was jammed to capacity, and we managed to find a few seats in the upper stratosphere.

The Mass was awesome -- decent praise & worship music (yes I enjoy that too) with Steve Angrisano and a great gospel choir, presided over by the Archbishop of Washington, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick. (Here's Rocco's description of last year's "Giganta-Mass" as he so delightfully calls it. And here he's being his catty self. :)) The floor of the arena was filled with black-clad seminarians and men and women religious in a variety of habits (or lack thereof). It's always inspiring in such gatherings as the clergy processes in, a long line of presbyters (who sat in the side-sections blocked off in the picture above) followed by the mighty mitred ones.

As Mass started Cardinal Mccarrick welcomed each of the bishops present, with the people from his diocese cheering raucously as his name was called out. The largest applause went for the Archbishop of New Orleans, a small sign of solidarity with all those whose lives were turned upside down in last year's hurricane season. The Cardinal also introduced the outgoing chairman of the Bishops' Pro-Life Office, Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore (nice round of applause), and the incoming chairman, Cardinal Rigali of Philadephia (thunderous applause, obviously an indication of the nature of this particular Catholic congregation :-)).

The homily was great, frequently punctuated by applause. The Vocations Director of the Diocese of Albany (if I recall correctly) focused, seemingly incongruously, on choice. God gives us the freedom to choose. We must choose wisely, properly, morally. Choose life! He touched on all the aspects of what it means to be pro-life -- helping all those who are hurting and in need, opposing the culture of death in all its manifestations, including ESCR, capital punishment, cloning etc.

I was amazed at how efficiently the distribution of communion was organized for such a vast gathering. Despite the somewhat annoying teenagers around us (some of whom simply wouldn't shut up!), it was quite a prayerful experience.

In his thank-you remarks, Cardinal McCarrick asked for a special thank you to all seminarians and novices present (thunderous applause, of course!) and asked all those thinking about religious life (women and men) and the priesthood to stand and be recognized. I have to say, however hokey this might seem to some, this kind of public affirmation by the Body of Christ for young women and men contemplating a rather counter-cultural path is tremendously helpful. Of course, given the generally conservative nature of the congreagation, the strong support is hardly surprising. This is the constituency, it seems, that is doing best with letting women and men hear a call to the ministerial priesthood and religious life, after all.

I wish, however, that the Cardinal had also asked all those living out the vocation of marriage to stand up. After all, most of them made a huge choice at some point -- they chose life for their children, when 47 million others have been denied that.

After Mass, we were herded down 7th street towards the Mall, at a relatively rapid pace. We prayed the rosary as we walked down the streets of the nations' capital. Several groups broke into various slogans and chants. The atmosphere was light and festive.

There's the campus ministry group from SC (yours truly is behind the camera :)).

Of course, a gathering like this attracts the fringe of the right-wing. There were lots of traditionalist groups -- in black birettas, carrying statues of Mary, chanting in Latin. In fact statues of Our Lady proliferated. One even sported a poncho, protection against the elements. There were the expected encomiums to the President ("Michigan loves our pro-life President"), a sentiment that I most definitely don't share (yes, I admit that he's been good on ESCR among a few other pro-life causes). The group in the picture, Tradition, Family, Prosperity, had large red and gold banners, with a rampant heraldic lion, reminscent of English nobility emblazoned on it, and a small army of volunteers handing out pamphlets on the sorry state of the moral fibre of the nation. Don't get me wrong, I probably wouldn't disagree overall (ever mindful of Blessed John XXIII's words about the prophets of doom). But I didn't quite appreciate the implication that the reason why we have so many immigrants is that we're aborting our future generations. Yes, overturn Roe v. Wade (like that will alone end abortion overnight, or reduce the demand for abortions) and the Mexicans will stop dying to come to el norte, and our demographic future will be secure. Somehow, I had a sense that Tradition, Family and Prosperity wasn't doing their part to welcome immigrants to our shores as the Bishops and the Holy Father keep telling us we should be. Anyway, I pereceived this as being rather minor part of the event.

The other "fringe" was also present, much to my delight (since, if I had to, that's how I'd probably describe my political leanings. Though I don't know really).

The march to the Supreme Court itself was a little disappointing. We spent about two hours in the miserably freezing cold and rain on the Mall, doing nothing. Groups milled about. The occasional chant or song was attempted, in defiance of the grey, gloomy weather. The rally and stage were too far away, completely inaudible. Finally, around 2 pm, the crowd surged up Constitution Ave. to the Hill.

At the Supreme Court, things got a little slow. Groups walked up to the Court, then turned around so there was traffic going every which way. On the last section, up to the Court, we said another rosary, then slowly inched our way off the Hill to Union Station, to catch the metro back out to West Falls Church. Since the rally is held earlier, on the Mall, there's no speeches at the Court. It feels a little anticlimactic, and I think they were trying out different logistics this year, so it felt somewhat disorganized.

Anyway, for future events (and I will, of course, be in DC next year), a little bit of advance planning, researching blogs and so on, might definitely help. I'd had no time this year at all.

We left the station parking lot at 5:00 p.m. precisely, dreading rush hour. Thank goodness for the HOV-3 lanes, which zoomed us past all the bottlenecks on I-95S! After an exhaustingly long drive, we got back to SC at 1:15 a.m.

Despite the hectic nature of things, I'm glad I went. For one, it was neat the number of young people there -- high-schoolers, college students, all with a huge love for the faith that was so palpable. As Cardinal McCarrick reminded us, this was what the Holy Father had said in his inaugural Mass when being installed as Supreme Pontiff, "The Church is alive! The Church is young!"

It really is an awesome feeling being part of such a large group, so visibly joyous, prayerful, loving, and proclaiming an uncomfortable truth. Yes, loudly, maybe too rancorously at times. But a truth that absoulutely needs to be heard. That every human life is precious, especially the one that is most vulnerable. That one does not have to choose between being "pro-woman" and "pro-life."

What stuck with me all day, however, was those powerful, radical words of Our Lord from the Sermon on the Mount, that were the Gospel reading from Mass in the morning. Words that make us squirm uncomfortably. Because they obviously cannot mean what they say, you know, literally. They have such an immediate power, that our minds and our hearts want to soften the blow with hermeneutical cushions.
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
[Check out all the links and stories at After Abortion on the March. MSM has been predictably lame. Also check out Pro Life Blogs. Oh, read Amy Welborn's rejoinder to Will Saletan's piece in the Slate. Also this.]

March for Life: hmmm

Wow. What a long day. I've been up now for twenty-two and a half hours (a large chunk of which was spent driving). I cannot think of a time since my college days that I've been awake for this long. Weird wired feeling ... :) We didn't end up leaving DC till like 5 pm, and by the time I dropped everyone back, dropped the van off and got back home, it was just after 2 am. Time for bed. I'll blog more on the March on the morrow (at least I don't go in till the afternoon). Wanted to share this intrigue=ing shot. [Not to imply by this selection that the March was entirely about fringe elements ... it wasn't]. Thanks for the prayers. ¡Buenas noches!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

March for Life ...

Blogging from Leesburg, VA --- some 40 miles out of the District. Spent the day driving a van full of college kids up here for the March for Life tomorrow (Jan 23). Long drive, but quite uneventful, up I-77 then I-81 along the Shanandoah Valley. We got in as estimated at about 9 pm, and are the guests of St. John the Apostle parish.

This is my first time at the national March for Life. I have to admit I'm a little ambivalent, because the somewhat strident nature of the "pro-life movement" can be off-putting. Don't get me wrong, I'm 100% pro-life. Sometimes, I wonder if the rancor gets in the way. Relapsed Catholic had a neat post on this aspect of the pro-life movement a little while back that kinda captures what I'm talking about.

Anyway, it's probably a little churlish of me to bring this up now. When we got in, we trotted across the extensive grounds of the parish to the beautiful old church on King St. in downtown Leesburg, and spent some time in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament, before praying Compline. There was a quiet dignity and tranquility in that church, a very prayerful silence. And I think we all prayed for an increased respect for all human life. For all the women who feel that this is their only choice. And for an end to the scourge of abortion.

Please pray for all of us.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Sancta Agnes, ora pro nobis ...

Church of Santa Agnese in Agone, Piazza Navona, Rome. The traditional site of her martyrdom.
[This was taken in June 2002. That trip, I went through airline security so much that several of my rolls got overexposed. Ugh. This one is heavily edited. No problems now that I've switched over to digital :)]

It's the feast of the virgin martyr. Here's a great link with stories about her cult (also via Don Jim's great blog), and the important role that is played by the lambs dedicated to her, whose wool becomes part of the pallia given to Metropolitan Archbishops on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Her tomb, at Santa Agnese Fuori le Mura (St. Agnes outside the walls), is a beautiful, tranquil place, and one of my favorites in the Eternal City.

Here's Georgina Mason on S. Agnese in Agone (Agone refering to the Circus Agonalis, Domitian's circus, whose outline is still preserved in the shape of the piazza, and gave rise to the name Navona):-
According to pious legend, the church of S. Agnese in Agone, as it is still called, was originally built over the brother, or some such infamous meeting place, in which the thirteen-year-old saint began her martyrdom in the year 304 by being stripped of her clothes. It was then that the miraculous growth of her hair concealed her nakedness, a circumstance attested in the inscription which Pope St. Damasus placed upon her tomb near the Via Nomentana only sixty-two years later. In the vaults below the church some fragments of Roman pavement still exist. Although the walls have been plastered over and painted at avrious periods, there is no doubt that they once formed part of the substructures of DOmitian's stadium, a building which, in common with the baths and others of its kind, would have attracted taverns and other less respectable establishments to the vicinity. The church itself is the work of Borromini, Girolamo and Carlo Rainaldi, all three of whom found favour [sic] with different members of the Pamphlij family; however, the dramatic effect of its concave facade and towering belfires it owes to a design by Borromini. The interior is resplendent with gold and marbles, but the works of art contained are not extraordinary.
You know what this means. That old wanderlust striketh again --- I want to go to Rome again! :: sigh ::

3000 year old necropolis found under the Roman Forum ...

... neat! (Via Dappled Things)
Archaeologists digging beneath the Roman Forum have discovered a 3,000-year-old tomb that pre-dates the birth of ancient Rome by several hundred years.

State TV tonight showed an excavation team removing vases from the tomb, which resembled a deep well.

Archaeologists were excavating under the level of the ancient forum, a popular tourist site, when they dug up the tomb, which they suspect is part of an entire necropolis, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

"I am convinced that the excavations will bring more tombs to light," ANSA quoted Rome's archaeology commissioner, Eugenio La Rocca, as saying.

Also found inside the tomb was a funerary urn, ANSA said.
Also check the links in the link above.

St. Mary's gets a mention again ...

... the liturgy up there is a favorite among the smells and bells crowd, it seems (and count me as a card carrying member of that brigade). Reminds me that I need to get up there to take some pictures before I depart the Palmetto State ...

500 years of the Swiss Guard ...

Yesterday. (Thanks to Dogwood for pointing this out ... )
Over the years, Swiss troops have shown great devotion in serving the head of the Catholic Church. Their bloodiest sacrifice was made on May 6, 1527, during the Sack of Rome, when 147 Swiss guards died defending Pope Clement VII from a much larger army of Lansquenets (German mercenaries) in the pay of Emperor Charles V.

Their sacrifice is remembered every year at a ceremony in the Vatican on May 6, when new recruits swear an oath of loyalty to the pontiff.

The Vatican has had other guards besides the Swiss, namely the Noble Guard, created in 1801, and the Palatine Guard, founded in 1850. But they were both disbanded in 1970 by Paul VI who decided to do away with the Vatican's military trappings.

He made an exception for the Swiss guards because of their proven loyalty to the pontiff.

110 men

The guard today consists of 110 men, as stipulated by John Paul II in regulations which came into force in 1979.

As well as performing military service and providing a guard of honour, they control access to the Vatican City, watch over the Apostolic Palace and act as bodyguards to the pope.

Usually this involves keeping the faithful at arm's length, but the guards must be permanently alert to danger, as was demonstrated on May 13, 1981, when John Paul II narrowly survived an assassination attempt by Turk Ali Agca.
[Hmm -- going through all my pictures from my varous jaunts to Rome. Apparently, I never took a photo of a Swiss guard. Very strange. Maybe I was frightened by their mean looking halbreds?]

Oh no -- I knew I'd taken at least one. Ecco.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Poor Richard Dawkins

He's being taken to task this week.

First, Keith Ward in the Tablet. Faith, hype and a lack of clarity.
It seems that he thinks scientists are all reasonable, sceptical, honest people who insist on having evidence for all their beliefs. Religious believers, however, are irrational, and their faith discourages independent thought, is divisive, and dangerous. Faith, Dawkins said, is “a process of non-thinking”, or of “believing because you have been told”, without any evidence at all. Presumably scientists who have religious beliefs are rational during the week, and suddenly become insane on Sundays.
Dawkins may think that the spiritual hypothesis has been demolished by materialism. There are indeed some philosophers who think so. But, as anyone who teaches philosophy knows, there are also reasons for believing in God. Even scientists who are not avowed theists, such as Sir Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, usually accept that there are good reasons for believing in a designing intelligence, even if they think there are stronger reasons for declining that inference. There are reasons for belief in God, however, that can be intelligently believed and discussed, and to deny that is wilful prejudice and intellectual dishonesty.
So why can Professor Dawkins only see the bad in religion? Why is he incapable of making an objective, “scientific”, study of it, in all its diversity? Why is he unable to make distinctions between the many different forms of religious belief? I do not know the answer to these questions, but I do know this apostle of reason, when confronted with the word “faith”, suddenly becomes irrational, careless of truth, incapable of scholarly analysis. I really think it must be some sort of virus, and I wish my colleague a speedy recovery.

The whole thing really is worth reading! Then we have that bastion of secularism, the Guardian, yesterday [hat-tip to Mike M for the link], ripping through him.
There's an aggrieved frustration that they've been short-changed by history; we were supposed to be all atheist rationalists by now. Secularisation was supposed to be an inextricable part of progress. Even more grating, what secularisation there has been is accompanied by the growth of weird irrationalities from crystals to ley lines. As GK Chesterton pointed out, the problem when people don't believe in God is not that they believe nothing, it is that they believe anything.

There's an underlying anxiety that atheist humanism has failed. Over the 20th century, atheist political regimes racked up an appalling (and unmatched) record for violence. Atheist humanism hasn't generated a compelling popular narrative and ethic of what it is to be human and our place in the cosmos; where religion has retreated, the gap has been filled with consumerism, football, Strictly Come Dancing and a mindless absorption in passing desires. Not knowing how to answer the big questions of life, we shelve them - we certainly don't develop the awe towards and reverence for the natural world that Dawkins would want. So the atheist humanists have been betrayed by the irrational, credulous nature of human beings; a misanthropy is increasingly evident in Dawkins's anti-religious polemic and among his many admirers.
Maybe next the editors of the Atlantic Monthly will take note. Last month they printed this thought-provoking and intelligent piece (Is God an accident?). In response, this month, there are five letters, four of which (at least at first glance) have the same mixture of condescension and disdain towards religion that is exemplified by Dawkins. It has to be "explained" somehow. The fifth is the only response from a religious person, slightly huffy, but making a valid point. The author is given a chance to respond, and simply ignores the arguments raised by the last letter. Now it could be that no other seriously religious readers responded. I wonder though. Compare this to that neat piece that ran in the same publication, Kicking the Secularist Habit (David Brooks, March 2003).

Me wants to go ...

A workshop on chant in Auburn. (Via Don Jim.)

It's cheap. It's not too far away. Heck it's even on a weekend which is light.

Now to see if the Boss-man thinks it's worth the parish's time. And money. He's not quite a Latin fan ... but hey.

The permanent diaconate arrives in India

Via Bombay Archdiocese to ordain India's first married deacons (Via Open Book)
Cardinal Ivan Dias of Bombay will ordain on Sunday two married men as permanent deacons, the first such event in India.

Lloyd Dias of Sacred Heart Parish in Vashi and Elwyn de Souza of St Joseph’s parish in Juhu will receive their religious orders at the Holy Name Cathedral in Colaba.
[Incidentally, the place where I first started going to Mass regularly]

The article gives an understanding of the permanent diaconate that is widespread, if not entirely articulate, that they are "helpers to the priests." Read the well-informed comments at Open Book for a more nuanced understanding of the restoration of the permanent diaconate after the Council.

What was also interesting was this idea that "lay" = "married" and so this:
To prepare the laity for this significant event, parishioners in Mumbai were given questionnaires to seek their opinion. Some church members did say that they did not see the need for deacons from the laity. “We are saying that priests should get married. But I do not see the need for deacons who are married, when priests and nuns are asked to be celibate.
Well, technically, all of the ordained are "from the laity." Deacons are ordained, they are clerics (in the West, in most places, they have the privilege of wearing the Roman collar as well, in certain contexts, I think). Besides, there can be (and are) numbers of laity who aren't married. What is being reflected here is a probably common idea: that ordination (and ministry in the church) and celibacy are intrinsically related to each other. Which is not at all true: consider the number of men (and women!) in the traditional religious orders who are not ordained ("lay brothers"), and of course, two millenia of married clergy in the East.

And then this:
“If we have married deacons, what is the difference between the Catholic Church and the new born-again churches?” asked a parishioner from South Mumbai, who requested anonymity.
I really didn't know that it was the celibate clergy that was the distinguishing mark of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. Like anywhere else in the world, I guess, this is a teaching moment.

I for one, think it it's great that the restored diaconate is being inuagurated in my native land.

Live in your world, play in ours ...

[Well, that's Playstation's tag line, isn't it? Same difference ... ]

Check out this Xbox360 ad. I couldn't stop laughing. For anyone who has spent hours watching Halo (yes, watching. I didn't dare play. I'd never stop. Watching others play was bad enough!) this is hugely disturbingly funny. {Via Zadok, who says his inner life resembles this)

The 2006 Index of Economic Freedom

From the WSJ and the Heritage Foundation.
Wealth comes from the actions of people, not the actions of government, and the freer people are to direct their efforts to where they are most productive, the greater the wealth created. Three of our chapters highlight the efforts of people around the world to overcome the barriers they face.
In Chapter 3, Barun Mitra writes of the entrepreneurs in India who have managed to circumvent pervasive restrictions and create markets where there might have been none. Are cheap cars unavailable because of high tariffs? Have one made by the local village mechanic.
Got this via this cool story from the Brussels Journal [Who're even more preachy and smug than the Economist. But they're right. ::sigh::. Well, it's probably not quite a clear cut either/or ... ].
Suppose you were appointed global economic czar, and your task was to bring the world’s per capita income up to the level of Ireland’s (almost that of the U.S.). Would you:
(A) Insist the world’s rich nations transfer substantial wealth though massive foreign aid to the poor nations?
(B) Insist all nations adopt policies that would make them as economically free as the top 10 freest economies today?

If you answered “B,” go to the head of the class. This shows you have a good understanding of both history and economic reality about what works and what doesn’t.

If you answered “A,” welcome to the Kofi Annan, Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder school of willful economic ignorance. Graduates of this school are well represented among international institutions, such as the World Bank, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; the political left; and the media elites in such places as the New York Times editorial pages, the BBC and National Public Radio.
In central Africa, we have the contrast between Botswana (No. 30) and Zimbabwe (No. 154). Botswana, a relatively free market democracy, has roughly tenfold the per capita income (without U.S. aid) of the repressive Zimbabwe, despite having started at about the same level of development.
The lesson is clear for all who will remove their ideological blinders that the road to prosperity is economic freedom, not development aid. International institutions and major donor countries should stop handouts and pressure laggard countries to make free market reforms. But then, of course, international aid bureaucrats would be jobless. What a pity.
Oh, if you're wondering the US is #9.

So now we know why there are owls at Hogwarts ...

.... well, kinda. :)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

De Amicitia ...

Not Cicero. But Zadok has a short and brief reflection on the nature of friendship, taking off on a quote from Cardinal Newman. Check it out!

Intelligent Design not for schools says Vatican

... in an article in L'Osservatore Romano.
The author, Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, laid out the scientific rationale for Darwin's theory of evolution, saying that in the scientific world, biological evolution "represents the interpretative key of the history of life on Earth."

He lamented that certain American "creationists" had brought the debate back to the "dogmatic" 1800s, and said their arguments weren't science but ideology.

"This isn't how science is done," he wrote. "If the model proposed by Darwin is deemed insufficient, one should look for another, but it's not correct from a methodological point of view to take oneself away from the scientific field pretending to do science."

Intelligent design "doesn't belong to science and the pretext that it be taught as a scientific theory alongside Darwin's explanation is unjustified," he wrote.

"It only creates confusion between the scientific and philosophical and religious planes."
What's interesting is that pretty much the majority on the first few pages returned by a Technorati search on "Vatican and evolution" was on the lines of, "Oh, finally the Vatican acknowledges reality." or "The Vatican and I agree with something." None of my favorite Catholic blogs have commented on this story. No doubt, partly because it's kinda old -- the conversation has been intense since Cardinal Schönborn's piece in the NYT back in July 2005 -- and partly because, well, it really isn't news.

Du Bist Deutschland ...

The latest issue of First Things arrived in the mail. Which means a good chunk of the evening (one of those free evenings when I'm at home) was taken up in the delight of perusing the fine stuff the folks there produce. Fr. Neuhaus' "The Public Square" is always fun (though I rarely agree with everything he says. That's not the point though.). It's the pre-blog blog, as he takes us through various events, ecclesiastical and cultural, with that dry with and disdain of his ...

Here's a little sample:
Du bist ALbert Einstein. Germans are being treated to a television barrage of slick commercials aimed at elevating their self-esteem. Germans are feeling poorly about themselves. The economy is s tagnant, the culture is in the doldrums, the churches are relics, and it seems nobody but Muslim immigrants is having babies. Forty years ago, German thinkers produced a "philosophy of the future" and "theology of the future." And now there is no future. One commercial says: "Beat your wings. Uproot trees. You are the wings. You are the tree. You are Germany." It is the fatuity of deep depression. Not many years ago, Germany was to be reinvigorated by the reunification of East and West. The West poured billions upon billions into the East, and it seems to have vanished without a trace. Richard Bernstein writes: "Now the westerners are unhappy because the disappearance of all that money is seen as the root of Germany's economic stagnation and high unemployment. The easterners are notoriously unhappy because life is less secure than it used to be under Communism, and, as this cycle continues, the westerners are irritated that the easterners are unhappy." In the nineteenth century, Germany was the model of high culture; in the twentieth, the archetype of barbarity. That was briefly followed by a celebrated economic miracle and success in democratic government. As Steven Ozment writes in A Mighty Fortress, Germans want so desperately to be a normal nation (While We're At It, November 2004). At the same time, they decided, couple by couple, not to have babies, not to have a future, not to have hope. It seems the last thing Germans need to hear is "Du bist Einstein."
How interesting that at this very moment, the top search on Technorati is "Du bist Deutschalnd." Prompted, no doubt, by all those fine First Things readers who are out trying to learn more ... :-)

[Oh, and among many many absolutely delicious things in this issue, there is a review of a book on the Gunpowder Plot -- "God's Secret Agents: Queen Elizabeth's Forbidden Priests and the Hatching of the Gunpowder Plot." by Alice Hogge, reviewed by Amy Welborn. It sounds absolutely delightful. Cannot wait!]

A modern Islamic democracy ....

... in Morocco. At least if King Mohammed IV has his way.

Morocco's 42-year-old King Mohammed VI has discovered religion as a means of modernizing his society -- and progress through piety seems to be the order of the day. By granting new rights to women and strengthening civil liberties, the ruler of this country of 30 million on Africa's northern edge, which is 99 percent Muslim, plans to democratize Morocco through a tolerant interpretation of the Koran.

Morocco's 350-year-old dynasty, the world's oldest next to the Japanese imperial dynasty, claims to be directly descended from the prophet Mohammed. And as "Amir al-Muminin," or leader of the faithful, the country's ruler enjoys absolute authority.

The Conseil Supérieur des Oulémas, or council of religious scholars, which the king installed a year and a half ago, has been issuing fatwas on the most pressing questions of the 21st century -- and, surprisingly, they've been well-received by both young people and hardened Islamists. If the king's reform plan succeeds, Morocco could become a model of democratic Islam.

So, the democratic process in Iraq installs an Islamist Shi'ite government, and a begnign dictatorship at the other end of the Islamic world moves towards democracy. Hmm.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Clowning around ...

... check this out! :-)

Yep --- it's Jan. 25!

The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul Release date for Deus caritas est (Via Zadok, who also has a little fisk of a Telegraph story on the encyclical. Yes we know. They just do not get it.)

The Yahoo News/Reuters story.

And Rocco translates the ad-lib remarks of the Pope, who it seems, announced the release himself in a talk for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. (He just loves ad-libbing, doesn't he!)

There is eros; this gift of love between man and woman which comes from the same font of the Creator's goodness, and with it the possibility of a love which gives itself in favor of another, that eros transforms itself in agape only by the measure by which two people who really love each other become, finally, no longer about more for themselves, their own joy and their own happiness, but above all become about the good of the other person. And this eros transforms itself in love in a path of purification, of greater depth. It opens itself then into the family, which then opens itself toward the larger family of society, toward the family of the Church, toward the family of the world.

And I'm eager also to show that the most personal act of love, which comes to us from God, is a singular act of love. This must express itself also as an ecclesial act, an organizational one. If it's really true that the Church is the expression of God's love, from that which God has made for his human creature must also come the fundamental act of the faith which creates and unites the Church and gives us the hope of eternal life and that the presence of God in the world, producing an ecclesial act. In practice, the Church, as with a Church, as with a community, must love in an institutional way.
Breathe. Deeply. One. More. Week.