Friday, March 31, 2006

La chiesa è giovane ...

The church is young! The church is alive!

Those were the words of Pope Benedict in his first Mass after his election to the Pontificate. And that is certainly how I'd describe the sense one gets here at the 2006 Institute for Evangelical Catholicism at the St. Paul's University Catholic Center in Madison, WI.

[No, St. Bloggers -- it's not true that the only thing the young gravitate to are lace and Latin.]

[Ok. No more snakriness! :-)]

The folks at EC are onto something - and it's certainly a vision that's catching on. The Church as a vibrant evangelical movement (words that John Paul used himsefl!). A vision of the church as a community that invites people into a deep, personal relationship with the Risen Lord.

Yep, the language and the style sound often, well, evangelical. But Praise & Worship, certainly energizes. And it's so, well, American! :-)

The Institute started with daily Mass -- throughout which I could only think of our beloved Pope John Paul II. Last year I was here, and at that same Mass, we were praying for the dying Pontiff. He is so in my thoughts and in my heart this weekend! Then some extended Praise & Worship, and a talk on the principles of Evangelical Catholic ministry by the Director for Evangelical Catholicism, Tim Kruse. This year, lots of quotes from Pope Benedict. Looking over my notes, there's one that really sticks out, that really struck me. It was from Cardinal Ratzinger's interview with Vittorio Mesor (the one that became the "Ratzinger Report"), where he talks about the smallness of the church. "It would be an error to think that 10 years from now we'll have all the world Catholic. ... that is not our expectation. Rather, it is to have deeply intentional, confident and committed communities." [paraphrase] I really need to unpack that!

The highlight was the talk on the characteristics of an evangelical Catholic spirituality by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee. Abp. Dolan did the catechesis with the group I was with at World Youth Day in Toronto back in 2002, when he'd just been assigned to Milwaukee. Man, what a speaker! What powerful preaching! He had us all sitting at the edge of our seats, and spoke with passion and conviction, straight from the heart! It's the best I've heard a Bishop preach, ever! What a shot in the arm!

He highlighted five characteristics, which he developed in further detail in the talk:
An evangelical Catholic spirituality is
- centered on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ
- is incarnational
- is humble
- is joyful
- is confident

My notes are copious, and I just want to share a couple of points that really struck me:

-- quoting a professor who taught at the Gregorian, "I do not believe in the doctrine of the Eucharist. I believe in the person who revealed this doctrine."
-- St. Peter to the beggar in Acts. "Silver and gold I have not, but in the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to rise up and walk." The church doesn't have silver and gold. No longer the silver and gold of power, and status and wealth. And this is a good thing. We need this humility. All we have to offer is Jesus himself.

-- one of the ways the Incarnation continues is through Mary. We turn to her, our mother, who points to her Son. I must say, I'd never thought of connecting Mary with the Incarnation in this way before!
-- the other way -- and this is most controversial, especially these days with the messiness of the Church so visible -- the other way the Incarnation continues is through the Church. Being an evangelical Catholic means loving Jesus and his Church. They're inseparable.
-- the great temptation of religion is to reduce God to an idea. Ideas, don't have a mom. Jesus does!
-- Which do we want? Da Vinci [the church is a sham, a liar, who's covered up the truth of Jesus?] or De Lubac ["what would I know of Him, without her?"]

- humility. For many, "evangelical" conjures up images of the arrogant, the self-righteous, the snide. Never for an evangelical Catholic!

-- joy is the infallible sign of God's presence

-- Confidence: Be not afraid!

"Love Christ! Love the Church! Be not afraid!" Stuff that I need to hear over and over again.

I can't wait till the morrow. Pray for us over here.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Monks of Tibhirine

A beautiful story, also from Zenit, about a friend of the slain monks who's trying to stir interest in the spiritual legacy of the men murdered a decade ago by radical Islamists. The testament of Dom Christian, the abbot, who prayed for his murderers, is powerful stuff.
For this life lost, totally mine and totally theirs, I thank God, who seems to have willed it entirely for the sake of that JOY in everything and in spite of everything.

In this THANK YOU, which is said for everything in my life from now on, I certainly include you, friends of yesterday and today, and you, my friends of this place, along with my mother and father, my sisters and brothers and their families -- you are the hundredfold granted as was promised!

And also you, my last-minute friend, who will not have known what you were doing:

Yes, I want this THANK YOU and this GOODBYE to be a "GOD BLESS" for you, too, because in God's face I see yours.

May we meet again as happy thieves in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both.


The ad-libber continues ...

The Holy Father's address while visiting the ultramodern (architecturally speaking) Roman Parish of God the Merciful Father.
Dear Parish Priest,
Dear friends:

I see that you are really a living parish, where all collaborate, where one bears the burden of the other -- as St. Paul says -- and in this way you foster the growth of the living edifice of the Lord, which is the Church. The latter was not made of material stones, but of living stones, of baptized people, who feel all the faith's responsibility for others, all the joy of being baptized and of knowing God in the face of Jesus. For this reason, you commit yourselves so that this parish may really grow.

We are nearing Easter and two aspects of Christian life are presented to us: One is a climb, an ascent, which can even be somewhat difficult; the other is always constituted by the light of God, the light of our Lord.

I would simply like to thank you for your commitment. To see so many active persons in a parish, who visit the sick, help those in difficulty, collaborate with the parish priest, ensure a good celebration of the liturgy, is a joy for the Bishop of Rome, which I am, though the concrete activity is carried out by the cardinal vicar.

However, I feel this responsibility and I am really happy to see that Rome, the "old Rome," is a "young Rome" and really lives in lively parishes.

The faith must be promoted because outside of Italy it is thought that in Rome there are only ceremonies and ecclesiastical bureaucracy, but that there is no great ecclesial life. The latter, however, can be seen precisely on the outskirts of Rome. Rome is young, the Church is always young again. For me it is lovely to see this participation and I can only say thank you and encourage you to continue, under the guidance of your parish priest.

And already now, I wish you all a happy Easter!
[Via Zenit] "There are only ceremonies and ecclesiastical bureaucracy." Good to know otherwise! :-)

Reports: Pope Says He Will Visit China - Yahoo! News

Reports: Pope Says He Will Visit China - Yahoo! News Add to the prayer lists!

The taste of Rome

Thanks to the little bar at the top of Gmail that throws newsitems and blog posts of my interest at me, I came across this delicious piece from this past Sunday's NYT.
Say Rome to me and my first thoughts are not of the swirling traffic around the marble wedding cake that is a monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, nor of the eaten-out stone melon that is the Colosseum, nor of the "Dolce Vita" set as immortalized by Fellini. Rather, I think first of the creamy foam, or spuma, that tops lightly sugared espresso at the always jammed Sant'Eustachio around the corner from the Pantheon, the coffee bar that I still consider this city's best.
[Of course, my first thoughts of Rome tend to be of a dank, gloomy dirt pavement lined with tombs: de gustibus ... :-)]
About 20 years ago I happened into Osteria dell'Angelo, then a tiny slice of a place in a quiet residential district, not far from the Vatican Museum, only to return whenever I am in Rome. Owned by the congenial Angelo Croce, a retired celebrated racecar driver, it grew into a much larger space still decked with photographs of many sports stars who have visited. Brown-paper-topped tables and a handsome stone floor retain the feeling of the tiny adjacent original, and the strictly Roman fare is listed in local dialect. Thus, the second courses appear on the menu as seconni instead of secondi, and sweets are dorci, not dolci, and nun instead of non means no.
Oh boy! I can't wait to get back! :-)

The Tablet's series on Britan's Catholics

The first one, "Once a Catholic" tackles the question of why Catholics are leaving the Church.

The second one, "Returning to the fold" highlights efforts to welcome those who're coming back.

With the promise of more to come!

I think sometimes we in the US can get a little self-congratulatory. "At least we're not quite badly off as those across the pond!" Hogwash. While it's true that there is indeed an "American exceptionalism" when it comes to religion and religious practice, it's hardly something one ought to just take for granted. Besides, the Lord's mandate to evangelize is as valid and urgent here, as it is over there.

The carnality of it all

Artist Mary Knarr on why she's Catholic. It's the carnality of it all. I love it! (Via Open Book).

In your latest book, "Sinner's Welcome," you write that what led you to religion was your desire to stop drinking. How did that happen?

I was going to Alcoholics Anonymous at the time, but I just kept getting drunk. I'd go on back to meetings, and each time I'd start drinking again. But then I'd come back and ask for a new suggestion.

I was told by one woman I met, who was an ex-heroin addict, to get on my knees in the morning and at night and say to some power greater than myself that I wanted help staying away from drink or drugs.

I said, "OK, I'll do it. But I'm doing it like if you said, 'Slaughter a chicken, and swing it over your head' -- that's the way I'm doing it." She just said, "Pray every day for 30 days and see if your life gets better."

I take it you didn't believe it would work?

No! Absolutely not! I was an agnostic at the time. But the weird thing was, it was 30 days later and I wasn't drinking. Then it was 60 days, and then it was 90 days, and I still wasn't drinking.
Which reminds me. I need to go pray. Night all! :-)

Monday, March 27, 2006

The DVC in the State

Mystery for the Masses: 'The Da Vinci Code' comes out in paperback.

What a friggin' depressing story. This is the kicker:
“That book is responsible for getting people to think about what happened to the role of women in the Catholic Church,” he says.

A USC political science and international studies professor, Rosati adds, “It blew me away — and I consider myself relatively well educated — because it was so against the conventions of the church.

Um. Do what? "What happened to the role of women in the Catholic Church?" So, being so, relatively well educated, you just buy into the absurd claims of a mystery novel? And what pray are the "conventions" of the church? This is a poli-sci prof? They did do their own research ...
He and a friend conducted their own research to “check up” on Brown’s esoterica; that included Rosati’s reading up on Leonardo DaVinci.
What they found is not mentioned in the article though.

Then there's this:

“I just took it as a novel,” she says, “but I also sort of believed some of that stuff all along. I think it’s quite likely Jesus had a family.
Uh. Yeah. He did. A mother. A foster father. And cousins (the "brothers and sisters" the New Testament mentions). And anyone who did the will of his Father (the one in heaven). Oh, you mean he was married? And just why is it "quite likely" that he was? Cause you want it to be that way? Well, I want the Germans to have won the War. So, hey, who cares. It's all fiction anyway, right?

Amy Welborn's upcoming talk is mentioned. She's the "debunker" though. And that, right there, pegs her as the maverick, the wide-eyed zealot who's challenging established truth. Which is, of course, the exact opposite of what's really the case.

Or maybe not. Maybe the DVC's phenomenal success just shows that we really don't give a frac (thanks BSG!) about things like history. And truth. And just want to cocoon ourselves with silly fairy tales that makes us feel alright.

"Don't mess in our domestic affairs"

(Or so say the Afghans to the West). "Come again?" asks Der Spiegel. A hard-hitting op-ed that says that this is simply about basic human rights. None of that relativist "my truth is mine and yours is yours."

Of course, the West can tolerate a less than perfect record -- in China, say. Not that I'm saying this makes the Afghan situation any more tolerable. And some would point to the US as well -- what about Gitmo, eh? [No no no --- what Rahman is going through is not the same as Gitmo. I get that. ]

The odor of sanctity

The odor of sanctity

“For we are the good odor of Christ unto God in them that are saved and in them that perish.” (2 Cor. 2:15, Douay-Rheims)

On Saturday our parish pastoral council was gathered in retreat in Rock Hill. We had the privilege of having the retired Bishop of Charlotte as our retreat master. His is a gentle and prayerful presence – soft-spoken, intense, and exuding an aura of kindliness that is warm and embracing. One is instantly at ease in his presence.

The Bishop gave us three talks, on prayer, the Eucharist and forgiveness, using passages from the Gospels of Luke and John as springboards for his thoughts. As some may know, the Bishop was one of Mother Teresa’s confessors, and a close friend. He had many stories and anecdotes – not just of Blessed Teresa, but of so many different situations from his pastoral ministry, periodically punctuated by verses from Scripture – the Word of God that brings light to all situations – all of which he wove together into a tapestry that spoke richly, evocatively, concretely of the grace of God that permeates all things and binds all things.

In the day-to-day busy-ness of life, in the “grind” as one is wont to call it, one so easily wearies. One loses sight of what is really, well, real. If there was one thing that struck me from the retreat, it was just how real the spiritual life really is. The material isn’t “ultimate reality.” The spiritual is. And by his witness, his stories, his presence, the Bishop was a visible, living, breathing reminder of the reality of the spiritual, the power of prayer, the deep joy of following the Lord, and the nearness of sanctity.

So many of his stories involved death and dying – patients he had given last rites to, victims of AIDS, cancer, people who had died unloved, estranged from family. And yet he shone. I saw again just how the Cross transforms death to life, how we are transformed from “glory to glory” as the Apostle puts it.

It was certainly uplifting. But also inspiring – sanctity is indeed near, right here, right now, in the muck and mess of it all. One can, in fact, gratia Dei, be holy. In fact, the Bishop is a witness of just how beautiful a holy life is, just how attractive and inviting.

Oh the curmudgeon

Supreme Court Justice Scalia has a message for critics. Flip off. :-) [Hat tip to WR]

Thank you St. Anthony!

Gosh --- he does it every time!

As y'all know, I'd misplaced my iPod. Exactly two weeks today. I looked everywhere. And this morning -- there it was, in the console of my car! I've looked there dozens of time, but never saw it! But then, I hadn't asked for St. Anthony's help until last week ... and I almost bought a new one at this morning! Something (most probably the painful cries from my checkbook) stopped my hand. Thank you St. Anthony! WOO HOO!

More on the weekend tonight.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Feast of the Annunciation ...

Michael Dubruiel has the full text of Pope Benedict's homily for today's Feast, as well as a cool audio meditation. Check it out. And his blog is titled "Annunciations of a New Springtime." So, in a way, it's his Blog Feast Day! :-)

The Angelus

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae.
Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

Ecce ancilla Domini,
Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

Et verbum caro factum est,
Et habitavit in nobis.

Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genitrix,
Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

Oh what an awesome day ...

... both the retreat, which was fantastic, and the visit to see the Dead Sea Scrolls in Charlotte. Will be blogging on both when I've caught my breath a bit.

And now, can we please tell the folks in charge that it's almsot April and highs in the 50s are just not cool? Sheesh. We are in the Carolinas after all ... :-)

Evangelization -- in the New York Times!

An amazingly positive story in the NYT on the Church's evangelization efforts. A must read (before it disappears to the paid archives. I do have a .pdf if anyone is interested later on ...)

Huge kudos to Fr. Robert Baron (who is simply fantastic) who features prominently in the piece (check out the links to some audio files of his at Open Book).

The CSPs get a mention:
"You just can't assume that people will be Catholic because of cultural influences," said the Rev. Kenneth Boyack, president of the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association. "This is one of the elements that leads to this sort of urgency of evangelization."

Some of the efforts are taking a cue from evangelical Protestants.

"A good percentage of people who are in the megachurches are former Catholics," Father Boyack said. "They're really attentive to try to connect to people exactly where they are. And the language they're using is not great theological language."
As do the excellent folks at Evangelical Catholic:
"They're not leaving because they don't like the Catholic Church," said Tim Kruse, executive director of the Evangelical Catholic, a group in Madison, Wis., that helps campus ministries develop programs to foster evangelical life. "They're leaving because Protestant evangelicals have communicated the Gospel to them in a meaningful way."

"Protestant Eye for the Catholic Guy" is a workshop at the St. Paul's Institute of Evangelical Catholic Ministry next weekend in Madison that is expecting about 300 representatives from campus ministries, dioceses and parishes. In the workshop, an evangelical Protestant pastor will talk about how to make sermons more vibrant.
Yours truly, along with a nice little delgation from our Diocese will be in Madison next weekend. Yep, you can expect reports on here! :-) The folks at EC rock!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Another weekend hiatus ...

... off on retreat in a few with Parish Council. Tomorrow, a few of us will go to see the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Discovery Place in Charlotte (can't wait!). Busy weekend. I'll be sure to blog on the scrolls (as opposed to blog on a scroll :-D) on Monday.

I would so do this ....

The Commonplace Book of Zadok the Roman: Meme... EXCEPT I CANNOT FIND MY IPOD! It's coming up on two weeks! I last saw it in my car, returning from Wal-Mart on Monday the 13th. I've not seen it since. I've looked everywhere. St. Anthony ... soccorro!


Just about a week away ...

from the anniversary of John Paul's death. The reminiscences are already starting ... here ... and here.

Creatio ex nihilo ...

As a philosophical wag once remarked, only God and the Pope can create something out of nothing ... :-) The Holy Church of Rome has 15 new cardinals. Definitely check out the liveblog report from Michael Paulson of the Globe, a huge mega-post at American Papist, and of course that Pennsylvania based Vaticanista(Where I found the link to the photo above). Most interesting (well, not most ... ) that there is a wi-fi spot on the top of Bernini's collonade! (And I totally get it when Paulson mentions the bizarre "German-Latin-Italian" accent of the Pope. It's really Italian with a strong German accent. His Italian sounds so ... well ... German!) The tituli were announced, with the new Cardinal Archbishop of Boston getting S. Maria della Vittoria (as Rocco notes, someone shouted "Lepanto" when that was announced! A reference to the battle of Lepanto - the defeat of the Ottoman fleets there in 1500 - which is the victory the church commemorates, and, by implication, of the importance of current relations with Islam, one could say), right next door to the titulus of the former Cardinal Arcbhishop of Boston, Bernard Law, at S. Susanna (the Paulist-run American parish in Rome). S. Marai della Vittoria is also home to Bernini's famous Ecstasy of St. Theresa.

I wonder if EWTN will rebroadcast the service? I mean it's all good for the Vaticanisti to wake up at 4 am -- but this ain't a Papal funeral, so I slept. :-) Ah yes ... 6pm tonight. VCR! (No TiVo here! :-)

Anyway. I love this stuff. The pageantry. The pomp. I know there are many who look askance at all of this. Too triumphalistic. Too ritualistic. Too anachronistic. I cannot disagree more. This - the ceremonies, the rituals, the whole darned range of proudly anachronistic stuff is definitely part of what I so love about being Catholic. Of course, this "isn't what it's about." That's the Gospel. (Hey, and read the Pope's homily at the event. He wasn't about to let anyone forget that!) But these visible manifestations of ecclesial communion are so important. Especially in an era where everything would be dissolved by the vitriol of a secularism (and a mediocrity) that rages at any manifestation of the religious that is vibrant, and joyful, and beautiful.

Ok, I got a bit carried away there. :-)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Abortion ? ...

... maybe you meant "adoption?" Well. Not any more.
As you probably know, has various automated suggestions to correct spelling errors and display related items. These are based on computer algorithms of other users' activity. Type in plaque, and Amazon asks, "Did you mean: plague?"

But the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice suspected bias at work, and complained to the company that when you typed in abortion, Amazon asked, "Did you mean: adoption?"

"I thought it was offensive," retired Episcopalian minister James Lewis told The New York Times. Actually, Amazon spokeswoman Patty Smith explained, "Adoption and abortion are the same except for two keystrokes." But to avoid offense, the company went in and changed the coding so that the question is no longer asked. "Amazon's sensitivity and willingness to act are rare," the RCRC responded in a press release. "Anti-choice bias is so deeply ingrained in American culture that even fair-minded people fail to notice it."

Hmm. Think Amazon would have been so amenable if Christians had complained that the first search that comes up when you type Jesus is a book that denies all the central tenets of Christianity? (Don't complain about it. I'm just saying … )
[From the CT weblog.]

Read it and Weep

Christianity Todya's short review of Religion and Reconstruction: How Christians failed following the Civil War.
This book supplies fresh research on one of the saddest chapters in American history. It shows how American churches contributed to the subjugation of freed slaves after the Civil War, how Christian leaders helped the Southern Democratic Party violently deprive black citizens of the vote, and how a number of thoroughly evangelical spokesmen (and spokeswomen) justified lynching as a legitimate means for putting black folk "in their place." Several chapters also explain why most Northern reformers quit the struggle against racism after the constitutional victory over slavery.

Points of light include accounts of freed slaves who persevered in the face of great opposition to build strong churches and accounts of a few whites (some from the South) who resisted the regime of racial terror. All the essays are well researched, but Gaines Foster on how the South became the "Bible Belt" and Daniel Stowell on how the word redemption came to be used for Jim Crow laws are especially effective.

Thoughtful Americans who wonder why the country has a continuing race problem should read this book; thoughtful Christians should read it and weep.
Weep. And maybe learn something?

More on the murder of the priest in Goa

from Zenit

Ah! Mosaics!

That's the apse at one of my favs: S. Paolo fuori le Mura. St. Paul Oustide the Walls. Where Paul was buried. We ended up there (on the recent trip to Rome) just as Vespers were beginning. Oh divine chant! As I looked up towards the end of the service, I noticed that the mosaic had been illuminated, so managed to sneak this picture in. It's now my desktop background.

The Consistory ...

... discussed from all angles at Whispers. (well not all, of course). Live blogging from the Boston Globe. Soon to-be-Cardinal O'Malley on how he should be addressed:
Archbishop O’Malley, the first Capuchin Franciscan friar to become a cardinal in nearly 50 years, has made it clear that it will be a stretch for him to accept some of the trappings of his new office, such as the honorific, “Your Eminence,” to which he will be entitled after Friday. Asked how people should address him once he is a cardinal, he said yesterday, “Cardinal Sean. Bishop Sean. Father Sean. Brother Sean. Whatever.’’
"Whatever." Go St. Francis! :-)

Today: a behind-the-doors meeting with the Holy Father to discuss challenges facing the Church. [Photo from Yahoo]

Eucharistic Miracle in Dallas?

Amy's not so sure ... but who knows? Here's pictures ... Local story.

[Update: natural process, says Bishop. Go home. :-)] Hat-tip to St. Liz for mentioning that in the comments.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Apostasy = Death

In Afghanistan. Lots on the case of Abdul Rehman at CaNN. Round up at Relapsed Catholic and Open Book as well.

Definitely go to the Afghan Times to watch the video of this courageous man proclaim, in the face of death, that he is not an apostate, but a follower of the Gospel, and of Jesus Christ.

Would that any of us would have this kind of courage.

The latest seems to be that President Karzai has promised the Canadian Prime Minister that Christians will not be persecuted in Afghanistan. Here's the kicker though:
"We will invite him again because the religion of Islam is one of tolerance. We will ask him if he has changed his mind. If so we will forgive him," the trial judge told the BBC on Monday.
Recant or die!

[Oh, and read the interesting comments at the Open Book thread. A commentor there -- rightly I think -- points out that while in the past, Catholic tradition would not call for the outright murder of an apostate, there'd be a lot that would affront modern sensibilities. Her point is that Catholic traditionalists -- Lefevbrists and their ilk -- still cling to these notions, and condemn the Declaration on Religious Liberty of Vatican II. I, for one, am so darn glad for the Council itself! (If not for the aftermath, necessarily :-) On the issue of the development of doctrine with respect to religious freedom, there's an interesting article by Cardinal Dulles over at Pontifications. For the a cogent, traditionalist (i.e. conservative, not schismatic!) analysis of the whole concept of development, see this series of essays, also at Pontifications. Which, I admit, is definitely on my "to read at some point" list.]

A great cartoon ...

over at Amy's. A painfully controversial topic, however. And boy, does the SF City Council sound way to self-righteous?

Why drug companies love India

The town of Sevagram in central India has long been known for three things: its heat, which is oppressive even by Indian standards; its snakes, which are abundant; and its ashram, a derelict and increasingly malarial retreat preserved as a tribute to Mohandas Gandhi, who lived here and was known for tenderly relocating the poisonous vipers that slithered into his shack.

Despite this intemperate setting, Sevagram's hospital has a good reputation. Though the power fails often, forcing medics to use the backlit screens of their cell phones for illumination, the standard of care is higher than at many of the country's public hospitals, and the facilities are comparatively plush. At the nearby government medical center in Nagpur, for instance, patients sometimes have to sleep on mattresses on the floor.

Last year, Sevagram began garnering even more cachet. A German pharmaceutical company called Boehringer Ingelheim, whose latest stroke-prevention drug was making its way through the clinical pipeline, approved the town's hospital as a trial site - one of 28 in India recruiting stroke victims to round out the company's 18,500-person study.

The drug regimen, known as Aggrenox, was being tested for its ability to forestall a second stroke. S. P. Kalantri, the doctor tapped to lead the trial in Sevagram, quickly grasped the offer's appeal. Patients in Sevagram are poor enough that the benefits of taking part in the study would amount to a health care windfall; among other things, Boehringer Ingelheim guaranteed participants two physicals during each of the three years that the trial would run. For each person enrolled, moreover, the hospital would receive 30,000 rupees (about $665) - no small amount, given the puny budget of the center's stroke ward, a single room of eight pallet beds. Kalantri talked the matter over with the chair of the hospital's ethics committee, and the two concluded that the trial drug itself, with its possible side effects and limited efficacy, would provide little benefit to their patients. Then they went ahead and signed up.
Read on. Wired 14.03: A Nation of Guinea Pigs

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Well I never!

The Archdiocese of Arlington will allow female altar servers in parishes. [And have two parishes where the Tridentine Mass will be offered every Sunday.] Well, nice to have Arlington join the practice of almost all other Diocese in the United States when it comes to serving at the altar (is it correct that the only other holdout is Lincoln, NE?). I really don't know about the argument that girls serving somehow takes away from boys being called to the priesthood ... it's a pretty well recycled trope though. Don Jim's take on this is pretty interesting, especially the role of the laity in the sanctuary in the Novus Ordo. Despite all my traditionalist leanings, I don't know that I think this is entirely bad. And I'm certainly not of the opinion that a return to the "good old days" will be a panacea.

Folks who love Latin and altar girls. Are there more out there? :-) Uhm. Let's change that verb to "support."

This just doesn't add up ...

The whole thing in San Fran about Catholic Charities and adoptions by gay/lesbian couples. (Via Whsipers) So, the new Archbishop clarifies that adoption by such couples is not in sync with Church teaching. However, the executive director of Catholic Charities, an openly gay man, and says that the Diocesan spokesman is mistaken and doesn't speak for the Archbishop! Apparently, this all occurred quite openly under Archbishop Levada's watch (he, who is now in Cardinal Ratzinger's old job as prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith). More at Ignatius Insight.

It certianly leaves one's scratching one's head.

Priest murdered in Goa

Father Eusebio Ferrão found smothered. This is horrible! I didn't really realize that the anti-Christian thing has also taken hold in Goa (which is almost 50% Catholic) as well.
Goa has lately been the scene of communal riots.

Catholic chapels and crosses have been targeted and, earlier this week, a cross at Margao, the second largest city in Goa, was found broken. A number of Goa's chapels have been burglarized and looted.

The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said that parishioners pointed out Father Ferrão's commitment to peace. In a local newspaper he used to condemn the region's interreligious violence.

"Greet one another with a holy kiss"

... apparently, Paul didn't just mean that metaphorically. Christianity Today interviews Michael Penn, Professor of Religion at Mt. Holyoke College, and author of "Kissing Christians: Ritual and Community in the Late Ancient Church."
Our earliest reference to the kiss is from the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians. He doesn't give us very many details, which suggests that it was already a well-established practice.

It's only decades later that other Christians give us more details. We discover that early Christians kissed each other in a variety of different rituals, as part of prayer, baptism, Eucharist, everyday greeting, martyrdom, and so forth. In the first two centuries, at least, not only did men kiss other men and women other women, but men and women kissed one another. And most often this was a kiss on the lips.
So is this the root of that part of church services when …
You mean the awkward moment where you kind of shake hands?

Yep, that's exactly what it is. Within many Protestant traditions it has been replaced by other gestures or done away with entirely. Initially that term, "the peace," as in "the passing of the peace," referred to a kiss. But as you know, kissing has dropped out of favor among 21st-century Christians, at least in the worship service.
Hmm -- this is one of the developments since the Council in modern Catholic liturgy that I quite like -t he offering of the peace (well I'm not too sure how I'd take going back to a literal kiss!). It fascinates me no end that people fulminate mightily against this (for the record, I really enjoy that blog, even if might disagree with the good Father on this one). I really don't get that. But wait -- there's more.
First, one of the things we've unfortunately inherited from the Reformation is a de-emphasis of ritual. We think of Christianity as a belief system. What does one believe? But early Christians thought it very important what one does.

When I think of my experience during a worship service, I have to admit I forget a lot of the sermon. And unless it was a really good hymn, I forget some of the words. The most powerful moments are those when I am fully participating, body and all, whether that be in the Eucharist or a baptism service, or a variety of other things. The kiss is like that—very body-centered and powerful.
Gosh! That sounds almost ... Catholic! Which is also why one can get a little distressed at the zeal of those who took the Council's reform in this, well, basically, Reformed, direction. I really need to dig up that Commonweal article on the great 20th century anthropologist (and devout Catholic) Mary Douglas' response to some of the reforms.
The amazing thing is that something like the kiss, a great symbol of love and of family, also gets used as a symbol of anti-Judaism, as a way to divide men and women, to reinforce clerical hierarchies, and to label people as heretics. I think it's important for us to recognize both sides. I don't have the answer, but I'm trying to figure out one of the most difficult challenges to modern Christianity: How do we create a strong sense of community but do so in a way that isn't exclusive?
Admirable no doubt. Especially given the "teaching of contempt" against the Jews in the past. A certainly amount of exclusivity is built into the Gospel, though, ne? Many are called but few are chosen?

Martin Marty has a great review in Christian Century as well.

[Ah here's that great article on Mary Douglas from Commonweal, back in 2001.
I first encountered Douglas's work in 1980 in a class on ritual taught by the liturgist Aidan Kavanagh, O.S.B., at Yale Divinity School. We read Douglas's Natural Symbols (1970), which expressed deep skepticism about Vatican II's reforms and took "reforming bishops and radical theologians" to task for "their doctrinal latitude, their critical dissolving of categories and attack on intellectual and administrative distinctions." Douglas argued that too many of the council's reforms were carried out with little appreciation for what makes rituals and symbols meaningful, and with even less understanding of how attitudes toward religious conformity depend on a person's social location. It was Douglas's contention, for instance, that the abolition of Friday abstinence from meat did away with a vital symbol of Catholic identity and solidarity. To those who argued that abstinence was more spiritually authentic if it was a personal decision, not a group discipline, Douglas pointed out that dispensing with such shared symbols would not make self-denying acts more likely or more intelligible, but quite the opposite.
And she isn't just another reactionary -- read this!]

I didn't know that St. Patrick was Baptist!

:-) St. Patrick the Baptist.

Why poor countries are poor ...

A well-written and engaging essay in Reason magazine. It's got to do with this slightly nebulous idea of "social capital" or "institutions." [And no, liberal Western guilt aside, they're not poor because we're rich.] Reminds me a bit of this essay in Prospect Magazine.
Government banditry, widespread waste, and oppressive regulations are all elements in that missing piece of the puzzle. During the last 10 years or so, economists working on development issues have converged on the mantra that “institutions matter.” Of course, it is hard to describe what an “institution” really is. It is even harder to convert a bad institution into a good one.

But progress is being made. We’ve just seen one kind of institution: business regulations. Sometimes, it can be improved with simple publicity. After the World Bank revealed that entrepreneurs in Ethiopia couldn’t legally start a business without paying four years’ salary to publish an official notice in government newspapers, the Ethiopian government scrapped the rule. New business registrations jumped by almost 50 percent immediately.

Unfortunately, it is not always so easy to get corrupt governments to change their ways. Although it is becoming clearer and clearer that dysfunctional institutions are a key explanation of poverty in developing countries, most institutions cannot be described with an elegant model like Mancur Olson’s, or even with careful data-gathering by the World Bank. Most unhappy institutions are unhappy in their own way.
Development specialists often focus on helping poor countries become richer by improving primary education and infrastructure such as roads and telephones. That’s surely sensible. Unfortunately, it’s only a small part of the problem. Economists who have pulled apart the statistics, or studied unusual data such as the earnings of Cameroonians in Cameroon and the earnings of Cameroonians who immigrate to the United States, have found that education, infrastructure, and factories only begin to explain the gap between rich and poor. Because of its lousy education system, Cameroon is perhaps twice as poor as it could be. Because of its terrible infrastructure, it’s roughly twice as poor again. So we would expect Cameroon to be four times poorer than the United States. But it is 50 times poorer.

More important, why can’t the Cameroonian people seem to do anything about it? Couldn’t Cameroonian communities improve their schools? Wouldn’t the benefits easily outweigh the costs? Couldn’t Cameroonian businessmen build factories, license technology, seek foreign partners, and make a fortune?

Evidently not. Mancur Olson showed that kleptocracy at the top stunts the growth of poor countries. Having a thief for president doesn’t necessarily spell doom; the president might prefer to boost the economy and then take a slice of a bigger pie. But in general, looting will be widespread either because the dictator is not confident of his tenure or because he needs to allow others to steal in order to keep their support.

The rot starts with government, but it afflicts the entire society. There’s no point investing in a business because the government will not protect you against thieves. (So you might as well become a thief yourself.) There’s no point in paying your phone bill because no court can make you pay. (So there’s no point being a phone company.) There’s no point setting up an import business because the customs officers will be the ones to benefit. (So the customs office is underfunded and looks even harder for bribes.) There’s no point getting an education because jobs are not handed out on merit. (And in any case, you can’t borrow money for school fees because the bank can’t collect on the loan.)
Makes me want to read his book!

"The single most exciting moment in art ... "

Rubbing your hand over Adam's naked body on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Uh. Sure. A column on the "rude, puerile and tad pornographic" Michelangelo. With a reference to Pope Benedict as "Uncle Fester" to boot! These Brits ... ! The picture presented here reminds me of the portrait of the childish and vulgar Mozart from "Amadeus."

Prayer, fasting, mercy ...

Today's Office of Readings: a sermon by St. Peter Chrysologus.
There are three things, my brethren, by which faith stands firm, devotion remains constant, and virtue endures. They are prayer, fasting and mercy. Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives. Prayer, mercy and fasting: these three are one, and they give life to each other.
Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others you open God’s ear to yourself.
When you fast, see the fasting of others. If you want God to know that you are hungry, know that another is hungry. If you hope for mercy, show mercy. If you look for kindness, show kindness. If you want to receive, give. If you ask for yourself what you deny to others, your asking is a mockery.
Let this be the pattern for all men when they practise mercy: show mercy to others in the same way, with the same generosity, with the same promptness, as you want others to show mercy to you.
Therefore, let prayer, mercy and fasting be one single plea to God on our behalf, one speech in our defence, a threefold united prayer in our favour.
Let us use fasting to make up for what we have lost by despising others. Let us offer our souls in sacrifice by means of fasting. There is nothing more pleasing that we can offer to God, as the psalmist said in prophecy: A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; God does not despise a bruised and humbled heart.
Offer your soul to God, make him an oblation of your fasting, so that your soul may be a pure offering, a holy sacrifice, a living victim, remaining your own and at the same time made over to God. Whoever fails to give this to God will not be excused, for if you are to give him yourself you are never without the means of giving.
To make these acceptable, mercy must be added. Fasting bears no fruit unless it is watered by mercy. Fasting dries up when mercy dries up. Mercy is to fasting as rain is to earth. However much you may cultivate your heart, clear the soil of your nature, root out vices, sow virtues, if you do not release the springs of mercy, your fasting will bear no fruit.
When you fast, if your mercy is thin your harvest will be thin; when you fast, what you pour out in mercy overflows into your barn. Therefore, do not lose by saving, but gather in by scattering. Give to the poor, and you give to yourself. You will not be allowed to keep what you have refused to give to others.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Short hiatus again ...

Busy weekend. Back Monday.

So, no bias here is there ...

Apparently a South Park episode that pokes fun at Scientology and Tom Cruise gets pulled from stations, but the horrendously offensive "Bloody Mary" (take a guess who that takes pot shots at?) can go on? The Internet's #1 Catholic Podcaster, Fr. Roderick Vonhoegen at the Daily Breakfast recently talked [warning! mp3 link!] about the attempts of the NZ Bishops to boycott the station that carried that episode. Apparently, it didn't work.

I'll admit, I've watched South Park. And laughed, raucously. And no, I don't have to actually watch the "Bloody Mary" episode to know that I'd be sickened. Big Time.

Friday, March 17, 2006

God and Ceasar ...

... an interesting guest column in Christianity Today by the editor of the Christian Century. The Almost Formerly Important: Lessons of the old mainline for the new mainline.
We mainliners had our day in the sun. Remember Prohibition? It was more than an opportunity for cool gangster outfits and Kevin Costner's best movie. The national banning of alcohol by constitutional amendment was a result of Methodist efforts to "spread Scriptural holiness over the land." Oddly familiar, isn't it? Groups like the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, led by the great Methodist social prophet Frances Willard, prayed, raised money, and badgered politicians to get their way. The Temperance Union was the forerunner of the cute old ladies of the United Methodist Women (UMW) who, in a church I pastored, often gathered to bake and gossip and pray.

We did then what you do now: We imposed our way on a divided populace by sheer force of electoral muscle and religious rhetoric. Our effort to take America for Christ is now a peculiar cultural artifact, a curiosity gathering dust on the shelf of early 20th-century history. We built triumphant monuments to our importance. At the Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., a prime, front-pew seat features a plaque marking where the President of the United States should sit when he attends—not unlike churches in Constantinople that once featured imperial boxes for the emperor to ride his chariot into without having to dismount. But Caesar's seat goes empty these days, even with a Methodist President.

This is not to denigrate monuments from a more triumphant age of mainline Protestantism—many such places still do fine ministry. But church influence on politics is fickle. "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's," our Lord says. The last people in the world who want to be caught dead pledging allegiance to the wrong Lord ought to be evangelicals.
C. S. Lewis's Screwtape advised his nephew Wormwood: "Once you have made the world an end and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours." We mainliners were once offered the deal you have now—social action in exchange for faithfulness—and we bit hard. We're so far out of political power now that we're remembering the first task of the church is to be the church, not to play chaplain to a political party or nation. It's tempting to trade fidelity for influence, but it's hard to get fidelity back, and influence doesn't satisfy.
And on a slightly different note, a noted European historian says that the Catholic Church is in a position to save civilization [The following is from an Inside the Vatican email news update, so it's not on the web.
Calling upon the Catholic Church to "speak the truth in a time of evil," leading British historian Michael Burleigh has praised the moral and spiritual stands taken by the Church, exhorting it to live up to its teachings and ideals. In an exclusive interview with Inside the Vatican, to appear in its April edition, Burleigh, an authority on modern Europe, speaks at length with ITV contributor William Doino. Burleigh is the author of the newly published Earthly Powers (HarperCollins), and the forthcoming Sacred Causes, a two-volume history of religion and politics, from the French Revolution to the present. A prize-winning historian who has studied Germany for twenty years, he has now turned his attention to the whole of Europe. In his interview, Burleigh highlighted the often-overlooked successes of the Church facing grave dangers, throughout the ages, and expressed admiration for the pontificate of John Paul II, and confidence in his successor, Benedict XVI. Asked, as an historian and cultural observer, what the Church might do now, in order to strengthen its position in the contemporary world, Burleigh recommended a bold, multi-faceted strategy: 1) "The Church should stop apologizing for its past and vigorously defend the Christian heritage;" 2) "The Church should never compromise its core teachings and essential beliefs," 3) "The Holy See should step up its opposition to religious and political extremism a hundredfold;" and 4) "The Church should reach out to Christian intellectuals, and even secular intellectuals, open to the Christian tradition."

In his provocative and thought-provoking interview, Burleigh explains why each one of these goals are not only attainable but necessary; and why it is time for the Church of Rome to act: "No other religious body has the strength, the respect and the authority to influence the world for the better...Civilization can go one way or the other. In order to save it, the Church needs to wage an up-front and vociferous campaign on behalf of human life, truth, decency, moderation, social justice and intellectual integrity."
I'm all for a vigorous defense of everything that he says. Just what this vigorous defense looks like is another thing. I don't know anything about this fellow, and the interview isn't out yet, but I hope it's not just triumphalism. IMO, that's a huge turn off. It may be one of the reasons why there's been such a huge reaction against the authority and teaching of the Church in Europe (and not just there).

The Feast of St. Patrick ...

... as preparations are underway for the bacchanalian celebrations at Five Points tomorrow, here's a piece on St. Patrick from Catholic Exchange: The Good, The Bad, The Misinformed.
No other Christian theologian spoke against slavery before Patrick. Once during Patrick’s mission work, a Welsh chieftain sent raiders to Ireland who attacked a group of newly baptized Christians. The attackers slaughtered the men and took the women captive, to sell them as slaves. Patrick didn’t care who did wrong — he condemned it, and wrote a fierce letter to the Coroticus, the chieftain.
And Rocco has a post up about Cardinal O'Connell's (illustrious former Archbishop of Boston) hymn to St. Patrick. And finally, how can one forget the famous Breastplate? Amy has a round up of other St. Paddy links. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Markets and Morals

The Atlantic Monthly has just put up some great archival articles, going back to 1881, on economics, the market and morals, including an essay by John Maynard Keyenes and John Kenneth Galbraith.

Now to find time to read them all ...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The United States should welcome Hispanic immigrants

A column, written by St. Mary's (Greenville) parishioner, Mark O'Rourke, that appeared in the Greenville News in December, and just arrived in my inbox from a friend in the upstate.
The United States Should Welcome Hispanic Immigrants

By Mark A. O'Rourke, M.D.
Dr. O'Rourke is a physician in practice in Greenville and Seneca.
Printed in the Greenville News, December 12, 2005

Illegal immigration of Hispanics into the United States has
become a hot topic. There are an estimated 11 million illegal
immigrants in the U.S., with 45 to 75 thousand in South Carolina. Many
work in low wage and hazardous industries, such as agriculture and
construction. Unfortunately, these illegal immigrants lack access to
public assistance, health insurance coverage, or the ability to fully
integrate into the larger American society. They are often targets of
employment exploitation that amounts to economic slavery. They are
often victims of crime but they fear asking the police for help. They
often live in inadequate housing, go without healthcare, risk injury on
the job, and endure social, educational, and civic deprivation.
The presence of illegal Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. has
provoked many fears among U.S. citizens. These include a sense of
inconsistent chaos in our immigration policy, higher unemployment among
American citizens, public benefits going to non-citizens, loss of
English as our national language, and increased risk of terrorism.
Suggestions trumpeted on television, in newspaper columns, and in
political speeches include "rounding them up" and deporting them back to
Mexico, building an impenetrable wall along the Mexican border, and
stronger domestic laws to isolate illegal immigrants from the rest of
society. "Amnesty" has become a dirty word, used to bash attempts to
create a guest worker program, to oppose proposals to integrate illegal
immigrants into the legal workforce, and to block efforts to assist the
millions of illegal immigrants living in poverty and exploitation at the
margins of our society.
This state of affairs is an unfortunate tragedy. Our society
should do better and we can do better in caring for the 11 million
illegal immigrants in the U.S. First, we citizens of the U.S. need to
acknowledge that the problem is not merely 11 million people breaking
U.S. law who should be treated as criminals. Indeed, it is jobs in our
economy and the hope of a better life that draw Hispanics from Mexico,
Central and South America to the United States. We allow them to work
in our hotels and restaurants, in our agricultural fields, and on our
construction crews, while we tolerate a pervasive "don't ask, don't
tell" status quo and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Second, we
citizens of the United States have a practical interest in having these
11 million people registered in guest worker programs that allow them to
be healthy, safe and secure and to be productive members of our society.
When we have a transparent, realistic policy that makes it more
attractive to enter the U.S. legally through regular border crossings
and be legally registered than it is to enter illegally and be
undocumented, then we will be able to secure our borders and be able to
deal with the employment, healthcare, education, auto insurance and many
other problems that arise from the current situation.
Third, these illegal Hispanic immigrants in our midst are our
neighbors. They are men, women, and children with needs, hopes, and
dreams like ours. They are people with whom we share the North American
continent. The United States is a welcoming nation with a long history
of successful immigration. It respects human rights, offers educational
and economic opportunity, and cares about the weak and less fortunate.
We will do well to preserve these values as we deal with the today's
immigration issues.
So what should South Carolina citizens do about the illegal
immigration problem? First, support and advocate for a fair and just
guest worker program. They need the work and we the workers. Both they
and we need a legal, transparent, and realistic guest worker program.
Second, tone down the rhetoric about a wall, U.S. troops, or vigilantes
to seal the Mexico border. It is neither practical nor possible to seal
the border and everyone knows it. Third, send this message to our
political leaders as individuals, as civic groups, as political party
members, as churches, as businesses, as charities, and as voting
citizens. Our city and county elected officials, our state
Representatives and Senators, and our Congressmen and Senators all need
to hear from large numbers of citizens that South Carolina and the U.S.
urgently need 1) a fair and just guest worker program and 2) an approach
to the illegal immigration program that respects the humanity and
dignity of our Hispanic brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Individualist Jesus is a fantasy ...

From today's General Audience (via Zenit)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the catechesis on the psalms and canticles of Morning and Evening Prayer, I would like to dedicate the next Wednesday encounters to the mystery of the relationship between Christ and the Church, considering it from the experience of the apostles in the light of the mission entrusted to them.

The Church has been built on the foundation of the apostles as a community of faith, hope and love. Through the apostles, we reach all the way back to Jesus.

The Church was initially established when some fishermen from Galilee met Jesus; they allowed themselves to be won over by his gaze, his voice and his strong and warm invitation, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Mark 1:17; Matthew 4:19).

My beloved predecessor, John Paul II, at the beginning of the third millennium, proposed to the Church the contemplation of Christ's face (cf. "Novo Millennio Ineunte," No. 16ff). Moving in this direction, in the catechesis I begin today, I would like to show that precisely the light of that Face is reflected in the face of the Church (cf. "Lumen Gentium," No. 1), despite the limitations and the shadows of our fragile and sinful humanity.

After Mary, the pure reflection of the light of Christ, the apostles, through their word and testimony, hand on to us the truth of Christ. Their mission is not isolated. It is framed within the mystery of communion and involves all of God's People and is brought about in stages from the old to the new covenant.

In this sense, we must say that we completely distort Jesus' message when we separate it from the context of the faith and hope of the chosen people. As did John the Baptist, his immediate precursor, Jesus principally addresses all of Israel (cf. Matthew 15:24), in order to "unite it" in the eschatological time that arrived with his coming.
In a certain sense, we could say that the Last Supper is precisely the act of founding his Church, because he gives himself and in this way creates a new community, a community united in the communion with himself. From this perspective, it is understood that the Risen One grants them, with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the power to forgive sins (John 20:23). The Twelve Apostles are in this way the most evident sign of Jesus' will over the existence and mission of his Church, the guarantee that between Christ and the Church there is no opposition: They are inseparable, despite the sins of the people who make up the Church.

Therefore, there is no way to reconcile Christ's intentions with the slogan that was fashionable a few years ago, "Christ yes, the Church no." The individualist Jesus is a fantasy. We cannot find Jesus without the reality that he created and through which he communicates himself. Between the Son of God, made man and his Church, there is a profound, inseparable continuity, in virtue of which Christ is present today in his people.
[The following passage got me thinking on exegetical lines:
In the place of the revelation, "the mountain," with an initiative that manifests absolute awareness and determination, Jesus constitutes the Twelve so that they might be witnesses and heralds with him of the arrival of the Kingdom of God. There is no room for doubt concerning the historical character of this call, not only because of the antiquity and multiplicity of testimonies but also because of the simple fact that the name of the Apostle Judas, the traitor, appears despite the difficulties that including his name could imply for the incipient community.
Benedict the exegete! Antiquity, multiple testimony, discomfort ... good historical-critical criteria for considering the authenticity of a pericope! :-D Though I'm sure the Pope will be the first to acknowledge that this alone is not what establishes the general "reliability" of Scripture.]

Oh -- best website award!

Or so quoth Amy. For the Decoding Davinci talks in SC. Check it out -- and make plans to attend! :-)

Weirdly familiar conversation?

So in the class I'm teaching at Tech, we're going through the Former Prophets right now (Joshua -- Kings), and we spent some time with the following passage from 1 Samuel (or, Primer Liber Regum, in the Vulgate, for those who care), chapter 8:
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5 and said to him, "Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations." 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to govern us." And Samuel prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD said to Samuel, "Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 According to all the deeds which they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 9 Now then, hearken to their voice; only, you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them." 10 So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking a king from him. 11 He said, "These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; 12 and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your menservants and maidservants, and the best of your cattle and your asses, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day." 19 But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; and they said, "No! but we will have a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles." [RSV]
What a lucid description of just what is being lost in the transition from the kind of egalitarian tribal confederation (as depicted in Judges) to the establishment of the monarchy (Saul, David and the rest)! Sacrificing some liberties in return for greater security in the face of an external threat.

Sounds familiar?

Godless Church

The Harvard Crimson :: Magazine :: Godless Church [Via Bill Cork]
For Jose J. Rodriguez, a third year Harvard Law student, his conclusion that God did not exist was even more of a leap. “I was raised Catholic, but to say I was raised Catholic doesn’t really capture my beliefs,” he says. “I really did take on the spirituality, really wrestled with it, really promoted it.”

As an undergraduate at Brown, Rodriquez devoted himself to revitalizing the school’s Catholic community. After graduation he joined the Peace Corps, where he wrestled with his beliefs for the last time. “I slowly realized that [religion] wasn’t me, it wasn’t doing it for me,” he says. “It wasn’t an epiphany as much as opening my eyes a little in the moment to the process I’d just been in.”

The transition from faith was isolating at first. Leaving the church meant abandoning the way of relating that previously defined his existence. “It is a lot more difficult to find and cultivate the friendships I was used to.” Telling his family was hard, though they were supportive. “I definitely felt like I was ‘coming out.’”

Rodriguez says he feels it was worth it. “I definitely feel healthier and freer, more integrated as a person,” he says. Though Sunday School will not be his vehicle to change the world, his service continues. This summer he will work at Florida Legal Services, starting a project to help low-wage workers in Miami. It’s a job worthy of a missionary—or an atheist.
It's a little sad that the two people with extensive quotes in the article (apart from the Chaplain himself) both grew up Catholic.
But “faith” is not a word Epstein avoids.

“I think Humanists are profound believers,” he says, “because it takes faith and it takes courage to decide that if there’s no overarching meaning to life that’s given to you by the universe, you have to decide that your life can be meaningful, and that life in general can be meaningful. I think that’s a brave choice, and I think that my job as the humanist chaplain is to support people who are making that choice in whatever way they can.”
. Humans are such meaning-makers! We simply can't help it, can't avoid it. Maybe it's [faulty] evolution, as some claim. I tend to go with St. Augustine: Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.

Talk about fanciful! :-)

Purcell's Chicken Voluntary: A Fanciful History of Western Civilisation [Via Open Book]

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Not the most prudent thing?

An interview in Zenit argues that blanket bans on abortion (presumably like the S. Dakota law passed recently) are not the most prudent avenue to pursue right now. Worth reading!

Are we talking the same language?

I did a huge double take upon reading the following letter in the latest issue of Commonweal.

I'm not sure why I was so surprised. I've not identified with the label "liberal Catholic" for years now. But maybe it was just another of those reminders of just how far I've come from the days of my early twenties. I've been thinking a lot on those lines, and in fact, a large part of a conversation with a friend in Rome last week was about how both of us have "moved to the right" (or to more traditional understandings of things) in so many respects, especially with respect to liturgy.

For years too I've been telling myself that I need to sift through all of this and write it down. I'm guessing it'll happen this summer when I have some time to think.

Anyhoo, this was the letter from an Australian reader:
Thank you for your illuminating editorial on Pope Benedict XVI's Deus caritas est ... No one expects any major doctrinal shift from this new pontificate, but with his first encyclical Benedict has signaled a change of tone. Apparently we are not going to see a continuation of the rancor and division of the past twenty-six years -- which was driven in very large part by the American Catholic Right as it defamed and demoralized the rest of us. From now on, if this encyclical is to be believed, we can look forward to a whole lot more love and a whole lot less talk.

Before Benedict's encyclical was released, I told myself that it would either be full of references to Humanae Vitae and Pope John Paul II's theology of the body, with endless footnotes quoting his twentieth-century papal predecessors, in which case Benedict's own pontificate was sunk; or there would be no references at all to procreation or Humanae Vitae or the theology of the body, in which case they would be sunk. Well folks, that soft splash you just heard was the theology of the body being tossed overboard. It is to be hoped that Humanae Vitae will eventually follow, going the same was as the Syllabus of Errors -- no announcements of any policy reversal, just never mentioned again. What will all the apparatchiks at the John Paul Institute and the Pontifical Academy of Life have to talk about now? Here in Australia, the John Paul Institute in Melbourn is already reported to be on its last legs.

After twenty-six years wandering around in a Polish swamp, the church has finally staggered back onto dry land. If this is turning into the most intelligent "do nothing" papacy in history, Benedict, is at least taking the advince of Prince Taleyrand and doing nothing well. Of course, Richard John Neuhaus and George Weigel will want to get back to rambling about gays in the seminary as soon as possible. But the People of God have already moved on.
Wow. The new encyclical as tossing out Humanae Vitae. Apparatchiks? Polish swamp? Do-nothing papacy? Not that there are some good points about demonizing and rancor (definitely not the sole province of the "Catholic Right") or about the "palpable uneasiness" (to use Fr. Neuhaus' words) in some corners at, well, Benedict not turning out, immediately, to be a Grand Inquisitor. Besides "tossing out Humanae Vitae is not a major doctrinal shift? As I said. The chasm is wide, it seems.

Related to all this, at Commonweal's new blog, J. Peter Nixon asks some very salient questions: Do "Commonweal Catholics" have a future? A great conversation going on there. I'll have some thoughts. When I have some time.

Foreign Policy: The Geopolitics of Sexual Frustration

A Foreign Policy article analyses the social effects of gender selective abortion in Asia. Frightening.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

What Jesus Meant ---

Or rather, what Jesus meant secundum Garry WillsBooks: A Contrarian's Christ - Newsweek Entertainment - The First Things review by Fr. Edward Oakes SJ is even more devastating: A Jesus Just for me. What caught my eye was this paragraph though, where Wills admits what the Church teaches, and what some traditional biblical scholars (such as Luke Johnson) have been saying,
Jesus as a person does not exist outside the gospels and the only reason he exists there is because of their authors’ faith in the Resurrection. . . . The only Jesus we have is the Jesus of faith. If you reject the faith, there is no reason to trust anything the gospels say. The Jesus of the gospels is the Jesus preached, who is the Jesus resurrected. Belief in his continuing activity in the members of his mystical body is the basis of Christian belief in the gospels.
His image of the Atonement is also quite powerful (apparenlty, not enough for the Newsweek reviewer above, though):
Wills is even better on the Atonement, a doctrine now widely rejected by liberal Christians because of its alleged reliance on an image of God as patriarchal child-abuser. Alluding to a play by Chesterton called The Surprise, about a puppeteer who was so fond of his marionettes that he prayed they might come alive, Wills deftly explains Chesterton’s plot as a parable for the Atonement. When the puppeteer gets his wish and his marionettes come alive, they begin to bicker and speak their own lines. At this point, the puppet master exclaims to his now-independent characters, “Stop! I’m coming down.” In other words, in Wills’ exegesis, “Now that his creatures have free will, the puppet master can no longer manipulate them from above. He must come down to be with them, to fight for them.”
But that's about it. The rest is, apparently, incoherent. Fr. Oakes suggests that Wills would be better off as a high church Anglican. The best part is this description of the University as a totalitarian, hierarchical, dogmatic instution:
As he should know from his own position as a Catholic professor at a secular university, the two great institutional legacies of the Middle Ages to modern civilization are the Catholic Church and the contemporary university, of which the latter is surely the more rigidly hierarchical: With its politically correct orthodoxies, its hegemonically imposed anti-hegemonic discourse, its salary-mongering, its freedom from taxation (how Constantinian!), its speech codes, its teacher evaluations conducted sub secreto pontificio, its heated debate over the minutest matters, its hair-splitting fights over teaching loads and research assistants (tenure as benefice!), the contemporary university makes the Catholic Church look like a Quaker meeting house.
Oh how true!

Oh to have this problem here ....

Seminaries are overcrowded in Vietnam.

[That's to having overcrowded seminaries, not a totalitarian government!]

Pastor follows unorthodox path to create icon for pope - (3/12/2006)

Greenville pastor to draw icons for the Pope, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Neato! And a quote from a friend in the Upstate:
"The fact that a Lutheran pastor in the heart of the Bible Belt South is writing an icon for Pope Benedict XVI is a sign that the Holy Spirit is doing fascinating things in the church," said David Tiede Hottinger, director of the Center for Evangelical Catholicism at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville. "It is also evidence that God does, indeed, have a delightful sense of humor."

A twist in the Bishop Skylstad case?

On Thursday the news broke that the current President of the US Bishops' Conference, William Skylstad of Spokane, is being accused of sexually abusing a woman some 40+ years ago.

Over at Commonweal's great new blog, Grant Gallicho asks an interesting question:
Take a look at the post below, "A bishop accused." In that post, I quoted one of the more intriguing elements of the AP story about the accusation of abuse against Skylstad, which noted that Stephen Rubino was hired by the woman's legal team to investigate the claim. He's the same lawyer who represented the man who accused Cardinal Bernardin of abuse, but later admitted he made it up. Here's what I excerpted from the March 9 version of the story, as it ran on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Web site:
Rubino represented a man who claimed in the early 1990s that he was sexually abused by the late Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. The case was dropped in 1994 when the man recanted.
Read the current verion of the article. This excerpt is gone. On March 9, I read the story as it was picked up in several news outlets, and was dismayed to find that some had edited out this section. The Post-Dispatch hadn't, which is why I linked to their version. Of course, it's not unusual for newspapers to rewrite wire stories--there lots of good reasons to do so (space often being primary). But the Rubino thread in this story isn't a trivial one. So why would the Post-Dispatch remove it from later verions of the article? Or was it the AP itself?
The paragraph about Rubino is preserved in the Fox News story I just linked ... As we all know, in the celebrated Cardinal Bernardin case, Rubino made the story up. This is definitely not trivial.

May the truth be out.

Schuylkill priest step closer to sainthood : The Morning Call Online

Schuylkill priest step closer to sainthood : The Morning Call Online [Via Open Book]. This is awesome! I read "With God in Russia" in college, and it had a profound impact, and was very much a part of my journey into the Church!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Rome Travelogue: Master page

So here is a link to all the travelogues and pictures for this past trip, in chronological order. I'll add it to the sidebar at some point.

  1. Groggy in Rome
  2. Roma Bella! (Photos, Friday, March 3, First Set)
  3. Friday After Ash Wednesday
  4. Roma Bella! (Photos, Friday, March 3, Second Set)
  5. Roma Bella! (Photos, Friday, March 3, Third Set)
  6. The Feast of St. Casimir
  7. Photos - Basilica of S. Maria Maggiore - I
  8. Photos - Basilica of S. Maria Maggiore - II
  9. Photos - Random Shots
  10. Viva Il Papa!
  11. First Sunday of Lent: Mass at St. Peter's
  12. Some night shots
  13. Monday of the First Week of Lent: Santo Subito!
  14. Spotted outside the Flaminio Subway stop
  15. Wandering around the Centro Storico
  16. Santa Maria Sopre Minerva
  17. Of Saints & Tituli
  18. L'Eau Vive
  19. Feast of SS. Perpetua & Felicity: Assisi (I)
  20. Assisi (II) Basilica of S. Francesco
  21. Assisi III
  22. Assisi IV
  23. Confession Boxes
  24. Feast of St. John of God: Vatican Museum
  25. Wandering around St. Peter's
  26. Along the V. del Corso.
  27. Today's Lenten Stational Liturgy @ S. Maria Maggiore
  28. O Roma nobilis!
  29. Back in the US of A

The first visit to Rome ...

... was almost exactly four years ago. Back in that day (well before I discovered blogs), I sent out a daily email travelogue. I searched around for the files and have put it up as a .pdf over here. Enjoy!

Of course, scroll on below for this last visit, and all the pictures.

More space for women in the church...

I mentioned that headline that we saw on the metro last week in Rome, "Papa Ratzinger: Più spazio alle donne nella chiesa." Apparently, this was in response to a question by a Roman priest in an informal exchange last Thursday in a meeting with some of the clergy of the Diocese of Rome. I brought this up at lunch with John on Wednesday, and he suggested that I should read all his remarks. "It will be in my column this week as well," and so it is.

The full text of the Holy Father's remarks are up on the Vatican website (in Italian). He touches on a lot of things, and I'll share a few other snippets later, but on the issue of the role of women in the church, this is what he said (in John Allen's translation from this week's Word from Rome):
"I'll now respond to the assistant pastor of St. Jerome's - I can see he's also very young - who spoke to us about how much women do in the church, also on behalf of the priests. I can only underline how the special prayer for priests in the first Canon, the Roman Canon, always makes a great impression on me: Nobis quoque peccatoribus. In this realistic humility of us priests, precisely as sinners, we pray that the Lord will help us to be his servants. In this prayer for priests, and only in it, seven women appear who surround the priest. They demonstrate how women believers help us in our path. Everyone has certainly had this experience. In this way, the church owes an enormous debt of gratitude to women.

You quite rightly underlined that, at the charismatic level, women do a great deal, and I would dare to say, a great deal for the governance of the church, beginning with the sisters of the great fathers of the church, such as St. Ambrose, to the great women of the Middle Ages - St. Hildegard, St. Catherine of Siena, then St. Teresa d'Avila - up to Mother Teresa. I would say that this charismatic sector certainly is distinct from the ministerial sector in the strict sense of the term, but it's a true and profound participation in the governance of the church. How could we imagine the governance of the church without this contribution, which sometimes becomes very visible, as when St. Hildegard criticized the bishops, or when St. Brigit and St. Catherine admonished the popes and obtained their return to Rome? It's always a determining factor, and the church can't live without it.

You rightly say: 'We want to see women more visibly, in a ministerial way, in the governance of the church.' I would say this is exactly the question. The priestly ministry from the Lord is, as we know, reserved to men. This priestly ministry is governance in the deep sense that, definitively, it is the Sacrament that governs the church. This is the decisive point. It is not the individual man who does something, but the priest faithful to his mission who governs, in the sense that it is the Sacrament - that is, through the Sacrament - that Christ himself governs, both through the Eucharist and the other sacraments, but it is always Christ who presides. However, it's proper to ask if in this ministerial service - the fact notwithstanding that here sacrament and charisma form the one track upon which the church is realized - it's not possible to offer more space, more positions of responsibility to women.
I find that to be quite a powerful image: it's the Sacrament that governs, and through it, Christ himself. A huge reminder to all priests that they're not "in charge" per se, that it's not their own personal agenda. They're to be channels of Christ. I also love the refernce to the Canon of the Mass -- would that it were used more! (Even at the Sunday Mass at St. Peter's they used EPIII.)

Now as to what this "more space" and "more positions of responsibility" would look like, is anyone's guess. But certainly, more women and lay people in general, in consultative and collaborative roles within the structure of the church. The lay ministry model that's developing in the US (not without it's problems -- most of which tend to be with an implicit and subtle clericalism, i.e., pretending that lay people are clerics and expecting them to behave as such) is one way.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Hope they found what they were looking for! ...

Some people get here in the most bizarre ways. Apparently, someone was searching for "how do i get tickets for the consistory to install sean omalley as cardinal" on Google and ended up at this blog. Heh.

Good luck pal! :-)

Amy Welborn featured in Zenit ...

... in Elizabeth Lev's "Rome Notes" column.

[Oh and definitely check out the US Bishops Da Vinci Code site: "Jesus Decoded."]

Back in the US of A ...

... exhausting day, as you can imagine. The flight from Rome was delayed by an hour and a half since the crew couldn't get to the airport because of a wreck on the motorway. Instead of getting into Newark at 1:55, we landed at 3:30 pm ... with the connection leaving at 4 pm. Mirabile dictu, we made it through immigration and customs in less than 20 minutes (though I was asked to go see a Customs officer to have my bags inspected. She asked me, "what do you do for a living?" I told her. Apparently, working for the Catholic Church was enough! "Oh, just go on ahead!"), through security in another 15. The flight was delayed, so we actually made the connection. The bags didn't -- so I'm staying awake to go get them from the airport (they're supposed to be on the next flight), which is about 10 minutes away.

[Oh -- first time that I recall that the approach into CAE was into Runway 23. Normally they use 29-11. Different winds, I guess. Neat approach path --- right over the confluence of the Broad and the Saluda, and then across Cayce, pretty much following Hwy 302 down to the threshold.]

Thanks for following along! I'll put up a post when all the pictures are on Flickr.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

O Roma Nobilis ...

Well it's midnight, and yet another visit to my favorite spot on the planet draws to a close. Seriously, I think I'll stop by on my way to India this summer.

For now, it's arrividerci. In the morning we get up early to take the train to Fiumicino and then wing our way back to the US of A. Thanks for following along y'all. Hope you enjoyed it. [At least the Carolinas are a bit warmer ... :-D]

Here's an anonymous 9th century poem, that sums it up.

O Roma nobilis, orbis et domina,
Cunctarum urbium excellentissima,
Roseo martyrum sanguine rubea,
Albis et virginum liliis candida,
Salutem dicimus tibi per omnia
Te benedicimus: salve per saecula

O noble Rome, mistress of the world.
Most excellent of all cities.
Stained red with the red blood of martyrs,
Decorated with the white lilies of virgins,
For all we salute thee
We bless thee: hail for all ages!

Romeblogging ...

Amy and Michael are putting up the pictures from their trips and blogging on Rome. Definitely check them out!

Then there's the two Rome-based Catholic bloggers: Zadok and the Roaming Roman (she's only updating on Sundays during Lent). I tried to meet up with the latter, but it didn't work out. Forse la prossima volta ...

Today's Lenten Stational liturgy

Changed out of my coffee-stained clothes quickly and went to the 5:30 pm Stational Mass round the corner from the B&B at S. Maria Maggiore. Cardinal Law wasn't presiding (apparently, he did at this morning's 7 am English liturgy), rather it was an unidentified Bishop along with the canons of the Basilica. [Rocco has an interesting note on the perks and vestments that canons of Patriarchal Basilicas receive.]

While the stational liturgy on Monday had tons of beautifully printed programs available, there were none in sight here. I think maybe 4 of the 150-200 congregants seemed to be following along in a booklet. Guess one doesn't need to participate at a Patriarchal Basilica? :-) There was a pretty decent men's schola that did chant and polyphony (thought it seemed that their counter-tenors were really straining at the higher registers) for the liturgy.


After the entrance procession, the relics at the altar -- of the Holy Cross -- were incensed and then we followed the Cross and ministers around the Basilica, and outside while chanting the Litany of Saints in Latin. Before the Liturgy of the Word began, everyone (well those who had programs. I know half the verses.) chanted the Miserere (in Latin as well).


I just love the smell of incense!


Not having a program, and given the resounding echo, I missed a lot of the readings and most of the homily ... ... there was something about Nineveh being 3 days journey across, and walking and journeying with Christ in Lent, about conversion, penitence, and lots of reference (yet again!) to the Holy Father's new encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est."

I truly enjoyed the polyphony -- an interesting way of doing this, alternating a line of the hymn or chant with verses in polyphony. Same for the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei. It worked. The acoustics were fantastic. The smell of incense, and the amazingly beautiful mosacis on the triumphal arch (the apsidal area was in darkness, being under scaffolding right now). As we knelt on the mosaics on the floor, I couldn't help but think of all our forebears in faith who'd worshipped in this spot down the ages.


At the benediction, we were blessed with the relic of the Holy Cross (that's twice in a week!), with the episcopal benediction chanted in Latin.

Benedictus sit nomen Domini! Usque ad aternum.
Adiutorium nostri in nomine Domine. Qui fecit caeli et terram.

Blessed be the name of the Lord! Now and forever.
Our help is in the name of the Lord! Who made heaven and earth. Posted by Picasa