Thursday, August 31, 2006

WOO HOO!!! Go Cocks!

Fifteen nothing against Mississippi State ... a slow game, that certainly changed pace in the second half. I'm not sure I liked an interception on the very first frickin' play ... and not a great offense ... but still, a win's a win. And yes, Ryan Succop deserves every laurel ... he made the game. Great kickin' boy!

And what a sweet TV -- a fifty somthing inch plasma HD TV. You could count Lou Holtz' wrinkles as the commentors gibbered away during the breaks ...

A few of my novice brothers watched the game with me ... (boy, did they get a taste of Gashwin the Gamecock!) And I was on the phone hootin' and hollerin' with my peeps back in SC. So, instead of feeling even more homesick, I am quite cheered up. Bobby, Matt B, Dogwood (and Mrs. ... "Is he restraining himself" she asked. Uh ... no. :-)), Peter and the crowd over at Frank and Sean's -- thanks for watching the game with me, y'all! Tom J, sorry you couldn't make it over, but safe drive down South tomorrow.

At Mass earlier today, as the comfort of the familiar ritual soothed my frayed emotions, it suddenly hit me: I'm a seminarian. After all this time, it's here. Now I'm pumped ...

... and I need to get me to bed. Mass is bright and early in the am. Night y'all, and thanks for the prayers.
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There *is* cable here!

Whoops -- should read things more carefully. There's no cable in our rooms. There is satellite cable in the common rooms ... and there's like four of them. I've already checked with my brother novices ... so, it looks like I'll be watching the opening game of the season!! South Carolina vs. Mississippi State!!! WOO HOO!!! GO COCKS!!!!
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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

You think I brought too much stuff?


Well I'm here, in my new home after an uneventful drive with a fully loaded SUV up I-95.

A few notes:
1) Poetic justice does occur. After last week's "D--n Yankee" incident (upon being cut off by a car with NJ tags), I got a rental with ... you got it ... New Jersey tags.

2) I still have way too much stuff. I think I could give away at least two more suitcases full of clothes. I mean, I used like 10% of all the clothes I own the past three months in India. Granted, I didn't have my woollens with me, but really, do I need all of this? Sheesh.

3) I am just way overwhelmed right now. And exhausted (being woken up at 4 am by thunderstorms didn't help).

The new life begins. Bring on the prayers please! I need them.

Oh yeah, I'm really homesick. :-| Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Alea iacta est ...

No, I'm not crossing the Rubicon. However, this is one of the biggest moments of my life. Tomorrow I drive up the East Coast to Washington DC to start the Novitiate with the Missionary Society of St. Paul. I have been waiting to start my formal discernment for a while now, so I approach this with tremendous excitement.

At the same time, my heart is incredibly heavy as I leave behind friends and a loving Christian community here in South Carolina. These past ten days in SC have just been awesome - hectic, and filled almost non-stop with visiting people. And that heartwarming, tear-jerking farewell party last Friday. And going flying on Saturday (picutres and details at some point after I settle down). That really awesome DVD that Peter made, with a slideshow of photos of the past couple of years. Memories and hugs shared over so many meals. So many good wishes. Such support and such an outpouring of love. I am beyond overwhelmed.

I spent the evening with the students, and didn't have much of an appetite as we sat around the Nut aftewards ... it finally hit me: I'm leaving. Things will never be the same again. Yes I'll be back to visit. But, it won't be the same.

So now I'm sitting in the living room at Dogwood and Mrs. Dogwood's place ... everything packed up, the last goodbyes said and hugs shared (Matt B and Peter), knowing that eventually this moment would come, that it would suck, and that life would go on.

I've done this before ... when I left Bombay for Pune after college (incredibly tough). When I left for the US (a little less so). When I left Rochester for SC after just one year, but with such deep connections and friendships. The Lord has sent some amazing people across my path, and I am so grateful for all the friendships that have taken root here in South Carolina. Lord willing, they will continue to grow in the years ahead.

So, all y'all SC folk: thank y'all so much, from the bottom of my heart. I will never forget my years here, the many many graces and blessings the Lord has sent my way.

And so, until we meet again,
The LORD bless you and keep you: The LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. (Num 6:24-26, RSV)
And, to quote my beloved St. Paul, "At the same time, prepare a guest room for me ... " (Phlm 22, RSV) :-D

I love y'all!

[And really, I hope Ernesto gives the Palmetto State a miss!]

Monday, August 28, 2006

Abbot Francis Kline, RIP

I just got this in the inbox ... Fr. Francis Kline, OCSO, the Abbot of the Abbey of Our Lady of Mepkin, near Moncks Corner, passed away yesterday. He had been suffering from leukemia for several years now.
The Rev. Francis Kline, the abbot of Mepkin Abbey and an influencial spiritual force in the life of South Carolina, died Sunday after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 57.

A Juilliard-trained organist, Father Francis was the longtime leader of the Trappist monastic community founded on the Cooper River at Moncks Corner in 1949. But the cerebral, soft-spoken monk was much more to those who claimed him as wise counselor and reverent friend.

“He was someone that just had a remarkable level of personal grace in the way he handled himself,” Gov. Mark Sanford said. “He was able to have this incredibly deep well of spirituality and the ability to look deeply at ideas of faith, and then this ability to care what was happening in the world around him.”
Here's a link to an excerpt from his fantastic book on the monastic vocation: Lovers of the Place. I didn't expect the emotional response that I had to hearing this news ... Abbot Kline has been a kind of a role model and spiritual guide of sorts for me ... I've had the privilege of meeting him on several occasions, and he always asked about my spiritual welfare and vocation. He had given me an open invitation to come visit and pray at the Abbey at any time. I had wanted to do that before I left for India, in May, however, it just didn't work out. I am so grateful that I did write him a short note expressing my gratitude for his support and prayers.

A few years ago we'd invited him to give a talk at the parish, as part of a Lenten guest lecture series. Here's what I remember him saying about Peter and the Petrine ministry: "In traditional iconography, Peter is always depicted with these two riven clefts of tears running down his cheeks. These are tears of repentance. He who was called the Rock was the one who betrayed His Lord three times. The Rock is flawed ... it is only the Lord who makes him solid."

The last issue of Mepkin's newsletter, "Chapter and Verse" has a wonderful piece on Lectio Divina written by Abbot Kline. Soon, I'll transcribe it to the net ... it's not available online.

I am also grateful that on a day retreat to Mepkin in the spring, I got to see him at Nones and Vespers. He seemed so frail ... yet he still accompanied the chanting on the organ.

Now, my next visit to Mepkin (whenever that might be) will be a pilgrimage to pray at his graveside.

Dear Fr. Francis, I take solace in the fact that you are now free of the pain and suffering of the cancer, and enjoying the Beatific Vision, and adding your own unique harmony to the celestial choir. Pray for us who still struggle in this valley of tears. One day, the Lord willing, we will all sing the praises of God around the throne of the Lamb.

Requiescat in pace.

[Pictures from the last visit to Mepkin. Here, here, here and the Flickr set..

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Don Jim on Church and State ...

Ineresting reading ... I'd agree overall, though maybe add that government shouldn't just be absolved of its responsibility for the common good which may be an implication of what he is saying ...
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Christianity in the Comics ...

... in the newspapers i.e. Faith and the Funny Pages (Hat tip to Dogwood.) ...
“The Bible tells us that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” the character says, shouting into a cellphone in a crowded place. “But the good news is that the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ His son!”

His friend looks at him. “That’s not even a working phone, is it?” he says.

“No,” the talker admits, “but it’s a great way to share my faith!”

The strip, called “Heaven’s Love Thrift Shop,” made its debut in 15 American newspapers this month, with quotations from Scripture and characters talking about their faith. Though other comics occasionally address religious themes, mainstream newspapers and syndicates have largely avoided strips that make religion so central.
As the author says later on ... it's sneaky! Sure is! Mi piace ... :-)
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Where priesthood has taken Mark Mossa ...

Mark surfaces from his internet/blog fast for a second to point us to his article in Vision magazine: "Where my call to priesthood has taken me."
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A hundredfold

Then Peter said in reply, "Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. [Matthew 19:27-29, RSV]
I've always loved Peter's impetuous, oh-so-human, "So, what's in it for us" question.

As far as I'm concerned, the Lord's promise is so true, in this life. Well, at least about receiving a hundredfold. [I'm ok with waiting till the next life to judge the twelve tribes of Israel ... :-)] ... I'm just overwhelmed at the outpouring of love, affection and support as I leave ministry here and start a new life this coming week.

So, to all of you part of the parish family, and to all my friends and well-wishers here ... a heartfelt thanks. "I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers." (Phlm 4)

Victimae cantorum

[Set to the melody of the Victimae Paschali. Text. Melody. The cupcake reference is to the location of the fantastic Chant workshop back in February.] Dear friend and fellow blogger St. Elizabeth of Cayce composed this chant which was shared at the parish roast on Friday. [I was the one being roasted. Figuratively. :-)]
1. Gashwin Gomes loves all things ancient
Liturgy, incense and oils

2. One day he said: “Let’s suppose
We sing songs nobody knows?”
That’s why we had chant for Lent and Easter.

3. Punctum, clivis, podatus,
Apostropha, porrectus,
Basic and Liquescent, Neumes in Latin.

4. It’s really no use, Padre,
G. would not be dissuaded.
The older Cath’lics chanted away
Recalling Latin they learned back in the day.

5. We traveled to a cupcake
In rainy Alabama;
We learned to sing the Agnus Dei
The glorious settings of Pope Gregory.

6. Since G. learned chant in India
It’s held a special place,
Just like the one he holds
In all of our hearts.

7. Oh-oh-oh meh-ehn. We’re gon-na miss you here.
St. Lizzy: thanks!

Comair crash ...

Have been waiting to get on the Net to read up on the tragic crash at Lexington KY this morning ... here's a detailed report from Bloomberg.

Google Earth link showing the location of the crash site (according to a post at Airliners .net, near the two barns), at the end of the shorter Rwy 26. Speculation that the aircraft somehow took off this runway instead of the much longer Rwy 22.

The burgeoning thread at

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Fr. Foster at Notre Dame: a report ...

The irrepressible Fr. Reginald Foster OFM Cap. spoke at Notre Dame last week ... here's a detailed report at the blog of the delightfully named Cornell Society for a Good Time.

I'm on very limited internet time this hectic week as I wrap things up in SC, so please do send along any other links covering Fr. Foster's talk (especially any video footage!)
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Friday, August 25, 2006

The suited Pope ...

A photo of dear B16 in a suit, with his elder brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger. Via Jimmy Akin, via Rocco. Note the site where Akin found this, and their horror at a suited Pope. Some people really have nothing better to do with their time. Gag.

Ustad Bismillah Khan: RIP

The wizard of the shehnai, Ud. Bismillah Khan passed away earlier this week, aged 90.

India in mourning over famed Shehnai player Bismillah Khan.

A tribute at Planet Bollywood.

BBC's page of reader/listener tributes.

I'd heard Ud. Bismillah Khan on a couple of occasions in Bombay. I think he performed once at St. Xavier's famous IMG Jan Fest as well. [Man, those were fun! Three evenings and nights of non-stop Indian classical with the top artistes of the country! And of course, any excuse to stay up all night is great for college students. I understand that with the new laws proscribing loudspeakers after 11:00 pm, the Jan Fest isn't quite the same thing ... :: sigh ::] Requiescat in Pace.

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Finally an Interstate linking Myrtle Beach?

... this from The State: DOT to announce six possible routes for northern leg of I-73.

This will only make Biker week at the Beach worse, I'm sure :-)
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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Mary Help of Christians - II

A beautiful image of Maria Auxilium Christianorum

A delightful old pew, now off the side in the narthex.

"Spiritus Gladius" is of course the symbol of St. Paul. :-)

Close up of the organ pipes.
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Mary Help of Christians, Aiken SC

I went with a friend to nearby Aiken, SC yesterday and visited his home parish, St. Mary Help of Christians. A truly beautiful 19th century structure ... the apsidal mural is particularly gorgeous, with the symbols of the twelve apostles. The parish has outgrown the church, and most Masses are in a large hall across the street. Daily Mass and at least one of the Sunday Masses (I think) are still celebrated in this beautiful church.

I had no idea that the title of "Help of Christians" was given after the victory at Lepanto!

And can someone enlighten me: what's up with these compartmentalized baptismal fonts?

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Protestant Crusade Consipracy

... views among German Muslims about terror plots and arrests: most of the time, it's the government that is behind all these supposed terrorists.
This just in: The Lebanese men suspected of having deposited bombs on German trains last month were hired hands -- in the employ of the German government itself.

That, at least, is what one 27-year-old from Saudi Arabia believes. "It's all a Protestant crusade," the man explains. "All of northern Germany is Protestant, isn't it? And so is President Bush." Then the man launches into a melange of confusing arguments and historical facts. The bubonic plague, Martin Luther and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl all make a cameo. It's all connected somehow, the man is sure of it.

The young Saudi Arabian's views may make little sense from a Western point of view, but you can meet him and talk to him at a street corner in the middle of Hamburg, right by the central station. Foreigners from all over the world live in this neighborhood, called St. Georg, and a large number of them are Muslim. Several mosques have been built in the neighborhood. Many nearby stores carry no alcohol -- but they do have electronic memory aides for Koran students on offer.
What Terror? The Protestant Crusade Conspiracy (IHT)

NW 42 diverted back to Schiphol ...

... these jittery days ... ! I've flown on NW42 many a times! Dutch arrest 12 passengers from flight ...

And ... yet another fatal crash in Russia, yesterday! Not a good year for aviation in the former Soviet Union ... RIP.

Quote for the day ...

Via the indefatigable Amy. She's talking about the truly remarkable St. Camillus de Lellis (who I'd never heard of! Go read all at Amy's). Seems quite appropriate for yours truly ... as I am exactly one week away from preparing to enter religious life. Well, as she says, it's true of all of us called to be saints.
Mercenary, gambler, hot-tempered and willful...saint. This is our mission as disciples of Jesus - to let God take us and mold us. To never fall into despair and believe that it is too late, we are too bad, our past is too weighty. God does not care. He can take any of us, mold us, shape us and strengthen us to serve. He is, after all...God.
Go read it all!
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In power and the Holy Spirit ...

I went to the first meeting of the semester at the campus ministry last night. For the past year or so they've been slowly implementing ideas from the Evangelical Catholic model of ministry (of which I'm an enthusiastic supporter). One aspect of this is encouraging students (though it could well be parishioners ... the folks up at St. Mary's in G'vlle have had some success in using EC in a traditional parish setting) to share testimonies of their faith journey.

Several students spoke last night, very powerfully. One shared how his friendship with a terminally ill homeless man ended up deeping his own faith. Another about her struggle with peer pressure over pre-marital sex, and how a conversation with a friend reaffirmed her commitment to chastity. Another about suffering abuse from a relative. The students (and others) present listened to an hour of such testimony, with rapt attention.

Some of the students told me later that they had not intended to share the things they did; however, something prompted them to when it was their turn to speak. I was reminded of St. Paul's words to the church at Thessolonica, "For our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." (1 Thess 1:5, RSV).

Gosh, I'm going to miss this place! But I'm so grateful for the privilege of having been a part of something so beautiful.

Winnebago Adventures -- II

Receding waters.

Don't you just love those wind-bent trees?


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Winnebago Adventures at the Beach

Some friends and I rode down Monday afternoon to Myrtle Beach in Sean R's awesome Winnebago RV, affectionately nicknamed "Slim" and camped overnight at the State Park. These are some of the photos from the cloud-filled sky at sunrise. The sky was just spectacular!

[Here's photos from a night trip to Folly to catch the sunrise back in April. Gosh, seems like it was yesterday!]


It was truly a memorable visit. I'm not generally a fan of the commercialized strip at Myrtle Beach, but the State Park is awesome. On the beach itself, one can see the neon lights start on either side at the edge of the park. That stretch of beach itself, however, seemed quite calm and pristine.

[One of many favorite quotes from the trip: While I was driving Slim on the way back, a car cut me off from the right. I let off a stream of expletives in Hindi, and then, upon spotting the New Jersey plates, quite instinctively added, "D--n Yankees!" to much general hilarity. "Yup G, you're Southern!"] Posted by Picasa
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Monday, August 21, 2006

Hitler themed restaurant in Bombay ...!!


India's Hitler-themed restaurant draws fire (MSN)
Hitler’s Cross, which opened last week, serves up a wide range of continental fare and a big helping of controversy, thanks to a name the owners say they chose to stand out among hundreds of Mumbai eateries.

“We wanted to be different. This is one name that will stay in people’s minds,” owner Punit Shablok told Reuters.

“We are not promoting Hitler. But we want to tell people we are different in the way he was different.”

But India’s remaining Jews — most migrated to Israel and the West over the years — say they are outraged by the gimmick.
Well I hope that it's not just India's minuscule Jewish community that is appalled. I mean how low can this lust of greed go? I can just see the chattering classes getting all aflutter and people lining up to see and be seen here .... UGH. I can see Balasaheb (with his professed admiration of Hitler) and his Shiv Sena thugs joining in.

Want to ban something in ban-happy India? How about starting here? SHEESH! Please hold on while I throw up ...

Week in Columbia --- Light blogging

Light blogging heads up ... am back home in Columbia, for oh, a little over a week. It's so great to be back and I have a full week hanging out with people, and (of course, very last minute) getting some good photos around the place.

'Sides, the friend I'm staying with has ineternet issues. Well, more like he was "borrowing" the wirless internet of a neighbor. I think the neighbor wised up this morning and slammed some WEP codes and stuff down ... :) This is going out from my old office ... :)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

After confession

A Hymn to God the Father
by John Donne
WILT Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin, through which I run
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done;
For I have more.

Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sins their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallow'd in, a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done;
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I've spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by Thyself, that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine, as He shines now and heretofore:
And having done that, Thou hast done;
I fear no more.
[I must say it was rather nice to see quite a line for Confessions this afternoon!]
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WOO HOO ... a friend's going to take me up in a Cessna on Monday ... I CANNOT WAIT!!! Yes there'll be pictures on here.

And no snide remarks about skin color y'all :-p

You know, if it weren't for all this Lord-calling-me-to-priesthood thang I'd totally be a pilot. Now I have to figure out how to combine the two ... :)

:: UPDATE :: Sadly, today's flight got grounded because of that front that brought all that crazy rainfall last night ... way too many clouds up at KJUF, so my buddy has postponed the trip to later in the week. He's still working on his instrument rating, so flying has to be VFR only.

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What difference does it make?

A few days ago Anna Nussbaum asked a very important question over at the Commonweal blog: what difference does our calling ourself Christian make in our daily life?
We are wondering if there is any real palpable difference in the logic of our daily lives as a result of our Catholicism, and if not, why not?

I recently met up with an Objectivist friend at the Met, and in the process of arguing with him over the logic of love vs. the logic of rational self-interest, I realized that I knew all the right Catholic things to say, and all the best arguments to put forth, but in terms of my day to day decision making I was much more a Utilitarian than I would like to admit. My lifestlyle in many ways, belied my belief. I too cared about success and power and believed on some perhaps unconscious level that my individual achievements were, in fact, a good indication of my worth. I spoke of self-sacrifice but knew little of it, and I wondered, "Is there any real difference in terms of how I actually live?"
That little question has been sitting with me for the past couple of days. The comments there are illustrative (obviously, I favor responses over others ...).

One commenter talked about the triumphalistic church he grew up with and how thankful he is that its smug certitudes are gone (but its worried about a resurgence) ... I've never known that church really. When I was first discovering the Church all those years ago in India, one of the things that excited me was the declaration Nostra Aetate and the idea that non-Catholics weren't automatically condemned to hell. I couldn't square the experience of the witness of the lives of my family and friends with a narrow understanding of extra ecclesiam nulla salus ...

There's many directions this qustion can take us. One would be, "Well, if our lives are so similar to the unbelivers', then, why believe?" Or, perhaps more commonly, "why bother with the institutional trappings of beleif", with "organized religion" as it is called? However, what I've been thinking about most is this: what makes my life distinctively Christian and Catholic, apart from piety? [I should say, however, there seems to be a tendency among some to knock piety -- understood as the external manifestation of one's faith, especially in acts of worship and devotion -- or to assume that piety is always empty ritual masking hypocrisy. Obviously that's simply not true. I suspect it has something to do with a cultural more that values orthopraxis over orthodoxy, but just as much, it could be traced back to Our Lord Himself who strongly denounced religious hyporcrisy, and suggested that we pray in secret where only Our Father in heaven sees us.] Well, I would hope and pray that the Great Commandment is made visible, is embodied in my life. Or, that I diminish while He increases. That seems to be a good measure.

And how am I doing in that regard? I shudder to think ... which is why I really cannot imagine the Christian life lived without the help of the constant renewal and grace of the Sacraments.

So, until that Day comes when all is revealed, I will muddle along in the barque, and pray that the Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.
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Friday, August 18, 2006

Back in the Great Palmetto State ...

... and gosh, amazing what wonders a shower can do! I'm not as exhausted as I thought I'd be -- I really like the India-US nonstops. Despite the longer flight, one ends up feeling less tired.

The flight to Columbia was a lot more annoying than the transcontinental hop. Being cramped in the tiny Embraer after the spacious 777. Taking off exactly one hour fifteen minutes after we pushed back from the gate. Fuming at Alltel all the while. [It's all been resolved since then, and I have my mobile service back].

[The long wait did mean that the pilot requested the alternative runway at EWR, 11-29, instead of the clogged 18-36 R&L. Never taken off on that one ... we still had to wait to be spaced into the departure sequence. The windsock had spun almost 180 degrees while we waited, and I think he had 50 to 60 degree crosswind taking off ... The view of the City from 18-36 is a lot better though.]

Oh it's nice to be back ... and to drive where the roads are sane! It's such a pleasure driving in the US, especially just having come back from India ...

It is also really weird being back ... knowing I'm here for a really short while, and mainly weird that I don't have my own place. [The amount of my stuff that's ended up at Matt B's apartment does mitigate that a little bit though :)] I have a feeling -- and I really don't know what this means, that this sense of "home" of needing a home, a center -- is going to play some part in the discernment ahead. Don't ask.

The other thing I'm going to be thinking about is just what form this blog will take after the begining of the next month. I mean I can't just spout my mouth off about everything anymore. So, that's going to be in the prayers as well. Will keep y'all posted.

In the meanwhile, time to catch up on some zzzs ... and I think I'll be seeing some of y'all for some Thai tonight! :)

Liberty airport

... blogging from Newark's Liberty Interntaional airport. Smooth, uneventful, 14h20m flight from Delhi in a packed 777. CO sure treats Elite members well -- separate check-in counters, priority boarding, priority luggage processing (yes, my bags arrived within 5 minutes of the belt starting), wink wink if the bags are a little heavy, and, most importantly, more legroom. They ply you with food and drink (well alcohol still costs in the main cabin but I don't drink while flying anyway), and at least this cabin crew seemed a little less attitudinous than others :)

Extra security? Nothing out of the ordinary -- one mother traveling with a baby was asked to taste the baby food at Delhi. The absurdity of it was evident to all: the baby's older sister giggled, the security guard couldn't stop lauging, passing passengers just shook their heads. My backpack wasn't hand inspect once -- not in Delhi, not at Newark.

I forgot to take my contacts off, and they didn't dry up!

Now to get Alltel on the horn ... my mobile account is "inactive" for some reason. Their online customer service SUCKS. Their website wouldn't let me pay my last bill. Their email customser service never responded. And they only gave 800 numbers to call, which I obviously couldn't, from India. And it seems I cannot speak to a live human being till 9:00 am today, according to their website. ABSURD! I feel a change of service provider in the air ...

... in the meanwhile, finding a quiet corner at EWR to catch up on some ZZZs while waiting for the flight to Columbia at 8:50 am.

It's good to be back!
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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Off to the USA ...

... heading out to the airport in a few ... CO83 tonight DEL-EWR and then CO something or the other tomorrow morning EWR to CAE.  The first leg is a 15 hour flight ... woo hoo! :-)

Say a prayer for safe travels y'all -- see you on the flip side ....

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Six journeys to Rome ...

The Christian Century has a fascinating article on six prominent mainline Protestant theologians who have become Catholic recently (including one Mennonite). [Via Bill Cork]. Here's one descriptor that struck me: evangelical, catholic and orthodox. Hmm ... :)

Definitely worth a read. Of course, any such conversation has to include that indefatigable voice out of Duke, Stanley Hauerwas, and he is given his due. Another interesting thinker is quoted, Episcopal priest Ephraim Radner, who argues for the importance for remaining rather than leaving. [Radner's take on ecumenism is quite thought provoking: that Christian disunity is a kind of consequence of sin, in the same way as the exile was the consequence of Israel's sin, but more than that, that this is God's will,, that "God means to bring down the divided Church." Bruce Marshall has an informative review of Radner's book in First Things.]

Govinda ala re!

(Picture from this story at The Hindu

Today was Janmashthami, the celebration of the birth of the Hindu god Krishna. It's a huge deal in Bombay, where around every corner, a pot full of curds, butter and money is tied between buildings and a tall human pyramid is formed to reach up to break the pot. The crowd goes crazy shouting "Govinda! Govinda! Govinda ala re!" (Govinda has come!) [In the various stories surrounding Krishna's childhood, he is described as makhanchor, the one who steals butter. Kinda like a divine cookie-jar thief ... :)]

I don't remember it being such a big festival up north, but it seems Janmasthami is now a big deal in Delhi as well. No Govinda pyramids, but it is a holiday, and there's street side shrines and pujas at every corner. It seems some of this is tied to a resurgence of a Hindu nationalist identity in recent years ... There was a simple aarti held at the brother's in-laws, where the children gathered to swing an elaborately decorated jhoola carrying an idol of the baby Krishna. There was also a clay pot tied to the ceiling, and the kids went nuts trying to break this sort of traditional piñada, and then collecing the rain of coins and sweets that fell down ...

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Delhi: Lodhi Gardens II

More photos ...


Triple domed mosque next to Bara Gumbad


View of Bara Gumbad from Sheesh Mahal


Tomb of Sikander Lodhi


Athpula bridge

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Delhi: Lodhi Gardens

After the pleasant temperatures of Baroda, the humid, almost monsoon heat of Delhi is oppressive. I went out this morning to the celebrated Lodhi Gardens to wander around a bit. We lived right next to the gardens when I was a kid, and it was a favorite spot to explore on my bike ... I used to know every little inch, every path and trail, every pond and crumbling ruin. One hangout would be the tomb of Sikander Lodi, situated in a high walled enclosure (it was locked today). I'd clamber up the railingless steps, up to the rampart and peer out, valiantly repelling evil armies. At dusk, I would imagine the ghosts of the Lodhi rulers (the last dynasty to rule the Delhi Sultanate, for about a hundred years from the middle of the 15th century, just before the arrival of the Mughals) emerging from these tombs, and this would spur me on back home ...

There's four main tombs in the garden, (well, one, Bara Gumbad [big dome] below, is really a big mosque with no sign of graves) ... these are the two in the middle.

Bara Gumbad

Interior of mosque next to Bara Gumbad

Detail of arabesque calligraphy

Sheesh Mahal

Delhi is a fascinating city, really several different cities that have existed in this area from antiquity. A significant bit of its history was under Muslim rulers, and the architectural impact of a millenium or so of Islamic rule is everywhere. So much to explore!! Posted by Picasa
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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Bishop of Rochester on alienated Muslims...

That's Michael Nazir Ali, the Pakistani born Anglican Bishop of Rochester, England, in the Telegraph. Multiculturalism is to blame for perverting young Muslims.
So how does this dual psychology - of victimhood, but also the desire for domination - come to infect so many young Muslims in Britain? When I was here in the early 1970s, the practice of Islam was dominated by a kind of default Sufism or Islamic mysticism that was pietistic and apolitical. On my return in the late 1980s, the situation had changed radically. The change occurred because successive governments were unaware that the numerous mosques being established across the length and breadth of this country were being staffed, more and more, with clerics who belonged to various fundamentalist movements.
A very significant number of policies will have to be rethought. In this, the Government will need expert help. There must be greater encouragement for moderate Muslim voices to be heard more clearly. All religious leaders, representing any faith, wanting to work here, must be required to show that they are properly qualified, can speak English and are willing to undertake courses in adaptation to culture in this country: a number of suitable institutions offer such courses. Immigration policy should be shaped in such a way as to be able to discover whether potential immigrants have sympathy for characteristically British values and for the way of life here.

The cultural heritage of people who come here must be respected. They should be able to take pride in their language, literature, art and spiritual background. At the same time, if they are to adjust to life in this country, they should be prepared to live in mixed communities, and not on their own. Their children should attend school along with those who come from the host culture, or from other cultures and traditions. They should be willing to learn through the medium of English and to be socially mobile, rather than "ghetto-ised" on the basis of religion, language or culture.

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Finally, a blogger upgrade ...

... including tags ("labels") and stuff. 'Cept it's in beta, and not yet available to all users. I'm not going to create a new account just to try it out, so I'll wait a little more ...
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The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, New Delhi


Took this picture last year. Forgot to take my camera to Mass this morning. The roads were deserted, everyone staying in for the holiday (apart from the thousands who showed up at the Red Fort, despite all the terror threats, to hear the Prime Minister). The Cathedral is gorgeous. The 11:30 am English liturgy was thinly attended. Just a few notes on the Mass (and no, I'm not going to do indulge in my usual lament about liturgy in India) ... the second reading is changed to Gal. 5:1, 13-18 ("For freedom Christ has set you free ... "), to go along with the Independence Day theme. The lectors were well prepared, the homily a disquisition on the true meaning of freedom, with the illustration of Jesus as prophet who challenged the established order and reinterpreted God's law, with comparisons with Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I won't say anything about the music, except to ask, how on earth is "We shall overcome" considered to be a Psalm?

It's the twelfth anniversary of my baptism. I mark August 15 with tremendous gratitude, and amazement. So, perhaps it was fitting that the opening song was one of my favorites. :-) And the recessional, a pretty little Marian hymn that I've never come across in the US. "Be with us Mary along the way, guide every step we take. Lead us to Jesus your loving son, come with us Mary come!"

Domine, labia mea aperies, et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam

O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. Posted by Picasa

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The Solemnity of the Assumption

One of my favorite depictions of the Dormition is at the base of apse of the Patriarchal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Here's a picture from the Vatican website of the whole apse ... look towards the bottom of the mosaics of the Dormition.

An informative write-up at Catholic Exchange.

As expected, Mike Aquilina has juicy reading lined up at the Way of the Fathers, including a link to a piece exploring the foreshadowings of the dogma in Jewish writings.

And, Pontifications has a beautiful quote by St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

::UPDATE:: Definitely check out the photograph of Pope Pius XII defining the Dogma on All Saints Day, 1950, over at Don Jim's blog.

And I absolutely love this motet, set to gorgeous polyphony by Palestrina, for this Feast:
Assumpta est Maria in caelum;
gaudent Angeli,
laudantes benedicunt Dominum.

Gaudete et exsultate
omnes recti corde.
Quia hodie Maria Virgo
cum Christo regnat in aeternum.

Quae est ista
quae progreditur quasi aurora consurgens,
pulchra ut luna, electa ut sol,
terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata?

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The Bombay Succession

I don't know if Rocco knows that it's Indian Independence Day today, but he has a brief post on Cardinal Dias today, with speculation about his successor as Archbishop of Bombay. He mentions Agra's Gracias, a rumor that I've heard on occasion here myself.

Really though, why on earth would the appointment to an Indian see have anything to do with karma? :-)

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The 59th anniversary of Independence ...

Modern India was born on August 15, 1947. Google India is celebrating with the tricolor ...

This is the second year in a row that I've been back in India, and in the capital at that, for I-Day.

Via Desipundit, here's an interesting comparison of Nehru's famous "Tryst with Destiny" speech with Jinnah's speech the day before as Pakistan came into being.

Here's a travelogue I wrote last year on I-day, after going to see Mangal Pandey at the NOIDA Mall. Enjoy! Jai Hind!

Well, it's I-Day weekend (Pandra Agast, August 15th being the 58th anniversary of independence from British rule), and to celebrate, we went to see the most expensive Bollywood movie made to date, the much touted (I saw 7 ads for the it in yesterday's Indian Express alone!) Mangal Pandey: The Rising, the story of the First War of Independence of 1857 (the Sepoy Mutiny to the Brits), which opened this weekend.

The multiplex in the multi-story Center Stage Mall in NOIDA (New Okhla Industrial Development Area, a large swath of land across the Yamuna river in eastern Uttar Pradesh which has become a fancy Delhi suburb. There's no sign of any industrial development whatsover) is itself a sign of the "rising," so to speak at one level, of India in the nearly 11 years that I've been gone. Swank, hip, with many fashionable brands Indian (Woodlands, West Side, Planet M) and foreign (Ruby Tuesday's, Pizza Hut and, of course, that wonderfully spicy desi incarnation of McDonald's), and crowds of the well-heeled swarming about, rupee notes flashing, credit cards whizzing; prosperity, wealth, consumer spending, the Indian Tiger finally unleashed, and the millions cashing in (India's middle class alone is about as large as the entire population of the United States).

"I told you, it would be just like America," said Papa as he went with my nephew and niece to see Madagascar. Well, yes (all hail the mighty dollar, um, rupee), sure; but this is most certainly India. There's the security -- a guard checks the underside of the car with a mirror for bombs; one passes through a metal detector and is frisked before entering the theater itself (Delhi has been dealing with terrorists for decades, since the infamous "transistor" [radio] bombs left in DTC buses during the separatist troubles in Punjab in the 1980s, to the October 18, 2001 attack on Parliament, and continuing separatist trouble in Kashmir and in the northeast). There's the "Driver's room" in the basement garage -- a room with pastel green walls and loud fans to spread the hot air for the chauffeurs to sit in while the memsahibs go shopping. And everywhere, there's the lower rung of the middle class (or the upper rung of the lower class, who knows) -- the sweepers keeping the mall floors clean, the liveried "liftmen" (elevator operators), the waiters in the restaurants who bravely try to take the orders of the bara sahibs in English, quite likely not unhappy to have a better paying job than many.

And of course, not even a New York mall (were such a thing to exist; well, I guess the Sixth Avenue Mall compares) would be this crowded, or this hot. The air-conditioning tries bravely to cope, and manages to keep everything 10 degrees cooler than the outside, which still leaves it at a steaming 85 or so. One simply accepts a layer of grime and sweat.

Yes, it's I-Day weekend. The Indian tricolor is everywhere. I don't recall this kind of popular identification and connection with an Indian national identity per se (as opposed to Hindu, or Muslim, or one's caste, or regional affiliation), a decade ago. I-Day celebrations seemed to be the domain of officialdom, with the PM's speech at the Red Fort, and flag-hoisting ceremonies at schools and government offices, something imposed from above by the State. We enjoyed the holiday and took a kind of ironic, cynical pride in being Indian. "Mera Bharat Mahan" ("My India is great," the corny slogan created by Rajiv Gandhi's Cong-I regime for the 45th anniversary of Independence) was said with a good deal of sarcasm, in the face of practically non-existent public services, rampant corruption and the stifling stupor induced by the license-raj. The pride in being Indian now, seems deeper, more genuine. The license-raj has practically disappeared, the economy is taking off, and while corruption is no less rampant, services have improved only somewhat, and politicians are still crooked, there is a sense of hope in the future. In the mall, the flag is everywhere, on every pillar, against every wall and door. Orange, white and green. "Vijayi vishwa tiranga pyara, zhanda uncha rahay hamara" (Our world-dominant, beloved tricolor, may it fly high).

The movie itself was, rather unexpectedly, quite good. I was expecting patriotic schmaltz, and a one-sided anti-Brit screed. The story, of course, is well known. Every schoolchild knows it; of how the new Enfield rifle, whose cartridges, greased with pig (abomination to Muslims) and cow (sacred to Hindus) fat caused outrage amongs the Indian soldiers of the Honorable East India Company; of how Mangal Pandey, the brave sepoy of the 34th Infantry Regiment at Barrackpore (near Calcutta) rebelled, shot his superiors, and was martyred, but whose rebellion sparked a fire that raged across the nation, and woke the slumbering giant of Indian nationalism, bringing an end to Comany rule, and 90 years later, ended with the departure of the British from the jewel of their empire.

Yes the schmaltz was there, as was a rather villanous East India Company and the men in red, and the politically correct noises of Hindu-Muslim amity. Of course there were the obligatory Bollywood song and dance sequences (decent music by A.R. Rahman), with only passing relation to the plot. But the story extrapolated from the historical facts was quite rich, dramatic and moving: the deep friendship between Mangal Pandey and his immediate superior, a low-born Scotsman, William Gordon, himself marginalized because he's Catholic, a Papist, and who, in another era in the American South, would have been called a N-lover. There's the fiery Hira, sold as a slave into prostitution, who falls in love with Pandey. The beautiful Jwala, rescued from being made Suttee (burnt alive on her husband's funeral pyre) by Gordon (and yes, an actual, if rather brief, on-screen kiss between them later on), and the unnamed outcaste sweeper who proves invaluable to the Brahmin Pandey as a source of information. While the greed and corruption of the Company are on display, there is no attempt to whitewash or sanitize the Indian side -- slavery, prostitution, Suttee, caste discrimination, are all part of the landscape, presented with minimal moralizing. And the cinematography is simply breathtaking.

Bollywood is not known for subtlety, and pulls no emotional punches. One's buttons are pressed, and one can't but be moved by the human drama of the story. And yes, even one who is on the verge (inshall'ah) of being a permanent resident of the Land of the Free, feels an upsurge of patriotic fervor and pride in being a citizen of the world's largest (if rather bizarre) democracy, and the land of a sixth of humanity.

स्वतंत्रता दिवस मुबारक। जय हिन्द

Happy Independence Day. Jai Hind!

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Flying to Delhi ...

[This was written last night, 8-14-2006]

Well I’m back in the capital, on the eve of the 59th anniversary of the end of the British Raj. The enhanced security at Baroda was quite bearable. There’s only five flights a day, so crowds aren’t an issue. No liquids in carry-on baggage, the latter limited to one item (including a laptop bag/briefcase). They were strict about the weight of check-in luggage as well – domestic flights allow 20kg. I had 44. In the past, I would mention that I’m eventually flying on to the US (where the weight limit is 23kg per bag), and the sweet girl at the check-in would smile and place the bags onto the belt. This time, it wasn’t a sweet girl but a friendly if firm guy. “Sir, you can avail of the special US allowance only if you have purchased a full-fare ticket. This is a discounted ticket.” I hemmed and hawed to no avail and then agreed to pay the excess baggage charge. “That will be Rs. 95 per kilo.” He charged me 20 kilos excess, which comes to a whopping Rs. 1900. That’s almost half the cost of the ticket! But that’s still better than shelling out Rs. 8000 for a full-fare ticket.

Jet operates a 50 seater ATR prop on the Baroda – Delhi sector. It’s quite comfortably appointed, and covers the distance in some two hours, enough time for a relaxed dinner. They do need to get some regional jets though. An Embraer or a CRJ would reduce the flying time by 30 or 40 minutes at least. As long as they keep the ATR seat pitch! We took off from runway 22 (southwest) turning north over the lights of the city, eventually cruising at 17000 ft. That’s one of the issues with the ATR – you can’t really go above the weather. And boy, there were some bumpy patches! Eventually the monsoon clouds were left behind over southern Rajasthan. We passed Jaipur at 9:30 pm and were at about 12000 feet, directly above Palam airport at 10:04 pm. To the left, one could see the line of planes lined up on final, landing lights on full, properly spaced. We were number 12 to land – not bad for Delhi, which has way more air traffic than it can properly handle, on the eve of the holiday too. As the plane banked, the twinkling lights of Delhi appeared, spread out like a twinkling, golden bed sheet, as far as the eye could see. In the distance on the horizon, nature was providing a spectacular display of lightning, the purple flashes providing a surreal contrast to the tungsten glow of the city.

We touched down at 10:30. I was out of the terminal with my bags at 10:40. Unprecedented. The brother had sent his chauffer with their brand new Toyota Innova (India’s first luxury mini van). I must say, riding in a car this size in India seems … weird, like something is out of place. Yes, this is Delhi, with its broad, leafy, well paved, extremely un-Indian roads. [Bombay wouldn’t know what to do with such roads!] But they’re still driven on by Indians, with the same crazy traffic rules. Which are infinitely more dangerous when the car is going at 80kmh versus 40. Security (pronounced “sick-yorty” by all the breathless 24/7 TV anchors and reporters) was quite visible, and not just at the airport. We went through at least three police checkpoints on the way. Without stopping. Terrorists, it seems, do not ride in luxury minivans.

Tomorrow, August 15, apart from being Independence Day, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the BVM, and a holy day of obligation, is also the twelfth anniversary of my baptism. I am planning to go to the 11:30 am Mass at the Cathedral. That’s if the city isn’t completely shut down in the morning for the I-day celebrations. The Cathedral is a hop skip and a jump away from Parliament, and I am afraid the roads will be shut. I know of no parishes closer … nor did the person who answered the phone when I called the Cathedral earlier. [Actually they sounded most surprised that the phone had rung, that someone was talking at the other end, and that this someone was asking about the Mass schedule. Guess people don’t call ‘round these parts … ]

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Center for capital litigation shuts doors ...

This is really sad. Group that represented death row inmates shuts down.
The Center For Capital Litigation, a non-profit lawyers group that represented Death Row inmates in appeals for decades in South Carolina, has closed its doors because of a lack of money.

But the chairman of the board that oversees the organization said it may eventually reopen, perhaps with a new focus.

"We are sort of reassessing ourselves," said Dan Westbrook, a Columbia lawyer who chairs the center's board.

"We've got some ideas floating around on the board about what our future should be but no definite decision right now, and it will probably be a while before we make a decision as to what to do. We would like to become operational again at some time in the future."
Gosh I certainly hope so! The scene in "fry those suckers!" South Carolina is quite dismal as it is.

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The Interview: Read it!

Amy links to the full transcript of the Pope's interview, over at Deutsche Welle. It's completely worth reading! There's so much in there ... but one particular thing that stood out was his comments on young people:
Then another message might be this: the courage to make definitive decisions! Young people are very generous but when they face the risk of a life-long commitment, be it marriage or a priestly vocation, they are afraid. The world is moving dramatically: nowadays I can continually do whatever I want with my life with all its unpredictable future events. By making a definitive decision am I myself not tying up my personal freedom and depriving myself of freedom of movement? Reawaken the courage to make definitive decisions: they are really the only ones that allow us to grow, to move ahead and to reach something great in life. They are the only decisions that do not destroy our freedom but offer to point us in the right direction. Risk making this leap, so to speak, towards the definitive and so embrace life fully.
Oh how true!
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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Christianity is not just a series of no's

Pope Benedict gave German tevelision an unprecedented interview last week. Now here's the first news report I've seen about the contents. The interview itself, according to Reuters, will be put up on the Vatican website. Oh boy, I cannot wait to see it! Here's some teasers:
"Christianity, Catholicism, isn't a collection of prohibitions," the 79-year-old Pope said. "It's a positive option ... We've heard so much about what is not allowed that now it's time to say: we have a positive idea to offer ..."
The role of women -
Benedict also said the Church was reflecting much about the role of women but repeated that they could not become priests because Christ chose only men as his apostles.

He suggested, however, that canon (Church) law, which currently restricts high-level decision-making roles to ordained males, might someday be changed to give women more power in the Church short of the priesthood.

"We will have to try and listen to God so as not to stand in their (women's) way," he said.
Oh, heads will be exploding! I love this guy!

[It's like 1:20 am ... I better get to bed. If I start googling this more, I won't sleep for a while; 'sides I have to get up to take dad to the clinic ... ]

Allen on the Schülerkreis

Sandro Magister covered the Schülerkreis, the annual meeting of Pope Benedict with his former students, in his newsletter recently. Now John Allen brings to light some more details about this year's upcoming meeting in September, focusing on creation and evolution, including profiles of those presenting, and an interview with Fr. Stephan Horn, the informal coordinator of the meeting. The kind of solid stuff one expects from John Allen. Money quote:
Already in 1968, then-Professor Ratzinger wrote on the subject "Schöpfungslaube und Evolutionstheorie" ("Belief in Creation and the Theory of Evolution"), which was republished in 1973 in the book Dogma und Verkündigung. He discussed the consequences for the faith of an evolutionary view of the world. He offered the response that the theory of evolution neither destroys the faith nor confirms it, but rather presents it with a challenge. Later on, he underlined that the theory of evolution sometimes has a tendency to insist on being a full explanation of the totality of existence, which makes both metaphysics and God superfluous. Hence for him what's needed is a calm approach on both sides.

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Beyond getting wasted and getting laid ...

An interesting piece by the Rev. Sam Hill Wells, chaplain (Anglican? Epsicopalian?) at Duke. Why our culture won't heed the Church on sex. [Via Catholic Sensibility.]
For many students today, sex is a sport. It largely happens late on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night. It’s mostly about one-night stands, preceded by heavy drinking and followed in the morning by — almost nothing. How has this culture come about? I suggest a story in three parts.
Yep, worth reading! What follows is an interesting analysis of the commodification of sex by market forces and consumerism. Not the only lens through which to view the subject, but it certainly helps understand underlying socio-economic currents, for sure.
Christians may believe that they have good news about the body — as a gift from God, destined for glorious resurrection and transformation, and a beautiful instrument for showing another person how deeply cherished he or she is by God. They may believe that sexual expression belongs in a relationship of passion, permanent friendship, and hospitality to children. But Christians can no longer rely on social norms or economic necessities to shape sexual behaviour for them.

One can easily fall into thinking that once there was a golden era, when Christian assumptions about propriety were reflected in the general society’s sexual habits. Whether or not this was ever so, it makes the mistake of thinking that one can legislate for or demand adherence to Christian patterns of life, without communicating the convictions or practices that make those patterns meaningful.

Christians can no longer rely on economic hardship or a culture of shame to do the work of ensuring adherence to their expectations about sex. They have to rely instead on their own witness and example. They have to live in marriages that inspire others. They have to offer models of a good time that go way beyond “getting wasted” and “getting laid”. They have to portray a sense of corporate duty as compelling as that on offer in the ’50s, and a sense of passionate love as thrilling as that on offer in the ’70s.
I do think he's right on the money about the college culture ... and, pastorall, I just don't think one starts out with, "these are the rules and if you don't cut it get the heck out of here." This is not the same as tolerating sin or what have you, but recognizing just how vast a gulf there is between what the Church teaches and where the culture's at.

And, of course, if you're being hypocritical, well, so much for the Good News then.

Now how to best invite people to discover the reality about "Good News for the body?" ... [Kinda apropos, Georgette has a neat quote about St. Maximilian Kolbe, manliness and chastity. Hmm.]

Liquid Security - II

This is way too hilarious ... especially given that it was released before the current fracas ...

[Via Cynical C]

And, not to be missed ... ]
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Liquid security

Somehow going to the airport seems a whole lot more distasteful for this frequent flier than it did last week. It's not just the new security measures, though that's a part of it. It certainly isn't fear of flying, far from it. I guess it's a combination of weariness and a deep loathing of bureaucratic procedures implemented ham-fistedly. The desi cop at the security barrier and the bullying TSA guy share that sense of self-importance that folks get when given a little authority over a lot of people. [Though, at least in India, I don't have to deal with the additional factor of FWB ... flying while brown.]

Here's some much needed sagacity from security expert Bruce Schreier:
The new airplane security measures focus on that plot, because authorities believe they have not captured everyone involved. It's reasonable to assume that a few lone plotters, knowing their compatriots are in jail and fearing their own arrest, would try to finish the job on their own. The authorities are not being public with the details -- much of the "explosive liquid" story doesn't hang together -- but the excessive security measures seem prudent.

But only temporarily. Banning box cutters since 9/11, or taking off our shoes since Richard Reid, has not made us any safer. And a long-term prohibition against liquid carry-ons won't make us safer, either. It's not just that there are ways around the rules, it's that focusing on tactics is a losing proposition.

It's easy to defend against what the terrorists planned last time, but it's shortsighted. If we spend billions fielding liquid-analysis machines in airports and the terrorists use solid explosives, we've wasted our money. If they target shopping malls, we've wasted our money. Focusing on tactics simply forces the terrorists to make a minor modification in their plans. There are too many targets -- stadiums, schools, theaters, churches, the long line of densely packed people before airport security -- and too many ways to kill people.

Security measures that require us to guess correctly don't work, because invariably we will guess wrong. It's not security, it's security theater: measures designed to make us feel safer but not actually safer.

Airport security is the last line of defense, and not a very good one at that. Sure, it'll catch the sloppy and the stupid -- and that's a good enough reason not to do away with it entirely -- but it won't catch a well-planned plot. We can't keep weapons out of prisons; we can't possibly keep them off airplanes.
[Via Boing Boing] Also definitely check out Will Saletan's column Liquid at Slate.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Mahi River

Some pictures taken a few weeks back on a drive to the Mahi, about 25 kms from Baroda. The river this week is in spate and I think that bridge we were on is closed.

Yes, it continues to rain in central Gujarat.

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Save the Internet ...

Just saw this ... It's about threats to Net Neutrality: the idea that an ISP will let you access any page -- whether their own content, or a big business, or a tiny blog, at the same rate, and will not privilege a site that pays them money, over a site that doesn't (or can't afford to).

Apparently, there's a move (surprise surprise) by corporations to be permitted to do just that.

If true, and if it goes ahead, that would change the Net as we know it.

So. Save the Internet. Anyone knowing more about this, please let me know.

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Hitler's Bible ...

Interesting piece at the Catholic Herald (UK). Historians discover "Hitler's Bible."
An institute in Germany has unearthed a Nazi “bible” commissioned by Adolf Hitler.
The Fürher had the Ten Commandments rewritten into 12 new rules aimed at furthering Aryan ideals. “Thou shalt not kill”, “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not covet your neighbour’s house” were dropped in favour of commands such as “Honour Your Fürher and your master” and “Keep the blood pure and your honour holy”.
The Nazi book was titled Germans with God and was meant to be a must-have in every good Aryan home – alongside Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf.

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It's the Bishops' fault ...

The state of Catholicism in Britain, according to this column in the Telegraph by the editor of the Catholic Herald. There is an increase in the numbers of Roman Catholics in the British Isles because of the influx of immigrants such as the Polish, but the Bishops do not know how to react, an what they have been doing is part of the problem.
For years, it has been possible to draw a picture of a typical bishop. He is a graduate of the English College in Rome who is moderately bright but intellectually lazy. If his political allegiance has shifted since the 1960s, it will only have been from Labour to the Lib Dems (because they are more reliably anti-American). There is a good chance that he will have worked in Eccleston Square, the bishops' HQ, where lay ideologues promote naïve multiculturalism. Once he has become a bishop, he will form his own mini-curia, issuing hand-wringing press releases about being nice to Muslims.

No wonder the Poles are not impressed by their new spiritual home. They have petitioned the bishops to provide them with more Masses in their own language. The answer, as often as not, has been no: you must "integrate". Nothing illustrates more clearly the bishops' ignorance of the secrets of church growth. London's mushrooming Pentecostal congregations are falling over themselves to provide immigrants with tailored services.

Meanwhile, in a sadly muddle-headed decision, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor has announced that three of the most evocative weekday feasts of the calendar - Epiphany, Ascension and Corpus Christi - will be absorbed into ordinary Sunday worship "in order to foster the celebration of the rhythm of the liturgical year", whatever that means. Loyal priests and lay people, by no means all traditionalists, are furious at this impoverishment of the liturgy. It is finally dawning on them that it is time for root-and-branch reform.

Only one man can set that process in motion: Benedict XVI, the greatest theologian to hold the papal office for centuries. We must hope that the special quality of Benedict's thought - its emphasis on the role of beauty in the purification of worship - colours his choice of a successor to Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor; for he would then have to look outside the magic circle.