Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The conquest of charity over death

I attended the Vigil of All Saints up the street at the Dominican House of Studies. Oh my goodness! What an amazing and grace-filled event! I've been to many services in my life. This is easily one of the most beautiful ones I attended.

The invitation letter warned us to get there early. I showed up (with some friends) at a little after 7:00. The chapel was already packed. We managed to find seats, separated, in a corner just outside the choir. (At the end of the service, I noticed that there were people filling the corridor outside. I'd say several hundred attended, but I'm notoriously poor at estimating such things). And overall, what a young crowd! (Of course, Catholic U. is just across the street ...) And young nuns and young priests! Several Dominicans (to be expected!), also several Missionaries of Charity, their blue-bordered saris flowing out from underneath sweaters. And others I didn't recognize.

Part of the "feel" was that of the Easter Vigil (the only Vigil so celebrated really in the calendar anymore) -- readings in darkness, candlelight and so on. And boy, what readings here! Such a diverse selection from the lives of the saint, in all their variety, joy, humor (St. John Carrafo pulling the beard of a prisoner and not letting go till he went to confession.), marvelousness (Bl. Margaret of Castello levitating twenty inches, which causes a hardened prisoner's heart to finally succumb to divine grace!) The saints are indeed the "proof" of Christianity, and in their dazzling diversity, God's creative beauty and love are indeed revealed.

The central highlight for me was the Te Deum. Way back, as I was discovering this thing called the Catholic Church, I stumbled upon a little "Manual of Gregorian Chant" in the college library (I think it was from Solesmes, published in 1910). I taught myself many chants, including the Te Deum. I've heard it chanted often enough in recordings. This was the fist time I experienced it in the context of worship, the first time that I really prayed it in a community.

And then, everyone, it seemed, chanted the Salve Regina (the words weren't printed in the program). Wow! There's such a treasury in the Church's heritage ... bring it out, share it, and people will take it up.

Of course, the true treasury that was presented to us was that of the saints. The reflection by the young friar was simply fantastic. Erudite, drawing on Dante and T.S. Elliot (among others), and starting with the ancient pagan festival celebrated tonight, it presented a compelling vision of the "economy of sanctity" (if such a term is indeed appropriate), the role of the saints in the Body of Christ.. No 7-minute canned sermon this! This is the Order of Preachers after all, and while listening intently, I was reminded of the power of good oratory, something that our modern sound-byte culture, it seems, can barely appreciate. It seems that last year's reflection is online, so, one prays, this one will end up on the web as well! I would surely love to listen (or read) again. (The title of this post is taken from Br. Anthony's reflection, incidentally. It's a phrase that stuck with me -- the saints demonstrate the conquest of charity over death.)

And so, at the conclusion of the service, the pilgrim Church, the Church militant, processed out past a reliquary filled with the tangible imprints of sanctity, hundreds of us, faces glowing in the flickering candleight, calling on the saints, oh what a long glorious list of them, the saints triumphant around the celestial throne, to pray for us, to deliver us from evil, to make us, by the grace of God, holy.

As St. Paul put it to the Colossians: "Let us give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

Here's an outline of the service:

  • Processional
  • O Sacred Banquet (recited)
  • Hymn: From all thye saints in warfare
  • Opening Prayer
  • Vigil Readings
  • The Passion of the Apostles Peter & Paul by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius
  • The Life of Bl. Margaret of Castello
  • A selection on Devotion to St. Joseph from the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila
  • The Life of St. Joseph Cafasso by St. John Bosco
  • The Te Deum (Dominican chant)
  • Reading: Colossians 1:12-20
  • Reflection by Br. Anthony Giambrone OP

  • Night Prayer
  • Confiteor
  • Psalmody
  • Reading
  • Canticle of Simeon
  • Concluding Prayer
  • Salve Regina (Roman Chant)

  • The Beatitudes (Slavonic Chant)

  • Litany of the Saints (Traditional Dominican Chant)

The National Catholic Register article on the event. It's also featured at Open Book.

Catholic Social Teaching and the elections

In light of the upcoming mid-term elections, the Evangelical Catholicism blog has a three part (soon to be four part) summary highlighting important aspects of Catholic Social Teaching.

Check it out!

Is there some exception for football games?

[Was going to post this yesterday, but forgot.]

The first reading at today's (i.e. Monday) Mass definitely got me squirming.
Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you,as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving.
Umm. What about when watching Carolina football? :-D

The Baltimore Basilica

The Mass of rededicaiton of America's first Cathedral is this Saturday (a ticketed event. No, novices don't get any special privileges. We're not on the totem pole yet, remember? :)). I cannot wait to go see it! It's just up the way! That's so awesome!

George Weigel had a column on the Basilica in yesterday's USA Today: Where religious freedom rings. (As part of the reopening ceremonies there's a special Interfaith ceremony next Thursday evening.) [And it's a theme that Fr. Isaac Hecker would have resonated with!]

Rocco has some preliminary shots and more links.

Maybe next week ...

Monday, October 30, 2006

A wound on Satan's body

So, taking advantage of this spell of simply gorgeous days in the capital city, I took the Metro down to the Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery, to view a special exhibit. In the beginning: Bibles before the year 1000. Oh boy, what a treat! Two leaves from the Codex Sinaiticus! (Apparently, taken by a visiting Russian Orthodox bishop from the Holy Monastery of St. Catherine's in the 19th century. The complete Codex was discovered walled up in 1975) The earliest fragments of the Gospel of Matthew (the so-called Magdalene Fragment), a fragment of the Gospel of Thomas, a page of the so-called Egerton Gospel, a section of the end of Mark from the Codex Washintoniensis, showing the Freer logion, the Claromontan gospel, works from the Lindisfarne abbey, all kinds of Syriac peshitta, Armenian and Georgian manuscripts, some early Latin texts, patristic texts (Gregory's commentary on the Gospels, Bede's commentary on the psalms), some interesting manuscripts on purple parchment, old Hebrew texts, Old Testament fragments, palimpsets, and so on.

As you can imagine, I was in hog heaven.

Of course, photography is not permitted, and of course, the rooms are dimly lit with controlled lighting, the precious fragments and codices sealed behind glass.

There was a section devoted to the Cairo geniza, including a jumble of fragments, preserved as they were received by American collectors from Egypt. The whole concept of the geniza, the ritual burning of manuscripts that had errors in them, demonstartes a signficant difference between the Christian and Jewish approaches to the text of the Bible. Christian scribes just scratched the errors out and wrote over. Jewish scribes discared the pieces of paper with evidence of human frailty. The Torah is the Incarnate Word in a sense, and has to be perfect.

The exhibit also drove home the point that for centuries, written Bibles were rare. And the New Testament as such didn't really exist in its final form till the fourth century (even as different texts were being preserved, copied, transmitted and circulated in those "early years").

Here's an article on the exhibition in the Washington Post. And this one (also in the Post) apart from its attempt to go down the This Will Shake The Faith Of The Weak path, (Bart Ehrman is trotted out. There's a rather stretched analogy to the evolution-creation debate. Yawn.) is really neat.

The title, by the way, is taken from a quote by St. Cassiodorus: "Each word written is a wound on Satan's body."

You know, I think I might go back.

On Evangelicals

Busted Halo has a review of Peter Feurherd's book, "Holyland USA: A Catholic Ride through American's Evangelical Landscape."
“This center of evangelical kitsch next to Route 4 is the last place in the world a liberal New Yorker like me would ever imagine being,” Feuerherd writes, “But I’m here because there’s a phenomenon happening in this country, and here is one of the best places to study it.”

The phenomenon Feuerherd refers to is the decline of one religious group and the steady growth of two others. “America used to be considered a Protestant nation, meaning one dominated by old mainline denominations,” Feuerherd says. But their numbers and influence have declined, and now it’s evangelicals and Catholics who largely shape the national religious landscape.
For Catholics, this book provides an engaging guidebook to evangelicals that helpfully dispels some shopworn stereotypes. After attending multiple services at evangelical churches, Feuerherd says that while their preachers have a fire-and-brimstone reputation, “the reality is more Oprah,” with preachers drawing from America’s therapeutic, self-help culture for solutions to money and marriage woes. Readers might be surprised to learn that “politics is rarely discussed in such precincts,” and that “the stereotype of the evangelical as exclusively Middle American and Caucasian doesn’t hold.”
The review at least doesn't mention one very important, but often over-looked fact, that large number of American evangelicals (or rather, conservative Christians) are African American, who are, by and large, solidly Democratic. This latter fact is part of Andrew Greeley's new work, "The Truth about Conservative Christians," reviewed in the Oct. 20 issue of Commonweal (article online for subscribers only).
One of the reasons this book does not match most analyses of conservative Christians is that Greeley and Hout recognize what many other students of the subject don’t: a large number of theologically conservative Christians are African Americans, the nation’s most loyally Democratic group. Arguing that conservative Christianity is allied with conservative politics makes sense, they write, “only if you want to exclude Afro-American Christians from the ranks of the religiously conservative.” They continue: “But that is a groundless exclusion. Their ‘Evangelical’ credentials are as good as anyone else’s, in some cases marginally better.” Indeed.
As y'all know, all those years living in the South have really increased my respect for evangelical Christians. Then there's my involvement with the Evangelical Catholic movement. And of course, reading about that fellow, often described as a Catholic evangelical or an evangelical Catholic, Fr. Isaac T Hecker. I think we have a lot to learn from each other.

[As an interesting aside: a story in today's Christianity Today online talks about the upcoming PA Senate election. You know, Catholic vs. Catholic. Casey vs. Santorum. Except, it's part of a series profiling "races where evangelicals play a decisive role." I think they mean evangelical voters. But it's interesting to think that they might be referring to Sen. Santorum (I doubt they'd use the same terminology for Bob Casey Jr.)]

Blogger Beta

... given just how many issues Blogger Classic has been having this past week, I'm more than tempted to bite the bullet and sign up for Blogger Beta. (It's an irreversible move as Blogger warns me!)

How will that affect my template? Anyone know? I don't have time to really find out ... I have a feeling I'll have to use a new template and re-customize everything. Having ready-made categories is a plus though.

Not like I don't have enough things to do with my time ...

"A spring of dialogue has sprouted in Regensburg"

Today's newsletter by Italian Vaticanista Sandro Magister continues to highlight the (at one level) unprecedented dialogue that is emerging in the wake of the Pope's remakrs in regensburg. Here, Magister publishes the exchanged between a Muslim theologian, Aref Ali Nayed and Italian Catholic scholar, Alessandro Martinetti, on the reasonableness of God. Magister also publishes part of a text by Cardinal Bertone (the new Secretary of State of the Vatican), which is going to be in the next edition of the Italian journal 30 Days, on the new initiatives the Holy See is understaking to promote dialogue in and with the Islamic world. Here's some highlights:

But the deep issue is not even that of respect for religious symbols. This issue is simple, and radical: the human dignity of the Muslim believer must be safeguarded. In a debate related to these topics, a young Muslim born in Italy simply asserted: “For us, the Prophet is not God, but we love him very much.” There must at least be respect for this profound sentiment!
The Holy See is also considering the establishment of cultural relations between Catholic universities and universities in Arab countries, and among men and women of culture. Dialogue is possible among them, and I would even say it is productive.

In one’s apologetic efforts to make room for theology and religion amidst their contemporary secular “cultured despisers”, one must remember the important stark difference so rightly pointed out by Pascal: “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Not of the philosophers and intellectuals. Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace!”

If being rational and having a rational God means adopting the God of the philosophers, be it called “Reason” or “Logos”, most Muslim theologians would simply opt to pass! That is why Asha’rite theologians, while always upholding the importance of devout reasoning that is guided by revelation, never accepted the Hellenistic philosophical worship of “Logos” or the “Active Intellect”.

Islam’s devout insistence on the sovereignty of the living God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all) must not be cheaply turned against it, with unfair accusations of whimsical irrationality! If properly appreciated such devout Muslim insistence can be a real aid to Christian affirmations of the divine in the face of the atheistically secular.

The God proclaimed by the Catholic Church is, on the other hand – and can be no other way – always and exclusively good, the giver of life and love; redeemer and savior, and never a persecutor; creator, and not a destroyer. He does not take pleasure from suffering or sin, but he can do nothing but place his creatures in the situation in which they can achieve their highest good. He is faithful and consistent – and cannot help but be so – in spite of the infidelity and inconsistency of human beings in the wearisome journey of individual existence and of history. He can not be like this, because “God cannot contravene himself, nor can truth contradict truth.” God cannot be infinite love and also, contradictorily, a limited love that is fickle, intermittent, and opportunistic.

I am not overlooking the fact that much theology, including some found in Catholic circles, is afraid of a God who could not ignore the principle of non-contradiction, positing that a God who could not get around this principle would not be omnipotent, and could not exercise his own love in a supremely free manner. But it is clear what the risks are if the magisterium would adopt the image of a God supremely free to act against reason. It is time to overcome the dead and sterile opposition between a God-Logos who by adhering to the principle of non-contradiction closes himself up in an unassailable rationalistic detachment impermeable to love, and a God-Love, who can at will violate rational principles simply to reinforce his own nature of free love in an absolute and omnipotent manner.

Oh get real folks

Official Google Blog: Do you "Google?" Google is worried about the transformation of "Google" into a "normal" English word, like escalator and zipper.

And they're brandishing their lawyers.

So I can see it now, some NYT columnist gets a letter from the Google lawyers with dire threats of disembowelment and the like.

Or maybe, I will. Since, you know. Blogspot is owned by Google.

New Abbot at Mepkin: Fr. Stanislaus Gumula OCSO

Mepkin Abbey near Charleston has elected a new Abbot. Details at Rocco's. [Hat tip St. Liz.] [I've never heard of Fr. Gumula. Apart from Fr. Kline, I knew Fr. Aelred, and of course, the Guest Master, Br. Stephen. And Fr. Christian gave us Abbey tours a couple of times (before they became all organized and stuff): he was especially delightful this one time, when we had a student named Amanda in the group. "Amanda! She who is to be loved!" he would exclaim at random.]

If anyone makes it down to the abbatial blessing by Bishop Baker, please let me know!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A conversation with a Kenyan Muslim

From the folks at the e-zine Mercator comes this interesting conversation with an educated Kenyan Muslim and his view of the West.
There are potholes of misunderstanding on both sides of the road to dialogue with Muslims, as this conversation with a Kenyan student makes clear.
Read it!

Bishop Morlino: We ain't the focus

That's the Bishop of Madison, WI (home of the wonderful folks at Evangelical Catholic). He's just issued a short document on the music used at Mass. [Hat tip Amy]
After the council, an overemphasis was given to the presence of Christ in the assembly, so that the other ways Christ is even more sacramentally intensely present suffered a certain neglect.

Evidence of that is given through the occurrence, not unusual throughout the United States, of the practice of the taking of the consecrated Precious Blood of Christ, which remained after Mass, and pouring it down the sacrarium or even an ordinary sink. Evidence of this is also given in the need seen universally among the Bishops of the United States to issue a document affirming and clarifying our belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species.
The question arises, does some of the music routinely sung embody the incorrect overemphasis on the presence of Christ in the assembly, so that people are confused as to the importance of the sacramental intensity of His presence, especially under the signs of bread and wine.

Certain songs come to mind where the lyrics raise a real question for me. For example: "We are called, We are chosen, We are Christ for one another, We are a promise, We are sower, We are seed, We are question, We are creed." Singing that song repeatedly teaches people something, and I am afraid that it is something that I as Bishop do not want to teach them, but we certainly need to begin a dialogue about these matters.
And I seriously doubt that this means that Bp. Morlino wants to impose the Tridentine Rite or use Latin exclusively. The music at EC Masses (which has his full backing, and in which he's participated) is largley Protestant-Evangelical Praise & Worship, with the occasional traditional or contemporary hymn and, yes, Latin, thrown in. (EC isn't easily pigeon-holed. Thankfully.)

Liturgy, and even more so, liturgical music, continues to be scandalously divisive. I pray that the our Bishops' discusison on music during their November meeting is fruitful.

Fr. Isaac Hecker starts the journey towards canonization

Fr. Isaac Thomas Hecker, founder of the Paulist Fathers, has officially started the journey towards canonization. The following is from an email from the Postulator for the Cause, which was on the community listserv. I'm reproducing bits (with permission).
Father Isaac Thomas Hecker has begun the canonical journey towards sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.

On Thursday October 26, John Duffy and I met with Cardinal Edward Egan at his residence on Madison Avenue. At this meeting we asked the cardinal who as Archbishop of New York has canonical competency, to open a diocesan inquiry into the sanctity of Father Hecker. Cardinal Egan was not only delighted but enthusiastic about Hecker’s cause and readily agreed to do so.

Now we begin the preliminary procedures that will lead to the formal ceremony opening his cause in the Archdiocese of New York. We hope that this will take place at the Church of Saint Paul the Apostle during the Paulist anniversary year in 2008. Hecker at that time will receive the title Servant of God, and his case will join that of Rose Hawthorne Lathrop a Paulist convert, Dorothy Day whose spiritual director was Paulist Joseph McSorley and Terrence Cardinal Cooke who delighted in ordaining priests to the Paulist Fathers.
Website for the Cause.

Prayer for intercessions

Reading Hecker (and reading about Hecker) is one major part of the novice year. And boy, I'm really digging it! I'm still trying to wrap my mind around some of the stuff he talks about. And what a vision he had!

Some selections from his writings are online.

Out for a walk on the Mall ...

The weather in the nation's capital was just perfect today, so after my parish apostolate, I went out to Ben's Chilly Bowl on U St. to grab a hot dog and then down to the Mall. Had a nice walk at the WWII Memorial, up the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial, back again and up to the Washington Monument, along with a friend (and his dog, that elicited universal delight from passers-by, in a variety of languages ... )

I guess living in DC does have some plusses ... :)

Here's a few pictures of the evening.


I wanna cry

What the heck happened in that game? UGH!!! And that third quarter looked so good. ::: SIGH :::

And don't even get me started on those darn refs and those calls ...

Heather, Napoleon ... great having y'all over to see the game. Haven't had my voice hoarse in a while. :-) And singing the Alma Mater on the steps of the seminary, priceless!

Thank goodness for Fall Back weekend. (Afterwards Adam, who'd watched the game at his place and was sending me increasingly angry text messages. joined us at Colonol Brookes on Monroe for some palliative beers. The place was full of crazily dressed Halloween party goers. And a pathetic band that screeched like a jet engine in heat. The conversation was great though. When we could hear ourselves ... :-)}

Friday, October 27, 2006

Speaking of the Great Mutiny

... sorry, the First War of Independence ... William Dalrymple has a piece in the New Statesman on his new book: The last Mughals and a clash of civilizations. Of course, there's the obligatory "lesson to be learned" by today's leaders, but still ... Here's a neat bit:
In 2002, researching in the National Archive in Delhi for a book on the life of Zafar, I found a remarkable collection of 20,000 previously untranslated Urdu and Persian documents that enabled me to resurrect in some detail the life of the city before and during the siege. Cumulatively, the stories contained in these Mutiny papers allowed the great uprising of 1857 to be seen not in terms of nationalism, imperialism, orientalism or other such abstractions, but as a tragic human event for ordinary individuals whose fate it was to be caught up accidentally in one of the great upheavals of history. Public, political and national disasters, after all, consist of a multitude of private, domestic and individual tragedies.

The Last Mughal, published this month, continues the story I began in White Mughals - the story of the fast-changing relationship between the British and the Indians, and especially Muslim Indians - in the late 18th and the mid-19th century.

During the 18th century it was almost as common for westerners to take on the customs, and even the religions, of India, as the reverse. These white Mughals had responded to their travels in India by shedding their Britishness like an unwanted skin, adopting Indian dress, studying Indian philo sophy, taking harems and copying the ways of the Mughal governing class they came to replace - what Salman Rushdie, talking of modern multiculturalism, has called "chutnification". By the end of the 18th century one-third of the British men in India were leaving their possessions to Indian wives.

In Delhi, the period was symbolised by Sir David Ochterlony, the British Resident, who arrived in the city in 1803: every evening, all 13 of his Indian wives went around Delhi in a procession behind their husband, each on the back of her own elephant. For all the humour of this image, in such mixed households, Islamic customs and sensitivities were clearly understood and respected. One letter, for example, recorded that "Lady Ochterlony has applied for leave to make the Hadge to Mecca". Indeed, Ochterlony strongly considered bringing up his children as Muslims, and when his children by his chief wife, Mubarak Begum, had grown up, he adopted a child from one of the leading Delhi Muslim families.

This was not an era when notions of clashing civilisations would have made sense. The world that Ochterlony inhabited was more hybrid, and had far less clearly defined ethnic, national and religious borders, than we have been conditioned to expect. It is certainly unfamiliar to anyone who accepts the usual caricature of the Englishman in India, presented repeatedly in films and television dramas, of the narrow-minded sahib dressing for dinner in the jungle.
And just for fun, here's some food for post-colonial thought (to unabashedly lift the line that introduces this link at A&L Daily)at Slate: Which country is the best colonizer?

The Nicholson Cemetery near Delhi

You know, I'd never even heard of the place. I love history (like y'all didn't notice), and particularly the kind of off-the-beathen-path stuff that Peter Foster (the Delhi correspondent for the Telegraph) just posted to his blog:
Personally I always seek out graveyards when I'm travelling in India. They're heavy with stories of the long-forgotten lives of suicidal subalterns and opium agents that populated 19th and early 20th century India.

My favourite is in a Bihari town called Motihari, where George Orwell was born to an opium agent. Half the slabs are being used as washing stones and the other half disappearing under a green slime being produced by the local sewer.

Among the headstones slowly sinking into the mire is the pathetic, child-sized memorial to Eileen May, the daughter of Anthony O'Reilly Edwards, who died aged "1yr, 2mths and 17 days" in May 1881. Beside her lies Mr Edwards's "beloved wife", Caroline, who followed his daughter into the ground 18 months later in Dec 1882. Of the broken-hearted Mr Edwards there is no sign.
Like Mr. Foster, I have a fascination with graveyards, and other markers of the lives of our ancestors in all their particularity and individuality. [For instance, this recalls the time I spent at the St. Thomas Cathedral in Bombay this summer, reading the various marble slab inscriptions of British soldiers long gone].

William Dalrymple's new book on the last Mughals looks simply delicious. I read a review this summer, but it wasn't yet out in the bookstores in India. Something to look forward to for this winter's trip maybe.

The Missouri Amendment-2 debate

Human cloning? Now that's scary! A round-up at American Papist.

Battlestar: Collaborators

So tonight's episode continues the political parallelisms: Vichy (Jamie Bamber mentions this explicitly in the exclusive video on the Scifi page, up until 2am Saturday. Pwd: RIFT), Iraq, Guantanamo, and, at the very end, South Africa and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (they even kept the same name).

I'm not entirely sure I like all this parallelism stuff ... I prefer more subtlety. But anyway, I'm excited to see that Earth enters back into the plot more forcefully next week.

I thought Gata did a fantastic job, as did the Chief. And boy, the "execution" of Ellen Tighe last week was amazing. I miss her character!

Starbuck's all fracked up ... will be interesting to watch.

The phrase that came to mind at the end (goes to show what a weird geek I am), when Tyrol sits down with Gata, was the one made famous by John Dominic Crossan: open commensality. How symbolic sharing a meal with someone is, how radical the violation of the boundaries of table fellowship can be.

Rock on!

If it's Christian ...

... then it's not acceptable. Add another story to that file. This one from ENI's (Ecumenical News International) daily headline summary:
London (ENI). British Airways has become embroiled in a dispute with a check-in official at Heathrow Airport in London who refused a company request to cover up the cross she was wearing
around her neck. Nadia Eweida, aged 55, who is on unpaid leave until the dispute is resolved, claims the right to display her Christian religious affiliation in a discreet way. The cross is less than two centimetres wide, and Eweida asserted she was not
being given the same rights by the company as Muslims and Sikhs, who may wear headscarves and turbans. [297 words, ENI-06-0854]
Ecumenical News International
PO Box 2100
CH - 1211 Geneva 2

Tel: (41-22) 791 6088/6111
Fax: (41-22) 788 7244
Email: eni@eni.ch

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Thursday of the Twenty Ninth week of the year

Except while traveling, I don't normally just blog about my day. And, for obvious reasons, I'm not sharing the ins and outs of my discernment in such a public forum. However, periodically folks ask, "so, what is it like? There's no easy answer really to that. Yes, there's a regular weekly routine that we're slowly settling into. Yet, life is very different from just a few months back.

So, here's an outline of this day, for what it's worth.

At 7:45 am the community gathered for Lauds (Morning Prayer) in the chapel. I'm normally barely awake at this time (the alarm goes off at 6:55 am), and stumble through the Psalms to some semblance of wakefulness. A "morning person" I am not. A simple breakfast follows (tea [lamentably, not chai!] and raisin bran). This morning after breakfast I dropped a priest to the CUA/Brookland Metro station (he's traveling out of town on work.)

At 9:00, this being Thursday, the novices started their work period. Today, we had to clean out the newly repainted exercise room, scrub the floor with some chemical stripper, move the equipment in (the pieces that could be moved by five adult men, i.e. Two really couldn't!) and then sweep and mop the stairwells and passageways.

We were close to being done by 2:30 or so (with a break for lunch). I showered and headed to National Airport -- I'm on pick-up duty for guests this weekend. The fall meeting of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consulation is being held at St. Paul's this weekend. I was out to pick up the Orthodox chair of the consultation, Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh (along with a guest from the Catholic side from Boston). Let me tell you, it was a real privilege driving back to the city with him -- he was one of the Orthodox observers at the Second Vatican Council! And such a gentle demeanor, and an aura of holiness about him! Most certainly the highlight of the day. [The agenda for the meeting was distributed to all residents in the house. Gosh, I wish I could just hear the conversations! However, the meeting is closed. A press release will appear at the USCCB webpage above at some point, for sure.]

Traffic on the way back was horrendous (yeah. It's DC), and we got back just in time for dinner at 6:15 (and missed the daily Mass at 5:15 pm).

7:00 - 7:15 is becoming one of my quiet times to spend in front of the Blessed Sacrament (I also try to say Compline in the reservation chapel, but don't always make it up there. Yep, working on that.) At 7:15 pm, the Novices pray Vespers together. On Thursdays at 7:30, some of us pray the Rosary.

At 8:00 I drove down to Union Station (well, to the Capital City Brewery right next to it in the Postal Museum) to have a couple of brews with buddies Tom and Napoleon from SC (who've just moved to DC to start grad school.) [St. Izzay, I know you'll ask, so: this microbrewery has some cool house brews on tap: a neat Porter, some decent ales. I haven't tried their stout yet. Had a seasonalpumpkin ale tonight ... not bad actually!]

Around 10:15, I drove Tom to his place in West Falls ... just to have a look at his pad, and to shoot the breeze some more. And then turned around and drove back to the other side of the district.

No, normally, I'm not out of the house this late. And no, there's no real curfew. The only rule is that we need permission to stay overnight somewhere (and it has to be for a good reason). Oh yes, and, as a rule, meals are to be taken with the community.

So, that's my Thursday of the Twenty Ninth Week of the Year.

[Tom got one of the coolest things for me: a copy of this book from the American U library ... there's two copies in our in-house library, but they're both missing from the shelves! More on this later.]

Fr. Michael Hunt CSP

Folks, please keep Fr. Hunt in your prayers. He is losing a long battle with multiple myeloma. He is at the Sloan-Kettering hospital in New York. Fr. Hunt blogs at Westside Paulist (though, understandbly, the blog hasn't been updated since May). (:: Thanks to Andrea in the comments below for pointing out Fr. Mike has a newer blog.)

"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and in the hour of our death."
::UPDATE:: For anyone coming across this older post in a search, Fr. Hunt passed away on November 6 at 12:10 pm. RIP ::

Charleston controller falls asleep ...

From the The Post and Courier ... not a huge infraction but still. Underscores that the nations ATC centers and towers are under-staffed.

[Taking a break from mopping! :-)]

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Imitatores mei estote

"Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1). These words are inscribed on one of the stained glass windows in the chapel here, with an image of St. Paul.

Today, the subject of the Holy Father's Wednesday catechesis was The Apostle. Here's a few highlights. The full text is at Zenit.

St. John Chrysostom exalts him as a personage who is superior even to many angels and archangels (cf. "Panegyric" 7,3). In the Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri, inspired in Luke's account in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 9:15), describes him simply as "chosen vessel" (Inferno 2, 28), which means: instrument chosen by God. Others have called him the "Thirteenth Apostle" -- and he really insists much on the fact of being an authentic apostle, having been called by the Risen One, or even "the first after the Only One."

In fact, he will describe himself explicitly as "apostle by vocation" (cf. Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; or "apostle by the will of God" (2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1), as if wishing to underline that his conversion was not the result of nice thoughts, of reflections, but the fruit of a divine intervention, of an unforeseen divine grace. Henceforth, everything that before was of value to him became, paradoxically, according to his words, loss and refuse (cf. Philippians 3:7-10). And from that moment he put all his energies at the exclusive service of Jesus Christ and his Gospel. His existence would become that of an apostle who wants to "become all things to all men" (1 Corinthians 9:22) without reservations.

From here is derived a very important lesson for us: What matters is to put Jesus Christ at the center of our lives, so that our identity is characterized essentially by the encounter, by communion with Christ and his word. In his light, every other value must be recovered and purified of possible dross.

In fact, the Apostle will give his supreme witness with his blood under the emperor Nero here, in Rome, where we keep and venerate his mortal remains. In the last years of the 1st century, Clement of Rome, my predecessor in this Apostolic See, wrote: "Because of jealousy and discord, Paul was obliged to show us how one obtains the prize of patience ... After preaching justice to all in the world, and after having arrived at the limits of the West, he endured martyrdom before the political rulers; in this way he left this world and reached the holy place, thus becoming the greatest model of perseverance" (To the Corinthians, 5).

VT to get a facelift

From the Economist "City Guide" newsletter, the latest Mumbai-Briefing:
Victoria Terminus, Mumbai's iconic Gothic railway station (officially “Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus”, but commonly called “VT”), will soon get much-needed new facilities as part of the Indian government's initiative to improve infrastructure in general. Central Railway, which runs the station, has announced plans for three new platforms, new cafeterias, a shopping centre and a budget hotel. The facilities will be built on a large tract of land behind the main station building, replacing those occupying the site. Land belonging to a government-run hospital next door, which the station secured in exchange for railway land elsewhere, will also be used. Central Railway's plans to fund the 5-billion-rupee ($110m) scheme by selling land in other parts of Mumbai should work given the city's soaring property prices.

SC Gubernatorial debate

Streaming life tonight from WYFF4.com [Hat tip Dogwood]

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Eid Mubarak


I took this shot of these little Bohri kids at the Gateway of India (in Bombay, August 2005) watching two dogs fight (just off the screen to the left). The slightly off-balance Parsi lady in the right apparently felt for the dogs, and went in and broke the fight up.

Truth be told, I've no idea why I thought the kids were Bohri ... perhaps because the skull-caps had that brown calligraphic decoration that (I think) Bohri men favor.

Slate has a neat photo-essay on the end of Ramzaan (in its Indian spelling).

Here's the text from the Holy See for the end of Ramadan.

Eid Mubarak. Posted by Picasa

The St. John's Bible

The celebrated St. John's Bible (the first commissioned calligraphed manuscript Bible in five centuries) is on exhibit at the Library of Congress ... and finding myself with a few free hours this afternoon, on a breezy, brisk fall day, I hopped on the Metro and headed down to R street, staring curiously at a delegation from the People's Liberation Army standing outside the Russell Senate Building.

The exhibit is on the second floor of the Jefferson building (one of the most spectacular buildings in the capital ... see the photos below, taken on a trip in March 2005). The lady at the information desk was like, "Don't you want to see the rest of the building?" "Oh, I've been here before ... " She didn't seem too pleased. Too bad. :-)

And let me tell you, the visit was absolutely worth it. The folios on display are simply stunning. The colors leap out, the modern illuminations are overall, quite powerful, and I found myself speedchless and very moved by some (Particularly the illustration of the Nativity in the Gospel of Luke, and the Tree of Life/Genealogy that's the frontispiece of the Gospel of Matthew).

A very helpful 26-minute BBC-produced video takes one behind the scenes of the venture, with details on the various techniques (which are the same that medieval scribes would have used), materials and so on. (For a second I wondered how many calves had given their skins for this project, entirely on vellum.)

Despite all the care to reproduce medieval techniques and so on (For another second I thought of another Jackson: Peter Jackson and the herculean efforts that went into bringing Tolkein's trilogy to life on celluloid), this really is a modern project. Or rather a post-modern one. "Their [the Benedictines commissioning the Bible] theology is really forward-thinking" as the calligrapher, Donald Jackson remarks in the video. For one: this project could only have been conceived in this manner from within the modern West. Since the resurrection of the classical culture with the Rennaisance, and the rise of historical consciousness, the West has been transfixed by the past. I cannot imagine such a project arising, say, in India. Second, the thing that really struck me was the care taken to incorporate an interreligious perspective (especially, but not really limited to, Judaism and Islam. Aboriginal Australians, Native Americans, Hindus, Buddhists, Sufis and pre-historic cave dwellers, all have their own cameos.). So, the beautiful illumination of the Tree of Life that illustrates Jesus' genealogy, going back to Abraham and Sarah, also lists Hagar, and her name is written in Hebrew as well as Arabic (Haajr), to highlight her (and Ishmael's) importance in Islam. Various artistic motifs are borrowed from the Qu'ranic and Jewish manuscript traditions. The most interesting were the Psalms, illustrated only by illuminated voice-prints of the monks chanting Gregorian chant, the (Muslim) adhan, Hindu bhajans, Sufi songs and Hebrew chants, looking like some really esoteric musical writing. This kind of inter-mingling and juxtapositioning of traditions from different symbolic worlds, almost a kind of syncretism, could occur in India (though the Hindu motifs always predominate ... I was reminded of the EME Temple in Baroda for instance), but exemplifies the modern, relativistic West. This is not to suggest that Christianity is downplayed, or that such an approach is illegitimate (For instance, Jewish traditions have their rightful place in the bulk of the Bible, one could argue!). I was even reminded of Nostra Aetate, and the vision of "the rays of truth" that illuminate the world's religions. [It's hard to imagine, say, a modern Qu'ran being comissioned on such principles.] And yes, given the conflicts between people in the world today, this kind of religious juxtapositioning may even help promote harmony. Later in the day, I was relating my experiences to Fr. Tom Stransky (a visiting Paulist, who lives in Jerusalem). He said that the only time the people of the three religions of the Holy Land get together is for an annual concert where the sacred music of all three traditions is performed.

The gift store had a number of (frightfully expensive) prints on sale, as well as notecards and a bunch of other well packaged "gift items." Everything was well beyond the budget of a poor novice. (I did however pick up a guidebook to sites associated with the Civil Rights movement in the South, which was on sale for $2.00. Definitely a novice-friendly price!)

Back in September Amy had a post on the St. John's Bible project, commenting on a review (which I haven't yet read) that appeared in the NY Sun (that made some rather tenuous connections between the project and sexual abuse scandals affecting the Benedictine monastery that commissioned it). Most of her commenters seemed put off by the "modern" illustrations, or the commercialization (they have to pay for all this somehow!). Except those who'd actually seen the thing.

Despite all these criticisms, I think it's worthwhile. If for no other reason that it just seems such an inefficient, "useless" thing to do; despite all the correct interreligious thelogy and so on, it's a thing of breathtaking beauty. And for that, benedicamus Domino!

  Posted by Picasa

Voting Incentives

Paulist Father Dave Dwyer (of Busted Halo fame) had a brief cameo on the Daily Show last week. We finally got the clip up on YouTube this evening.(The quality isn't the best ... both to preserve bandwidth, and because it was rerecorded onto my camera while playing on the computer, to get around iTunes' m4v format.) Enjoy!

Ellis Island

That's a delightful pub and restaurant on 12th St. NE, on the other side of the Metro tracks in Brookland, and is becoming a favorite haunt. Today, I had lunch there with a friend (after we'd prayed Sext at the newly dedicated altar to Our Lady of La Vang at the Shrine). The owners are Catholic (Catholic art is everywhere, and the newsstand at the entrance holds the Catholic Standard!) and the walls are an eclictic mixture of interesting photographs, posters, fliers and other art.

In the photo below, a print of Columbus discovering America is right next to a portrait of Tovarish Vladimir Ilyich ... upside down! I love it!

 Posted by Picasa

The Pope's catecheses on the Twelve

Jimmy Akin has very helpfully collected the links to the Holy Father's Wednesday audience catecheses on the Twelve Apostles.


Paul, of course, was not part of the Twelve. It would be fascinating to hear what the Pope has to say about The Apostle ... :-)

Lay ministers may not cleanse Communion vessels, Pope Benedict says

CNS STORY: Lay ministers may not cleanse Communion vessels, Pope Benedict says [Hat tip Amy.] I can hear the groans now ... "You have to be ordained to do the dishes!"

What's interesting is Cardinal Arinze's clarification that intinction is a "legitimate option" when it comes communion under both kinds, which is again presented as a "more complete" sign.

Given just how unevenly the liturgical norms are followed in the US, I would suspect that this one will just be ignored.

I don't exist

Got this from Georgette's blog. It uses some statistical thingie to determine how many people have my name. (This is based on the real name, not the blog name :-)). Apparently I'm a figment of my own imagination ... :-)

Though, there's 630 people with the last name. Aren't we happy! :)

The FAQ states (quoting someone from Diggstown. Diggstown? What kind of name is that? Sheesh!) it's important that we don't take this as a rejection of us personally. Well, we do. Most certainly. And most personally. We are, in fact, going to talk to a lawyer. I'm sure it could be shown that their statistical model is, in fact, skewed against brown people. Yeah there aren't that many brown people with weird names in the US. But so what? It's unfair. It's un-American that I don't exist!

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ratzinger at Tübingen

[Hat tip to Whispers.] A really fascinating article exploring Joseph Ratzinger's years at Tübingen, based on conversations with his students and colleagues, the years that have become somewhat legendary in his biography. This is from the Enlgish edition of the Italian monthly 30 Giorni (Thirty days).

It seems to be a series, under the rubric: "The Story of Joseph Ratzinger 1967-1977". I've located these:

The difficult years
. (The one quoted below.)

It seemed the end of the line, instead... (And here's a photograph of Ratzinger and his former students.)

This first article describes the increasing rift between his colleague, Hans Küng (at whose insistence and invitation, Ratzinger was hired at Tübingen), the tumultuous events of the late sixties, when the revolution arrived on German campuses, and the move to Regensburg (Ratisbon).

Some gems:
Ratzinger did not take sides, he retained his critical attitude, but he was certainly not the person to go looking for arguments and quarrels with his colleagues. He is not by nature a fighter, he doesn’t like putting on the gloves, he flees from academic brawling. He had absolutely no intention of taking on the role of the guard dog to organize resistance to the growing drift.
The “rebels” also took over the university parish of Saint John and demanded the democratic election of the chaplain. Then they stretched out on the stairs of the faculty, preventing the staff from entering: there was no longer time for listening to useless lectures, one had to get ready for the coming revolution. Ratzinger more than once underwent the “people’s courts” held by the students. As Martin Trimpe recalls: «They interrupted the lectures with chants, or they took the platform and forced him to answer their “revolutionary” questions». Other teachers tried to wink an eye at the protesters. Ratzinger answered with his even and logical argumentation. But his light voice was often overwhelmed by the shouting. Seckler again notes: «He does very well in steady and reasoned discussion. But he gets lost in violent argument. He doesn’t know how to shout, he’s incapable of shouting others down in bullying fashion»
Ratzinger’s move from Tübingen to Ratisbon is often pointed to as the time of change, when the reforming Council theologian, traumatized by his experience in Tübingen, began his metamorphosis into the lucid (or insidious, depending on the mindset of those bringing forth the cliché) conservative. Here were born the legends of Ratzinger as Titan of the orthodox counterattack on the evils of the time, and the contrasting one of Ratzinger crypto-conservative throwing off the mask of reformist theologian and revealing his visceral reactionary urges.
The first to reject the renegade’s role that both right and left were trying to force on him was Ratzinger himself. «I haven’t changed, they have changed», he was to say in 1984, in the book-interview edited by Vittorio Messori, about the theologians who wrote with him on Concilium.
And then there's this really interesting bit, how Ratzinger signed on to an article published by the faculty calling for term limits to the office of bishop.
A marginal episode that occurred towards the end of the Tübingen period is particularly enlightening. In the summer of 1969 some of the Tübingen professors wrote an article in which they threw a hand grenade: the abolition of the duration for life of the episcopate, the fixing of a time limit for the ministry of residential bishops. The article was given prominence in Theologische Quartalschrift, the prestigious Tübingen magazine that can boast of being the earliest of German theological periodicals. Before publication all the teachers in the Catholic faculty, including Ratzinger, signed the article. In its twelve dense pages sociological arguments are piled up to demonstrate that «the scaffolding and conception of the law of the Church appear as an out-dated, foreign world when matched to the current image of society». According to the authors the present form of episcopal jurisdiction did not derive from «the Gospel, nor even the structure of the early Christian community, but only from a tradition that emerged later», that «in various aspects is no longer adequate». Then they set out their proposal for fitting episcopal power to the new times. According to the Tübingen professors «the duration of the office of residential bishops must in future be eight years. Reappointment or prolongation of the period of the office is possible only in exceptional circumstances, and for objective, external reasons, due to the ecclesial political context». The authors specify that the proposal «is for now made only for western Europe» and that «implications for the election to the papacy do not come within the present exposition and therefore are not here discussed». Another excusatio non petita, given that the provocation ipso facto implied the possibility of conceiving an ad tempus mandate for the Bishop of Rome himself.
Professor Ratzinger’s adherence to his colleagues’ proposal hardly matches the image of the straight and tough opponent walling himself in against the theological drift of the time. But nor can it be invoked in confirmation of the opposing stereotype, Ratzinger the incendiary theologian soon destined to change his coat. Professor Seckler, who was one of the authors of that article and now remembers it as part of the “waywardness of youth”, tells 30Days: «At the start Ratzinger was the only one who didn’t want to sign the article. His conception of the episcopate didn’t fit with the thesis argued in our proposal. So I went to his home, to try to persuade him. We had a coffee, talked together for a long time. And when I left I had got his agreement». Even his closest students were perplexed at the time. Trimpe recalls: «The professor was usually determined in backing his convictions. In that case, perhaps he hadn’t read the article sufficiently, or gave in for a quiet life. He wanted to avoid further arguments with his colleagues». And perhaps what they were asking him – a simple adherence to a collective text – didn’t seem anything remarkable. After the publication of the article, while students and collaborators were in turmoil, Ratzinger didn’t seem too concerned about his reputation. He even suggested a lightly humorous way of placating their unease. Trimpe tells us: «When he saw that some of us were scandalized, he smiled and said: well, if you’re angry, write something, write an article against the proposal, and I’ll help you get it published».

Indian Christians in the forefrunt of HIV/AIDS care

[Just came in my inbox. From ENI. The website has a summary. ENI is run by the World Council of Churches. No mention of Catholics in the article.]
Nagpur, India, 23 October (ENI)--Christians are in the forefront in providing much of the care and treatment for people with HIV in India, but church workers say a lack of understanding about the pandemic is perpetuating stigma and discrimination.

"Pastors without proper awareness drive away HIV people from the church. This only leads to their isolation and adds to the stigma," said David Cherian, who coordinates the social work of the Church of South India in the country's southern state of

Christians operate more than a quarter of HIV care centres in the world's second most populous country, which according to UNAIDS has the highest number of people living with the virus in the world.
(Emphasis added)
The UN statistics put the number of people in India with HIV at 5.7 million, while the Indian government puts the figure at 5.2 million.

"When the pastors are judgmental and prejudiced, HIV people try to hide their status and keep away from the church," Cherian said. "This will only negate the good work our people are doing."

Cherian was one of the participants at a recent 14-16 October seminar organized by the Christian Conference of Asia to promote awareness about the pandemic.

"Almost everyone was unanimous that the clergy and others should be better informed about AIDS," the Asian Christian group's HIV/AIDS programme consultant, the Rev. Philip Kuruvilla, told Ecumenical News International. "Otherwise, all our efforts will go down the drain."

Ashok Rao, manager of the Baptist Christian Medical Centre at Jorhat in north-eastern Assam state said that even medical professionals working in church institutions needed to be educated about HIV and AIDS.

Rao told ENI: "I was stunned when doctors suggested to me to transfer a critical patient to a government hospital when they knew he was HIV positive." [310 words]

All articles (c) Ecumenical News International
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source.

Fire at Longhorns in the Vista?

The State | 10/21/2006 | Fire damages Longhorn Steakhouse I hope it's still open ... anyone know?

Emergin from Hibernation ...

Dev's back to blogging.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

World Mission Sunday: Maintenence to Mission

It's probably not uncommon that when encountering the word "Mission" we think of "missionaries" -- out there somewhere -- boldly proclaiming the Gospel to heathen lands.

Well, that's quite true. Yet, we're all called to be missionaries. The mission of the church -- to live and spread the Good News -- belongs to each one of the baptized.

One little book that came out recently tries to highlight what a "missionary" approach to parish ministry might look like. From Maintenance to Mission: Evangelization and Revitalization of the Parish, by Fr. Bob Rivers CSP (reviewed here in America).

You can also hear a snippet of a talk (mp3 link. 3.85MB) that Fr. Rivers gave at a conference in the Diocese of Charleston in 2005, on this same them.

[Fr. Rivers suffered a stroke earlier this year, which impaired his speech. He's recovering very well ... please keep him in your prayers.]

World Mission Sunday: The Pope at today's Angelus

[From Zenit]
Today we observe the 80th World Mission Sunday. It was instituted by Pope Pius XI, who gave a strong impulse to the mission "ad gentes," and in the Jubilee of 1925 promoted a grandiose exhibition which later became the present Ethnological-Missionary Collection of the Vatican Museums. This year, in the usual message on the occasion of this Day, I proposed as a theme "Charity, Soul of the Mission." In fact, if the mission is not inspired by love, it is reduced to philanthropic and social activity. For Christians, however, the words of the Apostle Paul are applicable: "The love of Christ impels us" (2 Corinthians 5:14).

The charity that moved the Father to send his Son into the world, and the Son to give himself for us unto death on the cross, that same charity has been poured by the Holy Spirit into the hearts of believers. Every baptized person, as a shoot united to the vine, can cooperate in Jesus' mission, which is summarized thus: to take the good news to every person that "God is love" and, precisely for this reason, wills to save the world.

The mission arises from the heart: When one pauses to pray before a crucifix, looking at that pierced side, one cannot but feel within oneself the joy of knowing that one is loved and the desire to love and to make oneself an instrument of mercy and reconciliation. It is what occurred, exactly 800 years ago, to the young Francis of Assisi, in the little church of San Damiano, which was then dilapidated. From the cross, now kept in the Basilica of St. Claire, Francis heard Jesus, who said: "Go, repair my house, as you can see it is in ruins."

That "house" was above all his own life, which had to be "repaired" through an authentic conversion; it was the Church, not the one made of bricks, but of living people, which always needs purification. It was also the whole of humanity, in whom God wills to make his dwelling. The mission is always born from a heart transformed by the love of God, as witnessed by innumerable histories of saints and martyrs, who in different ways have spent their lives at the service of the Gospel.

Therefore, the mission is a source in which there is room for all: for those who commit themselves to realize the kingdom of God in their own homes; for those who live their professional work with a Christian spirit; for those who consecrate themselves totally to the Lord; for those who follow Jesus the Good Shepherd in the ordained ministry to the People of God; for those who go specifically to proclaim Christ to those who do not yet know him. May Mary Most Holy help us to live with new drive, each one in the situation in which Providence has placed him, the joy and courage of the mission.
(Emphases added.)

It shall not be so among you ...

You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.(Mark 10:42-44, NAB)
These are among my favorite words in the New Testament, words that make me squirm and yet at the same time remind me so forcefully of what discipleship is about. Having been to three Masses this weekend one would think that I'm sermoned out ... however, as always, I find Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa's to be though-provoking and inspiring. Here's his homily on "Power" for this Sunday.
Who is accused under this denunciation of power? Only dictators and tyrants? Would that it were so! It would refer, in this case, to exceptions. Instead, it affects us all. Power has infinite ramifications, it gets in everywhere, as certain sands of the Sahara when the sirocco wind blows. It even gets into the Church.

The problem of power, therefore, is not posed only in the political realm. If we stay in that realm, we do no more than join the group of those who are always ready to strike others' breast for their own faults. It is easy to denounce collective faults, or those of the past; it is far more difficult when it comes to personal and present faults.

Mary says that God "dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart; he has thrown down the rulers from their thrones" (Luke 1:51ff.). She singles out implicitly a precise area in which the "will to power" must be combated: our own hearts.

Our minds -- the thoughts of the heart -- can become a kind of throne on which we sit to dictate laws and thunder against those who do not submit to us. We are, at least in our wishes if not in deeds, the "mighty on thrones."

Sadly, in the family itself it is possible that our innate will to power and abuse might manifest itself, causing constant suffering to those who are victims of it, which is often -- not always -- the woman.

What does the Gospel oppose to power? Service: a power for others, not over others!

Power confers authority, but service confers something more, authority that means respect, esteem, a true ascendancy over others. The Gospel also opposes power with nonviolence, that is, power of another kind, moral, not physical power.

A tale of two Masses

The first one: the 10:00 am Novus Ordo Mass in Latin at St. Matthew's Cathedral. I had the morning free and went with a friend. The church was pretty full, a rather young crowd. A very nice leather-bound Ordo Missae in the pews for us to follow along. [Note: it would be nice to have the collects and if possible the Preface for the day also included in the program, so that the congregation can pray that as well.] The celebrant was a clean-cut young priest whose Latin was flawless, and demeanor muted. He didn't draw attention to himself at all. [He did sit perfectly still, hands on his lap, eyes closed, whenever he wasn't "doing something," reminding me of one of those old holy cards of the "Holy Hands of Priest" and looking at times like a still alabaster statue!] The readings were in English, and the homily preached from the pulpit by a permanent deacon. [I'm afraid my mind wandered a lot during the rather long homily.] The schola was fantastic ... superb polyphony. A Gloria (Missa quarti toni) and an Offertory motet by Palestrina. The Gradual (responsorial psalm) was in English, and there were opening and recessional hymns from the Worship hymnal: so no, there was no use of Gregorian propers. The rest of the Ordinary (Kyrie, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei) was cnanted from the Missa de Angelis, which is a little more complicated, but folks seemed to know it, or catch on. I still think it is deathly difficult to get folks to intone the Creed ... it's a complicated text in any language, and trying to follow neumes at the same time is difficult, unless one uses a really simple melody, and even then, at least for me, it's not very prayerful.

All in all I found myself lead to prayer, and less distracted than normal. As we were walking back to the car, both of us felt that it would be difficult to make this our regular Sunday Mass. We're both steeped in the vernacular ... Despite my familiarity with Latin, I found myself fumbling over the text at times, or chasing after neumes while chanting. At one level, this is a matter of practice. Yet, therei's much to be said for worshipping in one's own language." [And yes, those who know me, know that I'm all for a re-introduction of more Latin in the liturgy, too.]

Incidentally, it was with this same friend that I worshipped in the Tridentine Rite a few years back, at St. Alphonsus of Liguori parish in Baltimore. That was my one and only time at a Tridentine Mass. While it was beautiful, both of us found ourselves exclaiming, as we left the church, "Thank God for the Council!" I guess I'm really used to the Novus Ordo, and "full, active, participation" is ingrained in me as praying out loud, responding, acclaiming, chanting and singing. As I tend to say, the Novus Ordo done well can reclaim a sense of the transcendent in the liturgy that has been eclipsed.

The second: the 12:15 pm Gospel Mass at St. Martin de Tours church in the District. St. Martin's is on North Capitol, a predominantly African American congregation (This is also the parish where I've been assigned for my Sunday apostolate). It's a beautiful little church (I'm sure there'll be photos on here one day). The Gospel choir was highly energetic and electrifying. A very different sense here -- not much silence, yet a powerful feeling of enthusiasm and zeal. Great preaching too. And certainly a strong sense of community -- the sign of peace went on forever! Everyone got out of their pews and mingled around the nave.

I couldn't help but think of the Mass in the morning and wonder, "are these even the same?" Well, yes, of course -- it's the Mass. The Lord is present, even if, to an outsider, they look and feel very different. I was also reminded of that rather funny post at Rorate Caeli -- the point there was to highlight just how diverse the celebration of the Novus Ordo can be, and that it's a bit silly for some to call the impending universal indult a threat to the "unity" of the Latin rite. Of course, despite all my "traditional leanings," I think the Novus Ordo has a certain healthy flexibility that helps it adapt to local cultures. Obviously, the "unity" of the Latin rite involves a sense of the catholicity of the church, and is less tied to a single cultural expression, much more so than the other Rites.

It seems to me that most of the talk about the "reform of the reform" (much of it that I am sympathetic to), comes from the West: N. America, Europe, Australisia. I wonder what the thoughts are on the "reform" of the Novus Ordo (or rather, the reform of the way the Novus Ordo is celebrated) in other parts of the world -- Africa, Asia, Latin America? Parts of the world where the church is growing? [I've shared on this blog before my own discombobulation at the experience of Mass in India. Obviously, the way the Mass is celebrated is not in any simple, direct way correlated to such things as, for instance, vocations to the priesthood.] [I should add that the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship is a Sri Lankan, who shares the Pope's concerns about the celebration of the liturgy, it would seem.]

Anyway. Just some thoughts. I'm far from being any kind of a liturgical expert -- traditional or avant-garde!

[By the way, of the three Masses I attended this weekend (one at the seminary yesterday, in addition to the two today), at only one, the one at the Cathedral, was the homily about mission and World Mission Sunday.]

Ryan Succop rocks!

[Somehow this didn't post last night]

... a fifty five yard field goal against Vandy! Wow! Carolina wins 31-13. Great showing guys!

[And thanks a bunch to Sean R for texting me updates ... the game was on pay-per-view, so I didn't get to watch it.]

Next week the Vols ... bring it on!


Would St. Paul blog?

Well. Duh. Anyway, a seminar at USC discussed the impact of new media on religion and culture (Hattip Dogwood).
The Very Rev. Philip C. Linder, dean of Trinity Episcopal Church and a blogger himself, said there’s no question Paul would have taken advantage of the technology if it had been available.

“Absolutely,” he said.

He believes the Web provides modern scribes of all faiths with the opportunity to present more moderate voices, to bridge the extremes that are so often presented in the mainstream press.
Well, Dean Linder, that's certainly a hope ... but more often than not, especially in the blogosphere, it's the shrill and extreme voices that tend to dominate.

A former professor of mine demurs:
But Kevin Lewis, director of graduate studies in USC’s Department of Religious Studies, believes Paul would have likely abstained from the Web, finding it too impersonal to tell a personal story.

Lewis argued that the proliferation of religious information on the World Wide Web “carries the risk of de-personalizing and impersonalizing relationships” that are so important in the establishment of faith communities.

“Let’s remain aware of the risk of too much Internet, too much e-mail, too much blogging,” said Lewis.
Kevin, you obviously don't blog ... :-)

[And, pace Dr. Bierbauer, I'm not sure I'd call Paul's Damascus experience being on the "receiving end of an instant message!" Hmm ... "IMs from God" ... I can see it on the shelves of B&N already ... :)]

The SC Gubernatorial race ...

... have not been following the candidates too closely. Greenville online has a comparison of Gov. Mark Sanford and challenger Tommy Moore.

Oriana Fallaci gifts her library

... to the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.
An Italian journalist and self-described atheist who died last month has left most of her books and notes to a pontifical university in Rome because of her admiration for Pope Benedict XVI, a school official said Saturday.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Mission and Dialogue ...

With all the talks I've been attending on Nostra Aetate, and with World Mission Sunday approaching (this Sunday, Oct. 22), I've come across some interesting articles on the relationship between interreligious dialogue and mission.

First of all that Manual of Interreligious Dialogue mentioned earlier this week, turned out to be a 1700+ page compendium of all papal teaching on interreligious dialogue. A dictionary, rather than a "manual."

Reading some of the comments over at Amy's in response to this news piece ("why dialogue? Just proclaim Christ!") made me remember that dialogue is in service to the church's evangelization mission. [That's a quote from Redemptoris Missio] and this idea is the basis of the document Dialogue and Proclamation, expounded upon by Abp. Michael Fitzgerald (former president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue). (There's also the text of a talk given by him at Boston College in March 2006: What the Catholic Church has learned from Interreligious Dialogue.

Via Neil at Catholic Sensibility, I was lead to this really interesting piece in an Australian theological e-journal, "We were gentle among you: Christian mission as dialogue." [By SVD Fathers Stephen Bevans and Roger Scroeder] I've still not read the whole thing and will have more thoughts after assimilating it ... Neil's summary is great.

Finally, the Tablet has a piece by Fr. Patrick Noonan, a Franciscan missionary in S. Africa, profiling the modern missionary:
The modern missionary is someone who steeps him- or herself in new cultures and enters sympathetically in the lives of others. It is a process that is demanding and poses major psychological challenges.
The serious missionary learns that the people of the host culture will accept him when they are ready, once he has opened and disclosed himself sufficiently and with empathy to their world view. There is a powerful lesson in listening here - learned, typically, from people's stories as we sit crouched around a table with one flickering candle long into the African night. The missionary has a sense of being pulled emotionally in different directions by his home country and the country he has chosen to serve in. Sometimes he feels closer to the soul of his adopted country than his own country of birth. Meanwhile, responding to local needs, he is trying to be a car mechanic, carpenter, plumber, painter, electrician, accountant, motivator, problem-solver, peacemaker, organiser, secretary, pastoral priest, brother or sister all in one.

He begins to find the Christ of other cultures - "the hidden traces of God" - in other cultures. This is a hugely rewarding encounter, an experience of God in action. Previously unrecognised presences of God progressively and gradually materialise before him. This exposure to the diversity of the divinity slowly becomes his frame of reference in life. When many of his "non-missionised" colleagues, friends and family at home encounter his changed perspectives they are sometimes mystified and uncomprehending.
[I'm not sure what "diversity of the divinity" really means]
The early Franciscans missionaries in Morocco 800 years ago learned from their experience. They changed their ways. Recently an Arab commentator said this about Franciscans in the Middle East:"Instead of engaging us [with apologetics], they quietly go about our cities, serving everyone. Once people are served they become interested in Christianity, and the next thing you know they've become followers of Jesus. Those Franciscan Christians don't fight fair with us."

Sex and taboos in the Islamic world

An article from Der Spiegel that walks through the forbidden byways of sexuality in the Islamic world.
Muslim novelist "Nedjma" ("Star"), the author of "The Almond," a successful erotic novel, describes Moroccan society as divided and bigoted. Despite progressive family and marriage laws, she says, the country is still controlled by patriarchal traditions in which men continue to sleep around and treat women as subordinates. It is a society in which prudishness and sexual obsession, ignorance and desire, "sperm and prayer" coexist. "The more repressive a society is, the more desperately it seeks an outlet," says Nedjma, who conceals her real name because she has already been vilified on the Internet as a "whore" and an "insult to Islam."
Egyptian filmmaker Ahmed Khalid devoted his first short film, "The Fifth Pound," to the topic of taboo. The film tells the story of a young couple who use a bus ride to be together and exchange more than just a few innocent, tender words. Every Friday morning, when everyone else is at the mosque for prayers, they meet on the third-to-the-last bench on the bus, a spot where none of the other passengers can see what they are doing. As they sit there, shoulder-to-shoulder, staring straight ahead, they stroke each other's bodies. Their only fear is that the bus driver will see what they are doing through the rear view mirror. He watches the couple, fully aware of what they are doing, all the while indulging in his own fantasies.
The Internet is a refuge for hidden desires, even though it offers only virtual relief. Google Trends, a new service offered by the search engine, provides a way to demonstrate how difficult it is to banish forbidden yearnings from the heads of Muslims. By entering the term "sex" into Google Trends, one obtains a ranked list of cities, countries and languages in which the term was entered most frequently. According to Google Trends, the Pakistanis search for "sex" most often, followed by the Egyptians. Iran and Morocco are in fourth and fifth, Indonesia is in seventh and Saudi Arabia in eighth place. The top city for "sex" searches is Cairo. When the terms "boy sex" or "man boy sex" are entered (many Internet filters catch the word "gay"), Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the first four countries listed.
The article also touches on "temporary marriages" (effectively, religiously sanctioned prostitution) and domestic violence. The picture is bleak. India has its own strain of prudish prurience (Such as Murli Manohar Joshi's campaign against Bombay's night clubs, or the occasional Shiv Sena leader's attempt to harass couples necking in public.). I've sometimes heard that it was the "Christian missionaries" who somehow made the land of the Kamasutra into a killjoy central ... but, in my experience, this kind of sexual repression isn't present in Bombay's Catholic culture. There's enough home grown prudishness of all stripes (Hindu, Muslim, Christian) ... and human societies have dealt with and tried to control human sexuality in a variety of ways down the ages. I don't know that the Western, hedonistic, let's-hang-it-all-out approach is "the answer" -- but in as much as certain kinds of hypocrisy are minimized (especially with respect to women's sexuality), I think it (Western mores, not the hedonism) is a move in the right direction.

Way too many generalizations there. Oh well.

दिवाली मुबारक और नूतनवर्षाभिनदंन

The year turns ... and it's time for Diwali again! Sweets (tons of 'em), fireworks! Lamps and lights and a riot of colors!

Well, at least if one is in India (and perhaps Edison, NJ ... :-) Or "Diwan Sreet" in Chicago. Or Jackson Heights, NY)

So, in the sequence of things:
  • Yesterday was "Dhan Teras" ("Wealth 13th") where devout Hindus worship the goddess of wealth, Laxmi.
  • Today is "Kali Chaudas" ("Kali/Dark 14th"). I guess some worship of Kali might be involved ... but I don't recall anything of that nature.
  • Tomorrow is Diwali, the festival of lights, the day the triumphant Ram entered Ayodhya after a fourteen-year exile, having defeated the power of evil.
  • Sunday is a "khado" -- a hole -- in the lunar calendar, a filler day, with no date.
  • Monday is "Bestu Varas" -- the New Year for many Hindus.
  • Tuesday is "Bhai Beej" ("Brother Second") -- a day for sisters to honor their brothers.

And Wednesday ... like last year ... is Eid-ul-Fitr, the end of the thirty days of Ramzaan (to use the Indian spelling). Whenever there is a confluence of major Hindu and Muslim holidays, one always worries about sectarian violence. Let it not be so, and let both communities celebrate in peace!

Here's what I put up last year for Diwali.

This year's message from the Holy See to Hindus:
2. The reality of love is closely connected to truth, light, goodness and life. I would like to reflect on this theme of love, through which believers of different religions are invited to overcome the evil of hatred and distrust in contemporary society. The recent terrorist bomb attacks in Mumbai, India, are yet another example of these phenomena which so often end in brutal violence. I am sure that, enriched in the light of our particular religious traditions, our resolve to invite all believers to overcome hatred by love will benefit society at large. My own reflection is inspired by the first Encyclical letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est (God is Love). The Pope wrote this letter, convinced that his message is both timely and significant “in a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence ” (n. 1).
5. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI ends his letter, Deus caritas est, with the following words: “Love is the light – and in the end, the only light – that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working” (n. 39). The Pope’s words obviously refer to Jesus Christ who is the Light of the world. However, these words can also draw your attention since for you the meaning of your feast, Diwali, is symbolized by light. May our love finally overcome the darkness of hatred in the world! Happy Diwali to you, my dear Hindu friends!
Diwali Mubarak! Nutanvarshabhinandan!

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Thursdays are Work Period, which means we do manual labor around the house as assigned by the Novice Master.

We always end up mopping large swathes of the building. For those who know me, you know whow ironic that is. :)

Today, I took the iPod along and was bee bopping down the hallways, and you know what? I actually enjoyed it.

At one point, I was belting out "Country Roads" and turned around and saw his Manganimous Benevolence the Reverend Novice Master (All Hail!) on the stairway giving me the most curious look. I grinned and he said, "Very naas" (in his characteristic faux Southern way) and went along.

I think I'm getting used to this place.

Heh. :)


... is being dug up ... more from Mike Aquilina. Fascinating!

Don't turn Buddhism into a fashion ...

This is from an interview with the Dalai Lama (who just had a private audience with the Pope) back in 2003. [Zenit]
Asked if the future of Buddhism is in the West, the Nobel Peace Prize winner replied: "People from different traditions should keep their own, rather than change. However, some Tibetan may prefer Islam, so he can follow it. Some Spanish prefer Buddhism; so follow it. But think about it carefully. Don't do it for fashion. Some people start Christian, follow Islam, then Buddhism, then nothing."

"In the United States I have seen people who embrace Buddhism and change their clothes," he said, laughing. "Like the New Age. They take something Hindu, something Buddhist, something, something. ... That is not healthy."
[T]here "cannot be unification" between Christianity and Buddhism. "If you mean having a closer relation, understanding, that is happening in religions," he noted.

"For individual practitioners, having one truth, one religion, is very important. Several truths, several religions, is contradictory," he said.

"I am Buddhist," he added. "Therefore, Buddhism is the only truth for me, the only religion. To my Christian friend, Christianity is the only truth, the only religion. To my Muslim friend, Mohammedanism is the only truth, the only religion. In the meantime, I respect and admire my Christian friend and my Muslim friend. If by unifying you mean mixing, that is impossible, useless."