Thursday, November 30, 2006

Recent changes at Death Valley

This just in ...

And for those who want to watch those final seconds again, YouTube delivers! GO COCKS!

(Thanks to Peter and Jon S. for making me chuckle when I checked the inbox ... :))

Peter meets Andrew

[Photos from taken at the Divine Liturgy celebrated by The Ecumenical Patriarch His All Holiness Bartholomew I, where Pope Benedict was present. Text of the speeches and homilies delivered at the occasion also at the same website.]

Church property under municipal threat in Bandra

"The municipal authorities have given us a verbal assurance that they will not tear down the wall of the church" said Father during the announcements at the end of Mass on Sunday. Nearly five minutes was spent talking about the response of the parish to a notice by the BMC that the road-widening project at Hill Road intends to include a chunk of church property where right now sit the Youth Center, part of the school playground, the grotto and about 80 graves going back to the founding of the parish over 150 years ago.

The story has gotten some press. It's not just St. Peter's, but historic St. Andrew's further down the road and a Parsi agiary (Zoroastrian fire temple) that have been threatened. There have been sit-ins and protests, citizens' committees being formed, and angry letters to the editor. And pretty much everyone is incensed that while religious property is threatened, on the other side of the road from St. Peter's yet another shopping complex is coming up. There's no doubt that money changed hands when that permit was granted. Part of the road has already been dug up. And no, the BMC doesn't wait to ask residents their opinion of its plans to destroy their property.

The wall facing Hill Road is festooned with banners drawn by the students of St. Stanislaus school protesting the proposed plan. "Save our heritage structure" "Road expansion: 93 crores (i.e. Rs. 930 million)/ kids' playground: priceless!" (Some are a little more obscure than others -- "90 feet wide but 6 feet under?")

"However, if the BMC ignores our pleas and crews show up to demolish the wall, we have a plan in place to mobilize all parishioners. No matter the time of day or night, the church bells will be rung, and we have phone and SMS (i.e. text message) networks to get the word out. Please come and form a human wall to protect our parish. Please note that our protest will be peaceful and non-violent."

Verbal assurances by junior municipal officers count for nothing. The BMC, like all branches of the monstrous Indian state, is notoriously inefficient and even more notoriously corrupt. Besides, as my ex-SJ friend S. (and brother of the S. mentioned below) says after Mass, "Everyone knows we Catholics are peaceful. Who pays attention to peaceful protests anyway? I hope they have a better plan in place, including some lawsuits." (Very true. Ironic too, isn't it, in the land of Gandhi?) "I doubt they'd really dare to do this to a mosque. There'd be riots." And there have been -- a sufi dargah was torn down in Baroda in April and nearly a week of rioting ensued. "What they should do if the bulldozers show up, is to form that human wall and arrange for NDTV to broadcast it live. Boy, that will stir things up!" I retort. (And no, I don't think you'll really see Catholics behaving like the Dalit mobs that went on rampage today in Maharashtra.)

I suspect given the number of landowners whose property has been threatened (most are commercial establishments), the courts will get involved and years of litigation will grind their way through the creaky wheels of justice, by which time the BMC will be persuaded to come up with another plan. Or, maybe, the religious freedom/religious minority angle will get some wide press and someone high up will nix this rather ludicrous idea that reeks of both babugiri (inefficient bureaucracy) and dadagiri (bullying). Or, perhaps the new Archbishop will make a plea, or "use influence" (to deploy that common Indian expression) to make the BMC see reason.

Actually, some or all of the above probably did take place -- the proposed demolitions have been, in fact, postponed.

The story is far from over -- Hill Road lies dug up. Despite all the protests, it's not at all inconceivable that some idiot in the BMC will indeed order the demolition. Some things are, however, starkly clear. Private property, one of the cornerstones of a liberal democracy, is not really sacrosanct in India (I think the right to private property, which existed originally in the Indian Constitution, was later abrogated.), where the State really trumps all. And the rights of religious minorities can be quie precarious, even in as cosmopolitan a place as Bombay.

:: Save Our Land from the website of St. Peter's, Bandra. ::

Adoration and Ad-Libbing: Mass at St. Peter's in Bandra

St. Peter's, the Jesuit-run parish on Hill Road in Bandra is quite the sacramental mill. Masses on the hour every hour from 6:00 am to 10:00 am on Sunday, and then two in the evening, giving the priests the afternoon to recharge their batteries. I suspect this is the case at most of the big churches in this largely Catholic suburb of Bombay.

As I arrive (via Turner Road, Hill Road is temporarily one way, with one side dug up as part of a controversial road widening plan. More on that in a separate post.), the announcements are being read at the end of the 9:00 am Mass. I stand outside in the "compound" (a large open dirt field that serves as the playground of the adjacent St. Stanilaus School), on the side of the church near the sacristy, waiting for my friend S., who's singing in the choir at the 10:00 am Mass. A few worshipers stand outside, the entrances, the so called "outstanding Catholics" who barely make it into the doors of church for Mass, except for Communion, and who disappear immediately thereafter, and who are found in every church I've been to in India. Near the sacristy, a gaggle of kids streams out noisily from their catechism classes in the school, all bearing paper plates with green and yellow bits of colored paper stuck on them. "Oh dear, fluff has made it here too!"

A large fold-out presentation board displays a variety of beautiful photographs of the exterior and interior of the church. One caption mentions that the very ornate baroque high-altar was donated by General Franco of Spain. I'm not entirely certain that's necessarily a thing to be proud of. However, it's a reminder of the Spanish Jesuits who labored in these fields in the late 19th and through the 20th century, and the fruit of whose labor the Church is still reaping. A few elderly Spanish fathers can still be spotted in the parish.

At 9:57, Mass lets out, and within three minutes, the 9:00 am crowd has melted away, and the 10:00 am folks are in their pews. The church isn't too terribly crowded and I easily find a good spot up near the front, i.e. one near a fan. Bombay Novembers are pretty steamy. Mass starts with a procession in, two altar girls in red cassocks and white surplices, a lector carrying the Lectionary (I thought the new GIRM proscribed this?) and the celebrant. No music. There's no sign of any choir, except for S. My friend looks around a bit flummoxed for a second and then announces an opening hymn which the congregation picks up with gusto. By the time the procession reaches the altar, nearly a dozen choirmembers have appeared and clustered around the mikes up front. An entrance procession is itself a rarity in my experience in India. Normally the priest and servers tend to appear from the sacristy up front and disappear there after Mass as well.

The homily starts off pretty decently -- a reflection based on an image from the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, of the standard (as in a royal battle flag) of Satan versus the standard of Christ the King. One thinks only of the self, of getting ahead, of acquiring wealth and fame. The other focuses on the other, on selfless giving and so on. One "gives in" to whatever the world throws, the other is about "giving" of onself in service to others. There follow many illustrations of this difference. Then, I found myself thinking, "well, Christianity doesn't really sound that attractive, does it? It seems it's all about denying oneself, and this is all difficulty and pain and being miserable." Well, it *is* all about denying oneself. I guess, what I found missing was any notion of the joy that this brings, about this being the key to true happiness. Why on earth would any person follow the "standard of Christ" so described? "Yes I Know it's difficult." But why do it then? I wish the homilist had expounded on that a little bit. I suppose I don't respond that well to homilies that simply harangue us about how difficult it all is.

The offertory hymn, "In bread we bring you Lord," is one of the few that I've heard in India that I really like. It used to be sung pretty much every Sunday at the Cathedral of the Holy Name, when I first started attending Mass regularly.

As the Eucharistic prayer starts, the celebrant says, "please remain standing during the consecration." Um. That's new -- every time I've been to St. Peter's, we've knelt. After the Sanctus, a few scattered congregants kneel, out of sheer habit it seems. Others look around a bit nervously, as if it to say, "Did I hear that? Did he say not to kneel?" The celebrant, however, nods to the altar servers, who kneel. With an almost palpable relief, the entire congregation follows. Vox populi.

And then came that moment that it seems is simply unavoidable in my experience of liturgy in India. A "what on earth?" moment of utter disbelief. The Eucharistic Prayer was almost completely ad-libbed. Except (thank heavens!) for the prayer of consecration. I think it was patterned on the Canon of the Mass (Eucharistic Prayer I), since the prayer for the Pope preceded the consecration. The rest of it was unrecognizable. After the consecration at one point he prayed for the unity of all Christians, and for believers of other faiths. Nothing wrong with that at all. There's a place for that in the Mass -- during the Intercessions. Why bring it into the Eucharistic Prayer? Why distort, no, completely obliterate the rhythm and pattern and symbolism of the prayer itself? And why on earth ad lib pretty much the whole darn thing? To make it more relevant? In some hope that the variety might get people to pay attention? Because one's own created prayer, however heartfelt, is better than the Church's? And really, if one wants to be so creative, why stop short at the consecration? Surely the heart of the prayer is the one most deserving some kind of relevant updating? I've not encountered "creativity" that is so flagrant in its disregard for the norms at all in the US, anywhere. Mentally, I throw my arms up and shake my head and try to calm myself down and focus on prayer again.

As the congregation lines up for Communion (this is indeed a positive development. Normally, people rush up the aisle as if at a bus stand!), a stray dog wanders in from the outside, strolls up one aisle then down another and curls up near one of the side exits. No one seems to notice. Literally -- a few seconds later it yelps and bolts as someone steps on its tail!

After Communion the announcements are read to the noticeably thinner congregation (some Catholic customs it seems are universal! :-)), including the response of the parish to the threat of the municipal authorities to forcibly acquire some of the church's land (separate post on that). The banns of two couples are read. "If anyone knows of any reason, civil or ecclesiastical, why these two people should not wed, they are duty bound to inform their parish priest." I've never heard that said in a parish in the US. It's quite common over here though.

And since it's the Feast of Christ the King, there's Adoration starting immediately after Mass, with special meditations on the hour until Benediction at 5:00 pm. Ordinarily, there would be a procession around the parish, but for the dug up road outside. One of the elderly Spanish Jesuits enters from the side with a monstrance, places the Luna in it, and climbs up to perch it at the top of the high altar, as the server incense the Sacrament and the congregation kneels.

I spend a few minutes in thankful prayer, thankful especially for my father's successful surgery and rapid recovery, before departing.

And, come to think of it, I doubt that there would be a parish in the US that would combine such deep piety, and Adoration with a cooked up Eucharistic Prayer! [St. Peter's is, incidentally, the church where I was baptized.

Violence in Bombay

... and around the state as well. Dalits, incensed at the desecration of a statue of Dr. Ambedkar (the principal architect of India's constitution and a hero not just for Dalits) in Kanpur, like nearly 2000km away!, go on a rampage in parts of Bombay's suburbs and around the state, burning buses, stoning vehicles, and, setting the Bombay-Pune Deccan Queen on fire near Ulhasnagar! (NDTV has been showing the footage of the burning train all afternoon.)

I'd gone to South Bombay for lunch with a friend, (no signs of any tension on the way or back), and on the way back on one of the FM stations a correspondent was talking to a guy in Worli who claimed to have stoned a bus and set a taxi on fire. "This is to pay the government back." The logic escapes me. "Ask his name!" the radio jockey from the studio interjected, but the guy didn't respond. A few minutes ago an NDTV anchorman said that a few protesters they'd talked with (in Nashik?) said that they wanted to state Home Minister to resign. When asked how an incident in Kanpur was his fault, they just said the whole UCP/Congress government in Maharashtra had to go.

The scenes are reminescent of the Shiv Sainiks going on a rampage around Bombay back in June (July?) after a statue of Meentai, Balasaheb's wife, was desecrated in Shivaji Park. Obviously this isn' just a spontaneous outburst of protest. Why Maharashtra? I'd suspect that it's the RPI (a local Dalit party) flexing its political muscles. Besides, it escapes me how this is supposed to help Dalits in their fight against the horrific oppression they still face across the land.

So this is how the world's largest democracy works.

Mera Bharat mahan indeed. Sheesh.

Some aviation stuff ...

Patrick Smith takes on the Thanksgiving travel-craziness coverage in this week's column, and continues poking away at TSA's draconian silliness. Ask the pilot | Salon Technology

And points us to this hilarious parody ... Sky Maul! Oh I cannot wait to get a copy!

Some signs of relief in the over-congested skies over Bombay. (Sorry, I can't find the darn TOI story online ... their website is just ludicrous for locating a story that one saw in the print edition! And the search engine most primitive) A new high-speed exit-ramp for the main runway 9-27. And interesting to see that they're now using 14-32 at some times during the day. Landing at Bombay still takes forever. Last week, my flight reached the city at 10:55 pm and circled away, finally landing at 11:35 pm.

For today's Feast ...

Zadok posts a photo of the beautiful apse of St. Paul's Outside the Wall ... showing Christ, St. Peter and St. Andrew. (I took a similar one on my last visit which turned out just delightfully. It's the background on my computers. And a select few will be getting a print for Christmas ... :)) The Commonplace Book of Zadok the Roman: This seems to be a fitting photo to post

The hottest calendar of the season ...

As everyone knows, a 2007 calendar featuring a variety of photos of Pope Benedict is now selling like hot cakes in Italy. The proceeds go to benefit children in Rwanda. And of course, a Pope posing specifically for such a project is unprecedented.

Apparently, these were selling on ebay for $30-60 (they have a street price of €5) ... now you can order them directly from the publisher in Italy. Details at We Belong to the Lord: You Know You Want the Pope Calendar! [Hat tip American Papist.]

As for me, thanks to my Italian connection (heh. My good friend Paolo in Pisa), I have my own copy that will adorn the wall above the desk next year. Yay Papa Bene! :-)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Feast of St. Andrew

[Well, it's November 30 in India. And, for that matter, in Turkey as well ... :-)] This is of course a historic day, when Peter goes to visit his brother Andrew, as Pope Benedict meets the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I today. (Every year a delegation from Rome goes to Constantinople for a visit. [Umm. Cue Istanbul not Constantinople ... :-)] So yeah, can't wait to see how the day goes!

From today's Office of Readings: from a sermon by St. John Chrysostom.
After Andrew had stayed with Jesus and had learned much from him, he did not keep this treasure to himself, but hastened to share it with his brother. Notice what Andrew said to him: We have found the Messiah, that is to say, the Christ. Notice how his words reveal what he has learned in so short a time. They show the power of the master who has convinced them of this truth. They reveal the zeal and concern of men preoccupied with this question from the very beginning. Andrew’s words reveal a soul waiting with the utmost longing for the coming of the Messiah, looking forward to his appearing from heaven, rejoicing when he does appear, and hastening to announce so great an event to others. To support one another in the things of the spirit is the true sign of good will between brothers, of loving kinship and sincere affection.
Notice, too, how, even from the beginning, Peter is docile and receptive in spirit. He hastens to Jesus without delay. He brought him to Jesus, says the evangelist. But Peter must not be condemned for his readiness to accept Andrew’s word without much weighing of it. It is probable that his brother had given him, and many others, a careful account of the event; the evangelists, in the interest of brevity, regularly summarise a lengthy narrative. Saint John does not say that Peter believed immediately, but that he brought him to Jesus. Andrew was to hand him over to Jesus, to learn everything for himself. There was also another disciple present, and he hastened with them for the same purpose.
When John the Baptist said: This is the Lamb, and he baptizes in the Spirit, he left the deeper understanding of these things to be received from Christ. All the more so would Andrew act in the same way, since he did not think himself able to give a complete explanation. He brought his brother to the very source of light, and Peter was so joyful and eager that he would not delay even for a moment.

The Holy Father in Turkey

I hope you're not relying on the NYT or NPR to follow this historic visit! (The NPR story summary that showed up in my inbox this morning was all about how there are moderate voices in the Vatican on Islam. As if the Vatican is a hotbed of anti-Islamic sentiment. Nothing at all about the Muslim world's perspectives on the Vatican, Catholicism, or Christianity.)

Best places to follow the trip:

Amy Welborn
American Papist
John Allen's daily dispatches
Spero News forum

USC student dies on Thanksgiving break - News

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Luke Pardini who died suddenly over Thanksgiving. USC student dies on Thanksgiving break - News

Answered Prayers

Dad's recovery has been fantastic, one of the best they've ever seen according to the docs. He will likely be released on Friday. Again, my sincerest thanks for everyone's prayers and emails of support.

Now that I've discovered that the phone in the room is actually connected to the outside world, I can get back to some moderate blogging! (Oh, I haven't missed it at all. NOT! :-))

Sunday, November 26, 2006


USC beats Clemson 31-28!!! By all accounts quite a thrilling game ... ! Oh man, this makes me so darn happy! :-)

(Peter, thanks for the call with the summary of the game ... :-))

Maybe I should arrange to be out of the country at this time every year ... :D

Friday, November 24, 2006


:: Update, Sunday Nov. 26 :: His recovery is coming along pretty darn well! He's breathing on his own and even went for a short walk on the terrace near his room today. So far the doctors are quite pleased! As are we all!

Many thanks for all y'all's prayers for my father! The surgery went off successfully yesterday, lasting nearly six hours. They removed only about half his lung, which is better than we'd hoped for! He's in recovery in ICU and should be released to a regular room today or tomorrow.

The next few days as his body recovers from the trauma of the surgery and adjusts to a diminished breathing capacity are really critical. Please continue your prayers!

And join me in offering a Te Deum.

(I have limited Internet time, so the blog won't be updated regularly for a while)

Thursday, November 23, 2006


[[ Sticky post ... this will be on top. Regular blogging below"] As many of y'all know, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer back in April (one of the reasons I was so glad to be able to spend nearly three months in India this summer).

:: UPDATE :: The surgery is scheduled to start at 9:30 am IST on Friday, Nov. 24. That's 11:00 pm on Thu. Nov. 23 on the US East Coast. (At some point I might write about the zoo that is Govt. hospital bureaucracy. It rivals the Dept. of Homeland Security in its labrynthine stupidity. Still, this is supposedly the best thing around medical competence-wise ... )

The cancer has (thankfully) not spread, but the tumor in his left lung is still pretty large and active. This Friday, he's having surgery to have his entire lung removed. The operation will take place at Bombay's Tata Memorial Center (one of India's leading cancer research and treatment centers).

I'm flying to Bombay, leaving tomorrow (arriving late Wednesday night). I'm most grateful to the CSPs for letting me take 10 days off from the novitiate to be with my family.

Your prayers will be greatly appreciated. (The surgery is scheduled to start early Friday morning IST, which will be late Thursday evening -- 8:30 pm or later -- Eastern time in the US). I'll update the blog as I can.

Thanks y'all!

Another married priest

for the Diocese of Charleston. Soon to be ... Dwight Longenecker, chaplain of St. Joseph HS in Greenville, will be ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 14, 2006 at St. Mary's.

He rocks!

Turkey Day In Bombay

... well it's still Wednesday night Stateside. It's hazy, hot and humid in the Metropolis. Uneventful flight from Amsterdam ... sat next to a dude from Seattle who's going to a film festival in Goa. He's the director of this littly indy flick ... interesting conversations.

Thanksgiving doesn't mean anything here of course. The Times of India must have known something was up ... today's "Speaking Tree" (a popular column on spirituality from a variety of religious perspectives) is on giving heartfelt thanks ... this one from a Muslim viewpoint.

According to the Economist's "Mumbai Briefing" Bombay's famous red double-decker buses might stop plying. They're not very economical. Now that will be sad! Nothing like going down Marine Drive on the top deck of one of these antediluvian behemoths!

The 'rents arrive from Delhi in a couple of hours, and we'll head over to the hospital later on in the day. Am at a dingy cyber-cafe in Andheri near my cousin's place (the phone line is down there). Now one has to show a photo ID to log in to a computer here. My passport was in my suitcase, and my SC driver's license didn't cut it. "Show something Indian, man." At least I'm still counted as in Indian! Luckily I still had the very first driver's license ever issued to me, by the State of Maharastra. I look nothing like the guy in the photo (I was 18!). But it passed muster.

Not sure when I'll be able to get to the Internet after this ... appreciate everyone's prayers!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Catching up on the ZZZs at Schiphol

There's this one area on the second floor of Amsterdam's Schiphol airport which has these long lounge-chair like things. Quite comfortable. I dozed off fo a couple of hours. The flight got in early at 5:15 am.

Right next door was the chapel ... or rather, the "Meditation area" space for personal prayer. Brochure for the Airport Chaplaincy service (11:00 am Church service on Sunday) And a sign saying that the "Moslem ritual washing area" is in the washrooms nearby.

Think about it -- who do you think will be prayng here more often? Christians? Or Muslims? Well, actually, I doubt that the devout need the chapel to find the qibla for salat.

Ah Europe.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Vatican Concludes Study on Condoms | Christian News Online , Christian World News

Will be interesting to follow ... Vatican Concludes Study on Condoms | Christian News Online , Christian World News

Sitting at DTW

They finally have wireless here. I remember back when this new terminal was unveiled (2003? 2004?), how silly it was that the only place one could get online was in a coffee shop charing exorbitant rates. (Like Dulles. Which has a handful of computer terminals scattered about its vastness and charge $27.50/hour for internet access. Robbery!)

Northwest treats me well. First Class upgrade from IAD, and have exit rows with leg room on the new A330s to AMS and then to BOM.

Hope y'all enjoyed the snow/sleet in SC this am ... before Thanksgiving! Sheesh ...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Haggard's healing

I must say I was struck by how seriously they're taking Ted Haggard's healing and rehabilitation in this story.
The rehabilitation of the Rev. Ted Haggard will look a lot like parole.

It might not include urine tests or ankle bracelets, but he'll be tracked all the same. He'll have to keep appointments, work on issues and constantly answer to other people.

With one difference.

"He can stop at any time. A guy on parole can't stop," said H.B. London of Focus on the Family, who will step in for his cousin, James Dobson, as a member of Haggard's restoration team.

London, appointed to the team last week, said he doesn't yet know exactly what the job of helping the former pastor of New Life Church in his spiritual recovery will entail.

But over the years, London said he has participated in scores of such restorations - with people including a pastor who stole church funds, a minister who discovered Internet pornography to his liking and a minister caught plagiarizing a sermon.

That's usually how it starts, London said. Like Haggard - whose associations with methamphetamines and a male prostitute became public when a Denver man revealed them Nov. 1 - most pastors don't report their own sins.

They get exposed.

But once it's in the open, some opt for a path that could lead them back to their church.

"The end goal is to have that person healthy again," said Tom Pedigo, a Colorado Springs man who wrote a manual on restoration after losing his own ministry for marital infidelity.

Success won't necessarily return them to the pulpit, but that isn't the point, London said. "It's not so much getting back into ministry that concerns me as seeing them live in peace," he said. "I want to see the person happy again."
My first thought was -- is there any such kind of system of accountability for Catholic priests who mess up (I'm not talking just about criminal sexual abuse)? Maybe there is ... but my sense is, move the guy, do the most damage control, and shuffle him off somewhere.

I would hope there is.

(The rest of the article gets into the whole issue of whether sexual orientation can be changed or not, which, to me, isn't really the point here.)

Mike Hayes on the Catholic Blogosphere

In the November issue of The Catholic World (the publication started by Fr. Isaac Hecker in 1865, and now resurrected online). Overall a decent introduction to the Catholic blogosphere by Mike Hayes (Managing Editor at Busted Halo, the CSPs' Internet outreach to Young Adults). He points out that the Catholic blogosphere is generally "conservative" and describes how some blogs have become the "go-to" source for "inside" information for the Catholic world (such as Rocco's "Whispers"), or for trusted commentary (such as Amy's "Open Book").
When a blogger becomes a trusted news source, the blogger can wield real power. Readers trust that the information is accurate, and in the case of religious blogs, their opinions are often taken as fact. While Welborn herself often steers clear from both diatribe and polarization, her regular viewers tend to be the more conservative element of the church, offering snarky comments in her posting area.
Catholic Bloggers generally slide towards the right and Welborn is no exception. She points people towards conservative sources and offers mild surprise when she enjoys something from the liberal side of the house. Her comments often are well researched but it conveys a single thought to the reader: “If it’s on Amy’s blog, then it must be true.” When breaking news happens Amy indeed becomes the “go-to” source.
True enough, but it's hardly Amy's fault (which is what I think that last sentence implies) that she has such credibility. Her credibility and respect is earned and well-deserved. Blogs are, like the Internet itself, über-democratic. Yes some are well-marketed, or attached to big media publications, but, in general, at least in my experience of the Catholic blogosphere, it's the cream that floats to the top. The standard concern about the blogosphere is that "anyone with a computer and an internect connection can publish something." Well true. But it takes a certain heft, and certainly substantial product, to establish a wide and loyal readership (like Amy and Rocco have). If one is concerned about the "conservative" nature of the Catholic blogosphere, the only real answer seems to be for more "liberal" voices to just do their own thing out there and ... well ... compete!

I also find it a little ironic that Hayes is concerned about the Catholic credentials of the largely conservative Catholic blogosphere, and floats the idea of some kind of a virtual imprimatur for the use of the name "Catholic" in the blogosphere.
How does one know that the information that is printed on the pages of a blog is indeed Catholic? Anyone can start a blog and spout off opinions based on news items “ad nauseum” but does that make their statements accurate? The institutional church may well want to provide a watchdog on blogs, offer a virtual imprimatur to assure that they are Catholic. Perhaps there should be an official blog from a particular diocese or the Vatican? Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston has started his own blog but the cardinal is the exception rather than the norm. With multiple sources being funneled into blogs and with the selling point being that blogs are raw and un-edited, a unified and accurate Catholic voice may be impossible to control.
That seems a bit impractical, to say the least . For instance, take Amy Welborn. She's an individual who's publishing her thoughts. How on earth would one get an imprimatur for her daily postings, without it becoming censorship, or a judgment on her personal standing with the Church? I really cannot imagine that this is what Hayes intended! The best "censorship" (if that's the word) is simply, quite literally, the marketplace of ideas. And a "caveat lector" attitude. Readers should be aware (and mature users of the Internet do know this) that not anything on the Net is equally reliable. And regular readers can become a pretty decent informal editorial team as well.

The other idea of more "official" blogs is a decent one. It might just get the "official" Catholic voice a little more out there on the Net. For instance, I would suspect that there was far more chatter about the recent statements from the USCCB in the Catholic blogosphere than over coffee-and-donuts after Mass in most parishes around the country.

And, more often than not, and this reflects my own bias, of course, I prefer the "Catholic news" to be filtered and transmitted by the blogosphere, where I learn a heck of a whole lot more about the story, than through the MSM, which more often than not, just doesn't get it.

My biggest beef with the Catholic blogosphere is indeed the vitriol (and snarkiness) that seem rather endemic to the enterprise. But that is, perhaps, just a reflection of the fact that we are quite human, and quite sinful. Caveat lector.

[Note: The Catholic World is having some server issues. Hayes' article seems to be incomplete. I think they're working on getting that corrected.]

It's so nice to feel loved!

Some friends had gone to a play last week (in which Bill, the "enthusiastic Episcopalian" -- oh that moniker is gonna stick! -- was acting.) And what should arrive in the mail today but a playbill, signed by all of them, saying that they miss me.

Thanks y'all!! That made my day (and week! And it's a tough week coming up!)


Oh dear ... I'm Katlick and therefore stupid ...

... and want to make tons of babies cause the Pope tells me to. open book: An interview that will go down in infamy. I'm trying to think of something charitable to say ... And I just went to confession too. So, let me just shut up. Click on the link to see how the Catlick blogosphere is responding. :)

[Ok, now that I've taken a deep breath and actually read the interview ... some of it is mighty silly. Some of it is not bad. Such as this bit.
What do you make of Ted Haggard, who just stepped down as the head of the National Association of Evangelicals, after he was accused of cavorting with a gay escort?

I think it’s very sad. We’re always surprised when we see people’s clay feet. Our culture seems to delight in exposing them. I think we have a prurient interest in other people’s failings.

You can’t blame the Haggard case on the culture or the media. It isn’t a story about sex so much as the disturbing hypocrisy of a church leader.

But we’re all hypocrites. All of us.

You’re very forgiving.

I like the word “shalom.” I use it in my correspondence, I use it in my sermons, and that’s how I sign my e-mails — “shalom.” To me it is a concrete reminder of what it is we’re all supposed to be about.
And this bit, I totally agree with ... :)
Have you met Pope Benedict?

I have not. I think it would be really interesting.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I totally see his point

This blog showed up in my Google Blog Alerts ... Flos Carmeli: Catholic Manicheeism. To use St. Paul's famous line from Ephesians (4:15), "Speak the truth in love," he's concerned about those who're so "into" the "truth" of things, that they forget the "love" part of the equation. The other end, of course, is "all compassion" so that the "truth" gets eclipsed ... In my extreme, it tends to be either one or the other. It's rare to find places that are really committed to the tough work of figuring out the balance between the two. Maybe that's really unfair. Still, worth reading!
One of the difficulties I have most often with the Catholic Church and with the people in it is not a lack of intellect, but a focus so intense on the intellect that one would think that people are mere disembodied intellects wandering about without either sense or emotions. This comes up most often in the question of response to certain church teachings. I was reading a really fascinating book by John Allen, and he happened to mention Sister Joan Chittister--a person for whom I cannot summon up a lot of sympathy or empathy in many ways. However, the attitude I hear most Catholics take with regard to her central issue is not one of compassion for the hurt and sense of disenfranchisement it entails, but rather a "It's the law, get over it."

I'll be first in the line to enthusiastically trumpet that I believe it to be an infallible teaching of the Church that women cannot be ordained. I'll also be among the first to admit that I'm not certain I follow the reasoning entirely. My reasoning is drawn from Camille Paglia, of all places. Her observation that the female "cultus" is nearly always "transgressive" is argument enough for me. In facing the eternal, I don't particularly need transgression. However, that said, what does one do about Sr. Joan and thousands or hundred of thousands of women who feel this sense of disenfranchisement and a sense of being second class citizens?

Friday, November 17, 2006

How did it know?

This one is too funny ... another one of those humorous and silly "blog quizzes" (via Sr. Susan Rose) ... "How will you be defined in the dictionary?"

Gashwin Gomes --


An alien

'How will you be defined in the dictionary?' at

Heh. They are watching.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Redemption Dome II: Giving it a Wuerl



[The caption was my novice brother's idea! :-)] Posted by Picasa

The Dedication of the Redemption Dome I

A host of bishops gathered at the big church up the street (this was after the close of the USCCB meeting in Baltimore) for a solemn liturgy for the dedication of the new Redemption Dome in the center of the Basilica. The principle celebrant was the Archbishop of Washington, the Most Rev. Donald Wuerl. Also present were three cardinals: Sean O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emertius of Washington and Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, who was also the homilist. The Deacon of the word was none other than Rev. Br. Dominic Legge, who shares the story of his vocation in this neat video at the DHS page.

Rocco has his own take on the event: Dome Fest.
Here are some pictures from the Mass. More in a separate post.

  Cardinal Rigali preaching

  Posted by Picasa

Interview with the rector of the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic studies

At Zenit
To do this, we have a team of 25 professors for our students' formation; three scientific publications -- one on Arabic studies and the other two on the Islamic-Christian dialogue from the scientific perspective and the pastoral program of meetings; and, finally, for the purpose of research we have a specialized library with more than 31,000 volumes and more than 450 journal titles; and a consultation room frequented by our students, by students from other universities, and by a good number of researchers from all parts of the world.

Milton Friedman: RIP

Milton Friedman - Britain - Times Online

Not safe for Fido

Beijing i.e. Apparently there's a cruel crackdown on dogs being enforced by the Chinese government. The pictures above show officials clubbing a dog to death.

The dog-lover in me is sickened.

Pakistani Christian in blasphemy trial acquitted after 8 years in jail

Ecumenical News International
Daily News Service
16 November 2006

Pakistan Christian in blasphemy trial acquitted after 8 years in jail
By Anto Akkara

New Delhi, 16 November (ENI)--A 60-year-old Roman Catholic
Pakistani, Ranjha Masih, has been acquitted after being held in
for eight and a half years in isolation at a prison awaiting
trial on fabricated blasphemy charges.

"We are really happy. This is a victory for Christians and those
who believe in human rights," Joseph Francis, director of the
Christian action group that pleaded Masih’s appeal, told
Ecumenical News International on 16 November from his office in

Francis, director of the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and
Settlement (CLAAS), said that the Lahore high court acquitted
Masih on 13 November of blasphemy charges. If found guilty these
carry a mandatory death sentence in Pakistan.

Masih had been arrested on the day of the funeral of Catholic
Bishop John Joseph of Faislabad who had shot himself in May 1998
to protest a death sentence that had been meted earlier out to
another member of his church on false blasphemy charges.

The legal aid centre said that during the mourning procession for
Bishop Joseph, who sacrificed his life to highlight abuses of the
blasphemy law, distressed Christian youth stoned vehicles and

Following this, a shop signboard with verses inscribed from the
Quran fell down. A group of Muslim youths then grabbed Masih from
the crowd and accused him of knocking down the signboard. Since
then, Masih had been detained, awaiting trial.

"Ranjha [Masih] is the 20th Christian we [CLAAS] have got
acquitted by the court [after being charged with blasphemy],"
Francis told ENI.

However, the Catholic activist pointed out that 10 Christians
have also been murdered during blasphemy trials since the law was
enacted in 1988. "Many of those acquitted (of blasphemy) do not
feel safe here and have migrated," said Francis explaining adding
that 10 of the Christians acquitted of blasphemy have migrated,
seven to the United States and three to Germany.

A study conducted by the Justice and Peace Commission of the
Catholic church in 2005 had pointed that of the 647 blasphemy
cases reported in the Pakistani media since 1988, 90 cases were
against Christians who account for less than three per cent of
Pakistan's 165 million, most of whom are Muslims. [378 words]

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

Ecumenical News International
PO Box 2100
CH - 1211 Geneva 2

Tel: (41-22) 791 6088/6111
Fax: (41-22) 788 7244

Vatican reaffirms priestly celibacy - Yahoo! News

Vatican reaffirms priestly celibacy - Yahoo! News

The bible for the Church

A neat essay in the Homiletics and Pastoral Review on the nature of and ends of Catholic biblical scholarship today. HPR | Biblical Scholarship with a Pastoral Purpose The article examines the underlying pre-suppositions of a "non-confessional" academic approach (widespread in the biblical-studies guild today) with that of Scripture scholarship that is directed to the pastoral ministry and work of the Church. He engages the document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission "Interpreting the Bible in the Church" (which remains an important point of reference), and then talks about the challenges and pitfalls.
It is perfectly legitimate that the academy and the church have differing orientations to the Bible. Problems arise, however, when the differences in presuppositions, goals and concerns between the academy and the church are not adequately taken into account. Often Scripture courses in Catholic colleges, seminaries and other graduate programs that prepare ministers of the word offer what could be described as “Academic Exegesis Lite.”

At the undergraduate level Scripture courses often imitate the example of secular universities. Robert Hill describes this type of curriculum in Breaking the Bread of the Word: “The emphasis in such a program falls on imparting and absorbing information about texts, authors, historical and social contexts. A Bible as Literature program can likewise be conducted without presuming a faith dimension to the study.” Hill doubts that this kind of teaching of Scripture leads to the koinonia of I John 1:3.

In graduate programs for future pastoral ministers, knowledge of critical questions, secondary literature, and exegetical methods receive more attention than knowledge of the text and its message. Emphasis is placed on the differences among biblical writings rather than their underlying unity. Scripture and Church doctrine are perceived as separate spheres of knowledge. The unintended consequence among some Catholics is to diminish their estimation of Scripture’s importance leading to what Cardinal Ratzinger aptly criticized as “magisterial positivism.” Because they have not learned the roots of doctrines in Scripture, they are unable to explain their faith and rely on magisterial documents, as though these had the power to communicate divine life as the inspired Scriptures do.

An academic approach to teaching Scripture leads future ministers of the word to consult commentaries when they write research papers, but, when they prepare homilies or catechesis, to resort to a superficial or subjective approach to actualization. They have not learned a method of Bible study (exegesis) that is practical for use in pastoral ministry. (Emphasis added)
(And, I'd add, once the authority of Scripture is diminished, its moorings loosened, relativism of different sorts creeps in. If the Gospels are not reliable, then why is anything else reliable?). I would also add that those studying Scripture tend not to have the kind of deep familiarity with the texts that say our evangelical sisters and brothers grow up with. We are not steeped in the text. That is a huge deficiency, that, I feel, catechesis needs to start addressing. This isn't just so that one can prooftext this or that bit of doctrine. It's so that the Word can be internalized and become a part of one's mindset and worldview.

The only other thing I'd add to the article is the role of Lectio in the appropriation of Scripture into the spiritual life.

Thought provoking article!

A new introduction to Catholic Social Teaching

... aka the "Church's best kept secret" What is Catholic Social Teaching? | Mark Brumley | -- seems like it's worth a read.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Will certainly help on that long EWR-DEL hop

Planes to Use Apple iPods - New York Times

More Borat

A story in the Gamecock on the USC students who were filmed making racist and other such frat-boy-esque jokes.

James Keane SJ at Busted Halo:
But that leads logically to another more awful question: what about the crowds pouring in to see the film (Borat has already blown well past expected earnings) who are roaring with laughter at the squalid conditions of Kazakhstan, and the amoral brutality of the villagers projected here? Are they laughing because they, too, are in on the joke? God help us as a country if they’re not, if this is simply a post-ironic return to the leering cinematic exploitation of foreigners and minorities once common in American film.
Otherwise he doesn't mind the humor and the political satire.

Kathy Shaidle (Relapsed Catholic): Repulsive comedy sells, but can we afford the price?


As readers of this blog probably know well, in general I am quite suspicious of the phenomenon that is called "secularization." It's one of the biggest threats facing Christianity in the West, and to religious freedom in general, I feel.

However, in an Indian context, I am, if nothing but a die-hard secularist. [The BJP-VHP briade would no doubt label me a "pseudo-secularist."] In India secularism means something that we in the West take for granted: the idea that one's dignity as a human being is independent of one's religious identity, that the state has no business promoting one religion over another, that religious differences can be resolved in non-violent ways. These are ideas that are not immediately apparent, not part of the taken-for-granted background of the culture. They are still being negotiated, still embattled. [It would also seem that the Westernized elites of India who espouse secularism tend to understand this as being best served by a weakening of traditional religion and religious identity, but that's a separate question]. The huge religious divide of India is of course between that of Hindu and Muslim, and Indian Muslims continue to struggle with questions of patriotism, of needing to prove their love of country and their loyalty.

In this context, the following essay, which won the first prize for essays in English, in the Citizens for Peace/Indian Express contest on the theme "Not People Like Us: A Citizen's Dilemma" is a heartwarming and powerful reminder of the true spirit that underlies secularism so understood: the idea of human dignity, of the worth of every person, regardless of their beliefs or background.

The essay is titled "My colleague Kadar" by N Kunju of New Delhi, on enlisting in the Indian army with a Muslim friend, in the turbulent times of Independence and Partition. The full-text is at Dilip D'Souza's blog (with the decidedly (Western!) secularist title, "Death Ends Fun"!). Here's an excerpt:
India is said to be a symbol of unity in diversity. But in the Indian army, the diversities dissolve into unity. Here recruits enter the barracks as Punjabis, Maharashtrians, Bengalis, Tamilians, Telugus, Malayalis, etc. After training, they come out as Indians, speaking simple Hindi, relishing rice and roti equally, at ease in a dhoti or in a pair of pyjamas. Out they come marching in step, swinging arms, looking straight. Differences of short and tall, dark and fair, do not interfere with their measured steps. Differences of caste and creed, religion and region do not mar the geometrically correct rank and file formation. Integration becomes ingrained in their existence.

As mentioned earlier, we joined the army in June 1947. And within two months India became independent. Years later, when I boasted about it to a friend, he said the British did the wise thing; they could not have controlled the country with soldiers like me!

However, on the threshold of her freedom, India thought of us new recruits differently. Within weeks of our reaching the training centre in Ferozpur, communal riots broke out all over the North. Violence erupted in the town. We, who had never touched a weapon till then, were issued rifles and were converted into a 'peace keeping force'.

We marched along the streets, rifles slung on our shoulders, sending the fear of God into the minds of communal miscreants. No one knew the reality - that we were week-old babies in the Army, that our oversize jungle hats concealed faces on which hair had hardly appeared, that we did not know how to load the rifle or fire a shot. But the deception worked well.
Incidentally, Kadar is a form of the Urdu and Arabic word qadr, meaning dignity, or worth. [Hat tip: Desipundit.] [I don't know much about Citizens for Peace. However, in July, the weekend after the terrorist attacks, I was in Bombay at a prayer service for peace organized by this group. Good work!]

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Nuns with blogs

This week's Time magazine has a neat feature story on nuns in America, focusing both on the veil-wearing younger ones (Such as these two graduates of Bishop England HS in Charleston who entered the Nashville Dominicans in 2004.) and the second-career 30s-40s and the "Sister Moms." Check it out! Today's Nun Has A Veil--And A Blog -- Nov. 20, 2006 -- Page 1:
For the iPod generation, it doesn't get more radical than wearing a veil. The hijab worn by traditional Muslim women might have people talking, but it's the wimple that really turns heads. And in the U.S. today, the nuns most likely to wear that headdress are the ones young enough to have a playlist.

Over the past five years, Roman Catholic communities around the country have experienced a curious phenomenon: more women, most in their 20s and 30s, are trying on that veil. Convents in Nashville, Tenn.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and New York City all admitted at least 15 entrants over the past year and fielded hundreds of inquiries. One convent is hurriedly raising funds for a new building to house the inflow, and at another a rush of new blood has lowered the median age of its 225 sisters to 36. Catholic centers at universities, including Illinois and Texas A&M, report growing numbers of women entering discernment, or the official period of considering a vocation. Career women seeking more meaning in their lives and empty-nest moms are also finding their way to convent doors.
:: Update :: One of the threads at the Phatmass Phorums is discussing this story ... lots more juice there! (And they link back here too :)) ::

Our brother Joseph: ten years later

It was ten years ago today that Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, went to his eternal reward. Cardinal Bernardin was a native of Columbia, SC (he was baptized at St. Peter's downtown), and a priest of the Diocese of Charleston, when he was called to the episcopacy. His gentle spirit and example are sorely missed. Rocco has a well-written retrospective. Whispers in the Loggia: A Decade On Requiescat in Pace.

Muslim praises Pope's "thirst" to understand Islam | Top News |

Muslim praises Pope's "thirst" to understand Islam | Top News | "'He is a great theologian but not an expert in Islam,' Cherif, the first Muslim intellectual received by Benedict since his election in April 2005, said on Monday evening in Paris. 'What touched me was his thirst to understand.

'He is a man of dialogue,' Cherif, long been active in Christian-Muslim dialogue in France, told Reuters.

Muslim thinkers have criticized Benedict's speech in Regensburg, Germany because it drew what they said were false conclusions based on books by Christian writers about Islam.

While several Christians have written fine books on Islam, Cherif said, there was no substitute for discussing the faith with a believing Muslim. 'He needs to have someone explain it to him with respect, which is what I did,' he said."

A guide to Hinglish

Especially for British Asians ("Asian" in Britain does not mean East Asian, as it does in the US, but South Asian.) but certainly of use for the rest of us.

The Queen's Hinglish: How to speak pukka.
The dictionary unveils how this quirky clash of tongues has such choice words as "filmi" meaning melodramatic or "bevakoof", Hinglish for a fool.

Anyone feeling "glassy" is in need of a drink. A hooligan is a "badmash" and if you need to bring that office meeting forward, it is time to "prepone", as opposed to postpone, it.
Wah yaar, mast, no?

Thursday: Celibacy

Or rather, that's the discussion that the Pope will have with the heads of Curial dicasteries at a meeting this Thursday. No, not really the discipline of presbyteral celibacy in the Latin Church in general, but pastoral issues arising out of l'affaire Milingo, and the quesiton of the waiver of the discipline for the readmission to active ministry of priests who left to get married.

John Allen has a helpful backgrounder on the rumors surrounding this meeting (some thought it would lead to a motu proprio authorizing the universal celebration of the Tridentine Mass), as well as the issue of clerical celibacy in general.

It will be interesting, to say the least, what comes forth from this meeting.

And, I'd suggest reading the coverage from reputable Catholic blogs (Amy Welborn of course!). Lord alone knows what kind of hash the MSM will produce out of this story.

Borat ...

... it makes South Park seem like the frickin' Veggie Tales. Oh my word the movie was absolutely unbelievable! Take every line and cross it at full speed ... I haven't cringed and laughed this much in ages!

Of course, it plays to every stereotype about Red State America. And those USC frat boys come across as real jerks and losers. It's got this undercurrent of a leftish social critique of America. (Some of which isn't too off the mark.) And of course, everyone laughs uproariously at the humiliation of others. Kinda like Candid Camera on crack. Except Candid Camera is good humored. Borat delights in toilet-humor and sex and appeals to the inner Frat Boy in each of us. Yeah, I laughed. Loudly too.

The main quesiton I had was -- how many people were in the know? Was everyone duped? Just a few ... ? Was some of it staged?

Here's a CNN Story (hat tip Novice Brother) about the various people who were duped into making this film. I wonder what kind of skulduggery is involved in getting that release signed.

This article really made me mad, however (hat tip Michael Dubruiel):
So when a Hollywood film crew descended on a nearby run-down motel last September, with their flashy cars and expensive equipment, locals thought their lowly community might finally be getting some of the investment it so desperately needs.

The crew was led by a man villagers describe as 'nice and friendly, if a bit weird and ugly', who they later learned was Baron Cohen. It is thought the producers chose the region because locals more closely resembled his comic creation than genuine Kazakhs.

The comedian insisted on travelling everywhere with bulky bodyguards, because, as one local said: 'He seemed to think there were crooks among us.'

While the rest of the crew based themselves in the motel, Baron Cohen stayed in a hotel in Sinaia, a nearby ski resort a world away from Glod's grinding poverty. He would come to the village every morning to do 'weird things', such as bringing animals inside the run-down homes, or have the village children filmed holding weapons.

Mr Tudorache, a deeply religious grandfather who lost his arm in an accident, was one of those who feels most humiliated. For one scene, a rubber sex toy in the shape of a fist was attached to the stump of his missing arm - but he had no idea what it was.
So it's outright deception then. And exploitation. The villagers received about§3 each! This actually really bothers me!

And ... I don't know that I'd ever say this ... but Christopher Hitchens actually makes sense here. "Borat meets some painfully polite Americans"
Is it too literal-minded to point out what any viewer of the movie can see for himself—that the crowd at the rodeo stops cheering quite fast when it realizes that something is amiss; that the car salesman is extremely patient about everything from demands for pussy magnets to confessions of bankruptcy; and that the man in the gun shop won't sell the Kazakh a weapon? This is "compliance"? I have to say, I didn't like the look of the elderly couple running the Confederate-memorabilia store, but considering that Borat smashes hundreds of dollars worth of their stock, they bear up pretty well—icily correct even when declining to be paid with locks of pubic hair. The only people who are flat-out rude and patronizing to our curious foreigner are the stone-faced liberal Amazons of the Veteran Feminists of America—surely natural readers of the New Statesman. Perhaps that magazine's reviewer believes that Borat is genuinely shocked when he finds—by video viewing—that Pamela Anderson has not been faithful to him and he will thus not be the first to "make romance-explosion on her stomitch." (And either the love goddess agreed to stage the moment when Mr. Sagdiyev tries to stuff her into a "wedding bag," or she and her security team displayed a rare indulgence to the mustachioed interloper.)
The CNN story above reveals that Ms. Anderson was in the know. The only one given this luxury it seems. [snip] And this at the end ...
It's too much like Karen Hughes making nice with audiences of unsmiling Saudis, pleadingly reassuring them that the United States is not one long replay of The Running of the Muslim. But it's that attitude of painfully maintained open-mindedness and multiculturalism that is really being unmasked and satirized by our man from the 'stan. In what other country could such a character talk his way into being invited to sing the national anthem at a rodeo—where the horse urine is not so highly prized, and where horse excrement, and indeed all excrement, is still a term of abuse?
He's got a point. This simply wouldn't work in India. Unless you paid everyone off. A lot. Beforehand.

So, in the end ... everyone who is now being laughed at by gazillions of movie-goers across the land (I actually feel sorry for those poor USC frat boys!) was deceived into making this movie. [Some -- the Romanian village -- were rather callously (I don't think that's strong enough) exploited]. Except the wealthy Hollywood porn star and sex symbol.

Talk about twisted.

I wish I hadn't spent $9.50. Or laughed as hard as I did.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Well so much for that ...

... I finally decided to bite the bullet and change over to beta-Blogger. Read the FAQs again. Backed up my template, again. And when I go to switch it says, "Sorry, your blog cannot be changed!"

Oh well! :)

Live-blogging the USCCB meeting ...

... well not quite "live" blogging. Amy's watching it on EWTN. Interesting discussions ... I'm gonna wait till the end when all the documents have been discussed and approved and so on.

From the FDR Memorial

... saw this on the evening of Veterans Day as we wandered around the memorials at the National Mall.

Spotted at Arlington National Cemetery

... at the ceremony honoring our Veterans, on Saturday.

Gary Sinise ("Lt. Dan" in Forrest Gump), Master of Ceremonies.

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.

President Bush.

Our shepherds meet ...

The annual fall meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops begins today in Baltimore. The agenda is on the USCCB news page ... Please say a prayer for them!

Cardinal Egan on Fr. Isaac Hecker

Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York, devotes his November 9, 2006 column in Catholic New York to the opening of the cause for sainthood for Fr. Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulist Fathers. He gives a brief account of his meeting with the President of the Society and the Postulator for the Cause, and gives a sketch of the early life of Fr. Hecker, up to his expulsion from the Redemptorists and the founding of the Paulists. He then concludes:
In 2008, when the Paulist Fathers celebrate the 150th anniversary of their establishment, we will have an opportunity to learn more about their extraordinary founder and, most importantly, about the magnificent work they do for the Lord and his Church in New York and across the world. We dare to hope that at that time there might be some encouraging news from Rome about the progress of the case of Reverend Isaac Thomas Hecker, C.S.P., encouraging news about yet another saintly New Yorker.
Amen to that hope!

More on the cause for Fr. Hecker.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Veterans Day 2006

Was at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday for the ceremonies to mark Veterans Day (formerly Armistice Day).

The entire set of photos is up at my Flickr page.

Here's a few photos from the day. (The last one is from the Korean War Memorial on the National Mall.) I'll post a few more photos later on.

  Posted by Picasa

Slow blogging

Busy day yesterday --- went in the morning to Arlington National Cemetery to take part in the Veterans Day events there. Watched that heartbreaking USC-FL game in the afternoon (well, most of it. Mass and dinner and stuff interfered ... :)). Had friends over for dinner and hung out with the afterwards, and a couple of friends from SC road-tripped in to the city later on in the evening so hung out on the Mall till the wee hours with them. Today is parish work and so on ... photos from the weekend will be up here soon!

Hope you thanked a veteran yesterday! :)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Wake turbulence

Airplane wing vortices. The link is to a rather dramatic shot showing wing-tip vortices caused by heavy aircraft. Now imagine an aircraft behind that man-made tornado-let, and you get the picture. [ does not allow use of their images on websites other than their own, so do click the link to see the picture.]

This week's Ask the pilot , Patrick Smith's masterful column at Salon focuses on wake turbulence.
At approximately 200 feet, only seconds from touchdown, with the approach-light stanchions below and the fat white stripes of the threshold just ahead, came a quick and unusual nudge -- as if we'd struck a pothole. Then, less than a second later, came the rest of it. Almost instantaneously, our 16,000-pound aircraft was up on one wing, in a 45-degree right bank.

"Get it!" I called out, reaching for the wheel. It was the first officer's leg to fly, but suddenly there were four hands at the yoke, turning it to the left as far as it would go. Even with full opposite aileron -- something seldom used in normal commercial flying -- the ship kept rolling to the right.

A feeling of helplessness, of lack of control, is part and parcel of nervous-flier psychology -- the fear that comes from being at the mercy of two unseen strangers, who you hope are competent, qualified and sober. It's an especially bad day when the pilots are experiencing the same uncertainty. There we were, hanging sideways in the sky just a few feet from death. Everything in our power was telling the plane to go left, and it insisted on going right.
Read the rest (you have to see a brief commercial to access Salon for free)! It's fascinating!

And no, this is extremely rare. And not to be confused with regular turbulence, which is normal, and cannot bring an aircraft down.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Put not your trust in princes

J. Peter Nixon has a decent analysis of the elections from a Catholic perspective, over at dotCommonweal . And some very wise words:
My last point is that we need to place politics in its proper place within the apostolic life to which we are called. I believe deeply that Catholics are called to collaborate with all men and women of good will to achieve a more just and well-ordered society. But I don’t believe that the fundamental transformation of society to which Christians are called is something that is primarily accomplished through the coercive power of the state. Our primary focus must be Christian formation rather than political mobilization, trusting that well-formed Christians will have the virtues necessary to contribute effectively to the common good.
[As an aside, Fr. Isaac Hecker, the founder of the Paulist Fathers, also had a similar perspective, if I've correctly understood all that we've been reading in the novitiate. After his youthful involvement in reform politics in New York, he grew disenchanted with the ability of politics to make society more just. His belief, a core evangelical belief, it would seem, was that it was transformed people who then changed the world around them. And that is what, Catholic evangelization, at its broadest, is about.]

On bees and Latin and today's feast

I love the fact that today the Church celebrates a building. That's part of the genius of Catholicism, to lift up the concrete (no pun intended. Though, if there's any concrete at St. John Lateran, it's well hidden! :-)) everyday things, to remind us that even these can reveal God. And to remind us, that in a very concrete way (ok ok!), God 's revelation is tied to some very particular historical realities. This people, this time, this place.

And of course, the history buff, the polyglot and the lover of all things arcane in me, was intrigued by this little bit from a comment (explaining the bees in the decoration in the Baptistery of St. John's) left by the redoubtable Zadok Romanus in the post on today's feast at Open Book:
Of course, one could also take the bees as being a reference to the bees whose wax is used in the making of the paschal candle. The bee is mentioned in the Latin Exultet but is sadly missing from the English translation.
Here's the relevant bit from the Latin text of the Exsultet:
Qui, licet sit divisus in partes, mutuati tamen luminis detrimenta non novit. Alitur enim liquantibus ceris, quas in substantiam pretiosae huius lampadis apis mater eduxit.
There you have it. Apis mater. Mother bee! Here's the literal translation:
Which fire, though now divided, suffers no loss from the communication of its light. Because it is fed by the melted wax, which the mother bee wrought for the substance of this precious lamp.
In the English text of the Missal this is now rendered as
a flame divided but undimmed.
The words above just aren't there. A truly minor thing, for sure, in the large scheme of things. But why? Why this mercilessly efficient excision of such delightful image! The mother bee producing wax for the candle whose light is the light of Christ? This concrete connection with creation, God's creation, in this poetic phrase, working in her own orderly way, a part of the salvation of the universe?

Yeah, I'm being hyperbolic. But is it not emblematic of a certain way of thinking about the liturgy, and therefore about the faith? A certain ruthlessly efficient calculus that, when applied to weightier matters, results in the loss of a lot more than just a humble mother bee?

Or perhaps I'm just a little melancholy having finally gotten to Jody Bottum's reflection on the swallows of Capistrano in last month's First Things.

[This is hardly the only instance of a translation that departs from the original. A few weeks back, our place hosted the fall meeting of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation. At the morning Mass, the celebrant used the Roman Canon (EP I). In the Latin, the prayer for the Pope is rendered thus
una cum famulo tuo Pap nostro N. et Antistite nostro N. et omnibus orthodoxis atque catholicae et apostolicae fidei cultoribus.
In English
We offer them for N. our Pope, for N. our bishop, and for all who hold and teach the catholic faith that comes to us from the apostles.
"Orthodoxis" is just dropped. Of course "orthodoxus" in this context does not refer to the members of the Orthodox Churches, but to orthodoxy. Would it not be better to pray, in English, like one does in Latin, for "all who cultivate the orthodox, catholic and apostolic faith?" Especially that morning?]

To end on a less irascible note -- the first reading from Ezekiel, describing the life-giving water flowing from the Temple at Mass today reminded me of that splending Gregorian chant of the Easter season -- the Vidi Aquam.
Vidi aquam egredientem de templo,
a latere dextro, alleluia:
et omnes, ad quos pervenit aqua ista,
salvi facti sunt, et dicent, alleluia, alleluia.

V. Confitemini Domino quoniam bonus:
R. Quoniam in saeculum misericordia eius.

V. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto:
R. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper,
et in saecula sæculorum. Amen.
[English] [Pdf file with the Gregorian neumes.] [I think this is a link to an mp3. Or, just send me your phone number and I'll call and chant it for you on your voicemail. :-) Heh.]

A state that exploits its people ...

... versus a state that serves its people. A true marker of a "developing" versus a "developed" country. And, as Peter Foster, the New Delhi correspondent for the Telegraph tells us, India is still very much the former.

Hoo boy.

John Allen on his talk

Link to his reflections on last night's talk in Columbia.

The Dedication of St. John Lateran

Today is the feast of the Dedication of St. John Laterna, the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, and, in a sense, the mother church of all Roman Catholics. Here are a few photos from the last visit ...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

St. Paul, Part Two

The Holy Father continued his catechesis today on St. Paul.
In his letters, after the name of God, which appears over 500 times, the name most often mentioned is that of Christ -- 380 times. Therefore, it is important that we realize how Jesus Christ can influence a person's life and, hence, also our own life. In fact, Jesus Christ is the apex of the history of salvation and therefore the true discriminating point in the dialogue with other religions.

On seeing Paul's example, we can thus formulate the basic question: How does the human being's encounter with Christ take place? In what does the relationship that stems from it consist? The answer Paul gives can be understood in two ways.

In the first place, Paul helps us to understand the fundamental and irreplaceable value of faith. In the Letter to the Romans, he writes: "For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law" (3:28). And in the Letter to the Galatians: "a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, in order to be justified by faith in Jesus Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified" (2:16).

"To be justified" means to be made righteous, that is, to be received by the merciful justice of God, and enter into communion with him and therefore to be able to establish a much more authentic relationship with all our brothers: and this in virtue of a total forgiveness of our sins.

Paul says with all clarity that this condition of life does not depend on our possible good works, but on the pure grace of God: We "are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24).

With these words, Paul expresses the fundamental content of his conversion, the new direction his life took as a result of his encounter with the Risen Christ. Before his conversion, Paul was not a man estranged from God or his law. On the contrary, he was observant, with an observance that bordered on fanaticism.

However, in the light of the encounter with Christ, he understood that with this he only sought to make himself, his own righteousness, and with all that righteousness he had lived only for himself. He understood that his life needed absolutely a new orientation. And he expresses this new orientation thus: "The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

Paul, therefore, no longer lives for himself, for his own righteousness. He lives from Christ and with Christ: Giving himself, he no longer seeks or makes himself. This is the new righteousness, the new orientation that the Lord has given us, which gives us faith. Before the cross of Christ, highest expression of his self-giving, there is no longer any one who can glory in himself, in his own righteousness!

I for one welcome our Democratic overlords ...

Well, no one comes here for informed punditry or prognostications of the political future and so on.

In brief, I'm pleased the Republicans got a well deserved thrashing - for the huge mess that has been Iraq, for corruption, for sleaze. The Dems, especially the party's leftward fringe, should remember that this still remains a rather conservative country, however. This was an anti-Republican election. Not a pro-Democrat one, (whatever that would mean).

As an ardent pro-lifer, I am very ambivalent about the Democratic party overall, especially hitherto dogmatic approach to abortion, but am glad that pro-life Democracts were allowed to run (and won!). [Not that I'm not ambivalent about the Republicans either.]

And the one thing I hope, apart from (wishful thinking?) new direction in Iraq, is that Bush and a Democractic Congress and actually bring about some serious immigration reform.

Now for the real coverage:

Jonah Goldberg at NRO has this hilarious quote, paraphrasing a famous TV personality: "I for one welcome our new Democratic overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a trusted rightwing personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves."


And the winner is .... [drumroll] .... The Onion, of course:

Politicians sweep mid-term elections.

This is disturbing

Sandro Magister points to a surprising (that's a mild word) editorial in La Civiltà Cattolica. The editorial describes the jihadist mentality with clarity, but offers no critique, none based on the lines that Benedict opened at Regensburg.
If defeating one’s enemy requires, in the first place, knowing who he is, the editorial is perfect: it describes the logic of violence present in Islam – both the terrorist and fundamentalist sort, and that of the entire umma – with scientific precision.

But it describes this logic of violence so well as to practically agree with it on everything. It does so to the point of denouncing those Muslims who deviate from orthodox doctrine. The paragraphs on Israel are exemplary: those Palestinians who accept its existence should know that “the viewpoint shared by the entire Islamic world” is the contrary, and that Hamas and its “martyrs” represent this much more consistently; Israel must be uprooted from a land that “ belongs to Muslims ‘by divine law’ until the end of time.”

The passages on democracy are also indicative. “La Civiltà Cattolica” says that this should not be imposed upon Islamic peoples, but “hopes” that they may adopt it on their own initiative. But in another passage, the same editorial maintains that democracy is incompatible with Islam. An earlier editorial from February 2, 2004 even describes it as “offensive to the Islamic community.”

The idea of cutting off financing to terrorist groups also seems contradictory. After it has argued, for pages and pages, that the Muslim world is inviolable and must not be touched, it is incomprehensible how in the last lines “La Civiltà Cattolica” could propose forcible intervention in the mosques and in the charitable associations of the “crescent moon,” from which this financing is thought to come.

But the most glaring contradiction is in the first of the five final points, where “La Civiltà Cattolica” invokes “a serene and trusting intercultural dialogue” with Islam.

If this editorial is an example of dialogue, in reality this is a counter-example.

In nine pages, there isn’t even a single line, not a single word subjecting to criticism “according to reason” the striking plexus of faith and violence described as existing in today’s Islam.

In Regensburg, Benedict XVI did this with rare courage.

“La Civiltà Cattolica” – which by statute should reflect the pope’s thought and argue on its behalf – doesn’t even refer to him.

Nor could it have done so in an editorial which, in the Islamic world, can be interpreted only as an act of surrender.

Bye Bye Rummy

He's stepping down ... watching it on MSNBC right now.

About dang time.

Elections: South Carolina coverage

We were up late in the novice lounge last night watching the election returns on TV -- MSNBC, NBC, CNN and occasioanlly Fox.

Of course, I didn't expect SC to feature too much in the national media. No decisive House races that would affect the national balance. Neither Senate seat on the block.

But what was mentioned? Gov. Sanford being turned away for not having his voter registration card. Ha!

And gosh, how I hope Bauer loses!

The Elections: The view from out there ...

As the results roll in, I wondered how this is being perceived and covered "out there" ... across the waters, in the rest of the world.

The Times of India has a whole special section: US Mid Term Polls and the India Connection, with concern over what a Democratic congress might mean for the Indo-US nuclear deal, a story on Bobby Jindal (R-LA), the lone Indian-American in the House getting re-elected, and one on the first Muslim congressman.

The Syndey Morning Herald leads with a story, Bush's Black Tuesday. Le Monde and Il Correire della Sera have lead stories (sconfitto, defeat, for Bush). Needless to say, the UK papers are covering this front-page. The Times: Where the Republicans were massacred. In the (Toronto) Globe and Mail, Alan Freeman asks an oft-repeated question: Now, can they tell us what they stand for?

The Jerusalem Post coverage also highlights the election of a Muslim to Congress, whereas Ha'aretz simply carries a Reuters story (with no mention of Congressman Ellison)

Couldn't see anything on the front page of the Moscow Times, the Lebanon Daily Star, Al Jazeera or Al Ahram (Egypt).

:: Here's the Economist. ::
And here's a cartoon from the UK Telegraph that underscores what foreign newspapers are saying: this is all about Bush and Iraq.

And for more front pages than you can handle, try Newseum.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's Election Day

It's kinda weird living in a house where most of the residents don't have a real vote in Congress. Well, there's the District's Congressional representative, who has limited voting rights in Congress (she can propose legislation and vote in comittee). And, apparently, no one is running against her.

Speaking of this election, Christopher Hitchens had a quirky, if amusing piece in yesterday's Time's (UK) on Americans' and voting: The elections? It's about the Redskins, stupid!
How am I to explain, to listeners in New Zealand and Argentina, that a Congress that makes big decisions for the entire world is being selected in this way? This audience is educated enough to have heard a great deal about President Bush, whose policies might be assumed to be an important element in the discussion, but recently the chief executive announced that he did not consider himself to be an issue in the election at all. (This may be an historic first: I shall have to check the political almanacs.) More astonishingly still, candidates from his own party and from the Democratic side appear to concur. They would all much rather talk about something else.

I live in the nation’s capital, which isn’t allowed representatives in Congress, so the nearest race that concerns me is in neighbouring Virginia.Here, a rich menu of issues confronts the electorate. The incumbent senator, George Allen, a Republican, was considered until recently to be a safe bet for re-election and a possible standard bearer for his party in two years’ time. Now he is in the deepest of trouble because — let me see if I have this right — he isn't “really” from the South, wears cowboy boots though there are no cowboys in Virginia, made a cryptic remark to a questioner from the Indian sub-continent and reacted oddly to the news of his mother’s hidden Jewish parentage.
And then, of course, a neat summary of what this day is about is from our friends at the Economist. Whichever way you look at it the Republicans deserve to get clobbered next week. [Subscriber only so here's a tidbit]:
Much of the blame rightly attaches to Mr Bush. He may not be on the ballot this year, but mid-terms are in large part a referendum on the president. Iraq, Katrina and Guantánamo have become globally recognised one-word indictments of an administration that has been simultaneously incompetent and cavalier. At home, he has failed to get government spending under control, especially when it comes to the “entitlements”, principally health care and pensions, that will overwhelm America's finances as its population ages. He has also pandered to the religious right, opposing stem-cell research and promoting a federal amendment banning gay marriage.
[Of course, yours truly and the Economist part company when it comes to "social conservative" issues. The problem isn't stem-cell research. It's the utilitarian destruction of human embryos.]
None of this amounts to an enthusiastic endorsement of the incoherent Democrats. There are a few independent-minded Republicans, especially in the Senate, who deserve to keep their seats. But sometimes ruling parties become so addled and incompetent they need to be punished. “Depart, and let us have done with you,” Cromwell told the Rump Parliament. The Republicans deserve the same next week.
Come on, who else could have built Oliver Cromwell into this? Here's a current story that's open access: Americans go to the Polls. Finally, Don Jim (who's got real voting rights across the border in Arlington, VA) has some thoughts on voter guides that proliferate at this time of the year.

Of course, all of this is coming from someone who has no voting rights in his country of residence (or of citizenship for that matter!). A few more years, folks, a few more years. :-)