Friday, June 29, 2007

J in India

J arrived safe and sound in Delhi and is, apparently, gallivanting around the place with my mom.

I'm jealous! :)

Sts. Peter and Paul

(In a sense this is also the foundational feast of the Church in Rome).

The Holy Father has declared 2008 to be the Year of St. Paul.
The pope said the Pauline year will run from June 28, 2008, to June 29, 2009, to mark the approximately 2,000th anniversary of the saint's birth.

He made the announcement while presiding over a vespers service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome June 28, the eve of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, patron saints of Rome.

"Dear brothers and sisters, as in the (church's) beginning, today, too, Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves. He needs witnesses and martyrs like St. Paul," the pope said.

The Pauline year will feature numerous special liturgies and events in Rome, the pope said, but should also be celebrated in local churches and in the sanctuaries, religious orders and other institutions that have a special link to St. Paul.

In a special way, the Pauline year will be ecumenical, reflecting the saint's commitment to the unity and harmony among all Christians, he said. The pope's announcement was met with applause in the crowded basilica.

Seated near the altar were representatives of other Christian churches, in particular a delegation from the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The pope made a point of greeting them warmly and reiterating their "common commitment to do everything possible to hasten the time of full communion between the Christian East and West."
Here's a suggestion from the Holy Father that yours truly really wants to follow up on ... :)
He said that during the Pauline year particular care should be taken to welcome Catholics from various countries who may want to make penitential pilgrimages to the saint's tomb.
And isn't it fantastic that the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle will be celebrating its 150th anniversary during this special jubilee year?

New Dark Ages

As the Holy Father gets ready to issue another motu proprio (yes, the one that a certain section of Catholic blogosphere is going absolutely nuts over.), get ready for press reports that might surprise us (or maybe not) by not straying too far from the template of this hilarious parody. (Hat tip to Amy)
If you can't beat them, join them. (Note: For those satirically challenged, please see the definition of parody)

Rome — Pope Benedict, a former Hitler youth, will tell Roman Catholic priests in coming days that they can say mass in Latin— a dead language the no one knows anymore—as a concession to right wing extremists in the church, known as traditionalists.

The decree by the Pope, a former Hitler youth, is known as a Motu Proprio. This cryptic latin phrase can be loosely translated “I can do whatever I want because I am the Pope and you can’t stop me.”

The Latin Mass, also known as the Tridentine mass, is a product of the ‘dark ages’ and was understandably jettisoned by the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The latin mass is said by the priest with his back to the congregation whispering secret prayers that only he can understand. In the Tridentine mass the laity does not participate at all , so they often turn to knitting, macramé, or checkers to pass the time.

The move by the Pope, a former Hitler youth, has raised concern about reviving parts of the old liturgy that Jews consider anti-Semitic, gays consider homo-phobic, women consider sexist, dwarves consider anti-dwarfic (communion rails are too high), and priests consider too difficult to learn.

The publication of this document is to be accompanied by a letter from the Pope, a former Hitler youth, to individual bishops explaining why he is doing this against their will and better judgment.

French Cardinal Singe de Reddition commented, “We are trés disturbed by this action by the Pope, a former Hitler youth. We are trés, trés upset about this. We just managed to get all these people to stop coming to church and we are trés afraid that the Churches will fill up again. If that happens, the rest of Europe is sure to look down on us, you know, the way we look down on everyone else.”

It is widely believed that the Pope, a former Hitler youth, is restoring the mass as a copout to the right wing group known as Lefebvrists and that this constitutes a complete rejection of all the reforms of Vatican II.

It remains unclear at this time, since the exact contents of the documents are still unknown, how long it will be before the Church sets up the Inquisition again. Details should be available in “a few days.”
(My opinion is pretty straightforward: I don't think it's a panacea for all the ills that face the Church, nor do I think it is a harbinger of the Inquisition. Before I ever went to Mass, I had memorized the responses of the Tridentine Mass -- thanks to these old missals lying around in the college library. I think it's beautiful, and I don't think that the motu proprio is a bad idea. I've actually participated in a Tridentine Mass only once, and my instinctive reaction was, "oh thank God for the Council." So that's a summary of where I stand.)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

St. Thomas Aquinas "The Dumb Ox"

By G. K. Chesterton. I found this slender volume on Z's bookshelf the other day, and I've already devoured it. Chesterton is such a delight to read, a delight that I haven't indulged in a while. This book is delicious! [The entire book is available online. Also check out this essay on Aquinas by Chesterton]. There's many quotes I want to share, but here is this insightful if rather pugnacious bit on Martin Luther, towards the end.
We have seen how the great name of Augustine, a name never mentioned by Aquinas without respect but often mentioned without agreement covered an Augustinian school of thought naturally lingering longest in the Augustinian Order. The difference, like every difference between Catholics, was only a difference of emphasis. The Augustinians stressed the idea of the impotence of man before God, the omniscience of God about the destiny of man, the need for holy fear and the humiliation of intellectual pride, more than the opposite and corresponding truths of free will or human dignity or good works. In this they did in a sense continue the distinctive note of St. Augustine, who is even now regarded as relatively the determinist doctor of the Church. But there is emphasis and emphasis; and a time was coming when emphasising the one side was to mean flatly contradicting the other. Perhaps, after all, it did begin with a quarrel of monks; but the Pope was yet to learn how quarrelsome a monk could be. For there was one particular monk in that Augustinian monastery in the German forests, who may be said to have had a single and special talent for emphasis; for emphasis and nothing except emphasis; for emphasis with the quality of earthquake. He was the son of a slatecutter; a man with a great voice and a certain volume of personality; brooding, sincere, decidedly morbid; and his name was Martin Luther. Neither Augustine nor the Augustinians would have desired to see the day of that vindication of the Augustinian tradition; but in one sense, perhaps, the Augustinian tradition was avenged after all.

It came out of its cell again, in the day of storm and ruin, and cried out with a new and mighty voice for an elemental and emotional religion, and for the destruction of all philosophies. It had a peculiar horror and loathing of the great Greek philosophies, and of the scholasticism that had been founded on those philosophies. It had one theory that was the destruction of all theories; in fact it had its own theology which was itself the death of theology. Man could say nothing to God, nothing from God, nothing about God, except an almost inarticulate cry for mercy and for the supernatural help of Christ, in a world where all natural things were useless. Reason was useless. Will was useless. Man could not move himself an inch any more than a stone. Man could not trust what was in his head any more than a turnip. Nothing remained in earth or heaven, but the name of Christ lifted in that lonely imprecation; awful as the cry of a beast in pain.

We must be just to those huge human figures, who are in fact the hinges of history. However strong, and rightly strong, be our own controversial conviction, it must never mislead us into thinking that something trivial has transformed the world. So it is with that great Augustinian monk, who avenged all the ascetic Augustinians of the Middle Ages; and whose broad and burly figure has been big enough to block out for four centuries the distant human mountain of Aquinas. It is not, as the moderns delight to say, a question of theology. The Protestant theology of Martin Luther was a thing that no modern Protestant would be seen dead in a field with; or if the phrase be too flippant, would be specially anxious to touch with a barge-pole. That Protestantism was pessimism; it was nothing but bare insistence on the hopelessness of all human virtue, as an attempt to escape hell. That Lutheranism is now quite unreal; more modern phases of Lutheranism are rather more unreal; but Luther was not unreal. He was one of those great elemental barbarians, to whom it is indeed given to change the world. To compare those two figures hulking so big in history, in any philosophical sense, would of course be futile and even unfair. On a great map like the mind of Aquinas, the mind of Luther would be almost invisible. But it is not altogether untrue to say, as so many journalists have said without caring whether it was true or untrue, that Luther opened an epoch; and began the modern world.

Fr. Longenecker: The Benedictine Way

Fr. Dwight has started a series of reflections on Benedictine spirituality.

Puerto Rico photos

I've put up photos from the trip at Flickr here and here (the latter is a set with photos of the Cathedral in San Juan).

The City after take off

LGA. Both runways (13-31, the closest one and 4-22) clearly visible.

Northern Queens. The Grand Central Parkway coming off LaGuardia, the malfunction-junction at Northern Blvd. connecting to the Van Wyck, and the Long Island Expressway in the top left clearly visible. As is Shea stadium and Flushing Meadows Park. Manhattan in the distance, top right.

Looking down Manhattan ... nice view of Central Park.

Lower Manhattan under a cloud. One can see the condo-and-office construction craze across the Hudson at Jersey City as well.

The glories of the classical age

Some photos from the newly renovated Greek and Roman galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Of the value of cell phones

I was back up in the City yesterday (to see good friend J off at Newark as she embarked on a trip to my homeland. Wish I could go, but class schedule didn't permit our trips to overlap!).

There was a power outage in the city yesterday, and the Met was evacuated. Nothing due to us having just visited the newly renovated Greek and Roman galleries (photos coming up). And then later on, some mean thunderstorms struck Queens. R was stuck in the library for two and a half hours, the rain was so intense, there were periods of hail and plastic benches flying around the parking lot. I got stuck on the Grand Central Parkway returning to Queens from Newark. Parking lot. Lots of lightning, no rain, and a mean dark grey sky ahead. Flights were still taking off and landing from LaGuardia as the traffic inched passed.

So, I get P on the horn, and sitting in Aiken SC, and thanks to the wonders of Google, he directs me off the Grand Central, through some backroads in northern Queens to where I need to go. (P: "Yeah, you know how they color code the intensity of precipitation? Where, it's all red over that part of queens right now.")

The rain hit like a waterfall near Hillside. I passed at least two downed trees. And about 15 blocks from R's place, traffic backs up again as a bus sits broken down and forlorn in the middle of an intersection, while torrents of water gush down hill from the side streets.

It took three hours and ten minutes to get to Jamaica from Newark. If it weren't for the cell phone, I'd have gone stir crazy.

Why the modern search for self ends in despair

A neat piece at Christianity Today.
In a recent issue of The New Yorker, you can find a cartoon with a couple sitting on a couch. One says to the other, "I don't want to be defined by who I am."

The line is so human and so modern. The human part is what makes it funny: Often, when we discover who we are, we want to deny it. But it's the modern part that most interests me: that relentless search for self, the yearning to know who I am.

As with so much of modernity, this is a highly individualistic quest, and as such, it is a pointless quest. Not because the search for meaning is pointless, but because the context of modernity—the individual—is a myth.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Rage Boy

Ok. I am not a huge fan of Christopher Hitchens. Especially Christopher Hitchens when he starts gibbering (and that's the word) about theism and religion in general.

But this piece in Slate (hat tip to Mac for sending it to the inbox)? When he nails it, he nails it.

Also see this interesting site dedicated to the many appearances of Rage Boy.

[I tend to be with the Hitchens/secularist band on the whole issue of "religious offense." Yes, there is such a thing. But, for those of us who are religious, can we stop whining? Please? And for those who are wont to criticize religion -- a little more equal opportunity please. Don't just turn your critical (though they tend to be uncritically critical) guns on the easy target of Catholicism. Go across the board. And, be rational.

Oh, I suppose Hitchens would be surprised to think that reason has any role to play in religion. That's where he (and Rage Boy and his ilk. And not just his.) are wrong.]

Monday, June 25, 2007

Fake priest arrested baptizing baby

Heh. I guess it's nice to know that in secular Europe, impersonating a priest (one assumes, this being Portugal, that we're talking Roman Catholic here) is a civil crime as well ... :) Fake priest arrested baptizing baby | Oddly Enough |

Back to the midterms.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

An Episcopal pastor who's Muslim

You read that right. (Via the Seattle Times)
Redding doesn't feel she has to resolve all the contradictions. People within one religion can't even agree on all the details, she said. "So why would I spend time to try to reconcile all of Christian belief with all of Islam?

"At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That's all I need."

She says she felt an inexplicable call to become Muslim, and to surrender to God — the meaning of the word "Islam."

"It wasn't about intellect," she said. "All I know is the calling of my heart to Islam was very much something about my identity and who I am supposed to be.

"I could not not be a Muslim."

Redding's situation is highly unusual. Officials at the national Episcopal Church headquarters said they are not aware of any other instance in which a priest has also been a believer in another faith. They said it's up to the local bishop to decide whether such a priest could continue in that role.

Redding's bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting. Her announcement, first made through a story in her diocese's newspaper, hasn't caused much controversy yet, he said.
Well ...
As much as she loves her church, she has always challenged it. She calls Christianity the "world religion of privilege." She has never believed in original sin. And for years she struggled with the nature of Jesus' divinity.
I'm not going to make any comments. Go read the article.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Feast of St. Thomas More

Over at Catholic Sensibility, a neat write up about a modern opera, the Passion of St. Thomas More, which I want to hear now. (Though, frankly, I have a tough time imagining one of my favorite saints as a soprano :). Via Rich Leonardi, H.V. Morton's reflections on visiting the Tower, and more links. And the mother of all links and information about Sir Thomas at Pro Ecclesia.

Maybe it's time to dig up that DVD of
""A Man for all seasons." I actually saw that as a teenager with my father. He loved Paul Scoefield's performance tremendously. Besides, he was an inveterate anglophile. :-)

Here's his Psalm on Detachment (also via Pro Ecclesia). A beautiful prayer, especially for a Friday.
Psalm on Detachment

Give me thy grace, good Lord:
To set the world at nought;
To set my mind fast upon thee,
And not to hang upon the blast of men’s mouths;
To be content to be solitary,
Not to long for worldly company;
Little and little utterly to cast off the world,
And rid my mind of all the business thereof;
Not to long to hear of any worldly things,
But that the hearing of worldly phantasies may be to me displeasant;
Gladly to be thinking of God,
Piteously to call for his help;
To lean unto the comfort of God,
Busily to labor to love him;
To know mine own vility and wretchedness,
To humble and meeken myself under the mighty hand of God;
To bewail my sins passed,
For the purging of them patiently to suffer adversity;
Gladly to bear my purgatory here,
To be joyful of tribulations;
To walk the narrow way that leadeth to life,
To bear the cross with Christ;
To have the last thing in remembrance,
To have ever afore mine eye my death that is ever at hand;
To make death no stranger to me,
To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of hell;
To pray for pardon before the judge come,
To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me;
For his benefits uncessantly to give him thanks,
To buy the time again that I before have lost;
To abstain from vain confabulations,
To eschew light foolish mirth and gladness;
Recreations not necessary — to cut off;
Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss
at right nought for the winning of Christ;
To think my most enemies my best friends,
For the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good
with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.

These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasure
of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it
gathered and laid together all upon one heap .

~ St. Thomas More, Written while imprisoned in the Tower of London, 1534

Thursday, June 21, 2007

CHINA Henan government: destroy the sanctuary of Our Lady of Carmel in Tianjiajing - Asia News

The continuing woes of the Church in ChinaCHINA Henan government: destroy the sanctuary of Our Lady of Carmel in Tianjiajing - Asia News

Year of St. Paul!

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 21, 2007 ( At vespers on the eve of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Benedict XVI will proclaim a Year of St. Paul, marking the 2,000th anniversary of the Apostle's birth.

The Holy See announced today that the Pope will make the pronouncement next Thursday, June 28, from the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

It is estimated that the then Saul of Tarsus was born between A.D. 6 and 10.

Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, mentioned the possibility of the dedication during a press conference Feb. 28.

In that meeting, the cardinal presented the archaeological research surrounding what is traditionally accepted as St. Paul's sarcophagus under the basilica's main altar.

He encouraged sanctuaries around the world to participate in celebrating the year, particularly places linked to St. Paul in Jerusalem, Turkey and other regions of the Middle East.

Last fall, Benedict XVI dedicated four Wednesday catecheses to the figure and thought of St. Paul.
YES! Via Zenit

Annulment overturned

United Press International - NewsTrack - Top News - Vatican reverses Kennedy annulment Don't know the the background to this, but surely this is rather unusual.

Silver Jubilee of Episcopal Ordination for Ivan Cardinal Dias

Here's the text of the message of the Holy Father to the former Archbishop of Bombay on this occasion (Via Fides. Full text not yet on website.)
VATICAN - Message from the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to Cardinal Ivan Dias for Silver Jubilee of his ordination as a Bishop

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI sent a personal message to His Eminence Cardinal Ivan Dias prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his ordination as a Bishop. Here is the message:

To our Venerable Brother
IVAN Cardinal DIAS
Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples

It is truly honourable and right Venerable Brother to address to you our thoughts and honour you with our praise on the most happy occasion of the silver jubilee of your Episcopate.
The Lord has filled you with abundant and varied gifts that you with grateful heart and awareness have assiduously developed and willingly spent at the service of the Kingdom of God. And you became a priest in your native archdiocese of Bombay where you immediately began to carry out your priestly ministry. Only a short time later you went to Rome for more demanding studies.
Having completed them in the year 1964 you were called to the diplomatic service of the Apostolic See. Your first task was to prepare the visit to Bombay which Pope Paul VI made on the occasion of an International Eucharistic Congress. Later you diligently served as secretary at Apostolic Nunciature in various different countries.
Recalled to Rome in 1973, for about ten years you served with zeal in the Secretariat of State. After carefully considering your gifts, your love and your faithful service to the Church, my Predecessor of venerable memory John Paul II, in 1982 thought it opportune to promote you to more important duties appointing you Pro-Nuncio Apostolic in Ghana, Togo and Benin, with the dignity of titular Archbishop of Rusubisir.
Lastly you were in charge of the Apostolic Nunciature in South Korea and later in Albania, where you helped actively to restore the Catholic faith and there in 1993 you welcomed the Supreme Pontiff with great joy and emotion.
After diligently fulfilling the tasks entrusted to you, you were appointed Archbishop of Bombay and in the year 2001, to the great joy of your people, you were included among the Cardinals of the Catholic Church. An attentive and faithful Shepherd you nourished your flock with sound doctrine while promoting New Evangelisation.
Therefore, confirming the trust placed in you and never disappointed, having been by divine will raised to the duties of the Petrine ministry, last year I called you back to Rome and made you Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples .
Who could recall all the tasks you have undertaken for the good of the universal Church and the progress of your own homeland?
Recognising in all this not so much your own merits but rather the grace of Christ and with heartfelt gratitude to Him for these twenty five years of your ministry as a Bishop, with all your heart you may say with the Psalmist: "This is the day made by the Lord; let us exult and rejoice” (Ps 118,24).
Rest assured that on 19 June I will remember you in my prayers and through the intercession of the Holy Mother of God and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta I will invoke upon you many gifts and the sweet consolation of the Holy Spirit.
Venerable Brother, receive this testimony of fraternal charity and esteem and my Apostolic Blessing, as a pledge of abundant heavenly favours, which I impart most affectionately upon you and all those who are united with you in love.
From the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, 19 May 2007, the third year of my Pontificate.
Benedict PP. XVI
(Agenzia Fides 20/6/2007; righe 46, parole 589)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Good advice.

Ordinations coming up

My home diocese ordains a few priests (3? 5? six) next month. I got an invitation in the mail from one of them today, Deacon Andrew Trapp. Along with the invitation he enclosed a copy of the DVD "Fishers of Men" with a note asking that it be given to young Catholic men to encourage vocations to the priesthood. What a wonderful and brilliant gesture!

The 10 Commandments of Driving

The wires are loving this story -- the Vatican's 10 commandments of drivings. Putting you on the path to salvation. And other such headlines. Well here they are.
I. You shall not kill.

II. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.

III. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.

IV. Be charitable and help your neighbour in need, especially victims of accidents.

V. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.

VI. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.

VII. Support the families of accident victims.

VIII. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.

IX. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

X. Feel responsible towards others.
Yep, the roads would be much nicer if all drivers (particularly in Rome!) followed these! Perhaps it's just another way of saying, if we were all really nice the roads would be better? However, these rules sit in a much larger text entitled "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road" (full text at Zenit.) [Is that a typo? The road needs pastoral care? :)] If this seems a little frivolous, there's a section that deals with prostitution, the care of street children and the "homeless (tramps)" (sic). There's a lot packed into these sections and the document is worth study, though, at least at cursory glance, I found a sense of almost naivete in thinking that proper education and exhortation could change people's behavior in realities as complicated as prostitution, and even a sense that prostitution is a modern phenomenon (as opposed to a phenomenon that the tensions of modern society has exacerbated). However, it does add:
113. The Church may provide a wide variety of services to the victims of prostitution, including: housing, reference points, medical and legal assistance, advisors, vocational training, education, rehabilitation, defence and information campaigns, protection from threats, links with families, assistance with voluntary return and reintegration in their countries of origin, and help with obtaining visas when return to their country of origin turns out to be impossible.

Above and beyond these services, the encounter with Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan and Saviour, is a decisive factor of liberation and redemption, including for the victims of prostitution (cf. Mark 16:16; Acts 2:21; 4:12; Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:11; and 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
The section on prostitution commends the work of women religious in this area especially, and focuses equal attention on the "customers" as the women involved in the sex trade themselves, rightly seeing the latter as victims, and equating prostitution with modern slavery.

Benedict: A pope against religion

From an interview with Augustinin Scholar John Kenney at Zenit. This is really an idea, not expressed exactly in these terms, that I've encountered in Benedict's writings all throughout.
Q: Where do you think Benedict XVI is trying to point the Church and the world right now?

Kenney: He's pointing us away from religion -- in the modern sense of the term. Religion is a category of modernity, usually understood to mean either individually authenticated spiritual experiences or else a particular type of collective ideology based on socially defined values.

To think of Christianity in such terms is to drift toward the relativism that Pope Benedict has so famously decried. Hence Benedict XVI has insisted that personal spiritual experiences can only become meaningful within the shared context of a lived theology. And the collective life of the Church is far more than a form of social or political association. Christianity is not an ideology.

These modern representations of religion can constitute a reduction of Christianity to psychological, sociological and political categories and can result in a denial of its claims to transcendent truth.

Benedict XVI has a masterful grasp of all these reductionist tendencies and he has pushed back hard in order to restore recognition of the richness and depth of Christianity.

So one might say that we have a Pope who is opposed to religion -- and in favor of Christianity. Thank God for that.
(This almost sounds like some non-denominational evangelicals who talk about chosing faith over religion. Phillip Yancey comes to mind. Then there is the thought that a lot of how Christians actually understand and live Christianity is like "religion" in the sense used above, but also in the sense of some kind of manipulative/superstitious relationship with God. The rest of the interview is interesting as well, delineating some outlines of Augustinian thought in Benedict.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The world will end in 2060 or later, but not earlier: Isaac Newton

[AOL News.]
Newton, who died 280 years ago, is known for laying much of the groundwork for modern physics, astronomy, math and optics. But in a new Jerusalem exhibit, he appears as a scholar of deep faith who also found time to write on Jewish law - even penning a few phrases in careful Hebrew letters - and combing the Old Testament's Book of Daniel for clues about the world's end.

The documents, purchased by a Jewish scholar at a Sotheby's auction in London in 1936, have been kept in safes at Israel's national library in Jerusalem since 1969. Available for decades only to a small number of scholars, they have never before been shown to the public.

In one manuscript from the early 1700s, Newton used the cryptic Book of Daniel to calculate the date for the Apocalypse, reaching the conclusion that the world would end no earlier than 2060.

"It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner," Newton wrote. However, he added, "This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail."

In another document, Newton interpreted biblical prophecies to mean that the Jews would return to the Holy Land before the world ends. The end of days will see "the ruin of the wicked nations, the end of weeping and of all troubles, the return of the Jews captivity and their setting up a flourishing and everlasting Kingdom," he posited.

Tragedy in Charleston

... just saw this news (been in class all morning and didn't see the news last night)

Nation joins Charleston to mourn 9 firefighter deaths. (The State)

Charleston firefighter deaths largest since 9/11. (WIS Tv)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Terra Memoria

As I indicated below, R & I went to Carnegie Hall for the finale of a series of concerts by the Emerson String Quartet performing Beethoven. Throughout the series they've interspersed other pieces, pieces that somehow complement or are connected to, or can be traced back to Beethoven's work.

Tonight was the world premier of a modern piece, by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, entitled "Terra Memoria." This is what she wrote in the program about the inspiration behind the piece:
The piece is dedicated "for those departed." Some thoughts about this: we continue remembering the people who are no longer with us; the material -- their life -- is "complete." Nothing will be added to it. Those of us who are left behind are constantly reminded of our experiences together: our feelings continue to change about different aspects of their personality, certain memories keep on haunting us in our dreams. Even after many years, some of these memories change, some remain clear flashes which we can relive.
I got goosebumps reading that. Quite appropriate. Providential even.

The music itself was stunning and breathtaking. The Beethoven at any rate: F Major Op. 135, C-sharp Minor Op. 131. The Finnish piece ... well, it had it's moments. I'm not a huge fan of atonal modern stuff. We remarked how my dad would probably have hated it, while R's dad would have reveled in it. Anyway, what a stupendous performance! For an encore they performed the alternative finale to Op. 130, the last work written by the composer.

After the show we got a bottle of wine, some tomatoes and fresh mozarella (for a light caprese) and toasted the much missed fathers.

Terra Memoria. Earth Memory.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

What happens when one arrives at a toll plaza with no cash

I drove (R's Honda) into Midtown to see the play (more on that a little later) and knew I had only $10 in cash. I took the Queensboro in (no toll) and was quite sure that the Midtown Tunnel took toll only on the way into the city.

[That last $10 was given at the door to the folks at the Storm Theater. It cost $20. "Just pay us later!" they said, waving me in ... Oh and I thought I had another twenty, but I'd spotted that to R last night.]


As I emerge from the tunnel there's a toll plaza right ahead. EZ Pass only lanes, Cash only lanes. Crap! So I pull up to the far right cash window. "Ma'am, sorry. I have no cash on me. Y'all don't take credit cards do you?" She rolled her eyes. "None at all?" "Nope." She sighs. A deep long-suffering how-could-you-be-so-idiotic sigh. "I need to see your driver's license and registration," and then gets on the horn with someone. I squirm. There's now a line of cars behind me, all full to the brim with that legendary New York patience, no doubt. Presently a cop appears. "You have no cash, sir?" He takes my license and R's registration (thank goodness it was where it's supposed to be!) "Ok ... see that traffic island ahead? Pull up there out of the way of traffic on the white zebra stripes." He glances at the photo on my license and at me. They really don't look very similar, especially now that I have the beard. "Go ahead."

So I pull over. He's running R's tags and my license, I suppose. A few minutes later he lumbers over. "And whose car is this?" ... "My cousin's." "And what's their name?" I tell him. "Ok sir, here's what you will do ..." He hands me an envelope. "You put $6.50 in this envelope and mail it in and you and the State of New York are square again." "Yes sir!" ... "No cash, eh?" I explain that I gave my last ten dollar bill at the theater and I really thought the Midtown Tunnel was tol only one way. "Ah, you're thinking of the Lincoln Tunnel. Well, go on. Don't make a habit of it."


And no, no habitual absent-mindedness leading to lack of cash henceforth.

Oh yeah. Here's the kicker. R reminded me that there was an envelope stuffed with cash in the glove compartment. A friend had borrowed her car, gotten a parking ticket, and had given her the cash to pay it off. Of course, I didn't remember this!


[It's nice too that the State of New York gives a prepaid Business Reply Mail envelope to send in the deferred toll payment. Very nice of them.]

nope i got in!

now to enjoy the show...


... at the theater right now ... they're sold out. Darn! Why did I
not make reservations earlier... am on the waiting list.

Father's Day

Funny. Growing up Mother's Day and Father's Day just didn't exist in India. They started to come in vogue around the time I came to the US, and judging by the email I get from the various desi online shopping sites I've used, they've caught on. Since we never did anything growing up, we never really marked these days in the family.

And now it's the first Father's day since Papa died. I'm in the City visiting R. Her dad and my dad were best friends for over half a century (which is why she's effectively my big sister. And well, she is my rakhi sister too. Though it's been ages since we were ever in the same place for Rakshabandhan). Her father died just about two years ago.

So, in honor of our dads we're going to Carnegie Hall in the evening to a performance by the Emerson String Quartet. Our fathers would have loved it.

I miss you Papa!

Prayers ...

... for a wonderful and special priest.

Let yourself be moulded by love: Our God's Brother

Well, as I indicated in the post below, my general reaction to the play was "wow." The little theater (next to the Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin) was packed (they had an extra row of fold-out chairs to accomodate everyone) and I spotted several young religious (the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal were immediately recongizable) and religieuse in the crowd. I knew nothing at all about the background of the play, or even the outline of the story (I'd decided not to read too much before hand so I could go in with fewer preconceptions). It is very clearly Wojtyla's writing though -- dense, verbose, abstract, serious: for instance, the play opens to a scene with two artists debating the nature of art and the responsibility of the artist to himself and to truth. The dialogue doesn't descend from that intellectual level. I concentrated hard on every word.

You can get a synopsis in the links below ... what really struck me were the powerful, soul-wrenching soliloquies where the main protagonist, Adam (I thought his name also reflected his status as everyman, as representing all men and women. And the painting that he is struggling to create is an Ecce Homo, which, thanks to some brilliant stage direction, is slowly illuminated in the background in the middle of the play. As it turns out, there is a historical reference to the name as well -- see below), wrestles with his calling with the devil tempting him (the reviewer listed below seemed to think that this was the voice of God! Nope!) to ignore the reality of the suffering of the poor and to focus only on intelligence and knowledge. "Love kills knowledge!" At many levels, apart from the struggle to discern one's call and the voice of God (yup yup, that's what I'm doing right now as well, right?), there was clearly a debate between Marxism -- crying out for revolution and the channeling of the righteous anger of suffering workers and the poor -- and Christianity. In one powerful scene, Adam is pouring out his heart to a priest in confession. I wish I could remember the exact dialogue (I'll have to get a copy of the play itself!), but the priest presents a beautiful image of the Christian path as self-emptying reliance on grace, and then adds, "Let yourself be moulded by love." In the final scene, as the chaos of revolution advances from the town towards the poor house and the small religious community, Adam seems to be sympathetic to the anger exploding all around, but adds, "I have chosen the path of greater freedom."

I went not knowing at all what to expect and got a fantastic -- visceral even -- performance by a talented cast, which supported the weighty text most brilliantly.

Having Googled around a bit, I learn that the play was Pope John Paul's dedication to the life of St. Albert Chmielowski (Adam Hilary Bernard Chmielowski), a 19th century Polish freedom fighter and artist who founded a religious order dedicated to serving the poor and homeless, the Albertines. Pope John Paul canonized St. Albert in 1989. The play has also been made into a movie.

Now I really want to go see the other play on offer -- The Jeweller's Shop. It seems to be an even more challenging text, and the ideas eventually ended up in Bishop Wojtyla's "Love and Responsibility" and later on in his Theology of the Body. I think I'll be back in Midtown at 2:00 pm tomorrow. review of both plays
. More stories and links at the Storm Theatre website. I learned about these performances through this informative piece John Allen did on the festival and the artistic director, Peter Dobbins, in May.

[I should add that I was very pleased to see a Paulist thanked in the acknowledgments in the program (which I forgot in the theater!) -- Fr. Dave Dwyer CSP of Busted Halo fame. Supporting this kind of initiative, it would seem to me, is very much in line with the Society's mission.]

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Karol Wojtyla theatre festival

Just got out of a performance of "Our God's Brother" at the Storm
Theater (yes I'm in the City this weekend). Wasn't sure what to
expect... wow. This was fantastic and powerful ... more when I'm at a
real computer.

The Holy Father and St. Francis

As Pope Benedict gets ready to go to Assisi tomorrow (details and coverage at Open Book), I thought I'd share this little excerpt from his book "Jesus of Nazareth" where he describes St. Francis as one who embodies the Beatitudes.
It may be a good idea -- before we continue our meditation on the text -- to turn for a moment to the figure whom the history of faith offers us athe most intensely lived illustration of this Beatitude ["blessed are the poor in spirit"]: Francis of Assisi. The saints are the true interpreters of Holy Scripture. The meaning of a given passage of the Bible becomes most intelligible in those human beings who have been totally transfixed by it and have lived it out. Interpretation of Scripture can never be a purely academic affair, and it cannot be relegated to the purely historical. Scripture is full of potential for the future, a potential that can only be opened up when someone "lives through" and "suffers through" the sacred text. Francis of Assisi was gripped in an utterly radical way by the promise of the first Beatitude, to the point that he even gave away his garments and let himself be clothed anew by the bishop, the representative of God's fatherly goodness, through which the lilies of the field were clad in robes finer than Solomon's (cf. Mt. 6:28-29). For Francis, this extreme humility was above all freedom for service, freedom for mission, ultimate trust in God, who cares not only for the flowers of the field but specifically for his human children. It was a corrective to the Church of his day, which, through the feudal system, had lost the freedom and dynamism of missionary outreach. It was the deepest possible openness to Christ, to whom Francis was perfectly configured by the wounds of the stigmata, so perfectly that from then on he truly no longer lived as himself, but as one reborn, totally from and in Christ. For he did not want to found a religious order: He simply wanted to gather the People of God to listen anew to the word -- without evading the seriousness of God's call by means of learned commentaries.

By creating the Third Order, though, Francis did accept the distinction between radical commitment and the necessity of living in the world. The point of the Third Order is to accept with humility the task of one's secular profession and its reuirements, wherever one happens to be, while directing one's whole life to that deep interior communion with Christ that Francis showed us. "To own goods as if you owned nothing" (cf. 1 Cor 7:20ff.) -- to master this inner tension, which is perhaps the more difficult challenge, and sustained by those pledged to follow Christ radically, truly to live it out ever anew -- that is what the third orders are for. And they open up for us what this Beatitude can mean for all. It is above all by looking at Francis of Assisi that we see clearly what the words "Kingdom of God" mean. Francis stood totally within the Church, and at the same time it is in figures such as he that the Church grows toward the goal that lies in the future, and yet is already present: The Kingdom of God is drawing near ...

Mobster hid secret life as philosopher

From the Guardian.
Anyone who finds The Sopranos far-fetched, who thinks it impossible that gangsters could lead normal private lives while murdering and extorting, might care to reflect on the latest finding by anti-Mafia investigators in Palermo.

Shortly after 9am on Wednesday police discovered the lifeless body of Nicola Ingarao. The reputed leader of the Porta Nuova clan of Sicily's Cosa Nostra had been shot repeatedly in the chest.

Detectives found to their astonishment that Ingarao had been taking a university philosophy exam the day before he was murdered. He had sat at a desk in a room with dozens of other students as they grappled with the issues raised by the Italian idealist school. Pietro Di Giovanni, a professor at Palermo University, said Ingarao would have got an excellent result.
Weird, eh.

The Cross and the Star

[Bishop Jin Luxian. Image from the Atlantic website.]

So I finally got around to reading the article by Adam Minter in the latest Atlantic Monthly on Catholicism in China, which I'd mentioned last week on here. (Jen Ambrose, who lives in the PRC, left a comment indicating she liked what she'd read. Two posts at her blog on the Atlantic piece, including a link to the blog of the author of the piece, where he says he'll be posting left-over bits from his research. I think the full text is available to subscribers only. I have a pdf if anyone is interested, just email me for a copy. The web-only interview with the author is, I think, available to all. It is also a must-read and deveops some strands that couldn't be explored in the main article.) Minter profiles Bishop Jin Luxian of Shanghai a member of the Society of Jesus, ordained a bishop in the "official" Church, who has helped shape Catholicism in the People's Republic over the course of the last half-century.

It's a well-written piece, fair (the only factual inaccuracies that I noticed with respect to Catholicism were minor, such as saying that Pope John Paul had written many "encyclicals" addressing the situation in China, when the more accurate word would have been "documents") and presents a fascinating tale that really clarifies the complexities and tragedies of the ground reality of the Church in modern China, while giving a brief historical overview of the arrival of Catholicism in China, the situation in the early 20th century, the changes since the events of 1949 and then the Cultural Revolution. Here are a few snippets.
On a June day in 1982, Father Aloysius Jin Luxian, a 66-year-old Jesuit just released from prison, walked into Shanghai’s St. Ignatius Cathedral for the first time in 27 years. In his youth, the building had been one of the great churches in East Asia, celebrated for its delicate Gothic arches and colorful stained glass. Now the color was gone, replaced by clear glass and harsh sunlight that bleached the cracked columns and tiled floor. The steeples, once among the tallest in Shanghai, were missing, as was the altar beneath which he’d been ordained, in 1945. Jin had spent nearly three decades under house arrest, in reeducation camps, and in prison, so he had few illusions about the Chinese Communist Party’s attitude toward religion. But the damage to the church was still hard to bear. St. Ignatius, he learned, had been converted to a grain warehouse during the Cultural Revolution, and the authorities had spent three days burning most of the diocese’s Catholic books in front of the church.

Now services were being held again. But open prayers for the pope were strictly prohibited, and scant mention of the holy father could be found in any of the crudely printed books used in the cathedral. Mass was still in Latin, unintelligible to most Chinese. The current bishop had been ordained without approval from Rome, by a Communist government determined to erase the memory of Shanghai’s still-incarcerated bishop, Ignatius Kung (Gong) Pin-mei. Everything was under the direct control of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the 25-year-old government agency that oversaw Chinese Catholic life.

Yet on Saturday nights, the church was packed, its pews filled with 2,500 or more parishioners. Morning Mass wasn’t quite as crowded, but it happened, and regularly. Elsewhere in Shanghai, four more Catholic churches were holding services, and they, too, were packed on Saturday nights. All these parishioners were attended to by 60 elderly priests, who’d submitted to living together in a single house, under strict CPA supervision, because they were determined to live openly as Catholic priests.
Though largely unknown outside of China, Jin is arguably the most influential and controversial figure in Chinese Catholicism of the last 50 years. He played a leading role in persuading the authorities to allow a prayer for the pope to be said during Masses in China’s registered, or “open,” churches and in developing a Chinese-language liturgy, and he was single-handedly responsible for training more than 400 priests—including several who became Vatican-recognized bishops—in Shanghai’s seminary. He’s also been an unabashed supporter of dialogue and compromise with the Communist government. He accepted ordination as a bishop without Vatican approval and has taken a leading role in China’s open churches, all of which still have to register with the Religious Affairs Bureau and are overseen by bishops appointed by the CPA in consultation with local congregations.

Defying canon law, as Jin has done on several occasions, is no small matter for a Catholic bishop. But Rome has tolerated his disobedience, largely because of what he’s accomplished in Shanghai. From his modern office, Jin looks out over a diocese that includes 141 registered churches, 74 priests (most under the age of 40), 86 nuns, 83 seminarians, and 150,000 laypeople. In Shanghai, at least, there’s been a significant rapprochement between the underground Church and the open one, particularly on the leadership level: Jin is the most prominent Chinese open-Church bishop who recognizes, albeit quietly, the authority of the pope.
There's this interesting paragraph about the contents of the upcoming letter to Chinese Catholics from Pope Benedict (I'd heard itw as to be released around Easter but that hasn't happened ... )
Leaked reports and the impressions of a source close to the drafting of the letter suggest that it will call, as John Paul II did, for reconciliation between the open and underground churches, and focus largely on pastoral concerns. Ultimately, it’s expected to portray China’s Catholics as largely united after a half century and to acknowledge that any diplomatic solution will need to accommodate both the vitality of the open Church and the struggles of the underground one.
And here's something those who are clamoring for the Tridentine Mass might (or might not) want to read :)
Soon after their arrival, the priests began preparing the seminarians to say Mass in the vernacular, and on September 30, 1989, the first Chinese-language Mass was celebrated in Shanghai. Father Joseph Zen, a Shanghai native and now the cardinal archbishop of Hong Kong, was the celebrant. The risk was significant: China’s religious authorities reserved the right to approve changes to the liturgy, and they’d long preferred Latin, largely because it couldn’t be understood by most Chinese.
Bishop Jin, it seems, has been responsible for the translation of the liturgy into Chinese. There's also the cooperation with Protestants ...
Initially at least, there was little to suggest that the seminary was Catholic. Without Vatican support, Jin had to look elsewhere for books and Bibles. “I had to go to Protestants,” he says. That set a precedent, and though he says he tries to obtain support and funding from Roman Catholic organizations whenever possible, since the early 1980s the Shanghai diocese has received significant funding for religious publishing and book purchases from non-Catholic Christian organizations sympathetic to his desire “to proclaim the word of God.”
Overall there emerges this portrait of a deeply prayerful and courageous man, deeply concerned about the survival of the Church and the welfare of his flock, a concern that lead him to work with the totalitarian regime, rather than follow the path of confrontation and criticism taken by Cardinal Kung and, to a lesser extent, by Cardinal Zen of Hong Kong (both of whom are somewhat unfavorably contrasted with Jin in the article). It was a path that also brought him under a cloud of suspicion in Rome, one that has only recently been lifted.

A must-read piece. And here's a snippet from the interview.
Speaking of international Catholics in Shanghai: How different is it to practice religion in China than elsewhere? What’s different, for example, about a Catholic Mass in Shanghai?

Nothing. That’s what’s so interesting about it. They have the same Mass American Catholics do; the same sacraments. And that is precisely what Jin wanted to establish. It’s perhaps his most important legacy. He feels it’s a real accomplishment to have set things up in Shanghai and elsewhere in China such that the Catholic sacraments are available to whoever wants them. You can go to Mass on Saturday night; you can go to Mass on Sunday morning. And those Masses are not going to be any different from Masses in the United States or in Europe—except that they’ll be in Chinese, of course. That’s not to say that there’s no local character to the Masses here. But at the end of the day, a Mass is a Mass. That comes as a tremendous surprise to expats here. Even in Shanghai, they’re shocked.

Why do you think that is?

I’ve given that some thought. One of the reasons, I think, is that non-Chinese—particularly Europeans and Americans—have ascribed a very different narrative to what’s happened here since 1949. The West still views China as existing in the same state of things as it did in 1949. They think, China in 1949 vs. 1970? It’s all just a Communist (capital “C”) state. But that’s not really accurate anymore; China’s a very different place today.

A second reason really has to do with simplicity. Most people in the U.S. don’t have much interest in Chinese Catholics, and so a very simple story about an underground loyal to Rome, and a “Patriotic Church” loyal to the Communist Party, suffices. Of course, the actual story—the more complicated one—can’t be explained in a single sentence, or even a single paragraph. So it goes missing.

Sacred Heart

[Well, the feast was yesterday, technically. But I've not had the opportunity to blog until now ... ] Do go check out this post that Fr. Longenecker put up on Valentine's day. Here's St. Bonaventure from today's Office of Readings.
Take thought now, redeemed man, and consider how great and worthy is he who hangs on the cross for you. His death brings the dead to life, but at his passing heaven and earth are plunged into mourning and hard rocks are split asunder.
It was a divine decree that permitted one of the soldiers to open his sacred side with a lance. This was done so that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death on the cross, and so that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced’. The blood and water which poured out at that moment were the price of our salvation. Flowing from the secret abyss of our Lord’s heart as from a fountain, this stream gave the sacraments of the Church the power to confer the life of grace, while for those already living in Christ it became a spring of living water welling up to life everlasting.
Arise, then, beloved of Christ! Imitate the dove ‘that nests in a hole in the cliff’, keeping watch at the entrance ‘like the sparrow that finds a home’. There like the turtledove hide your little ones, the fruit of your chaste love. Press your lips to the fountain, ‘draw water from the wells of your Saviour; for this is the spring flowing out of the middle of paradise, dividing into four rivers’, inundating devout hearts, watering the whole earth and making it fertile.
Run with eager desire to this source of life and light, all you who are vowed to God’s service. Come, whoever you may be, and cry out to him with all the strength of your heart. “O indescribable beauty of the most high God and purest radiance of eternal light! Life that gives all life, light that is the source of every other light, preserving in everlasting splendour the myriad flames that have shone before the throne of your divinity from the dawn of time! Eternal and inaccessible fountain, clear and sweet stream flowing from a hidden spring, unseen by mortal eye! None can fathom your depths nor survey your boundaries, none can measure your breadth, nothing can sully your purity. From you flows ‘the river which gladdens the city of God’ and makes us cry out with joy and thanksgiving in hymns of praise to you, for we know by our own experience that ‘with you is the source of life, and in your light we see light’.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Admissions to Catholic schools in India

They're among the best schools in the country and most tend to cater to the English-speaking elite. The majority of students tends to be non-Christian (yours truly was, going through Catholic institutions from 5th grade on ...). But, of course, anything Christian these days in India is an acceptable target of attack.
Extremist Hindu students from the Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena (Bvs) group, marched in protest on June 11 and 12 against the high cost of school fees and materials in three catholic schools in Mumbai, Sacred Heart in Worli, Our Lady of Salvation School and Antonio D’Silva in Dadar. The protesters were stopped by police at the entrance to a school.

After having met a representative from the school Bvs secretary, Dinesh Bobhate, said “the school principal has promised to examine the issue”. “We have given him one day – added Bobhate – se la if the school does not implement new measures we will take the necessary steps”.

Archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Archdiocesan Board of Education (Abe), Oswald Gracias, expressed his concern to AsiaNews “These protests were unreasonable. Priest and Nuns from Mumbai and other areas of the country have always served the sick and poor with love and have long taken care of educating the young”. “There are 150 Christian schools in the Archdiocese of Mumbai – added Gracias – run by Abe. Ironically all of the schools targeted by Bvs Christian students are a minority. Most of the pupils in fact are from other religions, which benefit from the Catholic Churches education, and this is very sad. I therefore ask that the authorities intervene so that events such as these do not happen again”.

Dolphy D'Souza, president of Bombay Catholic Sabha (Bcs), has also condemned these protests asking the Prime Minister RR Patil to guarantee security. In a statement released yesterday Dolphy said “Bvs protested because students of their choice weren’t admitted to the schools. Pressure for admissions is becoming a racket”.
[That should be the Chief Minister (of the State of Maharashtra), not Prime Minister.] And prestigious St. Stephen's in Delhi is now going to reserve 10% of its seats for Dalit Christians.
Staying with the theme of schools, the prestigious St Stephen's College has created outrage in India this week. The institute has agreed to admit Dalhit Christians. 10% of the total 400 place will be reserved for worthy students thus increasing the total percentage of Christians attending the school to 40%.

The initiative drew mixed reactions from students. Those from minorities are enthusiastic; those not belonging to any particular category complain that it only further reduces the number of available places.

President of All India Christian Council, Joseph D'souza and John Dayal, declared themselves in favour of St Stephen's College’s decision and have also welcomed the educational policy of the Indian Bishops Conference, reaffirming the Churches commitment to educate the marginalized.

This decision coincides with recent recommendations by the national justice commission Rangnath Misra for the religious and linguistic minorities which says that Dahlit Christians and Muslims must enjoy the same rights and privileges as Dahlits, Hindu’s, Sikhs and Buddhists.
[Via Asianews.]

Selling yourself ... or parts of yourself ... to escape poverty

Except, it doesn't really work. A horrific story from Der Spiegel International
The note is attached to a tree trunk across from the Central Hospital in Chennai (formerly Madras), a major city in southern India. Written in scrawly handwriting, the note advertizes its author's "top notch kidney" for 30,000 rupees, the equivalent of €500 ($664). Asked about his offer, the vendor -- a 30-year-old Tamil -- says "no middleman" is involved in the deal. He adds that he urgently needs the money to "pay back debts."

This offer is no isolated case in Chennai. On the contrary: The metropolis of around 7 million people has the questionable reputation of being the main trafficking hub for the organ trade in India. And the items for sale are mainly kidneys. After all, every human being has two of those and can get by with just one if needs be.

Sometimes the trade takes on a bizarre character. Villivakkam, a slum in the north of Chennai, is known as "Kidneyvakkam" or "Kidneytown" among the locals. Surveys conducted for the health ministry show almost every family includes someone who has sold their kidney. The situation is similar in the neighboring refugee camp of Tsunami Nagar, which was set up for the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Here, the kidneys of patients in good health can be bought "for between 20,000 and 40,000 rupees," one former middleman reveals.

"The kidney donors are often poor young women," reports George Kurian from the Christian Medical College Hospital in Vellore. "The buyers, on the other hand, are usually older and well-off men." According to press reports, about 100,000 Indians require a kidney transplant every year. In addition, some two million suffer from serious kidney problems. The demand is huge -- and the kidneys tend to go to those with the most money.

Miracle for the canonization of Bl. Junipero Serra under investigation

From the Rocky Mountain News:
The question of whether a Denver girl was cured by a miracle courtesy of an 18th-century missionary priest is now in the hands of the Vatican.

The Denver Archdiocese has wrapped up its part of an investigation into whether Father Junipero Serra intervened to save Kayla Rebecca Kellog from severe birth defects before she was born.

A local church team spent seven months collecting documents, including independent medical data, which is now at the Holy See for further evaluation.

It's all part of an investigation into whether the California priest is worthy of sainthood.


So it was 1:15 am by the time we got to Charlotte (flights in the Northeast were affected by a couple of thunderstorm systems) and after 3 before we got back to Columbia. Then today, the car died ... I think it's the alternator (and hope it's nothing more complicated!) so I had it towed to my favorite garage downtown and Matt B will get me up to Charlotte again tomorrow after class to get me to my flight up to the City to visit R for the weekend. In the meanwhile, I'm driving a little Dodge Neon from Enterprise (didn't know they had a rental location smack in the heart of downtown!). I almost got rented a PT Cruiser, which would have been hysterical (that's what we had in Puerto Rico.)

Back down South on Monday. I think I'll take a respite from my travels then.

For a bit. :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

St. Anthony of Padua

... in Pune. Last year I put up an old travelogue of a visit to the good saint's shrine in Pune India in 2003. Today is the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua .. so here's a link to that story: St. Anthony help me find a good husband!

More links at Open Book.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Dinner: Indian

I don't like blogging while being eaten alive by mosquitos. The wi-fi spot in the hotel is on the ground floor in the lobby/patio area. It doesn't reach up to the rooms. So I'm down here. As are a gazillion of the little nasties getting their dose of Indian. Ugh.

Besides, it's really hot (no air down here).

And, the hard-drive where I'd downloaded all the photos -- one of those little external thingies, very handy and convenient, until it falls off it's usb port onto the floor with the thud 'cause you were trying to adjust the laptop which just overheated and shut down -- doesn't work anymore. All the Puerto Rico photos are still on the camera (phew). But ... ALL my Australia pics are now inaccessible! And I did not back them up anywhere! I'm hoping those Geek Squad folks at Best Buy can rescue something ... [Yes yes, I've given myself the "back everything up" lecture often enough.]. And I don't feel like downloading, editing, resizing, etc. the lot, again, right now while also being a dinner entree...

So here's a brief recap of the day:

-- leave hotel at 645 am to get to Fajardo to catch the ferry to the island of Culebra. We're in line at the ferry dock at 8:00 am for the 9:00 am ferry, only to find out that locals get priority and there's no guarantee that a) we'll get tickets on the way out to Culebra or b) that we'll get any on the later one back to the mainland in the evening. If we weren't leaving tomorrow, I'd have risked it (hey, nothing like getting stranded at a beach somewhere!) ... so instead, we drove to the south eastern tip of the island, near Manuabo and after driving around (they really don't believe in road signs here), stumbpled upon a completely secluded, gorgeous beach. Not a soul in sight. Absolutely wonderful. The sun out and everything. So yes, now I'm even browner and J and Z are quite pink. Z's back is really bad. That's 'cause yours truly ended up spraying sunscreen on him ... rather unevenly, as it turned out. Hey, I don't have much experience in the sunscreen area -- nature has given us some more natural protection you know ...

-- got back in to San Juan by 2:00, had a quick sandwich, shower and headed to the Bacardí distillery on the other side of the city, in the suburb of Contaño (bad signage here too. There's a whole post coming up when I'm back about Puerto Rican driving etiquette ...). Lots of tourists from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that's in town. The tour itself was ... ehh ... one doesn't actually get to see any part of the distillery itself. Cheesy and a bit too self-aggrandizing as far as the Bacardí family goes. Free rum? Oh yeah. And, of course, the gift shop ...

-- dinner in Old San Juan. We walked out of the Hard Rock Cafe because of poor service (another post about restaurant/service experience later ...) but found a neat Puerto Rican place, friendly service and excellent food, a little further up. Wandered around Old San Juan after that, and had the most interesting discussion with a fun bartender, oh let's call him Emilio, at a place off the Plaza del Colón ... (more on that later. Yeah yeah. Hint: at one point he said, "I hope y'all aren't die-hard Christians or anything, but ... ")

Flight leaves the island Tuesday at 1:55 pm -- up to Newark and then down to Charlotte. No points for guessing the airline.

It's been fun!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, San Juan

[It's a beautiful Spanish colonial building. Photos up soon!]

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.

I think. The bulletin listed readings for the 10th Sunday of ordinary time. "Oh no! We miss Corpus Christi! They celebrated it on Thursday!" But the readings themselves were ... for a Marian Feast? Acts of the Apostles, Revelation and the Wedding at Cana from St. John. No mention was made of the misprint at all ... or, as far as I could tell (the sound system, like those in most old churches, sucked and every word echoed incomprehensibly) at any time during Mass. The celebrant (accompanied by two permanent deacons with deacon's stoles, but in almbs, not dalmatics) wore a gold chasuble though ... [After Mass I wanted to ask the priest about the readings, but there was a longish line waiting to talk with him.]

The music? As the guy with the electric keyboard started the faux drums and maraccas a few minutes before 11, we all flinched involutarily. "J, get ready for this! This is exactly what it sounds like in India!" Dhin-chak music galore. The electric-keyboard-guy took nearly a quarter of an hour to adjust the auditory bells and whistles to the optimum level. Mass started 15 minutes late, with a procession including a statue of El Niño Jesus (The Infant Jesus. However, this one didn't look like the one from Prague ... ), in a bed of carnations, followed by several children carrying carnations. The entrance hymn was to the Infant Jesus, and the bulletin listed the second sunday of the month as "Misa Divino del Niño Jesus." Mass started with a few prayers from a novena to the Infant Jesus.

The homily was quite decent -- a rousing, energetic sermon on the mission of all the baptized, very evangelical, and Christocentric. It had nothing to do with the readings. And the good Monsignor could certainly carry on! (At the end of Mass, after the announcements, he called all the children up to the altar for a special blessing, and delivered another mini homily.)

The congregation -- a few tourists, mainly middle aged and some young families -- seemed to get into the music -- it's the kind of stuff I'd associate with the charismatic renewal, and it certainly had a good beat and rhythm to it. However, as J put it, "I wasn' sure if I was to samba down the isle to receive Holy Communion." I know this is hugely popular all over the world. Not to my taste at all. And both Z and J were quite turned off - not knowing a lick of Spanish didn't help, and I could tell that Mass was getting to be more of an endurance test in the heat and humidity. It just didn't feel reverent. At all.

I must say it was the least prayerfull Mass I can ever recall being at -- in the sense, I couldn't focus on worship or prayer at all as those irritating critical tapes kept playing in my head. Which goes to show just how long a way I have to go.

Old San Juan at night

Old San Juan, the historic center of the city feels just like so many other Spanish/Portuguese colonial capitals. I was reminded of Goa (well, it's spotless clean, so I guess not), Macau and even Alghero (on the west coast of Sardinia). There was an international culinary festival on in town this music with outdoor cafes and live music ... lots of fun wandering around town after dark! (Still terribly hot and humid though ... )

Mojitos rule!

El Yunque National Forest

Some photos from the trip up into the rainforest. And yes. It rained. Hard. I wish I could have gotten my camera out when Z was standing under a dripping palm frond looking morose and glum. It was hilarious! [The waterfall is called "La Mina" ... a short hike off the main road in the forest. And quite a popular spot!]

Saturday, June 09, 2007

On the discernment of spirits ...

[From Friday's Office of Readings] By Bishop Baldwin of Canterbury.
The Lord knows the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Without a doubt, every one of them is known to him, while we know only those which he lets us read by the grace of discernment. The spirit of man does not know all that is in man, nor all of the thoughts which he has, willingly or unwillingly. Man does not always perceive his thoughts as they really are. Having clouded vision, he does not discern them clearly with his mind’s eye.
Often under the guise of devotion a suggestion occurs to our mind – coming from our own thoughts or from another person or from the tempter – and in God’s eyes we do not deserve any reward for our virtue. For there are certain imitations of true virtues as also of vices which play tricks with the heart and bedazzle the mind’s vision. As a result, the appearance of goodness often seems to be in something which is evil, and equally the appearance of evil seems to be in something good. This is part of our wretchedness and ignorance, causing us anguish and anxiety.
It has been written: There are paths which seem to man to be right, but which in the end lead him to hell. To avoid this peril, Saint John gives us these words of advice: Test the spirits to see if they are from God. Now no one can test the spirits to see if they are from God unless God has given him discernment of spirits to enable him to investigate spiritual thoughts, inclinations and intentions with honest and true judgement. Discernment is the mother of all the virtues; everyone needs it either to guide the lives of others or to direct and reform his own life.
In the sphere of action, a right thought is one ruled by the will of God, and intentions are holy when directed single-mindedly toward him. In a word, we could see clearly through any action of ours, or into our entire lives, if we had a simple eye. A simple eye is an eye, and it is simple. This means that we see by right thinking what is to be done, and by our good intention we carry it out with simple honesty, because deceitful action is wrong. Right thinking does not permit mistakes; a good intention rules out pretence. This then is true discernment, a combination of right thinking and good intention.
Therefore, we must do all our actions in the light of discernment as if in God and in his presence.

¡Puerto Rico!

¡Estámos aquí!

Took nearly an hour to get through security in Atlanta, and it was after 4 pm before the full MD88 took off. A nice flight down to San Juan -- we flew over the Kennedy Space Center, where the Shuttle was to take off from later -- and among the nicest flight attendants ever.

The hotel we're staying at in Condado is awesome. It's in a rather modish stretch that feels a bit like southern Florida with colonial Spanish architecture and art deco dominating. A leisurely dinner at a nearby restaurant (tried out mofongo for the first time) and then to the Marriott further up Condado (a happening part of town apparently) for mojitos and a live salsa band.

Now to bed! Photos will be coming up anon!

[Blogger loads in Spanish. ¡Me encanta!]

[I'm digging the Pope's book. Totally!]

Friday, June 08, 2007

Downtown Atlanta

A long layover in the blackhole of the southeast (Hartsfield Atlanta) ... so we took the Marta to Five Points and sat ina park opposite the Capitol waitig for daily Mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Deseted depressing downtown. A homeless lady snored a few benches away ... Mass was awesome. Now gettig ready to board the flight down to PR!!!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Another use for that snazzy ringtone ...

... you can use it to lure leopards. Via City Yogin..

[Counting down the days to her trip to India! Cannot wait to follow that journey! Ah ... but mojitos on the beach first ... :)]

May lightning strike me if ...

A hilarious clip of Rudy Giuliani fielding a question on Catholicism and abortion and the mike dying ... apparently hit by lightning.

No kidding.

Go see it at St. Liz's blog.


Another trip ...

Am driving up to Charlotte in a few with some friends and early in the morning we fly down to San Juan, Puerto Rico for a few days in the tropics. Back on Tuesday. Cue ... "If you like piña coladas ... "

The faith in China: latest Atlantic Monthly

The July/August issue of the Atlantic Monthly has several stories on China, including one analysing the state of Christianity in the Middle Kingdom. Keeping Faith, focusing on Bishop Jin Luxiang, is available only to subscribers, however, an interview with the author Adam Minter is available online, as well as a retrospective of past coverage on the topic at the Atlantic. Worth checking out!

Pakistan's blasphemy laws ...

Also at CT, two new cases of the blasphemy law being used against Christians in Pakistan.
On September 9, 2005, a neighbor of Masih's demanded that Christians gathering in their town observe Muslim and not Christian rituals, precipitating an argument between him and Masih, according to Masih's lawyer. The resident accused Masih of blasphemy two days later, and a lower-ranking officer investigated and arrested him.

Masih's lawyer based his defense on the requirements of the law itself. In 2004, after increasing pleas for the amendment of blasphemy laws, Pakistan's national assembly made an effort to appease rights groups by permitting only senior police officers to investigate blasphemy cases, a measure which had not been implemented in Masih's case.

Masih was not at the trial. He remained at Kol Lakhpat jail and appeared in the courtroom on video—the first video blasphemy trial in Pakistan. Masih's lawyer plans to appeal the death sentence, he told, a Catholic news service.
The new Pakistani ambassador to the Holy See just presented her credentials to the Holy Father, when he reminded the Pakistani government about the importance of democracy, but (at least according to the AP report), didn't directly address the issue of religious freedom.

They Really Saw Him | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Richard Baukham argues that the Gospels rely a lot more on eyewitness testimony than modern critical scholarship acknowledges. They Really Saw Him | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction
Has your study of eyewitnesses and tradition affected your confidence in the historical accuracy of the New Testament? Are critical scholars too quick to dismiss the "reporting" in Gospel accounts?

Yes, it certainly has! Most Gospel scholars, including some conservative ones, have been locked into a picture of how Gospel traditions reached Gospel writers that we owe to form critics at the beginning of the last century. I think the form critics were wrong in almost every respect, and we need a new model. I propose one in which the Gospels were much closer to the eyewitnesses and the way the eyewitnesses told their stories than has been envisaged by the dominant scholarly tradition. My proposals need to be debated, and some of my arguments may be proven wrong. We shall see. But that we need a new model is certain.
I'm just starting to read the Pope's new book ... this might be a good follow up ... :)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Stem-Cell Breakthroughs May Ease Ethical Quandaries

(Showed up in my inbox via Dogwood

from The Wall Street Journal

June 6, 2007

Researchers have created embryonic stem cells without using eggs or destroying embryos, a move that may overcome key ethical quandaries of stem-cell research.

In experiments on mice, four independent teams of scientists pulled off a feat that is the biological equivalent of turning back time: They returned old, mature cells to their primordial, embryonic state. Further experiments showed that the derived cells had the same properties as true embryonic stem cells, such as the ability to turn into muscle, heart, nerve and other tissue types.

Man tries to jump into popemobile - Yahoo! News

Man tries to jump into popemobile - Yahoo! News [And of course there's more at Open Book, including selections from today's talk, and a link to an interview with a leader of the Swiss Guard who mentions the growing crowds that come out to hear the Pope.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Romans in India

[Hat tip to St. Izzy for sending this to my inbox] Archeologists dig out ancient port
Archaeologists in Kerala have discovered a 2000-year-old port settlement probably dating back to the first BC to third AD, in Pattanam about 50 km from the modern day port city of Kochi.

The Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) in its findings suggests that this could be the lost town of Muzires mentioned in early Roman manuscripts when ancient Rome had trade links with South India.

''Periplus mentions that the Roman ship came only up to the coast and they could not directly come up to Muzires. Then smaller boats brought goods from the ships to the site,'' said K Selvakumar, archaeologist.

''This is a Roman amphora piece, the bottom bit amphora was the jar that was meant for transporting wine, olive oil, fish sauce etc. We have found 160 pieces of amphora here,'' said P J Cherian, Director, KCHR.

Research on the site spreading across nearly 24 hectares has just begun and it might take another 10-15 years for the full extent of the settlement to be revealed. But there's evidence that the port settlement was highly developed.

''At the higher level, you find a township, a kind of urban culture evolving brick structures and a pottery that is not local,'' Cherian added.

A two thousand year old sea port, its culture and its people all shrouded in a mystery waiting to be unveiled by the slow and painstaking efforts of the archaeologists.

The Last Mass of Fr. Ragheed, Martyr

From Sandro Magister [Didn't read that this morning, but basically, it's the text of the Asia News story from below.]

Sunday, June 03, 2007


You scored as Roman Catholic, You are Roman Catholic. Church tradition and ecclesial authority are hugely important, and the most important part of worship for you is mass. As the Mother of God, Mary is important in your theology, and as the communion of saints includes the living and the dead, you can also ask the saints to intercede for you.

Roman Catholic


Neo orthodox


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Classical Liberal






Reformed Evangelical


Modern Liberal




What's your theological worldview?
created with
(Notice the third scoring ... hmm ... :)). [Via Don Jim.]