Friday, November 30, 2007

CNS Story on how to get tickets to see the Pope

Bottom line: it's gonna be really tough. Procedures aren't finalized yet.

First I'm hearing of a specific youth and seminarian rally in NYC. Time to start rallying to get permission to go!!!! :)

Spe Salvi facti sumus

In hope we were saved.

Benedict's second encyclical is out.

[Always with a shudder, one turns to look at how the media is presenting this story. Here's the Reunters tagline: New Papal encyclical blasts atheism, promises hope.

Reutners Africa has some quotes from the encyclical. It starts out with this one:
The atheism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is -- in its origins and aims -- a type of moralism: a protest against the injustices of the world and of world history. A world marked by so much injustice, innocent suffering, and cynicism of power cannot be the work of a good God. A God with responsibility for such a world would not be a just God, much less a good God. It is for the sake of morality that this God has to be contested. Since there is no God to create justice, it seems man himself is now called to establish justice. If in the face of this world's suffering, protest against God is understandable, the claim that humanity can and must do what no God actually does or is able to do is both presumptuous and intrinsically false.
Yeah, quite a "blast" that. IHT's headline, following AP, is a little better: Pope criticizes atheism, modern Christianity in encyclical on hope.]

Can't wait to read it!

St. Andrew

Andrew, like his brother, Simon Peter, was a fisherman. He became a disciple of the great St. John the Baptist. However, when John pointed to Jesus and said, "Behold the Lamb of God," Andrew understood that Jesus was greater. At once he left John to follow the Divine Master. Jesus knew that Andrew was walking behind him. Turning back, he asked, "What do you seek?" Andrew answered that he would like to know where Jesus dwelt. Our Lord replied, "Come and see." Andrew had been with Jesus only a little while when he realized that this was truly the Messiah. From then on, he decided to follow Jesus. He became the first disciple of Christ. Next Andrew brought his brother Simon (St. Peter) to Jesus. The Lord received him, too, as his disciple. He promised to make them fishers of men, and this time they left their nets for good. It is believed that after Our Lord ascended into heaven, St. Andrew preached the Gospel in Greece. He is said to have been put to death on a cross, to which he was tied, not nailed. He lived two days in that state of suffering. Andrew still found enough strength to preach to the people who gathered around their beloved apostle. Two countries have chosen St. Andrew as their patron-Russia and Scotland. "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." --St. John Chrysostom

St. Blogs posts on St. Andrew.

Pray today especially for unity between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Too funny!

[Actually, I love Pachelbell's canon ... :)]

[Via Aggie Catholic.]

Pope invites senior Muslims to Vatican meeting - Yahoo! News

Pope invites senior Muslims to Vatican meeting - Yahoo! News

See also Against the Grain's coverage.

On the revamp of L'Osservatore Romano

Sandro Magister gives us the details.
More interviews. More space given to women. Non-Catholic contributors. International news, and about the Churches and the religions. Major cultural topics. To prompt thought and discussion even outside of Catholic boundaries.
This part brings joy to the heart ...
But the true turning point will come with the internet, from which "L'Osservatore Romano" is practically absent today. When, in a few months, everything will be available immediately online, in multiple languages, this very special newspaper will make the leap of its life, from Rome to the world.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Insights from celebrating the Traditional Mass

America has a fascinating article (subscriber only. Full text available as a pdf here.) about a priest who offered the Traditional Mass (The Missal of 1962) in response to the request of some parishioners, when this was clearly against his own tastes and desires. What he discovered was surprising.
As I studied the Latin texts and intricate rituals I had never noticed as a boy, I discovered that the old rite's priestly spirituality and theology were exactly the opposite of what I had expected. Whereas I had looked for the "high priest/king of the parish" spirituality, I found instead a spirituality of "unworthy instrument for the sake of the people."

The old Missal's rubrical micromanagement made me feel like a mere machine, devoid of personality; but, I wondered, is that really so bad? I actually felt liberated from a persistent need to perform, to engage, to be forever a friendly celebrant. When I saw a photo of the old Latin Mass in our local newspaper, I suddenly recognized the rite's ingenious ability to shrink the priest. Shot from the choir loft, I was a mere speck of green, dwarfed by the high altar. The focal point was not the priest but the gathering of the people. And isn't that a valid image of the church, the people of God?

The act of praying the Roman Canon slowly and in low voice accented my own smallness and mere instrumentality more than anything else. Plodding through the first 50 or so words of the Canon, I felt intense loneliness. As I moved along, however, I also heard the absolute silence behind me, 450 people of all ages praying, all bound mysteriously to the words I uttered and to the ritual actions I haltingly and clumsily performed. Following the consecration, I fell into a paradoxical experience of intense solitude as I gazed at the Sacrament and an inexplicable feeling of solidarity with the multitude behind me.
I've only been to one TLM (at St. Alphonsus of Liguori in Baltimore several years ago), and though I was familiar with the responses, the liturgy felt strange (I knew all the responses. Well before I ever went to any Mass, I'd found these Tridentine missals in a corner of the library at St. Xavier's in Bombay and memorized all the responses). I felt strange just sitting there not participating, as if I were simply a spectator. However, I'm a huge fan of the Pope's motu proprio. I hope and pray that some cross pollination can take place that might help the way the Novus Ordo is celebrated.

Here is Fr. Z's excellent commentary/fisking of this article.

In the world of politics ...

Musharraf steps down as Army Chief.

There might be hope for the conference in Annapolis.

And an "intifada" of sorts has broken out, again, in France.

Save the planet, kill a baby!

California Catholic Daily - Save the planet, kill a baby! [Via American Papist.]

Here's the equation, as it appears to me:

There are too many humans on the planet
All these humans are producing way too much CO2
All this CO2 is killing the environment. It's causing (or is going to cause) apocalyptic scenes that will make the Book of Revelation seem like a nursery rhyme. Lots of people will die.
One way to help the planet is to reduce the number of humans being born.
Less humans = smaller carbon footprint = happiness all around

[Except for those that were killed instead of being born, perhaps?
And if humans are such a disease, why don't we just kill off a few million? Selective culling you know. Or heck, wait till those apocalyptic scenarios come by and let those millions die? Smaller carbon footprints will result from that, right? We can just hike up to the Rockies, and continue to buy indulgences, umm, carbon offsets.]

Yesterday, the Holy Father gave a talk where he highlighted the need to protect the environment, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

I somehow doubt that he'd advocate the family planning measures, including abortion, that the Sierra Club is now promoting.

"Human intelligence has many possibilities for stimulating a new, lasting development." That is absolutely true. And one can and should work towards finding ways to continue development -- economic growth primarily and integration into the global economy, the one time-tried mechanism that has actually brought hundreds of millions out of poverty in the past century -- in a manner that also doesn't destroy the environment.

[Some quotes from a leader in the Economist back in Nov. 2005 --
FREDERIC BASTIAT, who was that rarest of creatures, a French free-market economist, wrote to this newspaper in 1846 to express a noble and romantic hope: "May all the nations soon throw down the barriers which separate them." Those words were echoed 125 years later by the call of John Lennon, who was not an economist but a rather successful global capitalist, to "imagine there's no countries". As he said in his 1971 song, it isn't hard to do. But despite the spectacular rise in living standards that has occurred as barriers between nations have fallen, and despite the resulting escape from poverty by hundreds of millions of people in those places that have joined the world economy, it is still hard to convince publics and politicians of the merits of openness. Now, once again, a queue is forming to denounce openness—ie, globalisation. It is putting at risk the next big advance in trade liberalisation and the next big reduction in poverty in the developing countries. ...

Although the case for reducing poverty by sending more aid to the poorest countries has some merit, the experience of China, South Korea, Chile and India shows that the much better and more powerful way to deal with poverty is to use the solution that worked in the past in America, western Europe and Japan: open, trading economies, exploiting the full infrastructure of capitalism (including financial services—see our survey on microfinance) amid a rule of law provided by government. In other words, globalisation. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, anyone who is tired of that is tired of life.
I'm rambling now, but I am also reminded of a thought-provoking monograph written by Thomas Sowell called "The Quest for Cosmic Justice." His contention is that a "God's-eye-view" conception of justice is simply not available to us, and once we start thinking like utopians, the results for us, who do not see as God does, are disastrous.

How this relates to traditional Catholic social teaching, I'm not entirely sure, perhaps because I'm woefully uninformed about the content of that social teaching. That's an ongoing project -- how to reconcile what I've learned about the virtues of market economics, capitalism, free trade and globalization, with what the Church's social teaching actually posts (versus, what one hears being claimed on its behalf).]

Mongolia and Burma

John Allen has a fascinating piece about the "baby Church" in Mongolia, and what is drawing converts: the Church's social outreach, as well as the liturgy. The reformed liturgy in the vernacular, with active participation, which is different from their Buddhist religious experience, where "only the monks sing."
In the terms of Western Catholic debate, those results may well seem counter-intuitive. Over the last quarter-century, those forces concerned with Catholic identity have sometimes argued that the church has placed too much emphasis on social service, which can be delivered by humanitarian groups without any reference to the gospel, and on liturgical reform, which has made the Catholic Mass too much like worship services of other Christian denominations. According to this view, the priority should be to cover the distinctively Catholic elements of the church's life and spiritual mission.

What the Mongolian experience may suggest, however, is that what counts as "distinctively Catholic" is to some extent culturally relative. For Mongolians without much experience of what Vatican II called the "full, conscious and active participation" of laity in the liturgy, the reformed Catholic Mass in the vernacular language may in fact seem remarkably distinctive.

Even the fact of serving coffee, tea and cookies after Mass, Padilla said, is a departure from the normal Mongolian religious experience, and it's an important point of initial contact for many Mongolians who attend Catholic liturgies or events for the first time.
There's also a clear sense that everything that is done, is done as "part and parcel of evangelization." Not converting people by force, but certainly, it seems, proclaiming Christ.

It should, of course, be a no-brainer that what "works" in many ways is culturally dependent. Sherry W at the ID Blog has some helpful thoughts on Allen's piece, and also gives some information about the estimated number Christians in Mongolia: some 39,000, of which Catholics are some 500.

Meanwhile, Christianity Today has a brief piece about Burma's Christian ethnic minorities.

The Nashville Dominicans

CNA has a piece on this religious community that is growing. No, in an environment where most religious communities are shrinking, they aren't just growing, but exploding.
At a time when many religious communities are aging due to a lack of new vocations, the Nashville Dominicans are growing.

Though the average age for a religious sister in the United States is about 70, the Nashville Dominicans' median age is 35. The Nashville-based Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia number 226 members, and receive about ten to fifteen new vocations each year.

The sisters maintain a traditional dress, wearing floor-length white habits with a black veil and a rosary.

"They are icons of Catholicity in a diocese that wants Catholicity," said Sister Patricia Wittberg, a sociologist at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Their traditionalism may be part of their appeal.

"This generation is more conventional in their outlook and more traditional in values," said Brother Paul Bednarczyk, executive director of the National Religious Vocations Conference. "Given the relativity of our culture, they really want to know what it means to be Catholic, and symbols -- like habits -- speak to them deeply. They want people to know they have made this radical choice."

Some experts say traditional groups like the Nashville Dominicans have grown because they have maintained a clear mission, like teaching or nursing. Progressive orders have let members pursue a variety of different careers, where they often live and work alone apart from their fellow sisters. The orthodoxy and charisma of Pope John Paul II is also credited for attracting interest in the religious life, while some think the meditative lifestyle of a vowed religious is a more attractive to the frenzy of modern life.

The Nashville Dominicans have maintained their educational mission. They move to new cities in groups so they can follow the same schedule: waking together, praying and chanting three times a day together, meditating together and eating together in silence. Their reputation for being young and upbeat is reflected in their promotional material, which shows them playing soccer and walking on the beach.

"They have always been clear as to what their identity is as a community and how it's expressed. If you diversify your ministry so much, it's hard to say what your community does," said Michael Wick, executive director of the Institute on Religious Life. "And young attracts young. I think other [traditional orders] are learning from them."
Let him who has ears, hear.

The Washington Post article.

Fr. Joseph Gallagher CSP (+)

CNS publishes an obituary for Fr. Gallagher.

Interestingly, in the novitiate today, we read a brief paper on Fr. Hecker's spirituality and calling, written by Father Gallagher in 2000. Fr. Gallagher, it seems, always pushed the Paulists to continue to draw inspiration from the founder. Here are some quotes from this paper:
Hecker's great strength in all this (as everywhere in his life) was his unwavering faith in the guidance of the Spirit. It wasn't a doctrinal thing; it was a felt experience of faith so that even when he didn't fully understand the experience, he trusted it absolutely.
It's no wonder that Fr. Hecker is called an "evangelical Catholic."
Thus far the Hecker vocation story played quite differently from those of most Paulists. Ministry and priesthood were never a focus. His search had been for clues that hopefully would leadh im to the "special work," [that he felt God was calling him to] and while he was ready to take on whatever role this might call for, he had given no special attention to a clerical calling. His spirituality, too, was unusual. While his mother was devoutly Methodist and the Bible part of his upbringing, he was not what you call a church person. ... Most Christians start with Jesus and come to know the Holy Spirit through Him. The reverse seems to have been the case with Hecker; he found the Spirit early in life and the Spirit led him to Jesus in His Church.
I identify with that a lot, since I didn't grow up in a Christian environment, or in the Church. My first encounter, however, was with the person of Jesus (and not a seeking after the Spirit that moved Fr. Hecker). Fr. Gallagher continues with some elements of Fr. Hecker's calling and spirituality that may be relevant to today's Paulists. These include: personal experience as a font of revelation, openness to change, being alive to God and a great trust in God. And some fuller quotes from the final point.
Great love of the Church -- Hecker had a great love and respect for the Church, its laity, priests, hierarchy, and other institutions. This shows up in his attentiveness and obedient response to his CSSR superiors, the Pope, Roman prelates, the American bishops and Vatican I. ... Surely, contemporary Paulist spirituality has room (and maybe a need) for this kind of genuine and well-balanced appreciation of the Church.
I agree emphatically, and add, not "maybe a need" but a "crying need!"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

From Fr. Hecker's diary

June 25, 1844

He says I am all; ask of me and I will give you more than has been written, than you can find our dig out by study.

Be my spokesman, this is your office. Submit to me; this is your glory. I have taken up my abode in you on condition that you will be obedient, faithful and submissive.

You have no business to ask of me what I am going to set you about. I am and you know it and this is enough for you to know.

This is my condition for remaining with you: that you entertain me and me alone and no other on any pretext whatsoever.

I am all and this suffices.

You have nothing to say, do, or to be troubled about; only do as I bid you to do; follow what I tell and be still. ...

I want all your time and to speak all that is to be said. You have no right to speak a word, not a word of your own. You are not your own. You have given yourself up to me and I am all; I will not leave you unless you leave me first and then I shall be ever the nearest to you but you will not know it.

I am your Friend, the one who loves you and I have discovered myself to you and will do so more but the condition of so doing requires ever more faith, tenderness and submissiveness. Nothing is so near, so full of enjoyment as I am to you; and you cannot leave me without giving up the greater for the less.

I talk to you at all times and am with you at all seasons and my delight is to be in your presence to love you and take delight in the love I bestow on you. I direct your pen, speech, thoughts and affections though you know it sensible, but you shall know it clearer who I am and all respecting me if you but comply with my requirements.

You need not fear, you cannot make any mistakes, if you submit to be directed by me.

Connections ..

So we've (the two seminarians who're helping out the Confirmation class at St. Martin of Tours parish) been asked to do an Advent-oriented activity this coming Sunday.

I got on the horn to folks down in SC. I eventually got connected with an alum of our parish, who works as a youth minister now, who emailed back with some great ideas.

It's been a while since I've communicated with Bryan -- I'd heard he'd gotten married and so on. I didn't know he is the father of three children, and also a budding musician, spreading the Good News in great ways.

Here's his website.

We're Facebook buddies now. Don'cha love the internet?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Priest beaten by Indian police over protest | Spero News

Priest beaten by Indian police over protest | Spero News He was protesting the delayed construction of a Bridge. It's been unfinished for nineteen years. (One can speculate as to the inordinate delay: it's not unlikely that the money that was earmarked for the bridge is being siphoned off to corrupt officials ... such stuff is par for the course in India.)

The growth of Christianity in Nepal

This is a story waiting to be told. The following is from ENI. One has to ask the question -- whenever we're reading all these stories about the phenomenal growth of Christianity in places like Nepal and China, why is it that we hear only of evangelical Christians? Has our Catholic Christian sense of mission attenuated completely? Has dialogue just replaced the proclamation of Christ as Savior? [Sherry at Intentional Disciples has been tackling this for a while.]

Young people turn to Christianity in Hindu-dominated Nepal - Feature ENI-07-0900 By Anto Akkara Katmandu, 22 November (ENI)--When Raju Lama embraced Christianity at the age of 16, his Buddhist parents were furious and virtually expelled him from the family home near the Nepalese capital of Katmandu. Undeterred, Lama, who became a Christian in 1989, began trying to persuade his parents to do the same. Ten years later that persistence paid off, and his parents converted to Christianity, followed by his sisters and brother. "I am happy I could persuade my family members to become Christians," said Lama, who is now the president of the United Christian Youth Fellowship in Katmandu valley. Lama spoke to Ecumenical News International on 12 November during an assembly of his youth network that took place during the Hindu Diwali holidays at the independent Anugraha Vijay (Grace Victory) Church at Kapan Bekha in Katmandu. "It is the youth who are at the centre of the growth of the church here (in Nepal)," Lama told ENI. Before 1991, the number of Christians in this Hindu-dominated country was estimated to be around 50 000. Then, a new constitution was adopted following pro-democracy protests that led to a limited multiparty democracy under the monarchy. The new constitution retained an existing ban on conversions but also eased some of the restrictions on religious freedom. Consequently, police and State officials stopped prosecuting Christians who engaged in evangelising. This led to sudden spurt in the growth of Christians in Nepal, and it is estimated that there are now more than 800 000 Christians in 6000 independent church congregations among the country's population of 29 million people. Rajkumar Shrestha, a Hindu who had migrated to Katmandu from his native village of Sindu Palchok in search of employment, became a Christian four years ago after he came into contact with church workers. "My family members scolded me when I told this news to them," Shrestha told ENI during the youth meeting. Yet, Shrestha was also successful in winning his family over and in persuading them to accept the Christian faith. Of the 70 participants at the youth assembly, only eight were born into Christian families, while the rest are recent converts. Robin Baidhya, a Hindu who embraced Christianity in 1995, pointed out that Nepali youth who are "disenchanted" with the current socio-political situation in Nepal, are looking "at Christianity with new hope for a change in life". Baidhya explained that church congregations are providing young people with regular training in music, sports and personality development. This, he said, is attracting young Nepalese to Christianity. Lying at foot of the Himalayas and sandwiched between India and China, Nepal is one of the poorest nations in Asia, and has sparse civic and educational facilities. "Youth are providing a vital link in a flourishing of Christianity," said Pastor Simon Gurung, president of the National Christian Council of Nepal, to which the youth are affiliated. However, Gurung noted that the churches are 'handicapped' because scattered and tiny congregations mostly engage in evangelisation work and do not have institutions to provide employment for the young people. "Unless we begin developing social service centres, their enthusiasm could fade away in the long run," cautioned Gurung, who had been imprisoned twice for preaching Christianity before the curbs on freedom of religion were eased in 1991. [555 words] ENI News Headlines and Featured Articles are now available by RSS feed. See All articles (c) Ecumenical News International Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and provided ENI is acknowledged as the source.

Monkeys, visas and the Indian Embassy

My buddy Barry is backpacking around the world, and blogging his travels to boot! Do read this hilarious post about his experience at the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Turns out he will still be in India next month when I get there, so he's going to make a detour to Baroda to meet up.

How to make the poor un-poor

George Weigel's latest column from the Denver Catholic Register.
Catholic social thought has not always been immune to certain kinds of doomsday-mongering. The 1968 encyclical, Populorum Progressio (The Development of Peoples), was influenced by some of the convictions that led the Club of Rome to criticize what we now call "globalization." Rumors of a new social encyclical to mark the fortieth anniversary of Populorum Progressio have been circulating in the past few months. Should such an encyclical be in the works, its drafters would do well to cast a critical eye on the economic, anti-natalist, and environmental doomsday-mongering of recent decades.

For, according to a recent U.N. "State of the Future" Report, the happy news is that the human condition is improving, rapidly and exponentially: "People around the world are becoming healthier, wealthier, better educated, more peaceful, more connected, and...are living longer." Global illiteracy is now down to 18 percent, having been cut in half over the past two generations. The boy or girl born today will likely live 50 percent longer than a child born in the mid-1950s. More people are living in political freedom than ever before.

And poverty has been dramatically reduced. In 1981, 40 percent of the world's population scraped out a life on less than $1/day; today, that percentage is down to 25 percent. That is completely unacceptable; it is also a major improvement, most of which can be attributed to free trade (about which Populorum Progressio was skeptical). As John Paul II taught in the 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus, poverty today is caused by exclusion, and the cure is inclusion: exclusion from the networks of productivity and exchange that generate wealth must be remedied by empowerment strategies that give ever more people the skills to get into the game.

The real problem in the 21st century, according to Oxford economist Paul Collier, is the "bottom billion." There are six billion people in the world, of whom one billion are rich and four billion are on track to get rich, if at different rates. The top five billion are linked to, and work within, those networks of productivity and exchange discussed by John Paul II; the "bottom billion" aren't. Rather, according to Collier, they're caught in various "traps," including the trap of corrupt government, the trap of ethnic/tribal/religious conflict, the resources trap, and the trap of bad neighbors. Thus a rebel leader in Zaire boasted that you could do a successful coup d'etat with a cell phone and ten thousand dollars: the money to raise an army from impoverished tribesmen, and the cell phone to make deals to sell natural resources to the likes of China. (For more on Collier and his call for international action to police those aforementioned networks of productivity and exchange, see Father Richard Neuhaus's essay on The Bottom Billion in the October issue of First Things.)

For the first time in human history, no one has to be poor. No one has to go to bed hungry or, worse, starve. The social teaching of the Church, which rightly gives priority to the poor, best serves the global dispossessed when it accurately identifies how billions of people have gotten un-poor. If the U.N. can figure that out, the Catholic Church certainly can.
(Emphasis added)

Mr. Palestine

As the Middle-East conference gets underway in Annapolis, I found the Economist's analysis to be a bit startling, if compelling: only George Bush can make something come of this conference. Keep this important meeting in your prayers this week.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

God will invade

[Christ Pantokrator. Apse of St. Paul-outside-the-walls, Rome. Taken in March 2006.]

From Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (if you've never read it, do! It changed my life, it might yours!). Seemed appropriate for today's Feast of Christ the King and this last week of the liturgical year.
Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise to start a secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing and invading it? Is it that He is not strong enough? Well, Christians think that He is going to land in force; we do not know when, but we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you and I would have thought much of a Frenchman who waited till the Allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side. God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world what it will be like when He does. When that happens it is the end of the world. When the author walks onto the stage, the play is over. God is going to invade alright: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else -- something it never entered your head to conceive -- comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that we will have no choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing: it will be time we discover which side we have really chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last for ever. We must take it or leave it.

You can leave the Indian ...

... but the Indians keep following you. As the O'Cayce's drove back down to SC today (after a wonderful, delightful visit!), Izzy kept hearing about Indians on the radio. Heh. :)


That's all I'm going to say about last night's Clemson-Carolina game. :-(

What a disappointing season. :: sigh ::

Saturday, November 24, 2007


I was in Baltimore all day, visiting the Basilica and wandering around Ft. McHenry on a beautiful, cold fall day. For full coverage of the Consistory visit Rocco, and John Allen's blog.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The O'Cayces in DC

This is what bloggers do when they get together. :) St. Lizzy, wife to author of the phenomenal composition below, has put up some great shots from the visit up at Flickr.

[I must say that it's been an absolute pleasure singing and harmonizing with St. Lizzy. She and I are cantoring a wedding in SC over Christmas break (go Sean & Steph! Can't wait!): I'll be arriving from India the day before the wedding, so it was a good thing that she brought the music up so we could practice. If I may say so myself, we sound good together!]


Prohibitive Jesus.JPG, originally uploaded by stizzyocayce.

The O' Cayce's and I are having a blast. This was spotted at an undisclosed location not too far from here ... :)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Kai eucharistoi ginesthe

"And be thankful." (Col. 1:15)

Happy Thanksgiving y'all!

[We had a beautiful Thanksgiving Mass in the morning, followed by a huge supper. Now for some R&R. The O'Cayces are up from Columbia visiting ... WOO HOO!]

[Before dinner, Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation was read out. Check it out!]

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Meanwhile, back in the mother country

Violence in Kolkatta (Calcutta), and the Army is called out to restore order. The explosive situation is being fueled by two main currents:

Continuing agitation because of a situation in a village in West Bengal, Nandigram, where poor farmers were apparently going to lose their land for a the development of a special economic zone. The state government is Communist (China-style, relatively speaking, pro-market, pro-capitalism). Protests by farmers were brutally repressed in the summer and this has fanned a nation-wide debate, and ongoing agitations.

Muslim groups protesting the presence of Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin, who was exiled from her native country because of her supposedly un-Islamic views, and given refuge in India. In August she was roughed up at a book-launch by Muslim protesters in Hyderabad, and has since then lived in virtual house-arrest in Calcutta. They're now demanding she be expelled from India! So much for a secular democracy that values free speech.

In the folks' home state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, the controversial Chief Minister (who was in power, and almost certainly aided and abetted, during the 2002 anti-Muslim pogroms) and his BJP is up for re-election, but is having trouble because of factionalism and dissent in his own party. The election is crucial, not just to Modi and the BJP, but also for the national political scene -- if Modi survives and does well, many think he might be the next leader of the BJP, and quite conceivably a future Prime Minister. The elections are scheduled in two phases, for Dec. 11 and Dec. 16 (Counting is scheduled for Dec. 23. These things are done slowly in India. Violence is not uncommon. Indians make the so-called "hot headed Latins" seem like frigid Anglo-Saxons.), when the ~36 million voters in the state go to the polls. And yes, I'll be arriving in Gujarat (on a brief 10-day trip to visit mom) on Dec. 18.

And, just in case one had any ounce of good cheer and faith-in-one's-fellow-man left, there is always the news from Bihar, the armpit of India. Newly married woman gang-raped in running train.

Anyway, perhaps India will actually beat Pakistan in the cricket test series that just started. (The recent ODI series -- One Day Internationl [a day long game is the short version of cricket] -- was won by India 3 games to 2.)

Everyday Evangelization

Everyday Apostles is the blog of a group of folks involved in the Christ Life apostolate of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
A group blog helping Catholics and other Christians personally respond to the Lord Jesus' call to make disciples of all nations. Our cup of tea is personal evangelization. The words of Pope Paul VI inspire us- "In the long run, is there any other way of handing on the Gospel than by transmitting to another person one's personal experience of faith?"
Here's a quote from the latest post:
I am a waitress at a restaurant and one day I was waiting on an elderly man sitting by himself. He asked me why I seemed so happy, and I ended up telling him about my relationship with the Lord. It was a great conversation and he talked about his life in the military, and how he knows he needs the Lord more in his life. It is these daily, small opportunities God puts in our lives that can have a lasting impact on people's lives, and I need to be more open to them!

The beautiful thing about sharing Christ is that we are not expected to do it on our own. The Holy Spirit comes and anoints our words so that we are simply instruments of the Lord. Dave Nodar expands on how to share Christ with others through the power of the Holy Spirit in Christlife's most recent podcast "Called to Share Christ". I hope this podcast will inspire us all to enter into the mission field of making disciples by sharing Christ with others!
There's a neat podcast on the page as well. What a wonderful apostolate, and what a wonderful spirit these folks have!

Stem cell break through

Skin cells can be turned into stem cells. Let's pray that the two studies that are part of this breakthrough can be replicated and that scientific progress continues. Of course, most scientists want to continue to study embryonic stem cells. Can't close off something yett. No matter the complications, or if it kills human beings. "All for the common good" right? The Hindu News Update Service

See also this piece from Jimmy Aiken: Why NOT Emryonic Research?

Fr. Richard John Neuhause had an interesting, and illuminating essay in the November 2007 issue on the Politics of Bioethics, exploring the politics of the concept of human dignity. (Subscriber only, I'm afraid. I think a couple of months after first issue the back issues become free. If anyone is interested, let me know and I'll email a copy.)

The red hat goes to the pastor | National Catholic Reporter Conversation Cafe

John Allen profiles Cardinal-elect Archbishop John Foley. What a remarkable priest! The red hat goes to the pastor | National Catholic Reporter Conversation Cafe

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

From the diary of Fr. Hecker

(Every day after Vespers we read sections from the writings of Fr. Hecker. His Diary, written between 1843-45, is a fascinating window into his mind and soul.) This prayer appears on June 11, 1844, a few weeks before he was baptized and entered the Roman Catholic Church.
This is a heavy task; it is a great undertaking; a serious, sacred, sincere, and solemn step; it is the most vital and eternal act, and as such do I feel it in all its importance, weight, and power. O God! Thou who hast led me by Thy heavenly messengers, by Thy divine grace, to make this new, unforeseen, and religious act of duty, support me in the day of trial. Support me, O Lord, in my confessions; give me strength and purity to speak freely the whole truth without any equivocation or attempt at justification. O Lord, help Thy servant when he is feeble and would fall.

St. Lucy

Continuing the journey around Paulist history: an article from TIME back in 1937 about the Paulist Trailer Missions in Winchester, TN, and their trailer, St. Lucy. Trailer Fathers.
Paulists Cunningham (who had preached before in non-Catholic Tennessee) and Halloran (who was born in McEwen, Tenn.) set out from Manhattan last September with St. Lucy attached to their Ford. St. Lucy is 23 feet long, contains living quarters forward, and in the rear, a confessional, a chapel with a folding altar, which can be opened for outdoor meetings. There is space in the trailer for phonograph records, sound film equipment, a public-address system. By last week Fathers Cunningham and Halloran were well accustomed to parking St. Lucy in likely spots, playing phonograph records to attract a crowd and then exhibiting about 50 minutes of religious movies with a 20-minute sermon sandwiched between. Said Father Cunningham before they left Manhattan: "They can take it down there. If you give a 15-minute sermon you're a sissy."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pope on your pod for Christmas

Well, it's really for Advent. Reflections on Deus Caritas Est, thanks to Jesuit Media Services. What a neat idea! I'll be downloading these for sure! Pope on your pod for Christmas | Ekklesia

A day in the life of Pope Benedict

[Hat tip to American Papist] A brief (8+min) video that will warm the heart of every true Papist out there ... the commentary is in German; it's not necessary though. Fantastic behind-the-scenes footage! Yes, it does say he likes to drink beer. :)

[In the scene where he is celebrating Mass in his private chapel, does one get the sense that he says Mass ad orientem? I don't see a free-standing altar, and the Missal is propped up in a stand on the altar that is attached to the wall. :)]

The toll continues to be taken ...

Whispers in the Loggia: Alaska Abuse = $50 Million Jesuit Payout

The Proselytizing Paulists

I stumbled across this article from TIME in 1958, written on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Paulist Fathers. It gives a profile of a confident, active and growing community.

I won't say more on here (these are the subjects of vigorous discussion in the Novitiate), but it's clear, this doesn't really describe the community as it is now.

[Please don't get hung up on the word "proselyte." In recent usage it's taken a narrower, negative connotation -- of fraudulent, unsavory or immoral means of enticing someone to one's religious beliefs -- which wasn't the case in times past.]
In 1924 the Paulists started the first Catholic radio station in the U.S., WLWL. They pioneered, among religious groups, the use of paid newspaper ads and car cards to attract converts, developed a nationwide mail-order lending library. Two Paulist trailer chapels operate throughout the South during the summer. Today the Paulists number 221 priests and about 150 students preparing for the priesthood. There are 27 Paulist houses, 24 of them in the U.S.
The Jesuits, no mean missionaries themselves, have a healthy respect for the Paulists. The Jesuit weekly America once editorialized: "Many features of our Catholic missionary life in the United States at the present day were first popularized, if not actually invented, by the Paulist Fathers . . . These features were considered novel and rather radical when first proposed, [but] once tried out, they were found so practical that everyone took them for granted, and few remembered any more where they originated."
[For those who care to know, right now the Paulists number some 147 men (those in final profession), of which say, 70-80 are in active ministry, with eight in formation (including the novices). Those aren't very comforting numbers, but this is just reflective the steep decline in religious communities in the last few decades. ]

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Devastation in Bangladesh

The death toll is nearing, or over, 2000. Nearly 2 million displaced. Thousands of survivors await crucial relief after cyclone pummels Bangladesh - International Herald Tribune

Make a donation online to Catholic Relief Services.

[The death-toll, while devastating, is considerably lower than it would have been without early-warning systems and evacuation shelters and plans in place. In 1991, tropical storm Gorky killed around 140,000.]

The Nativity Fast

Our Eastern Christian brothers and sisters are preparing for the celebration of the Nativity by entering into the Nativity Fast.

This means giving up meat, meat products, dairy products on all days (On Wed. & Fri. fish, and olive oil are also prohibited.)

[This is more or less the same discipline practiced during Lent.] A Melkite friend of mine wrote this:
The East's approach to fasting, as I assume you know, is that of a maximalist perspective, as opposed to the West's minimalist approach. The maximum is always what the monks do, and an Eastern Catholic is supposed to take what they do, and apply it to their life as they're able to, according to their way of life. And, I always add: and do a little more, too, so you actually suffer. Regarding the non-Lenten fasts, it is not supposed to be as severe as Lent.
Some beautiful thoughts from St. John Chrysostom, on fasting.
I speak not, indeed, of such a fast as most persons keep, but of real fasting; not merely an abstinence from meats; but from sins too.

For the nature of a fast is such, that it does not suffice to deliver those who practice it, unless it be done according to a suitable law. "For the wrestler," it is said, "is not crowned unless he strive lawfully."

To the end then, that when we have gone through the labor of fasting, we forfeit not the crown of fasting, we should understand how, and after what manner, it is necessary to conduct this business; since that Pharisee also fasted, but afterwards when down empty, and destitute of the fruit of fasting.

The Publican fasted not; and yet he was accepted in preference to him who had fasted; in order that thou mayest learn that fasting is unprofitable, except all other duties follow with it. ...

Dost thou fast? Give me proof of it by thy works!

Is it said by what kind of works?

If thou seest a poor man, take pity on him!

If thou seest an enemy, be reconciled to him!

If thou seest a friend gaining honor, envy him not!

If thou seest a handsome woman, pass her by!

For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Orthodox-Catholic Statement

It's been a busy week, and I've not been able to read this yet, or follow the coverage that much.

It's a big deal, really.

So, here's the statement.

Ruth Gledhill.

My buddy Leonardo.

Catholic Blogs search with the term "orthodox."

More thoughts after I've read it.

[PS: I wonder how many are aware that some moves have been made towards resolving the Filioque dispute, that it might not really be seen as a church-dividing issue? The North American Catholic-Orthodox dialogue issued An Agreed Statement on the Filioque in 2003. [A critical Catholic response. Further reactions.]

Pope Says Missionary Work Has Only Just Begun

ZENIT - Pope Says Missionary Work Has Only Just Begun Some interesting remarks in a meeting with some 100 superiors-general of missionary societies of apostolic life. [100! There are over 100 missionary societies of apostolic life? And I'm pretty sure the President of the Society in whose novitiate I am wasn't in Rome today ... So there's more? Wow.]
"One of the promising indications of a renewal in the Church's missionary consciousness in recent decades," added the Pontiff in his English-language address, "has been the growing desire of many lay men and women [...] to cooperate generously in the 'missio ad gentes.' As Vatican Council II stressed, the work of evangelization is a fundamental duty incumbent upon the whole People of God.

"Given the extent and the importance of the contribution made by [laypeople] [...] the proper forms of their cooperation should naturally be governed by specific statutes and clear directives respectful of each institute's proper canonical identity."
YES! The formation of the laity as missionaries is at the heart of the Council's renewed vision of the Church!
Despite the "decrease in the number of young people who are attracted to missionary societies, and a consequent decline in missionary outreach [...] the mission 'ad gentes' is still only beginning," he affirmed. "While conscious of the challenges you face, I encourage you to follow faithfully in the footsteps of your founders, and to stir into flame the charisms and apostolic zeal which you have inherited from them, confident that Christ will continue to work with you and to confirm your preaching with signs of his presence and power."
YES! Go back to the vision of the founders! (And wasn't that at the heart of the renewal envisioned by the Council for religious?) And man, the more I read Hecker (and of Hecker) and his band, the more I dig it all!

The full-text of the Holy Father's address from the Vatican.

[The meeting was organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. I don't think that, strictly speaking, the work the Paulists do could be described as falling under the purview of this Congregation -- North America isn't technically "mission territory" -- nor is it, in a narrow sense, ad gentes as such. However, given the vast numbers who are basically un-evangelized -- both within the Church and without -- I would say that the Holy Father's address is quite apropos!]

Homeless in America: Saint Margaret of Scotland - The “Messy Way” to Serve the Poor

Homeless in America: Saint Margaret of Scotland - The “Messy Way” to Serve the Poor On today's Saint. [It's still today -- barely -- on the East Coast!]

Apart from all the stuff one sees at the HIA blog, here's some people who're getting messy serving the poor: A Simple House.

The Pope's visit to CUA: lettter from CUA president

A resident of the house was kind enough to leave a printout of this letter from the President of the Catholic University of America to the University community in regards to the Holy Father's visit. I'm reproducing it in full here (emphases added).

With the exciting news of Pope Benedict XVI's planned visit to The Catholic University of America on April 17, 2008, i want to share some information with you as we anticipate his arrival. This extraordinary and historic papal visit will bring with it opportunities and challenges, both of which will require generosity, patience and cooperation on the part of all of us at CUA.

The University will host the presidents of Catholic universities and colleges in the United States and one (1) representative, specifically the superintendent or equivalent official of Catholic schools, from every American diocese or archdiocese for the Holy Father's visit to CUA. They will constitute the "invitation only" audience along with the papal entourage and others already identified and approved by the Vatican. The Pope will speak in the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center on the topic of Catholic education in the United States. His on-campus visit will last about one hour. This is not merely a visit to CUA. It is an occasion and platform for the Pope to make a major address to the Church in the United States. This is a tremendous honor and privilege for our pontifical university.

The Vatican has indicated there will be no other speeches on campus and that there will be no private audiences or meetings while the Holy Father is here. He will greet the campus community gathered for his arrival and departure as he has done elsewhere when he travels and as is his custom following the Wednesday audience at St. Peter's.

Earlier the same day, the Pope will celebrate Mass at the new baseball stadium in downtown Washington, D.C. Our committee planning the papal visit to the United States has not determined how entrance to the stadium will be coordinated. Once that determination is made, I will communicated this information to the campus community and the university can then make plans for transportation to and from the Mass. It may very well be that the Metro will be the best means.

A few weeks ago, I indicated well in advance that the university would celebrate Founders Day on April 17, 2008, as a university holiday. Although I could not say so at the time, the papal visit was the reason for closing the university, except for essential services. It is very important to realize that all members of the university community -- students, faculty, staff and administration -- understand that security for this visit will be very tight and that there will be restricted access to the campus on April 17. No other on-campus events should be planned or contemplated. It may very well be that we will not be able to park cars on campus that day and that, apart from invited guests, credentialed media and current members of the university community, visitors will not be provided access to the campus until after the Holy Father's departure.

I mention these things now so that people on campus are prepared and not surprised or disappointed. I also want to make sure that our expectations of what will or will not be possible when the Pope visits are realistic. This is a great and historic occasion for the university, one which we should celebrate with joy and enthusiasm. At the same time, we need to be aware that the Vatican, the United States Secret Service, the Metropolitan Police Department and our own Department of Public Safety have their own work to do whenever such a visit occurs and we must cooperate with them.

At the request of the papal nuncio, I serve on the committee planning the Pope's entire United States visit. I have also established a university committee to work with me on all the details of the papal visit to campus. CUA will create a Web site for information and updates. Apart from all of this, I have no further information to provide at this time. I will keep you informed and updated as we plan for this great day.

Thank you very much,
Sincerely yours in Christ,

Very Rev. David M O'Connell, C.M.

Update on Fr. Joe Gallagher CSP

:: UPDATE :: Fr. Gallagher died a little before noon today. Requiescat in pace.::

Fr. Gallagher has been brought home to the Paulist residence in Grand Rapids for what look like to be his last days in this life.

I know most of you reading this don't know him. I have met him only twice myself, but was immediately struck by the force of the personality, the vivacity and spirit of this priest, who despite his infirmities, was passionate about the Church and the Kingdom.

Please keep him in your prayers.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

No higher vocation than ours

A little while back the following piece appeared on the community listserv. It was written by Fr. James Gillis CSP in The Tarsian [which, I should add, is a rather delightful, if unusual name!], the Spring or Fall 1949 issue. This was the journal of the Preparatory Seminary in Baltimore. It's worth a read, despite (because of? :) the rather "pre-Vatican II" sounding language! [My initial response is appended at the end.]


Father James Gillis, C.S.P.

The Superior General in his latest News Letter reports that in one year three novices have left us to join the Trappists. He adds that the Abbot of the Cistercians in Utah informed him that candidates have come to them from "many" orders. There is no cause for regret in that fact. On the contrary, the Paulists -- and I dare say the others -- are happy to surrender to the Cistercians those who feel that God calls them to a different life than ours.

I say "different", not "better" or "higher". In Catholic teaching there is no higher or holier vocation than that of the apostolic priesthood. As St. Thomas Aquinas explains quite clearly (II-IIae qu.179-182) the contemplative life combined with the active life is more meritorious than the contemplative life alone. Contemplation with teaching and preaching is better than mere contemplation. The saint says, "it is better to communicate the fruits of contemplation to others than merely to contemplate."

Those who are preparing for the most perfect life that man can lead on earth, the kind of life chosen by the Saviour for Himself and His apostles, should cherish a firm conviction that the way to the highest sanctity is open to them not less than to those who prefer the cloister. It would be difficult to imagine St. Peter or St. Paul leaving the world to remain permanently in the desert. But it would not be difficult to imagine their reply to one who should attempt to lure them into life-long solitude with the argument that they could be more holy and serve God better in the desert than in Corinth or Philippi or Ephesus or Rome. It is true that sin abounded in those cities, but as St. Paul says, "where sin abounded, grace did more abound" (Rom. 5:20). The wickedness of the world was not a deterrent but a stimulant to the sanctity of the apostles. Indeed the vice of the world was the occasion of their virtues. "Have confidence," says our Lord, "I have overcome the world while remaining in the world." He overcame the world while remaining in the world, As with him, so with his apostles.

Such is the theme upon which our patron St. Francis de Sales (amongst others) loved to dilate: holiness may be achieved in any walk of life. There is no life in which greater holiness is required than that of the priest in the world. Where holiness is required it is, of course, possible. Our Saviour demands of His priests and apostles no less perfect a life than that of those whom He calls to the cloister.

In our form of life, therefore, emphasis should not be laid upon the fact that parochial and apostolic activities add to the difficulty of prayer, but upon the more pertinent fact that Divine Grace will be dispensed in proportion to that difficulty. We are all familiar with the saying "cui multum datur, ab eo multum quaeretur" which may be roughly translated, "God expects generosity from those to whom He is generous. But where He demands generosity, He provides the wherewithal to be generous.

So, whatever may be the motive of those who abandon the strictly apostolic duties of the priesthood (or the prospect of them), it is to be hoped that they do not act from a mistaken opinion that a lesser sanctity is expected in our form of life than in some other, or that the means to achieve any degree of sanctity, even the highest, will be wanting to those whom God has called to the highest and greatest of all earthly careers, that of priest and apostle.

My thoughts: Yes, they sound "pre-Vatican II" but I think the heart of the matter is right on the money. And while the Council may have reminded us that all are called to this high degree of holiness, I don't think it detracts at all from the laity to emphasize that there is a special way in which the Lord calls men to serve His Church as priests. As someone who feels called to that life -- and certainly in my work with young people as they try to discern God's call in a very noisy world, this approach, I think, speaks to our generations in a way, perhaps, that priests of a previous generation might not identify with, and might simply remind them of the clerical caste-ism that the Church (rightly) moved away from after the Council.

It was this sense of challenge, of high adventure in following the Lord that, I think, really came out in the USCCB vocation video "Fishers of Men" (which just won an award), and, I think, that it is this sense of high adventure that tends to attracts men to the priesthood these days.

Of course, this sense of the high-adventure of discipleship (countercultural in so many ways today) also applies to all the baptized as well (and again, when presented this way, in my experience, young people respond!) ... Fr. Gillis writes above that the greatest of calls includes "priest and apostle." I wonder how much we really develop that latter call -- apostleship -- among all believers, especially the laity. All are missionaries, as the Council taught, as the Popes have reminded us. How do we actually equip them to develop their skills to serve the mission of the Church --- in the world, which is their proper role especially (again, as the Council taught) -- how are they formed? Are our communities places where all are taught to discern their vocation and God's call? These are the kinds of things that energize me about ministry in today's Church.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

AmericanPapist: Not Your Average Catholic!: How do I get tickets to the Pope's Mass?

AmericanPapist has some preliminary info: the tickets will be available through the Archdiocese of New York and Washington. AmericanPapist: Not Your Average Catholic!: How do I get tickets to the Pope's Mass? Time to come up with a count down tracker for Peter's arrival on our shores!!!!

:: UPDATE :: I called the Archdiocese -- no information yet as to when tickets will be available. They said to check their website regularly, which I'll be doing every day. This news release says that details on ticket distribution will be announced "soon."

Thomas Peters (AmPapist) has some details of the Pope's visit to CUA and the Shrine ... most of it seems to be non-public. He does say that outside the closed events often people are allowed to gather and one can get a glimpse of, or even get close to, the Holy Father.

As far as the seminary goes -- I talked informally to one of the superiors. Bottom line: "you're on your own to get tickets." I didn't expect anything different really ... :-| Papists, I suspect, are rare in the Society. So, I guess, I'll keep plugging away, and hopefully I can land a few tickets for friends and any of my seminarian brothers who're interested. ::

A new consecrated virgin

Via the New Advent aggregator feed I came across this wonderful story, about a young woman who is going to enter the order of consecrated virgins in Minnesota this weekend.

Q: What is a consecrated virgin?

A: A consecrated virgin is a woman who is a spouse to Christ, that Christ has called to be his bride. The bishop consecrates her through the church to our Lord as his spouse.

Q: Does that mean celibacy?

A: Yes. It means everything is consecrated - one's virginity, one's entire life, that Christ is foremost. Everything in one's life is centered on Christ.

Q: Why did you choose to become one?

A: Because [Christ] invited me to it. It's really a personal invitation, of seeking God's will. I looked into religious life in college, discerned that wasn't it and then was really open to marriage. . . . It really comes down to an invitation from him, just as a woman would be proposed to.
[She's not a religious. She lives in the world, and has a day job. At dinner, one of the priests was telling us that he knows a consecrated virgin who works as a cardiologist. It's a beautiful vocation!]

What a powerful witness!

Here's a website about Consecrated Virginity.

Keep her in your prayers!

How one diverts oneself

... on a busy day (much to blog on, not much time!) ... here's a site ...

for a sesquipedalian like me. Check them out.

The Migrants' Saint

(On the feast of Mother Cabrini) Whispers in the Loggia: The Migrants' Saint

Islam and Christianity: Bishops barred from Western Wall

Islam and Christianity: Bishops barred from Western Wall

According to the Jerusalem Post article linked at Abu Daoud's blog, even Pope John Paul II was asked to remove his cross.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The 28th annual Interfaith Concert

Sikh Kirthani Jatha performs hymns

"A Celebration of the Sacred in Song, Dance and Chant," was held at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception just up the street tonight. A friend from grad school and his wife are in one of the participating choirs (The Metropolitan Baha'i Chorale) and very graciously gave me a couple of complimentary tickets.

It was well attended and quite enjoyable. Sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington, this is a regular feature, it seems, on the Capital's religious calendar every year. The Basilica hosts the event every three years.

Religious groups participating:
  • Native Deen (Muslim)
  • The Association of United Hindu and Jain Temples
  • Pushpanjali Dance Group (Hindu/Indian)
  • The Mount Vernon Stake Singles Choir (Latter Day Saints)
  • Fabrangen Fiddlers Band (Jewish)
  • Metropolitan AME Mighty Men's Choir (AME/Protestant)
  • SGI-USA New Century Chorus (Buddhist)
  • Sikh Kirthani Jatha
  • St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church Adult Choir
  • Metropolitan Washington Baha'i Chorale
I have to say, and I'm not being partisan, that the St. Francis of Assisi choir kicked butt! They gave a stunning performance of Palestrina's Sicut Cervus and another absolutely mystical rendition of a modern arrangement for Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (which is a prayer from the ancient Liturgy of St. James). [And why is it that when we're representing the rich Catholic musical heritage in an inter-faith event we'll trot out this kind of beautiful stuff that one is quite unlikely to hear in ordinary Catholic worship around the country?] The Mormons were neat too, and I've always enjoyed Sikh kirtans and gurbani. Native Deen performed a piece honoring the prophets of the Abrahamic religions -- a beautiful a capella Arabic chorus, with the verses in English rap!

Some stereotypes were challenged a bit: the Buddhist group was largely African-American and white. A reminder that American Buddhism is not necessarily an ethnic phenomenon at all.

And even though such events have a bhai-bhai* atmosphere, and are, especially in today's world climate, rather important (for instance, there's an inter-faith concert held annually in the Holy Land and, according to a priest who lives in Jerusalem, one of the few times that Muslims and Jews actually get together, along with Christians!), one doesn't have to go too far below the surface to witness some tensions: for instance, one of the pieces performed by the Baha'i chorus was a hymn composed to strengthen Baha'is facing persecution after the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. And, though the adhan performed by Native Deen was quite lovely, I must say, it was a bit startling to hear that Islamic call to prayer, proclaiming the greatness of Allah, and of his Prophet, resound through this beautiful Byzantine basilica.

Don't get me wrong: such initiatives are good and nothing unites people like lifting voices together in praise. And yes, there is the danger of simply adopting the relativism of the larger culture. However, people of different faiths coming together, not ignoring or trivializing our differences, but sharing in our common humanity, especially in our common humanity as religious creatures: now that's something to celebrate.

*bhai-bhai is a Hindi expression. "Bhai" literally means "brother." The expression signifies an artificial cordiality or friendliness, or a false irenicism (to use Papal language). Perhaps the most famous use goes back to Nehru's huge mistake with his China policy. "Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai" was how it was described, until the Chinese turned around and invaded India in 1962.

Prayers for Fr. Joseph Gallagher CSP

Fr. Joseph Gallagher CSP, a venerable Paulist priest, had a fall yesterday and is in an elderly acute care unit in Grand Rapids MI. Fr. Joe also has Parkinson's which is complicating the situation.

Please keep him in your prayers.

That little Redemptorist Mission band

One of the focuses of the Novitiate (apart from the big one -- Discernment) is learning about the Society's history. This week, we're meeting with Paulist historian Fr. Paul Robichaud CSP, who's been delving into the early history of the original Paulists. Yesterday we looked at the Redemptorist mission band that traveled around the United States for several years in the late 1840s and early 1850s, preaching missions (the charism that lead St. Alfonsus Liguori to form the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer), i.e. "Catholic revivals," in the years leading up to the events of 1857-1858, which lead to the separation of this band from the Redemptorists, the emergence of Fr. Hecker as their leader, and the formation of the Paulists.

The five members of this band were all English-speaking converts to the faith. The leader was Clarence Walworth, considered to be one of the most eloquent preachers of the 19th century. Along with him where George Deshon, Isaac Hecker, Augustine Hewitt, and towards the very end, Francis Baker.

The whole phenomenon of the mission is rather fascinating -- social gathering, entertainment, an altar call, spiritual medicine and enthusiasm, all rolled into one. The Redeptorists liked to give a 14 day mission, 7 at the very minimum, running Sunday to Sunday, or Friday to the following Sunday, or Sunday to the following Wednesday.

There would be morning instruction and evening talks and sermons, with the goal being repentance, and, starting on Day 4 (before which a sermon on heaven and hell and judgment would be preached), confessions, leading at the end of the mission, to a renewal of baptismal vows and to the reception of Holy Communion by all those who participated. The central goal was to revitalize and animate the flagging faith of ordinary Catholics.

I spent a few hours in the archives yesterday going through the papers of Fr. Walworth. I transcribed a few sermons, one from his Albany days on the Excellence of the Priesthood (he left the Paulists after they were founded, and became a Diocesan priest. He returned two years later, and then left again. It's a rather crazy story.), and a couple from his mission diary from the early 1850s.

Here's a schema, or outline of what the topics in a typical mission would be (transcribed from the cover of his mission diary, pictured above):

  1. Opening. The Word of God
  2. Salvation – something to be won, not had by nature(adv. Pelg. – out of Church – not of all good people)
  3. Mortal Sin Explained
  4. Necessity of Penance and particularly Satisfaction
  5. Death; adv. Spiritualists and Prots.
  6. Judgment adv. Doctrine of faith without works.
  7. Hell, Existence & Eternity
  8. Mercy of God, adv. Predestination
  9. Sacramental Grace [S. Catherine of Siena. Lives of early Martyrs] adv. Prots & Negligient Catholics.
  10. B.V. Mary
  11. Unity of the Church. Moral; charity
  12. Apostolicity; Moral; Faith
  13. Sanctity of the Church = Sanctity of Life
  14. Catholicity: charity of zeal
  15. Means of perseverance.
The contents? Hellfire & Brimstone, baby! Rousing stuff! Towards the end of my time yesterday I came across two sermons on hell which argued that (contra John Calvin) hell is indeed a real, material place within the bounds of space & time. Fr. Walworth suggested that it might actually be under the earth, and (I was skimming through this part so this might not be very accurate) that volcanoes are proof of this theory! I'll have to find time to transcribe this one!

More on the Global Christian Forum

Fr. Tom Ryan provides a backgrounder and overview in the latest issue of PNCEA Exchange. [Earlier post on the GCF meeting in Nairobi.]

Monday, November 12, 2007

Byzantine Liturgy and Holy Communion « Catholic Sensibility

At Catholic Sensibility Neil has a delicious little post based on the ever-incisive Fr. Robert Taft's book on Byzantine liturgy in history. As always, a look at history is eye opening. Byzantine Liturgy and Holy Communion « Catholic Sensibility Fr. Taft's book is on my never-diminishing to-read list. [Heavy sigh.]

The Holy Father's visit to the US

Rocco has the scoop. Abp Sambi:
"The Pope will not travel much," his representative to the States said. But even so, Benedict "will address himself" to the entire community of 70 million American Catholics. Although the pontiff will only be visiting one of the celebrating dioceses, Sambi said that the visit's prime purpose is to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the elevation of Baltimore to archiepiscopal rank and the erection of new dioceses at New York, Boston, Bardstown and Philadelphia. The nuncio added that another goal of the visit would be to invite fallen-away Catholics back to the life of the church.
The outline of the visit, as announced by the nuncio at the US Bishops' meeting this morning:

  • April 16th-Arrival and Official Welcome-Washington, DC
  • April 17th-AM Stadium Mass-Washington, DC
  • PM-Gathering with bishops, education leaders and ecumenical gathering
  • April 18th-AM United Nationsl
  • PM-Ecumenical gatering
  • April 19th-Mass with priests of NY at St. Patrick's
  • PM-Gathering of youth at St. Joseph's Seminary
  • April 20th-AM Visit to Ground Zero
  • PM Mass at Yankee Stadium afterwards, the Holy Father will return to Rome
Now to figure out how to get tickets to the April 17th Mass! :)

CNS story.

Missinary work versus Proselytizing

Sherry W at Intentional Disciples linked to this remarkable ministry in southeast DC. [And let me add that it was absolutely wonderful meeting her last week. Thanks, Sherry, for your patient listening!]. I'd heard of A Simple House before -- PNCEA had a profile on them last year written by the director of the apostolate. And what a remarkable apostolate it is! Go and spend a few minutes reading some of their Tracts and Thoughts. This is from their section on Missionary Work versus Proselytizing.
Proselytizing tries to force (or inflict) God upon people and often makes them a slave to the moral law. After the early Christian missions were taking root, proselytizing Jews disturbed the early churches by arguing that all must submit to circumcision and the Law. When this proselytizing caused confusion about the Church's teaching, Christians became insecure about their salvation and were tempted to despair and leave the faith or become circumcised and follow the Law in order to 'play it safe'. Paul completely rejects this proselytizing attitude in his letters to the Galatians and Romans. He makes it clear that this form of moral rigorism destroys the freedom that Jesus Christ died to create (Gal 5:1).

The primary goal of missionary work is to kindle the fire of love. God has gone out of his way to win our love and to demonstrate his love for us. The cross is the most striking demonstration of his love. Missionary work should reflect this and preach 'Christ crucified' (1 Cor 1:23). It should focus on God's love and try to inspire the love of God.

Following the moral law is the proper response of love to a God who is all good. With sincerity the psalmist says, "O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day." (Ps. 119:97), and all of Psalm 119 is a thanksgiving for the gift of the law. No slave to the law is thankful for it.
It is necessary for a missionary to love those he is trying to convert, and it greatly helps if the missionary likes them too. Zeal, defending the honor of God, and a desperation to save someone from Hell are dangerous motivations. They can subvert the missionary from focusing on love. The following excerpts capture the true spirit of missionary work.
[Hmm. I use the word "zeal" a lot. For me, it means passion, ardent desire, being on fire. There is, of course a dark side.] There follow many quotes from the Soul of the Apostolate (recommended book!)
"God," wrote Lacordaire, "has willed that no good should be done to man except by loving him, and that insensibility should be forever incapable either of giving him light, or inspiring him to virtue." And the fact is that men take glory in resisting those who try to impose anything on them by force; they make it a point of honor to raise countless objections against the wisdom that aims at arguing everybody, all the time, around to its own point of view. But because there is no humiliation involved in allowing oneself to be disarmed by kindness, men are quite willing to yield to the attraction of its advances.
Definitely go through their page on their Motivation and Philosophy.
Southeast Washington, DC is a place where:

* there is enough food but children go hungry because of neglect,
* cars are not stolen for profit but for fun,
* people understand that drugs ruin lives, but they use them anyway,
* women are prostituting themselves without pimps or physical coercion.

This is also a place with few missionaries and many children. This is spiritual poverty.

There is a temptation to become engrossed in the idea of a political solution to the problems of the inner-city. The study of social welfare, welfare economics, and sociology all focus on the political aspect of the problems. Every political solution is fundamentally a material solution, but materials do not seem to be lacking in the inner-city of Washington, DC.

Jobs, treatment for addiction, and food are available, but it's as if something mysterious stands in the way. The poor have experienced a great loss of hope which leads to self-defeating behavior. It has been called 'a situation that defies a solution.' The real problem is a spiritual problem, and to provide material goods without friendship or spiritual support only continues the problem.

When someone loses hope, they lose interest in their own welfare and their family's future which causes behaviors resembling a slow suicide. They need to be convinced to live! This is a hard job and A Simple House is trying to reach some of the hardest cases.
They're not far away. Perhaps I can find time to go meet these remarkable people and even help out. Keep them in your prayers, and support them as you can.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I am being a bad Gamecock

I'm not watching the FL game. [And I hear that they've already scored two touchdowns, in the first few minutes of the first quarter.] I just can't take it anymore -- it's too upsetting! This is like 1999 all over again, maybe even worse!

We were going to go see American Gangster, but those plans fell through, so I guess I'm curling up with some hot chocolate and one of those many books on my high to-read list.

Still, for what it's worth, GO COCKS!

[I guess I'm glad I didn't watch it. 51-31 FL. ::sigh::]

MercatorNet - The Slave Ship: A Human History

At the height of the Enlightenment 8 million slaves were shipped from Africa to the New World. MercatorNet - The Slave Ship: A Human History

Responding to Gary Wills on abortion

Greg Popcak (Exceptional Marriages) responds in a forceful and clear editorial in the Los Angeles Times to a prior op-ed by Gary Wills on the issue of abortion. Popcak skewer's Will's tendentious reading of history and tradition. It is definitely worth a read. [H/t Amy.]

[I was reminded how a similar argument -- as that of Wills -- was used by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, that the Texas law under scrutiny in that case, and similar measures that had become part of the law in the various states during and since the 19th century, represented a kind of hardening of attitudes towards abortion, as against a prior era that was more permissive.]

Friday, November 09, 2007

Diwali in the Capital

In the spirit of inter-faith dialogue, I decided to invite anyone in the house who was interested to come with me to a pooja at a Hindu temple around Diwali (which is today). Five of us (A priest, a deacon, a seminarian and two novices. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke ...!) ended up at the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham, MD for a 7:00 pm Mahalaxmi Pooja (a prayer service to the goddess of wealth and prosperity).

[On the way over I was talking to my uncle in Chicago. Normally, for Gujaratis, the day after Diwali is the New Year, bestu varas, "The year sitting down." Except, some years, when it's two days after. My mom was sure that bestu varas was Sunday. Uncle and aunt thought it was Saturday. I still don't think I'm sure who's right! Gujaratis tend to wish each other on bestu varas rather than on Diwali itself.]

Well, a little later than 7:00. The Balt-Wash parkway was, well, a parking lot. However, the pooja itself was just starting (good old Indian Standard Time, I guess!). This is the first time that I've been to a service at a diaspora temple (I've been to the Hindu temple in Columbia, SC a couple of times, but that was for cultural events). This structure is actually quite decent -- white plaster and marble, with traditional south Indian architecture and carvings, and an impressive gopuram.

Inside, however, it doesn't feel like India at all. It's all covered, it's all clean, partially carpeted, and climate controlled. There were three main shrines -- to Shiva, Vishnu and Balaji (an incarnation of Vishnu), and a host of smaller side shrines --- Ram, Laxman, Sita (protagonists in the Hindu epic, the Ramayana), Durga (power), Saraswati (knowledge), Ganesh (new and auspicious beginnings), Hanuman (the monkey god, and Ram's lieutenant) and others. and, given the general south Indian orientation of the temple, Venkateshwar (also a form of Vishnu). The idols were all made of black stone (another south Indian trait), and signs warned that only priests were allowed into the enclosure around the idol.

There was one main hall, which had been decorated for the Mahalamxi Pooja, with candles, diyas mirrors and flowers, and small number of families sat on the carpets as the pooja started.

The place wasn't as crowded as I'd expected. Certainly not everyone was south Indian. Apart from my companions, I spotted a few other non-Indians, and at least one Caucasian-Indian couple with a few kids.

Nor was it as noisy or chaotic as temples in India ... the offering system was well organized (people wrote their checks and got a receipt at the front desk as one entered, instead of haggling with, or being harassed by the brahmins as is not uncommon in many places in India!), though, of course, people came and went, and, unlike a church, no one felt that they had to stop talking. [My father used to always remark how he found it so strange -- and powerful -- that people actually would be silent in church! The Hindu custom of ringing a bell loudly as one entered a temple (or an individual shrine within a temple) he'd always jokingly suggest was because "one wanted to make the god notice one's presence."] At some of the shrines, families sat around, as the priests performed various poojas.

The main pooja itself started with the first prayer being chanted by the priest in Sanskrit, with each line being repeated back by the worshippers. I'd never really experienced this in India -- there, in most cases, the brahmins blaze through the chants, and no one really seems like they are paying attention. I suspect there is a diaspora dynamic underway here, a sense that people should follow what's going along, participate actively, and understand the prayers. Another thing I've never seen in India at a temple -- printed prayer books, in a variety of Indian languages and in English.

In an email briefing for my brothers, this is what I wrote:
This is not a liturgical service. The priests chant, people come and go, say their prayers, bow to the gods(esses), offer flowers, receive prasad, give a donation, etc. It's rather individualistic. There may be some bhajans (hymns). There may not be. There may be a homa (consecrated fire), but I suspect not. I've no idea really what the "order" of the "service" will be.

For me, I go there and observe and listen respectfully. Most people in temples assume I'm Hindu, and most of the time I'm with family, and there's no issues. In the US, no one is going to mind obviously non-Hindu folks (such as y'all) being there. [In India, many temples will not admit non-Hindus to the garbha-griha -- the inner sanctum.] As to what you want to do, that's up to you. The priests will almost certainly be willing to give prasad to you. I tend to stand at the back and be as unobtrusive as possible. I don't offer anything to the gods (flowers, or whatever), though I'll receive prasad if it comes around. I'm trying to balance an attitude of dialogue with the First Commandment :)
We ended up sitting for about 15-20 minutes at the back as the main pooja went underway, and then wandered around a bit.

For dinner, we went to an Udipi place not too far away, pure South Indian vegetarian food. Delicious! Topped off with a good masala paan at the end. Of course, dinner got a little delayed, since I locked us out of the car. (Don't ask.) Thankfully, we'd taken two ... and there was a spare set at the house, so the car belonging to a Catholic order isn't still sitting in the parking lot of a Hindu temple. :)

Diwali mubarak, y'all. And saal mubarak (Happy New Year) too.

Some good advice

[Via Amit Varma at India Uncut. Who gets it from elsewhere and so on. This is the blogosphere you know.]

The Dedication of St. John Lateran.

IMG_0100, originally uploaded by gashwin.

The "parish church" of all of us, I guess. And the seat of the Bishop of Rome. American Catholic:

Unlike the commemorations of other Roman churches (St. Mary Major, Sts. Peter and Paul), this anniversary is a feast. The dedication of a church is a feast for all its parishioners. St. John Lateran is, in a sense, the parish church of all Catholics, for it is the pope's parish, the cathedral church of the Bishop of Rome. This church is the spiritual home of the people who are the Church.
More photos, from last year's post.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tony Blair to become Catholic 'within weeks' - Telegraph

Tony Blair to become Catholic 'within weeks' - Telegraph

Pope suggests Church should have closer relationship with contemporary art - The Art Newspaper

Pope suggests Church should have closer relationship with contemporary art - The Art Newspaper An article about Claudio Parmiggiani and how he got commissioned by the Vatican. That's an atheist artist, incidentally. Most fascinating!
Despite his atheism, his work is full of images that come from the Church before the Second Vatican Council swept away so much. His Iconostasis of veiled statues and canvases must be a remembrance of the days between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, when all images used to be veiled in mourning because God had been "put to death". He is a melancholy artist. The house in which he lived as a child has burnt down; the Italian economic miracle has carelessly allowed crass ugliness to be imposed on what was one of the most beautiful countries in the world; everywhere he feels we are losing contact with our history and the spirituality passed down by generations. He has written: "Culture has never been so much discussed as now, but it is a culture that does not coincide with life. We perhaps need to reflect and notice that the world is hungry and doesn't care about this so-called culture."
for while he views all theological matters with great suspicion, he thinks the Church is the last place where the word "spiritual" still has meaning and its value is defended. So he made a two metre-high smoke picture of a man hanging from a cross, and last autumn Pope Benedict XVI delivered his first address to the bishops of Italy with a huge enlargement of the image behind him. Afterwards the pope said to Parmiggiani, "I'm very happy to see this work; the Church has always had a close relationship with modern, but not contemporary art." He continued: "You must tell me one day how you paint with smoke," but Parmiggiani just smiled. That is a secret he keeps even from the pope.
A retrospective exhibition, Apocalypsis cum figuris, runs in Pistoia, Tuscany, through March 2008.