Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye!

("I hate to go and leave this pretty si-ight!" :))

Well, the time is here to sign off from blogging. For the foreseeable future at least. It's six weeks or so shy of three years that I started this blog. 2930 posts later I can say that it's been quite a wonderful experience. I'm especially grateful to all the wonderful people I've gotten to know through this medium.

Unless I hear otherwise, the blog itself will stay up on the web. Other notes:

Facebook: I created a profile for Gashwin on Facebook that will probably be taken down. The real me is on Facebook already.

Del.icio.us: Links to what I'm currently reading, on the right sidebar.

Newsletter: While I can't blog (I believe it's the public nature of the blogosphere that's the real problem), for those who're interested in the further adventures of Gashwin Gomes, are invited to drop me an email (gashwingomesAThotmailDOTcom) to sign up for a periodic newsletter that I'll be sending out.

Most importantly, please keep my vocation in your prayers, and continue to pray that more men will respond to the call to serve the Lord and His Church in the ministerial priesthood.

So, au revoir! Arrivederci! Ciao! Dos vidaniya! Khuda Hafiz!

Or, as we say in Gujarati Aavjo! Which roughly translates to what we say in the South as well: "Y'all come back now!"

Karis kai eirene,

Gashwin

A last shout out ...

... to amateur filmmaker and cool dude W., friend of good friend Jamie, who I met last night at din. And, his soon to be completed movie is called, well, Din! :)

The Catholic Church in Arunachal Pradesh

Arunachal Pradesh is a state in the remote northeastern corner of India. Its border with China is disputed, and even Indian citizens from outside need permission to travel into the state. This line from a recent article on religious freedom in India by John Allen caught my eye: "In the state of Arunachal Pradesh on the eastern border with China, where Catholicism arrived barely 25 years ago, there are today 180,000 Catholics out of a total population of 800,000."

I was intrigued: normally one hears about such increases in the Christian population due to the missionary efforts of evangelicals (can one say Nepal?). It was unusual, to say the least, to see such a dedication to mission to the unchurched by Catholics.

What's fascinating about the story of the rise of the Church in Arunachal Pradesh is that it was lead by lay people. Here is an interview with Bishop Kattrukudiyil of the Diocese of Itanagar (the capital) published by Aid to the Church in Need.
He explained how the Church in Arunachal Pradesh was unique, in that it spread thanks largely to lay faithful because of the ban on missionaries from outside the region.

He said it was only thanks to contact with a dynamic parish on the border with neighbouring Assam that Catholicism was able to enter the region.

The parish in Hamutty attracted visitors from Arunachal Pradesh who returned home as catechists and soon the Church spread to the point where in the early 1990s converts became government ministers and insisted that priests finally be allowed to work in the region.
There are now two Diocese in the state.

The first church was built only in 1993. According to this UCAN news report, Mother Teresa was present at the dedication. In July of this year, a famous missionary (Br. Prem Bhai, a Benedictine lay brother) who had worked zealously to spread the faith, died. This is from the brief CNA article about Br. Prem:
Brother Prem Bhai, a Benedictine missionary who endured repeated arrest, imprisonment, beatings and wore disguises to evangelize in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, died on June 28 in Colombo, Sri Lanka after suffering a heart attack the previous day.

For almost 25 years Brother Prem's missionary work in Arunachal Pradesh continued despite government laws that subjected those caught to fines of 10,000 rupees and two years imprisonment.

"Police always used to follow me. I was arrested eight times and imprisoned five times for preaching. I never stayed in jail for more than a day though – the Christian people always managed to get me released," Brother Prem said in a 2006 interview with the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). ACN supported Brother Prem's work by building a prayer center.
(Here's a report of his funeral, which drew thousands of the faithful. A similar report from UCAN)

Remarkably, Arunachal Pradesh is one of six states that has anti-conversion laws on the books.

Northeastern India is culturally (and racially) different from the rest of the country. Society is tribal. Caste doesn't really exist. The languages are Sino-Tibetan. Since the 19th century, Christian missionary work has borne much fruit ... for instance, the state of Nagaland is largely Baptist!

How not to share your faith

At the bookstore of the retreat center in Atlanta I came across this slim volume by Mark Brumley, published in 2002 by Catholic Answers, with a Preface by Avery Cardinal Dulles and a Foreword by Archbishop Charles Chaput. The subtitle grabbed my eye as well: "The Seven Deadly Sins of Catholic Apologetics and Evangelization." I haven't gotten to this yet, but the contents list these seven deadlies, and I can't wait to dig in:
  • Apologetical Gluttony

  • Reducing the Faith to Apologetics and Apologetics to Arguments

  • Confusing the Faith with Our Arguments for It

  • Contentiousness

  • Friendly Fire

  • Trying to "Win"

  • Pride
Can one get an "Amen?"

The brief Preface by Cardinal Dulles is a gem of a summary of the development of apologetics in the twentieth century.
The fortunes of apologetics have been volatile indeed. From the sixteenth century to the nineteenth it practically devoured theology. Not only did theologians write books on apologetics; they tended to give an apologetical slant to almost every theological treatise, as though the reasonable person unfailingly could be persuaded to accept what was being taught. The freedom and grace-given character of faith were overlooked; the mysteries of faith were made all too accessible. Especially in liberal Protestantism, the doctrines of the faith were diluted so as to make them credible to supposedly modern men and women.

After the First World War, Karl Barth and others protested against this trend and launched the movement sometimes known as neo-orthodoxy. Revelation, they claimed, must be accepted on its own terms, not on the basis of human arguments. God is not bound to speak and act within narrow limits of human reason.

Toward the middle of the twentieth century, Barthian influences flowed into Catholicism. Eschewing apologetics, Catholics began to speak the language of neo-orthodoxy. They refused to give reasons for believing. This trend entailed some dangers. Christian belief now began to look like an arbitrary stance -- a mere matter of family tradition, personal temperament, or sentiment. Catholics lost interest in challenging others to accept the faith. Evangelization sank to a low ebb. The flow of converts into the Church, which had been vigorous in the first half of the century, slowed down to a trickle.

In the United States, the tradition of Christian apologetics was maintained by Fundamentalists and by many Evangelicals. They insisted that there were solid arguments for accepting Christianity as attested by the Bible and the early creeds. They combined reliance on reason with firm commitment to the central Christian dogmas, such as the Trinity and the Incarnation. They were as orthodox as the neo-orthodox, or rather more so. And their efforts met with considerable success. They sent missionaries all over the world, and as a result their churches grew rapidly, sometimes by converting nominal Catholics to their brand of Christianity.

Some Catholics in the United States saw this situation as a call to action. This was especially true of Catholics who had a Protestant Evangelical background, such as Peter Kreeft. recalling that the Catholic Church has a long apologetical tradition of its own, he, together with Karl Keating and a growing body of colleagues, have built fruitfully on the work of English-speaking apologists of the early and mid-twentieth century: Catholics such as G. K. Chesterton and Frank Sheed and Anglicans such as C. S. Lewis. These outstanding writers avoided the pitfalls into which apologetics have often fallen. They cannot be accused of tailoring the faith to fit what reason can prove. They knew better than to think that all the mysteries of the faith could be directly proved. And they escaped the "sacred dishonesty" that has prompted some to bend the facts of history so as to conceal the sins and errors of Catholics in the past.
...
In writing about the seven deadly sins of apologetics, Brumley is not rejecting apologetics but rather defending it from itself. He shows how an apologetics that seeks to prove too much can undermine the very faith it is intended to support. He also shows how an apologetics that builds on reason alone, instead of deferring to the word of God, can impoverish the faith of Christians, as did liberal Protestantism. In his last chapter he shows how apologetics can be effective when it adheres to the fullness of the faith and respects the primacy of love.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Faith Under Fire: The attacks on the Christians of Orissa

Blogger and friend Mike Aquilina mailed me a copy of this book ("Faith under Fire") a few weeks back with the hope that I could read and review it while the blog was still running. He also included two DVDs, all of which he had received from a priest friend in India. Alas, I've been traveling (10 cities, 4 states, both coasts, since July 26), and haven't had time to view the DVDs, and have only been able to skim through the book.

"Faith Under Fire" documents the systematic attacks on Indian Catholics in the Kandhamals district of the eastern state of Orissa that exploded over Christmas 2007, and the abysmal lack of any attempt by the Indian state to protect its citizens or try and bring them to justice. (I've blogged on the violence against Christians in Orissa on a few occasions.)

The book was prepared by the Justice, Peace and Development Commission of the Catholic Church in Orissa and is published by Media House publishers in Delhi earlier this year. (The back cover lists a website that doesn't really seem to work. Email: mediahousedelhiATgmailDOTcom)

The nearly 400 page volume is divided into five sections:
  • The facts on the situation in Kandhamals, with essays and reports that try to establish what occurred

  • Statements and responses from members of the Christian community in Orissa, including Archbishop Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar and Sr. Nirmala MC (of the Missionaries of Charity)

  • Essays that give a background to the rise of sectarian violence, including the heinous Graham Staines murder. (In Indian English, such incidents are described as "communal" and "communalism" means "sectarian" or "promoting sectarian hatred.")

  • An examination of the Wadhwa Commission Report (which investigated the Staines murder and has continued to be perceived by Indian Christians as being distorted and unfair), as well as essays that examine the controversy surrounding conversion.

  • A section that documents several first hand reports of the violence, including first person accounts of riot victims.

  • Two appendices that include the text of a United Nations report on the Freedom of Religion in India and the report of the National Commission of Minorities on the Kandhamals violence, as well as color photographs that document the violence, and a section with fact sheets about the region.
The following is from the foreword by Teesta Setalvad, prominent (secular and Leftist) Indian human rights activist (especially relating to violence against religious minorities and in the name of religion) and co-editor of Communalism Combat,
Any reflection on the bleak and bloody Christmas suffered by fellow Indian Christians in the eastern Indian state of Orissay in December 2007, requires the interrogation of several issues. The muted political response across the political spectrum, the absence of political outrage or any sustained campaigns and statements (two bland questions in Parliament during the first half of the budget session reflects how far removed debates in the lower house of the Indian Parliament are to the political reality of India). The message is loud and clear. India's tiny ... Christian religious minority are too minuscule to matter. With all the power and prestige that Christian institutes of learning and education enjoy, with all the quantitative and qualitative services that Christian institutes of health and nurturing provide, Indian democracy, laced as it is today with the ... racist power of hate, has been reduced to a game of numbers.

To take the interrogation further, no spontaneous suo moto judicial action followed the violent attacks on Christian villages in Kandhamal district that rendered 30,000 citizens overnight into refugees living in camps, 101 churches destroyed and properties worth lakhs ("lakh" or "lac" = 100,000) of rupees destroyed. Despite Articles 14 and 21 (of the Indian Constitution), the right to life and equality under the law are fundamental rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution being serious under threat and attack. [sic]

Most depressing in this all pervasive climate of complicity, was the deafening silence from India's conscience, its citizenry, you and me, as humanitarian relief was actually denied by a calculating Orissa state government, and a mute and impotent Central dispensation looked on.
At first glance "Faith Under Fire" is a commendable attempt to rigorously document this latest bout of anti-Christian persecution. It also presents a clear exposition of the commonly heard contention that the issue of "conversions" is a paper tiger, and that the real underlying issue has to do with human rights and development. As it is presented, this book is not written for the average middle class Indian (assuming he or she reads English), but is another attempt to raise awareness about the plight of India's Christians, both within India, but, I suspect, especially overseas.

A photo of a page from the appendix that presents photographic evidence of the damage to Christian property.


When it comes to the Indian state, I am afraid I am just too cynical to see this having any serious direct effect. As the ongoing conflict over the Amarnath shrine in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir shows, India's political leaders care very little, if at all, about the well being of citizens in general, and it seems, India today is just too desensitized to violence and human misery.

We just don't care.

Incredible India indeed.

Servants of the Father of Mercy

... is a new religious community in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, that grew out of the ministry of the folks who do a variety of work directly with the poor. Lots of thought-provoking insights at the Homeless in America blog.

I know one of the founders -- he visited the Paulists for a discernment retreat last year, and we've stayed in touch on and off since then. He's a holy man with a deep love for the Lord, and clearly with a call to serve Him in the suffering and needy.

I'm not entirely certain about the canonical status of this new group, but wanted to post something on here before I stop blogging. The following is from an email I received last Saturday:
Dear Sister or Brother in Christ,
Last Saturday marked the official inaugural Mass of Servants of the Father of Mercy as a new religious community dedicated to serving the homeless in America. Although most on our team have already been serving the poorest of the poor under bridges and in alleys for many years now, we have decided we can be of even more service by formalizing our Charity.

For the most part, myself and a few others have been privately funding the ministry, but our dreams of bringing Catholic spiritually and charity to our homeless will require a more substantial effort. Immediately we need to establish our offices and start a religious vocation house as we continue ministering to our homeless in the streets. Our future plans include opening St. Joseph’s Inn, a homeless career recovery house.

We need your help!

Please open the attached pledge donation form, print it and whisper a prayer as to how you can immediately help solidify the establishment of our offices and formation house for religious vocations.
For inquiries, or to support this worthy endeavor, please visit the Homeless in America blog for contact information, or email Br. Gary Joseph at ServantsoftheFatherATYmailDOTcom.

The blood of martyrs ...

38 year old priest murdered in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. (Asianews)
On the night of August 16th his body was found on the roadside by a group of people, not far from the village of Balampilly; the body of the Carmelite of Mary Immaculate carried wounds to the face while the hands and legs had been crushed and the eyes gouged out. His motorbike was found one kilometre on from the body.

Son of Hamas Leader becomes Christian

Fascinating story. Details at the Intentional Disciples blog.

"The evil in your heart"

Driving up I-95 yesterday I hit weekend traffic north of Richmond. Averaging about 40 mph, the highway was clogged. I grow incredibly impatient in such situations. I turned to the AM dial to see if this was just volume related, or whether there was a wreck ahead. I couldn't find any traffic information, but I heard something as I surfed past a Christian station where a preacher was holding forth. I heard an Indian accent poking through American intonation. Normally, I'd have clicked right on, but this intrigued me, so I stopped and listened to the last five minutes of this particular talk. The speaker was relating a story of a conversation with a well-established entrepreneur, who had asked to talk with him. This businessman could not believe, and kept coming back to the the problem of evil in the world -- so much suffering, so much injustice and so on. The speaker tried coming at this from various philosophical angles, and this went on for a while. A colleague who was with him, interrupted their discussion, turned to the businessman and said, "What about the evil that is in your heart?"

This was the main theme of the talk. The only real way to combat the evil "out there" is to combat the evil inside.

For some reason, this really struck me -- highlighting my own continuing struggle with temptation and sin, my need for God's grace, and my own call to continue to grow in holiness. I think it was Chesterton who said something along the lines that religion was the cure for evil, the evil in man's heart. And Fr. Hecker (the founder of the Paulists), learned early on, as he was becoming a Christian, that his efforts to promote workers' rights and justice at Tammany Hall in New York would ultimately only work if he first was converted himself, and worked on transforming mens' souls.

This is not to say that one only looks inwards, and that Christians aren't called to work to transform society around them. Obviously not. It's not an either/or, though. However, Christians cannot neglect interior conversion -- for it was to heal our souls from sin that Our Lord came.

The evangelist on the radio was of course Ravi Zacharias. I'd never heard him at all, though I've encountered his books once in a while in the religion aisle at B&N. I don't know much else about him or his ministry. This one sounds rather interesting right now -- "Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend"
Respected apologist Ravi Zacharias was once sharing his faith with a Hindu when the man asked: "If the Christian faith is truly supernatural, why is it not more evident in the lives of so many Christians I know?" The question hit hard, and this book is an answer. Its purpose is to equip Christians everywhere to simultaneously defend the faith and be transformed by it into people of compassion

Friday, August 15, 2008

Independence Day

Today is the 61st anniversary of India's independence from Britain. Family friend Shreekant Sambrani mulls India's spectacular economic growth in an I-Day column for the Business Standard. This part is important to point out, especially to all those who equate market reforms only with unmitigated evil:
Second, poverty, once a defining adjective for India, is on the decline. It is now not confined only to official statistics, the latest of which point out that for the first time the number of the poor is actually falling and at a rapid rate at that. The poverty ratio in 2005-06 was 24 per cent, with an actual decline of over 20 million in the head count of 280 million over the preceding year (Planning Commission internal assessment reported in The Indian Express, July 22, 2008). One can see it visually as well in travels in the countryside, including relatively remote areas. Let us accept this remission without entering into a debate as to what caused it.
There is of course a "and yet" in India's story. The column suggests that this can be tackled by greater job growth and lesser dependence on agriculture. And then there's this:
And finally to the rising spirits. The captains of industry may exult in it, but we are still an anarchistic people as public events, intolerance of any divergence, and the lack of discipline and public morality abundantly make clear. The eminent historian, Dr Harbans Mukhia, had observed in a luminous essay some years ago that the world over, development means a greater sense of responsibility and self-control, while in India, the exact reverse seems to be happening.
Another reminder that markets and capitalism are not ends, but means. The culture -- and the values of that culture -- are crucial to integrated and equitable development

Feast of the Assumption

Assumpta est Maria in coelum, gaudent angeli, collaudantes benedicunt Dominum, alleluia.



On this day, 14 years ago, I was baptized into the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, and received the Holy Eucharist for the first time.

Alleluia! Happy Feast!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Kids Hope USA

The whole Making Disciples seminar has been simply amazing. I'll be blogging on that in more detail when I get some time (which won't be for a while. I'm essentially on the road till next week!), but wanted to mention this simply amazing apostolate that we heard about today.

Barbara Elliott is the author of Street Saints: Renewing America's Cities, and works at the Center for Renewal in Houston. She gave a presentation on ministry to the poor and how that relates to evangelization and discipleship, and can (and has been) ways for congregations to renewal themselves spiritually as well. One particular ministry she talked in detail about was Kids Hope USA, which pairs mentors in congregations with at-risk children in public schools, the basic idea being that these children need someone who can love them, and be their friend, as well as provide some tutoring or other support needs. The mentors making a commitment to work with a particular child, one hour a week, for one year. The results have been simply astounding, and the program is in place in with congregations of various denominations in 29 states.

Check it out!

(Incidentally, Barbara is the member of an Anglican Use parish: not the kind of congregation one normally thinks of as being involved in such kinds of social outreach. It's sad that congregations one tends to compartmentalize things such as a proper attention to liturgy and outreach to the community. Everything should be organically connected. And, I'm more and more convinced, we need to reclaim a vision of our parishes as places, or schools, of discernment, training in discipleship, prayer, and listening to the Holy Spirit -- with the liturgy at the center of this -- out of which amazing things can flow.)

There's been some amazing stories shared this week, both from participants, as well as stories of the kinds of creative apostolates that are unleashed when disciples cooperate actively with the Holy Spirit, and discern their own particular vocation, calls and gifts.

What I was up to earlier today

... in a seaplane in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Palmetto State as viewed from Charleston


[H/t Adam] Heh. And while we're at it:

Q. How are the Charlestonians and the Chinese alike?
A. They both eat rice and worship their ancestors.

Q. How many Charlestonians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. CHANGE??????

Charleston ...
... where the Ashley and the Cooper meet to form the Atlantic Ocean.

[Still having a blast at the conference in Spokane. We have the morning off and are going to go across the border to Idaho. Famous Potatoes and all that!:)]

Monday, August 11, 2008

(Mumble mumble) Bureaucrats (mumble)

Greetings from Spokane y'all -- the Making Disciples conferences is simply awesome. Lots of new stuff, lots to chew on and digest, great fellow attendees and a beautiful location (the Immaculate Heart of Mary Retreat Center just north of the city).

Pl. say a prayer that the paperwork necessary for me to register my car in GA arrives this week. GA gives one 30 days to register one's vehicle. And they take forever to process new vehicle title papers without which once can't register a new car. The dealer said it should be in before Aug 15 ... but without that, I can't register my car ... and I'm not sure what to do if it's not in by this weekend. Ugh.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Spokane

Heading to SEA in a few to catch an Alaska Airlines flight to GEG (Spokane). Alaska 692 to be precise. They have a partnership with NW, so I'll get freq. flier credit. I hope they also recognize partner Elite status, and not charge me for checking in a bag! :)

I'll be in Spokane till Thursday morning, attending the Making Disciples (pdf link) seminar of the Catherine of Siena Institute. No idea about internet access ...

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Tragedy in Texas

A bus packed with Vietnamese Catholic pilgrims on its way to Missouri crashed yesterday. The death toll has risen to 16.

The pilgrims were on their way to the Marian Days celebration, which has been held annually in Missouri since 1978, and draws tens of thousands of Vietnamese Catholics annually. Here is a 2007 NPR story about the event.

Please pray for the victims of the crash and their families. Kyrie eleison. Requiescant in pace.

Solemn High Mass in the Dominican Rite

(Video at the foot of the post)


The spire of Blessed Sacrament church is clearly visible from I-5. We booked it up the Interstate (having just come out of watching The Dark Knight at the IMax at Seattle Center. Woot!) and arrived a few minutes before 7:00 pm. The streets around the church were completely full, and it took several minutes to find parking and hoof it up to the imposing neo-Gothic facade. The Kyrie had just started and the church was absolutely packed. People were still streaming in. I am horrible at estimating crowds, but I wouldn't be surprised if the number were somewhere between 500 and 1000. Lots and lots of young people too. We stood at the back, towards the right.


The Mass was absolutely beautiful -- stunning polyphony (performed by the accomplished Tudor Choir), beautifully chanted propers, and, when occasion permitted, the congregation joining in the et cum spiritu tuo with gusto. (Of course, there was precious little for the congregation to say really.) The homilist was Fr. Michael Sweeney OP (who co-founded the Catherine of Siena Institute), who had a simple but profound reflection on what it means to be light for the world. Communion was received kneeling, on the Communion rail. The programs were all gone by the time we got there, so I couldn't really follow along with the various prayers, but I am familiar enough with the contours of the old Mass to have some sense what was going on. Besides, the presider's chanted Latin was impeccable.


I must say it was really strange to experience a silent (sorry, inaudible) canon. After the Sanctus, everyone knelt, and the liturgy continued in silence (except for the bells at the elevation) until the final Per omnia saecula saeculorum ... I am not entirely sure about the development of this tradition, and it certainly gives a sense of the (literally) unspeakable mystery that is at the heart of the Mass. In the East, I believe, large parts of the anaphora are recited by the priest alone. However, in the Melkite liturgies I'm familiar with, the words of institution are chanted out loud, and, of course, the people respond throughout the liturgy in various ways. I really am a creature of the Novus Ordo, I guess! (Ad orientem however? Yeah!)


Am also not sure if the Last Gospel was omitted, or recited silently by the priest. After the final prayer and blessing, the choir chanted a motet and the celebrants processed out. I was looking forward to the Last Gospel actually!

Fr. Michael Sweeney OP preaching

Anyway, it was a beautiful celebration and I feel fortunate to have been able to attend (thanks for the invite, Mark!). The video is from the Agnus Dei. A bit grainy, because I had to reduce quality so it wasn't too humungous an upload. Enjoy the photos. Links at the foot of the post.


Links:
PDF of the flier advertising the special 100th anniversary Mass.
Several posts by Fr. Augustine Thompson OP at The New Liturgical Movement blog on the history of the Dominican Liturgy.

Wikipedia on the Dominican Rite.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Par sa joie le convertit

Today is the Feast of St. Dominic. Last evening, Mark took me over to his parish, Blessed Sacrament (an imposing neo-gothic structure, spires climbing heavenwards in stony praise), which is staffed by the Order of Preachers, to have a look. We walked in as the a-capella choir was rehearsing some incredibly beautiful and heavenly polyphony.



Tonight they mark the feast with a special Mass in the ancient Dominican Rite! (pdf link) We are going to go see Dark Knight at the IMax at 4:00 pm, so might arrive a bit late to the Mass ... oh boy! I cannot wait!





The title of this post is from a song by a once-famous Dominican Nun (scroll to the bottom of the post for links), about her patron. "By his joy he converted them."

God Rays

Halleluja!

Pure Unadulterated Seattle


In the middle of a tiny traffic island, someone had arranged a still life, complete with a deck of cards (not just any deck, but Hoyles), flowers, magazines and a guest book for comments.

Here a couple of Seattlites pose thoughtfully, adding local color to this grassroots, interactive art form, which democratically promotes world peace and understanding among peoples. (My comment in the guest book, in Hindi, advanced this cause exponentially. White People would be pleased. In fact, Seattle is a rather White People place! Like, totally!)

The kicker? Someone had left a dollar bill on the table. And it was still there!

Narodnaya Respublika Washingtona


The Nanny State Cares For You.

However, they don't have income tax here. Go figure.

Bloggers of the world unite!

Had an absolutely delightful evening with bloggers Mark Shea and Alex Vitus. Dinner and brews at Tangletown Elysian Brewing Company (Their Pilsner was good. But not elysian.), and then circumnavigating Green Lake (no, it's not green), among various Seattleites offering strenuous physical sacrifice to the new gods of health and fitness.

(This feat -- circumnavigating Green Lake -- now allows me entry into the hallowed ranks of the Green Lake Power Walkers. Hmm.)

Here's undoctored (though still virtual) proof of the non-virtual existence of bloggers.

Oh and that's a Special Blogger Yatch next to us. Paid for by the GOP. I'll let Mark explain that. Or not. :)

Seattle

Wandered around town today -- first around Steilacoom (about 30 miles south of Seattle), a pretty little community perched on the edge of the Sound. It's also the home of the oldest Catholic Church in Washington State. (Didn't get a photo since the brand new rechargable batteries I loaded into my cameras needed to be ... well ... recharged!). Then hung around Pike Place Market on a beautiful summer afternoon -- upper 70s, sunshine, light breeze -- wandering among the crowds sampling organic ware and other Left Coast specialities, and reading Chesterton's musings (so perspicacious, and so apposite, nearly a century later!) on America (What I Saw in America)

Tchotckes at Pike Place Market

The State of Washington

Crabs!

Support.

Where it began

Sleeping in Seattle.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Go West ... !

Or Northwest in this case. Off to Seattle in a few (DL from ATL to MEM and then NW on to SEA. First Class upgrade. Of course). Visiting an old roomate, and hope to meet up with bloggers Mark Shea and Alex Vitus

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Solzhenitsyn at Harvard

Charles Colson incorporates bits of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's commencement speech at Harvard in 1978 into a column at CT. In my first read it seemed to make Solzhenitsyn a spokesperson for the Bush Administration, but I'm sure I was being too hasty ...

I'd never read the speech itself. Definitely worth it. There's much there that reminds me of Pope Benedict in so many ways, though the jeremiad isn't really his style. He's always more hopeful. Reading this, one can almost taste Solzhenitsyn's later bitter disappointment in the chaos that followed in post-Communist Russia. I don't agree with everything (for instance, I'm reminded of Chesterton's assertion that progress/Europe is simply another way of talking about Christianity. If Japan has become more progressive isn't that another way of saying that Japan has become European? Of course, he's talking about a confidently Christian Europe of over a century ago, but still ... Or the description of the Middle Ages as being brutal on the physical while exalting the spiritual), but overall it's a powerful jeremiad directed against a complacent West that is treading down the dangerous paths of libertinism, materialism and rationaistic humanism.

This is from the beginning.
Harvard’s motto is "VERITAS." Many of you have already found out and others will find out in the course of their lives that truth eludes us as soon as our concentration begins to flag, all the while leaving the illusion that we are continuing to pursue it. This is the source of much discord. Also, truth seldom is sweet; it is almost invariably bitter.
So true. So true!

Legite!

God's judgment on the Church

Over at ID, Fr. Mike quotes a section on Divine Judgment from the New Catholic Encyclopedia and has some comments.
But insofar as we experience division (33830 Christian denominations and counting, liberal/conservative/traditionalist labels within the Church), formalism (an emphasis on ritual and observance, over their meanings), defections (10% of Americans are former Catholics), apostolic ineffectiveness (how many adult baptisms or professions of faith in your parish last Easter Vigil?) and scandal (clergy sexual abuse, fiscal irresponsibility, N. Ireland's "troubles") we should see these problems as a judgment upon all of us. It is a sign that we are not submissive to the Holy Spirit, and that we are seeking our own will, rather than the will of God.

New Missal Out ... Sorta

USCCB Office of Divine Worship.
The text itself is provided now for study and formation only, and will only be promulgated for use in the celebration of the Mass upon the approval of the full revised text of the Roman Missal.
Patience is a virtue etc. etc.

Supreme, immediate, universal, jursidiction ...

... which gives the Holy Father the right under Canon Law to do rather unprecedented things such as this ... AmericanPapist: Not Your Average Catholic!: Confirmed: Vatican laicizes former bishop to become president of Paraguay.

Here's the meat of the decree, translated into English, also via AmP.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A new Paulist ...

My former novice brother, über-Canadian Matt Sanders, made his first profession (temporary promises of simplicity, chastity and obedience) at St. Paul's College yesterday (Aug. 2), and now has three new letters after his name (CSP). Congratulations bro! Best wishes for the journey ahead. Oremus pro invicem!

Alexander Solzhenitsyn dies at 89

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn dies at 89 - International Herald Tribune The IHT article doesn't mention his Orthodoxy as much as this AP piece does.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Pope Benedict's Prayer Intention for August

"That the answer of the entire people of God to the common vocation to sanctity and mission may be promoted and fostered, with careful discernment of the charisms and a constant commitment to spiritual and cultural formation"

AWESOME! (Thanks to the commenter in the post below for pointing this out)

Retreat over

Am back in SC for a bit. It was a very fruitful retreat, both as far as time with the Lord, as well as time with my new Diocesan brothers goes.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Happy Feast!

Best wishes to all Jesuits today on the feast of St. Ignatius of
Loyola today which we are marking on retreat as a solemnity since we
are at a Jesuit retreat facility.

Monday, July 28, 2008

On retreat

I will be on retreat with my seminarian brothers starting in a couple of hours until Friday August 1. Right now I'm at a Starbucks in downtown ATL. [FYI Franklin, the one at GA Tech offers only the GA Tech wifi network which nonstudents cannot log onto. I'm at one on 7th & Peachtree. Where I'm picking up a free SSID. :)]

After that, I'm in SC for a few days, then back in Atlanta, then Seattle and Spokane (Making Disciples with the Siena Institute, Aug 10-14), before returning to Atlanta, collecting my things, and starting the drive up to seminary, with stops in Greenville SC, possibly Greensboro NC, and Washington DC.

Those who know me, know that I delight in such schedules. :)

Which means I'm looking forward to this retreat even more -- time for prayer and quiet and some good reading: a book of homilies by St. Jose María Escriva and (thanks to my new Cielini friends), the Religious Sense by Fr. Giussani.

Comment moderation stays on ... but feel free to leave comments as you wish. Incidentally, there's an interesting response to the post on the Indian Bible below.

Otherwise -- have a good week y'all!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Farewell but not goodbye



What a moving and wonderful send-off the people of Good Samaritan Parish gave me this weekend. Truly the generosity and love of the People of God knows no bounds. God bless y'all!

I hope to be able to write a little bit about my experiences here, especially with the Hispanics, before the blog shuts down. Several very busy weeks coming up, starting with a week long retreat Monday-Friday with my seminarian brothers.

Gunman opens fire in Tennessee church, 2 killed - Yahoo! News

At a Unitarian church in Knoxville. Oh no! Gunman opens fire in Tennessee church, 2 killed - Yahoo! News

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bomb blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad

Bangalore yesterday. Ahmedabad today. SIXTEEN coordinated bomb attacks. Lord have mercy! 29 die, 88 injured as blasts hit Western India

NDTV.

Islamists claim responsibility.

An Indianized Bible



Vatican banking on sari-clad Virgin Mary in 'Indian' Bible to draw in converts @ NewKerala.Com News, India Despite the rather silly headline (sure, all that's lacking in Catholic evangelization is a sari-clad Virgin), I doubt that the Vatican had anything directly to do with production of this Bible, which was likely the work of the Indian episcopal conference. The next time I'm back in the subcontinent, I'll have to look for a copy. The "Indianization" is part of the attempt to "inculturate" the Gospel in an Indian context. Inculturation is the big buzz word among ecclesial leaders in India. This bible is unusual in that it carries quotations from Hindu scriptures as well. Hmm.
Produced by the Society of St Paul, this is the first of its kind Bible that has been penned in simplified English.

It includes 27 sketches, most of them of typical Indian scenes such as a family in a slum beneath skyscrapers. Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa.

In addition, it also carries quotes from Hindu scriptures, like the Ramayana and Mahabharata, to explain Christianity to prospective converts.

"We wanted to show the parallels between the themes in the Bible and in Indian religions. We've put the sacred text in a local context," said Father Tony Charanghat, a spokesman for the Archbishop.
(That's Archbishop Oswald Cardinal Gracias of Bombay) I have no idea what "first of its kind Bible that has been penned in simplified English" means, but one hopes that it doesn't follow the "Good News Bible" or "Today's English Version" (which is what one hears most commonly in the liturgy in India) when it comes to translation. I also think the folks at the Ministry of Tourism would have some issue with the idea that "a family in a slum" is a "typical Indian scene." :)

Then there's this:
Christianity is now the third-largest religion in India - after Hinduism and Islam - with 24 million followers, of which 17 million are Catholics.
Now? Who did Christianity overtake? Christianity has been the third largest religion for ages. So now one has some 800+ million Hindus, some 130+ million Muslims and (officially) some 25 million or so Christians. If one starts looking at figures for crypto-Christians, as well as recent converts among Dalits and tribals, one could double that figure. But it's still the third largest religion in India.

Ah, here's a website for the New Community Bible and this page gives more details about what's new, including some explanation of the use of non-Christian scriptures.

Here's a story from the Mumbai Mirror.
The liberative knowledge of the spirit (atman) is to be attained through 'seeing, listening, reflecting and meditating' This verse from the hoary Brihadaranyaka Upanishad explains chapter 51 of the Book of Isaiah, in The New Community Bible (Catholic Edition) for India.
(Hoary? Man, I love Indian journalistic usage!) Here are examples of illustrations (from the same story):



And I am a bit astounded, though not really surprised, but this description of Vatican II and what followed:
The Indianisation process began in the sixties when a revolutionary council in Rome introduced local traditions and practices, like use of local languages for mass and incorporation of Indian worship in church rituals.

Though the process has been criticised by both Hindu radicals and the orthodox among Catholics, the idea has taken root and is now generally accepted.
This bit had me goggling a bit:
Diwali is an important event in church calendars.
Um, I don't think Diwali is on the ecclesiastical calendar, though it might be celebrated by Indian Christians along with their Hindu neighbors. In India, at least in urban India, everyone joins in the festivities at everyone else's festivals.

The "New Community Bible" seems to be a best-seller and is already nearly out of print. Hope this endeavor bears much fruit!

My only comments at this stage (without having seen the new publication or heard from my Indian friends):

-- if one really wants to get Indian, then pay attention to good translations of the Scriptures in the various vernaculars, and promote Biblical literacy (along with literacy period) among the laity, along with lay formation, discernment and collaboration. Apart from the urban enclaves, I don't think most Indian Catholics speak English.

-- I continue to find it incredibly frustrating that "Indianization" is understood to be "Hinduization" at the most superficial of levels.

-- as an evangelical tool, I really don't think educated Hindus (who might be the only ones interested in reading an Indianized Bible in English) will be drawn in much by the presence of scattered quotations from the Ramayana or the Upanishads. It will only reinforce the deeply ingrained Hindu idea of religious relativism "many paths, same destination." I am sure, though, this will be greatly appreciated.

-- so, it seems, this endeavor is really addressed to Indian Catholics, as part of the ongoing attempt to shuck the colonial baggage of being understood to be foreigners or European lackeys.

Some rather hasty, possibly too hasty, observations. And as always the caveat: I am Indian. I am a Catholic. But I am not an Indian Catholic. I am an American Catholic, and very much an outside observer, with an interest (understandable, one hopes) in the Church in my native land.

Catholic and Cool in Sydney

Michael Cook of the Australian e-zine Mercator Net gives an enthusiastic review of World Youth Day and suggests, despite the serious challenges ahead, it might herald a renaissance for the Catholic Church in Australia.

"Now, after a week of joyful, unashamed religious sentiment Down Under, everyone knows that there is a viable alternative." I absolutely hope that is true. And by no means am I criticizing WYD -- I am a huge fan (I'm already thinking, "Madrid 2011!"). The energy it generates has to be built on, however, and I hope and pray the local Church is up to the challenge. Ultimately, I think, Christianity as a "viable alternative" is especially visible in the relationships of love and trust that faithful Christians have and build with non-believers, or lukewarm believers.

Read the comments too. There's a few critical voices from Australian ecclesial workers, some in the school system (which was criticized for not giving enthusiastic support for WYD, it seems). One comment really struck me as a bit of an over-reach or a scold. This commenter thought that WYD supported materialism because it encouraged participants to buy logos and t-shirts and knick knacks. Which strikes me as a particularly dour Puritanical clucking at the joy and enthusiasm of the pilgrims!

Always be watchful ...


... of how Google's Ad-Sense uses keywords to place ads on your page.

Here's a screenshot of an article at Spero News decrying the possibility of homosexuals being able to serve openly in the US military. But what are the ads on the page? "Gay Millionaire Dating" (??? Can one say 'whiskey, tango, foxtrot'?), and at the bottom of the page "Rainbow Christian Gay Dating" and in the middle (probably responding to the location of my IP address), "Atlanta Gay Marriage."

One has to laugh! :)

Beyond belief ...

It's appalling and absolutely beyond belief that someone would steal the personal and private prayer that Senator Obama deposited in the Wailing Wall, and publicize it, and add something so sacred into the cynical and vicious political jawboning of the campaign.

Where is civility and decency? Common courtesy? Is nothing at all sacred anymore?

The Anchoress (hardly a supporter of the Senator's bid for the Presidency) is vituperative, but right on.

Lord have mercy on us!

Friday, July 25, 2008

But is it true?

For the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae The Tablet's editorial (and lead article) focuses on .... you got it. Statistics.
The Tablet's survey of Mass-going Catholics in England, conducted by the Von Hügel Institute in Cambridge, shows that, 40 years on, more than nine out of 10 of them do not think the use of condoms is wrong. That is their verdict on Humanae Vitae, though surprisingly half of them have never heard of it.
Their contention is the natural law argument is not persuasive. Fine (not agreeing with them, but let's go along). So are there better arguments? Well if there are, the Tablet isn't saying so. Because they'd rather the teaching be declared untrue, though they don't say it that way, and purportedly, talk about "the interests of truth."
There are plenty of issues to be revisited. Whether they would be considered by a body like the papal Commission on Birth Control seems unlikely today. Trust between hierarchy and laity has yet to recover from the blow suffered 40 years ago. That trust may well be repaired with honesty. That is why The Tablet believes the time has come to face the reality of Catholics and contraception by means of this definitive survey, in the interests of truth.
However, if the teaching is true, what weight do statistics have? A reminder of the pervasive power of secularism, or the complicated (and not entirely understood) relationship between economic development and fertility? Sure. The need for better arguments? Perhaps. Catechesis? Sure. Living Witness? Absolutely.

But to establish the truth of the matter? Umm.

And there is ample evidence out there to suggest (see previous post on the HV anniversary) that Pope Paul VI was on to something.

Fr. Lombardi (the Spokesman for the Holy See) addresses the issue raised by pro-contraception voices in the Church as well, in this statement.

And [H/t AmP Many great links there], Cardinal Stafford writes powerfully and eloquently of his personal experience of the reception of the Encyclical in the presbyterate of Baltimore in 1968, and the continuing effects of it down to this day: "The Year of the Peirásmos - 1968."

You never know who's reading ...

Inklings and Friends: What to read

My Top 5 Books by the Inklings and Friends | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

(I've actually never read George MacDonald, who was such an inspiration in the life of C.S. Lewis. And I'm just re-reading Orthodoxy. What fun!)

Holy gaping hole Batman!


A Qantas 747 en route to Melbourne from London, makes an emergency landing in Manila after a "decompressive explosion" blew a hole in the side of the fuselage.

Bloomberg.

Yahoo.

Not to be missed: video a passenger shot on the plane after the oxygen masks had deployed. Everyone is quite calm. The flight attendants continue to serve/clear up meals. The landing is also shown.

The Times UK: "Damage, corrosion, or a bomb?"

The heads start chatting at the Airliners.net forums.

This is a highly unusual situation to say the least. And it goes to show, it's tough to bring a modern jetliner down in mid-flight. Of course it's possible, with the right amount of explosives (Remember AI182 Kanishka? Or Pan Am 183?) If this were a bomb, then it failed. Thank God! If due to metal fatigue, then thank God it wasn't in the passenger cabin itself. (Remember Aloha 243?)

And a quibble about the reporting. You'll see this phrase repeated, "the plane plunged 20,000 feet." Um. This is standard after a decompression at high altitudes. a) The air at 30,000+ feet is too think to breathe. Hence the oxygen masks. b) Ever notice outside temperatures on those monitors when you're flying? It's like -50C up there. One could die in seconds. A controlled emergency descent to 10,000 feet is the way pilots are trained to respond to such a scenario.

Thank goodness everyone is safe. I hope and pray that this wasn't due to terrorists.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Untamed Beer

Want to point y'all to the neat blog of a friend from SC ... Untamed Beer. Brian's quite the brew-fficionado ... and who can forget memorable evenings such as the YACtoberfest at their house?

He links to the Catholic Beer Review, which has that lovely blessing of beer from the Roman Missal.

And while Franklin might have reminded us that beer is proof that God loves us (amen!), here's some G.K. wisdom as well ... No animal ever invented anything as bad as drunkenness - or as good as drink.

Nunc est bibendum!

(And Dogwood ... has anyone responded to the invite to go to the Brew at the Zoo in Columbia next weekend?)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Twenty Five Years ...

Today is the twenty fifth wedding anniversary of good friends St. Lizzy and St. Izzy. The O'Cayce's are currently stomping about the Pacific Northwest.

CONGRATULATIONS Y'ALL! And what a powerful and wonderful witness y'all are to me, and to so many others! Ad multos annos!

[PS: Of course, St. Izzy's main job is to reduce his dear wife's time in Purgatory. A duty he fulfills willingly and with gusto ... :)]

PAS: Washington going the Oregon way?

Check out Sherry's post at Intentional Disciples on the fight against a physician-assisted suicide bill in Washington State. Here's part of the appeal from the folks at noassistedsuicide.com
What happens in places which have legalized PAS? Recently the London Telegraph reported on new legislation introduced in Belgium where PAS was legalized several years ago. The proposed legislation would allow teenagers to request PAS for themselves and for parents of handicapped children to ask for PAS for their minor dependents.

In Holland, which is the pioneer of the pro-euthanasia movement, doctors euthanize patients without permission. One physician told how he had killed an elderly nun because he knew that her religious scruples would never have allowed her to request this herself--so he did it for her.

In Oregon, people who voted for PAS are now getting nervous, contacting the pro-life physicians group to find out if their doctor is one of those who prescribes death pills. Pro-life doctors now hang signs in their waiting rooms which are meant to reassure patients that they will only pursue life-affirming therapies.

Is this the culture we want? The doctor-patient relationship has always been a sacred trust where we know that the physician is the patient's advocate and tireless defender against premature death. But in Holland, people now carry cards in their wallets asking not to be euthanized in the case of illness or accident.

Can you help us? Pro-lifers in Washington state have managed to raise approximately $100,000 from residents while the proponents of PAS have raised over $1.2 million, the majority from out of state. The people in the pro-euthanasia movement believe the election in Washington is crucial to their plans for the rest of the country.

This is a David vs. Goliath battle. We need prayers and we need funds.
Also read Mark Shea, who has the entire appeal. SPREAD THE WORD!

The Devil's probably behind this as well ...

Man sues Diocese for possession of exorcism recordings. [H/t Leonardo]

I love being in a small...

I love being in a small Southern town. The lady at the post office is Catholic or loves Catholic a lapsed Catholic. And, so we were talking and she was like when's Mass?. So, I get ready to her the Mass schedule and hopefully we will see her back at Church!listen

Powered by Jott
[Which obviously doesn't work that well with voice recognition. Listen to the post and see whether you understood it! :)]

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dinner with the Cielini

Last night I met up with members of Communion & Liberation's Atlanta community for dinner at Pasta Vino in Buckhead. I'd bumped into some of them at the Eucharistic Congress last month (and two of the leaders actually had read my blog before that ... [gasp]), and was very glad to finally meet up with several Cielini. What a great bunch of folks! Thanks y'all for your welcome.

More "less blogging"

I hate to not having much time to post, however with this being my last week in the parish, there's a lot to do. Such as actually thinking about packing. :) Add the car woes on top of that. And at least two trips to Atlanta this week. The weekend in the mountains was absolutely fantastic and I'd share some photos ... except I forgot my camera in Peter's car! So it's in Aiken right now ... or on its way back via UPS. Heh.

I think actually catching up on WYD coverage will take a day or two!

Next week we're on retreat.

I suppose it's appropriate given the approaching end of the blog, that it should appear to just peter out ... :)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A weekend in the mountains ...

... a bunch of friends from SC have come up to northern GA, and we've gotten a cabin near Carter's Lake. Sweet place! No blogging over the weekend.

[I was down in Atlanta to return the rental, and Peter picked me up at the airport on his way in from SC. As we left the parking lot, his muffler fell out and a truck behind us ran over it. Not kidding! Luckily there was a Midas nearby and they got a new one on there in record time. Craig & Caity coming from Greenville got lost. Sean and Steph coming from Columbia later in the evening lost tons of time stuck on I-20 because of a major wrecking blocking the interstate. Bad travel day! I'm glad everyone's got here safe and sound.]

[Oh and my car's still not fixed.]

Friday, July 18, 2008

Chesterton the anti-semite?

Dale Ahlquist responds to an otherwise neat piece in the New Yorker, which raises tired old accusations. [Via the Curt Jester]
In the meantime, we regret the unfortunate turn in Mr. Gopnik's otherwise brilliant essay. There is something a little too desperate, too anxious in his attempt to prove that Chesterton is anti-Semitic. He is dancing as fast as he can to explain away Chesterton's Zionism and his outspoken stance against Hitler for oppressing the Jews. ("I will die defending the last Jew in Europe." What does it take to convince some people?)
And
But far more troubling is his argument that Chesterton, the Catholic convert, has this pervasive nastiness woven into the very fabric of his philosophy. Whether consciously or not, Mr. Gopnik has broadened his implication to include the whole Catholic Church. Perhaps some future literary critic will be discussing Mr. Gopnik's anti-Catholicism rather than Chesterton's anti-Semitism. He can only hope that he will one day be considered so noteworthy a controversialist.
Here's an abstract of the New Yorker article. I'm going to try and locate the full text.

And one could do worse than start with Mr. Ahlquist's little introduction to Chesterton, for those who have yet to discover him! This essay: Who is this guy and why haven't I heard of him is a good place to start as well.

We should open ourselves to the gifts of other Christians

Excerpts from the Holy Father's talk to an ecumenical gathering of Christian leaders in Sydney. The common celebration of the Eucharist remains the goal:
Yet it [Baptism] is not the final destination. The road of ecumenism ultimately points towards a common celebration of the Eucharist (cf. Ut Unum Sint, 23-24; 45), which Christ entrusted to his Apostles as the sacrament of the Church's unity par excellence. Although there are still obstacles to be overcome, we can be sure that a common Eucharist one day would only strengthen our resolve to love and serve one another in imitation of our Lord: for Jesus' commandment to "do this in memory of me" (Lk 22:19) is intrinsically ordered to his admonition to "wash one another's feet" (Jn 13:14).
On the way, we must not give in to the temptation of compromising on doctrine:
We must guard against any temptation to view doctrine as divisive and hence an impediment to the seemingly more pressing and immediate task of improving the world in which we live. In fact, the history of the Church demonstrates that praxis is not only inseparable from, but actually flows out of didache or teaching. The more closely we strive for a deeper understanding of the divine mysteries, the more eloquently our works of charity will speak of God's bountiful goodness and love towards all. Saint Augustine expressed the nexus between the gift of understanding and the virtue of charity when he wrote that the mind returns to God by love (cf. De Moribus Ecclesiae Catholicae, XII, 21), and that wherever one sees charity, one sees the Trinity (De Trinitate, 8, 8, 12)
And finally, and I think especially worth hearing in the often divisive atmosphere of the blogosphere (among other places!), we absolutely must recognize the gifts of each other:
For this reason, ecumenical dialogue advances not only through an exchange of ideas but by a sharing in mutually enriching gifts (cf. Ut Unum Sint, 28; 57). An "idea" aims at truth; a "gift" expresses love. Both are essential to dialogue. Opening ourselves to accept spiritual gifts from other Christians quickens our ability to perceive the light of truth which comes from the Holy Spirit.
(Emphasis added) He also spoke later to a gathering of inter-faith leaders, including Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists.

WYD getting positive press now

NCR's Pope Blog: This Morning's Headlines: The Transformation Has Taken Place.

Well, of course. The Holy Father's joyful presence is infectious. As is the joyous hundreds of thousands of Catholic Youth. [The cops are happy too!]

(Though of course, some persist tenaciously.)

And absolutely go read the whole speech to the youth that he have yesterday from the boat.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thoughts on Paul: VII

[Occasional reflections translated from the collection, "Pensieri su Paolo" by Benedict XVI.]

The freedom of the Sons of God.

We desire true and great liberty, that of heirs, the liberty (freedom) of the sons of God (cf. Rom. 8:15). In this world full of fictitious liberty, which destroys man and the environment, we want, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, to learn together the true liberty; to construct schools of liberty; to demonstrate to others with our lives that we are free, and how beautiful it is to be truly free in the true freedom of the sons of God. Homily March 3, 2006.

I'm just saying ...

I cuddle a Koala last year.

Now Pope Benedict does.



I visit the Shrine of Bl. Mackillop last year.

Now he does as well.

Hmmm.

[ducks from all the heckling that's about to come my way ... which definitely won't be the experience of the Holy Father. Besides, I don't think I could pull hundreds of thousands to Sydney ... Ok, you win Holy Father!]

In Mecca a King is giving lessons on peace

Sandro Magister's latest.

Stuck in ATL

Car trouble on the way down yesterday. Now to figure out where to get it fixed.

Who's the patron saint of car trouble?

:: UPDATE :: Purchase charger from Target so my cell phone doesn't die on me. Check.
Call AAA. Check.

Wait up to 90 minutes for tow-truck to arrive. Sigh. In process. :) At least I'm at a location with a computer! :) Check.

Find out what's wrong with the car? THEY CAN'T FIGURE IT OUT! "The computer is not showing any error codes?" Dude -- is this why one pays $95 for a diagnostic? So you can just look at the computer? You know the symptoms ... use your bean! I still say it's the fuel injection/fuel pump/loss of fuel. You're the mechanic though!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Clerical Spat!

Over at First Things!

In April, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus criticized what he read in (Anglican) Bishop N. T. Wright's new book, "Surprised by Hope." "The Possibilities and Perils in Being a Really Smart Bishop."

Well, Bishop Wright met up with Fr. Neuhaus on a recent trip to New York. They had lunch. And he wrote a sharply worded rejoinder. (Fr. Neuhaus gets the last word though in this correspondence.)

And in case you missed it, one of the most entertaining (and theologically fearless) segments on Colbert: N. T. Wright on Colbert! (Bishop Wright seems really relaxed and bubbly in that segment. Maybe this was filmed just after Fr. Neuhaus took him out to lunch? :))

Humanae Vitae: Forty Years On

"The Vindication of Humanae Vitae" at First Things. Social science has vindicated Humanae Vitae's predictions. No one wants to hear that, however.

Bishop Baker of Birmingham has issued a letter on the 40th anniversary of Paul VI's prophetic encyclica. [H/t. Annunciations] in which he recommends: A Study Guide to Humane Vitae, Of Human Life. and this pamphlet by Janet Smith" Sex and Contraception.

Dr. Smith's classic is "Contraception: Why Not"

And sure, go back and read the encyclical that received "the execration of the world."

From professional soccer to seminary

USA Today profiles the story of a young man who is leaving his career in professional soccer to enter seminary to study for the priesthood! Alleluia!

He'll be a future classmate of mine at the Mount. The only thing is, he played soccer for Clemson. I suppose even that can be forgiven? :)

[H/t Amy, who pointed me to the link at the Deacon's Bench]

(Aside: what's striking about the story is how important his relationship to Christ has been for him. And, related to that, how important discerning God's will has been. That's something that all Catholics are called to do. And parishes should be places that help every Catholic discern his or her personal vocation, as well as his or her call to a particular state in life)

Monday, July 14, 2008

A phantom crisis

America Magazine weighs in on the discussion of the Pew study with some cautions. I think the cautions are valid, but to call this a phantom crisis seems to imply, "well things are ok, business as usual." I think the Pew Study is simply revealing what a lot of church workers and leaders have suspected or concluded based on anecdotes. Their conclusion:
The Catholic Church should be concerned about losing members. But the results of the Pew study do not reflect a recent mass exodus from the Catholic faith. The changes it reflects have occurred incrementally over a long period, most often among young adults and teens; the changes are most often related to marriage, leaving home and migration to new environments. The average age at which former Catholics said they stopped considering themselves to be Catholic in CARA’s 2003 poll was 21, and only 14 percent of former Catholics said they were older than 35 when they left the church. The average age at the time of leaving has risen slightly over the decades from the early 20s (up until the 1990s) and now into the mid-20s. This change corresponds to the longer periods Catholics and non-Catholics alike are waiting to leave home and marry. Thus, the church’s concern for and focus on young adults should be nothing new. This is the population church leaders should continue to focus on now to stem future losses.
The article is subscriber only. I'm pasting the full text after the jump below. Please consider subscribing to and supporting America Magazine.

------
During Pope Benedict XVI’s historic visit to the United States this year, many commentators remarked that the supreme shepherd of the church was tending a rapidly shrinking American flock. They based their conclusion on the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, published in February 2008 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which reported that “Catholicism has experienced the greatest net losses” of any religion in the United States and that “roughly 10 percent of all Americans are former Catholics.”


Reporters in both secular and Catholic media were quick to use terms like “bleeding” and “hemorrhaging” to describe changes in the Catholic population. Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum, said “the Catholic numbers are eye-popping.” Commentators were swift to assign blame and identified “obvious” reasons for these changes, such as the recent sexual abuse crisis, the continuing shortage of priests and the long-term effects of the Second Vatican Council. Yet on closer inspection, Catholic Church leaders have less to worry about than it may seem. The Pew numbers do not reflect any new crisis.

The Catholic Church may be the “biggest loser” in terms of total population loss, but it is important to remember that the Catholic Church is also the single largest Christian denomination in the United States. Proportions matter. As bad as the losses have been, they would be even worse if Catholics were losing their young faithful at the same rate as every other U.S. Christian denomination. None of these other Christian churches has had as much success as the Catholic Church in retaining as adults members who were raised in the faith. The Pew study reports that the Catholic Church has retained 68 percent of those who grew up Catholic. By comparison, 60 percent of those raised Baptist are still Baptists as adults; the number is nearly the same for Lutherans (59 percent). The retention rates are lower for Methodists and Pentecostals (both 47 percent), Episcopalians (45 percent) and Presbyterians (40 percent). Of all the faith groups in the United States, only those who were raised as Hindu, Jew, Orthodox or Mormon are more likely than Catholics to keep their faith as adults (84, 76, 73 and 70 percent retention rates, respectively). Actually, the Pew numbers demonstrate that the Catholic Church is among the most successful at retaining those raised in their faith.

It is the case that more “Protestants stay Protestant” (80 percent), but this statistic masks the large volume of switching that occurs among Protestant denominations. The relative ease with which such a move can be made does not mean that it is somehow less relevant. Each denomination has its own unique customs, rituals, traditions, teachings and style; and switching from one to another brings change for the individual and the members of the churches involved. Although the expression about Protestants staying Protestant may have sociological and historical validity, the concept lacks relevance in the real world for the persons who make these changes and the religious organizations that lose and receive these members. Researchers may choose not to recognize a respondent’s change of faith group as a “real change,” but this does not mean the individuals making these changes (or the churches losing or gaining their membership) share such an interpretation.

When the Losses Occurred
Even with better retention rates than most, the Catholic Church is still losing too many members. Yet it is also important to understand that these losses have not occurred in any recent exodus. The results reported by Pew do not include information about when a respondent left his or her faith. But other social scientists have studied this particular question. In a 2003 national random-sample telephone poll, for example, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University asked American adults who said they were raised Catholic, but who no longer self-identify as such, the following question: “About how many years ago did you stop thinking of yourself as Catholic?” Respondents had a tendency to answer this open-ended question with round numbers, like one, five, 10, 15 or 20 years ago, rather than by specifying a year. A majority of these former Catholics said they stopped considering themselves Catholic before 1988 (54 percent). The percentage who in 2002 responded “last year” is statistically not different from that of respondents who said they left “five years ago,” “10 years ago” or more. In fact, former Catholics were more likely to name “30 years ago,” that is, 1972, than any other interval (10.8 percent of all those who have stopped considering themselves to be Catholic). These results reflect the incremental life-cycle changes that affect people’s faith life, such as the coming-of-age process, which may lead one to question childhood beliefs, or marrying someone of another faith, which may affect practice. Also, social scientists have long understood that some of those who no longer identify with the faith in which they were raised, especially those who currently say they are “unaffiliated,” will return to that faith later in life.

An Error of Size


Church leaders and Catholics in general should also be aware that the Pew results underestimate the size and composition of the Catholic population. Although Pew conducted more than 35,000 interviews, which resulted in a margin of sampling error of 0.6 percentage points, there is no safety in these numbers because sampling error is just one type of potential error. Pew researchers note in the report that an unusually low number of Latino respondents identify themselves as Catholics. In a three-page explanation of this phenomenon, the researchers explore other potential sources of error that could have caused this result, including question wording, unrepresentative sampling and problems caused by the language options for the survey. Pew conducted a follow-up survey, which confirmed that the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey had indeed underestimated Latino Catholic affiliation. The Pew researchers conclude thus:
This means the Landscape Survey underestimates the proportion of Latinos who are Catholic. By extension, it may also slightly underestimate the proportion of the U.S. Catholic population that is Latino and marginally underestimate the proportion of the U.S. population that is Catholic.
Instead of identifying themselves as Catholic, a sizable number of Latinos in the survey identified themselves as “unaffiliated.” Although the Pew researchers seek to reassure readers that because of the “missing” Latino Catholics, the report may only “marginally underestimate the proportion of the U.S. population that is Catholic,” this error has an impact on the interpretation of the Catholic data. The difference between the 58 percent identification among Latinos in the Pew survey and the more typical 68 percent affiliation found in other studies, including some conducted by Pew, is equivalent to 2.7 million U.S. adults (or 1.2 percent of the total U.S. population). To put the size of this error in Pew’s comparative terms, the 2.7 million adult Latino Catholics “missed” in the Religious Landscape Survey are equivalent to or larger than all but 10 of the other specific religious faith groups identified by Pew researchers in the U.S. population. If the Pew survey had not been affected by this methodological problem, the Catholic retention rate would have been more than 70 percent, which is consistent with previous CARA estimates.

The Catholic Church should be concerned about losing members. But the results of the Pew study do not reflect a recent mass exodus from the Catholic faith. The changes it reflects have occurred incrementally over a long period, most often among young adults and teens; the changes are most often related to marriage, leaving home and migration to new environments. The average age at which former Catholics said they stopped considering themselves to be Catholic in CARA’s 2003 poll was 21, and only 14 percent of former Catholics said they were older than 35 when they left the church. The average age at the time of leaving has risen slightly over the decades from the early 20s (up until the 1990s) and now into the mid-20s. This change corresponds to the longer periods Catholics and non-Catholics alike are waiting to leave home and marry. Thus, the church’s concern for and focus on young adults should be nothing new. This is the population church leaders should continue to focus on now to stem future losses.

Mark M. Gray is director of Catholic polls for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.; Joseph Claude Harris is an independent research analyst who lives in Seattle, Wash.

Thoughts on Paul: VI

[From the collection: "Pensieri su Paolo" by Pope Benedict XVI]

Paul was intimately "conquered" by Christ -- "comprehensus sum a Christo Iesu" (Phil. 3:12) -- ..., and (as such), it is not longer he who lives, but Christ lives in him. "Vivo autem iam non ego, vivit vero in me Christus" (It is no longer I who live, but Christ Jesus who lives in me.)" (Gal 2:20) Homily, March 24, 2006.

Could-a ... should-a ...

I got a call from a good friend from SC who works for the Paulists. (Ok, he's the Director of Development for the Society. We had a huge laugh about that -- he was hired just a little while before I left!) "So, I was doing an image search on the new book with the Pope's US talks that Paulist Press is publishing. And what was the first item returned in Google? Your blog! You must be making a killing with Ad-Sense."

Obviously I'm not a fund-raiser. I never did put advertising on the blog. Initially, I had qualms about doing that as a novice in a community that makes simple promises based on the evangelical counsels. After I left, I guess I just never got around to it.

Oh well! :)

Bureaucratic Efficiency

In order to get my car registered in Georgia, I need the vehicle title that South Carolina issued me. Which, of course, I can't find. I went to the SCDMV website, which said I could come to a customer service center, or mail a check for $15.00 along with a form, and a duplicate title would be issued. Another part of the website said that South Carolina only issues titles for vehicles that are currently housed in the state.

Hmm. So I called the customer service line. The lady was polite and very helpful: fill out the form requesting a duplicate title, another one officially registering a change of address to Georgia, enclose a cover letter and a check for $35.00 (expedited service, 3-5 business days). I complied, and mailed this out on July 3. And today, I have a duplicate title in the mail!

Nice to know things can work smoothly once in a while! :)

Now to head over this week to the county tax office to register the Boat in the Peach State.