Thursday, January 31, 2008
It's one of the reasons blogging has been rather sparse. After 30 minutes of trying the modem logs on and stays connected for 10 minutes before knocking me off. (The other is that I woke up sick this morning: unsettled tummy and fever. Blech)
Monday, January 28, 2008
There's a big havan (prayer service) at the parent's house -- mom's house -- today. I arrived in Baroda a few hours back, after a 36 hour journey with a 6+ hour layover in Detroit, and a 5+ hour overnight layover at the airport in Bombay.
The havan will be starting soon. I'm cleaned up, dressed in white (the Hindu color of mourning), and barely awake.
I'll be praying the Office of the Dead today. Please keep us all in your prayers.
The Prince of this world has been cast out
Christ’s miracles were ordained to manifest his divinity. However, this had to remain hidden from the demons, otherwise the mystery of the passion would have been hindered by them: “If they had known the Lord of glory, they would not have crucified him,” (1Cor 2,8). It would seem, then, that Christ should not work miracles over the demons… Yet the prophet Zechariah predicted these wonders when he cried out: “I will take away the spirit of uncleanness,” (Zec 13,2). Indeed, Christ’s miracles were proofs demonstrating the faith he taught. Now, through the power of his divinity, was it not fitting for him to do away with the demons’ power in those who would believe in him, according to Saint John’s words: “Now the ruler of this world is driven out”? (Jn 12,31).
Thus it was fitting that, among his other miracles, Christ should deliver from demons those men who were possessed by them… Besides, Saint Augustine writes: “Christ made himself known to the demons for as long as he wished to do so, and he wished to do so for as long as it was necessary… through certain material consequences of his power.” At the sight of his miracles the devil came to believe through conjecture that Christ was the Son of God: “the demons… knew he was the Christ” says Saint Luke (Lc 4,41). If they confessed he was Son of God, “it was by way of conjecture rather than by way of knowledge,” Saint Bede comments. As for the miracles Christ accomplished when he cast out demons, he did not do these for their own usefulness but for that of men, so that they might give glory to God. That is why he prevented the demons from speaking about anything affecting his praise. Saint John Chrysostom observes: “It was not fitting that the demons should take to themselves the glory proper to the function of the apostles, nor that lying tongues should preach the mystery of Christ.”
Nevertheless, Compass Direct News warned that the incidence of anti-Christian violence is much higher than available statistics indicate. Also of concern is the way in which minority groups in some states are under pressure. The article cited the secretary-general of the Christian Legal Association, Tehmina Arora, who singled out seven states -- namely Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Orissa, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh -- as being where Christians face the brunt of Hindu extremism.
The total population in these seven states is more than 354 million people, of which 4 million are Christian. Arora also pointed out that it is only a small minority of Hindu extremists who are the cause of the violence, with the tacit approval of some local authorities.
Anti-conversion laws are in force in three states: Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa. Such laws in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh are still to be implemented.
The problems did not finish with the December attacks in Orissa. On Jan. 21 a news article posted on the Web page of the bishops' conference of India reported that the neighboring state of Chhattisgarh is also witnessing atrocities against Christians.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Details as they emerge.
News release from the Paulist Media Office on the ceremony.
There's a Facebook Group dedicated to the cause. [Registration at Facebook required.]
Details of the Fr. Hecker Guild.
[If one of my former CSP brothers, or any Associates [Brandon? :)], could dig up the prayer for intercessions for the cause, that would be great. And do ask for his intercessions. I know of at least one situation where we are all approaching the Heavenly Throne for a miraculous intervention. I will be enlisting Fr. Hecker's help in this regard. I hope he looks favorably on someone who left the Society he founded! :)]
Isaac Hecker, Servus Dei, ora pro nobis.
When Father Gerard Francik recently interviewed a 19-year-old man who was thinking about becoming a priest, the archdiocesan vocations director asked him to talk about his prayer life.[Also see this thoughtful piece by Fr. Mike at Intentional Discipels: Can we re-imagine vocation work?]
The former high school football player told Father Francik how he faithfully makes a holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament, attends Mass or Communion services, prays the rosary and observes the liturgy of the hours – every day.
“I was just blown away,” said Father Francik. “He was very dedicated to his faith.”
That young man is typical of the kind of people who are stepping forward to become priests these days, according to Father Francik. Many are still in their teens, and they show unbridled enthusiasm for living out their religious convictions, he said.
The other day I was out at Speakeasy in Five Points with some friends; at one point we were talking about the novitiate experience, and I said something about a life of chastity, obedience and simplicity.
"Yeah, you lead a simple life."
Ha! Touché! :)
It's been a wonderful week back home in SC, bittersweet, as the parish bids farewell to a dearly beloved pastor. I pray that we grieve well, and are open to what the new shepherd brings.
Long journey ahead:
AMS-BOM NW34 overnight at Bombay airport. (Well, really, 3-4 hours tops)
BOM-BDQ 9W341, arriving Tue at 620am
Saturday, January 26, 2008
This is the disclaimer that pops up before one can be admitted to the hallowed fanclub:
When you become a fan of Benedict XVI, it will display on your profile.But what if I want him to have access to my individual profile information?
Allow Benedict XVI to send Updates to the Updates tab of my Facebook Inbox.
You can edit this setting at any time.
At any rate, I look forward to getting updates from Benedict XVI. :)
There are 667 fans as of now. Join in y'all! Che viva il Papa!
Intolerance and interreligious violence, together with sexual discrimination, selective abortion of female foetuses, and domestic violence 'weaken the great Republic that India is today. To make it possible for the country to grow instead, it is necessary to unite society to build bridges of harmony, tolerance, and mutual respect'. This is the essence of the comment sent to AsiaNews by Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, for the occasion of the 59th Republic Day of India, which is celebrated today throughout the country.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Christians rebuilding their lives after last month's campaign of religious violence in Orissa are being ordered to convert to Hinduism, leave the area or die, according to a Catholic archbishop, writes Anto Akkara.
'The situation is getting really bad,'Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar said by telephone from his office in Bhubaneswar, capital of the eastern state. 'Many Christians and their families are being singled out and threatened these days. ‘If you want to live here, be Hindus or get out of here. Otherwise, we will kill you,' is what they are being told,' Archbishop Cheenath said.
Thousands of Christians fled their homes and four Christians were killed in almost two weeks of violent attacks. Dozens of churches and institutions and around 600 homes were looted and burned. The Catholic Church bore the brunt of the violence, losing 55 village churches, five convents, three presbyteries, six hostels, two seminaries and a dispensary.
Christians make up a fifth of the 500,000-population of Kandhamal district, and half the Christians are Catholic. But the archbishop said the state officials and police repeatedly advised him not to visit his troubled pastoral area, because the situation was 'volatile'. Earlier this month Archbishop Cheenath said officials had denied churchgoers permission to take aid to people who had taken shelter in the jungle. Churches made.
This is dated information: the original piece dates from 2000. It would be really interesting hear what has happened since then.
In Kabylie, people of all ages are converting to Christianity.[Of course, it's a Protestant church. Always is these days, right?]
In certain towns and villages of Greater Kabylie, there is at least one church, as for example at Ouadhias, Draa Benkhedda, Ain el-Hammam, and Boghni. In the latter village, for instance, two churches have opened their doors during the last two years. Although the original builders of these two churches had worked in absolute secrecy, the number of citizens who have embraced Christianity has grown rapidly. The [Protestant] church of Ouadhias has played an important role in the proliferation of the number of conversions in Kabylie, and it is considered the Mother Church, never having ceased its activities, even after [Algeria's] independence  and the departure of the French and humanitarian missionaries.
At a ceremony which we witnessed, things begin with prayers, the invocation of God, and religious chants in three languages: Amazigh (a Berber language), French, and Arabic. After the sermon, one ends with prayers, some of which are for the healing of the sick.
The media have played a great part in the conversions in Kabylie, the majority of radio stations have a strong following in this region. The faithful whom we met have confirmed that information had, in their view, an important role in the legitimization of Christian doctrines. Like Saïd –who confessed that he listens a lot to [the French station] Radio Monte Carlo and particularly its popular broadcasts in Amazigh. As for Slimane, he declares that "80 percent of the reasons which impelled me towards Christianity came from Radio Monte Carlo." There are also other radio stations such as "Miracle Channel" (7SAT) [a satellite channel], and most of the faithful confirmed that they listen to these stations which broadcast the Christian message throughout the world.
Another reason for these conversions lies in the healing and nursing, which pushed a number of people towards Christianity. When we asked Saïd, 28, the reason for his conversion, he explained that he was suffering with asthma and hospitalized several times. Then a friend advised him to convert. After his release from hospital, Saïd made his way to the church and began frequenting it regularly, every Sunday, for two months. "I was healed and I have not taken any medicine since." The same reason was invoked by Noureddine who came to Christianity for "medical reasons." Rachid, the [Protestant] minister of the church, declares for his part that: "I have healed many whose faith was strong."
Thou art the chosen vessel, O Saint Paul Apostle, preacher of truth to the entire world.
This is the responsory for Lauds for today's feast, the Conversion of St. Paul. The words are found on the baldacchino above the main altar at St. Paul the Apostle in New York City (the mother church of the Paulist Fathers): the response is on a marble tablet on the floor at the foot of the altar.
St. Paul, of course, is my patron and inspiration.
This date, apart from focusing our attention on mission and evangelization, also has an ecumenical dimension, closing the week for prayer for Christian unity. [Here's the text of reflections from Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC]
Ecumenism and evangelization are, of course closely related. The latter in fact was the catalyst for the birth of the modern ecumenical movement. And this past week, the Holy Father has said that both evangelization and ecumenism are the main tasks facing the church at this juncture.
Fr. Neuhaus shares some thoughts on this feast day:
Something like that may be happening [a new springtime, in the words of Redemptoris Missio]. Consider the explosive growth of Christianity, especially in the Global South. And who knows what will happen when—and surely it is a question of when rather than if—China opens up? Redemptoris Missio tied together Christian mission and Christian unity. And, of course, the tie between mission and unity was the dynamic that launched what is called the modern ecumenical movement at Edinburgh in 1910. Not for nothing was that meeting called the World Missionary Conference. Unity is in the service of mission, which reflects Our Lord's prayer in John 17 that his disciples may be one so that the world may believe that he is sent by the Father.There follow some insightful reflections on St. Paul's attempts at evangelization at the Areopagus, and the modern Areopagi, particular atheism. Not the bombastic, arrogant, pugnacious atheism that has gotten much press recently, but a more silent, humanistic atheism, which is, perhaps, more pervasive than one would think.
Today the connection between mission and unity is not so evident. There are approximately 2.2 billion Christians in the world; about 1.2 billion Catholic, 400 million Orthodox, 150 million "classical" Reformation (Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, etc.), and the rest an assortment, especially in the Global South, of evangelical, Pentecostal, and indigenous movements, the last often being strange amalgamations of Christian and other religious cultures. Anything approximating ecclesial unity in this wild mix of ways of being Christian seems increasingly remote. That is the reality that informs the admirable article by Avery Cardinal Dulles in the December 2007 issue of First Things, "Saving Ecumenism From Itself." (The points made by Dulles are reflected also in the report on the state of ecumenism by Walter Cardinal Kasper, head of the pontifical council on Christian unity, given to the consistory of cardinals in Rome last fall.)
Let us pray for the intercession of The Apostle, today, and especially for that we imitate his courage and zeal, and a desire to know nothing, and proclaim nothing, but Christ crucified, in whose power our weakness is made perfect.
[Wonderful links for today's Feast from Mike Aquilina, along with a great summary of the life of St. Paul from St. Jerome.]
[Last year's post, with a Caravaggio and an anthem to St. Paul!]
Thursday, January 24, 2008
I think Francis de Sales' appeal is very broad though - it's almost as if in his life, there's something for everyone to look to. He's interesting for his evangelizing, his courage as a bishop of a see he wasn't allowed to live in (Geneva), his truth-telling, his friendship, his spiritual direction, his writing…The tremendous common-sense and practicality that pervades his writings is clearly visible in this section from his Introduction to the Devout Life that makes up today's Office of Readings:
Francis' book of spiritual direction for the laity is something that I'll be brazen enough to say everyone should have. There may be a few aspects of The Introduction to the Devout Life (read it online here) that seem dated and culture-bound - but honestly and surprisingly, not many. Which is, of course, why it is still read. He writes of prayer, fully cognizant of the situations in which laity busy in the world find themselves. He writes of temptation, of friendship, of how a disciple of Jesus should approach entertainment and leisure, work, conversation and marriage.
When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according to its own kind; he has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each one in accord with his character, his station and his calling.And for some local (i.e. Columbia SC) trivia. This morning at Mass at St. Peter's, Monsignor shared a little story about the founding in the early 20th century of the neighboring parish, originally to be dedicated to St. Francis de Sales. As the little community was struggling to collect funds for a church, they received a generous bequest, on the condition that the new parish would be dedicated to St. Joseph! Being the ever practical man that he was, I'm sure St. Francis wouldn't have minded. :)
I say that devotion must be practised in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.
Tell me, please, my Philothea, whether it is proper for a bishop to want to lead a solitary life like a Carthusian; or for married people to be no more concerned than a Capuchin about increasing their income; or for a working man to spend his whole day in church like a religious; or on the other hand for a religious to be constantly exposed like a bishop to all the events and circumstances that bear on the needs of our neighbour. Is not this sort of devotion ridiculous, unorganised and intolerable? Yet this absurd error occurs very frequently, but in no way does true devotion, my Philothea, destroy anything at all. On the contrary, it perfects and fulfils all things. In fact if it ever works against, or is inimical to, anyone's legitimate station and calling, then it is very definitely false devotion.
The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them. True devotion does still better. Not only does it not injure any sort of calling or occupation, it even embellishes and enhances it.
Moreover, just as every sort of gem, cast in honey, becomes brighter and more sparkling, each according to its colour, so each person becomes more acceptable and fitting in his own vocation when he sets his vocation in the context of devotion. Through devotion your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince becomes more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable.
It is therefore an error and even a heresy to wish to exclude the exercise of devotion from military divisions, from the artisans' shops, from the courts of princes, from family households. I acknowledge, my dear Philothea, that the type of devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic and religious can certainly not be exercised in these sorts of stations and occupations, but besides this threefold type of devotion, there are many others fit for perfecting those who live in a secular state.
Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.
Sandro Magister republishes extracts from an article written by the new General of the Jesuits, Fr. Nicolás in Concilium in 2005. He also provides some helpful introductory commentary (historical -- about the roots of Asian Christianity, which predate the evangelization of Europe -- as well as theological).
In many ways, this seems (at least at first read) to be similar to the perspective of many Asian (and non-Asian) Catholic theologians: the primary witness of the Church is of self-emptying service. This is the only appropriate mode of evangelization. This is, of course, very true (if only partially so). It is part of that reality, that oh-so-human reality: the Church acts and behaves just like any other institution, just like any other human reality: worrying about her own power and influence, just as she is wracked by the sin of her members, and leaders. In that sense, all of this hampers and clouds her essential mission, evangelization. The Master's warning hangs over her head: "If salt should lose its taste, it will be trampled underfoot."
However, closely tied to this perspective are a lot of other things, spoken obliquely, or left unsaid, or, sometimes, voiced aloud: that this is the only method of evangelization. Proclamation boils down just to this. Inviting people into relationship -- explicit relationship -- with Christ and His Church is probably not necessary, and, perhaps even a form of arrogance. That the Church bears a message -- and witnesses to a Person who challenges not just the Church to be faithful to Him and his new way of being human, the real, authentic way of being human, free from all the distortions and weight of sin -- but, a witness that challenges every other way of being human, of human relationships, of human power structures, of human religious perspectives. That the Gospel has something to say to everyone, and offers something -- something new and different and life altering -- to everyone is only arrogance, or disrespect for ancient and beautiful religions. For those religions are sufficient; they are divinely ordained means of salvation.
What the Spirit is telling the Church is this: stop trying to make new Christians. Just be faithful as you are. Be humble, serve the poor, advocate for their rights, identify with them. Think beyond doctrine and power, who makes it to heaven and who doesn't. Love everyone.
Conversion (as in coming into the visible communion of Christ's Church), in this perspective, tends to be seen only as an imposition on human freedom, and, therefore not just unnecessary, but also unjust. Dialogue replaces proclamation.
In trying to move away from the exaggerations and abuses of past perspectives (say, this idea that unless every individual explicitly confessed Christ and was baptized, they had no hope of salvation; or an exclusively negative and uncharitable understanding of other religions and their followers; or too close an identification with European colonial powers and European culture), there seems to be a complete evisceration of the substance of evangelization: the taking of Christ - who is the Good News - to every corner of the world. Not imposed in opposition to human freedom. Not with condemnation of that which is good in the world's religions. In respect, yet also in joy, and confidence and yes, self-emptying love.
Evangelization is by the power of God alone. However, God tends to use human instruments. Even -- especially -- this very imperfect and very human Church.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful. I didn't 'fall out in church' as they say, but there was a very strong awakening in me of the importance of these issues in my life. I didn't want to walk alone on this journey. Accepting Jesus Christ in my life has been a powerful guide for my conduct and my values and my ideals.On abortion, he says he's not pro-abortion, wants to reduce the number of abortions, promote a greater respect for sex, even have restrictions on late-term abortions. However:
Ultimately, women are in the best position to make a decision at the end of the day about these issues. With significant constraints. For example, I think we can legitimately say — the state can legitimately say — that we are prohibiting late-term abortions as long as there's an exception for the mother's health. Those provisions that I voted against typically didn't have those exceptions, which raises profound questions where you might have a mother at great risk. Those are issues that I don't think the government can unilaterally make a decision about. I think they need to be made in consultation with doctors, they have to be prayed upon, or people have to be consulting their conscience on it. I think we have to keep that decision-making with the person themselves.Even those vague and unspecified "significant constraints" would be better than the on-demand regime that we have today.
In reality, however -- auxiliary appointments being what they are these days (i.e. an eternity in coming) -- the eventual nominee will likely end up succeeding one of the nation's top diocesan prospects: the Steel City's lone active auxiliary, Bishop Paul Bradley.Indeed. Well, whoever it is, I hope it's soon. Sees are not supposed to be vacant for months and months on end.
A highly-regarded career pastor who became Vice-Wuerl on Zubik's 2003 departure for Green Bay, Bradley won high praise for his 15-month stint as diocesan administrator between The Don's departure for the capital and The Dave's arrival home -- a point reinforced when, at the latter's installation, the presbyterate led a prolonged standing ovation for the auxiliary that brought tears to his eyes.
While it's said that Bradley's already popped up on a number of ternae, his most-likely destination is repeatedly cited as the vacant diocese of Charleston... and not just because of South Carolina's prominent diaspora from Steeler Nation.
Speaking of Southern vacancies... well, more on that later.
Biography of Aux. Bishop Bradley from the website of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The comments are also quite illuminating: of the 22 that are on there right now, all but two are pro-abortion. Some are respectful; most are full of utter disdain.
Br. Blazek makes an important point:
How do I kill other people in the abortion debate? I kill in the use of words to wound rather than to convince. Making personal attacks against others places me again at risk of pride and wrath. Note well: when discussing abortion, one sometimes hears, "You will never change anyone's mind about this. People think what they think." If the abolitionists and suffragettes had denied the possibility of change in their fellow citizens' opinions, this country would still have slavery and women without the vote. Denying the possibility of conversion is to deny the possibility of grace: it plays into the hands of the enemy of our human nature.His piece is quite stirring (and seems to me to be more appropriate for an intra-ecclesial conversation, than a public ad extra piece). However, it seems to me to underscore the need to make public arguments against abortion on purely secular grounds. Opposition to abortion is just too widely seen as a purely Catholic/Christian/religious/fundamentalist perspective, an "imposition" of one group's values on a secular society.
On a slightly divergent note: at what point does our society consider the human embryo to be a human person, endowed with the rights and dignity that pertain to personhood? What, in our society, makes a human being a human person? The answer seems to be quite clear: the mother's will.
Mike Aquilina describes in chilling detail another society, a world very familiar to the early leaders of Christianity, a world in which personhood was conferred by the will of the father.
I suppose it could be considered progress that we have abandoned the ways of patriarchy in this regard?
This morning at daily Mass downtown, Father made a connection that seemed at once obvious, yet startling. He said that as Americans we remember 9-11 as a day of horror, of terror and attack, and the slaughter of innocents. Well, today, is another day of remembrance, as another slaughter of innocents was legitimized and continues.
I've carried that thought around all day. What a world we live in, where the right of a mother to kill her unborn child is celebrated as a victory for progress. And how far we are from a world where no woman feels that her only choice is to kill her child.
Another year. Another million odd lives.
May our stony hearts be melted. And may we continue to struggle for that most basic of human rights: the right to life.
[My post from the 2006 March: the first and only once I've attended.]
At a Vatican press conference Monday, Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo said Pope Benedict personally decided not to attempt an invasive investigation of the sarcophagus believed to hold St. Paul's remains — at least not during the Pauline year.I will be in Rome in early March. I absolutely cannot wait to go pray at the tomb of St. Paul again.
The main reason is that the marble sarcophagus lies buried beneath the main altar in the Rome Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls, and unearthing it would require too much architectural destruction.
The tomb is enclosed by a wall, apparently built to protect the area from floods, and it would make excavation very difficult if not impossible.
For much the same reason, visitors during the Pauline year will be unable to imitate an ancient pilgrim practice of lowering pieces of cloth or other objects through a hole in the tomb, in order to create secondary relics.
Visitors will at least be able to see one side of the roughly cut sarcophagus, which lies beneath an inscription: "Paul Apostle Martyr."
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
The good folks from Holy Transfiguration in McLean will be marching with the Orthodox contingent, a great ecumenical gesture as well!
And, American Papist is Blog Central for the event.
Pray for the unborn and all mothers tonight.
[And, via Intentional Disciples: A March for Life in Paris!]
Monday, January 21, 2008
Allen Hunt, who, a year ago, was senior pastor of the third largest Methodist church in the world (Mt Pisgah in Georgia) announced that he will be received into the Catholic church. He had apparently transitioned out of the senior pastorate during the last year in preparation for this announcement [...] and has focused upon his daily radio show. His wife will remain active in the Methodist church.[Link to his blog.]
John Allen's coverage includes this:
Though Nicolás, 71, was not among the most commonly mentioned candidates in the run-up to today's vote, Jesuit sources said he represents a fairly bold choice – something of a blend between the mild personal manner and diplomatic skill of Kolvenbach, and the prophetic emphasis on justice, peace, and church reform associated with former General Fr. Pedro Arrupe.As the new head of the world's largest Catholic religious order he needs everyone's prayers!
A former director of the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila and head of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania, Nicolás is said to be particularly close to the church in Japan. In broad strokes, Jesuit observers say he represents the theological outlook associated with the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, with emphasis on inter-religious dialogue, advocacy for justice and peace, and "inculturation" of church teachings and practices.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
But of course. Didn't those who designed the Dome of the Rock copy Byzantine architecture?
It's been a fun farewell weekend in DC, hanging out with friends, and one last visit to Holy Transfiguration in McLean for Divine Liturgy. Tomorrow I head back to Carolina. My former pastor and close friend is being transferred, and I'm glad to be able to attend the farewell festivities.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
It means that AsiaNews articles on Asian ecclesial communities allow those outside of Asia to share and know the fate and mission of their sister communities on the continent. Thus, information becomes a means of communion for them.
The transition to a website of daily news in three languages has borne fruit. Today the agency's news reports are distributed by many other sites and media: from the BBC to al-Jazeera, from The New York Times to The South China Morning Post, from The Times to The National Catholic Register, to Avvenire, Il Giornale, Corriere della Sera, and La Repubblica.
There is also daily collaboration with Catholic and Protestant sites, including Catholic World News, Zenit, ICN, Christians Today, Christian Science Monitor, and also Inside the Vatican. Thanks to the republication of AsiaNews' reports by press agencies and newspapers, AsiaNews articles are reaching all parts of the globe. According to a study by the UCAN news agency, AsiaNews is the Catholic agency most cited by Catholic websites in China along with Vatican Radio, and this despite the fact that Chinese authorities often block it.
Friday, January 18, 2008
This magisterial survey by one of the United States' leading lay Catholic writers spotlights two opposing force fields in American religion. Their names are legion, but the ones Garry Wills prefers are "Enlightened" and "Evangelical". The first is studied, the second spontaneous. The first is confident in reason as a means of understanding God's laws, the second trusts in divine intervention. The first is the religion of the eighteenth-century Deists and Unitarians who framed America's constitution, carried forward in the Transcendentalists of the nineteenth century and the lettered Episcopalians of the twentieth. The second is the religion of Evangelical revival and fervour, whether in the hope-filled, black-pastor-led marches of the civil-rights movement or in the pessimism of the premillenarian dispensationalists awaiting the punitive fire of the Rapture. Wills' neat idea is that while they are in tension they are in need of each other, to compensate. It is a rare combination but it can lead to greatness.That's enough to make me want to read the book, for sure. The locus standi of the reviewer (and, of course, the author) is clear: the narrative, we are told, is "enlivened by withering critiques of right-wing Christians," and abortion is compared to the evangelical "victory" in the Prohibition movement:
It ends with an intriguing comparison between the 1920s Evangelical "triumph" of Prohibition and the current struggle to outlaw abortion; both illustrate, says Wills, "the difficulty of imposing a moral regime on people who do not agree with the moral principle involved". To end abortion, it is implied, requires not the conquest of government but the winning of hearts and minds, lest the result be, in Madison's words, "to the scandal of religion as well as the increase of party animosities".Isn't the more obvious analogy with that of slavery? Of human rights, rather than the imposition of quirky, partisan morality on a recalcitrant public square?
Add to the to-read list.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
On August 31, 2007, the president of Clemson University opened a letter from the South Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union that read, “Coach [Tommy] Bowden . . . has abused his authority as . . . head football coach by imposing his strong personal religious beliefs upon student-athletes under his charge.” In published reports, cited in the letter, the coach encouraged his players to attend one church service as a team during the two-a-day practices each preseason.
Even though “Church Day” was voluntary, and those who declined to attend suffered no penalty on or off the field, the ACLU urged the university president to end the practice of Coach Bowden taking his team to church. This practice of legal intimidation, directed at both individuals and organizations who affirm traditional values, we label as SLAPP, for “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.” The ACLU ploy is not new; it invokes the requirement of “pluralism” to secure submission to the doctrine of a secular, naked public square. Anything religious, especially if it is associated with the religion with which nine of ten Americans identify, must be denied public salience. The free exercise of religion becomes synonymous with “theocracy,” and its practice declared to be a threat to democracy and the public order.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
My colleagues and I have condemned all forms of extremism and violence, whether Hindu or Christian. However, the underlying story is not about violence, but instead about the caste discrimination and impoverishment that infect India.
Time magazine was quick to state that Hindu caste discrimination is one major factor in the present persecution of Dalit Christians in Orissa. In the Kandhamal area, there are about 100,000 Christians, mostly Dalits, and 500,000 non-Christian Tribals. IBN Live reports that the Dalit Christians have "done well after converting to Christianity." Their social, educational, and developmental conditions have conspicuously improved.
A transformed Christian community becomes a powerful motivator and attractor of all those who are still treated as subhumans by the caste system in Orissa. The inhuman and fraudulent social structure of the caste system is fully exposed.
Next week, Edward Cardinal Egan will declare Fr. Hecker to be Servus Dei, and officially open his cause for canonization.
I may have decided against pursuing the priesthood with the Paulist Fathers; however, Fr. Hecker remains close to my heart, and I enjoin everyone to start their sincere supplications for the day that we can formally ask for the intercessions of St. Isaac Hecker.
[In the piece Rocco says that there are 13 Paulist patron saints. I thought it was 12? Or is it St. Paul + 12? Could any of my former CSP brothers please clarify?]
[I wonder too at the title. "Americanist?" For too long, Hecker has been (unjustly, in my opinion -- I feel confident that the canonical investigation into his life will also establish this -- been associated with the Americanist controversy of the late 19th century]
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Va en paix, et que le Dieu d'Israël t'accorde ce que tu lui as demandé.
["Go in peace,
and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him."]
Monday, January 14, 2008
It's somehow appropriate that on my last day here, I ended up at Mass with two diocesan priests.
[After that, I went over to TC to hang out with some of the diocesan seminarians I've gotten to know. And was introduced to Homestarrunner. Mind bending, wot.]
“It is ridiculous and absurd to suggest that abortion is a solution to hunger, in order to control population growth. What’s more the concept - typical of UN organisations – that overpopulation represents the greatest danger to the health of a nation has no basis at all in reality….. In reality the world should urgently look at socio-economic and political issues to eliminate hunger, poverty, misery among people”.
For all of these reasons, Lenin Raghavarshi, atheist, communist, human rights activist, tells AsiaNews that he is in favour of the moratorium on abortion: “At the basis of all human rights is the right to live”."
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Was it just a coincidence that this was the topic, the day that the Holy Father himself (in a much publicized event) celebrated the Western Mass (Novus Ordo) at the altar in the Sistine Chapel in the same way?
It does make so much sense that, at least during the Eucharistic Prayer, priest and people face the same way, towards the direction of the Rising Sun, expectantly waiting for the return of the Son of Man.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
A young Bobby Jindal broke from the religion of his parents and homeland to embrace Catholicism. That's just fine by most Hindus, whose tolerant, flexible views allow that following any creed 'brings you closer to the values of humanity'Actually, the reaction among my family and the extended clan, is not dissimilar. The article captures well the general openness of Hinduism to pretty much any belief system, and is a pretty decent description of middle-class Hinduism, and I suspect, of diaspora Hinduism in North America as well. [It's the reason why, as B16 puts it, this confluence between post-Christian religious relativism and the relativism of Indian thought is, from a Christian perspective, problematic.]
What the article completely overlooks is the reality of caste and rigid hierarchy that is built into the Hindu worldview, and in Indian society, the violence that is used to maintain caste/purity boundaries, resulting in an amazing exclusion of a vast chunk of Indian society -- the Dalits. The article also ignores the debate on Christian missionary activity that has been present in Indian society at least since the 19th century, and that intensified in a particular way after Independence in 1947. "Conversion," in India, remains a bad word. Furthermore, one gets no sense from reading the article that Christians remain a somewhat persecuted minority in many parts of the country. [I say somewhat, because the situation of Christians is nowhere near precarious as it is in neighboring Pakistan.]
The kind of intellectual conversion an individual upper-caste person (such as Jindal, or, for that matter, myself) might undergo, is one thing. It doesn't really violate caste boundaries. When I'm back in India, I just automatically fit right back into an upper-caste and upper-class niche. When quizzed at security on flights back to the US, there is always some puzzlement ("You are Catholic, sir?"), but it's never an issue. There is a certain freedom that is available to the elite that doesn't always extend to other social strata.
The issue of conversion is incendiary, however. Very incendiary. The news is full of attacks on Christian villagers in Orissa over Christmas [Protests continue. The bishops are demanding that the Union government protect Christians.. There is a low-level but on-going persecution of Christians in various parts of the country. Last month, in Baroda district, in an attack, a priest lost four fingers of his right hand.]. When conversion challenges the sociopolitcal status quo -- so, when Dalits en-masse embrace Christianity, or Christian missionary activity is seen as giving Dalits a sense of human self-worth and therefore, awareness of their political rights as well, well, then things get interesting. Conversion then becomes "spiritual violence" and an imposition of "alien values" and so on (Just have a look at anti-Christian sites like Christian Aggression).
Yes, I'm being critical of Hinduism, or certain (rather prominent) aspects of it. Yes, Hinduism (and Hindus) has a very open mind at one level, when it comes to individual belief (and this dovetail quite well with American values about making up one's own mind, suspicion of religious authority, tolerance and so on). But, when it comes to caste, that tolerance vanishes.
[This is not to deny that many Hindus -- certainly the westernized, English-speaking elite, but many others as well -- are equally critical of these aspects of their religion. All power to them, and to movements to rid Hinduism (and Christianity and Islam!) of all the pernicious evils of the caste system. This is certainly debatable, but I want to argue that the roots of the Hindu reform movement lie in the exposure to the egalitarianism of Islam, and then, especially in the 19th century, Christianity. Comments from Hindu readers are most welcome.]
Yeah, I have to pack for Boston, then South Carolina, then India, then Italy (yes! I'm stopping in the Eternal City on the way back in March!) and then back again in DC to collect my stuff!).
At least I've managed to pare my boxes down from 44 to about 25. :)
Sir Edmund Hillary has climbed the final mountain now. News Blog - Times Online - WBLG: Even Everest is in shadow today Do check out the first two links in the story, to a pdf of the page from the Times back in 1953 and the second one to a brief video explaining the Times role in the expedition and how the story broke.
God and Small Things - Bits - Technology - New York Times Blog
I think the column nails it pretty clearly:
It's a curious argument. Religious leaders who have expressed qualms about practices like cloning animals have not objected to using genetic engineering on bacteria to make better drugs. Why would they be any less discerning about the differences between narrow applications of nanotechnology and those with more sweeping implications about the very nature of life? The lack of religious comment to date may not represent nano-ignorance so much as unwillingness to see any spiritual problem with re-engineering the molecular structure of textiles to improve stain resistance.
Friday, January 11, 2008
He is, in fact, opposed to all mockery. He thinks mockery is intrinsically evil (everything he's said about it boils down to this claim at least), because it causes harm to the other by exaggerating a weakness or a fault to the point of distortion. The person becomes the fault or weakness. Such behavior can never be tolerated. In fact, he doesn't think any satire is legitimate.
He's been thinking about this since then, and we've been at it back and forth a bit over email, and I think are at the stage of clarifying our positions. I'm trying to articulate what it is he is missing here (without just saying, "loosen up buddy!")
He's also seeking some saintly aid to defend his position, viz. St. Francis de Sales.
So: what do y'all think? [Greg please let me know if I've misconstrued anything you've said.]
And let's not get sarcastic in the comments, shall we? :)
[He's also lead me to the delightful blog: the Ironic Catholic. She's posted his question there as well.]
[And, on cue, the reliable folks at Christianity Today have a profile of the hilarious evangelical-humor website, LarkNews. And a link to an earlier piece by Orthodox theologian, Frederica Matthewes-Green on humor.]
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Ruth Gledhill - Times Online - WBLG: John Henry Newman to be saint 'soon'.
A very good post with lots of links and background, and exploring the connection that Pope Benedict has with the thought of Newman. [The link is to a lecture by then Cardinal Ratzinger on the death centenary of Newman.]
[Incidentally, on this my last work day in the Novitiate, we've been painting some hallways. And on the iPod I had Newman's "An essay on the development of Christian doctrine." Playing. Talk about mundane and sublime! :)]
His god cannot help him.
Originally uploaded by starlen
Saw this at Amit Verma's blog. It seems to be a page from a children's book. Of a bygone era, I hope.
Apart from the gross inaccuracies (he's worshiping the Buddha?), is this the kind of attitude that Christians portray? Is this how we want to be perceived?
Does taking the Great Commission seriously mean coming across as arrogant pr***s?
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
After a lot of prayer and reflection, and input from friends, formators and well-wishers, I have decided to leave the Novitiate.
I've spent a lot of time and energy discerning God's will, and whether, despite significant differences in pastoral styles, understandings of the liturgy, and ecclesiology and theology, I might still be called to ministry with the Paulist Fathers. I have concluded that this is not the case. I've always felt that I needed to put disclaimers on my beliefs and understandings of Church, and that unless I muted my orthodoxy, I would be misunderstood.
I spent a lot of time over Christmas break reflecting on this decision. I felt as if I were trying way too hard to squeeze my foot into an ill-fitting shoe. Having made the decision to leave, the initial feeling was like when one stops trying so hard to squeeze and distort and squirm. The relief was palpable. On Saturday, I made a personal day of prayer and recollection, focusing on God's providence, and committed myself again to trust fully in His guidance for the future. I have a sense of tremendous peace, as well as a lot of elation and excitement for the future, tinged with sadness at leaving a place, and relationships, that are close to me. I certainly hope that many of these relationships can continue to grow, even over a distance.
The priesthood has never been on the table here -- my sense of that call is about as rock solid as can be. I have always felt a strong attraction to pastoral work with people, and the thought has always been that if things didn't work out here, I'll pursue the secular priesthood. And diocese, as well as religious communities, need individuals with an evangelical zeal for souls, something that is at the center of my understanding of my vocation. [Until my plans for the future are clearer, I will not be sharing these publicly.]
My plan is to pack all my things and leave SPC a week from today. I'll be visiting friends in the area and down South, and then cashing in some more frequent flier miles and heading to India. This in-between time now gives me the opportunity to be present with my family at the one-year death anniversary ceremonies for my father, as well as a seminar in economics that is being organized in his honor at the local University.
I hope that I leave on a positive note, and I humbly ask for your prayers for my vocation and the journey ahead. The Paulists have been, and will continue to remain, in my daily prayers. The day Fr. Hecker is declared a saint will be a day of tremendous rejoicing, not just for the Paulists and the universal Church, but for me as well.
Your brother in Christ,
Humbly begging the intercessions of our Blessed Mother, whose hand I've felt guiding me so powerfully even in recent days, and of St. Paul, whose zeal for souls inspires me and directs me, I commit myself again to trusting in the guiding hand of Providence.
I would appreciate your prayers for the journey ahead.
Monday, January 07, 2008
The scripture was Luke 12:22-31. And this reading from St. Francis De Sales.
Let us be firmly resolved to serve God with our whole heart and life. Beyond that, let us have no care about tomorrow. Let us think only of living today well, and when tomorrow comes, it also will be today and we can think about it then. In all this we must have great trust and resignation to God's providence. We must make provision for enough manna for the day, and no more. Let us not doubt that God will provide more for us tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and all the days of our lives.Appropriate and timely!
Sunday, January 06, 2008
"Whereas in the West, Epiphany is celebrated as the revelation of God's love and compassion to all people, in the Christian East, this feast highlights the manifestation of the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ for the first time." (Fr. Jack Lynch, CSP)
In the East, the preferred title is the Feast of the Theophany (the manifestation of God). The Divine Liturgy this morning at Holy Transfiguration was especially rich and glorious. The troparion for the Feast recurs at various points in the liturgy (and was repeated many times at the very end, where, along with receiving the antedoron, the congregation also drank holy water from the font):
At your Baptism in the Jordan, O Lord, the worship of the Trinity was revealed: For the Father's voice bore witness to You by calling You His beloved Son. And the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truth of these words. O Christ God, who have appeared to us, and enlightened the world, glory to You.The readings and images are those of the Baptism of the Lord. (The text of the major antiphons/chants appears here.)
And, that stunningly beautiful baptismal chant was sung, in English and Arabic, in place of the Trisagion.
As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia!As always, the worship of the Christian east is beautiful and powerful, truly a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy!
Glory to you O God, Glory to you!
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Give me understanding, that I may keep thy law and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of thy commandments, for I delight in it.
Incline my heart to thy testimonies, and not to gain!
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; and give me life in thy ways.
Confirm to thy servant thy promise, which is for those who fear thee.
Turn away the reproach which I dread; for thy ordinances are good.
Behold, I long for thy precepts; in thy righteousness give me life!
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Friday, January 04, 2008
I will tell you what is my own great help. I once read or heard that an interior life means but the continuation of our Savior's life in us; that the great object of all his mysteries is to merit for us the grace of his interior life and communicate it to us, it being the end of his mission to lead us into the sweet land of promise, a life of constant union with himself. And what was the first rule of our dear Savior's life? You know it was to do his Father's will. Well, then, the first end I propose in our daily work is to the will of God, secondly, to do it in the manner he wills; and thirdly to do it because it is his will.(Emphases added)
I know what his will is by those who direct me; whatever they bid me do, if it is ever so small in itself, is the will of God for me. Then do it in the manner he wills it, not sewing an old thing as if it were new, or a new thing as if it were old; not fretting because the oven is too hot, or in a fuss because it is too cold. You understand -- not flying and driving because you are hurried, not creeping like a snail because no one pushes you. Our dear Savior was never in extremes. The third object is to do his will because God wills it, that is, to be ready to quit at any moment, and to do anything else to which you may be called ...
You think it is very hard to lead a life of such restraint unless you keep your eye of faith always open. Perseverance is a great grace. To go on gaining and advancing every day, we must be resolute, and bear and suffer as our blessed forerunners did. Which of them gained heaven without a struggle? ...
What are our real trials? By what name shall we call them? One cuts herself a cross of pride; another, one of causeless discontent; another, one of restless impatience or peevish fretfulness. But is the whole any better than children's play if looked at with the common eye of faith? Yet we know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life, that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty.
But we lack courage to keep a continual watch over our nature, and therefore, year after year, with our thousand graces, multiplied resolutions, and fair promises, we run around in a circle of misery and imperfections. After a long time in the service of God, we come nearly to the point from whence we set out, and perhaps with even less ardor for penance and mortification than when we began our consecration to him.
You are now in your first setout. Be above the vain fears of nature and efforts of your enemy. You are children of eternity. Your immortal crown awaits you, and the best of Fathers waits there to reward your duty and love. You may indeed sow here in tears, but you may be sure there to reap in joy.
1) I am too busy to pray.
2) I am afraid that if I "get involved" with Him, he'll demand things of me that I do not want to do. I forget that in His love, he'll only ask me to do that which will be for my greatest good; that which will draw me closer to Him and closer to the creatures He loves.
3) I can implicitly deny Jesus' humanity if I think my temptations to sin (to which I so easily give in) are stronger than any he faced (now who do you think Satan would try more vigorously?) In so doing, I deny the power of His grace, and give up on self-discipline (which is hardly only of my "self", but rather evidence of cooperating with grace!)
4) I underestimate what Jesus might do through me. I underestimate the power and efficacy of heartfelt, consistent intercessory prayer.
In his weekly Friday column, John Allen presents a superb analysis of the situation in Kenya from a Christian perspective: the challenges this kind of tribal/ethnic violence (which has been almost entirely intra-Christian) in a region that is one of the new centers of gravity for the Christian world in the 21st century. he also analyzes some of the statements by newly-named Cardinal Njue of Nairobi, which seem to have been perceived as partisan, in a hotly contested election.
Here's the rub:
Painting in broad strokes, Christianity in Africa tends to be youthful, vigorous, rooted solidly in the Bible rather than abstract theology, blending deep spiritual convictions with keen political and social engagement, and perhaps most beguiling of all, largely uncontaminated by the ideological polarization familiar in Western theological debate. Contrary to popular impression, African Christianity is not uniformly "conservative," which is a Western taxonomy, but often an intriguing blend of Biblical literalism with progressive social reform. The dream is that dynamic African Christians might reinvigorate the faith in other parts of the world.Read the whole thing. Catholics must walk carefully in Kenya's political crisis. (The title of this blog post is from the conclusion of the article.)
For African Christianity to fulfill that potential, however, it will have to come to terms with the contagion of tribalism.
[Also see Slate: What's really going on in Kenya?]
[Via the Anchoress. Check her post out with cool links to other videos/stories about young religious.]
Back in December US News & World Report had a cover story: A Return to Tradition, about young Catholics attracted to traditional orders. And let's not forget the Washington Post article on the Nashville Dominican sisters.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
It's kinda surreal: in the Christmas issue, the Economist had this leader, For all its flaws, an example to others, on the upcoming Kenyan election.
The events belied the hopes pinned on the election: President Kibaki pretty much seems to have stolen the election, and horrific violence, along ethnic and tribal lines, has set the country ablaze. Genocide on a grand scale, is the headline on CNN right now. As the leader in this week's Economist puts it, it's a depressingly familiar tale.
Initially, America, which sees Kenya as a front-line ally in a war against Islamist militias in neighbouring Somalia, made the mistake of endorsing the president's re-election. Now Britain, America and the African Union are urging Mr Odinga and Mr Kibaki to talk in an effort to stop the bloodletting. That lets Mr Kibaki off the hook far too easily. All the violence should certainly be condemned, but most of the diplomatic pressure should be exerted on Mr Kibaki's supposed new government to annul the results and organise a recount—or a new vote.Let's pray that world leaders have the sense and the will to not ignore this latest mess in Kenya.
If Mr Kibaki will not do this, the rest of the world should suspend direct aid to his regime and impose a travel ban on his officials. That is the least the wretched people of Kenya have a right to expect from their friends abroad.
[The website of the Kenya Episcopal Conference doesn't have any updates or statements from the country's Catholic bishops. The "News" link isn't working.]
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Spotted off Percival Road. :)
This was on a post-dinner drive around town. Stopped by Shandon Baptist (aka "Six Flags Over Jesus") to admire the new sculpture outside the main entrance of Jonah and the Whale (it was too dark to get a photo); and also to see the new incarnation of Dreher High School.
Ended the day on the couch with J & Z watching a movie (The Namesake. Excellent!) ... just like old times! :)