Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Directors of South Asian Catholic cultural centres meet - Asia News

NEPAL Directors of South Asian Catholic cultural centres meet - Asia News
The directors of many South Asian Catholic cultural centres are meeting from 29 April till 2 May at a Catholic Pastoral centre in Godavari, a few kilometres from Kathmandu, for a conference designed to see how the Christian faith can interact with local cultures and values. Upon the arrival the many participants were welcomed by Mgr Anthony Sharma, Apostolic Vicar for Nepal.

Mgr Pedro Lopez Quintana, Apostolic Nuncio for India and Nepal, Fr Bernard Ardura from the Pontifical Council for Culture, and bishops and Church officials from India, Nepal and Myanmar as well as representatives of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) are attending the event.

During the conference various papers will be presented, each focusing on ways the Gospel can enter into dialogue with the cultures of South Asia, which are steeped in the traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism, whilst safeguarding the dignity of man and the fundamental values of these cultures, increasingly jeopardised by rapid globalisation.

US among most Bible-literate nations in the world

I first saw this at Leonardo's (who put up a slightly different teaser headline of his own. And managed to work Fr. Isaac Hecker into the equation too!). He was basing his post on this Reuters story about a survey conducted on Bible literacy as part of the preparations for the 2008 Synod of Bishops, which is dedicated to the Sacred Scriptures. This morning, Sandro Magister's column delves into the survey in more detail:
n view of the upcoming synod, the Catholic Biblical Federation has organized a survey in thirteen countries on "The reading of the Scriptures." The survey was conducted by GFK-Eurisko, and coordinated by professor Luca Diotallevi, a sociology teacher at Roma 3 University.

The first data, on nine of the thirteen countries examined, were presented on April 28 at the Vatican press office by Diotallevi, by bishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Catholic Biblical Federation, and by archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, a world-famous biblical scholar and president of the pontifical council for culture.

The data were obtained from 13,000 interviews conducted in the United States, the United Kingdom, Holland, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Russia. They cover the entirety of the adult population. The data on Catholics alone will be published later.

The four countries in which the survey still continues are Argentina, South Africa, the Philippines, and Australia.
The results are quite varied: The US tends to be high in Bible ownership and in familiarity with the Scriptures, people praying regularly with the Bible. France tends to score the lowest, and therefore, could be considered to be the most "de-Christianized" (as Magister puts it)
But the Bible is not present and influential in all countries in the same way. The wave of secularization produces very different effects from region to region. In the United States and in Italy, these effects appear to be more contained than in other countries of Western Europe, among which France emerges as the most de-Christianized nation. And then there is Eastern Europe, with its own distinct cases of Poland and Russia. Each country, moreover, has its own religious history and profile.

For this reason, responses to the survey rarely coincide from country to country.
It will be interesting to read the survey report itself, once all the data are in: from the non-Western countries (Philippines, Argentina) as well as how Catholics fare when compared to the population as a whole.

Perhaps it's a good thing that Catholics weren't compared to, say, evangelical Christians as whole? :)

As for me, I had never even heard of the Catholic Biblical Federation!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Inhuman, uncivilized, reprehensible

This is how the Prime Minister of India described the practice of female foeticide, the selective abortion of girls that has seriously skewed India's sex ratio. And flying in the face of the old progressive development mantra that education and prosperity will take care of all social ills, the most abortions take place in the richer and more prosperous parts of the country. The educated prize their daughters even less. (CNA. Hindustan Times)

It's good that the Dr. Singh is speaking up on this. Pre-natal sex testing of unborn children has been illegal in India for decades. Needless to say, a lot of things are illegal in India but occur nonetheless. Whether this will change cultural attitudes ... who knows?

Indeed, it is inhuman, uncivilized and reprehensible that any child should be killed in the womb, and denied the most basic right of all, the right to life.

Somehow, nothing I read from India (apart from the Catholic press) makes that connection at all. The overall paradigm remains: "access to abortion = women's rights, development, GOOD." But now, "abortion of girls = BAD" because it's screwing society up. I suppose it's a good thing that a patriarchal society is better off because somehow killing boys is ok, or at least less worse?

Don Camillo and Vatican II

Having just turned a friend on to the Don Camillo stories, I happen upon this excellent post on the author, Giovanni Guareschi, at Rorate Caeli (h/t Fr. Z): "I will not die even if they kill me."
One of the most significant Italian writers of the 20th Century - and certainly one of the most underrated - was Giovanni Guareschi, better known as "Giovannino" Guareschi, born on May 1, 1908, 100 years ago.

Few contemporary European writers had so much authentic Catholic sensibility embedded in their works as Guareschi, whose masterpiece was the series of works, the Mondo Piccolo (Little World), in which the great struggle of his and of our age - the war between Faith and Reason (Logos), on one side, and Socialist barbarianism and relativism, of either "left" or "right", on the other, with many indifferent or lukewarm spectators in the middle - played itself out in a small village in the Italian countryside.
They've put up an autobiographical note by Guareschi which appeared in the seventh edition of Mondo Piccolo.

I discovered Don Camillo quite by accident, buried in a corner in the dusty shelves of the Asiatic Society Library in Bombay, when I was in college. This was in my "read everything you can about Cathlicism" stage (well, I don't think that stage has ended ... :)). I devoured all six books, one after the other. I cannot recommend them highly enough. I realize more and more how much they were a part of my formation as I was coming into the Church. There is a certain solid common-sense that permeates Guareschi's "Little World," somewhat reminiscent of Chesterton, that "apostle of common sense."

Don Camillo Online
It's been ages since I've read these. They're available online, thanks to someone with the very Indian name of Vajrang. Lots of good resources. The stories are archived at this page.

There is a rather inactive Yahoo listserv dedicated to Don Camillo (listservs are so 90s!). Last fall, a link appeared to a blog that talked about Don Camillo and Vatican II. Do go to the original blog and read it all. I'm reproducing it here after the jump.

Of course, at the time I read this first, I was quite clueless as to their import. I automatically rooted for Don Camillo against Don Chichi (the "post-Vatican II" reformer priest). I think you'll find that Don Camillo and Hell's Angel's is surprisingly germane for our situation at beginning of the third millennium.

In Ways of Escape, Graham Greene offers a touching tribute to the recently deceased Evelyn Waugh. Unlike Greene, Waugh was a convinced believer, and had no doubts about his faith, but Greene explains that "the old expression 'a broken heart' comes near to the truth" when describing Waugh's reaction to Vatican II.

It strikes me that when Giovanni Guareschi's Christ, in Don Camillo Meets the Flower Children claims 'Don Camillo, please, I just went through the agonies of the Vatican Council,' the author himself might have felt something similar. Guareschi's sad epilogue to Comrade Don Camillo, among other things notes that his people "face a new generation of priests who are no brothers of Don Camillo." Five years later, in Don Camillo Meets the Flower Children, Guareschi presents mixed feelings towards Vatican II.

Don Camillo refuses to replace his altar with what he calls a 'buffet table,' and inside Don Camillo's church, nothing has changed. The Curia sends the priest Don Francesco (who arrives in a business suit, and is mistaken by Don Camillo for a salesman) to implement the changes that Don Camillo has not. Don Camillo complains to Christ who responds
Don Camillo, if a cassock does not make a monk, then most certainly it does not make the priest. Or do you maintain that you are more a minister of God than that young man simply because you wear a cassock and he wears a jacket and trousers? Don Camillo, do you maintain that your God is so ignorant that he understands only Latin? Don Camillo, this stucco, this painted wood, this marble, these ancient words are not true faith.
Don Francesco's motto, according to Don Camillo, is demysticize, that is, "clean out all that is mere tinsel and serves only to nourish superstition." The old fashioned alter [sic] with the crucified Christ on it (the one Don Camillo talks to) has to go. When Don Camillo tells Christ that he will not permit the Crucifix to be thrown aside as tinsel, Christ responds "you're not talking about Me. You're talking about a piece of painted wood," to which Don Camillo responds 'Lord, my country is not a piece of colored cloth called a flag. However, the flag of a country cannot be treated as if it were any old rag. And You are my flag, Sir.'

Having demysticized the church, Don Francesco (renamed Don Chichi by the parish) launches into a series of sermons that significantly depopulate the Church. His arrogance prevents him from permitting a man's daughter to marry in the Old Rite, and when the old man suggests that his daughter will be married civilly then, Don Camillo takes Don Chichi aside. Not giving an inch, Don Chichi states that the Church must renew itself, and asks Don Camillo if he even knows what occurred at the Council? Claiming ignorance (Don Camillo is anything but) he states:
I cannot go much beyond the words of Christ; spoken in a simply clear way. Christ was not an intellectual, he used no complicated words, but only the humble, easy words that everybody knows. If Christ had been present at the Council, his talks would have sent the erudite concilar delegates into gales of laughter.
Reference to the concilar delegates is again given later, when it is believed that the 'disposable' Crucifix might just date back to the fifteen century. The Christ's hand is broken at the wrist and the crossbar is stuck together by what is believed to be an old piece of iron. Don Camillo explains to the Bishop's secretary, and a member of the Ministry of Culture, that during the War a bomb exploded on the bell ringer's roof, and shrapnel dangerously entered the Church while Don Camillo was saying Mass. The shrapnel was blocked by the right arm of Christ. Don Camillo concedes that to the member of the Ministry of Culture this might seem ridiculous, and that the story "would have made the priests of the Council roar with laughter," but how here, in the Po Valley, young and old are told of the day Christ's arm saved his people.

For all of his arrogance, it's hard to picture Don Chichi roaring with laughter at the Council, should Christ begin to speak, or should the story of the shrapnel be told. I think here Don Camillo overstretches a little. Don Camillo has the habit of often speaking only to think later, and I think his assessment of the concilar delegates certainly follows in this pattern. And yet, Don Camillo understands Vatican II, more than he lets on.
Millions of people no longer have any religious faith at all. This is the only thing I understood out of everything that was said at the Council. And it is the most important thing of all.
Don Chichi sees things exactly the same way (even though their attempts to deal with the problem are radically different):
Don Camillo, the Church is a great ship which for many centuries has been tied to the dock. The time has come to weigh the anchor, and set sail for the high sees. And the time has come to renovate the ship's trimmings, too.
Don Chichi sees his role as a priest, as occurring not simply within the walls of the Church, but also outside those walls. "I want to bring Christ to those poor outcasts," he explains, arrogantly misdiagnosing one elderly parishioner who brings Don Camillo the mail. On another occasion, when he sees the 87-year old Giosue, up to his knees in mud dragging his cart along the road, Don Chichi gets out of his Fiat and gives the old man a hand. Don Chichi has a strong sense of justice and finds it appalling that this man is forced to work. (Giosue explains that he is not forced to work but rather 'lives to keep working'). Believing Giosue to be mad, Don Chichi again misdiagnoses the situation, and his well-intentioned actions result in Giosue's death. Haunted by Giosue's ghost, Don Chichi sells his Fiat, and puts the money towards having the man buried in the manner he desired to be buried in.

On another occasion Don Chichi sees a boy carrying a heavy sack, and he stops to help him (note that Don Chichi's actions are inspired by his desire to help). When he sees the miserable conditions that the boy and his large family live in, he storms off to speak to Piletti, the owner of the land, and gives him an earful. Don Chichi only leaves when Piletti inserts a pitchfork into the argument, but he proceeds to convince Don Camillo to make use of the boy as an altar boy (whereupon the boy demands his cut fro the collection plate).

Don Chichi is quite often wrong (like Don Camillo), but he is fearless (remember him without hesitation going to face the Hell's Angels, who proceed to beat the tar out of him?), which is also like Don Camillo, and his heart is in the right place (like Don Camillo, here too). One wonders where Don Chichi sits, if Italy really does "face a new generation of priests who are no brothers of Don Camillo." He is very differently from Don Camillo, but they do seem to be of the same family, however much either of them would like to deny it.

Happy St. Catherine of Siena day!

One of my favorite saints. [Yeah, it's the end of the day: I was busy all day, and better late than never, wot?]

Lots of good stuff at Intentional Disciples. (1, 2, 3)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Reflections on Rome

The pre-Christian Rome. Sherry W at Intentional Disciples, based on the brilliant HBO series "Rome." I left my own thoughts there.

Free trade and rice

A great column in the NYT explains how freer trade can help poor rice farmers.

Let's not forget that prices are signals that provide information to producers, suppliers as to where the demand is, and how to go about meeting them. The more state and other interference muddles and distorts that information, the worse it is for all concerned.

Times like these call for clear thinking, based on sound economic principles. Not fuzzy, if well-intentioned, demagoguery.

[Aside: pro-abortion, and protectionist talk. Why am I supposed to like Obama?]

Pauline Year Website

... now up in English.


A link to all the catecheses that Pope Benedict has given on St. Paul.

Download the program for the Pauline Year, at least as it will be playing out in Rome.

Read monthly bulletins from the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

Two months away! ... :)

Check it out!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Military Relic Tour

This is cool.
Relics of St. Anthony of Padua (patron of sailors), St. Therese of Lisieux (patron of pilots and air crews), and St. Ignatius of Loyola (patron of soldiers), began a tour of military bases with an opening celebration at the Archdiocese for Military Services Chapel in Washington, D.C., on April 22. The event was presided over by Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio.

"Under pressure and in circumstances that most civilians cannot even imagine, our troops have to deal not only with the constant reality of death but – in addition – with the ups and downs of life as well," said AHR President Thomas Serafin. "Our hope is that the visit of these relics will allow our troops a special moment of prayerful reflection and will give them a sense that we at home stand behind them in prayer as well as in word."
Also check out the Apostolate's website.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Beatification of Cardinal Newman: Update

Ok. Perhaps the Alleluias were a bit premature. Fr. Z posts a pres release by the Oratorians at Birmingham. Basically, what's happened is that the miracle has been officially recognized by the panel of medical experts. Or rather, they have determined that there is no natural explanation for the healing seen in this case.

There are still a few more steps before the Beatification can be officially proclaimed.

I suspect what happened is that UK news wires ran with this story, and confused it to, "Cardinal Newman to be beatified!"

Well, I'm sure that's correct, but, unless I'm reading Fr. Z incorrectly, it's not as imminent as some of the press reports made it seem.

Big Apple Rumors

In this excellent piece (well, pretty much all his pieces are!) on the legacy of Abp John Carroll of Baltimore, Rocco sheds some of his inside-track light on what is easily one of the most important episcopal appointment in the US, and as he suggests, quite possibly of Pope Benedict's pontificate: the next Archbishop of New York.

While the Pope was still in town, the NYT lead with rumors mentioning Abp Dolan of Milwaukee and, closer to home, Abp Gregory of Atlanta. However, "The shape of the speculation might not exactly match that of the terna, but the coverage does reflect the clarity of the two top qualities sought in the Big Apple's tenth archbishop."

[A more extensive survey of the field appeared on Easter Sunday]

From the first piece, to-read text of the day: Abp Dolan's address at the Baltimore Basilica. (PDF link) Abp Dolan is a fantastic preacher. I've heard him twice: he lead the catechesis for our group at WYD in Toronto in 2002, and he spoke at the last Evangelical Catholic Institute that I attended in 2006.

And, thanks, Rocco, for using a photo taken by yours truly for the article, from my Basilica of the Assumption set at Flickr. :)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I love panoramas ...


It was a beautiful day, and I got the opportunity to go hiking in the hills nearby. Mid-70s, blue skies, fluffy clouds, the buzz of insects, eagle's swooping up and down ... it was just wonderful.
Posted by Picasa


[:: UPDATE :: See Word Wench's comment below about her experience of dance in services in SC.]

Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina declares ... get this ... Liturgical Dance Day!

I wonder what he's been smoking? (And no, it doesn't appear to be a hoax or a spoof)

How many Baptists do you know that do liturgical dance?

And outside a few Episcopalians and Catholics-of-a-certain-age, who does?

And how many South Carolina churches are liturgical to begin with?

"Spiritual art form?" Wow.

This thing is dated 2005 ... at least I'm glad it took three years to get around to the Catholic blogosphere ... perhaps that means something. :)

Vista Service Pack 1

My ire at Vista keeps increasing. >:-|

After, oh, at least a month of successfully dodging Windows Update's insistence that I download and install some "60-450MB" of stuff (nice range that, right?), it finally slipped through today. Well, no biggie, I was going to be out for several hours, let it install and do it's thang.

I come back, to find out, that it had downloaded, but needed me to click "ok to retsart" before it would start installing.

So, laptop not available for ... oh ... 2 hours. No problem.

Finally, it's all done. Everything seems to be fine ... except ... it now tells me that I have no audio device installed. So, until I figure out why it's not reading the sound card, the laptop is silent.

#&$*#$ Microsoft!

[:: Ah, all it required was yet another restart. Several years ago I heard this wonderful parody on NPR: "What if your car behaved like a Windows operating system?" It was hilarious! I need to Google it and see if I can locate it ... ::]

The Holy Father's visit to the National Shrine

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has put up exclusive photos from the Holy Father's visit last week. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The strange twists resulting from Sola Scriptura

A piece at CT examines the results of text-criticism that suggests that John 8 (The woman caught in adultery. Pericopae adulterae) is probably a later addition to the Gospel.

It's not like this is a new discovery. It's a standard footnote in the NAB, I believe. I recall reading about this in my intro classes in grad school.

But what does it mean that the earliest manuscript evidence does not have this story? Well, if one holds to Sola Scriptura, this is a puzzle indeed. One ends up saying things like: "This is canonical but not inspired." (The Holy Spirit just kinda bypassed this part of your Bible?) And Christians should be wary of praying this passage, or studying it, or quoting that oft-quoted, beloved line, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."

I'm reminded of an important point Luke Timothy Johnson made in his fantastic "The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels." (I can't recommend this book enough. It's an easy read, and one doesn't have to be an expert or a scholar to follow.), that philosophically, the modern "quest for the historical Jesus" goes back before Hermann Samuel Reimarus (where textbooks draw the line between the dawn of critical reason and pre-critical darkness and superstition), to the introduction by Luther of the principle of sola Scriptura. Once you have this in place, along with the Reformation impulse to find the proper, primitive, pristine, pre-Catholic Christianity, pure and undefiled, you are on your way to relying on a historical reconstruction to find out what Jesus "really" did or said, and a class of historian-priests who are the guardians of the "truth about Jesus." He makes the point that history simply doesn't give us enough. What we have at the very beginning are a few scattered letters and this four-fold portrait, which the Church has ever upheld since. That's our beginning. That's all we really have. And, that's all we really need ...

For Catholics (and Orthodox; while they might not recognize Trent, they're hardly going to be tempted to go down the road our Reformed brethren are wont to), the matter of the canon is itself a dogma, magisterially defined in Council, and not open to revision or discussion. Implicit is the understanding that the canon of scripture is a product of the Church, acting under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

So, the next time John 8 rolls around in the lectionary cycle, don't worry if your pastor or deacon delivers a wonderful homily on this eminently Christian story.

[The interview with Daniel B. Wallace, the executive director of the Center for New Testament Manuscripts is definitely worth reading. The Center's mission is to photograph and digitize all known Greek New Testament manuscripts (that's 1.3 million manuscripts), early translations and Patristic commentaries), surely a worthy effort. In the interview, Wallace talks about his recent visit to Tirana, as part of a team of the first Western scholars granted access to photograph manuscripts in the Albanian National Archives. The Center's website.]

The Feast of St. George

Great info and history at Musings from a Catholic Bookstore.

"Liberator of captives, and defender of the poor, physician of the sick, and champion of kings, O trophy-bearer, and Great Martyr George, intercede with Christ our God that our souls be saved." - Hymn of Saint George

How to reform the Vatican. (YAWN)

Fr. Thomas Reese SJ in the latest Commonweal proposes six reforms for the Vatican. (Haven't folks gotten tired of this kind of stuff? Check these guys out: church governance = American polity)

Fr. Reese suggests we can learn from other institutions.

Such as ... the Episcopal church?

So that with our collegial (read democratic) organs we can continue to officially eviscerate the faith until it's a harmless veneer covering secular humanism? Despite the current system, we have already done incredible amounts of damage already. Thank goodness we have had Popes with spines who've tried to limit the self-destructive poison of secularism within the church.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting that the current system of church governance is perfect, or in all its details, divinely willed. I'm sure there's a need for ongoing evaluation and reform (the election of bishops does come to mind, though not in the same way that Fr. Reese is thinking about it, I'm sure). I doubt that anyone would seriously think that we start by treating the Church as if it were solely a human institution. Fr. Reese also thinks so. Of course, it's all about power.
What are the chances of such reforms actually taking place? As a social scientist, I'd have to say they're probably close to zero. The church is now run by a self-perpetuating group of men who know such reform would diminish their power. It is also contrary to their theology of the church. But as a Catholic Christian, I still have to hope.
Well, I'm no expert. But not just contrary to their theology of church. But to a Catholic theology of church.

:: UPDATE :: The Curt Jester does a superb fisk of the article. He's to be commended for responding to each of the proposals and arguments Fr. Reese puts forward.

Cardinal Newman to be beatified: YES!

The rumors have been swirling for a while, but now it's official! ALLELUIA!

:: UPDATE :: As Fr. B mentions in the comments below, nothing yet from the Vatican. In my exuberance, I missed this line at the beginning of the CNA story: "The Birmingham Mail reports." :: sigh ::

John Henry Newman to be beatified (CNA)
The Catholic Church has accepted as miraculous the cure of an American deacon's crippling spinal disorder. The deacon, Jack Sullivan of Marshfield, Massachusetts, prayed for John Henry Newman's intercession.

At his beatification ceremony later this year, John Henry Newman will receive the title "Blessed." He will need one more recognized miracle to be canonized.

The case of a 17-year-old New Hampshire boy who survived serious head injuries from a car crash is being investigated as a possible second miracle.
Do check out this post that Sherry W put up on Sunday in response to news about the imminent announcement of the beatification. Lots of good links and quotes.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Moscow Patriarch responds to Muslim scholars

[Well, now that the Holy Father's visit has wrapped up, I can turn my attention to things that caught my eye last week but got ... eclipsed.]

Remember that letter that 138 Muslim scholars wrote to Christian leaders (A Common Word), including the Pope? Well Patriarch Alexei II of the Russian Orthodox Church has given an official response. Asia News has the details:
In this letter the Russian patriarch expressed his gratitude for the scholars' initiative. He agreed that Christians and Muslims have similar goals and that they can join forces to achieve these aims.

"Today Christianity and Islam do a quite important thing—they remind mankind of God's existence and of the spiritual dimension of man and the world," Patriarch Aleksij II wrote.

At the same time '[t]his joining will not happen if there is no clarification in understanding religious values of each other. That is why I greet the striving of the Muslim community to begin sincere and open dialogue with representatives of Christian Churches on a serious scientific and intellectual level," he said.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church lamented the fact that the two religions had "enemies" bent on causing "a clash between Christians and Muslims."
Now, I don't know who on the Christian side is bent on causing a clash. Perhaps people are responding aggressively ... but bent on causing a clash? Hmm. And with all due respect to His Beatitude, I found this last paragraph a bit disingenuous ...
Finally he stressed that Russia is a "rare multi-religious and multinational state" that can serve as an example for the co-existence between Islam and Christianity.
Umm. Can one say ... Chechnya?

Quibbles aside, it's good to hear how various Christian leaders have responded.

Tyler's Ride

Got an invite on Facebook* from a Paulist priest acquaintance about a new project launched by Paulist Productions: looks like it's an online tv series called Tyler's Ride. I saw the trailer -- kinda like "The OC" meets ... faith? Jeremy Camp has a guest role. It launches tomorrow. Check it out. I'll see what the first one is like ...

I emailed Barb Nicolosi to see if she'd heard of it: she got the invite, but doesn't know anything more. [Check out her review of Expelled. I really want to see it. It's playing a few towns over. I'm not sure that I want to do a 70 mile round-trip just to see a cool documentary, not with $3.50+ gas! Perhaps next week when I have a meeting down in Atlanta ... ]

* In case anyone goes looking, Gashwin doesn't exist on Facebook. I'm on there under the real name. :)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Apropos the rant below, in response to the tired cliches about out-of-touch hierarchies and oppressive dogmas, this came to mind:
We do not really want a religion that is right where we are right. What we want is a religion that is right where we are wrong. In these current fashions it is not really a question of the religion allowing us liberty; but (at the best) of the liberty of allowing us a religion. These people merely take the modern mood, with much in it that is amiable and much that is anarchical and much that is merely dull and obvious, and then require any creed to be cut down to fit that mood. But the mood would exist even without the creed. They say that want a religion to be social, when they would be social without any religion. They say that want a religion to be practical, when they would be practical without any religion. They say they want a religion acceptable to science, when they would accept science even if they did not accept the religion. They say they want a religion like this because they are like this already. They say they want it, when they mean that they could do without it.

It is a very different matter when a religion, in the real sense of a binding thing, binds men to their morality when it is not identical with their mood. It is very different when some of the saints preached social reconciliation to fierce and raging factions who could hardly bear the sight of each other's faces. It was a very different thing when charity was preached to pagans who really did not believe in it; just as it is a very different thing now, when chastity is preached to new pagans who do not believe in it. It is in those cases that we get the real grapple of religion; and it is in those cases that we get the peculiar and solitary triumph of the Catholic faith. It is not merely being right when we are right, as in being cheerful or hopeful or humane. It is in having been right when we were wrong, and in the fact coming back upon us afterwards like a boomerang.
Gilbert Keith Chesterton, The Catholic Church and Conversion

Me wants to go!

(H/t Intentional Disciples)

Catholic New Media Celebration: Come for the Eucharistic Congress. Stay for the Catholic New Media Celebration.

Spotted in the country today

A mighty fine GAMECOCK ... !

Benedict-ine Reactions

The Anchoress has a wonderful list of links. (With her own phenomenal one: The Last 20th Century Man.) Oh and another one linked at Amy's. That should be enough, for now, to help me with deal with PWS: Pope Withdrawal Syndrome.

Yesterday someone told me, "Gosh it's such a wonderful day outside!" My response was, "Yeah. I'll wait till the Pope's gone. Then I'll deal with the outside." :)

Ok, I've calmed down ...

However, that rant was definitely cathartic in a way ... :)

The problem, of course, with any counter-reaction is that one is tempted to go back to some mythical golden age, to turn the clock back. Which is, of course, impossible.

My rant was a kind of super-indictment of a whole generation of thinkers and theologians and priests and religious. I'm sure that's unfair. I am also mindful of our gentle Holy Father's words, in his homily at St. Patrick's:
We can only move forward if we turn our gaze together to Christ! In the light of faith, we will then discover the wisdom and strength needed to open ourselves to points of view which may not necessarily conform to our own ideas or assumptions. Thus we can value the perspectives of others, be they younger or older than ourselves, and ultimately hear "what the Spirit is saying" to us and to the Church (cf. Rev 2:7).
(I am certain, of course, that he is not talking about learning heresy from one's elders. As I wrote in a comment on the NYT blog in response to this post by Amy, some things are always going to be divisive. The unity that the Pope is talking about is not a superficial unity of "all perspectives are the same.")

I am suspicious of the hermeneutic of suspicion, for sure. However, I'm not reflexively, or even dogmatically, anti-modern. The Apostle's admonition to test the spirits is ever needed, because we are, indeed, a pilgrim Church, as the Council so beautifully put it.

One of the things that was eye-opening from my time in the Paulists, as I talked with the older generation, was the sense they had of overthrowing something that was deeply oppressive, and just how heady that time after the Council was. Whatever the truth to that, it was certainly how they perceived it. And one could sense their consternation and fear as they see the pendulum swing back. While a lot of the discussion focused on things like whether Paulists should wear habits again, the underlying fear was almost palpable. I (or my younger cohorts) never experienced that world. I'm never about denying people's experience. However, rants aside, I think the judgment of history a couple of generations down the line has been: something clearly went wrong.

And I rejoice that the corrective push of the rudder is even now turning the ship, and I am thrilled to be a part, if you will, of the rediscovery of the hermeneutic of continuity. Of the importance of orthodoxy -- i.e. unity in essentials. And, ultimately, to move beyond the rancor of the debates of the past, so that the hidden treasure of the Gospel might be shared with new vitality and joy.

A future brighter than any past

Paulist seminarians in habits! [I lifted this photo off Facebook, from an album put up by Tony M, a (non-Paulist) seminarian acquaintance.]

It's the 150th anniversary of the Missionary Society of St. Paul this year. The slogan for the year is from the writings of Fr. Hecker, "A future brighter than any past ... "

I am certain many of my former confrères will disagree (and probably thank the stars that I am no longer with them :)), but this photo from the Papal Mass in DC last week, fills me with hope that Fr. Hecker's vision will indeed perdure...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Continue bearing joyful witness to Christ our Hope...

That's the Pope talking at the Presidential Podium Lectern. You can see the top of the Great Seal of the United States!
With great affection I greet once more the priests and religious, the deacons, the seminarians and young people, and all the faithful in the United States, and I encourage you to continue bearing joyful witness to Christ our Hope, our Risen Lord and Savior, who makes all things new and gives us life in abundance.
Arrivederci, carissimo Papa. You have taught us so much. And brought us so much joy. And hope! Buon viaggio!

The Pope and the Rabbi

I missed this in all the coverage. At Thursday evening's Interfaith meeting at the JPII cultural center, Pope Benedict met with an old interlocuter and long time correspondent, for the first time in person, Rabbi Jacob Neusner. (If you recall, the Pope devotes a chunk of his book, "Jesus of Nazareth" to analyzing what Rabbi Neusner wrote about his response to Jesus.)

I first saw this at Italian Vaticanista Sandro Magister's blog. L'Osservatore Romano did a piece on this today as well. (The text is at Magister's blog) I'll provide translations later, though it's quite possible we'll see this in one of Magister's "Chiesa Online" mailings.

Googling around, I found this blog that publishes an email from Rabbi Neusner about the meeting, including this bit:
The pope thanked me for my work, his English is excellent but was an effort, and when I told him he could talk to me in Italian, he had a big smile and looked relieved and relaxed. I proposed to him that we write a book together on the convergences of Judaism and Christianity in antiquity. A cardinal told me they would like to invite me to the Vatican, and I said that would be terrific.
Gosh! I hope they do work on such a book! Can you imagine?? (The pictures is from this blog as well)

The Triumph of Benedict

This visit has been a triumph. That's the word.

I know I'll be unpacking it for a long time to come. As will the Church in America, for sure. And, perhaps even, the rest of our society.


(I had to chuckle at Fr. Neuhaus' remarks at the end of the Yankee Stadium, when he said, "well we're supposed to avoid any triumphalism. But I'm going to say it nonetheless." Or something to that effect)

Incidentally, Fr. Neuhaus said, in response to a viewer's emailed question, that the Apostolic Blessing that the Holy Father imparts extends even to those watching on TV, as long as they are properly disposed to receive it. I wonder if that applies to religious objects as well? Not that objects can be disposed or indisposed :), but whether it counts that I held up two new things that I bought today [there was a dealer from the Holy Land who had set up table after Mass. More on that later] in front of the TV?

So, I might have two things that might have been blessed by the Holy Father. Hmm. A conditional blessing? :)

"Silence" on contraception

As Pope Benedict's triumphant visit comes to a close, the excellent NYT blog has asked its panelists to weigh in with final thoughts. One already has. Dr. Rosemary Radford Ruether gives a rather tired tirade against the alleged "silence" of this Papal visit on contraception.
If Catholicism in the U.S. and worldwide presents the appearance of a hierarchical leadership which has lost credibility with much of the laity, the most important cause of this is the failure to rethink its teaching on sexuality and birth control.
Yawn. So, let's change the teaching (and become like good old liberal Protestants), 'cause then everyone will come flocking to us. Sure. Like doctrine is entirely about utility. Has she paid any attention whatsoever to what the Holy Father has said this whole week? Quite possibly not. Her template is set. And it will be repeated, like a broken record, no matter who is listening, while God's truth marches on.

Silence? Like the Church's teaching is secretly buried somewhere? (It's another issue altogether that in most US parishes one will rarely hear this issue addressed from the pulpit, but I seriously doubt that this is what she means) Or silence like Pope Pius XII was allegedly "silent" about the Holocaust?

Or is she simply mad that the Pope didn't thunder against contraception, so that she could gleefully trot out the outrage? Well, he didn't thunder. At all. He spoke in the most gentle manner, yet most forcefully, about eternal truths. Perhaps that might be why she isn't happy. He blasted the stereotype to smithereens. Yet, the outrage had to be trotted out.

Of the 14 comments so far in response to her post, most are overwhelmingly from people who are living the Church's faith. They take her, rightly, to task. Here's a fantastic sample:
"Over 600 theologians signed a statement rejecting the encyclical. Many lay people simply decided that this was a teaching they did not need to follow in order to be Catholic. Yet the Vatican under Pope John Paul II, as well as Benedict XVI, has continued to insist that the teaching is unchangeable."

If the Church were a democracy, it would have dissolved into the oblivion of irrelevancy long ago. The Catholic Church's greatest strength is its unfailing fidelity to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Praise be to God for these faithful Popes!
And here is a paragraph from another commenter that echoes my own sentiments closely:
As a practicing Catholic who is not yet thirty, born ten years after Humanae Vitae was promulgated to a woman who took the pope's teachings seriously, it is sometimes difficult to suppress feelings of bitterness against those forces in the Church who have systematically taught the practice of disobedience to my generation. Rather than shepherd us toward holiness, they have spent their careers advocating new dogmas based on their own questionable authority- opinions which directly contradict the teachings of the legitimate shepherds- and they continue to insist that they speak for the future of the Church. As someone who will be a member of the Church for the next forty years, I think it is about time they surrendered the floor.
Amen! It's uncharacteristic of me to be so explicit on here, but I am sorely tempted to say: your generation had your time. You created a mess. Every attempt of yours to be "up to date" simply let the spirit of the age more and more into the bosom of the Church. With the Scriptures, you taught us to question the reliability of everything (except your own wildly contradictory theories). With the Church you taught us to distrust this "male, celibate leadership" and kept on and on about how they were out of touch, while all around you, the faith was imploding, and you kept (and keep) going on and on about "relevance." With sex you taught us that everything that was modern was good, and that all that had gone before had been darkness and repression, and that we were no better than our animal instincts. With catechesis you boiled down the faith to some version of "be nice," the results of which I saw every day and every year with the college students I was so privileged to work with. With architecture you deified the most spectacular ugliness in the name of the new revolution. With Christ you suggested he was a sweet guy, or a revolutionary, or a gay rebel, or really one who talked the same line that any liberal academic at an American University would. You went so far as to suggest that, really, God was unnecessary, as long as we had "love" or the "values of the kingdom." With the liturgy you suggested that the Church really began in the 1960s. With everything you suggested that Pentecost actually occurred in 1965 when the Council ended, and would continue to occur only when the Church was remade into this weak, anemic, hollowed out, empty shell, a veritable shadow of anything substantive, and then, with everything perfectly ordered, with all the correct, inclusive formulas, with all the proper correct demographics mentioned (and all the wrong ones suitably suppressed), finally, they'll all come flooding in.

And you know what, when I first came into the church some 14 years ago, I bought it. (My catechesis in the year leading up to baptism, was based on Richard McBrien's Catholicism, the 1960s Dutch Catechism, and scripture-study classes that used the Jesus Seminar for their text), I bought it. Hook, line and sinker.

It is a miracle that my faith survived. That is a separate story, of deeper conversion, of the wonders that prayer, and the grace of the Lord have wrought over the past decade, that lead to a real submission to the Lord, that invited him into every part of my life (a process that continues, for sure), that lead me to understand that I was called (to echo my hero St. Paul), to the "obedience of faith."

I cannot convey just how much hope the Holy Father's visit gives me, (and I suspect many of my generation, and more so, the one after me). Hope that the Church in this country might finally be turning a corner, and stemming this destructive, corrosive tide of accommodation, surrender and defeat that is eating it from within.

I am tempted to shout, and I pray the Lord forgive my lack of charity, in that sarcastic Hindi idiom, Chullu bhar paani me doob maro! (May you go drown in ankle deep water!)


Let those who followed, pick up the pieces, and pick up their crosses, and follow in this great adventure that is discipleship, and learn how to die to self, so as to rise again to new life in Him, who is indeed, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Far away from your latest relevant fad.

[End of rant.]

:: UPDATE :: Welcome, readers from "Charlotte was Both." I just put up another post, qualifying these thoughts a bit in a little less rant-like mode. :)

Charisma of Sincerity

Peggy Noonan's column in the New York Post
He reacted the way we now know Benedict does. Modest, meek, surprised by love, and then gamely, nodding, throwing his arms wide. You should have seen the nuns, Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, Mother Agnes' Sisters of Life, from Yonkers, dozens of other orders. As he passed down the center aisle, they would reach out, rows of arms in robes reaching toward him.

It was beautiful. If you didn't get choked up, you weren't alive.

What a hit, what a trip, what a triumph. And it was something else, too. In the past week, in a wholly new way, Pope Benedict XVI became the leader of the Catholics of America. He broke through as his own man, put forward his own meaning, put his stamp on this moment in time. Americans know him now, and seem to have judged him to be what a worldly journalist said in the cathedral as he gazed at the crowd. His eyes went to Benedict on the altar, and he gestured toward him. "He's a good guy," he said, softly.

There was the priest I talked to, sitting quietly, waiting for Mass to begin. I asked if he felt he knew anything about Benedict now that he hadn't known before. Yes, he said. "He has his own charisma." He spoke of John Paul, the heavenly rock star, and said he'd felt concern that Benedict wouldn't seem to compare. But, he said, Benedict has his own magnetism. "It's the charisma of sincerity," he said. "It's sincerity and realness."

Ground Zero

Image courtesy AP

I just caught EWTN's replay of this morning's ceremony at Ground Zero. It was beyond moving.

Read the prayer.

Pray it.

God bless our Holy Father!

How they love one another

Pope 2008: The Pilgrims vs. the Bullhorn A startling video of anti-Catholic demonstrators (You worship the Pope. You're cannibals) ... The Hispanic Catholics respond (at the very beginning of the video) with Alleluia! and Benedicto!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

¿Quién vive? ¡CRISTO!

[Who lives? Christ!]

The Hispanic population in the rural South has exploded over the past decades. This little corner of Georgia is no exception. Tonight, I was invited to come to a prayer meeting. Some two dozen people, crammed into what looked like a little wooden garage-shed. Almost all from Central America.

The acclamation above is how it started. It felt like an evangelical prayer service: the cantos were praise & worship themed in Spanish, with a high-powered band (drum set, electric keyboard and guitar) accompanying, high energy, lots of clapping and swaying. There were readings from Scripture, and two periods of oración, where the leader and the people prayed out loud, all together, in a rising crescendo of imploring, babbling, voices, stream-of-consciousness, somewhat mesmerizing. One guy gave the central "message" -- a heartfelt plea to keep Christ central in their lives, to trust in him, no matter what. He made a good connection to the Eucharist and the sacraments as well. Lots of Amens. One of them apologized that there were no images of Our Lord and the Blessed Mother, but they had just moved here. They gave me, the new guy, the outsider, a very warm welcome. At the end they prayed the Our Father, the Haily Mary and the Glory Be.

And they insisted that I share a few words. Well, I've given presentations in Spanish, and speak it with decent fluency. But off-the-cuff?

So, I thanked them for their welcome, and shared that I was really moved by their faith and their devotion. I then talked a bit about the Holy Father's visit, his message to the Church about welcoming immigrants, and his central point, that Christ is our hope.

And this hour-and-a-half prayer service is what these folks do after the Saturday evening Spanish Mass!

And at the end of yet another day of keeping up with our amazing Pontiff -- which has already lifted me up so much, and filled me with such joy so that at times I felt that my chest would explode -- somehow this little gathering of faith-filled people in a small corner of Georgia, filled me with incredible hope.

Christ, indeed is alive! Alleluia!

The human Benedict

(Image courtesy Whispers)

I've absolutely loved those little moments of spontaneity, and the gaffes, where the completely unassuming character of our Holy Father shines through.

I'm sure a lot has been said about his deeply heartfelt thanks, spoken impromptu, at the end of the Mass at St. Patrick's (See this wonderful reflection by Fr. James Martin SJ at the NYT Pope Blog). [And I must disagree with those who tut-tut at applause and emotion at times like this during the Mass. I am not at all for turning Mass into theater ... but come on ... we are human! As the Holy Father processed down the altar at the end of Mass, beaming, shaking hands, and as everyone applauded, the emotion, the joy was so palpable, even watching it hundreds of miles away on a computer. Christian worship isn't about stoicism. It's about building up and lifting up the whole man. At times like this, what the heck is wrong with applause? Are we to be robots during the Mass. Classical alabaster statues made of stone?]

The moment after he finished his (amazing!) address at the rally at Yonkers, when he forgot about his Spanish address. He laughed! Everyone laughed! It was beautiful!

And he walked to the very edge of the platform after it was over, reaching out, touching a few hands (and causing coronaries with the Secret Service agents, no doubt).

Even that delightful "air-piano" wave of his that has been remarked on ...

And he looks so joyful, so happy, so energized!

Aloof? Distant? Academic? Unable to connect? Too abstract? Who the heck are they talking about?

God Bless this very human and eminently lovable Supreme Pontiff!

As to the address: oh sweet lord. I hope someone is going to put all the texts from his addresses into a book. I'd rather pay for a nice bound volume which will endure, than for the printer-ink to make printouts.

Also check out Collen Caroll's piecea the NYT blog: Benedict and the Young


The seminarians chant ...

Who the heck said he can't "connect" ?? He's aloof?

And that little gaffe --- Msgr. Ganswein saying "una pagina in spagnolo!" ... and he smiles and chuckles and says ... "I forgot my Spanish part!"

What an unassuming, simple, humble and loving man!


Even an "atheist communist" treasures what Benedict had to tell the UN

Lenin Raghuvanshi of the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (an Indian NGO) has appeared often in Asia News (an outreach of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, known by its Italian acronym, PIME). Here he is quoted as saying:
World leaders "must learn from the words pronounced yesterday by the pope at the UN, committing themselves to improving the situation of human rights in the world. Only in this way can we witness the birth of a new world, in which human dignity and the rights of man are protected and respected". This is the appeal issued to AsiaNews by Lenin Raghuvanshi, director of the Peoples Vigilance Committee on Human Rights and the winner, in 2007, of the prestigious Gwuangju prize for human rights.

The activist, an atheist and communist, adds: "Benedict XVI is admired not only by Christians, but also by people like me. Today is a day of great hope: the concepts that the pope expressed before the United Nations are the foundation of coexistence in the world. I believe that he is a courageous defender of human rights and a great advocate for the dignity of man".
While it might surprise some that a communist can be a human rights activist, and is quoted often in an organ linked to the Vatican, nothing from India surprises me. :) (Indian Communists and other Leftists are a fascinating breed ... they run two State governments [West Bengal and Kerala, both with good market reforms, and admirable social policies], where they have been democratically elected (and booted out too), and support the coalition government at the Center from the outside. Support might be too strong a word: their reflexive protectionism, populism, anti-Americanism, anti-reform stance continues to hamstring the government, and does no good to the poor.)

His affectionate thanks at the end of the Mass

... at St. Patrick's.

[Fr. Z has the audio for this portion. (Ah, the server's down. Probably too many hits!) H/t Amy.]

I'm trying to submit a transcript I typed up over at Fr. Z's, but for some reason it doesn't seem to be going through. Here it is:
In this moment I can only thank ... grace (?) ... for your love of the church, for Our Lord and that you give also your love to the poor Successor of St. Peter. I will do all the possible to be a real successor of the great St. Peter who also was a man with his faults and sins, but he remains finally the rock for the Church ... and so also I, with all my poorness ... spiritual ... can be with the grace of the Lord in this time the Successor of Peter ... and your prayers and love will give me the certainty that the Lord will help me in this, my ministry. So I am so deeply thankful for your love, for your prayer, and my answer in this moment to all what you have given to me in this moment and this visit is my blessing at the end of the Holy Mass.

The little things ...

I've been following mainly the Pope's public events and his speeches. I've not had the time to look at the tons of places that are covering the human response to the Pontiff's presence.

The NCR(egister) blog is one that does a stellar job. This little bit caught my eye, in a post entitled "New York Loves the Pope."
As some stood at the front of the police pen that had been set up in an area known for U.N. protest rallies (I remember covering one concerning Sudan once), others behind them danced in a big circular motion as guitars and drum kept a lively tempo. The music, the warm spring sun, the buzz of the city streets, the anticipation of the arrival of the Pope seemed to have a kind of hypnotic effect. Banners in front proclaimed people's warm sentiments for the guest who was about to arrive.

Samuel Gonzalez, who I was interviewing, told me that the empty pen next to them had been set up for those who wished to express opposite sentiments. The pen was empty. "There was a guy there a little while ago, but he just left," Gonzalez said. A policeman confirmed that the empty pen was there for protestors.
Ha! We heard that VOTF was going to protest, as was Fred Phelps and his brood. Now, I haven't really been following the MSM converage, but I haven't heard a thing about them. (And continue reading that post as it describes the scene outside the residence of Abp Migliore, the Vatican's representative to the UN, where the Holy Father is staying in New York. Once again, I'm reminded of one of the Pope's earliest remarks after his election. "La chiesa e giovane!" The church is young!")

I forget where I read that Christopher Hithens was kvetching that "once the media has stopped genuflecting, perhaps they can examine Benedict's role in the sex abuse crisis more closely." Or something to that effect. Someone sounds bitter?

Speaking of the MSM:

Tim Russert and Wolf Blitzer gush about their private meeting with the Pope (I saw this first at Vitus' blog.)

Wolf Blitzer.

¡Gracias por el "Sí"!

As the Mass at St. Patrick's comes to a close, Cardinal Bertone thanks the Holy Father for his "Yes" to his call to the See of Peter on this anniversary of his election, on behalf of the College of Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Seminarians, Religiou and lay faithful. He thanks him for his three gifts: the two encyclicals and the book "Jesus of Nazareth."

And he's speaking in Spanish! Another affirmation from the Holy Father and the Holy See that this is indeed a legitimate American language for use in the Church! :)

Now a standing ovation. Oh my heart is overflowing with such joy!


He's speaking ex-tempore: thanking them for their love and affection, and prayers. That he'll be a worthy successor to the great St. Peter, who was not without his own faults and failing

Oh lord, I find tears welling up. What a wonderful and spontaneous moment of pure affection and joy!

[Fr. Z has the audio for this portion. H/t Amy.]

Recessional: Holy God We Praise Thy Name. Composed by Fr. Clarence Walworth, one of the five companions of Fr. Hecker who founded the Paulists in this city. [Fr. Walworth ended up leaving Fr. Hecker's band -- twice -- and served as a priest of the Diocese of Albany]

Friday, April 18, 2008

A speech with teeth

Not that his other talks have not been substantive. But man, his address to gathered Christian leaders did not mince words!

Not surprising really.

And again, a reminder how he elevates everything, and calls us to the highest standards.

Also, at the NYT Pope Blog: Why the Pope Speaks for Evangelicals

The world's pastor addresses the UN

The Holy Father's UN Speech was superb. I saw the replay on EWTN in the evening, and this time, EWTN's commentary (Raymond Arroyo, Fr. Neuhaus, and former US Ambassador to the Holy See, Ray Flynn) was generally quite helpful. "The Holy Father has reminded the UN of the principles of its moral foundations" is how (I recall) Fr. Neuhaus putting it.

All three however clucked at bit at Secretary General Moon's words, which they characterized as "something about God, many gods, no God." That was unfortunate. The Secretary General was quoting his distinguished predecessor, Dag Hammerskjöld. This is what the Secretary General said:
Before leaving the UN today, you will visit the Meditation Room. My great predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, who created that room, put it well. He said of the stone that forms its centerpiece [and I quote]: "We may see it as an altar, empty not because there is no God, not because it is an altar to an unknown God, but because it is dedicated to the God whom man worships under many names and in many forms." End quote.


Whether we worship one God, many or none -- we in the United Nations have to sustain and strengthen our faith every day. As demands on our Organization multiply, we need more and more of this precious commodity.
Yes, not exactly entirely compatible with Catholic doctrine, but he's not the Pope, or a Catholic. He's presenting a legitimate view of secularity, however. I don't think the speech deserved that kind of response.

As to the Holy Father's speech: what a vision of Christian humanism! And yes, he might be Augustinian, but I sensed the Angelic Doctor shining through. There's so much packed in there. I'm sure we'll see good unpacking in the next days and weeks. But what I was struck by was just how clear it was that the Pope is far more than just the head of the Catholic Church. He is really the world's pastor. That is clearly the sense one got seeing how he was received, and how people responded to his presence. He is calling the UN to its foundational principles, centered on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Here is my money quote:
It is evident, though, that the rights recognized and expounded in the Declaration apply to everyone by virtue of the common origin of the person, who remains the high-point of God's creative design for the world and for history.

Abuse victims describe their meeting with the Pope

Over at AmP. Please watch this.

The Tablet Survey

The UK Catholic magazine The Tablet has a survey online inviting it's readers' opinions on the Holy Father's Apostolic Visit to the United States.

Go share your views!

Flagging on following the Pope!

I've hardly followed the Holy Father today. Not because of a lack of desire though. Partly because I'm sleep deprived (see the earthquake post below), and partly because I've been on the phone a lot with different people.

Thanks to American Papist for that awesome Pope Pic. Now off to Mass, and then to catch up with Papa Bene!

I felt it!

I was awake through part of the night. These stupid migraines are getting worse. (This happens every few years. Don't ask.) And at one point, I felt the house rattle. I looked at the clock -- 5:40 am. I got out of bed. An earthquake? Nah ... must be my imagination. I got back into bed and prayed that the headache would end.

Not a hallucination! According to the USGS, there was a 5.2 Richter event in Southern Illinois, some 130 miles east of St. Louis MO, around 4:37 am CDT. According to the "Did you feel it" statistics reported in, several people in northern Georgia felt it.

The last time I recall being in an earthquake was in 1993, the devastating Latur earthquake that killed over 10,000 people in Central India. I didn't feel it though. I was asleep, on a train, a few hundred kilomters away. The folks in Bombay were terrified though.

Passover greetings to Jewish leaders

Here's the text. Quote:
Christians and Jews share this hope; we are in fact, as the prophets say, "prisoners of hope" (Zachariah 9: 12). This bond permits us Christians to celebrate alongside you, though in our own way, the Passover of Christ's death and resurrection, which we see as inseparable from your own, for Jesus himself said: "salvation is from the Jews" (John 4: 22). Our Easter and your Pesah, while distinct and different, unite us in our common hope centered on God and his mercy. They urge us to cooperate with each other and with all men and women of goodwill to make this a better world for all as we await the fulfillment of God's promises.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


You HAVE to see these hilarious captions at the Shrine!

Articles, articles!

So much great stuff about the Pope's visit! So much to read! So little time! [And I haven't looked at one MSM story on the visit yet. Why do I need to?]

The First Things Blog helpfully reproduces the 1988 Erasmus lecture, given by then Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, on the state of biblical criticism. A gem. [I believe the lecture and a conference by the same name: "Biblical Interpretation in Crisis" were published in a book. I recall using that book extensively for my MA thesis.]

Over at NCR(egister), Fr. Longenecker, on why America needs the Pope. Given his background (former Anglican priest), he clearly illustrates why the Anglican hermeneutic stool (Scripture, Tradition, Reason) is deficient, and why only the Chair of Peter suffices.

The NY Times Papal Blog is stellar. (But they had to get Rosemary Radford Ruether? In her first post on Benedict and secularism she doesn't seem to grasp the difference between the secularism the Pope is talking about, and the secularism she -- and the Pope -- lauds: freedom of religion, and what the Holy Father calls the legitimate autonomy of the secular. I guess they needed a dissenting Catholic. Could have been worse I suppose.) Amy Welborn: A United not a Divider. And absolutely read this piece by Fr. James Martin SJ: The Vicar of Christ and My Gay Friend. It underscores for me a few things: one, just how the Church's teaching on sexuality simply doesn't come across in its nuance (read the comments on the article), two, how so many feel alienated from the Church (rightly or wrongly. In such cases, it's all about perception), and three, how important the subjective experience of people is in reconciliation and ongoing conversion. People have to feel welcomed and loved first before they can hear the truth of the teaching on human sexuality, and actually start internalizing it and living it. Needless to say, this isn't something that happens overnight either ...

Inter religious meeting

[Photo courtesy Yahoo.]

Full text. Dialogue is to promote peace, religious harmony, cooperation for charitable works. He expresses admiration for the American understanding of religious tolerance, quoting Alexis de Toqueville. And then,
Dear friends, in our attempt to discover points of commonality, perhaps we have shied away from the responsibility to discuss our differences with calmness and clarity. While always uniting our hearts and minds in the call for peace, we must also listen attentively to the voice of truth. In this way, our dialogue will not stop at identifying a common set of values, but go on to probe their ultimate foundation. We have no reason to fear, for the truth unveils for us the essential relationship between the world and God. We are able to perceive that peace is a "heavenly gift" that calls us to conform human history to the divine order. Herein lies the "truth of peace"
Bam! Right on the money.

He underscores that inter-religious dialogue is more than just a practical one to foster peace, or to work together for the common good. That's well and good. True dialogue is not about bracketing away our differences (though that might be necessary in practical arenas, and in the short term), but has the Truth as its object. And only this kind of dialogue leads to the "truth of peace."

In my very limited experience of formal dialogues and professional ecumenists, this perspective is sorely missing.

In addition, there's certainly been a development since the Council in Magisterial teaching that suggests that interreligious dialogue is part and parcel of the Christian life. This was underscored in the document from the Pontifical Council on Interreligious Dialogue, "Dialogue and Proclamation" (which also situated dialogue in the service of the broader evangelizing mission of the Church. Which is not what it sounds like, that dialogue is a kind of subterfuge or manipulation). And the Holy Father repeated it today: "The ardent desire to follow in his [Christ's] footsteps spurs Christians to open their minds and hearts in dialogue"

Praise the Lord

The Holy Father met with victims of sexual abuse, in a private meeting at the Nunciature.

It's not going to satisfy everyone. I don't think anything will. But I'm pleased that the Holy Father has not shied away from mentioning the scandal, the pain it has caused, and reaching out to the victims. Now, if he could also admit that the scandal was as much about episcopal misfeasance as it was about the abuse, that would be even better.

More from Rocco.

An example of what it's been like in DC

Eternal Word Television Network: Blog - Joan's Rome by Joan Lewis:
St. Paul’s College, where I am staying, is on Fourth Street, NE Washington, and is about 100 yards from the main building of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference and perhaps half a mile from the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. From 3 this afternoon to 7:30 this evening, no one may enter or leave St. Paul’s, no cars may be parked on the premises and no one is allowed to be near a window or looking out a window during that time. You see, the Pope will be boarding the popemobile at the USCCB offices for the short ride to the shine where he will meet with U.S. bishops shortly after 5 p.m.
I would have died. Because I wouldn't have been able to resist peeking out of a window, and the Secret Service, spying a brown, bearded face, would have gone "bang bang!" :)

A glorious celebration

A wonderful celebration at Nationals Stadium. One could sense the joy in the air. The Holy Father looked delighted. His homily was fantastic. And I, for one, absolutely love the big huge outdoor Papal Masses. They are grand! Yes, they don't have the same atmosphere as a church, and can be distracting, but they are great celebrations of the catholicity of the Church, as well as a manifestation of communion. Great shots in the arm too.

I loved the little spontaneity too, the way he got up to greet Placido Domingo at the end.

And I know a certain section of the Catholic blogosphere and commentariat is now going into meltdown over the music. It started right there in the middle of Mass on EWTN, when Fr. Neuhaus couldn't resist interrupting with some dour grumbling at the offertory, something about how one can strain to display multiculturalism if one really has to.

And the Holy Father had barely left the podium, when the grumble became a full-fledged lament. "Overweening preening multicultural exhibitionsim" was his exact phrase. There is a certain kind of authentic inculturation. This clearly isn't. Mr. Arroyo said that they had received plenty of emails in the same vein. He called one set "some kind of Amazon thing." (It was actually the Veni Creator Spiritus, being sung, in Latin, set to some ... well unorthodox drums.) And so on. I guess the Magisterium that is EWTN was definitely Not Pleased.

Frankly, and with all due respect to Fr. Neuhaus (whose writings I admire a lot, and a lot of which is very inspirational to me personally), I found this to be extremely obnoxious!

I couldn't help but think of his celebrated phrase, about a "palpable uneasiness" among those who admired Cardinal Ratzinger and were elated at his election. If I recall the context correctly, it was an uneasiness that Ratzinger did not turn out to be the "hammer of heresy" that so many wanted him to be.

Well here this uneasiness was quite palpable, as it morphed into a near screed about how this went against everything that Ratzinger has written about the liturgy over the past several decades.

Well Father, he was there. Right there. This couldn't have been foisted on him, it couldn't have slipped under the radar, or come as a surprise. This liturgy was approved by him. He celebrated it.

I was so thankful when they went over to Joan Lewis who was absolutely bursting with joy, who gushed about how joyful everyone felt, how the singing was superb, how the people were reverent.

Thank you Joan for sharing the atmosphere and that JOY! I suspect that it is what so many felt as well who were watching it across the country and rejoicing at the presence of the Successor of St. Peter in our midst, and who weren't liturigcal mavens intent on analyzing and bemoaning every move that the Holy Father did that was against their own pet peeves and agendas.

All that said, I'll be the first to admit that I have misgivings about the musical selection, as well as the multiculturalism (though probably not what Fr. Neuhaus has in mind) and so on. Maybe I'll think through that and write down my thoughts.

But, my first instinct is to REJOICE! To give thanks for the ministry of the Pope. To thank God for his presence here, and to pray that through his visit the Holy Spirit will indeed renew the Church in the United States.

I know him!

Just tuned into it as the Kyrie was starting at the Mass with the Holy Father at Nationals Stadium ... and who do I see? A former Paulist brother! Deacon Steven Bell CSP, who will be, God willing, ordained to the priesthood this summer.

Steven is a talented singer, and seems to know half the world. His ordination will be overflowing.

And here he is cantoring the Mass for the Holy Father! GO STEVEN!

[I'm going to switch to EWTN. Can't stand the Fox anchors chattering away, and commercials interrupting Mass!]

Oh, and in the choir I also spotted good friend Bree Dawkins. GO BREE!!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Christ at the Center

There is so much packed in the Holy Father's address to the US Bishops. I want to highlight this one bit:
People need to be constantly reminded to cultivate a relationship with him who came that we might have life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). The goal of all our pastoral and catechetical work, the object of our preaching, and the focus of our sacramental ministry should be to help people establish and nurture that living relationship with "Christ Jesus, our hope" (1 Tim 1:1).
EVERYTHING is ordered to this!

Bowling and the Pope

Of all things, I was at a bowling alley, earlier in the evening, when the Holy Father was praying Vespers with the US Bishops at the National Shrine.

The alley is one town over, in another county (ah Georgia and it's tiny counties!), about 15 miles south of the Tennessee border. Through the door I could spy a gas station across the street that proclaimed, in bold red, "DAWG GAS."

The TV was tuned to CNN as we walked in, which was covering the Vespers live.

I also had a splitting sinus migraine, which made everything just a tad bit more surreal.

The alley wasn't crowded, but people would turn and stare at the TV curiously. The folks I was with (all good Catholics), chattered a bit about the Holy Father being in the US. I prayed that the ibuprofen would kill the headache soon.

I sat so I could follow the bowling, as well as the Pope. The CNN tag at the bottom read, "Pope talks to US Bishops: To Address Sexual Abuse Crisis." Like that was the only thing he was going to say. The Vespers sounded absolutely beautiful. The hymn as they processed in --- was it Thomas Tallis' Spem in alium? I thought I recognized the swelling harmony of the 40-part motet. If it was, it would be most fitting: Spem in alium numquam habui praeter in te Deus Israel .. , "I have had hope in none other than Thee, O God of Israel ..." (I was wrong. It was actually Tu es Petrus. Also quite appropriate!)

Luckily the volume was low enough that the singing was audible but the chatter of the anchors was drowned out.

I got to watch the opening bit of his address to the US Bishops, up till the part where he urged the Bishops to welcome immigrants. (YAY!)

The full texts are now out:

Address to the Bishops
Q&A session with the Bishops

I've just skimmed over them and, as with everything he says or writes: he makes my heart sing! I'll read them later when I feel a little less woozy the migraine

In the Popemobile!

A good friend from DC just sent these. Thanks Tom!

Irony ...

Just noticed this bit at Fr. Z's blog: "Ironically, as the Holy Father was being driven to the White House, the Supreme Court upheld 7-2 the legality of execution by lethal injection. Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion." Here's the story from Boomberg.

The case was not about the constitutionality of the death penalty per se, but about the means used to administer the penalty (lethal injection). The ruling says that lethal injunction does not violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on "cruel and unusual" punishment.

Still, ironic.

The White House Speech

The full text of Pope Benedict's speech (Via Rocco.) I'm quoting three paragraphs that struck me as I heard it earlier today:
From the dawn of the Republic, America's quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation's founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the "self-evident truth" that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature's God. The course of American history demonstrates the difficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolve which were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied these noble principles. In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as for example in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement.
Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience – almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad. The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one's deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate. In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good (cf. Spe Salvi, 24). Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John Paul II. In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows, time and again, that "in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation", and a democracy without values can lose its very soul (cf. Centesimus Annus, 46). Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent "indispensable supports" of political prosperity.
On Friday, God willing, I will have the honor of addressing the United Nations Organization, where I hope to encourage the efforts under way to make that institution an ever more effective voice for the legitimate aspirations of all the world's peoples. On this, the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the need for global solidarity is as urgent as ever, if all people are to live in a way worthy of their dignity – as brothers and sisters dwelling in the same house and around that table which God's bounty has set for all his children. America has traditionally shown herself generous in meeting immediate human needs, fostering development and offering relief to the victims of natural catastrophes. I am confident that this concern for the greater human family will continue to find expression in support for the patient efforts of international diplomacy to resolve conflicts and promote progress.
Over at NCR(egister)'s Pope 2008 blog, an interesting post: America's Future Depends on Us. Somehow, I think Fr. Hecker would be pleased with all this, though (at the risk of inviting scorn from my former confrères), I don't know about his sons today.

The Pope at the White House Lawn

Well, I'm not really going to be live-blogging this. But I'm sitting at a little cafe here in this lovely little town in rural northern Georgia, watching the live feeds over WiFi. [And I'm afraid I'll be missing the evening gathering at the National Shrine, since I have another commitment.]

After the Holy Father arrived, the bands played the national anthem of the Holy See and the Star Spangled Banner. I must say, I never thought about the Holy See having a national anthem, but of course it must. First time I've heard it! [I'm not sure which of the two texts and melodies that show up for the Holy See was played: the Hymn, or the Pontifical March. And, according to Wikipedia, quoting the Vatican, this is not technically, a national anthem.]

And just before Kathleen Battle sang the Our Father, the crowd spontaneously burst into "Happy Birthday" and he beamed and stood up to acknowledge them.

Now President Bush is giving his welcome remarks.

"A nation that is fully modern yet guided by eternal truths ... innovative ... yet religious."

Quoting JPII: "In a world without truths, freedom loses its foundations. ... echoes in some sense of President Washington that religion and morality represent indispensable supports for political prosperity."

"All human life is sacred ... " (cheers from the crowd)

"Need your message to reject this dictatorship of relativism" (He's using B16's celebrated phrase!)

10:43 am Now the Holy Father is speaking

"Important moment in the Catholic Church ... 200 years of Baltimore being established as a Metropolitan ... "

"Happy to be here as a guest of all Americans ... I come as a friend."

"The framers of this nation's founding documents drew upon these truths [natural law] that all men are created equal ... "

"I look forward to meeting not just American Catholics, but other Christians and representatives of other religions. Historically not only Catholics but all believers have found the freedom to worship God as their conscience dictates"

"Freedom is not just a gift but a responsibility -- Americans know this ... almost every town has a monument to its veterans."

Now a few words about the UN so that it becomes a "legitimate voice for the aspirations of all the world's people's."

"God Bless America"

Man, that was an incredible text. Can't wait to read it and parse it.

10:52 am The US Army Chorus performing the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

10:59 am As they go in for their meeting, the official rendition of "Happy Birthday" with Kathleen Battle soaring in the stratosphere!

[I'm just reviewing the lyrics of the Battle Hymn: the refrain certainly seems to echo the message of both what President Bush and His Holiness says ... "His truth is marching on." The verses talk about God's judgment, imagery redolent of the Book of Revelation. However, given what the Holy Father said about the cost of freedom, it seems somehow appropriate. Verse 5:
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.