Monday, June 30, 2008

Christ Our Hope -- the Pope's talks from the US Visit being published by Paulist Press

This just came in the inbox: Paulist Press will be publishing Christ Our Hope, a cloth book of 160 pages with the entire set of the 21 papal addresses, talks, and homilies given by Pope Benedict XVI during his April apostolic visit to the United States. The list price is $14.95 and it is scheduled to be available in two weeks, July 15th.

Well I am thrilled that the folks at Paulist Press are on the ball with this, and you can betcha that my copy will be pre-ordered in a jiff!

They also have a special section on resources for the Pauline Year.

Spread this far and wide!

[And if you'd rather just get a pdf, check the link that Clayton left in the comments!]

The Archdiocese of Atlanta has a new seminarian.

Yours truly. Just got a call from the Vocation Director, and it's all official!

As many of you know, after I left the Paulists, I applied to the Archdiocese of Atlanta to continue my discernment and formation towards the priesthood. I have been placed in a parish assignment for the past several months in a small parish in the north Georgia mountains. I'll be blogging a little more about my experiences, as I can, soon. I've had a blast, and it's only confirmed the sense of my vocation to the secular priesthood, here in the South and in N. Georgia.

The Archdiocese is sending me to Mount Saint Mary's Seminary, up in Emmitsburg, MD, starting sometime in August. I still have philosophy to finish, so I will be a pre-theologian.

This is a day of great joy and immense gratitude to the Lord who has lead me thus far, and into whose hands I commit my entire being again. I also continue to ask for the guidance and blessings of our loving Mother, whose hand I have felt guiding me at so many points in my life, not the least of which was the day of my baptism, August 15. I pray that the intercessions of my personal patrons -- St. Ignatius of Loyola (my Confirmation saint) and St. Paul (my hero!) will continue to guide me. And, finally, I carry with me what I have learned of Fr. Isaac Thomas Hecker, the founder of the Paulist Fathers, whose zeal and vision continue to inspire me.

Please join me in praying a Te Deum today!


PS: Unless things have changed, the Mount has a "no blogs" policy for seminarians. So, the days of this blog are numbered. If I can, I will leave it up for posterity, and resume blogging as I am permitted. Oh well. Obedience, here I come! :)

The Year of St. Paul.

The tomb of St. Paul, Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, March 2008.

It was a busy weekend ... and all I can do right now is to point to Amy's wonderful post with tons of links.

Oh, and check out Ambrose, who describes the festivities at her parish in China.

Sancte Paule, ora pro nobis!


For Fr. Tim's dad, George, who's undergoing surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurism right now, in Summerivlle SC.

For good friend Peter's younger brother, Matthew, who had a bad fall yesterday that has ruptured something in his abdomen, and is in a lot of pain. They're monitoring him at Aiken Regional, but holding off on surgery for now.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The strangest things ...

... bring people to this blog. This morning, someone in Lahore, Pakistan, entered the following search term into

"god some one kill chines hecker"

The very first listing was this blog.

Gosh, I hope I'm not about killing Chinese Heckers.

Comments welcome. :)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mandela: No longer a terrorist

The US Congress passes legislation removing the travel restrictions on the 90 year old former President of South Africa. Reuters.
Stricter security measures passed by Congress after the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States kept the ANC's terrorist label because it used armed force as part of its campaign against apartheid.
You've got to be kidding me. I guess George Washington too would have qualified as a terrorist by this definition?

Setting our ecclesial gauges

In this week's column, John Allen highlights the 150th anniversary celebration of the Paulist Fathers, which was celebrated last week in Washington DC, and culminated with the Ordinatinon to the Sacred Priesthood of my former seminarian brother, Steven Bell CSP.

In the column, Allen summarizes Fr. Ron Rollheiser's address to the Paulists, which he characterized as "Ten Commandments for Catholic Life" today, a way to "set our ecclesial gauges." It's worth a read, and is full of that sense of the Catholic both/and. These caught my eye especially:
3) Be for the Marginalized without being Marginalized Yourself

Sometimes, Rolheiser said, Christians who emphasize service to those on the margins -- the poor, those alienated from the church, and so on -- tend to end up marginalized themselves, stressing the need to "speak truth to power" to such an extent that they drift out of the mainstream.

In the end, he argued, doing so undercuts the effectiveness of one's ministry. The trick, he suggested, is to be an effective voice for the margins but from the heart of one's own community.
(6) Be Equally Committed to Social Justice and Intimacy with Jesus

A balanced Catholic, Rolheiser argued, should be ready both "to lead a peace march and to lead the rosary." As an example, Rolheiser offered Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. Too often, Rolheiser suggested, Catholics tend to choose between social activism and a deep spiritual life, when in fact the two belong together.
(8) Ponder as Mary Did

Another way of putting this bit of counsel, Rolheiser said, is to "eat the tension that's around you."

Rolheiser warned that sometimes the Mary of popular Catholic devotion threatens to obscure the Mary of Scripture. He noted that Mary is the only figure in the New Testament described as "pondering" the words and deeds of Christ; typically, his disciples and the crowds are said to have been "amazed."

"Amazement," Rolheiser said, is akin to an electrical current -- all it does is transmit energy. "Ponder," on the other hand, he compared to a water purifier. It "carries, holds and transforms" what enters it, so that it comes out more pure.

At the foot of the cross, Rolheiser said, Mary wasn't simply "amazed" by the suffering of her son, a response that might have led to a lust for vengeance. Instead, she "pondered" it, so that hate was transformed into grace and love.

"We need ponderers at every level of the church," Rolheiser said.
Overall, I'd characterize it (at the risk of sounding rather impertinent), as a message the order really needed to hear. During my time with the Paulists, one question I found myself asking was whether the order had consciously taken a tack, in response to the direction the Church has been taking since the Pontificate of John Paul II, to be the "resistance" of a certain kind of "left wing" or "liberal" Catholicism that had its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s. Many Paulists responded in the negative, and I am quite sure they were sincere. In one memorable conversation, a well known Paulist moral theologian said that this is something the order has just consciously started tackling, and they had not, at least not at a conscious level, taken such a "resistant" tack. My sense was that, conscious or not, this was the default mode of the community, and I didn't want to spend the rest of my life fighting uphill internal struggles. While this was not the only reason I decided to leave, it weighed a lot in my discernment.

I'd like to add some further thoughts on Fr. Rolheiser's first comment:
(1) Be Beyond Ideology

Rolheiser urged his audience to position themselves "beyond liberal, beyond conservative" -- in other words, to "have an unlisted number" with respect to the ideological infighting in Catholicism that followed the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Instead, Rolheiser advised being "women and men of faith and compassion," going wherever those instincts may lead.

In that regard, Rolheiser noted the irony that two of the most popular, and most controversial, movies of 2004 were both from filmmakers with a Catholic background: Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" and Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11." It's remarkable, Rolheiser said, that Catholicism can contain both of these ways of seeing the world, "though not often in the same person."

Setting one's gauges correctly, Rolheiser suggested, involves being able to see both the wisdom and the defects of each of the Catholic sensibilities expressed in those two movies -- and many others beyond them.
I can't emphasize just how important this is: the perception we give of always squabbling over internal ideological issues, or reducing people to their ideological positions and throwing charity out of the window in our dealings with them, we absolutely compromise our witness to the Gospel. We become like salt that has lost its taste. [An aside: see the Anchoress' coverage of the story of a non-Catholic DC journalist who wrote about receiving Holy Communion at Tim Russert's funeral. This sparked a rather acerbic (though predictable) response from the Catholic League. What kind of witness is acrimony?]

At the same time, I don't think we are yet at a position where accepting the fullness of the teaching of the Church on faith & morals, as it comes to us from the Magisterium, is simply a given. In fact, simply stating this places one in a particular "camp" in the internal culture war of the Church. This is perhaps one of the greatest tragedies of post-Conciliar Catholicism. I would qualify Fr. Rolheiser's words a bit, or put them next to something John Allen said in his speech to the Catholic Common Ground Initiative in 2004.
Fifth and finally, we must foster a spirituality of dialogue that does not come at the expense of a full-bodied expression of Catholic identity. There is no future for dialogue if convinced Catholics sense the price of admission is setting aside their convictions. If dialogue means we have to go fuzzy on abortion, to take one obvious example, it is dead. To return to our earlier question, why didn't Common Ground work? It's not because it failed to respond to a real need. In fact, I sense a deeply felt desire among Catholics to overcome our internal bickering and divisions. That desire, however, is not the only, and probably not the strongest, trend coursing through Christianity. Today, I would assert that the strongest single impulse in the Christian community pivots on identity - the desire for a robust assertion of what it means to be a Christian. You can't explain the phenomenal success of "The Passion of the Christ" without understanding this impulse. It is perhaps most strongly felt by younger generations whose members did not acquire a strong sense of identity either in the home or in school, even Catholic schools. Hence the spirituality of dialogue needed is one that combines a vigorous assertion of identity, opening up our distinctive language and rituals and worldview to those who hunger for them, without ending up in a "Taliban Catholicism" that knows only how to excoriate and condemn.
Speaking the truth in love -- always a difficult balance, and never achieved without humility and prayer.

Another vacancy

Archbishop Raymond Burke, the outspoken prelate of St. Louis, and wielder of excommunications, has just been appointed as the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. Details at Amy's. This also means that it is quite likely that at the next Consistory, there might be another American Cardinal. Reading the Vatican Bulletin, one also sees that the outgoing Prefect, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, has been named the Vicar of the Diocese of Rome and Archpriest of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, replacing Cardinal Camillio Ruini, who has reached the retirement age.

So, the Archdiocese of St. Louis is now vacant.

How many vacancies in the US now? I've lost count.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Church in India: "Stunted"

This interview appeared in Spero News in April. I've been meaning to blog it for ages. It's an interview with an 81 year old Italian Jesuit who is returning to Italy after 58 years of service in India, most it teaching at a seminary, having trained nearly 1000 priests and some 11 Bishops. His main contention: there is a glut of priests in India, many of whom are obsessed with power and control, mistrustful of the laity, and disrespectful of the hard work of religious sisters. This has lead to a situation where the growth of Church is "stunted." It's a pretty outspoken piece (surprisingly so. Indians as a rule are horrified at the thought of airing such dirty laundry in public), from someone who clearly loves the Church in India, and has dedicated his life to the service of the country Some excerpts, and comments.
I am happy that I taught them. But I am not happy about their performance. One of the greatest tragedies in the Indian Church is the overpopulation of priests. Too many priests and too many institutions have stagnated the Church's growth. Many priests have forgotten their call as pastors and missioners, and reduced themselves to mere managers, directors and organizers.

They want to control everything. India has thousands of priests, but do they do justice to their priestly vocation? I tell you, the Indian Church has become another political organization, where everything is defined in terms of power.

The number of Church buildings and its institutions is growing, the number of dioceses is growing, and so is the number of bishops and priests. But we don't see a proportionate growth of the Church in India. A handful of foreign missioners (in the past) have brought more conversions than thousands of the Indian priests.
Ouch. But then, a little further on, he seems to contradicts himself
I did not mean the number game. I do not believe in increasing the number of baptized Christians. Evangelization for me is spreading the Good News of Jesus. The most effective way is through personal witnessing. Mother Teresa did not baptize any one, but she has evangelized millions.

There is tremendous scope for such an evangelization in India. We can spread Christ's kingdom by showing how we live, love, serve and forgive those who sin against us. Those who accept Jesus as their master are Christians even if they are not baptized.
While there is nothing wrong in reminding priests they serve One who came to serve, not be served, and certainly the primary task for all the baptized is to live a life that bears witness to the Gospel, the rest of this paragraph is, at best, incomplete. Again, I ask myself, why this abhorrence of baptism in the Indian Church? Does not accepting Jesus as master at some level involve a movement towards visible communion with His Body on earth? He is not talking about crypto-Christians who fear social and legal ostracization. He is renouncing the very idea of baptism. (I've expounded on this attitude that I've seen in Indian and Asian clergy before. Evidence once more that the Great Commission has been practically eviscerated in large parts of the Church in India.) However, I am quite sympathetic to the following:
The Church in India did not grow much because we hardly utilized the resources of our laity, did not even recognize them. I tell you, the Church will not grow unless we involve laity in evangelization. It will not grow if we continue to show our superiority over women.

It will not grow if we continue fighting for supremacy in the name of rites. It is so frustrating for me to see these struggles of power, male domination and personal survival.
What would you advise the Church in India as you leave the country?

Recognize the laity. Encourage them to build up Christian communities as communities of love, service, forgiveness, sharing and caring. Hand over the keys of our institutions and power to the laity or at least involve them in the management. Don't keep them out and watch their activities with suspicion.

If they go wrong, the Church will collapse. Maybe our institution will grow, popular devotions will grow, but faith will come down. And we will fail in converting others with our witness.

The Church is not for the laity; they are the Church. The greatest structure of the Church is its parish and not the diocese or archdiocese. Let the Indian Church begin to grow from parish communities and let laypeople take the lead.
A few comments:

-- Historically, it seems that the vocation of the laity seems to be recognized only when the number of vocations to the priesthood or religious life seems to be dwindling. This is tragic, and reflects a deep-seated misunderstanding of the complementary nature of the vocations of the ordained and the laity. And more often than not it continues to be a sign of that deeply rooted and insidious clericalism that understands the "ideal Christian" to be an ordained priest, and tries to clericalize the laity.

-- In its most perverse form, it even looks forward to an end to "clerical domination" and the end of the ordained ministry itself. At the risk of publicly criticizing my former confreres, I saw tons of evidence of this in my time with the Paulists: from a minimalization of the role of the priest during Mass, to a baldly stated prediction: "The Paulists will die out and their vocation will pass on to the laity," and little, if any, attention paid to promoting vocations to the Society among parishes under their care. In some places there was even hostility to the idea of promoting vocations to a church whose "institutional structures" were "inherently unjust." (Of course, in such situations, pointing out that this is what most Protestantism looks like, isn't really helpful.)

-- In my very limited experience of India (I have never been, as a Catholic, to the heartland of Goa or the South), parish life is focused on the Mass and popular devotions. Catechesis seems to be limited, and the quality or and participation at liturgy leaves a lot to be desired. Time and again, visiting Indian priests comment on the vitality of parish life in the US, and the involvement of the laity in the life of the parish. (My most recent visitor, in fact, was astounded to learn that the little parish here in Georgia did not have a convent attached to it.He had never come across a parish in India that did not have an adjoining convent!) Yet, even here, we are talking about the increased role of the laity within the structure of the parish, within the liturgy and so on. This is a good thing, for sure. But, if we remain focused only on this, we lose sight of the vocation of the laity to be formed to live the Gospel in the world.

Pope Lauds Work of Lay Evangelists

In addition to promoting vocations to the priesthood, which have been increasing in recent years, the Church has responded to the phenomenon of sects through "delegates of the word of God."

At present, there are 30,000 in Honduras, a country of 7 million inhabitants, as much as 97% of whom are Catholic. The delegates are able to reach even the most inaccessible communities and are committed to a program of their own formation in the faith.
That was quoting Cardinal Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. As in Latin America, so also in North America, I say! 30,000 catechists, formed to preach the Word of God? Wow. Would that we had even half as many! The Pope added:
Therefore, the lay faithful need to intensify their relationship with God and acquire a solid formation, especially in regard to the social doctrine of the Church. (Emphasis added)
As always, the presence of evangelical Christians ("sects") is a challenge to Catholics, as well as an encounter that can enrich and, hopefully, one that we can learn from.

Comparing people to Hitler

It's Winner #4 when it comes to Stuff White People Like.

:) Moneyquote:
With few exceptions, white people are actually fond
of almost any dictator not named Hitler, and your remark that "this is just like something Mao Zedong would do" will be met with blank stares and possible social alienation. This is because, with the exception of Hitler,
oppressive dictators share a passion for many of the things white people love- such as universal health care, conspiracy theories, caring about poor people while being filthy rich, and cool hats. Stick to the script and
compare things you don't like to Hitler, and Hitler alone.

St. Josemaria Escriva

Mike Aquilina has a good post about the founder of Opus Dei, whose feast is today. [Aside: when do we get updated material for the new saints and blesseds for the Liturgy of the Hours?]

"Her husband began to beat her viciously every night ... "

The son of a cousin of my good friend Bill in SC, is in India right now. He's working with some NGOs that work with Dalits associated with the Dalit Freedom Network. He's also blogging intermittently. The latest post is a powerful and harrowing story, of a woman by the name of Shiamala Baby, the daughter of a Hindu father and Christian mother, raised a Christian, who married a respectable Christian man ... who beat her violently for nearly ten years.
Their marriage began happily, but soon afterwards her husband began to beat her viciously every night, encouraged and egged on by his mother, who nagged her son to keep beating until he drew blood.

Shiamala at first sought to bear up under the suffering, speaking little of it and seeking to be a good wife. But the torture continued, and grew. Her husband and his mother imprisoned her in their house to keep her from telling the wider community about her inhuman treatment, and her husband threatened to kill her if she tried to leave.

Her family, hearing only the vaguest rumors of her suffering, sought to save her. Twice her brother came to get her out, first by himself, and second with a policeman. But Shiamala was never permitted to speak to them without her husband standing over her. And when her brother and the policeman tried to take her away by force, her husband became hysterical, showed remorse, told her he loved her, promised to stop her ill treatment, and threatened to kill himself if she tried to leave him. Shiamala, despite the desperate urging of her brother, chose to stay. And when her brother had left, Shiamala's husband beat her senseless.

And so their marriage continued for ten years.
One of his colleagues, who works for the Dalit Freedom Network, also blogs at Incredible India (which, I suspect is a take on the GOI's Incredible India tourism promotion campaign).

I couldn't say anything about it until now ...

... but the cat's out of the bag now! :)

[And given the way the Supreme Court is going these days, I'm sure my foreign-born status won't matter.]
[H/t Kraft.]

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Malayalam-language edition of L'Osservatore Romano to begin in July - Asia News

I suspect Malayalam is the most widely spoken single language among India's Catholics. I don't speak a lick of it. (Ok. Um. I can count up till 29 in Malayalam. Don't ask.) VATICAN - INDIA Malayalam-language edition of L'Osservatore Romano to begin in July - Asia News

Homeless in America

Last Fall, one of the guys who came to the Vocations Retreat at St. Paul's College (the formation house of the Paulist Fathers) was Gary G from Los Angeles. Gary and I have stayed in intermittent touch since (I've left the Paulist formation program, Gary is pursuing other paths). Gary works with the Scalabrinian Fathers, who work with the homeless in the Los Angeles area. He also runs the Homeless in America blog.

Over the past week or so, he's been driving across the country (on his way to his folks' place in Myrtle Beach, SC). We talked on the phone while he was in Georgia (but I couldn't make it down to Atlanta to see him): on his drive he's been stopping profiling various places along the way that serve the homeless.
HIA goes on the road beginning Monday, June 16th to present the homeless situation in other parts of the U.S. and its hidden realities. Check in for periodic updates from very spontaneous and unrehearsed locations. In this summer season of brutal heat and quick dehydration, pray mercifully with us for the poor across our country, that the Lord will reveal himself to them, heal them, and give them food, water, clothing, shelter, peace and safety. God give mercy and grace to all those who have supported this journey with kind and generous hearts. May His peace be yours!
Here are some reports: Homeless in South Carolina, Louisiana and Texas.

On his return, he plans to take a northerly route back West. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Nativity of John the Baptist

Ghirlandaio: The Birth of St. John the Baptist. (Image credit.)

St. Augustine (from today's Office of Readings):
The Church observes the birth of John as in some way sacred; and you will not find any other of the great men of old whose birth we celebrate officially. We celebrate John's, as we celebrate Christ's. This point cannot be passed over in silence, and if I may not perhaps be able to explain it in the way that such an important matter deserves, it is still worth thinking about it a little more deeply and fruitfully than usual.

John is born of an old woman who is barren; Christ is born of a young woman who is a virgin. That John will be born is not believed, and his father is struck dumb; that Christ will be born is believed, and he is conceived by faith.

I have proposed some matters for inquiry, and listed in advance some things that need to be discussed. I have introduced these points even if we are not up to examining all the twists and turns of such a great mystery, either for lack of capacity or for lack of time. You will be taught much better by the one who speaks in you even when I am not here; the one about whom you think loving thoughts, the one whom you have taken into your hearts and whose temple you have become.

John, it seems, has been inserted as a kind of boundary between the two Testaments, the Old and the New. That he is somehow or other a boundary is something that the Lord himself indicates when he says, The Law and the prophets were until John. So he represents the old and heralds the new. Because he represents the old, he is born of an elderly couple; because he represents the new, he is revealed as a prophet in his mother's womb. You will remember that, before he was born, at Mary's arrival he leapt in his mother's womb. Already he had been marked out there, designated before he was born; it was already shown whose forerunner he would be, even before he saw him. These are divine matters, and exceed the measure of human frailty. Finally, he is born, he receives a name, and his father's tongue is loosed.
Zachary is struck dumb and loses his voice, until John, the Lord's forerunner, is born and releases his voice for him. What does Zachary's silence mean, but that prophecy was obscure and, before the proclamation of Christ, somehow concealed and shut up? It is released and opened up by his arrival, it becomes clear when the one who was being prophesied is about to come. The releasing of Zachary's voice at the birth of John has the same significance as the tearing of the veil of the Temple at the crucifixion of Christ. If John were meant to proclaim himself, he would not be opening Zachary's mouth. The tongue is released because a voice is being born – for when John was already heralding the Lord, he was asked, Who are you and he replied I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

John is the voice, but the Lord in the beginning was the Word. John is a voice for a time, but Christ is the eternal Word from the beginning.
The quintessential text that brings to mind the role of the Baptist, for me, is the Benedictus, prayed every morning by the Church at Lauds. Two musical renditions, via YouTube: an unidentified polyphonic setting, and Georg Phillip Telemann's very Baroque interpretation.

The Bishops on the Pew Study

[More on the Pew Study in a previous post, with links to various analyses.] From the USCCB website:
WASHINGTON— The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reacted to the findings of a report on religious beliefs and practices by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life made public today.

The study, which is based on a survey of more than 35,000 American adults, estimates that nearly 92 percent of American adults say they believe in God or a universal spirit. The findings also point to the fact that Americans take religion seriously, that faith is a very important part of their lives and that many of them attend religious services regularly and pray daily.

Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington agrees.

"History testifies that religious faith is very important to Americans. At every juncture of our past, Americans have called upon God for guidance, protection, and direction. There is a clear identification with religion in America which, for Catholics, reflects the dedicated efforts of priests, catechists and teachers in our history," said Archbishop Wuerl, chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis.

The Pew study also states that 74 percent of Americans believe in life after death and that 63 percent believe that Scripture is the Word of God. Another 63 percent of respondents with children at home say they pray and read Scripture with their children and 60 percent send their children to religious education programs.

The study also concludes that most Americans have a non-dogmatic approach to faith and that the majority of those affiliated with a religious tradition agree that there is more than one way to interpret the teaching of their faith.

For Fr. J. Brian Bransfield, specialist in the Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis of the USCCB, "it is hard to quantify the tremendous thirst for truth among families and people of all ages, as demonstrated by the overwhelming response to the recent visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States. This thirst is sometimes misdirected through the effects of secularism, with its focus on individualism and consumerism. Prior to his election as Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said, 'God does not count in large numbers.' In the face of any measure, the steady and ongoing response of the Church is an ever renewed commitment to robust catechetical efforts."
Perhaps they didn't include it in this tersest of communiques, but one of the most interesting things about the study was the significant levels of religious mobility of American adults, as well as the finding that vast numbers of Catholics do not practice their faith, or have left for other churches, or end up with no faith. Perhaps there is a more detailed document coming out? I would hope so: otherwise, to conclude that a) America is very religious and b) we need to increase our catechetical efforts didn't really require any study of the Study.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Prayers for Matt's mom

Howdy y'all: Debbie, the mother of good friend Matt, was in surgery today in Cheraw, SC to remove melanomas from three places on her body. I've gotten a few updates from Matt that the doctors found the situation to be a lot more complicated than imagined: she was in surgery from 7:00 am to 3:30 pm this afternoon. I'm awaiting more updates from Matt.

Please keep Debbie, Matt and their family in your prayers.

Anima Christi sanctifica me ...

:: UPDATE :: Debbie is safely out of surgery. However, they're awaiting results of biopsies and so on, which won't be known till Tuesday. Thanks for the prayers.

Local news coverage of the Congress

Def. check the video out. MyFox Atlanta | Thousands of Atlanta Catholics Gather in Celebration

I think I feel a hiatus coming on ...

From the New Media Celebration, I went directly to (the practically next door) Hartsfield airport for a flight down to Orlando. The brother and family are here on vacation for a couple of weeks. Nice rental pad, I must say! And I'm totally in avuncular heaven! I suspect the niece and nephew (and Disney) will occupy my time in the next few days. Back soon!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The first ever Catholic New Media Celebration

What a great day!

I only made it to half of the New Media Celebration (also at the Georgia International Convention Center, where the Eucharistic Congress was held yesterday), since I had commitments in the morning. There were a few hundred people in attendance -- 300? 600? I'm not sure. The only scheduled "event" I attended was the bloggers panel, featuring Amy Welborn, Mark Shea, Jeff Miller (The Curt Jester), ably moderated by Lisa Hendey (Catholic Mom). I wish the panel could have been longer, since the stars of the Catholic Blogosphere could barely give a cursory nod at all the ins and outs of the subject. (And many thanks for the shoutout during the talk, Amy!)

For me, the day was really about connecting with people, old and new. It was especially cool to hang out with and catch up with Amy and Michael (and Joseph and Michael Jr! Gosh, kids grow!). I just crashed their book table and chatted away. Hope I didn't hurt the sales, y'all!

And I got to meet and chat with Mark Shea!. And get my picture taken with Father Roderick. and meet Fr. Leo Patalinghug of Grace Before Meals (which, it seems, is going to be syndicated by PBS!). And, very briefly, with Fr. Chris Decker and Joshua LeBlanc of The Catholic Underground.

Blogfest!From L to R: Mark Shea, Amy Welborn, Michael Dubruiel, Yours Truly, Rachel Balducci, Lisa Hendey

Other cool connections:

Rachel Balducci of Testosterhome (What an awesome name! Also a resident of the Peach State, but in the other diocese ... :))

Paul Snatchko, a parishioner at the Paulist mother pariI tsh in New York, St. Paul the Apostle. Just last week I noticed that a blogger had used (with proper credit given) one of the photos that I took at the Paulist house in Lake George NY during my Novitiate. And, today, I meet him here in Atlanta! And, he knows some friends from SC! What a small world!

Fr. Ed Branch, a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville, on loan to Atlanta, who has been working to establish a campus ministry at Morehouse and Spellman Colleges in Atlanta. (I've met Fr. Ed before -- he lead a couple of Diocesan campus ministry retreats in SC when I was in grad school. And when I was in formation with the Paulists, my parish apostolate was in his home parish of St. Martin of Tours in NE DC! Again ... small freakin' workd!)

And more connections: I find out that Alex of Vitus Speaks, is in the same parish as Mark Shea, and they're both involved in Communion and Liberation. There is a chance I might be out in WA later in the year, in which case it would be totally awesome to meet up.

[And it turns out that the guy who started up the CL group in the Atlanta area that I met yesterday at the Eucharistic Congress, is part of a group CL blog Cahiers Péguy: the drama of Christian humanism.]

So yeah, BLOGFEST!

And last, but not least, and though I didn't get to meet them, a huge and heartfelt thanks to Greg and Jennifer Willits of the Rosary Army for all their hard work (and the others at SQPN) into putting this together. This was the first time such a Catholic gathering was organized. I can only imagine the amount of time and effort and craziness (and money!) all this took. Kudos to y'all. I hope and pray that this effort continues and grows and bears much fruit in the Spirit. Stuff like this isn't free! If any of y'all can, and would like to, please visit the Rosary Army page and consider dropping them a few dollars to help defray the costs of today's event!

And finally: Gashwin took on some flesh today. Or rather, stepped out into the real world. I had registered for the Conference under the blog name. Easier to publicize it. I'd also prepared some business cards to hand out. I must say, it did feel weird talking in the real world to people who don't know me by my real name! But, that name shall remain cloaked on here. :) Oh and the other thing I realized: the blog title doesn't roll off the tongue too easily. However, it's cool, and it's in Latin. So, it stays :) It's also in honor of this rare excursion of Gashwin outside the virtual world that my visage makes a rare appearance on the blog as well. :)

The Missionary Society...

The Missionary Society of St.Paul the apostle, celebrated its 150th anniversary today, of this weekend with the ordination of Father Steven Bell CST to the sacred priesthood. Please pray for them. listen

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Back down to Atlanta...

For the New Media Celebration!. I'll make it in time for about half the day, which is better than nothing.

After that I'm flying to Orlando tonight. Brother and family are vacationing there, and I'll spend the next few days with them. Can't wait to see the kids! :)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Eucharistic Congress

Wow. WOW! WOW!

This was my first time. 25,000 Catholics. Perhaps 30,000. On fire! Man! Apart from the amazing shot in the arm such gatherings provide, it was just fantastic to adore the Lord with tens of thousands of others. I cannot emphasize just how powerful Adoration is, and how every time it hits me in the heart. (Sherry W has a great post up at the Siena Blog on the evangelical power of Adoration.)

And the phenomenal diversity of this Particular Church! I heard so many tongues! The roar when the Hispanics were first acknowledged! And even the Vietnamese!

And the entire place was steeped in personal, intentional, awakened faith as well, as well as the apostolate of the laity. Two examples:

After the morning Adoration and Benediction, and the opening address by Archbishop Gregory, three lay people came up to talk about the importance of the Congress. One in English, one in Spanish, one in Vietnamese. (The context: this free event, which costs some $650,000 is running a deficit of some $200,000. The talks were focused on a free-will offering). The gentleman speaking in English (I think he was wearing the robes of a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher), shared a powerful testimony, of how the Eucharistic Lord had changed his life at this very event in 2004: how his family was falling apart, and his son drowning in alcoholism, and how he came to this place broken, with his faith almost dead, and how he heard the voice of the Lord asking him to place his burden with him. And how his life has turned around, how his son has recovered. It was a true story, true, from the heart. The place erupted in a roar of applause and cheer when he finished.

The Lord is alive! Just let him, and he will change your life!

The first main talk was by Fr. Tim Hepburn, a priest of the Archdiocese, who's recently finished a degree in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. What an Spirit-filled priest! He said that one cannot assume that just by being Catholic one has faith. Faith is an intentional response. It doesn't just happened. So many Catholics have an unawakened faith. "You shouldn't even presume that just because I am a priest, I have faith!" "If a mouse were to jump up on the altar during Mass and eat the consecrated Species, would it receive the Real Body and Blood of Christ?" (Yes) "But would it receive the Eucharistic Lord?" (No!) "The Sacraments are Sacraments of faith. The power of the Eucharist only works if we are properly disposed. "So many Catholics have the faith of mice!"
He talked about growing up Catholic, how he lost his way as a teen and youth ("sex, drugs and rock n' roll!"), and how the Lord found him again.

(I was nodding vigorously. Obviously this is stuff I'm passionate about. And it ties in well with those good folk at the Catherine of Siena Institute as well)

Later I was reflecting on these three: Fr. Tim, Dr. Alvaré and the Knight of the Sepulchre, who shared so authentically their own journey with Christ. All three are cradle Catholics. It's unusual to hear cradle Catholics speak like this. But, all three had times of spiritual turmoil, suffering and distance from the Lord. And moments or times when, suddenly, Jesus became a real person, in a deep and powerful way.

Of course, converts, often (though not always), are full of such stories. Though, as I can testify, nothing moves in a straight line. :)

The CEO of Catholics Come Home, an amazing apostolate that has garnered much attention, spoke beautifully and powerfully of their work. Here is a lay Catholic who (his words) downsized from a lucrative career in advertising, to start up a new venture. And it is bearing abundant fruit. Check out a video!

Oh the power that the Spirit can unleash!
Other speakers included Bishop William Curlin (Bishop emeritus of Charlotte), through whom the mercy of God just exudes. He shared stories that I've heard before, of his work with the poor, with those with AIDS, and his friendship with Mother Teresa. What a holy man! And in his countless stories, each one shining like the scintillating facet of an infinitely sided diamond, the universal call to holiness, to be a saint, comes alive. (At the parish I worked at in SC, we had the privilege of Bishop Curling leading a Pastoral Council retreat.

Dr. Helen Alvaré, who serves on the Pontifical Council for the Laity, who talked about the relationship between the family and the Eucharist, and her own story of growing up a feminist and learning to trust the Church. (I'd heard her speak years ago in South Carolina, when she was working for the Bishops' Pro-Life office. It was that talk that finally got rid in me of the last vestiges of a pro-choice "safe, legal, rare" mentality.)

Wandering around the Vendors/Exhibitors area at events like these is also fun. I bumped into Father Roderick just as I walked in. (And yes, I'll be back at the New Media Celebration, at least part of it, tomorrow.) I learned how to make a rosary at the Rosary Army stand. And was sales-pitched into picking up a DVD of the first season of That Catholic Show. I bumped into a former colleague from SC (Kathy Schmugge, the Director of Family Life for the Diocese of Charleston). And checked out the great offerings of the folks at The Catholic Mass Revealed. And learned that there is a Communion and Liberation group that is meeting in the area (Of course, Amy had blogged on this three years back. The link doesn't work, but read the comments, which have a good description of C&L). And had three young girls come up to me, hand me a prayer card, and ask if I knew what "Spiritual Communion" was.

Apart from spending time in the Adoration Chapel, perhaps the most powerful thing was observing one of the parishioners I was with, a young fellow, on his way to college, confirmed a couple of years back. He was bowled over by this. And over the past several weeks, I've seen a hunger for learning about the faith, and growing closer to the Lord, deepen in him. It was such a gift to see that being stirred today.

His email to me yesterday confirming that he wanted to ride down to Atlanta today ended with a post-script: "Currently trying to become more and more saint like."


Friday, June 20, 2008

This Weekend!

The Eucharistic Congress of the Archdiocese of Atlanta


The Catholic New Media Celebration!


The [G]Ooogle Sari

Fashion designer Satya Paul's latest.

Now I just can't imagine any self-respecting lady wearing a search engine. Especially one that says "Ooogle" instead of "Google." And as many have pointed out, at least Satya Paul didn't design one based on the iPhone or the iTouch!

[Aside: am I incredibly chauvinistic, or do saris just not work on white women? Fine -- Soniaji looks acceptable in one now. But the Bond-girls in Octopussy? Ok ... best not go down that route. Or, for that matter, when Bollywood first discovered the sari's ... um ... appeal. I'm totally dating myself, but anyone recall Ram teri ganga maili?]

Some reading for the upcoming Pauline Year

A bible study for the Pauline Year by Fr. Mitch Pacwa SJ (h/t Annunciations).
Immerse yourself in the person of the Apostle Paul--heroic in his martyr's death--but so recognizably human in his conversion story and subsequent letters to the faithful. Gain fresh insights into your own personal growth potential through the Scripture of St. Paul:

* What does Paul's conversion have to teach me about how power is perfected through my weaknesses?
* How does his experience as an apostle of Christ teach me about responding to my own vocation in life?
* How might I apply St. Paul's bold and creative approach to challenging today's cultural and social status quo?
* In what ways might I imitate his care and concern for the world?

Whether you use this guide for personal study, interactive journaling, or study with a group, you will find its format concise and easy to follow. Self-assessment charts invite you to test your knowledge of biblical passages, helping you retain what you learn.
A related link that Amazon threw out: The Gospel According to St. Paul by Maria Cardinal Martini, Archbishop emeritus of Milan (and a Jesuit too).

And from the Daughters of St. Paul:

Paul— Least of the Apostles
The Story of the Most Unlikely Witness to Christ

By Alain Decaux

Renowned French historian Alain Decaux brings St. Paul to life in this engaging new translation. By evoking his own memories in connection with the places where the Apostle lived, Decaux fuses the past with the present to offer an imaginative yet authentic image of St. Paul's life and journeys. Complete with 24 pages of full-color masterpiece artwork and photos of biblical locations, Paul, Least of the Apostles is a spiritual tour-de-force that invites us to follow in Paul's footsteps on the road to proclaim the Gospel of freedom with complete faith in "the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20).

Also includes: An appendix containing the text of The Martyrdom of St. Paul, and a timeline of events contemporaneous with the life of St. Paul.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What hyper-inflation looks like

The bill for a dinner for one at the Victoria Falls Hotel, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. [Via Amit Varma.] Some parishioners I know here are going on an African trip next week, including a stop in Victoria Falls. I wonder what their bill will look like.

When I visited the country in 1991, it was doing amazingly well. It had been 11 years since Mugabe's ouster of Ian Smith and his brutal regime. The capital had recently been renamed from Salisbury to Harare, and it felt like being in Europe. Everything was clean and efficient. There seemed to be sense of keeping white Zimbabweans involved in the country and the country's economic development, though even then talk of radical land redistribution was making people nervous. The highest denomination was the Z$20.

And now?

What a tragedy!

*I was there with mom and dad. Dad was there consulting for the IMF. In his words, "I earn the money, and you and your mother spend it!" We went to Lake Kariba, Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park (which was awesome, cause we had lions saunter right next to our jeep!) and the Great Zimbabwe ruins. We also walked into Zambia. On the way back, we were routed via Addis Ababa (on Ethiopian Airlines, which then was really a fantastic carrier.) This was around the time that the Eritrean rebels won the civil war. We kept watching the news and seeing the rebels get closer and closer to Addis. The day we were to fly out, the rebels were only 10 miles outside the capital. My dad was wondering if we ought to cancel and reroute ourselves -- but that would have involved going via London back to Bombay, and was prohibitively expensive! We took the flight (Harare-Llongwe, Malawi-Addis Ababa), the last time I've flown in a 727. In Addis, the airport was in chaos. The computer couldn't find our reservations. They put us on the flight to Bombay anyway. "There are a lot of no shows today!" Duh. After we landed in Bombay, and took a cab home (which got a flat tire on the way! My poor father, who was back in Harare still, was in quite a state, as he was waiting for our phone call!), we found out that the airport shut down about an hour after we left. And remained closed for 10 days afterwards.

Patriarch Bartholomew I: Return to Communion without breaking ties with Rome

Patriarch Bartholomew speaking at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in March.

I first saw this at Mike Aquilina's and have been digging around to get more information.

Briefly, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox world has suggested that Eastern Catholics (or, specifically, Greek Catholics) could return to communion with the Orthodox church without breaking their communion with the Bishop of Rome. The model to be used is that of the relations between the Byzantine Churches and Rome in the first millennium.

He's also expressed appreciation for the idea of "dual-unity" proposed by the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar.

The report at Fr. Gregory's blog (an Orthodox priest), which links to the original German story at Same story, same details at the Religious Information Service of Ukraine (English).

Discussion of this at a Byzantine Catholic forum.

The details are just too sketchy right now. And one is obviously left asking many questions, especially, just what would this Communion with the Orthodox look like? Juridically? Practically? And just what are the details of Cardinal Husar's proposal for "dual unity"? Eirenikon asks similar questions. As do the commenters at Rorate Caeli.

I'm still looking for details of Cardinal Husar's proposal, as well as the text of the Patriarch's interview.

However, I should say: of course this raises all sorts of questions. And of course the orthodox are not monovocal. (I wonder what Patriarch Alexei in Moscow would have to say?). But it seems to me to be a big deal that the Ecumenical Patriarch is even proposing that Eastern Catholics could be a bridge to unity, rather than the obstacle that they have often been regarded as by the Orthodox.

Heads up: Tom Wright on Colbert tonight

Just got a Tweet from St. Izzy. [Tweet? Twitter? Check it out]. Bishop Nicholas Thomas Wright, Anglican biblical scholar, prolific writer, defender of the faith, will be on Colbert tonigh. CANNOT WAIT TO WATCH IT!

Wright is absolutely brilliant, but he's definitely not Catholic, especially when it comes to purgatory, or sola scriptura.

"Is your church only for Spanish people?"

My pastor at this little Catholic church in rural northern Georgia shared an email he got recently. "I'm in the area, and have been going to a Pentecostal church. I'm looking for something more ... can I come to your church? Or is it just for Spanish people?"

Apparently, that's not an uncommon belief here ... that only Hispanics can come to the Catholic Church!


Quote of the week ...

... talking to my friend Chris S out in LA. I've known him since he was like 12, and am good friends with the family. He's all excited about this girl he's met who is a total techie/Trekkie/computer geek like him. "She, like speaks my language!" You go, Chris! I did add though, "Now remember, no fornicatin' ... "


"Nah. I'm better than that. And we're not the fornicating type. We're the comic book type."


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Just heard that they...

Just heard that they have found your 4 melanoma. listen

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Umm. So much for trying to use Jott with a poor phone signal (which is almost always in these here parts). I meant this.

Double take

Social workers working for a charity illegally help a teenage girl procure an abortion.

The charity in question? Commonwealth Catholic Charities of Richmond.

Rocco has the details.

I don't even know what to say!

Evangelicals: "the worste caste of Christianity"

So it seems is how Anil Bhanot (head of the Hindu Council in Britain) describes evangelicals in a Google Hindu forum, according to Ruth Gledhill at the Times (UK). Anil Bhanot is a respected Hindu leader in the country:
Anil Bhanot is one of the leading Hindus in the area of interfaith relations and often speaks at state functions such as the Commonwealth Day Observance at Westminster Abbey. He is also a member of the Faith Community Consultative Council, which is about building good relations between faith communities in Britain. He has not yet responded to my query about this. He writes regularly for the Guardian and New Statesman, where a recent article discussed the swastika symbol as a sign of wisdom. Recently he wrote to Christian leaders in the UK, urging them to root out and stand against intolerance and religious dogma.
If he's the same guy posting in the forums, then to his credit are the following ideas:

Condemning the caste system blindly makes one an Abrahamic slave
Christian missionaries are invaders and non-Indian faiths are predatory
Non Indian faiths are demonic
The second commandment (against graven images) as diabolical
Christianity has left the world poorer because Christians need to find enemies:
Further for your purpose I am not against the spirituality of any religion and Jesus contributed to world's spirituality but I am afraid those who created Christianity after some 300 years of his death have left the world poor for it.'
[Hmm. Someone's been reading Dan Brown. Links and fuller quotes at Ruth's blog]

This is rich. Really rich. For one, the claim is often made that Hinduism is deeply tolerant of all perspectives and non-dogmatic and, therefore, much better for the world than Christianity (and the Abrahamic faiths), besotted with an obsession for orthodoxy, monotheism, dogmatism, etc. One hears this from all sorts of Westerners interested in all things "Eastern." And the idea seems to run as a thread through a lot of modern liberal, pluralistic thought: monotheism, dogma, and so on, are intrinsically tied to violence. The only way to be truly democratic and open to the other, is to abjure dogma.

And, yet, here we have a leading Hindu leader (if, indeed, it is the same person), who, on the one hand, lectures Christians on tolerance and respect, and yet spews the most risible untruths about Christianity in a Hindu forum?

The perspectives he espouses are hardly distinguishable from the right-wing ideologues of the Hindutva brigade in India, who spread the lie that Indian equals Hindu, whose revisionist histories could compare with the distorted lenses of a Stalin or a Hitler, and who seem absolutely blind to the evils of caste, until Christian missionaries show up who seem to think that [shock! horror!] those of the lower castes are actually human beings.

In fact I posit that every reform movement that originated in Hinduism in the past 200 years was in response to the arrival of a missionary Christianity with the colonialists. But these ideas are rather politically incorrect in India.

And as to the caste system and Abrahamic slavery, it is worthwhile recalling the harsh words that Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, who wrote independent India's Constitution, had to say about caste and Hinduism in particular.

The pervasive violence with which the caste-system is still enforced is quite incredible. In the Feb. 2005 issue of America, Jesuit Fr. John Francis Izzo wrote about his experiences in India. "Dalit means broken."

"Hindus aren't jihadis"

Colbert interviews Neal Katyal, a leading attorney in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld.

Dum Spiro Spero

An exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art.
This photography installation offers a way to learn about homelessness in Columbia through the eyes of people who live it daily. Entitled, "While I Breathe I hope" (Dum Spiro Spero): Columbia's homeless share their stories through words and images, this installation is a unique collaboration between the homeless, the USC Department of Psychology, Midlands Interfaith Homeless Action Council, the Central Carolina Community Foundation, and the Columbia Museum of Art.

Homeless individuals used cameras to document their daily experiences living as homeless people in Columbia. The installation features 35 photographs (by 16 artists) grouped in 10 thematic categories, including legal challenges, making money, and types of shelter used for survival.

The exhibit uses a method called Photovoice to promote community dialogue about issues from different perspectives. In particular, it seeks to engage community members in learning from people whose perspectives are often overlooked, in this case, people who are homeless. Photovoice combines photography with consciousness raising that can inform social action.
Def. worth checking out if I make it back to SC this summer.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The reason for our hope

Dorothy Day, responding to three objections from her atheist brother, on why she is a Catholic.


[From the Dorothy Day library at the Catholic Worker website.]

[H/t. Pritcher]

Why humans mate

Orthodox theologian Frederica Mathewes-Green has a beautiful essay up on human sexuality and marriage. Long, but definitely worth it! It's an excerpt from her 1997 book "Real Choices."
"It is not good for man to be alone," but it is also positively good to be together. The light you loved in your lover's eyes at the beginning grows more compellingly beautiful through the years. You meet those eyes in worship, in passion, in anger, in tears, over the baby's bassinet, over your father's casket. There is no substitute for the years, the life-time work, of looking into those eyes. Gradually, you see yourself there; gradually, you become one.

Contrary to popular belief, the Church is not anti-sex. In speaking of the union of the Church with Christ, St. John Chrysostom draws a frank parallel to marital union; the sexual bonding of husband and wife, he says, is like the uniting of fragrance and ointment in the making of perfume. He rebukes those who were shocked at his words: "You call my words immodest, because I speak of the nature of marriage, which is honorable…By calling my words immodest you condemn God, who is the author of marriage." Chrysostom affirms St. Paul's image of the Church as the Bride of Christ: "Shall I also tell you how marriage is a mystery of the Church?," he writes. "The Church was made from the side of Christ, and He united Himself to her in a spiritual intercourse."

The secular world likes to think that religion is just a way of sublimating feelings about sex. But I think that the truth is something like the opposite: sex is given to teach us something about religion, about faith and union with God. How could human beings understand what it's like to become one with God. If two became one, wouldn't their individuality annihilated? God designed it so humans could have an experience that would be universal, common, and enjoyable. He said, in essence, "Here. This is what it's like. This is where you're going." That's not the only earthly experience that helps us understand theological principles, of course. Eating ordinary food helps us to understand how we become one with Christ in the Eucharist. Parenting teaches us what God the Father's love for us is like. Sex, eating, parenting, are all good things in themselves, given and blessed by God. But they are also handy as object lessons, able to give us ready, simple, intimate analogies for what heavenly reality will be like. In light of this, I think heaven is going to be not so bad.

But this is not the way the secular world views sex. Advertisements and entertainment are always telling us that what we want most is to wake up next to someone sexy tomorrow morning. But in the quiet of our hearts we know: we want to wake up next to someone kind, fifty years from tomorrow morning.

Globalization and automation harm workers

That's according to Sen. Barak Obama. [From this interview with the Senator in the Wall Street Journal where he outlines some of his economic platform. The full quote: ""Globalization and technology and automation all weaken the position of workers," he said, and a strong government hand is needed to assure that wealth is distributed more equitably."]

Cafe Hayek responds
, in the succinct style that one is used to over there:
If this presidential wannabe is correct, then some of the world's most prosperous workers must be the people in that newly discovered tribe in Brazil -- persons with absolutely no contact with the global economy or with modern technology.

Less extreme cases, of course, include persons not so cut off from the world as these Brazilian tribes. Sub-Saharan Africans should be more prosperous than eastern Europeans, who, in turn, should be more prosperous than Americans and western Europeans.

Of course, if the facts don't follow this pattern, then I guess that Sen. Obama will soon publicly apologize for either misspeaking or admit that his thesis is flawed.

Pakistani transparency

After over 40 years of secrecy, the new Pakistan government discloses how much this impoverished nation spends on defense and the military. BBC NEWS | South Asia | 'Historic' Pakistan defence move

Defending certain "price gougers"

The ever eloquent Tim Harford at the Financial Times. "Why price-gougers should get a knighthood."

And, if you have time for it, here's an interview with Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek, on energy prices. What I liked was the very clear explanation of how prices work in a free market.

Good for them

The Vatican won't allow those making Dan Brown's "Angels & Demons" into a film, access to the various Roman churches where the novel is set.

Good for them. Let the filmmakers spend the extra $$ to create false sets or do creative CGI at the nearest church that does let them in. Or not. Who will notice or care? As long as the story is good, and the evil patriarchal oppressor is castigated, does any kind of truth matter?

And, I suppose, the filmmakers could even use this to their advantage, and portray themselves as victims of a nervous Vatican, fearful of the truth.

The new learning that failed

A lament for the state of university education today at the New Criterion. Long, but worth it. A few quotes
The triumph of the therapeutic and the eclipse of the tragic ensured that students' expectations soared even as their intellectual and mental abilities to handle inevitable setbacks eroded. The result was a weird marriage in both today's student and professor of arrogance and ignorance—assurance that bad things either won't happen or can be easily addressed by identifying the right -ism or -ology, but utter confusion when that never seems quite to be the case.
Since radical egalitarianism, not truth, is the primary mission of the university, details, of whether Ward Churchill ever had a Ph.D. or was a Native American, or whether the Duke lacrosse players were innocent, or whether the integrity of a campus chapel was worthy of respect, mean little. Proper intent—conveniently amorphous and changeable—always trumped cruel fact: the Duke sex entertainer was, after all, a poor African-American performing for a white privileged audience; a Ward Churchill really was sympathetic to Native Americans, and not to the corporate power structure; a cross really does privilege Christianity over Islam.
In conclusion, we can assess the value of classical learning in the life of the university by illustrating how non-Hellenic are the contemporary university agendas of popular culture, therapy, political correctness, and vocationalism. The Greeks remind us that there are rules to acquiring knowledge not found on the street, that the world is not always a happy place, and that we must prepare for a Hobbesian life that is sometimes solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short, that our allegiance must be to truth, not to the prevailing politics and fads of the days, and that if we can read, write, and think well, we can do anything—and if not, nothing really at all.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Planned Parenthood in Charleston

Over at Dawn Patrol I see that Planned Parenthood has bought some property in Charleston, SC. Kathy Schmugge, coordinator for the Family Life Office for the Diocese of Charleston, has a guest post about the development, and plans for a an ecumenical protest.

"But, Planned Parenthood provides other health-care needs for women, not just abortion!" Well, abortion is bad enough, thank you very much. And any of the other services can be received at other places that do not also kill innocent human beings on the same premises. And abortion remains -- overwhelmingly -- the one "service" the organization provides.

Check out the website of the LA Advocate, an organization of students at UCLA, who have done some rather bold investigative reporting of local Planned Parenthood branches, recording them suggesting that a prospective client lie about her age (to avoid California's parental notification law), or suggesting that it was ok for the organization to receive money that was given explicitly so that they would specifically abort black babies.

And let's not forget the connection between Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, and eugenics.

In Memoriam

The International Eucharistic Congress ...

... opens today in Quebec City, Canada.
The 2008 International Eucharistic Congress will be the assembly of the Church of Quebec hosting the Universal Church to celebrate the Living Christ. Its theme will be “The Eucharist, Gift of God for the Life of the World.”
The Congress lasts the whole week. There are several catecheses, lead by various leaders from around the world. Archbishop Wuerl (DC) and Jean Varnier spoke today. Archbishop Topo (Ranchi, India, and president of the Indian Bishops' Conference) is to speak on Friday. Program for the week.

Here's an account of the Opening Ceremony (no pictures?), including this bit:
The arrival of God’s Word carried on the Ark of the New Covenant was an emotional moment. Since its construction and blessing by the Holy Father in May 2006, the Ark of the New Covenant has been symbolic, for Canadian youth in particular, of progress toward the Congress. At the end of its journey over many thousands of kilometers, it was welcomed by the pilgrims gathered at Colisée Pepsi, many of whom had hailed its passage through their parishes long ago. The Ark was the bearer of the book of the Word of God, which was placed in the middle of the altar as a sign that this Word is the foundation of the Catholic Faith.
One can watch stuff live!

I know a seminarian from Ottawa pretty well ... and he's up at the Congress. Hopefully I can wrangle an email or two out of him! :)

Screenshot of the entrance procession at the daily Mass at 11:00 am.

... and a round altar?

Wish I could be there!

Formation: not the privilege of a few

"Formation is not the privilege of a few, but a right and duty of all." (Christifideles Laici, 63).

One outfit that seems to be taking seriously the call of the Council and recent Popes to form the lay faithful is the Catherine of Siena Institute.

I came across the Institute via the blogosphere. In October, Sherry Wadell, co-director of the Institute, was visiting the DC area, and we met for dinner (while I was still with the Paulists). Since then, I've been in the process of understanding the Institute's mission, and am also training as a teacher for the Institute's "Called & Gifted" workshops.

The training was held this past weekend up in Chicago. (Well, actually, Bloomingdale). I just got back. A small group, but zealous and on fire. I'm even more excited about working with the Institute in the future.

I am more and more convinced that the Council's vision of the laity hasn't fully taken hold of the Church. The vision of well-formed lay faithful, who take seriously their co-responsibility for the mission of the Church in the world, and understand their own individual calls from God who sends them out to the world, still seems to be a distant ideal.

One particular direction the church has taken, especially in the US, has been to recognize only the involvement of the laity within the structures of the church. Please don't get me wrong: I am not knocking the rise of lay ecclesial ministry, nor do I suggest that lay professionals are mistaken in their callings, or unnecessary. I used to be a lay ecclesial minister myself. However, I do think that this development has eclipsed the sense of the lay apostolate, which is focused outwards, to the world.

Our views are still dominated by a kind of clericalism, that sees the ordained priesthood as the only legitimate calling in the Church, and everything is viewed in relation to the ministry of the ordained.

Several years ago, a student came into my office. He had had a very powerful religious experience. He was struggling to describe it to me. The faith had suddenly taken on a new level of reality for him, a cradle Catholic, who, until then, was more or less just going through the motions. He was also quite sure that he didn't want to be priest, but he wanted to get "more involved." We talked a bit about spiritual direction, and so on. As to involvement, "Well, you're too young to discern the Diaconate. What about the various liturgical ministries we have here?"

This incident stands out starkly for me. In my mind, if I came across an on-fire Catholic, someone who was hungering for mor, the only category that framed my thinking was "priesthood" or "religious life." And since he was quite clear that wasn't what he was thinking about (he was in a relationship at the time), my mind couldn't seem to go beyond "be a lector!"

Again, please don't get me wrong. Perhaps this fellow was called to the priesthood. Perhaps he wasn't. And of course we need more priests. I am not suggesting at all that the call of the laity is somehow opposed to that of the ordained. Nor am I suggesting that there is anything wrong with being a liturgical minister, or that this is somehow beneath someone's dignity.

My point is this: I could only think in terms of a vocation involving something within the church.

While some are indeed called to serve the church this way, for the overwhelming bulk of the faithful, this is just not true! This is what the Council means by the "secular character" of the vocation of the laity. And in this area, at least in my experience and understanding so far, the laity get little or no help, training or formation.

A little while later, I stumbled upon Russell Shaw's book, "To Hunt, To Shoot, To Entertain: Clericalism and the Catholic Laity." It's a brilliantly written book, that first got me thinking about just how pervasive and insidious the clericalist mindset is, especially when it suggests that the only way for the laity to be truly Christian, or holy, is to get as close to being a cleric as they can. Shaw has developed his ideas in subsequent books (Ministry or Apostolate explores the distinction between the two areas of lay vocation, within and without the structures of the Church). And, in the Spring 2007 issue of the quarterly of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, there was a great piece by him, on the importance of all the baptized discerning their vocations. [Incidentally, it was this article that directly precipitated the formation of women's and men's discernment groups in the same campus ministry where I worked. And lest anyone think that somehow this might discourage priestly vocations, the experience of many suggests that when the discernment is a widespread phenomenon, more women and men seem to be able to discern a call to priesthood or religious life.]

"The fundamental objective of the formation of the lay faithful is an ever-clearer discovery of one's vocation and the ever-greater willingness to live it so as to fulfil one's mission." (Christifideles Laici, 58)

"The Called & Gifted" workshop is a tool designed to help ordinary Catholics discern their individual vocations. Discernment of God's call is the call of everyone. It focuses on the the discernment of charisms, graces of the Holy Spirit that are ordered towards building up the church, "to the good of men and to the needs of the world," (Catechism, #800) which are given to the faithful of all ranks (Catechism, #951, cf. Lumen Gentium, 12)

I look forward to future collaboration with the good folk at the Institute, as the Lord wills!

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Am still in the Windy City and have not really had much access to the Internet ... but CONGRATULATIONS to Mark Mossa, who was ordained to the priesthood yesterday! GAUDIUM MAGNUM!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Going wearyingly in circles

Both Fr. Longenecker and Zadok report on a new petition by some English Catholics calling for the Bishops of England & Wales to allow women and married men into the priesthood. Their comments are worth reading. I was reminded of the following passage from The Salt of the Earth, Peter Seewald's book-length interview with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. The context for this question is a similar petition, which originated in Austria.
Referring to ciriticism of the church, you once spoke of a classical "cannon of issues": women's ordination, contraception, celibacy, the remarriage of divorced persons. This list is from 1984. The "Petition of the People of the Church" of 1995 in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland shows that this canon of issues hasn't changed one iota. The discussion seems to be going wearyingly in circles. ... It seems to me that many don't know exactly what they're talking about when they speak of the papacy and the priesthood, and they actually don't know the meaning of these terms.

I would stress again that all of these are certainly genuine issues, but I also believe that we go astray when we raise them to the standard questions and make the the only concerns of Christianity. There is a very simple reflection that argues against this (which, by the way, Johann Baptist Metz has mentioned in an article entitled "Petition of the People of the Church"). These issues are resolved in Lutheran Christianity. On these points it has taken the other path, and it is quite plan that it hasn't thereby solved the problem of being a Christian in today's world and that the problem of Christianity, the effort of being a Christian, remains just as dramatic as ever. Metz, if I recall correctly, asks why we ought to make ourselves a clone of Protestant Christianity. It is actually a good thing, he says, that the experiment was made. For it shows that being Christian today does not stand or fall on these questions. That the resolution of these matters does not make the gospel more attractive or being Christian any easier. It does not even achieve the agreement that will better hold the church together. I believe we should finally be clear of this point, that the church is not suffering on account of these questions.
(Emphasis added) And for these latest English petitioners, one could add: just look to your neighbors in the Church of England.

The Instrumentum Laboris for the October Synod

The working document for the Synod of Bishops in October: The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, is now ready. (AsiaNews)
Presented today in the Vatican, the Instumentum is an 80-page volume that aims, in its various dimensions, as expressed by Archbishop Nikola Eterović, secretary general of the synod of bishops, to "foster understanding and love of the Word of God", in the certainty that this can "promote ecclesial communion, foment the universal vocation to salvation, reinvigorate the mission to those near and those far away, and renew the ingenuity of charity, seeking to contribute to the discovery of solutions to the many problems of contemporary man, who is hungry both for bread and for every word that comes from the mouth of God (cf. Mt. 4:4). More concretely, the aim of the synod, according to the Instrumentum laboris, is above all of a pastoral and missionary nature". This is a matter of affirming "the need to give primacy to the word of God in the life and mission of the Church" and also to find "the courage and creativity of a pedagogy of communication that is suited to the times", considering "the culture, the contexts of contemporary life, the world of communications" and its instruments, including the newest ones.
The full-text of the Instrumentum is online in several languages at the Vatican website.

What I did with my stimulus check

Over at God's Politics - Jim Wallis blog

[Yours truly didn't receive a "stimulus check," because he was in religious life last year and did not receive an income.]

[H/t the Acton blog.]

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dio ti benedica!

Mary Gibson, aka The Roaming Roman, is entering religious life with the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. [Via Zadok]

Wow! Awesome! Keep her in your prayers y'all, and continue to pray that young people be invited to discern their own unique vocations in their lives.

I wish I were in Grand Rapids Michigan ...

For Acton's annual conference, "Acton University" -- which is economics and Catholic social teaching for beginners. When I met the folks at Acton in Rome, this was highly recommended to me. However, it just didn't work out for this year. Next year, maybe. God willing.

[Well, I've been to Grand Rapids. Twice no less. During my stint with the CSPs. It's a neat enough place.]

Link to mp3s of the various lectures

Bloggers covering the meet.

In and out of the pews

Rocco has a good post up about the results of the recent Pew study on religious behavior in America, and that the US Bishops, who are about to meet in Orlando for their summer meeting, will be spending a lot of time studying this report and the CARA report as well.

These reports should be studied and pondered, not just in chanceries -- but in parishes and seminaries as well.

The fact of the matter is, despite the great influx of Hispanics (where evangelization, discipleship, catechesis and retention are huge issues, especially with the second and third generations), the Catholic Church is losing the next generation. Big time.

In my own anecdotal experience working with young adults, all of whom were involved in the campus ministry I once worked at:

  • A group of friends, very involved in the campus ministry, who I was close to in grad school. Of these 8 or so, only 1 is still an active, practicing Catholic. This one also spent some time at Falwell's Liberty U., and when she came back to the Catholic Church, the experience of Liberty only served to ground her more in the Church, ironically.

  • Another active student now at a major law school. "I know the Church should be a part of my life. But ... Sunday rolls around ... and I just can't seem to make it. And the campus ministry here doesn't seem to have much for Law students."

  • A recent conversation.. "Well, I last went to Mass at ... oh shoot, I didn't even make it on Easter. I know dude. But you know what it is ... everything is so darn far away. And gas prices being what they are, it's a huge deterrent. Going to a parish where everyone is decades older, where there's no community. When I could get to the Cathedral that was awesome -- they have an active young adult group. But it's 25 miles away now."

  • A contretemps with a once faithful Catholic, who's marrying a non-Catholic. I can't go into details, but they decided not to marry in the Church. "When I called the church [a Cathedral somewhere in the South], they were like, 'Oh ok. We'll send you your deposit back, minus the administrative fee.' They didn't seem to mind that I wasn't getting married in the church. No questions asked, nothing. No attempt made to find out what happened. It's a god-d--- business is what it is. That's it."

  • A few years back, another student, who was leaving to go overseas on work for the Federal Government, had to move ahead his marriage date. His experience at the local parish almost made him leave the Church. "Envelope #? Where's that in the Bible? All they seemed to care about was making sure I gave them enough money!"

  • A recent experience with teens on retreat. All enthusiastic kids, from church-going families. Their level of catechesis? Abysmal. Depressingly so.
These are just a sampling of anecdotal stories. No they're not all depressing. There are several of conversion, of encounters with the Lord that lead to discipleship. [There's two stories I've been meaning to share for a while ... I'll do that later today or this week. They've got to do with discovering the gem that is the Catholic approach to human sexuality.]

And, as far as I'm concerned, that's where we focus. Or at least, that's where I think I'm being called to focus, as I continue my journey towards the priesthood: discipleship.

Great discussion on the Pew report at Inside Catholic.

Amy, with her insightful stuff.

Sherry Wadell's research at Intentional Disciples.