Thursday, July 31, 2008

Happy Feast!

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

Monday, July 28, 2008

On retreat

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

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

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

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

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

Otherwise -- have a good week y'all!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Farewell but not goodbye

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bomb blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad

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


Islamists claim responsibility.

An Indianized Bible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catholic and Cool in Sydney

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

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

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

Always be watchful ...

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

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

One has to laugh! :)

Beyond belief ...

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

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

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

Lord have mercy on us!

Friday, July 25, 2008

But is it true?

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

But to establish the truth of the matter? Umm.

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

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

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

You never know who's reading ...

Inklings and Friends: What to read

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

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

Holy gaping hole Batman!

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



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

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

The heads start chatting at the forums.

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

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

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

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Untamed Beer

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

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

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

Nunc est bibendum!

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Twenty Five Years ...

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

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

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

PAS: Washington going the Oregon way?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love being in a small...

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

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

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dinner with the Cielini

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

More "less blogging"

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

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

Next week we're on retreat.

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

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A weekend in the mountains ...

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

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

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

Friday, July 18, 2008

Chesterton the anti-semite?

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

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

We should open ourselves to the gifts of other Christians

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

WYD getting positive press now

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

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

(Though of course, some persist tenaciously.)

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

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thoughts on Paul: VII

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

The freedom of the Sons of God.

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

I'm just saying ...

I cuddle a Koala last year.

Now Pope Benedict does.

I visit the Shrine of Bl. Mackillop last year.

Now he does as well.


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

In Mecca a King is giving lessons on peace

Sandro Magister's latest.

Stuck in ATL

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

Who's the patron saint of car trouble?

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Clerical Spat!

Over at First Things!

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

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

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

Humanae Vitae: Forty Years On

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

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

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

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

From professional soccer to seminary

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 14, 2008

A phantom crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Error of Size

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

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

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

Thoughts on Paul: VI

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

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

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

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

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

Oh well! :)

Bureaucratic Efficiency

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ethnic diversity in rural Georgia

The largest ethnic minority in rural northern Georgia are, of course, Hispanics. African-Americans are quite rare in this part of the South. But South Asians are present as well. For instance, the Hyderabadi guys who staff the gas station down the street from my parish. Or the Nepali family that runs this really decent desi diner in Marietta (and the only Indian restaurant I've seen listed on the blue "Food at next exit" signs on the Interstate). (Ok, Marietta isn't really rural ... at one time it was!) One of the staff there, earlier tonight, said quite proudly that he'd picked up enough Spanish to talk to the Mexican dishwashers who work in the kitchen. "They don't speak anything else you know," he added in heavily accented Hindi.

The absolute kicker was stopping off at this little gas station at a bare cross-roads in the far west of Gilmer County, not too far from Resaca, on my way back from the visit to the Orthodox Monastery earlier in the week. Middle of nowhere. There was a country store attached, and as I entered, I saw two clearly South Asian guys behind the counter. The older one was jabbering in Gujarati on the phone. The younger one was behind the counter. As I checked out, I asked him, in Gujarati, if they were from Gujarat. He looked a bit taken aback, shook his head, and said, in English, "No, he is."

"So where are you from?"

"Pakistan." From Lahore, to be precise. Moved here a few years back. He's taking night classes to get a management degree down in Atlanta. We'd switched to Urdu by this time. He asked what I did ... "Ah ... I was wondering. I saw the cross around your neck. So are you Christian?" He wanted to know how I became Christian. I can't say I've ever talked about this in Urdu before, but I gave him a really brief version. His co-worker had gotten off the phone and was listening in. "Well, I'm Muslim." I expected as much. We chatted a bit more, and I wished him khuda hafiz and left with my diet Coke and candy bar.

Somehow, it was quite heartening to see a Gujarati Hindu and a Pakistani Muslim working together at a store. In Gujarat itself, this kind of interaction is dying out, with the rise of a violent Hindu nationalism, and the increasing marginalization of the Muslim minority. I've no idea how the Hindu minority is treated in Pakistan -- if it's anything like the treatment Christians get, it can't be pretty.

While some ethnic tensions might seem a bit more surmountable in the diaspora, others might not be: I recalled a bit of the conversation with Fr. J at the monastery. Occasionally they go up to Chattanooga to the Arab grocery store. "Well, we're wearing our robes, of course. And this one time, a group of Bosnian Muslims were passing by, and started shouting the vilest things at us!" The Bosnians assumed they were Serbian Orthodox, and I guess the memories of the war are quite fresh still.

Bosnians, Pakistanis, Indians, Nepalis ... and of course Mexicans, Colombians and Guatemalans.

What a fascinating place the rural South is! :)

Some WYD stuff in the Aussie press ...

First, via the Siena Blog, this great article by Paul Kelly in The Australian Age: Test of Spirit
THE visit to Sydney of Pope Benedict XVI is a deeply ambiguous event - it is a test of the standing and spirit of the Catholic Church in Australia while offering a certain judgment on the tolerance of a secular Australian nation towards religion.
It's worth reading in full. Australia is a far more secular country than the United States, and WYD is one of the most public displays of religiosity the country has seen in ages.
Does former cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, have anything to offer Australia? He comes, above all, for an event that enshrines the role of religion in the public square. Australia is about 65 per cent Christian. But it is a long time since Australian society saw Christianity celebrated in so spectacular a moment, with the city's landmarks for recreation and commerce given over to worship of God.

This is an affirmation of the true and mature secular state. Yet it is resisted by many who seek a radical change in the status quo. They represent an aggressive "new secularism", a philosophy much discussed by Benedict, that aspires to deny religion by shrinking it to a strictly private affair. In terms of governance, such advocates want not a traditional secular state to enshrine religious freedom, but the creation of atheism as the de facto established religion to drive real religion from the public domain.

This constitutes one of the most radical and intolerant projects in Australian political history.
And Catholic blogger John Heard has this piece in the Sunday Telegraph: Decisive Benedict the Pope the world needs.
But even non-Catholics have something to learn from him.

Benedict regularly describes, for instance, how the secular West can overcome some of the more alienating aspects of modern living, and he is not afraid to engage the Church's critics.

In his papal writings, then, Benedict has quoted atheist thinkers such as Nietzsche and Marx, and used their criticisms of false belief and an unjust society to show how Christian love and hope can transform contemporary lives.
Catholic coverage at NCR(egister)'s Pope 2008 blog. And this post by Amy ought to be bookmarked: her collection of sites covering WYD.

Cat-fight ...

... in the combox on this post of mine. Have a look. But don't weigh in unless you're going to shed light rather than heat.

I'm not sure why I'm indulging this, but it's a first for this liddle bwog ... :)


Minnesota professor encourages theft and desecration of Eucharist

Australia denies visas to Iraqi WYD pilgrims

Something of this nature happens every time WYD is held in a Western country. Australia denies visas to Iraqi WYD pilgrims

Friday, July 11, 2008

In Charleston

For the funeral of Fr. Tim's dad. Blogging will be light. Back in GA tomorrow night.

In Orissa the persecution of the Church continues

Cow killing triggers new round of anti-Christian violence in India

It's really bizarre. One can go to restaurants in Bombay or Delhi and eat beef, though certainly not at every restaurant (and McDonald's only serves chicken burgers). My Hindu family eats beef (though not regularly). I grew up eating beef. Muslims and Christians all over India eat beef. In college the most popular dish in the cafeteria was a super-spicy beef-curry-rice, and it wasn't just the Catholics who were eating it.

Pluralistic India manages the tension more or less smoothly -- during major Hindu festivals there are local anti-cow-slaughter laws, for instance. However, Hindus know that their Muslim and Christian and Zoroastrian neighbors eat beef. The "minority communities" would also take not to slaughter cows in public or in Hindu neighborhoods.

Yet, eating beef in rural Orissa is grounds for violence?

Give me a break. It seems like Orissa is becoming the test ground for the Sangh Parivar and their ilk to see if anti-Christian violence translates into electoral victory or not.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

On being comprehensively pro-life


Digest version (lots of good reading links)

... and what being pro-life in a positive sense might mean.

Thoughts on Paul: V

[Continuing selections from Pensieri su Paolo by Pope Benedict XVI]

"This life which I live in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who has loved me and has given himself for me." (Gal. 2:20). Paul doesn't live any more for himself, by his own justification. He lives of and with Christ, giving himself, not any more looking for, or building up, himself. This is the new justification, the new orientation given to us by the Lord, given to us by faith. In front of the cross of Christ, the most extreme expression of self-donation, there is no one who could advance himself, his own justification, made by himself, for himself!(Catechesis, November 8, 2006).

The Orthodox Monastery of the Ascension

The chapel

It took a while getting there -- it's about 40 miles away, but the terrain is hilly. The road we took was blocked because of a wreck, and we had to turn around make a 40 mile long detour, via Calhoun! The monastery is at the southern end of Gordon County, south of Dalton, located on woody, gently hilly acres. It consists of a simple, single story family home, that presumably, at some point was donated or acquired by the Church, and converted into a residence for the monks. A small chapel is attached. Currently there are 3 monks in residence (there were a few more, but left to staff a monastery up north). They support themselves by candle making, the bookstore and donations. The monastery is affiliated with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. There is no Orthodox community nearby, but there are Orthodox parishes in the Atlanta area, and people do visit.

A bilingual Divine Liturgy, in English and Arabic

We talked with two of the monks. One was cleaning a thurible for a memorial service of a lady who was recently killed in a car accident. I asked if there were any connections with the local Catholic community. Apparently a previous pastor in Dalton had invited them to speak to the parish a couple of times, but nothing since. And occasionally, some Protestant summer camps send teens to the monastery to visit with the monks and learn about Orthodox Christianity.

Banner with the logo taken from Mt. Athos: "Orthodoxy or death!

The other opened up the small bookstore for us. The bookstore staffing monk is an alumnus of the University of South Carolina. Go figure! Small world! We had a great conversation about Byzantium (and how the 1000 year history of the Empire is more or less neglected in the West, thanks largely to Gibbon), India, various Orthodox Churches, the liturgy and what not.

As we were leaving, Father J said, "Hang on here a second" and disappeared into the basement, and re-emerged with two little books. "These are for you!" One is a Latin Breviary, published in 1931, with the Office for Holy Week and the Octave of Easter (bearing a stamp of the Spring Hill College Library, in Alabama). The other an English "Pocket Ritual for Priests" published in 1964. COOL! Many many thanks Father!

The monks were very friendly and gregarious, and I hope in the short time I have left in the area I can make it to a weekday Vespers service. Fr. J very helpfully gave me a calendar which lists all the upcoming feast days in the Julian calendar superimposed on the Gregorian calendar, so I could plan to come back for a solemnity.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Thoughts on Paul: IV

[Sorry for the interruption. Fourth of July weekend, etc. Continuing selections from the collection, Pensieri su Paolo by Pope Benedict XVI.]

"The theme 'God' is essential. St. Paul says in the Letter to the Ephesians, "Remember that at that time you were ... without hope and without God. Now, however, in Christ Jesus, you, who at one time were far away, have come close.' (Eph. 2:12-13). Thus life has a sense (direction) which guides me even in difficulty. Therefore, we need to return to God the Creator, to God who is the creative reason, and then, to find Christ, who is the living Face of God." Discourse, 2-Feb-2007.

Secular conversations

[I wrote this over the weekend but am just getting around to posting it.]

At the ball game on Friday in Greenville, I ended up sitting next to the new boyfriend of the best friend of a good friend's girlfriend (did you get that? :)). Nice fellow. Over swigs of Sweetwater beer (now there's a good Atlanta brew), the conversation took a philosophical turn. Always a hazard in my vicinity. It started out with the Obama bumper sticker on his car, and then went to abortion, the uniqueness of human beings, vegetarianism, Iraq and what not.

On abortion, "Well I can't tell a woman what to do or not to do. That's judgmental." (So, if the woman in front of us turned around with a gun and wanted to kill you, I should not interfere?)

Oh but a fetus isn't a human being. On humanity, "We're no different from other animals really ... " (So, you're ok with the fact that eating a burger makes you complicit in murder? Would you eat a human being in the same way? How many cows do you know who've come and shared their deep angst with you?)

This repartee continued on and off through the day, at a fun, friendly level. At dinner, some other friends of friends of friends joined us for a bit. One of them was wearing a tee-shirt that read, "Make love, not babies."

"There you go dude, that's how one takes care of abortion."

I just shook my head.

The kicker was, "But you'd be ok with murder, right, if it meant killing the followers of those who pray to a different invisible man in the sky?"

An invisible man in the sky. That's who God is for this chap.

The thing is, he was raised Catholic. Baptized. First Communion. Confirmation. Yet, God is nothing but some invisible man in the sky, with no impact whatsoever on his life.

Later on in the evening, we were sitting up on a parking lot waiting for the fireworks to start, and sipping more, um, beverages.

"So, why seminary, man? I've gotta ask." So I talked a little bit, very briefly, about how I fell in love with Jesus Christ. "That's cool man."

It's been ages really since I've been around really secular people. Even as a campus minister, most of my interactions were with Catholic students. Sure I have secular friends, but they live far away and most of the time we don't talk about religion. And in seminary and formation, one is among insiders, so to speak, most of the time.

So ... who is going to be the one who might be able to share the Good News with young people such as this man? Our priests? Hardly -- they're busy feeding the sheep who do show up. In fact, the underlying assumption about ministry is that we'll serve those who show up. Very little time or energy is spent trying to reach those who are not there. We are mostly focused inwards. Our focus outwards tends to be related to outreach to the poor or charity -- no mean thing at all, and a constitutive element of living a Christian life. But what about evangelization as in inviting others to befriend Jesus Christ?

Would a young person such as this one, for all practical purposes a non-believer, open up in the same way to a priest? Perhaps, though when would he have an opportunity? In this case, I was friends with his girlfriend, not quite yet a priest, enough intrigue there to get a conversation going.

Who interacts regularly with the secular world? Not our priests. This is the job -- no, this is the vocation of lay Catholics. To take Our Lord with them into the world, into the work places and yes, even to ballgames, as appropriate.

Do lay Catholics get any training or any formation to help them carry out this task? I suspect not -- though there are some places that try and do this. It's one of the reasons I'm so excited about my involvement with the Catherine of Siena Institute. [In August, I'll be heading out West for the Making Disciples workshop in Spokane.]

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring (the) good news!" (Rom 10:14-15)

Busy days

Just been busy getting my application to seminary all put together, as well as traveling (over the 4th). A good friend is visiting right now and we're tramping around the N. GA mountains. The plan today is to visit an Orthodox monastery that is about an hour away from here!

This is where we were yesterday. Vogel State Park, south of Blairsville, GA

Monday, July 07, 2008

Fr. Tim's dad

An update on George Lijewski: Fr. Tim just called, his dad is not doing too well at all. His heart is not holding out well after the recent bypass and aneurism surgeries. Father is on his way down to Summerville. Please pray for Fr. Tim and his family.

:: UPDATE :: 11:00 pm EDT, July 7. Fr. Tim just called, and his father is not expected to make it through the night. Please keep the Lijewski family in your prayers ... I know your prayers (especially current and former parishioners from STM in Columbia from Fr. Tim's days there) mean a lot to them right now.

Mr. George Lijewski went to his eternal reward at about 11:15 pm last night (Monday, July 7). His wife and children were present. Tentatively, the wake will be held on Friday evening, and the funeral Saturday morning at St. John the Beloved parish, Summerville SC. Requiem aeternam dona eis domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Oh no!

40 dead in Indian embassy blast in Afghan capital - Yahoo! News


Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation:

Good friends Mr. & Mrs. Dell (of Dogwood Dell) are riding in the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes in August.

:: UPDATE :: Support them, and send some money to this worthwhile cause! Many thanks to blogger Mary Martha for pointing out that the JDRF supports embryonic stem cell research. (See this link: their support is unequivocal, and they are dismissive of adult stem cell research.) I wish I'd known this before I'd actually given some money. Note to self: always do some research on any charity you're donating to!

My friends have a niece that has juvenile diabetes, and I know of others with this disease. Research to help fight this disease is admirable and laudable. However, ends never justify the means, and if the JDRF is raising money to donate to stem-cell research that results in the destruction of human embryos, then I absolutely cannot support this.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Another "shocking" ancient discovery?

I first saw this last night at good friend Leonardo's blog. [He's been getting lots of hits today, he showed up second in a Google search on the story. Go over and add to his traffic! :) Decent comments there as well.]

Answer, to me, at least: this tablet will not revolutionize Christianity or Christology.

First, some links from the Catholic blogosphere:

The Curt Jester: great commentary and links.

Brief mention at dotCommonweal.

Coverage of this back in May at Mike Aquilina's. I guess it's taken a while for the NYT to "break" this "revolutionary" story.

My comments, based on what I wrote last night at Leonardo's, with a few additions: "Um. This is interesting for sure, but I'll want to read a lot more, and not just something that any secular MSM outlet produces.

"This is the sign of the son of Joseph. This is the conscious view of Jesus himself. This gives the Last Supper an absolutely different meaning. To shed blood is not for the sins of people but to bring redemption to Israel." Someone needs to go back and read the Catechism a bit more. The fulfillment of the law, as well as the redemption of Israel was very much at the heart of Jesus' mission. [Incidentally, this kind of facile distinction -- between forgiveness of sins and redemption -- while excusable in the writing of an Israeli Jewish historian, becomes absolutely risible when espoused by Christian leaders, such as the former Episcopal Bishop of Newark, John Shelby Spong. He makes much of precisely this distinction, if memory serves correctly, in "Reclaiming the Bible from Fundamentalism."]

As to historicity, a little time spent with Tom Wright's Magisterial Three Volume, "The New Testament and the Question of God" (especially Vol. 2 "Jesus and the Victory of God") puts the whole thing in a new light. Forgiveness of sins and the redemption of Israel are intimately related concepts. Furthermore, the absolute Jewishness of Jesus is hardly a new concept in critical scholarship. It's worth paying attention, for instance, to this 2001 publication by the Pontifical Biblical Commission: the Jewish People and their Holy Scriptures in the Christian Bible. (link is to the French text. The English text is not available online.)

Finally --- if this is correct, then it undercuts the revisionist view that because there was no precedent for a suffering Messiah who would die and rise in Judaism, then these ideas must have been interpolated by the later Gospel writers. Well, guess what, this was a part of Jewish Messianism in the Second Temple period.

Of course, this betrays a huge philosophical fallacy, that goes well beyond the limits of history, when it suggests that there really can be no genuinely new ideas.

Which is a load of hogwash."

Finally, how about a dose of sense from Pope Benedict XVI when it comes to the problematic philosophical underpinnings of much of historical-critical approaches to the Scriptures?
The real philosophical presupposition of the whole system seems to me to lie in the philosophical turning point proposed by Immanuel Kant. According to him, the voice of being-in-itself cannot be heard by human beings. Man can hear it only indirectly in the postulates of practical reason, which have remained as it were the small opening through which he can make contact with the real -- that is, his eternal destiny. ... Thence comes the restriction to the positive, to the empirical, to "exact" science, which by definition excludes the appearance of what is "wholly other," the one who is wholly other, or a new initiative from another plane.

In theological terms, this means that revelation must recede into the pure formality of the eschatological stance, which corresponds to the Kantian split. As far as everything else is concerned, it all needs to be "explained." What might otherwise seem like a direct proclamation of the divine can only be myth, whose laws of development can be discovered. It is with this basic conviction that Bultmann, with the majority of modern exegetes, reads the Bible. He is certain that it cannot be the way it is depicted in the Bible, and he looks for methods to demonstrate the way it really had to be. To that extent there lies in modern exegesis a reduction of history to philosophy, a revision of history by means of philosophy.
[From "Biblical Interpreation in Crisis.", 1988]

As we forgive

Over at Get Religion, great coverage of a piece in the Washington Post about a new movie, that explores forgiveness in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Here's the WaPo story itself: Acts of Reconciliation: A student filmmaker turns her lens on Rwanda and finds a personal truth reflected back at her.
In the film we meet Rosaria, who pulls up the hem of her dress to reveal mounds of raised scar tissue running down her legs. Hacked and beaten during the genocide, she now lives in a house built for her by Saveri, the man who killed her sister. Another survivor, Chantale, who lost 30 family members, meets John, the stooped gangly man who killed her father. He can't face her; her eyes are embers. "Remember all your old neighbors," she says. Yet the next day, Chantale begins working to build a house for another ex-con who confessed his crimes.
The student filmmakers, Laura Hinson, is Episcopalian. One can view the trailer online at the film's website. The DVD is available for purchase for $24.95. The story is amazing and powerful.

On the same theme, Paulist Productions has recently come out with "The Big Question." [However, the opening page doesn't have any links at all, at least in Firefox! Here's some more details from the Paulist Production page. No info on screenings or DVDs.]

And reading the WaPo piece I'm reminded of the story of Sister Rani Maria, who was brutally murdered in central India in 1995: she was dragged out of a bus, and stabbed over 40 times, in broad daylight. Her sister, also a religious of the same congregation (the Claretian Franciscans), forgave her sister's murderer, visited him in prison and accepted him symbolically as a brother by tying a "rakhi" around his wrist. Her killer was eventually released, visited his victim's family in Kerala, who publicly forgave him, and, several years later was baptized. He now works as a missionary.

Asianews article on the fruits of Sr. Rani Maria's martyrdom.
Blog post at (a major Indian portal) on the transformation of Sr. Rani Maria's killer.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth!

Happy Fourth y'all!

It took me 3+h to drive to G'ville, most of it backroads. Man, I'm in the middle nowhere up there in GA!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Have a safe holiday y'all!

After class tonight* I am driving to Greenville, SC and will be spending the holiday with some friends there. Will be back on Saturday, in time to serve the Vigil Masses.

And [gasp] I am not taking my laptop with me! [gasp] So, no blogging till I return. Perhaps an update or two from the phone.

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY Y'ALL! And if you're traveling, drinking, or burning money lighting fireworks, be safe!

God Bless America!

* Over the summer I'm teaching an adult ed class on the basics of the faith for the Hispanic parishioners. There are some on-fire folks here, and they're hungry for the truth of the faith! It's awesome!

Doubter and Martyr

Today is the feast of St. Thomas, "called Didymus." The Gospel today focuses on Thomas' doubt.

Once he did see the Lord, and said, "My Lord and my God!" though, he was a changed man. He traveled far and wide, and brought the Gospel to my native land, and established the Church of Christ there. He also gave the highest witness to his beloved Lord, by shedding his blood for the sake of the faith.

Along with St. Francis Xavier, St. Thomas is a patron of India. May the Church in that ancient land continue to grow, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and may many more come to know the saving love of the One who is Thomas' Lord and God!

Sancte Thoma, ora pro nobis!

Indian youth traveling to Syndey ... "to overcome globalization"

Surely the editors at Asia News must realize the ... um ... disjunct in that headline? :)

Here's what the Bishop in charge of youth affairs for the CBCI said:
"Globalisation", Archbishop Cornelio continues, "along with its positive impact, has sadly also brought along with it negative consequences, and our Indian youth are struggling with this consumerism and individualist materialism and the pursuit of worldly riches". For this reason, experiences like WYD become essential moments in the formation of young people, calling them back to "solidarity, love, and peace", a message important for India, whose society is based on caste, and where there is no lack of episodes of violence and marginalisation against its weakest members. "The World Youth Days represent the ideal opportunity for cultural exchange, and a chance to grow in faith. This is true for us priests as well", the archbishop of Bhopal concludes, "so that we may maintain a youthful heart and spirit, essential elements for overcoming the generational gap and becoming true points of reference for young people, who often accuse us of not understanding their problems or needs".
About 500 youth from India are expected to travel to WYD which begins next week.

And yes, globalization has a downside. For sure. The cultural stuff, the family stuff. That's what the Church especially needs to be vigilant about, and to better form her flock against, as the good Bishop says. But it's not the cause of unmitigated evil. It's the one thing that has unshackled India's economy and lifted millions out of poverty. Sure, it's not perfect. But it's done what decades of planned socialism did not.

The Eucharistic Congress and the CNMC in the latest Georgia Bulletin

The latest Georgia Bulletin has a slew of articles on the Eucharistic Congress (June 20-21) and the first ever Catholic New Media Celebration. (links are to my posts on the two events.)

Here's a sample:

Faith-filled Congress-goers embrace the Living Bread.

Event draws Catholics who are evangelizing online.

And: Deaf Catholics taught about Benedict's encyclicals.
David Klinger, a member of Transfiguration Church in Marietta, wrote by e-mail following the Eucharistic Congress that the program gave him his first exposure to the word "encyclical" and its importance to the church. He said he also learned through Father St. Martin's presentations about the Mass cycles over the years and how their Scripture readings are chosen.

"Having the Deaf Track program encourages all deaf Catholic communities to participate in it to enhance their spiritual experience. Father Jeremy has done a superb job with his presentation," Klinger wrote.

In addition to the American Sign Language track, the Disabilities Ministry of the archdiocese provided large print schedules in Spanish and English and Braille schedules in Spanish and English, and assisted listening devices.

Thoughts on Paul: III

[From the collection, "Pensieri su Paolo" by Benedict XVI.]

Strangers become friends; beyond every boundary, we recognize brothers. With this is brought to fulfillment the mission of St. Paul, who knew himself to be "a liturgy of Jesus Christ among the gentiles ... a pleasing oblation, sanctified by the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 15:16). The scope of the mission is a humanity that has itself become a living glorification of God, the true worship which God desires: this is the deepest sense of catholicity -- a catholicity that has already been given to us, and towards which we continue to walk, ever new. (Homily, June 29, 2005.)

In translating that passage from Romans, I have remained faithful to the Italian text. This is an especially rich passage in the Greek -- eis to einai me leitourgon Christou, which most English translations render as "minister" or "official" of Christ. I don't know if the Holy Father used a standard Italian translation, or translated "leitourgon" literally to emphasize the living of one's whole life as "liturgy" of Christ. Here is Rom 15:16 in its entirety the NAB: "to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in performing the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering up of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the holy Spirit."

Professor Papa Ratzinger at work!

In yesterday's Wednesday Catechesis, the Holy Father inaugurates a new cycle, focused on St. Paul. He starts with an overview (informative, succinct and easy to follow) illustration of the Mediterranean world that St. Paul inhabited: Jewish, Gentile, the nature of pagan religion, Stoicism and the philosophers, and touching briefly upon the "mystery religions."
The universalistic vision typical of St. Paul's personality, at least of the Christian Paul after the event on the road to Damascus, certainly owes its basic impetus to faith in Jesus Christ, inasmuch as the figure of the Risen One goes beyond that of any particularistic restriction. In fact, for the apostle "there is no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free man, no longer male or female, but all are only one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). Yet, the historical-cultural situation of his time and environment also influenced his choices and commitment. Paul has been described as a "man of three cultures," taking into account his Jewish origin, Greek language, and his prerogative of "civis romanus," as attested also by his name of Latin origin.
In this very brief paragraph, the Holy Father is illustrating again the importance of historical analysis, understood as an aid to a better comprehension of the Scriptures, and the life of the early Church. He has argued eloquently elsewhere of the damaging effects the grandiose claims this method has had, but, at the same time, underscores its importance, even its necessity, once it is purified of the erroneous philosophical assumptions that have undergirded much of its operation in the past. (See especially the masterful essay, Biblical Interpretation in Crisis from 1988.)

At the end of the talk, he gives us, very briefly, his hopes for this Pauline year: "This is the objective of the Pauline Year: to learn the faith from him, to learn from him who Christ is, to learn, in the end, the path for an upright life."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Thoughts on Paul: II

[From Pensieri su Paulo, by Pope Benedict XVI]

"St. Paul was tirelessly on the journey, bearing with himself the Gospel. He felt himself absolutely under a sort of "compulsion" to announce the Gospel (1 Cor 9:16) -- not so much because of a preoccupation for the salvation of any individual non-baptized person, not yet joined to the Gospel, but because he was aware that the whole history could not arrive at its fulfillment until the totality (pléroma) of the people were not joined to the Gospel (cf. Rom 11:25)."

(From his Discourse to the Roman Curia, Dec. 21, 2007. Def. worth reading in its entirety. You'll also get, quite likely, a more precise translation of this excerpt there. :))

The ecumenical dream of Benedict

Sandro Magister's commentary on the Pauline Year, with the full text of the Holy Father's speech from this past weekend.
Universal and ecumenical. For a church that is "catholic" and "one." This is the twofold horizon that the bishop of Rome and the patriarch of Constantinople wanted to give to the Pauline Year, proclaimed together by the respective Churches of Rome and of the East. At the Mass celebrated on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the two successors of the apostles entered together into the basilica of St. Peter's; together they went up to the altar, preceded by a Latin deacon and by an Orthodox one, carrying the book of the Gospels; together they listened to the chanting of the Gospel in Latin and in Greek; together they delivered the homily, first the patriarch and then the pope, after a brief introduction by the latter; together they recited the Creed, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan symbol in the original Greek, according to the liturgical use of the Byzantine Churches; they exchanged the kiss of peace, and at the end they blessed the faithful together. Never before now – after almost a thousand years of schism between East and West – had a liturgy so visibly oriented to unity been celebrated by the bishop of Rome and by the patriarch of Constantinople.

The relationship with the Protestant communities remains deeper in the shadows for now. But the Pauline Year could be rich in significance for the dialogue with these communities as well. The leading thinkers of the Reformation – from Luther and Calvin to Karl Barth, Rudolph Bultmann, and Paul Tillich – elaborated their thought beginning above all with the Letter of Paul to the Romans.

And the contribution that the Pauline Year could make to dialogue with the Jews is no less relevant. Paul was an observant Jew and a rabbi, before falling down blinded by Christ on the road to Damascus. And his conversion to the Risen One never meant, for him, breaking with his original faith. The promise of God to Abraham and the covenant on Sinai were always for Paul one and the same with the "new and eternal" covenant sealed by the blood of Jesus. Joseph Ratzinger has written memorable pages on this unity between the Old and New Testament, in his book "Jesus of Nazareth."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Salesian Priest murdered in Nepal

NEPAL Catholic Priest assassinated: the first in the history of Nepal - Asia News
A Catholic priest, Salesian Fr. John Prakash, 62 years old was killed last night in Sirsiya (Morang district), in east Nepal. He is the first priest to be killed in the country. Police have opened an inquest into his death, their suspicions falling on a terrorist group.

Fr. John Prakash, a native of Kerala India had worked in Nepal for over 10 years (see photo). He was the principal of Don Bosco School and lived along with two other Salesians in their residence attached to the school.
Tragic! There are a lot of Indian priests working in Nepal. My friend, Fr. Jose, knows a lot of Indian Jesuits there.

Requiescat in pace. Pray for the persecuted church everywhere!

Thoughts on Paul: I

I just got a little book from the Libreria Editrice Vaticana. "Pensieri su Paolo" (Thoughts on Paul). It's a collection of brief reflections on St. Paul, taken from the talks and writings of Pope Benedict, and collected together in a slim, attractive, volume for the Pauline Year. The second one is also a selection of meditations by the Holy Father on St. Paul. I didn't realize it when ordering it, but they are collected together as short prayer services designed to be celebrated publicly! As best as I can, I'll be sharing one reflection a day, in my translation from the Italian. For the rest of the life of this blog. :)

Today's reflection is from the Preface, by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State of His Holiness.

"The third movement which, in a certain sense, completes Paul's spiritual journey is that of mission. His task, in fact, is that of bringing the name of the Lord "even to the people, the kings and the sons of Israel" (Acts 9:15). Bringing Christ: he who has known Christ, who has come into contact with Him, cannot keep him for himself. We can think about the journey of joy of Mary to Elizabeth after the divine conception. ... However, the announcement of mission contains in itself also another revelation, that of the Cross. "I will show you," says the Lord, "how much you will need to suffer for my name." (Acts 9:16). The Cross tells us this: that our mode of giving should be like that of Jesus, who gave himself to us, renouncing every privilege, emptying himself, and choosing to serve. And this the Cross that Paul also carried in his life full of passion for Jesus, bu also full of suffering and torment, and which concluded with the spilling of his blood."