Tuesday, May 20, 2014

50 Days of Easter - Day 31

I received a letter from the Vatican today (Umm. Mailed from the Vatican. From a friend in Rome. Not from the Pope. Or some Roman Dicastery) ... with this awesome postmark.

The postmark says:


Christ is risen from the grave, alleluia, alleluia!

[There's no exclamation point in the Latin, btw]

That is:


Friday, May 16, 2014

50 Days of Easter - Day 27

Hope Brokers in Hell.

Today's meditation is this amazing piece by a missionary priest in the heart of violence-torn Mexico.
Our fragile missionary team strives to “push hard” with the countercultural, disinterested love that Jesus teaches. When He was executed, one of His last actions was to offer salvation to two criminals. One accepted and one didn’t, but He wanted both rebels with Him for eternity. In this mission we keep offering the choice, striving to make Christ appealing. Some think martial law and the presence of the military can bring peace to Nuevo Laredo. We bet our lives that there is another way, a way that works. Christ gave His life that even the most violent villain might be redeemed if he so chooses. We, too, want the salvation of all, even the enemies of society.

Read it all

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Throwback Thursday -- Radio Receiver License

I've been going through boxes that had been packed up before seminary. I've literally not seen this stuff in five years. So much junk. One of the things that emerged today was a Broadcast Receiver License (in Hindi, it says simply, "Radio License"), that belonged at one point to my late father. Yes, this was an annual license fee paid to the Government of India in order to own a radio set, and to listen to government approved programming.

The initial date on it is December 24, 1965, and it was issued for a Murphy radio set in New Delhi. On May 1, 1967, it was transferred to Jambusar, in Gujarat, my dad's hometown, and the ownership was transferred to one of my father's sisters.

There is a record of the annual fifteen rupee license fee being paid at the post office until December, 1970.

The government issued special Broadcast Radio License Fee stamps just for this purpose!
There's some fascinating period advertising in the license booklet. While the booklet is largely bilingual (Hindi and English), the advertising is entirely in English, appealing to the tiny English-speaking elite which would, presumably, be able to afford both a radio set and the license fee.

(Union Carbide is, of course, now remembered for the disaster in Bhopal in 1984. Interestingly, the URL "bhopal.com" is owned by UC, and is a website presenting the company's side of the events!)

There's a fascinating "Radio Map of India" listing major radio towers across the country.

And here's the legalese at the back, listing  the license fees.

According to Wikipedia, license fees for privately owned radio and television sets ended in 1984. My father, ever the technology holdout, bought a black-and-white television set in 1980, soon after we moved back to Delhi from the U.S. In 1982, Doordarshan, the government-owned television channel (there was only one TV channel) started color transmission. I recall the excitement when Satyajit Ray's classic Shatranj Ke Khilari aired in color. Except we watched it at home on our newly acquired b/w set!

I have no idea why I have this radio license booklet. I'm guessing it intrigued me as we were going through his papers after his death. This is just the kind of thing he would have preserved for all these years. I must have brought it with me to the U.S. as well! I'm very glad I did. 

Entrenched bureaucratic institutions and their reform

In response to a status on a dear (Protestant) friend's (Facebook) wall, which expressed a wish about Pope Francis reforming an "entrenched, bureaucratic institution,", I wrote the following comment. Like so many such endeavors, it grew into a mini essay. I don't deny that there are many aspects of the "entrenched, bureaucratic institution" that need reform. That's really not the subject of my response.]

Between 1965 and 1975, that entrenched bureaucratic institution, very efficiently, thoroughly and breathtakingly, dismantled a whole edifice of customs, devotions and numerous relatively tiny, but mutually reinforcing traditions that supported Catholic culture, spirituality, and, going well beyond the mandate of the reforms of the Council, reconstituted the liturgy in a way that would have made Thomas Cranmer proud. We are still floundering in the ruinous wake of that self-immolation on the altars of "modern man" effected with such alacrity.

The new springtime promised has proved elusive, very elusive, especially in the West, even as so much of Catholic leadership parrots nostrums about the "renewal" that would rival a Stalinist apparatchik's obsequiousness.

Of course the Spirit blows where He wills, though it is a foolish fantasy to imagine that His blowing neatly coincides with the insistent demands of the Zeitgeist. He has brought amazing renewal and life out of the bare ruined choirs of Tridentine Catholicism. He also raised up the saintly Pope John Paul, and his quiet and humble successor to stem the the infiltration of the "smoke of Satan" into Christ's Church. He blows amazing life into the poor, forgotten corners of Africa, and Asia, where Christianity has experienced an explosive resurgence.

The renewal has, of course, been very refreshing in many regards -- for instance, the vocation of the laity, the universal call to holiness, has been appropriated in a new and vital way (though barely. Clericalizing the laity - as Pope Francis has often remarked -- is not the path ahead). Nor do I want to paint any kind of romantic picture of some golden age when everything was perfect and "if only one could dial the clock back..." or claim that it was one event (the Council) that unraveled everything. Christ is alive now, and He calls us to fidelity in our world and time, and He goes ever before us.

However, It also takes a while to take stock, look back, and discern which spirit was at work.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

50 Days of Easter - Day 24

"Good Shepherd" -- the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna

(Ok, daily meditations are also a bit challenging, given the parish schedule ... I'll soldier through these as I can!)

Continuing our meditations on the Glorious Wounds of Christ:

In his homily at the Mass of Ordination he celebrated on Sunday (May 11), Pope Francis had this bit to say,
The good shepherd enters by the door and the door of mercy is the Lord’s wounds: if you do not enter your ministry through the Lord’s wounds, you will not be good pastors.
The door of mercy is the Lord's own wounds. And, using another image that then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio utilized, the tender caress of Jesus on our own sins.
We cannot understand this dynamic of encounter which brings forth wonder and adherence if it has not been triggered–forgive me the use of this word–by mercy. Only someone who has encountered mercy, who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy, is happy and comfortable with the Lord. I beg the theologians who are present not to turn me in to the Sant’Uffizio or to the Inquisition; however, forcing things a bit, I dare to say that the privileged locus of the encounter is the caress of the mercy of Jesus Christ on my sin. 
In front of this merciful embrace–and I continue along the lines of Giussani’s thought–we feel a real desire to respond, to change, to correspond; a new morality arises. We posit the ethical problem, an ethics which is born of the encounter, of this encounter which we have described up to now. Christian morality is not a titanic effort of the will, the effort of someone who decides to be consistent and succeeds, a solitary challenge in the face of the world. No. Christian morality is simply a response. It is the heartfelt response to a surprising, unforeseeable, “unjust” mercy (I shall return to this adjective). The surprising, unforeseeable, “unjust” mercy, using purely human criteria, of one who knows me, knows my betrayals and loves me just the same, appreciates me, embraces me, calls me again, hopes in me, and expects from me. This is why the Christian conception of morality is a revolution; it is not a never falling down but an always getting up again.
Read the whole piece. 

Thursday, May 08, 2014

50 Days of Easter - Day 19

The Incredulity of St. Thomas (1601), by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

For the next few days, we will reflect on the glorious wounds of the Risen Lord.
“By his holy and glorious wounds may Christ our Lord guard us and keep us. Amen.”
This the prayer the priest uses in consecrating the Easter Candle during the Easter Vigil Mass. In the tradition of the Church, there are many rich reflections on the Lord's glorious wounds.

St. Thomas Aquinas (not the St. Thomas pictured above!) gives five reasons why the wounds of Christ persist in the Resurrection (Summa Theologiae III, q. 54, a. 4):

  1. Because they proclaim the glory and the victory of Christ.
  2. In order to confirm the disciples in their faith and hope of the Resurrection, and so give them courage to suffer for His name.
  3. So that He might constantly present them to the Father in heaven supplicating on our behalf.
  4. To impress upon those whom He has redeemed by His death, how mercifully He came to their aid by placing His wounds before their eyes.
  5. So that at the Last Judgement it might be apparent to all, even to the damned, how just their condemnation really is, in that they spurned so great a redemption.
Fr. Andrew Hoffer OP wrote a wonderful reflection on this in Homiletics & Pastoral Review last year. 

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

50 days of Easter - Day 18

Continuing our survey of the Church's liturgical heritage, today we have the hymn Aurora lucis rutilat, which is assigned as a hymn for Lauds (Morning Prayer) in the revised Liturgy of the Hours. The entire hymn is much longer than this, and used to be sung at different Offices. One of the parts is now in the Common of Apostles for Eastertide. (This translation is by J.J. Neal from the early 19th century.)

AURORA lucis rutilat,
caelum laudibus intonat,
mundus exultans iubilat,
gemens infernus ululat,
LIGHT'S glittering morn bedecks the sky,
heaven thunders forth its victor cry,
the glad earth shouts its triumph high,
and groaning hell makes wild reply:
Cum rex ille fortissimus,
mortis confractis viribus,
pede conculcans tartara
solvit catena miseros !
While he, the King of glorious might,
treads down death's strength in death's despite,
and trampling hell by victor's right,
brings forth his sleeping Saints to light.
Ille, qui clausus lapide
custoditur sub milite,
triumphans pompa nobile
victor surgit de funere.
Fast barred beneath the stone of late
in watch and ward where soldiers wait,
now shining in triumphant state,
He rises Victor from death's gate.
Solutis iam gemitibus
et inferni doloribus,
"Quia surrexit Dominus!"
resplendens clamat angelus.
Hell's pains are loosed, and tears are fled;
captivity is captive led;
the Angel, crowned with light, hath said,
'The Lord is risen from the dead.'
There is a very low-volume recording of the chant on YouTube. You really have to crank it up to listen to it.

Here is a magnificent polyphonic rendering of the hymn by the 16th century composer Orlandus Lassus.

Monday, May 05, 2014

50 Days of Easter - Day 16

So I guess, this series is going to skip weekends. I'm just too busy. :)

Today, just one verse from the Resurrection account from the Gospel of Luke (24:4)

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen." 

Sit with that, pray with it.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Third Sunday of Easter, 2014

I've been putting up my homilies online on my YouTube channel. Here is this Sunday's.

I spoke about praying with Scripture. A great beginners guide to lectio divina is available at Catholic Answers

Friday, May 02, 2014

50 Days of Easter - Day 13

Today's reflection is visual, a stunning, hand-colored drawing of the Resurrection, by contemporary Catholic artist, Daniel Mitsui.

From the artist's description:
Christ steps from the open tomb with His right foot and raises His right hand in blessing; the right hand of Christ, in medieval art, represents divine mercy. As in most medieval depictions of the Resurrection, two chronologically distinct events (Christ's rising from the tomb and the stone's removal) are shown together; this was done to emphasize the stone's signification of the Old Testament. Two angels assist in removing the stone, and another swings a thurible. Two soldiers sleep in the foreground. 
Check out his artwork

Thursday, May 01, 2014

50 Days of Easter - Day 12

Today I celebrated the funeral of a young father of five children, tragically killed in the storms that came through yesterday.

As the shadow of death crosses over our parish in this Paschal season of new life, I want to share today the Gospel from the funeral Mass. Let the Word of God console and strengthen us today and always. As Mary runs out to meet Jesus, let us also always run to Him who is the Resurrection and the Life.

Pray for Pedro, Rufina amd their children. Mother Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles* away.19And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother.20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.i22[But] even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”24Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”j25Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.