Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Papal Calendar

Himself never fails to surprise me. I am listening to "Rome Reports," they are talking about the Papal Pin-up calendar, ("Benedictine Beefcake" was the phrase Himself used,) and he asks, where can we get one?
I think it's swell when a husband indulges his wife's crushes on other men.
(This image will likely not make the cut.)

The image “http://www.waynebesen.com/uploaded_images/benedict_xvi-769613.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Is this not cause for optimism?

I have long linked to Universalis, an excellent cite that allows anyone with internet access to pray any of the canonical hours, any day.
For free. (The books are very expensive, and not always easy to negotiate for the neophyte, what tih propers and ordinaries and temporal cycles and what all...)
Apparently, not only does this guy, (guy? what am I assuming that? maybe not an individual, even... hmmm,) fill a great need, but one that people who can afford it are willing to PAY FOR, and in light of which he/she/they, having found sure financial footing, has given away money donated to the project in it's earlier days.
I also note in reading the blog issues of copyright, and an entity "owning" the official liturgical texts of the Church, and disallowing its free dissemination, not unlike those, (much discussed around the parish of St Blog's recently,) regarding the new English Ordinary of the Mass.
Copyright is a vexing problem, and as always when money changes hands, there is no easily contrived justice, (although I think the lengths to which copyright can be extended in this country now are patently absurd and unjust.)

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Uncompromisingly Pro-life, and pro-Obama

Douglas Kmiec answers some questions in a NYTimes piece. I am not as willing to let the "personally opposed, but..." off as lightly as he, especially in light of the machinations to craft an acceptable-to-both-sides plank in the Democratic platform, (oh, no, we could neeeever say anything that might imply a live baby is a "better" option than a dead fetus, they're just two different choices!,) but it is a thoughtful piece.

He explains his current stance in “Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question about Barack Obama,” which will be published in two weeks by Overlook Press. But reached this week in Denver, Mr. Kmiec agreed to give necessarily brief replies to questions sent by e-mail.

Q. What is your position on the morality of abortion, and how is it related to your religious faith?

A. I fully accept the teaching of the church that participating in an abortion is an intrinsic evil. My acceptance of abortion as a grave, categorical wrong is one part respectful deference to authoritative Catholic teaching and one part reasoned deduction from our scientific knowledge of genetics and the beginning of an individual life.

Q. Would you like to see Roe v. Wade overturned?

A. Yes, but not on the terms usually suggested by Republicans. Roe is mistaken constitutional law not just because it invalidated state laws on the subject but because it is contrary to what is described as a self-evident truth in the Declaration of Independence, namely, that we have an unalienable right to life from our creator. It may surprise the general citizenry that not a single sitting justice utilizes the declaration as a source of interpretative guidance.

But even employing the jurisprudential methods applied by the modern court, there is no satisfactory showing that abortion as a matter of custom and tradition was properly found to be an implied aspect of the liberties protected by the 14th Amendment.

Q. Given those views, why do you support Barack Obama?

A. There is a widespread misconception that overturning Roe is the only way to be pro-life. In fact, overturning Roe simply returns the matter to the states, which in their individual legislative determinations could then be entirely pro-abortion. I doubt that many of our non-legally-trained pro-life friends fully grasp the limited effect of overturning Roe.

Secondly, pundits like to toss about the notion that the future of Roe depends on one vote, the mythical fifth vote to overturn the decision. There are serious problems with this assumption: first, Republicans have failed to achieve reversal in the five previous times they asked the court for it; and second, it is far from certain that only one additional vote is needed to reverse the decision in light of the principles of stare decisis by which a decided case ought not to be disturbed. Only Justices Thomas and Scalia have written and joined dissenting opinions suggesting the appropriateness of overturning Roe.

So given those views, the better question is how could a Catholic not support Barack Obama?

Senator Obama’s articulated concerns with the payment of a living wage, access to health care, stabilizing the market for shelter, special attention to the needs of the disadvantaged and the importance of community are all part of the church’s social justice mission.

Applying this to the issue of abortion, the senator has repeatedly indicated that he is not pro-abortion, that he understands the serious moral question it presents, and, most significantly, that he wants to move us beyond the 35 years of acrimony that have done next to nothing to reduce the unwanted pregnancies that give rise to abortions.

Q. But all the same, isn’t your support at odds with Catholic teaching?

A. Quite the contrary. Senator Obama is articulating policies that permit faithful Catholics to follow the church’s admonition that we continue to explore ways to give greater protection to human life.

Consider the choices: A Catholic can either continue on the failed and uncertain path of seeking to overturn Roe, which would result in the individual states doing their own thing, not necessarily, or in most states even likely, protective of the unborn. Or Senator Obama’s approach could be followed, whereby prenatal and income support, paid maternity leave and greater access to adoption would be relied upon to reduce the incidence of abortion.

It is, of course, not enough for a Catholic legislator to declare himself or herself pro-choice and just leave it at that, but neither Senator Obama, who is not Catholic except by sensibility, nor Joe Biden, who is a lifelong Catholic, leaves matters in that unreflective way.

In my view, Obama and Biden seek to fulfill the call by Pope Paul II, in the encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” to “ensure proper support for families and motherhood.” It cannot possibly contravene Catholic doctrine to improve the respect for life by paying better attention to the social and economic conditions of women which correlate strongly with the number of abortions.

Q. You have been fiercely attacked by some Catholic abortion opponents and in one instance barred from receiving communion. How do you feel about that?

A. To be the subject of an angry homily at Mass last April 18 and excoriated as giving scandal for endorsing Senator Obama and then to be denied communion for that “offense” was the most humiliating experience in my faith life.

To be separated in that public manner from the receipt of the eucharist, and to be effectively shunned or separated from the body of Christ in the sense of that particular congregation, has left, I very much regret to say, a permanent spiritual scar. Thankfully, it has also given me a new appreciation for the significance of the sacrament in my daily worship. And the priest, having been called to order by Cardinal Roger Mahoney, sent me an apology, which of course I have accepted.

Nonetheless, I remain deeply troubled that other church leaders not fall into similar traps. That would do untold damage to the church within the context of American democracy.

There are clearly partisan forces that want nothing more than to manufacture or stir up faith-based opposition to their political opponents. The church has been careful to underscore that Catholics have unfettered latitude to vote for any candidate so long as the intent of the Catholic voter is not to express approval of a grave evil.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Blasphemy, a fool's game...

I don't know enough about the artist to automatically accept that what was intended in the creation of the now famous frog was blasphemy. The artist was tortured, perhaps, as so many artists are.
We are on firmer ground looking askance at the intent of those who put it on display, I think...
But in any case, Diogenes is less snarky but no less readable than usual on the case, and brings a more interesting take on the situation than many others have. (Not so much for the commonly pointed out fact that it doesn't take balls to taunt someone you know won't retaliate, and when a seemingly similar target is available but widely known to be, gee, actually dangerous, the testicularly-challenged would-be iconoclast is shown up in all his wussy glory; but for recognizing the compliment inadvertently payed to the sheer significance of that which the mocker simply cannot ignore.)

Yet another transgressive artist has signalled his creativity by joining the queue of aesthetes employing and cashing in on a 12-year-old boy's categories of impiety:

ROME -- An Italian museum on Thursday defied Pope Benedict and refused to remove a modern art sculpture portraying a crucified green frog holding a beer mug and an egg that the Vatican had condemned as blasphemous.

More ho than hum, it turns out. The defense of the exhibit, in keeping with the oeuvre itself, is conventionally meretricious:

The board of the Museion museum in the northern city of Bolzano decided by a majority vote that the frog was a work of art and would stay in place for the remainder of an exhibition.

Ars longa, comrades, VISA brevis. Three years ago Mark Steyn gave a pointed analysis of the double standard used in dealing with religious sensibilities. It's worth quoting at length:

The rules for this sort of thing are well known. Last year, an old leftie Scots pal of mine, Alistair Beaton, wrote an anti-war "satire" which included Bush and Blair singing "We're Sending You a Cluster Bomb from Jesus." Ha-ha. Alistair's play opened at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in England and did boffo biz. In his merciless evisceration of Bush-Blair and the radical Christian threat to world peace, Alistair was operating in the tradition of bold, courageous, transgressive artists without whom a free society cannot survive. And happily, crazy as they are, these Christian fundamentalist types don't tend to be waiting for you at the stage door. Whereas, if you write, "We're Sending You a Schoolgirl Bomb from Allah," you attract a somewhat livelier crowd, and it's hard to pick up showbiz awards for your boldness, courage, transgressiveness, etc., when you're six feet under. Ask Theo van Gogh. As a rule, if you're going to be "provocative," it's best to do it with people who can't be provoked.

Journalists understand this, too. When Christians get hot and bothered about a horny Jesus (The Last Temptation of Christ), a gay Jesus (Terrence McNally's Broadway play Corpus Christi), or a Jesus floating in the artist's urine (Piss Christ), columnists take to the barricades to champion the cause of free speech. When Muslim groups closed down a play in Cleveland because its revolting apologia for a Palestinian suicide bomber was insufficiently pro-Muslim, the silence of the media lambs was deafening.

Antagonism to Christianity has come to be taken for granted among fashionable artists, as among the glitterati that support them, to the point that it's hard to imagine an exhibition of contemporary work (outside the ghetto) executed in celebration of Christian themes. But this very hostility pays a left-handed compliment -- two compliments, in fact -- to the Christians who are its targets. On the one hand, as Steyn points out, the insouciance with which artists taunt Christians with sacrilege shows they don't fear violent retaliation -- indeed they fear no palpable retaliation at all; that means they performatively concede that fervent God-fearing Christians are as good as their commitments. On the other hand the Christian claims must have some potent moral force even with the worlding artistes in order to be rejected with so much vehemence. You don't devote yourself to the construction of elaborate assaults against fantasies you find boring and irrelevant. Christ's teachings still have their sting, even when rejected.

In point of fact, the plastic frog of the Bolzano museum mockery, and the contempt that employed it, have very ancient precedents. What is purportedly the oldest known image of the crucifix is a graffito scrawled into a the wall of an excavated guardroom near Rome's Circus Maximus; it's usually dated to around 200AD. It shows a man standing beside a crucified figure with a head of a donkey, and (in shaky Greek) the words "Alexamenos worships (his) God." In mocking the Christian Alexamenos, the anonymous graffitist is a spiritual forebear of the Andres Serranos and Steve Rosenthals and Martin Kippenbergers of our own day. The paradox is that in each case their malice backfires, and eventually comes to bolster the piety it sets out to belittle. Today the Alexamenos graffito is treasured by Christians; it is a testimony to an embattled faith. Were it to be defaced or destroyed it is believers, not sneering heathen, who would mourn the loss. It's not impossible that the Bolzano Imposture might be accorded a similar value two millennia from now.

Blasphemy never fully attains its goal, because it never takes the full measure of its object. There's something poignant in the theological misunderstanding betrayed by the attempt to mock Jesus as a crucified donkey or frog. The crucifixion itself was a humiliation, a humiliation Christ willingly embraced ("He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave … and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross"). To trick out the crucified one as a figure of ridicule confirms rather than undercuts the Christian understanding of the event. A century and a half before the Alexamenos graffitist St. Paul had already instructed us that the crucifixion was folly to the Greeks. Pagan mockery proves his point. Perhaps this is why Jesus taught "Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him." It's not the Son of Man who's diminished by blasphemy, but his assailant.

Coincidences that speak to you...

I stop dialing around, and settle on something at "On Demand," (as a distraction to keep me from getting too far on the things I ought to be doing....)
So, while catching up on paper work and the news, I get to this sentence in a Time article as I have blaring in the background a not-very-good but compulsively watchable (how could it not be with the great Emily Watson acting in it?) made-for-TV movie, (very soapy, very formulaic, very weepy,) about the effect on a family of the birth of a Down syndrome child, featuring a very affecting performance by a young woman with Down syndrome, (actually several performances, since there were children playing her at younger ages,):
The newly-announced Republican vice-presidential candidate>
is "known to conservatives for choosing not to have an abortion after learning that she was carrying a child with Down syndrome."

Tina Fey selected as McCain running mate

At least, that's what it looked like with the sound off on the TV, (TV, the Source and Summit of my knowledge of the world...)

Optimism in the air

Just after posting I try to catch up on some of my blog reading, and The New Liturgical Movement has this wonderful post by Jeffrey Tucker touching the attitudes and actions that lead to the catechetical failure I discussed and how there' a new breeze blowing, thanks to our beloved Holy Father and his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.

in modern times, we've all been subjected to the claim that the "Spirit of Vatican II" was all about repudiating the past. The phrase appeared as a justification for every manner of behavior, teaching, or liturgical innovation that violated the sense of the older faith.

It was real sleight of hand at work. It's true that every Church council and every administrative decision has not only a letter but also a spirit, and that is true in the secular as well as ecclesiastical world. But how can it be that that spirit could actually contradict the letter such that what is being defended runs completely contrary to the law itself? That's a sure sign that what we are talking about is not a true but a false spirit.

Everyone knows the more obvious specifics. Vatican II said Gregorian chant should assume primary place but instead we got pop tunes more suitable for a children's playground than Mass. We were told that nothing would change about the liturgy unless it was absolutely necessary, and instead with got liturgical revolution. With it came an upending of doctrine, morals, and the faith itself, with the inevitable draining of monasteries, convents, and seminaries.

If you were going to describe this false spirit correctly, the last word one would use is "liberal." In fact, the spirit that was foisted upon us was illiberal in the extreme. It banned liturgical forms of the past. It sought to ban music of the past. It sought to ban our holy cards, our art, our architecture, our established prayers, our lay organizations, and our very way of life as Catholics. Change was in the air, but what was it all about? The only thing we knew for sure is that the past was off limits. And this was enforced.

The "Spirit of Vatican II" then became an excuse for mandatory heterodoxy, for undermining the true intent and contradicting the letter and the purpose of the reform. This Council that sought authenticate liberalization was ironically used by people invoking its spirit as a means for closing off all history and tradition, interdicting the past. A kind of autocratic and despotic censorship of all treasured things came into effect. This ill-liberal attitude shut it off the Catholic a source of its very name life, that is, its traditions.

What then happened? Sometimes it seemed as if the faith was perilously in danger. Cardinal Newman explains why: "No one can really respect religion, and insult its forms.

And this heart-rending bit from "Mitch" in the combox:
What a beautifully touching and yet sad article about what has happened to our beloved Church and faith. It makes me want to weap. At least we are on the road to recovery and I hope to see it paved with gold. The confusion wrought by unbelieving what we believed had many peripheral effects. For example, I am from the NO generation and I remember as I was going through Cathesis circa 75, I was told to not call it Cathecism anymore, but Religious Instructions. When I questioned by parents about this and other things they said they could not help me. Simply they said it is a new Church with a new way that they did not understand. That was a break in tradition for sure. My own family could not relate to me or the Church during those turbulent times. No passing on of tradition. Nothing was familiar to them. I was disconnected. I am not alone, it happened to millions of families worldwide I am sure. Time to make it right, once and for all. (or many?)

It does seem sometimes lately as if the Forces of Dimness are mounting a last-ditch assault, I know I have been sinfully, (I mean that literally,) pessimistic lately.

No! All shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well!

Back to work!

Faith and Times Tables

I attended a day of reflection where a concept I've encountered before was discussed, a concept that really resonates with me, the idea that as each Sunday is a celebration of the paschal mystery, so every week the days leading up to it can be a "mini-Triduum," the Friday and Saturday may always serve as preparation for the glorious Third Day.
But as before, when I broached the idea of weekly confession, (this time, I also suggested the traditional Friday abstinence, or some other form of fast,) I was looked at by the presenter as if I had come from Mars, or at least, from the 19th century, and told kindly that the Church does not encourage such frequent reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation "any more."
And I don't remember much after that, as my mind wandered, naturally enough, to the subject of arithmetic.
Guilty Secret: I cannot tell you how much 9 times 5 is, or 6 times 7, without a bit of thought.
No, it doesn't actually take me long, but there is an "extra step" involved for some simple problems, it isn't "automatic." I can usually "automatically" recall what a x (b-1) is, and then add a to that answer.
So there, I did not learn my times tables.
(Lest you think this is because I am a mathematics idiot, I got a 780 on my Math SAT at the age of 15.)
Now, while it is very like me to have an excuse for everything, in this case I think I am justified in blaming not myself but the educational methods in vogue at the time I should have learned them.
It was called "New Math."
Parents were actively discouraged from anything that might hint of "drilling," we were to learn concepts and theories. We would absorb that and the "just the facts, m'a'm" part of things would take care of itself.
So there wasn't really much most parents could help you with, unless they had had the opportunity to learn the proper buzz words, and wax poetic about "intersecting sets" and "arrays" and such.
(I just remembered, something similar had been going on in reading pedagogy, some tried to teach reading by recognizing the shapes of words, but I escaped that influence by being a pretty solid reader before kindergarten.)
And the reason the whole dang thing didn't work was it's stubborn refusal to take advantage of the child's greatest strength -- the nearly empty, sponge-like mind that can learn virtually anything by committing to memory.
Learning by heart.
We stopped trying to learn by heart.
I think the great catechetical failure of the latter half of the 20th c. (which only the most Panglossian of "Spirit of Vatican II" types denies we are still in the grips of,) began when parents of simple faith were told that what they had and could hand on, what they knew and could teach -- no longer mattered, and in some cases, no longer obtained.
The Domestic Church, the Primary Catechists were suddenly confronted with People in Authority telling them, you know that thing you thought you knew you HAD to do?
You don't.
In fact, you SHOULDN'T.
And from now on in many cases you CAN'T.
The "times tables" of the faith, the results as opposed to the theories or the process, the WHAT we do as opposed to the WHY we do it, the rituals of worship as opposed to the theology -- people stopped handing them on.
We substituted talking about worshiping for actually worshiping.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

We all get old....

"Last phase?"
Let us hope the Holy Father is merely waxing poetical and really feels he will have another 20 years or so....
Msgr. Georg strikes me as someone it would be great to hang with, I don't know why exactly.

Pope Benedict XVI , 81, has said he is looking forward to a "peaceful old age" with "serenity and humility" as he enters ''the last phase'' of his life.
The Pope made his remarks at a ceremony making Father Georg Ratzinger, his brother, who is three years older, an honorary citizen of Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence in a hilltop town above Lake Albano south of Rome.
''We have arrived at the last stage of our lives, at old age, and the days left to live grow progressively fewer,'' the pontiff observed. ''But even at this stage my brother helps me to accept the weight of each day with serenity, humility and courage. For this I thank him".
He added: ''From the beginning of my life my brother has always been not only a companion for me but a trustworthy guide, a point of reference with the clarity and determination of his decisions. He showed me the road to take, even in difficult situations,'' he added.
The Pope took a two week break with his brother this summer at a seminary at Bressanone in the mountains of northern Italy. He spent the time playing the piano, walking, and preparing his next encyclical as well as the second volume of his study of Jesus. In September he is to travel to France to pray at the Marian shrine at Lourdes.

Prayers needed for India

Prayers are needed for the Catholics of India, and indeed, the entire nation in light of the horrific violence described in this article.

A Catholic nun was burnt alive by a group of Hindu fundamentalists who stormed the orphanage she ran in the district of Bargarh (Orissa), this according to Police Superintendent Ashok Biswall. A priest who was at the orphanage was also badly hurt and is now being treated in hospital for multiple burns. Another nun from Bubaneshwar’s Social Centre was gang raped by groups of Hindu extremists before the building housing the facility was set on fire. Sources also told AsiaNews that elsewhere one priest was wounded and two other were abducted. The list of violent anti-Christian acts is thus getting longer.
For the past two days the state of Orissa (north-east India) has been racked by violence following the assassination of radical Hindu leader Swami Laxanananda Saraswati.
Churches, community and pastoral centres, convents and orphanages have been attacked yesterday and today by mobs shouting “Kill the Christians; destroy their institutions.”
Tensions in the state are in fact still running high. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has planned demonstrations for today and tomorrow. Gangs of Hindu fanatics from the VHP as well as Sangh Parivar are roaming roads and villages, setting up road blocks, sending their own members on raids of plunder and violence.
According to firsthand accounts the archdiocese’s social centre was attacked and torched. Before that the attackers raped Sister Meena, a nun working at the centre.
The local pastoral centre, which has escaped destruction in last December’s violence, is now a total wreck. Father Thomas, who ran the facility, is in hospital with serious head injuries.
Speaking to AsiaNews Fr Ajay Singh also said that a nun was burnt alive in an orphanage she ran in the district of Bargarh.
Elsewhere Sisters of Mother Teresa have been attacked by stone-throwing Hindu militants with one seriously injured.
All Christian institutions are now in danger because mobs of Hindu radicals are roaming the streets, breaking down doors and smashing windows, including in some cases Christian homes. Many priests and nuns have had to escape.
In Bubaneshwar Hindu militants stoned the Archbishop’s residence, but did not dare invade the place because of police presence.
In Phulbani the parish church and the home of local clergy were attacked and set on fire. All local priests fled and found refuge in the homes of some of members of the local congregation.
The youth hostel that houses students who study in Phulbani has also been torched.
Some missionaries of Charity who were attending a health course in Brahamanigoan were blocked for hours in the village.
Elsewhere nuns left their convent finding shelter in some school buildings.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Nope, no, no, I can't play "Take me Out to the Ballgame"

So I'm sitting down during the sermon, doing some surreptitious filing of octavos, when a member of the choir who's also a member of the deceased's family comes over to me leans down and asks in a whisper, "Could you play 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' some time, maybe as they're going out so it's the last thing they hear, the whole family would LOVE that..."

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

TLM Community of Monterey

A wonderful new blog begun (partly) for the schola of one of my fellow students at the Scott Turkington chant intensive at Loyola.
The Traditional Latin Mass community centered at the historic Mission San Juan Bautista really seems to have juice.
Way to go, Greg!
Note, as Mary Jane pointed out, the dour, joyless folk who want that dreary, old ritual.
Wonderful things are happening, my friends, wonderful, wonderful things! (just not for me, she says, going off to sulk in a corner about "Blest Are They," and stacks, REAMS of insipid choral ballads that seem to be the absolute epitome of Thomas Day's much excoriated, "sweet song." I'm gonna eat some worms....)

Monday, 25 August 2008

Who do you say that I am?

From Fr Fox at Bonfire of the Vanities:

In the second reading, Saint Paul realizes—
and he is awed by the thought—
that God’s Plan for saving the human race will come to pass,
despite all that seems to stand in the way.

Consider: in this year of our Lord 2008,
Christians are spread throughout the world;
Over one billion Catholics,
another billion other Christians.
The Church is growing rapidly in Asia and Africa.

While Christians continue to be persecuted to this day,
we have parishes and schools,
universities, and hospitals, endowments,
seminaries and religious orders.
In many ways, the Church has never been stronger.

By way of contrast, when Paul wrote this,
the number of Christians, everywhere,
was in the thousands—
spread thin from Rome to Jerusalem.
They had very little; they met in secret;
they were despised and hunted.

How often, we fear and wring our hands;
Paul, in his time, said: to God be glory forever!

It’s all about perspective.
Sometimes I visit people in jail.
As I was about to give an inmate the Eucharist, I said,
this is a dark place, you have lost so much;
but I’m about to give you the Body and Blood of the Lord.
His flesh and blood, united to yours.
You will be Christ in this place!
And no one can take that away from you!

We believe in and experience Christ’s presence here…
In jail, you really feel His Power there!
To witness such moments
make me so grateful I am a priest.

Here’s the challenge for us:
Do we have to be behind bars before we experience this?
Shall we wait till we lose our jobs, our health, our homes…
before we can know this gratitude and peace in the Lord?

While hard times often “force” us
out of the shallows, and into the depth,
even so, the opportunity to enter the Deep
is always available for all of us.

It’s not a matter of what we know;
how many great saints were simple folk.
It doesn’t have to wait for us to finish school
or raise our family, or retire from our jobs:
saints are made at all ages,
in family life, on the factory floor and in prisons.
In the Gospel, the Lord asks all the Apostles;
but only one dared respond, “You are the Christ!”

May I submit that for many of us
the greatest challenge we face as Christians
is not opposition; not health or money issues.
Threatening as these are,
beyond all this is a far greater danger:
that most of us, most of the time,
won’t be forced into the Deep;
we can happily live our lives in the shallows.

Right at this moment, we realize,
His question for Peter is for us, too:
Who do you say that I am?
It’s not an intellectual challenge; it’s not a test.
It is simply a choice:
Who am I…to you?
What will you do with Me?
Will you follow me?

Little relief...

But I am relieved- to learn that deliberately scalding myself is not a sign of mental defect but a fairly well-known, (albeit it not medically sanctioned,) method of getting a temporary reprieve from unbearably itchy eczema.
And really, if I'm going to look like a lobster anyway, does it matter why?
I'm just annoyed with myself, because while stress or emotion might have affected the severity in the past, it was never the main culprit.

"The Messiah of God"

How anyone can use this past Sunday's Gospel, and Peter's confession, (which Jesus seems to approve of, no?) to illustrate that well, yeah, He's the Son of God, and all that, Savior, you know, true God and true Man, okay, the Christ, but when He asks, the most important thing to be able to answer is that He's a personal friend.... well, it's beyond me.

Flesh and blood has not told you this, Simon Bar-Jonah, but celluloid and silver nitrate -- a George Carlin movie, as a matter of fact.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Can't we just call it "Mass"?

Or in more formal speech, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?
Believe me, I understand and support trying to change default terminology as people become more sensitive to the meaning of their words and the impact for good or ill they may have on others.
"Politically correct" while not an absolute value is not a negligible one, either.
But what happened to the word "Mass"? what was wrong with it?

Was it the Latinate origins?
Was it, Oh that's what Sr Mary Strict-with-me, or Father ScaredMeInConfession called it, pre-conciliar and therefore pre-rejected by the now grey-haired and saggy Young Turks of the SOVIET (SpiritOfVatican[IgnoringEssentials]Two)
Was it too plain jane, too simple?
In an area of endeavor that of necessity is heavy with jargon , loaded phrases, complex vocabulary and arcane terminology, I think it is utterly GLORIOUS to have that simple, single syllable word that means exactly what is says and naught else.

For look at what has replaced it:
One diocesan middle management type likes "Eucharistic Celebration." Hmm... would that be a Eucharistic Celebration with a consecration, or a Eucharistic Celebration in the absence of a priest?
Liturgy? It's a good word, (despite the attempts to obfuscate its actual import in the Greek from which it derives,) but it can mean more or other than the Mass, leading to such howlers as the DRE who, when someone objected to a practice during the Liturgy, declared, "we're not talking about a liturgy, we're talking about Vespers."
Eucharist? The word can mean both so much more, and, even, less (the "Liturgy of the Word" is an important part of the "Mass" but since the rest of Mass is properly referred to as "the Liturgy of the Eucharist," calling the Mass the Eucharist could be misunderstood as to exclude the Scripture readings and opening rites -- the, "Oh, I got there in time for the consecration" mind-set.)
I know these are not new thoughts, it's just a burr under my saddle today...

Friday, 22 August 2008

Who's that pretty god in that mirror there? (which? what? where? who?)

I don't make it quite a daily read, but I do enjoy Uncle Di's snarking on Off the Record, over at CWN, (now linked through Catholic Culture.)
But since he, (she? they?...who IS Uncle Di?) is such a studied ironist, I'm not always quite sure I'm not being had.
But, tip of the hat to him on this, which, though Onion-worthy, seems not to be a spoof, but genuine.
(I think it would be appropriate if, as you read, you join in a rousing chorus of "We Sing of Ourselves", to the tune of "We Come to Your Feast", though we could just sing the non-parody, "I Myself am the Bread of Life, You and I are the Bread of Life..."
I myself am the Word of God, the Ancient of Days, the Son of Man, the Alpha and the Omega; you and I are the Word of God, the Ancient of Days, the Son of Man, the Alpha and the Omega....?
Note, the thefounder of the Universal Solidarity Movement seems to be claiming it, or at least he, is Catholic, and the practice somehow fit in the Christian tradition.

Sister C. Lissy could not help laughing when she first entered the meditation room of the Universal Solidarity Movement (USM).
"I looked all around for the tabernacle in the dim light," the Congregation of Jesus nun admitted to UCA News, "but all I could see was a small ceiling fan, a tube light and a gigantic mirror on a wall."
The sari-clad nun, 32, began wondering why the room did not even have a crucifix, but then her eye caught a black, wooden sign above the two-square-meter mirror. Written on it were the English words "God within" and a phrase in Sanskrit, "Aham brahmasmi (I am God)."
The nun, a volunteer at USM headquarters at Indore, Madhya Pradesh state, 810 kilometers south of New Delhi, said an electric shock passed through her as she read the words, but the message took more than a week to sink in.
The unusual meditation room is the brainchild of 56-year-old Father Varghese Alengaden, who founded USM 16 years ago to combat the sectarianism that was then sweeping across India and leaving more than a thousand dead in riots.
The movement, the priest explained to UCA News, aims to generate responsible citizens to promote harmony among India's various groups by encouraging them to live the values of their respective religions. The "mirror room" is just one of various methods he uses to promote harmony and solidarity, he said.
Father Alengaden said Saint Paul's words, "God lives within you," prompted him to devise the room. People change drastically once they understand they are the image of God, he said, and "we'd then have no problem to accept the other person as also an image of God." In his view, this realization will help people accept plurality and equality, and dissuade them from harming others.
"The meditation room is open to all, but only one at a time," the bearded priest added in his sonorous voice. He said USM volunteers spend at least an hour a day in the room when they are in Indore, and they must keep their eyes focused on the image in the mirror while praying.
According to Sister Lissy, the six-square-meter room appears simple but praying there is tough. Initially, the idea seemed quite outlandish, she recalled, and "I used to laugh seeing me in the mirror." But after a week or so, "I realized God is within me, not in a church.[not in some heaven, lightyears away...] I also realized I was confronting myself and this helped me behave better with others."
She also discovered "more meaning" in praying before the mirror than meditating before the tabernacle or in a church. "God is merciful, beautiful, kind and compassionate, and so am I, because God is within me," she added.
This realization has helped her overcome biases, she continued. "You will not differentiate between black and white, tall and short, Hindu and Muslim, because all are the image of God and He lives in them."
She said she used to focus on her shortcomings while praying, "but once you begin to analyze yourself before the mirror, you realize that what you considered as weakness is a blessing in disguise. You learn to appreciate God's creation and thank Him." [Hey, I could get on board with this...those traitsof your you thought were sins? they're not! they're not even "short-comings! they are BLESSINGS!]
Sister Anjali John, USM's former director, says the mirror room is her strength. "I had been praying before the crucifix or the tabernacle, so I first thought it was foolish to pray before the mirror," she told UCA News.
However, the Holy Spirit nun soon realized that facing oneself is tougher than encountering others. "If you sincerely look at yourself in a mirror, it will become your strength," the 44-year-old nun said.[I love Me, Me, My Strength]
Sister Sunita Pinto, another Congregation of Jesus nun who is on a three-month training program at USM headquarters, told UCA News she finds the mirror room "wonderful," even if it distracted her at first.
After a week in the room, USM's director, Father Varghese Kunnath, 49, told UCA News, people become aware of "a divine presence" there, and "this divinity is exuded by your reflection, which in a way is just another image of God."

Beautiful Conversion Story

Lucia Otgongerel, a woman born without hands or legs is an extraordinary witness to the Gospel.
She is also extraordinary evidence that the evangelical power of liturgy is not incumbent on its literal catechetical power.

She recalls that in 2001 she began going to Mass because her sister was the friend of the bishop’s secretary. While she was interested in the celebration, she did not have much faith. She explains that she enjoyed the songs sung in English and the words continued to ring in her ears, though she did not understand the lyrics.
Faith in Christ began the following year and after praying the Rosary intensely, but with great difficulty at home. She realized the importance of prayer and decided to convert to Catholicism.

The words she did not understand continued to ring in her ears...
Just so.
The Truth, Beauty and Goodness of the liturgy do not depend on our feeble powers of understanding to effect the conversion to which we are called.
I guess you could say it's... ineffable.

Who did the stalling?

Is it my imagination, or does the lead sentence in this article> make it sound as if it was Rome that was dragging its feet on the new translation?

THE VATICAN has finally approved a new translation of the most im­portant parts of the Roman Catholic mass for use throughout the English-speaking world.
The translation, which will re­place the existing version from 1970, has been prepared by the Inter­national Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), of which 11 bishops’ conferences are members, including those in Britain, Ireland, and North America. Its work has been under way for some years, and has been delayed in Rome.
In his letter to the Conference of Bishops of the United States ac­companying the translation, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Francis Arinze, wrote: “The attached text is to be considered binding. For its part, this Congregation is confident that the universal use of these texts will greatly contribute to the building up of the Faith throughout the broad and diverse English-speaking world.” The Cardinal does not mention ecumenical con­sidera­tions.
It is understood that each bishops’ conference may be able to make its own minor variants.

And is that last sentence correct?

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Tower of Babel

No weekly Polish Mass in Portsmouth England

If only the Church, in Her wisdom, had seen fit to establish some liturgical, sacral language, that belonged to none of Her children, and so, all of Her children equally...
If only.

Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth has dismayed Poles in his diocese by telling them that they cannot have weekly Polish-language Masses in their local church.
He said in a letter that priests were unanimous in opposing the idea of a Polish Mass celebrated each week.
Such a Mass has been held at St Swithun's Church in Southsea, Portsmouth, since June when an extra priest arrived from Poland.
But in a letter to members of the congregation Bishop Hollis said the Mass should only be celebrated once a month.
He was responding to one of the 20 or so letters sent to him by Poles upset by an earlier announcement from Canon David Hopgood, the cathedral dean.
Canon Hopgood said in a letter dated June 14 that a Mass in Polish every Sunday was likely to damage integration and so should not be established. [Is that really "social engineering" as one critic has charged?]
He said: "Some of the Polish friends I have consulted appreciate the occasional opportunity to keep in touch with their cultural roots, but they do not think that a separate Sunday liturgy would help in the important work of integration within the local Catholic community. This is also the view of the clergy in the area."
His comments reflect a wider concern that Polish migrants are failing to integrate into the English Catholic Church.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor caused controversy in December when he said Poles should join English parishes rather than create "a separate Church".
But Poles argue that integration takes place over generations and should not be imposed -- especially when their faith is so closely linked to national tradition.
They have accused the bishop of "social engineering" and are shocked that he has refused permission for Mass even though a priest is available to celebrate it.
The congregation, made up of about 50 Poles, have inundated the bishop with letters both in English and in Polish. Bishop Hollis replied to the Polish letters by saying he could not understand them and asking the sender to write again in English.
Lukasz Jurkowski said "no one expected" the bishop to refuse permission for Mass. "We can't understand what the problem is," he said. "We want to pay for the church and help to maintain it - we don't want it for free."
Katarzyna Dzwonkowska said it was difficult for some Polish migrants to go to English Mass because they did not understand English. The nearest Polish Mass is nearly an hour away in Eastney.
She said: "When you go to Mass you have to feel like you are talking to God and expressing yourself to God. You have to do that in your own language."
In particular Poles find it difficult to go to Confession in English. "You cannot take in a dictionary and translate the words," Miss Dzwonkowska said.
Another member of the congregation said the decision not to allow the Mass was a "shock" because in Poland churches were open all the time.
Jaroslaw Dzwonkowski said: "Asking for a weekly Mass is something basic and now we have to fight for it. Our religious life here is very basic - it's really the bare minimum. Many people in Poland go to church on a daily basis."
He stressed that Poles did not want to "argue" with the English Catholic Church. "We know we are in England, not in Poland, and we don't have to stay here," he said. "But we are here and if it's possible for us to have Mass then we would really appreciate it."
A spokesman for the Diocese of Portsmouth said the decision to stop the weekly Polish Mass was made after consultation with priests and lay Catholics. "Many people, including some Poles, felt it was becoming divisive," he said. "Some Poles felt that if there was Polish Mass they had a loyalty and they weren't sure whether to go to the usual English Mass.
"Poles were not getting the opportunity to get to know the Catholic community and the clergy weren't getting the opportunity to get to know the Polish people."
He said the diocese worked "very hard" to meet the pastoral needs of immigrants.
Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor visited Poland in March in an attempt to mend fences with the Polish hierarchy.
He promised that Polish-language Masses would continue to be provided in Britain and clarified his earlier comments about integration. He said he meant that Poles could "maintain their own traditions and at the same time keep in touch with the English Church". He also announced that a working party would be set up to advise on "appropriate structures" to accommodate Polish migrants.
It will be headed by bishops from both countries and may revise an agreement that allows the Polish Church to run parishes in England and Wales. It is expected to meet later this year.

It is hard not wonder if some of this is not the animosity of the liturgically lax and pragmatic, if not morally flexible toward the pious and old-fashioned.

"What people are doing in their personal life has nothing to do with what you're going to...."

You fill in the verb.
Rosemary Radford Ruether is out at the University of San Diego
It's not as if she was going to be presenting her views on, oh, say, geography.
To use everybody's favorite, (or least favorite) goblin, paedophilia - if people espouse the tenets of NAMBLA "in their private lives" would that really have nothing to do with what they would teach, if what they are teaching involves faith and morals?

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

One who came home...

Beautiful witness from a Catholic priest, who began his life of formal ministry as an Episcopalian minister. (Can I just reiterate how much I LOVE hearing and reading about Anglican Use opportunities?)

People often ask, “Why did you become a Catholic?” My short answer is, “Because I finally realized I wasn’t.” For an Anglican or an Episcopalian, that answer might make sense. They might not agree, but they can understand it. Catholics may be mystified by it.
I loved the Episcopal Church, and being a priest was all I ever wanted to be. It took me a long time to accept it and admit it, but it’s true.
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church ...in Fernandina Beach, Florida, is a jewel box of a church. It was built in the glory days of the first Florida boom when the congregation was filled with people of intelligence, taste, and financial means. They were able to express in architecture the faith they believed, expressing in native yellow pine, tabby, and stained glass the reformed Catholicism of the Episcopal liturgy. The church was made for the sacraments. The priests of the parish made a lasting impression on me. Fr. Neil Gray was the most intelligent person I knew, and I believed him when he taught us in confirmation and in acolyte training that Episcopalians are Catholics who did away with corruption and superstition in the Reformation. I believed him when he taught us that our liturgy and our faith were the liturgy and the faith of the undivided Catholic Church, and that the Catholic faith continued unbroken and essentially unchanged through the Anglican and Episcopal Churches. ...
The first chink in the myth that the Anglican and Episcopal Churches are Catholic came when I visited Williamsburg, Virginia, as a pre-teen. According to the myth that Catholicism continued in an unbroken line, one would expect that colonial Anglican church building would reflect that faith in the sacramental nature of the liturgy and the church. Instead, I was surprised to see that the colonial Anglican churches looked very much like Methodist or Presbyterian churches. They emphasized the preaching of the word, and not the sacraments, the plain gospel and not traditional beauty. I didn’t know what to make of it. The evidence didn’t fit the myth. But it didn’t knock me off track, either. I loved the myth, and I loved the Episcopal Church.

Because I loved the myth so much, when I had choices, I always chose experiences that tended to support the myth. When choosing a seminary, I avoided the ones that emphasized the protestant and word-oriented roots of the Episcopal Church and visited the ones that supported my pre-conceived notion of what the church should be. ...
It was while I was at GTS that I had to face that while the myth of the continuity of Catholicism within Anglicanism may be beautiful, it is largely untrue. As we studied liturgics and church history, it became clear that the myth I loved was largely the creation of the 19th century Oxford Movement in the Anglican Communion. That what I loved about the Episcopal ethos, its beauty and sacramental focus, its style of Eucharistic celebration, were learned from 19th century Catholicism and from a study of pre-reformation Catholicism as it was practiced in England....
For fifteen years I served as a priest in the Episcopal Church. I loved every parish and every challenge. But these years finally destroyed the myth which formed the foundation of my love of the Episcopal Church. I don’t think it was any particular innovation during those years that finally dispersed the fog. Some I embraced, some I accepted, and some I resisted. If I even mention the hot-button issues it will lead some to say, “Aha! I knew it all along. He left because he opposed ‘X’! Fr. Davis is a reactionary! We don’t need his kind in the Catholic Church!” I’ll take that risk, because I want to share the truth of the way I finally came to be a Catholic. And for my own freedom, I need to be able to tell you the story.
To me, all these innovations share a common fault: the embrace and defense of abortion and euthanasia, the opening of the sacramental ministries of the church to those not ordained in apostolic orders, the opening of holy communion to the non-baptized and the non-Christian, the ordination of women, and same-sex marriage. These innovations could only be embraced by a church that considers that the sacraments are not essential to the church, that we are not actually in an unbroken relationship with a God who reveals his truth in a trustworthy way in all the ages of the church, and that Episcopalians are free to establish new doctrines and enforce new disciplines that conflict with the universal Church. Whether I agreed or disagreed with any of them, they all pointed to the same fault. The Episcopal Church is not Catholic because it makes doctrine and enforces discipline based on the ephemeral notions of what is currently important to a very small group people who happen to take their own comfort as the standard by which to measure everything. Dare I say it? I just did, and I was one and could have been one for a lifetime.
People sometimes tell me, “It must have been hard to leave the Episcopal Church. It must have taken you a long time to decide.” Let me tell you, it was not hard to decide at all. It was quite easy. Once I realized that the answer to the question, “Is the Episcopal Church really part of the Catholic Church?” is really, “No. Never has been. Never will be,” the myth dissolved and I knew I was standing in the light of day. I simply knew, “If I’m not a Catholic, then I need to get to where the Catholic Church really is.” It is always easier to live in the truth than to live in a falsehood, and I’ve never regretted my decision to leave.
The practical steps were much harder. Leaving a faith community is never easy. Trying to act responsibly toward the souls that have not shared my inner journey was difficult. Finding a way to make a living outside the comfort and dependability of a well-run organization with a very generous salary structure and pension fund was stressful. I do not recommend that anyone make the same journey assuming that someone will be there to catch you when you walk off the edge of the cliff. You’ve got to find a path, and sometimes that path goes through the wilderness....
What it comes down to is this. Is it important to be a Catholic? If it is, then get to where the Catholic Church is. It is easier to live in the light of reality than in a myth. Much easier.

Systematically presented thought on music by JPII?

This article from the National Catholic Reporter confuses me just a bit -- I've read B16 on the topic, (and just because he didn't head some page "my systematic thoughts on music, doesn't mean he hasn't,) but where did John Paul II do this, as the article claims, or at least implies he did?

Much has been made of Pope John Paul II’s role in inspiring the music of the new evangelization. But what of the man who has led the Catholic church since 2005?
According to Fr. J. Michael Joncas, Pope Benedict XVI’s thoughts on liturgical music “have never been presented in a systematic fashion.” But some of his opinions can be gleaned from books like The Spirit of the Liturgy, which compiles his writings on the subject. They reveal an abiding respect for traditional sacred music, and greater uncertainty about more modern styles.
When Benedict XVI came to Washington and New York to celebrate his first U.S. Masses in April, the visit triggered more contentious debate about music in the liturgy. Traditionalists in particular were confident that this pope would share their tastes, if not their convictions.
The music chosen for the Mass programs in the two cities formed a contrast. In New York, the Masses at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Yankee Stadium favored what Joncas characterized as a “more substantial use of chant … and choral singing without congregational vocal participation.”

And I guess it's good that Fr. Joncas at least implicitly acknowledges that participation is not inherently vocal...
But who knew the famous "Three Judgements" were now four in number? (Apparently, we must ask, is the music appropriate liturgically, aesthetically, pastorally and HOSPITABLY?)


And I thought I had it bad, with the way our pastor and the local funeral director are often at each others' throats! Yes, we are a litigious society...
H/T to Tony at Catholic Pillow Fight

From an article in the Louisville Courier-Journal
A Nelson County funeral home director is suing the Archdiocese of Louisville and a Roman Catholic priest, whom he accuses of undercutting his business by implementing new rules on conducting funerals at his parish.
The Rev. Jeffrey Leger, pastor of St. Catherine Church in New Haven, put a new policy into effect last month, stipulating that funeral directors can no longer solely plan funerals. Instead, they must now plan them with Leger, who has final say.
The new policy, which Leger outlined in a 10-page letter to funeral directors, strictly enforces church law and liturgical practices that limit such things as the types of readings, music and eulogies at funeral Masses.

Ron Rust, owner of the William R. Rust Funeral Home in New Haven, said the policy will interfere with his longstanding business of coordinating funerals that are held at St. Catherine.
The policy marks "an intentional and wrongful interference" in the dealings between the funeral home and its customers and will cost Rust funerals and income, according to his suit filed Aug. 7 in Nelson Circuit Court.
He's seeking a temporary injunction halting implementation of the policy, pending a trial seeking monetary damages from Leger and the archdiocese.
Rust claims a "right to direct funerals in accordance with the wishes of the family of deceased individuals without the constraints" of Leger's policy, it says.
Claims made in filing a lawsuit give only one side of the case. Leger did not return a call last week seeking comment.
In his letter to funeral homes, he said the purpose of a funeral Mass is to "illumine the mystery of Christian death in light of the risen Christ," and that everything must focus on the Christian hope of resurrection.
Anything that could distract from that should be avoided, he wrote, adding that eulogies, recorded music and nonbiblical readings such as poetry and letters are forbidden except under limited circumstances.
Such personalized features should take place at the vigil service, typically held the evening before the Mass at either the church or the funeral home, he said.
The Archdiocese of Louisville doesn't comment on pending litigation, said spokeswoman Cecelia Price.
But she said each parish pastor sets funeral policy within overall Catholic law and liturgical practice. "The policies at St. Catherine are in conformity with church law and pastoral practice."
The archdiocese itself distributes a brochure based on Vatican guidelines that mirrors much of what Leger put in the parish policy. "It's not unusual," she said.
The policy distributed by Leger specifies that a funeral Mass is not allowed for "notorious apostates … heretics … schismatics … and other manifest sinners" who did not repent before death.
Also, it says, a deceased person who had long avoided Mass will be denied a funeral Mass but allowed a rite of Christian burial. "Since they chose not to attend Mass in life they should not be compelled to attend Mass in death," the policy said; the restriction doesn't apply to those who couldn't attend for such reasons as a prolonged illness.
Leger also said that while a visiting priest with a past connection to the deceased can attend and even preach, Leger should be the prime celebrant of the funeral Eucharist.
For families who oppose that restriction, "the remedy is clear," Leger wrote, "choose another church."

Yeah? How many wives did Chewbacca have, huh?

I mean, what defines "cool"?
And does Mother Nature love her children?
'Nother new-to-me blog, Write your soul
Anyway, another reminder, as if 'twere needed, that there are ditches on either side of the path.

"Nature is the most powerful thing God made.
In fact, it's the only thing he ever made."

-Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
So, there's something on my mind lately. Namely, humanity and our perception of nature.
Most people would say that nature is beautiful, that feeling connected to the earth and all living creatures is a positive thing. 9 times out of 10, I'd agree with that....
Sunsets, butterflies, vast coral reefs, polar bears, rainforests, starfish, the great Northern lights - we're generally okay with these things.
But what about the less-than-savory side of nature?
Tornadoes, parasites, earthquakes, viruses, floods, flesh-eating bacteria- these are all part of nature, too. Not exactly what comes to mind when I hear "God's creation," but there you have it.
It begs the question, ought we embrace the repellent side of nature? As squishy, soft-skinned mammals, we're naturally averse to things like, say, the AIDS virus. Or being burned alive in a volcanic eruption. Or sucked into a black hole....
Seriously though, when we thank God for the gift of Creation, do we really mean all of Creation? Aren't we, as squishy soft-skinned mammals, guilty of picking and choosing?
In the collective thought of the Christian think-tank, there are a few answers/opinions which come to mind.
One is of the ultra-liberal revisionist John S. Spong. That is, that there is no loving theistic Creator God watching out for us, that nature is in fact cruel, and that God is better understood as the impersonal Force which comes from harmonious interpersonal relationships. Jesus was a very nice person. (If he was real.)
If that's true, I'm going to be so pissed. Because it means I've been worshiping a 2,000 year old corpse, and taking moral cues from an outdated work of fiction. Quite frankly, I'd get more out of staying home on Sunday morning and watching Star Wars. It has better special effects than the Bible, and Chewbacca is way cooler than King Solomon.
On the other hand, we've got the colonial imperialist thinking of the 17th - 19th centuries. (Also Ann Coulter.) That is, that humanity is superior to nature and as such, it is our birthright - nay, duty - to rape and pillage the earth for all its worth. To subdue all inferior creatures and races beneath our mighty sword. I don't buy that either.

With apologies to my friend BT, who is a liturgist ...

... and knows I love him.
You know the old saw that a gentleman is someone who knows how to play billiards ....but never does?
Another friend suggested this definition:

A liturgist is someone who knows how to conduct a ritual according to the rubrics but never does.

The moral dilemma of tucking into a plate of Spam....

(About which, sad to say, I am not being facetious -- Hot and Spicy Spam being one of my guilty pleasures)
Having discovered The Catholic Thing, and reading through its (so-far small) archive, I find it probable that this will become one of my favorite daily reads.
(I suppose it is too much to hope that the "ultimate goal" referenced in the closing paragraph could be in reverse, and that some day we shall see animals on trial, as I believe happened at least once with a wolf in medieval France, and Mrs. M's cat will be threateend with the slammer for murdering that grackle?)
(And how did I miss the Kristoff piece?)
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax and pigs and saints and editorialists...
In a July 31 New York Times column, Nicholas Kristof celebrated the rapidly growing animal-rights movement. Kristof reported that Spain has legalized ape rights; Austrians are pushing legislation that would define the chimpanzee as a person; the Harvard Law School offers an animal-rights course; and an animal-rights referendum will appear on the California ballot in November. Convinced that “our descendants will look back on our factory farms with uncomprehending revulsion,” Kristoff writes of his experience growing up on a farm in Oregon, “Our cattle, sheep, chickens and goats had individual personalities but not such interesting ones that it bothered me that they might end up in a stew. Pigs were more troubling because of their unforgettable characters and obvious intelligence. To this day, when tucking into a pork chop, I always feel as if it is my intellectual equal.”
If this were merely a personal confession of imbecility, it would be odd (equality with a pork chop?), but no odder than many things that appear in America’s self-styled newspaper of record. But Kristoff’s bad conscience has clouded his judgment about a universal proposition: because man is a person who possesses a mind, he is substantially different from the pig and every other creature. Only man possesses reason, imagination, creativity, and capacities for moral thought and aesthetic experience. In the old saying: a man can make a monkey of himself, but no monkey can make a man of himself. It is man’s mind, not his body, that is made in the image and likeness of God and gives him his true dignity. Materialists may (apparently without irony) deny the existence of mind as a reality essentially different from matter, even though it obviously takes a mind to deny the existence of mind, since only a mind can affirm or deny anything.
Mortimer Adler was a powerful exponent of the truth that human nature differs from other animal natures because only man possesses “the related powers of propositional speech and conceptual thought,” and because human action is not governed by instinct. Man is free to choose. “He has, in short, the power of self-determination, the power of creating or forming himself and his life according to his own decisions.”
Man is an animal, to be sure (and often acts like one), but he is a very special animal, and it is this uniqueness that is the foundation of the “inalienable rights” referred to by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. Inalienable rights in the political sphere are rights that cannot justly be taken from citizens by the state, because they were not given by the state. Our inalienable rights come from God, the author of human nature, and no fact of birth, wealth, or social position merits or diminishes them. The liberties of the people are natural rights precisely because, as Jefferson put it, they are “the gift of God.”
Most people do not know that the movement to equate man and beast is not new. The ideological origins of the animal-rights movement can be traced back to Cartesian reductionism, which measures the universe (mankind included) in exclusively material terms. As Descartes’ contemporary Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) put it: “Nothing can be known except quantitatively.” These thinkers rejected Aristotle’s “Hylomorphism” which taught that man is composed of prime matter and substantial form (body and soul).
For Descartes and the later rationalists a man is not a person, he is a thing. “There is no difference between cabbages and kings,” Nobel laureate Albert Szent Gyorgyi once quipped. “We are all recent leaves on the old tree of life.” The supposed difference between man and beast, between for instance a saint and a pig, is merely a matter of degree.
This is completely alien to the classical notion, which defines the person as a “complete individual of intellectual nature” (Boethius). This view puts God and the angels together with man as persons, and, being non-reductive, excludes rodents. The sine qua non of the human person is the soul, which is not simply an extension of a material or animal nature. It was this unity of body and soul that led Thomas Aquinas to say that the human person “signifies what is most perfect in nature.” With a soul, man has nobility. Without a soul, he has none.
If man is not exempt from the laws that govern beasts, he has no dignity, no inalienable rights, he is not a human person, he is a mere commodity. And if this notion prevails, abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and cloning can be legally rationalized. If man is a non-person he can be deprived of life if “its” existence is inconvenient or deemed unfit by those holding judicial or legislative power.
The contemporary movement to elevate the beast is a ruse whose ultimate goal is to degrade man with a clear goal: implementing the culture of death.
George Marlin is the author of The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact (St Augustine’s Press).

Its profit is in its practice

Exquisite words from St Bernard contained in today's Office of Readings:
Love is sufficient of itself, it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in its practice. I love because I love, I love that I may love. Love is a great thing so long as it continually returns to its fountainhead, flows back to its source, always drawing from there the water which constantly replenishes it. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return; the sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him.

The Bridegroom’s love, or rather the love which is the Bridegroom, asks in return nothing but faithful love. Let the beloved, then, love in return. Should not a bride love, and above all, Love’s bride? Could it be that Love not be loved?

Rightly then does she give up all other feelings and give herself wholly to love alone; in giving love back, all she can do is to respond to love. And when she has poured out her whole being in love, what is that in comparison with the unceasing torrent of that original source? Clearly, lover and Love, soul and Word, bride and Bridegroom, creature and Creator do not flow with the same volume; one might as well equate a thirsty man with the fountain.

What then of the bride’s hope, her aching desire, her passionate love, her confident assurance? Is all this to wilt just because she cannot match stride for stride with her giant, any more than she can vie with honey for sweetness, rival the lamb for gentleness, show herself as white as the lily, burn as bright as the sun, be equal in love with him who is Love? No. It is true that the creature loves less because she is less. But if she loves with her whole being, nothing is lacking where everything is given. To love so ardently then is to share the marriage bond; she cannot love so much and not be totally loved, and it is in the perfect union of two hearts that complete and total marriage consists. Or are we to doubt that the soul is loved by the Word first and with a greater love?

It occurs to me that one who is in the lay state, perhaps even particularly the lay woman is in some tiny way in a more exalted position than even the priest, for he merely represents one half of the Great Equation of Love, while we in fact and deed are what we also represent, the soul, the beloved, the Bride.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Faithful citizenship, and blazing pants

At the Catholic Thing a piece by Hadley Arkeson Obama and the Born Alive act, and certain.... okay, I was going to say obfuscations, but frankly, what seem like LIES.

Barack Obama was asked about abortion, and he remarked that it was a serious, vexing “moral” question. On the matter of when human life began, he said, that “whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity … is above my pay grade.” In the hands of Obama the meaning of “moral” is recast: What does it mean to say that this is a “moral” question and yet it must depend on judgments that are wholly subjective and personal, and which cannot be judged as true or false? For Obama, a “moral” question is one for which reason can supply no judgment, and the judgment may turn finally turn on nothing more than self-interest.

The question of global warming is a tangled, scientific question, generating serious controversy, and yet Obama has never confessed any disability that prevents him from consulting the testimony, the presentations of evidence, and trying to form a judgment. What prevents him then from consulting the textbooks of embryology or obstetric gynecology, or asking anyone who knows, in an effort to inform his judgment? The textbooks will tell him of course that human life begins with the merger of male and female gametes to form a zygote, a unique being with a genetic definition quite different from that of either parent. If that is too much to absorb, he may retreat to the point readily understood even by people without a college education: A pregnancy test is a sufficient and telling sign that new life is present and growing. We know now that this life does not undergo any change of species from its beginning to its end. Conceived by humans, it cannot be anything other than a human life. And if there was nothing there alive and growing, an abortion would no more be indicated or relevant than a tonsillectomy.

Now if that is truly above Mr. Obama’s “pay grade,” then the presidency must surely be beyond his competence and his pay grade.

As I have mentioned already in these columns, not a single Democrat in Congress voted against our Born-Alive Infants’ Protection Act (2002), a bill that sought simply to protect the life of a child who survived an abortion. But Barack Obama actually led the opposition to the same bill as it was offered in the legislature in Illinois. Obama has claimed now that he voted against the bill in Illinois because it lacked a clarifying amendment that had been voted for the federal bill: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to affirm, deny, expand, or contract any legal status or legal right applicable to any member of the species homo sapiens at any point prior to being ‘born alive’ … “

But as it turns out, this amendment had indeed been added to the bill in Illinois in March 2003, in a Senate committee chaired by Obama. Nevertheless, Obama voted finally to kill that bill in committee. And yet why should this be a surprise? Doug Johnson, the legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee rightly observed that the amendment had never made a difference to the substance of the bill. For the very point of the bill was to confer protection on the child when it was no longer in the womb, when the child could no longer encumber any “interests” of the mother. The bill sought to establish the point that even a child marked for abortion has, at some time, a claim to the protection of the law. And if that is the case, what was the difference between the child out of the womb and the child several minutes, several weeks, several months earlier?

The National Abortion Rights Action League saw at once the principle that lay at the heart of the bill, which is why they opposed it when it was introduced in July 2000. Barack Obama saw precisely what those activists saw. He voted against the Born-Alive Act, as he said, because he thought it would threaten, down the line, the right to abortion. But there lies the depth of his radicalism. For the sake of protecting that right to abortion, for any reason, he was willing to withdraw even the protection usually offered by the law for children born alive. The one exception would be: the children marked for abortion. For Obama, the right to abortion is nothing less than the right to an “effective abortion” or a dead child. For all of his nimbleness and his Ivy League bearing, that is the unlovely truth of his position; the truth that the media cannot quite grasp or report.

The Born-Alive Act was truly “the most modest first step” of all in legislating on abortion. Its purpose was to plant premises in the law and to break out news that the public would find jolting. A new group has formed now under the banner of Bornalivetruth.org with the purpose of bringing out to the public what Barack Obama has revealed about himself as he has confronted that bill. There is something to be savored in the notion that this measure, so modest, meant simply to teach, may turn out to be a critical force this year in the unraveling of Obama.

Mission Statements

IMO "mission statements" are, in general, hooey that often reads like either bad modern poetry or sound-good-means-nothing ad copy; and frequently more revealing for what they don't say than what they do.
When was the last time you read a Catholic organization or parish statement that acknowledged they even had a remote interest what these guys realize is their primary purpose as priests and Catholics?

Our fundamental mission:
To save the greatest number of souls

(Indeed, it is sometimes heart-rending, how few people believe souls are in need of saving... ya know, cuz, um... we're already saints.)

Of rubrics, "finger pinching" and papal knees...

Fr Hunwicke has some thoughts on the way Archbishop Ranjith has allowed the rubrics of the EF to re-enchant the OF.

I would have thought that what the Secretary of the CDW did ought to be able to stand as forensic evidence of a usage being permissible. What seems even clearer is that what the Pope does must surely be ipso facto licit since what we are talking about is the Roman Rite and he is the Bishop of Rome celebrating the rite of his church. (And I recall an episode when Old Marini told John Paul the Great that he should be standing and JP2 replied 'The Pope is kneeling'!) [emphasis mine]
One thing I have in mind is the practice of joining one's hands and bowing one's head at 'Let us give thanks unto the LORD our God', which Benedict XVI did at his inaugural Mass despite the fact that according to the OF rubrics the hands must stay extended. I regard this as a very beautiful act of reverence for the great Name of God.
Perhaps the fact that High Authority openly hopes for the EF to resacralise the OF creates a new situation. I nominate the Silent Canon as the next EF usage I would like to see creeping stealthily into the OF.

The "silent Canon" is one of so many things either of which I knew nothing, or to which I had given no thought, and so had no opinion, UNTIL.....
One is often initially attracted to something or someone as much by the (low) caliber of his or its enemies as by the excellence of his or its admirers.
Know what I mean?

Popular taste as an infallible indicator of quality...

One of the silliest things I've ever heard a smart person say:
[A well-known Catholic "folk" musician] says he’s learned not to bemoan the future of Catholic music. “The American church, as it always has done, will sort through this and figure out what has meat and what doesn’t. I’ve seen this happen since 1963: The best always surfaces to the top and stays there.”
Forget contemporary music, does he maybe think the fact that old people still ask for, I'm not making this up, On This Day O Beautiful Mother, Good Night Sweet Jesus, and To Jesus Heart All Burning, and the like, (and they and their ilk are the ONLY hymns requested from their era,) puts the lie to that optimistic assessment that "quality will out"?

Many sorts of thing rise to the top...

And it's good to know Catholic music publishers have such laudable aims: one is "stepping up efforts to get into the market."
And it seems that this is considered a regrettable reality: "Catholics struggle to dent the contemporary Christian chart"... why, exactly?