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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Happy St. Ignatius Day :-)



Today is the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus and the author of the Spiritual Exercises.

I feel grateful to Ignatius .... before I learned about him and participated in the Creighton University online version of his Spiritual Exercises retreat, I'd pretty much given up on God. One could spend forever explaining his spirituality, and there are elegant expressions of it to be found online (check out Fr. Marsh's blog :-), but I'm not up to the challenge myself. What I can say is that the Spiritual Exercises touched me ... Ignatius believed Jesus/God can be directly experienced, and wants to be directly experienced, by each of us ... and that's what happened to me.

Here below is a bit of an open letter written in the name of Ignatius to those wishing to make the Spiritual Exercises (actually written originally by John Veltri SJ and reformed by John Reilly SJ.) I first read it about the time I began that online retreat and i found it moving .....

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To You From Ignatius...

We can meet God personally.

I experienced a direct and personal meeting with God, particularly during the months of 1522, at Manresa, a small town near Barcelona in the northeast of Spain, where God taught me like a child at school.

Yes I, Ignatius of Loyola, Inigo as they called me, experienced God ... Father, son and spirit ... nameless and unknowable, mysterious and yet near, sharing God self with me in a manner beyond all concrete imaginings.

I experienced God in nearness and graciousness impossible to confuse or mistake.

I experienced God, not simply human words describing God but God, God's very self.

I experienced God's glory. I knew God, as you would say today, experientially.

This is grace ... a divine gift.

I believe that God ... Father, son and spirit ... desires to give this same give to everyone.

The grace that I received during those months at Manresa was not something that I considered a special privilege for myself or a chosen few. I wrote down the process of my experience in a notebook which I called Spiritual Exercises. I gave me Spiritual Exercises to anyone for whom such spiritual help might be profitable .....

To experience God directly and learn that the mystery we name God is near to each of us and meets us personally, is the goal of the journey of the Spiritual Exercises. Do you desire that the father, son and spirit share themselves with you?

Do you desire to base your life choices on the experience of God's desire for you? Then enter confidently into the Spiritual Exercises .....

During a Spiritual Exercises my hope for you is that week by week, slowly and gradually, you'll come to a greater ease and the greater familiarity and entering the mystery of God, and feeling God's love for you in the way I was able to experience God's love for me. My hope is that you will grow in spiritual freedom, in love for God and in union with God, through a deepening love for Christ, our risen Lord and leader. Later in your life, as you grow in faith by continuing to reflect on the Word of God, you'll find more readily which God desires and once for you in different situations. You'll recognize more readily Christ in all people, in their struggles towards freedom. And you'll be able to make true and good choices and all you do and all you are .....

In your Spiritual Exercises journey may you learn how specially loved you are by God, Father, son and spirit ... mystery beyond us, word all around us, and breath within us, God's intimately shared self who as one desires to share with you all God is .....

United with you in Christ as you make this journey,

Ignatius.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Listening to books

I've loved reading books since I was a little kid, and when I found out I had a degenerative eye disease, my biggest fear was losing the ability to read. I remember being taken on a trip to the Bay area by someone from the Dept. of Rehabilitation, just after I was diagnosed - we visited an institute for the blind. Adults with different levels of blindness lived there, learning how to cook, clean the house, pick out color co-ordinated clothes, tell different bills of money apart, use a cane, make chess boards (to sell), and to read braille. He wanted me to move in there, and my refusal was my first step on the road to serious denial :-)

I spent the next years trying to hide my vision problem from employers, trying to hang on to my driver's license, trying not to get squashed crossing the street, and most of all trying to read books while guessing at words that seemed always in smaller and smaller print. I eventually had to give up ... ok, I do still take my chances crossing the street without a cane, but I had to quit my job, quit driving, and have mostly given up reading books for pleasure.

This sounds sadder than it is :-) because computers have made reading online much easier for me than trying to read books, and now I've finanlly managed to loosen that death grip I have on doing things the "normal" way, and have tried an audio book. I'm listening to a CD from the library of The Lost World by Michael Crichton (sort of book II of Jurassic Park), and for the first time in a very long time, trying to see is not getting in the way of the story .... it's fun again. Hard to explain how great this is.




Spanish Civil War

UPDATE: I also have a more recent post about the Church apologizing for the killing of Basque priests who fought on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War.

There's a great post by Jeff today on the Vatican's plan to beatify some of the martyrs of the Spanish Civil War (link to news story) and about the war itself. I really knew nothing about that subject, so looked it up - I now have only the most basic understanding of the conflict ... the Republican government (secular and socialist), supported by the Communist Soviet Union,, and the Nationalists led by Franco (fascist and Catholic) supported by Nazi Germany ... the US stayed neutral, though they sold arms to both sides, I believe. I found lots of interesting stuff, but my understanding of it all is sketchy .... below are just some random bits of info I came across that struck me.

Looking around the net, I found mention of the different stances back in the 30s and during the SCW taken by publications like America magazine (the Jesuits) which was pro-Franco, and Commonweal which was more conflicted.

Also interesting - the non-Spanish who fought in the war. If you were a European or American liberal, you would have probably supported the Republican side of the conflict and there were International Brigades formed by non-Spanish to fight against what they saw as the danger of spreading fascism. Some of those involved included Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell.

And a number of Jesuits were martyred during the SCW, not long after the Order had been suppressed by the government. According to Wikipedia, 114 Jesuit were killed by the Repoblican side. SJWeb has a page on eleven of them ...

Father Thomas Sitjar Fortiá (1866-1936) and 10 other Jesuits were martyred in Gandía and Valencia, Spain, between Aug. 19 and Dec. 29, 1936 at the start of the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish revolutionary government had suppressed the Society in 1932, but a few Jesuits refused to go into exile, among them, Father Sitjar, who was superior of the handful of Jesuits dispersed into apartments around Gandía.

Only a week after the civil war began, authorities came at night to the apartment that Sitjar shared with Brother Peter Gelabert Amer and arrested the priest. Gelabert barely escaped through a window. By the next morning Father Constantine Carbonell, Brother Raymond Grimaltos and Gelabert joined the superior in a school that had been converted into a prison. Carbonell had served as superior of the Jesuits in Alicante, and minister of several different communities. Gelabert spent his life serving as a gardener.

The Jesuits were able to receive visitors, who brought mattresses and food, but their wait for the inevitable soon ended. Shortly after midnight on Aug. 19, Sitjar was told he was going to be set free; instead he was taken to a road outside the city and executed beneath an olive tree at 3:00 a.m. His three companions died four days later when authorities took them to an olive grove outside of town on the road to Valencia and shot them as well ....


And who knew that there was a kind of peace-nik movement in Spain at the time of the civil war. One of its most well known members was José Brocca. Here's a little of what Wikipedia says of him and the SCW ......

Brocca aligned himself with the socialist segment of the complex political spectrum in Spain, and represented Spanish pacifists at international meetings of the peace movement (Orden del Olivo and War Resisters' International). He was a colleague of feminist doctor Amparo Poch y Gascón. He believed that pacifists had to support the republican cause, but he was first and foremost a humanitarian. There is a local legend in Viator which suggests that he helped a Catholic priest escape assassination by giving him his car. After Viator, Professor Brocca worked in Madrid, where he taught at the University, in Barcelona and other locations. (It is believed that at one stage, preceding the republican era, he also spent some time in Argentina where his brother was living. The reasons for this are not clear, but one source indicates that he was in 'exile' due to political circumstances in Spain). Many people's perception of the Spanish Civil War is one of two monolithic 'sides': a war of democracy against fascism. In fact it was by no means as simple as that, and although it was the republican cause that was more seriously undermined by internal power struggles, there were many factions and sub-groups within both the main groupings .....

The war must have been a moral can of worms for those involved, as well as onlookers, especially liberal Catholics. This brings me back to a point made in Jeff's post ... the martyred Catholic religious of the Spanish Civil War are in contrast to those more recent martyrs of Latin America like Romero and the Jesuits of El Salvador .... they seem to be on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. I wonder if this has anything to do with the reforms of Vatican II. I can't help but think the change is for the better.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Brian Swimme's Cosmology

I came across an interview with Brian Swimme, a mathematical cosmologist, who teaches at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. He is the author of The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos and his research focuses on the relationship between cosmology and religion. I wish I knew more about science ... I like what he has to say but I can't really evaluate it. At least it's interesting. The interview is long, so here below are just a couple of the questions and answers ....

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How can Catholic thought contribute to the scientific understanding of the universe?

The main contribution of Catholicism is its sacramental tradition and its view of the universe as revelatory—as a direct revelation of God. One example of this would be our sun. Our sun creates light by an amazing process where 600 million tons of hydrogen are transformed into 596 million tons of helium. The 4 million tons left over become light. Every second our sun is transforming 4 million tons of itself into light. Now that ongoing transformation of itself is irreversible, the sun doesn't get back the energy. Once it transforms itself into light, the light disperses in all directions. Everything that's happened in the life of this planet is directly dependent upon that light. We're moving here and talking and thinking only because coursing through our bodies is the energy from the sun. If the sun were not there, earth's temperature would be 400 degrees below zero. The whole biosphere would shrivel up and die.

In other words, all of human activity is powered by the generosity of the sun. Our existence directly depends upon the giveaway of the sun; this is a real sacrificial, ongoing event. The Catholic way of interpreting this event would be to see the sun as a revelation of God—thus, this act reveals part of the nature of God. God is constantly bestowing gifts; the sun is a primary exemplar of that, and without this generosity, life itself would cease.

Another area I would say that Catholicism will inform the dialogue between religion and science is in terms of community—the Catholic sense of community. The universe is primarily a community affair; the whole community of earth rises together out of the birth of the sun .....


Where does prayer fit into all of this? Does it have energy of its own?

There are different ways of talking about prayer. First of all the primary prayer is one of awe, and it is probably the most effective prayer because through it we turn to our origins and just behold with a sense of gratitude.

By way of thinking about prayer scientifically, however, we can go back to an experiment that Einstein instigated called the Einstein-Rosen-Podolski experiment. In quantum theory
there is a way that things are connected even though they're far apart. Einstein thought the quantum theory was wrong, so he made up mental experiments trying to disprove it, and he came up with one.

He said, suppose you have two particles and they're connected, and then they move apart. According to quantum theory, when you measure the separated particles, they will have spins that are always the opposite. If one's up, the other one's down; if one's down, the other's up.

As soon as you measure one of them and its spin is up, then this one over here has to turn down. According to Einstein there would be no way for that to happen instantaneously. It's a very strange implication. Einstein came to this thought experiment decades ago, but nobody could do anything about it because we couldn't test it.

Recently, however, we've developed the technological sophistication to actually carry out the experiment, and the results showed that the quantum theory was right. When you check a particle in one place and force it into an up state, instantly this one over here goes down. Physicists call this a nonlocal causality, meaning that even though things are separated in space and time, they are also connected
directly in that moment.

Applied to our understanding of prayer, the impulse towards goodness that a person expresses towards another through prayer has an instant effect. And our inter-connectivity discovered at the atomic level fits exactly into the doctrine of
the Mystical Body of Christ.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Prayer - Alice Oswald

Here I work in the hollow of God's hand
with Time bent round into my reach. I touch
the circle of the earth, I throw and catch
the sun and moon by turns into my mind.
I sense the length of it from end to end,
I sway me gently in my flesh and each
point of the process changes as I watch;
the flowers come, the rain follows the wind.

And all I ask is this - and you can see
how far the soul, when it goes under flesh,
is not a soul, is small and creaturish -
that every day the sun comes silently
to set my hands to work and that the moon
turns and returns to meet me when it's done.

- Alice Oswald


Gay Clergy

I saw an article in the TimesOnline today about an interview of The Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, now visiting in the UK. The article deals mostly with the schism in the Anglican Communion and with gay clergy. Here's a little of the article below ....

The Bishop of New Hampshire in the US, the Right Rev Gene Robinson, who is divorced and lives openly in partnership with a gay man, said he found it "mystifying" that the mother church of the Anglican Communion was unable to be honest about the number of gay clergy in its ranks ..... Speaking in an interview in London, Bishop Gene said: "I have met so many gay partnered clergy here and it is so troubling to hear them tell me that their bishop comes to their house for dinner, knows fully about their relationship, is wonderfully supportive but has also said if this ever becomes public then I’m your worst enemy. It’s a terrible way to live your life and I think it’s a terrible way to be a church." ......

Not being Anglican or Episcopalian, I probably shouldn't comment on the situation, but of course we in the Catholic Church had our own frisson over the subject of gay clergy. I thought I'd post bits of a fcouple of things from 2005 when the Vatican document on homosexuality in the priesthood was released, articles that touch on elements raised in the Robinson interview above .... one article by the former head of the Dominican Order, Timothy Radcliffe OP, and an open letter written by Catholic priest and theologian, James Alison ...

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Can Gays Be Preists? by Timothy Radcliffe, in The Tablet, November 26, 2005 .....

TWO WEEKS AGO I was in Nova Scotia, giving a retreat for the bishops and priests of eastern Canada. A priest sent up a piece of paper with a question that he was too shy to ask publicly: “Will this document on the admission of gays to the priesthood mean that I am not welcome anymore? Does it mean that people like me are second-class priests?” I have heard this same question, in one form or another, from priests all over the world. The forthcoming Vatican document on homosexuality and the priesthood (see page 40) is the focus of intense anxiety ..... a vocation is a call from God. It is true that, as the document says, it is “received through the Church, in the Church and for the service of the Church”, but it is God who calls. Having worked with bishops and priests, diocesan and religious, all over the world, I have no doubt that God does call homosexuals to the priesthood, and they are among the most dedicated and impressive priests I have met. So no priest who is convinced of his vocation should feel that this document classifies him as a defective priest. And we may presume that God will continue to call both homosexuals and heterosexuals to the priesthood because the Church needs the gifts of both .....

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And this by James Alison - Letter of response to friends in the aftermath of the Vatican Instruction of 29 November 2005 .........

The instruction is clear, straightforward and logical ..... that teaching is here presented in the most muted form I have seen it in a recent Roman document. It is almost as if some of the many higher authorities which have reviewed this document before allowing this particular dicastery to publish it might be saying something rather like this:

”Look, we know that there are a lot of us, priests, Bishops, Cardinals, seminarians, seminary teachers, and religious superiors who are gay; and there are many of us, whether straight or gay, who don’t in fact buy the line that being gay is an objective disorder. We know that there are many of us who regard being gay as no more pathological than being left-handed. Yet the fact remains that the current ordinary teaching is that being gay is more akin to a personality disorder than to left-handedness. There are improper ways of dealing with the disjunction between that widely held, if rarely expressed, opinion and the current teaching, and there is a proper way. We want to close off one of the improper ways of dealing with this in the hopes that we can all move together toward finding the proper way.

The improper way is to pretend in public that you go along with the teaching while in fact, and in your private life, you do not. The result of going down this route has been many of us encouraging people to join the seminary and priesthood just so long as they become inducted into playing the sort of game that too many of us have been playing for too long. That is, letting it be perfectly clear off the record that being gay is fine, just so long as we don’t say in public that we’re gay, and just so long as we agree not to challenge in public the teaching that being gay is an objective disorder.

Well, treating people in this way is to do something terrible to them: it makes them live a lie as a condition for becoming a minister of the Gospel. And it is to do something terrible to the people who we are supposed to be serving: it creates a clerical caste which has its own, tolerant rules and structures for life within the club, the price for whose maintenance is that its gay members agree not to challenge those who are publicly harsh and intolerant about matters gay whenever these surface in the public arena. In other words, the Catechism teaching is for the plebs, while we have our own hidden teaching, our own safe space, for the elite.

Even a cursory acquaintance with the Gospel reveals that if this is how we have been living, then we should fear for our salvation, and we should be deeply penitent for having gone along with and contributed to this mess. So let us please close down this culture of dishonesty and agree only to accept candidates and form them in the light of the current teaching of the Church rather than in the light of what we think the current teaching of the Church ought to be, but are not brave enough to say so" .....

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Jesuits and Second Life



For those familiar with the missionary history of the Society of Jesus ... from Francis Xavier's mission to the Far East, to Emilio Sandoz's mission to the alien planet of Rakhat (The Sparrow) ... it will come as no great surprise that the Jesuits are thinking of missioning to the virtual world of Second Life..

The Jesuits, for 500 years in the front line of Catholic evangelisation, have decided that Second Life, the online virtual world, can be fertile territory for spreading the Gospel. In an article in their official organ, "Civilita’ Cattolica," they suggest that just as they once penetrated the jungles of Africa or distant China, today they should be present in Second Life.

Father Antonio Spadaro, the literary critic of "Civilta’ Cattolica" and an expert on new technologies, writes: "This virtual Second Life is becoming populated with churches, mosques, temples, cathedrals. synagogues, places of prayer of all kinds. And behind an avatar there is a man or a woman, perhaps searching for God and faith, perhaps with very strong spiritual needs." .....

The magazine’s deputy-editor, Father Michele Simone, confirmed that the article reflects current thinking among the Society of Jesus. "Today we have more than 200 missionaries in China," said Father Simone. "I don’t see there is anything so astounding if we have a few avatars in Second Life. The article presents Second Life to our readers, then points out its positive and negative aspects, the potential dangers. We therefore came to the conclusion that it would not be a mistake for Jesuits to be present as well, to help people not to fall into pseudo-religious traps," he said .....
- Gospel 2.0: Jesuits move into Second Life, Financial Times

The 13 page article in Civilta’ Cattolica is mostly devoted to a description of how Second Life works and the implications of living in a virtual world .....

"The best way to understand (the Second Life phenomenon) is to enter into it, (and) live inside it to recognize its potential and dangers," ..... Because one's real identity is confidential, one's virtual appearance can be completely open and honest, "but on the other hand one can also get caught up in a spontaneity that knows no limits or discretion," ..... in creating or being part of such a lifelike, imaginary world, one might become alienated from the real world and begin to identify oneself according to one's self-created myth ..... - CNS

I wrote something about Second life back in January - Second Life and St. Ignatius - quoting a Tablet article by John McDade SJ on Second Life and its possible dangers. I thought then, and still do, that Ignatian spirituality and a virtual environment can be a good fit. The Jesuits are always on the cutting edge technologically, but even more, the Spiritual Exercises make serious use of a virtual world ... that of the imagination.

As both the Civilta’ Cattolica article and the Tablet article by Fr. McDade mention, virtual life can be full of pitfalls .... but if we do trip, who better to have on hand to catch us then the Society of Jesus? :-)


Ice Cream and The Tablet

I don't know exactly why I'm posting these two bits of info together, unless both seem to be too good to be true.

First, about ice cream. I've loved it since I was a kid and my grandfather took my sister and me out for chocolate-dipped cones. I found my present favorite ice cream ... Häagen-Dazs ... at a shop near the Cove in La Jolla . Here is the link to the products page for Häagen-Dazs, where you can read about flavors such as Amazon valley chocolate - The fertile soil and lush, protective canopy of the Amazon Rainforest provide the perfect growing environment for the rare Criollo cocoa bean—the exquisite ingredient that gives this ice cream its intense and nutty flavor ..... or Pomegranate Chip - The first bite is a creamy mixture of tart pomegranate, sweet cranberries and ripe, sun-warmed grapes. Next to arrive are melting chunks of intense dark chocolate and tantalizing fruit overtones. :-)

Second, I see that this week's copy of The Tablet is completely free for all to read, downloadable in pdf format. It's interesting to see how the pages, complete with advertizements, actually look. One article worth a read was No sign of a rapprochement ... From De Lubac to Lefebvre, France has long been a place of passionate argument about Catholicism and the liturgy. Publication of the Pope’s motu proprio has provoked intense debate and has consequences not only for celebration of the Mass but a wider vision of the Church.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ftom Leonardo Boff to Jon Sobrino

Who knew Leonardo Boff had a website? Okay, Jeff knew :-) and he told me. As I looked through the articles there, I saw one that was an open letter from Leonardo to Jesuit Jon Sobrino ... Jon Sobrino: Comrade in Tribulation, MAR 30th , 2007. It refers to the he denunciation by the CDF of Fr. Sobrino's liberation theology (I had a post about it). I found the letter interesting, so here it is below ...

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Jon, friend and brother: The «notification» from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly, the Holy Office) condemning your opinions about Christ as incompatible with the Christian faith, filled me with deep sadness. I saw at work against you the same method and the same form of argument as was used against me with reference to Church doctrine. The method is one of "pastiche," consisting of taking small phrases and combining them with others, so as to create a meaning that no longer corresponds to what the author has written. Or, it distorts the texts in such a way that the author no longer feels represented by them. I understand and stand with you in your courageous decision: "I find absolutely nothing of myself in any portion of the "notification;" thus it does not seem to me honest to accept it. Moreover, it would be disrecpectful to those theologians who have read my books and have found in them neither doctrinal errors, nor dangerous pronouncements ."

In fact, eminent specialists in the area have, at your request, analyzed your works: Sesboue, from France, Gonzalez Faus, from Spain, Carlos Palacio, from Brazil, among others. They were unanimous in reaffirming their orthodoxy. Why have their opinions not been taken into account? This makes us suspicious that your condemnation is only a pretext for one more strike against the theology of liberation, which, with its commitment to the crucified people, does not please the Vatican.

But what hurts me most is that they selected precisely you for this spurious attack. You are a survivor of martyrdom, when in November 1989 in El Salvador everyone in your community of six Jesuits, together with the maid and her daughter, was murdered by elements of the armed forces.

You had gone to Thailand to substitute for me in a course that I could not attend, thus you escaped being murdered. Your testimony, "The Six Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador" is one of the most beautiful writings of spirituality and compassion in the Latin American Church. They selected you, whom I consider the most profound Latin American theologian, the one who best articulates spirituality and theology, imbedded with the crucified people, and reflective, the one who (I say this sincerely) presents to a large degree the signature virtues that characterize holiness. They set your work apart from your pained and threatened life, as if they could separate the body from the soul. Only "carnal" authorities who have lost all sense of the Spirit, as St. Paul would say, could perpetrate such a tremendous aggression.

But there is a deeper reason. Your theology troubles the religious authorities who took over the sacred power and are now fossilized within it. You have always insisted that the Church speak the truth about the reality that is so brutal to the poor in our Continent, killing them from hunger and exclusion. That is why the Church has to be a liberator. It must articulate faith and justice, theory and praxis and become fundamentally a Church of the poor and of the crucified peoples.

Don Oscar Romero, also murdered in El Salvador, whom you advised, put it well: "They kill whoever is in their way." You also partake of that destiny. I know you will continue working and writing so that the crucified may be resuscitated. Deep down, I know that you are happy in the Spirit of being able to participate a little in the passion of the suffering people.

Comrades in tribulation, we understand that service in the end is not to the Church, but within the Church to God, to the people, especially the poor; and that one day our theology will be judged, to see if it was just orthodox and not orthopractical, which is what really serves liberation.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

David Hart - Beauty

It's slow going, my reading of The Beauty of the Infinite, due to the small print and my lack of philosophical knowledge. The way David Bentley Hart writes makes it worth the effort, though. Here's a bit from the book about beauty ....

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As it happens, beauty has fallen into considerable disfavor in modern philosophical discourse ..... There is an unsettling prodigality about the beautiful, something wanton about the way it lavishes itself upon even the most atrocious of settings, its anodyne sweetness often seeming to make the most intolerable of circumstances bearable: a village ravaged by pestilence may lie in the shadow of a magnificent mountain's ridge, the marmorean repose of a child lately dead of meningitis might present a strikingly piquant tableau; Cambodian killing fields were often lushly flowered; Nazi commandants occasionally fell asleep to the strains of Bach, performed by ensembles of Jewish inmates; and no doubt the death camps were routinely suffused by the delicate hues of a twilit sky.

Beauty seems to promise a reconciliation beyond the contradictions of the moment, one that perhaps places time's tragedies within a broader perspective of harmony and meaning, a balance between light and darkness; beauty appears to absolve being of its violences. But in an age when, by and large, a philosophical decision has been reached - correctly - that the violence of experience must not be placed within a context of transcendent reconciliation, but must simply be met by an earnest and wary ethical vigilance on the part of reflective intellects, beauty - conceived as a gracious stillness artificially imposed upon the surface of the primordial ontological tumult - mocks the desire for justice; if beauty is really no more than a diversion from the spectacle of worldly suffering, philosophy would be excruciatingly remiss not to assume the aspect of a kind of Brechtian theater, impatient with being's charms and the mystifying ministry of the beautiful.

And frankly, there is from a strictly theoretical standpoint an infuriating imprecision (though one might prefer to say richness) in the language of beauty; the modern disenchantment with the beautiful as a concept reflects in part a sense that while beauty is something whose event can be remarked upon, and in a way that seems to convey a meaning, the word "beauty" indicates nothing: neither exactly a quality, nor a property, nor a function, not even really a subjective reaction to an object or occurrence, it offers no phenomenological purchase upon aesthetic experience. And yet nothing else impresses itself upon our attention with at once so wonderful a power and so evocative an immediacy. Beauty is there, abroad in the order of things, given again and again in a way that defies description and denial with equal impertinence.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


- Martha and Mary by He Qi

I like the readings for today ... Angels visiting Sarah and Abraham to announce they'll conceive, and Jesus visiting his friends Martha and Mary, who disagree on how best to be with him (Genesis 18:1-10a and Luke 10:38-42). I came across an interesting homily on those readings by Fr. Rob Marsh SJ, and thought I'd post it here below ......

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Sunday Week 16 Year C

This is a divisive little episode for we who hear it. Who are you rooting for? Let’s have a show of hands on that… Who’s to blame? Who’s the bad guy? Mary who’s sitting there like a lump neglecting her sister … or Martha who’s so full of her hospitality that she can’t be hospitable?

Now the preacher has this deep temptation to smooth things over, to balance out the blame, or find a way for them all to come out looking good, Jesus included with all his snippy rebukes. Look how the gospel brings out the urge to tidy up. It make Martha’s of us all. All the while it is urging that we get out of the kitchen and sit still but we end up trying to make it all fit and getting angry and irritated that Jesus doesn’t make it easy.

I may have lost one of my best friends this week. I said the wrong thing, or didn’t say the right thing when I should but then said it when I shouldn’t. Like Martha I set aside silence, I let out my feelings of irritation at being overlooked and did it just when it would be most annoying and hardest to handle. And the urge in me to go back and unsay “the said” is enormous and seductive, to seek silence now even at the cost of integrity, to tidy up the mess. But I can’t. Unsaying is an art beyond any of us. And the passion for tidiness has always eluded me. But how I want this tidied up, smoothed over, made neat!

The meeting between Abraham and his three strange guests seems very neat. A tale of hospitality. A tale of reward. For all that kneading of flour, slaughtering of steers, milking of goats Sarah will have a child. What we don’t hear today is what comes next. And it’s a serious omission. Sarah laughed. She was listening in and she laughed out loud—“What!? When I’m dried up and he’s past it”—and the mysterious visitors take offense.

The story is about more than entertaining angels unawares. Abraham has been full of his divine promise—remember it: flocks and riches and descendants as many as the stars and a name to be a blessing for all nations—but Sarah has heard none of it. Abraham has kept it to himself—as though it belonged to him—but today we ought to hear the surprise in Sarah’s voice that she too is part of God’s plan. Abraham has been doing whatever he can to get a son and heir for himself, stooping to adultery to win his prize, passing Sarah off as his sister when he thought he could use her body to bargain with kings and landowners along the way, and all the time—even this morning—she’s been hidden away out of sight, like a piece of property too valuable to put on show.

It’s no wonder she laughs, blurts out her shock. She names her surprise with her body: “am I going to have some pleasure out of my dead stick of a husband?” Only when she is overheard laughing does she tidy up that thought and more piously wonder about children. But they all tell her not to laugh. She is forbidden to laugh. She is denied her emotions even while the men are discussing what they will do with her body. And here today she is forbidden again—the story we hear is trimmed neatly so we don’t hear her laugh—as though Abraham’s story is the important one and Sarah’s is not. We don’t get to hear her laugh. But her laugh is important. It breaks the silence. It just bursts out. It won’t let Sarah be ignored.

Meanwhile back in Bethany both sisters are being uppity in their own way. Both of them are pushing it, having a single man in their house. In contrast to Sarah, they are all too visible, somehow they have escaped being owned by men, and are owners of their own property so that Martha can offer her own house to Jesus. It is a much less conventional scene than it first appears. Martha is busy with kitchen things but Luke chooses to describe it as ministry—diakonia—deacon-work. And Mary is not just the silent and adoring listener but takes the place, forbidden to a woman, of a disciple sitting at the feet of a teacher asking to be taught.

But then there’s the outburst. And the very clear rebuke of the text: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and anxious about many things but only one thing is necessary and Mary has chosen it.” So there! And no matter how much you want to agree don’t you feel it’s a bit sharp? Don’t you want to know what’s going on? Don’t you want to smooth those rough edges a bit, tidy them up, make Jesus look less of a bully? I, anyway, found myself getting all busy and anxious trying to make it all alright.

But then it hit me. Look how Jesus shuts Martha up! Sarah mustn’t laugh and Martha must silence her anger. And I got annoyed.

Why does Luke want to shut us up? Isn’t there room for the outburst that tells the truth? And why is only one thing necessary? Why can’t there be two or three or more noble things? Why do the silenced voices never get a hearing?

Sarah’s laugh is important. Martha’s anger is important. Without them the stories we hear are too neat, too tidy, and too comfortable, especially to the ears of men. And even thousands of years of history, countless readings and re-tellings of the stories haven’t erased those awkward outbursts. And if we listened, if we resisted the urge to tidy them up … well God knows what we might learn to do.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, which is the truest Church of all?

* A note - I've just read an article at The Tablet on the subject discussed below - Churches, proper and otherwise by Catholic theologian Nicholas Lash ... it's well worth a look (hat tip to Jeff).

Yes, I'm back to discussing the CDF document "Responses to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine on the Church" (I discussed it earlier here) ... the one which seems to say that the Orthodox Church is wounded and the Protestant Churches are only communities, because On Faith has asked a question about that subject, and I'd like to post one of the answers.

Here's the question ... How does the Pope's reiteration that the church of Christ exists fully only in the Catholic Church strike you? How will this affect ecumenical relations? Does anyone care? There are responses from some interesting people, including Tom Reese SJ, Dominic Crossan, and NT Wright. I know pretty much the Catholic position, which is expressed by Reese and, in a different way:-) by Crossan, but I think it's only fair to give some exposure to the Protestant view, of which I know less. So here's what NT Wright, the Anglican Bishop of Durham and New Testament scholar, had to say in answer to the above question ...

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A Caste System for Christians

The Pope's reaffirmation is simply another statement of what has always been the RC position -- at least for the last century or more.

(In what follows, I speak, naturally, from the Anglican position.)

On the one hand, there have been striking ecumenical advances -- Pope John's giving of his ring to Archbishop Michael Ramsey being a highlight of deep symbolic import. But these haven't been matched, on the other hand, by any real advance in terms of official recognition of Anglican orders and hence of Anglican Eucharists. There is an inconsistency here in that RCs do recognize Anglican (and indeed Methodist, Baptist etc.) baptisms as valid providing they are trinitarian; so if our baptisms are valid, why not our Eucharists? Is that an Achilles heel in Rome's 'fixed' position?

This is all particularly ironic in England because every year or two some RC commentator (or indeed some secularist) will bang on about how wicked it is to have the Act of Succession (according to which the heir to the throne may not marry an RC, and may not become RC on pain of forfeiting the succession) still on the statute books 'in this day and age', etc etc -- while choosing not to notice that it is still mandatory for RCs in mixed marriages to bring up children as RCs. In other words, if (say) Prince WIlliam were to marry an RC, children (including his heir) would be brought up as RCs. I fully appreciate that this whole nest of questions must seem arcane and perhaps even ridiculous to cheerfully republican Americans, but it matters to a lot of English people.

More ironic in worldwide terms is the 'logic' (as in the document Dominus Jesus of four or five years ago) whereby the Eastern Orthodox churches are allowed the status of 'church' -- because, so Ratzinger claimed in that previous document, 'they objectively intend reunion with the See of Peter'. In other words, they don't 'subjectively' intend it -- ask any Orthodox theologian and you'll see! -- but the Romans somehow 'know' that, despite their subjective self-awareness, there is a reality -- rather like the 'substance' in 'transubstantiation' -- in which, though they are themselves unaware of the fact, they 'objectively' are always trying to reunite with Rome.

This is, I'm afraid, a classic case of an institution painting itself into a corner and being officially unable to find its way out. Happily, there are thousands, perhaps millions, of RCs who cheerfully ignore all this and establish excellent relationships at all levels -- including eucharistic hospitality -- with Anglicans and many other denominations. That's what we have to work on. No doubt there are 'in-house' reasons why Benedict has chosen this moment to remind us Anglicans and others that we remain second-class citizens. I don't think it makes any real difference to any of the real issues that actually face us right now.

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The Librarian: and so it begins


- Flynn Carson translates a book in the language of the birds

Tonight I watched a movie on tv that cheered me up - The Librarian. Last year I think I posted something on this series - part 2 - but I'd never seen the first episode before ... I liked it better than the second, and how could I not, when it dealt with the spear of destiny, the lance used on Jesus when he was crucified, and the language of the birds, the common language spoken by all of mankind before the linguistic mishap with the Tower of Babel.

The Librarian: Quest for the Spear, a made for tv movie from 2004, stars Noah Wyle, Bob Newhart, Jane Curtin, Olympia Dukakis, and Kyle MacLachlan (remember Dune?).

Wylie plays the character of Flynn Carson, a brilliant but perpetual college student in his 30's who still lives with his mom (Olympia Dukakis), has no girlfriend, and no job. As the movie begins, he's forced to find employment and does so at the NY Metropolitan Library. He soon learns there's more to being a librarian than he could ever have suspected - he must, by whatever means necessary, guard the collection of relics kept within a secret vault, which include the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, King Midas, Excalibur, the Golden Fleece, Pandora's Box, the Spear of Destiny, Aladdin's flying carpet, Tesla's Death Ray, Little Boy, H.G. Wells' Time Machine, The Shroud of Turin, Pan's Flute, Medusa's Head, and a crystal skull.

Here's a little of what Wikipedia says of this first episode ...

Carsen finds that the job is a little more than he bargained for when one of three parts of the Spear of Destiny is stolen by the evil Serpent Brotherhood (members played by Kyle MacLachlan, David Dayan Fisher, and Kelly Hu). Whoever has the complete Spear of Destiny will control the destiny of the entire world (it is said in the film that "Hitler had only one" piece of the Spear). Carsen must now track down the remaining two pieces of the Spear of Destiny to prevent the Serpent Brotherhood from possessing all three pieces and gaining control of the world. His only tools are his mind and a book written in a previously untranslated language called the "Language of the birds".

Carsen heads through the Amazon rainforest and the Himalayas, ending up in Shangri-La with the help of adventurer Nicole Noone, (Sonya Walger), a Library employee who blames herself for the death of the last librarian but who resists any friendly feelings for Carsen. They encounter waterfalls, headhunters, bridge collapses, and Mayan death traps, all with often tongue-in-cheek comedy and a touch of romance, all the time proving that the years of Carsen’s book learning have paid off.


It was too much fun! :-)


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rahner on Aquinas

I came across this article by Karl Rahner on Thomas Aquinas at a page on preaching by Thomas F. O'Meara, o.p., and thought it was interesting ....

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EDITOR'S NOTE.: This article, which originally appeared in the Korrespondazblatt (LXXXVI, 89-93) of the International College Canisianum, Innsbruck, Austria, was included in Father Rahner's book Everyday Faith published by Herder and Herder, of New York, in early fall 1968. The translation was made by Thomas Franklin O'Meara, O.P., at that time of the Aquinas Institute School of Theology in Dubuque, Iowa.


Thomas Aquinas: Friar, Theologian, and Mystic.

To reflect upon Thomas Aquinas as patron of theological studies does not mean merely to think back on some man in History or on his influence in Western thought. Because we are Christians, we are linked to him; we can actually see him as a fellow Christian in the community of saints. Those Christians who have gone before us into the assembly of saints are not dead; they live. They live in perfection, that is, in the true Reality which is also powerful and present among us today. Some of them we can call by name. These Christian men and women can be more real and more important than theoretical principles or abstract ideas. In many ways they are even more real than we are, for they are with God. They love us; we love theta. They are present at the eternal liturgy of heaven, and intercede there for its their brothers.

In comparison to the saints' present existence, their past. history on earth is comparatively of little significance. They now live the quintessence of our life on earth in an eternal form, and the Reality in which they exist is in the last analysis the ground of all reality on earth. They do not belong to the past at all, except insofar as they have lived on earth in past history. Actually they have run ahead, hastened forward into the future, a future waiting for us. To look at a saint, then, is not to look at something abstract or impersonal, something dead, but rather to sec a concrete person, a unique individual, once alive on earth and now eternally alive, someone who loves and praises, someone who is blessed and redeemed.

Three things strike me about one of history's Christians, Thomas Aquinas. (1) He was a friar, a monk; (2) he was a theologian; (3) he was a mystic.

THOMAS THE MONK

To say that St. Thomas was a friar, a monk, means that he was someone who was detached, someone who gave up something for something else. Detachment can be a hard, scandalous word. But we can express our thought in another way. Thomas was a man who set aside what was small in order to find what was bigger. He let the world run its course in order that he might have God. Yet, this still does not do away with the scandal that Christianity essentially is, the scandal that in this earthly life we cannot have everything. A man must decide, and in so doing he puts himself on one side. He cannot stand on both sides. In this life, we have to let some things go by in order to run ahead and find the important things. We have to die in order to live. We have to be poor in order to possess. We can believe in God who is one, only if we are prepared to set aside the many.

Because Thomas, as a saint, knew these truths and wanted to realize them in his life, he became a Friar Preacher. He became a monk, an ordinary, poor man, a celibate, someone unimportant, an individual dropped into a community in which he could be lost. Thomas did not need to do this. Entering a monastery could have meant for him only a severe retardation in social status. Thomas nourished no resentment toward life. He was a strong, sensitive man, with some of the family traits, no doubt, of his ready, brawling brothers, who were eager to add him to their circle. he was no religious fanatic, lacking understanding of, or sensitivity for, the captivating glory of this world. just the opposite, for his theology was going to bring this world into greater prominence for Christians and to evaluate it more extensively than theology had done in the past.

Still, he became a monk, because he saw himself called by God to this way of life, because he had that combination of' faith and realism which is unique to the Christian, because he knew that this world's order is the disorder of sin. Thomas wanted to join in the hunt of God and world, of heaven and earth, of the happiness of man and the happiness of God. He reached his decision but he did not choose the side of the world. Without any contempt for what he left behind, he went, knowing that some day he would find it all again. He entered the Dominicans realistically, soberly, and honestly, without any fanaticism and without any unrealistic idealism. Thomas did not enter the Order because he was one of those inhuman, unbalanced persons who want to feed on disappointments, tragedies, and failures in the world. He knew that for every Christian the way which leads through the world runs over that point where the cross is standing. Because he wanted to be a Christian, he took his vocation seriously and became a monk.

THOMAS THE THEOLOGIAN

St. Thomas was a member of an order for which the priesthood was not merely an accidental accouterment. Rather, the religious life of the Dominicans was geared to the priesthood from the very beginning. Although Thomas was it friar and a monk, he was also in a very real sense, a "secular" priest, a priest for the secular city, for the world. Because he knew that he was sent to announce the good news of the gospel, he knew that he must be a theologian. He knew that man can really preach only by calling others through the witness of his life to believe with him. Thomas made the very center of his existence "to give to others those things that you have contemplated." For one's own contemplation, which preaching and teaching will communicate further, theology for most of us is an indispensable presupposition. That is why Thomas became a theologian, a theologian for whom the heart of the matter was what really counted, not quick emotional satisfaction.

Thomas studied and taught in that cool and clear objectivity which is the sign of a great man, the sign of a man who loves reality more than he loves his own subjective, selective curiosity. Thomas had the courage to strive for clarity wherever clarity is possible. He had the courage to bow before mystery where mystery remains. He could distinguish between the two in order to bring them closer. He lead the courage to contradict opinions which were widespread or dominant in his time, and yet he never sought the sensational nor made novelty a criterion of truth. He also lead the courage to act when he knew he was right. When he had no better solution, he could remain with the traditional point of view, although he must have been aware that this point of view was often insufficient.

In his theology Thomas spoke about God, not about himself. He wrote prose theology, although he knew how to write poems. He was a man who loved to reflect, to speculate, and once remarked he would have given Paris for John Chrysostom's commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Aquinas had the honesty to change his views he had expressed in his earlier works whenever fuller knowledge required him to do so. He always thought from the viewpoint of the whole, and still he had (inasmuch as an individual can) an understanding and appreciation for individual questions. He expressed his own opinion without arguing and without looking upon his opponents as stupid. In his voluminous works very rarely do we find a sharp word. He is big in his theology, not because he was the only and all-encompassing theologian (there can be no such an individual), nor because he himself thought he was such a man, but because he thought "in the center of the Church" (in medio Ecclesiae) , and because he remained open for everything which the past and which his own time could bring to him.

THOMAS THE MYSTIC

When we speak of Thomas as a mystic we do not mean that he had frequent ecstasies or visions or that he was a little introverted or overly concerned about his own experiences. There seems to he nothing of this in his writings. Yet Thomas was a mystic. He knew about "the hidden Godhead," Adoro te devote, latens deitas (Devoutly I adore thee, hidden Deity). He knew the hidden God. He spoke of the God who pervades and determines everything in silence. He spoke of a God beyond everything holy theology could say about him. He spoke of the God he loved as inconceivable. And he knew about these things not only from theology but from the experience of his heart. He knew and experienced so much that in the end he substituted silence for theological words. He no longer wrote, and considered all that he had written to be "straw." As he lay dying, he spoke a little about the Canticle of Canticles, that great song of love, and then was silent. He became silent because he wanted to let God alone be heard in lieu of those human words he had spoken for us.

Thomas lives. He may seem far away but he is not in reality, for the community of saints is close. The saints come to us overshadowed by the brilliance of the eternal God into whom they have plummeted through the centuries. But God is not a god of the dead but of the living, and whoever has gone home to him, lives. And so Thomas lives. The question for us is: Does our faith live? For it is through our faith that Thomas can become part of our own life.


Monday, July 16, 2007

JD Crossan on the Latin Mass

Last week I posted what Tom Reese SJ had to say in answer to a question on the Pope's recent decision in regards to the Latin Tridentine Mass ... today I saw there was an additional answer to the question, one from JD Crossan. Both opinions can be found at On Faith, along with many others.

Here below is what John Dominic Crossan, former vowed religious, professor emeritus in the religious studies department at DePaul University, Chicago, and fellow of the Jesus Seminar, has to say about the use of the Latin Tridentine Mass ....

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Back to Greek or, Better, Aramaic?

If a religion changes, it may go wrong; if it does not, it must go wrong.

The reason is that change is an inevitable feature of life and conscious or deliberate change is a necessary feature of human life. Any living religion will change as it continues through history but, of course, a dead religion does not change. And, one of the ways you know a religion is dead or dying, is its refusal to change and/or its attempt to return were once it was.

Roman Catholic tradition is not exempt from change as the law of creation and creation’s God. But any religious tradition is carried by its religious community which make and remake each other in reciprocal interaction. Leaders may assist or resist that process but they cannot do it by will alone. The most serious delusion of leaders is to think that they alone are in sole charge of a community’s past, present, or future. It is ultimately the community—which is simply the incarnate and living tradition—that will determine what stays and what goes, what changes and what develops. And, for community, tradition, or hierarchy, it is ultimately impossible to hold back the inevitable future by returning to the abandoned past.

In terms of Roman Catholicism, our ancestors in faith began with Aramaic, changed to Greek, then tried Latin, and finally, moved into the various vernaculars. If we wish to revert to our linguistic origins, why just to Latin, why not to Aramaic with Jesus or Greek with the New Testament?

Finally, I suggest this meditation for Pope Benedict—courteously, of course, as one author of a Jesus-book to another. When the People of God were on trek towards their Promised Land, they needed both a Leader and some Scouts. The Scouts went ahead and were the first to enter the Promised Land—although they did end up there on some surprising rooftops. The Scouts returned and reported what was up ahead. They had seen the future and the People followed them into it. But the Leader never made it into the Promised Land. He only glimpsed it from the peak of Pisgah and was buried in the midst of Moab.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Magic


- Sleeping Beauty by Edward Burne-Jones.

I saw a post at Sandalstraps' Sanctuary today - An Enchanted Sabbatical - in which he "comes out of the closet" and admits he's a fan of the Harry Potter books :-). I thought 'd write something similar, for though I'm not so much a Potter fan, I am a fan of fantasy and I love magic.

I grew up reading fantasy books and I still read them. Some of my past favorites ..... The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany ..... The Well at the World's End by William Morris ..... The Worm Ouroboros by Rücker Eddison ... She by H. Rider Haggard ..... all the series of Andrew Lang's multi-colored Fairy Books ...... Conan the Barbarian by Robert E Howard ..... The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis ... and of course, Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Right now I'm reading a novel in a series by Katherine Kurtz .... Camber of Culdi ... which combines magic and Catholicism in a medieval setting. Here's a little of what Wikipedia says of it ...

The novel is set in the land of Gwynedd, one of the fictional Eleven Kingdoms. Gwynedd itself is a medieval kingdom similar to the British Isles of the 9th century, with a powerful Holy Church (based on the Roman Catholic Church), and a feudal government ruled by a hereditary monarchy. The population of Gwynedd includes both humans and Deryni, a race of people with inherent physic and magical abilities. The novel takes place eight decades after a foreign Deryni prince invaded Gwynedd and overthrew the human king. Though still a minority of the population, Deryni control the throne, the Church, and almost all positions of power throughout the realm, and many lead privileged lives at the expense of the human majority. However, a wave of human resentment in starting to surge throughout the kingdom, and a powerful Deryni lord embarks on a quest to restore the ancient line of Haldane kings.


- The Well at the World's End, 1896. Hand letterpress printed with border and type designs by William Morris and original wood engravings by Edward Burne-Jones.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Jesus' conversion experience

I'm reading a book - Too Deep For Words: Rediscovering Lectio Divina by Thelma Hall rc. The chapter I'm on, The Deepening of an Interpersonal Relationship, starts off about the love relationship that develops with God through prayer ... For we grow in love of God as we grow in any intimate love relationship - through a continuum of knowing, trusting, desiring, surrendering our defenses and fears, and ultimately our very selves, to the Beloved.

Up to this point, I was nodding ... it sounds a lot like what's learned and experienced in an Ignatian retreat .... then she goes on .....

To follow Jesus is to be in love, with all that is consequent upon that gift. When that love is fully accepted, our lives begin to change from the center ..... Yet as we all know, we find this incredibly difficult ..... most of us seem to assume that union with God is attained by laboriously ascending a ladder of virtues which finally fashion our holiness and make us fit for him. In truth, the reverse is far more accurate: the great saints and mystics have been those who fully accepted God's love for them. It is this which makes everything else possible.

I struggle with this idea every time I encounter it - that God loves me as I am. But enough about me ... she then discusses the possibility that Jesus had a conversion experience - a sudden realization of and acceptance of God's love for him, which radically changed his life. I'm not sure how this fits theologically with Jesus being (and being aware of himself as) God, but it's an interesting idea, so I'll post a bit of what she wrote here below ....

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Finally, a fascinating light on this total acceptance of love cn be found in the reflections of some theologians today on the possibility that Jesus himself experienced a profound conversion at the time of his baptism by John - a conversion not from sin to virtue (which is unthinkable in him) but in the radical redirection of his life, in which his entire person was caught up in such a total and unconditional response to the revelation he received of the Father's love for him "at once, as he was coming up out of the water", that his entire human existence was irrevocably turned toward the Father, with all the intensity of his being .....

It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. And at once, as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart, and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came from heave, "You are my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests on you." (Mark 1:9-11)

We can only imagine the interior reverberations of such a revelation in the heart of Jesus ..... the point of particular relevance for us, made in all the foregoing, is the absolute and primary importance of an unconditional acceptance of God's love, if we are to become all he has created and called us to be .....

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- Baptism of Christ by Masolino da Panicale


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Catholic Ecumenism - an oxymoron?

Along with the Latin Mass, another item in the news lately has been the Pope's signing off on a CDF document that says the Catholic Church is the only true Church ... You are not real churches, Pope tells Protestants. As is the case with the Latin Mass, this seems (to me) a retreat from the reforms of Vatican II.

Here's a little from Wikipedia's page on the Second Vatican Council about the document that then defined Catholic Ecumenism ....

Perhaps the most famous and most influential product of the council is the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium.

In its first chapter, titled "The Mystery of the Church," is the famous statement that "the sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as 'the pillar and mainstay of the truth.' This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him" (Lumen Gentium, 8). The document immediately adds: "Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines."

In the second chapter, titled "On the People of God", the Council teaches that God wills to save people not just as individuals but as a people. For this reason God chose the Israelite people to be his own people and established a covenant with it, as a preparation and figure of the covenant ratified in Christ that constitutes the new People of God, which would be one, not according to the flesh, but in the Spirit and which is called the Church of Christ (Lumen Gentium, 9). All human beings are called to belong to the Church. Not all are fully incorporated into the Church, but "the Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christ, but who do not however profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter" (Lumen Gentium, 15) and even with "those who have not yet received the Gospel," among whom Jews and Muslims are explicitly mentioned (Lumen Gentium, 16). The idea of any opening toward Protestantism caused a major controversy among traditionalist Catholic groups.


This phrase I made Bold in the first paragraph quoted above ... subsists in ... is important. The question of how the Latin "subsistit in" was translated and what it means was seen differently by different groups. and Traditional Catholic groups saw Lumen Gentium, with its use of "subsists in" rather than "is", as heretical ... as the Second Vatican Council changing doctrine, saying that the Catholic Church is not the only true Church. Others disagreed, including Leonardo Boff, who proposed in Church, Charism and Power: that the one "Church of Christ" could subsist not only in the Catholic Church but also in Protestant and Orthodox Churches. Which brings us to the news story mentioned at the beginning of this post ... as Wikipedia goes on to say elsewhere ...

On June 29 2007 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the presidency of William Cardinal Levada signed an official document called Responses to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine of the church. It was published July 10 2007.

Benedict XVI, at an audience granted to the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ratified and confirmed these responses, adopted in the Plenary Session of the Congregation, and ordered their publication. This document closes the argument about the heterodoxical interpretations of subsistit in by making an authorative an definite interpretation of the phrase .....

* question: Why was the expression "subsists in" adopted instead of the simple word "is"?
* response: The use of this expression, which indicates the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church, does not change the doctrine on the Church. Rather, it comes from and brings out more clearly the fact that there are "numerous elements of sanctification and of truth" which are found outside her structure, but which "as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity". "It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church" ......


Perhaps I just don't understand, but I have to say I find it hard to believe that a Council which was created to open the windows of the Church and let in fresh air would appreciate the reinterpretation of "subsists in" as "is".


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tom Reese SJ - The Latin Mass

I've almost posted on this subject three times, and each time deleted it .... I'm not sure I have anything to say that hasn't already been said ... but then I saw that it was the subject of the latest question at On Faith, and I thought I'd see what some of those guys had to say. The question posed ... Pope Benedict is encouraging wider use of Latin Mass. What elements of tradition -- including language -- are essential for worship? ... and here below is the answer given by Thomas Reese SJ, former editor of America magazine and current fellow of the Woodstock Theological Center .....

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Ita Missa Est

Ignoring one's past is ignoring one's roots. But repeating old prayers and doctrinal formulas without understanding them is not the way to respect tradition.

Any religious community with roots in the past has traditions. The challenge is to discern what is at the core of this tradition and what is peripheral.

Latin is a classic case of a peripheral issue. The Last Supper was not in Latin. For the first four centuries the Eucharist was celebrated in Greek. Why did the church switch from Greek to Latin? Because Latin was the language of the masses. This switch caused the first schism in Rome between the antipope traditionalist Hippolytus and the Latin modernizer Pope Calistus. Thus the true tradition of the church was to have the Eucharist in the language of the people so that they could understand and participate.

The real issue in Benedict XVI’s motu proprio is not Latin in the liturgy. Any priest can say the current Catholic liturgy in Latin. Nor is the issue the Tridentine or pre-Vatican II mass. Any priest, with the permission of his bishop, has been able to say the Tridentine Latin mass since 1984 when John Paul II issued his indult.

The real issue is the power of local bishop to decide whether the Tridentine mass will be said in his diocese. Under the indult of John Paul, the local bishop had the power to approve or not approve the use of the Tridentine mass in his diocese. Under that system, a priest or a group of people petitioned the bishop to allow them to use the Tridentine mass. He then investigated the situation and decided on pastoral grounds whether it was a good idea or not. He usually required the petitioners to state that they accepted the new liturgy and Vatican II as legitimate. Around 130 U.S. dioceses (about 70%), including most of the large ones, allowed the Tridentine mass under limited circumstances.

Some bishops, especially in France, said no because they judged that the petitioners rejected the reforms of Vatican II and were divisive in their dioceses. By allowing the use of the Tridentine mass without the local bishop’s permission, the pope is saying that he does not trust the pastoral judgment of the bishops. Those who have been fighting the bishops over the Tridentine mass are celebrating this as a victory over the bishops.

Some in the Vatican, including Benedict, hope that allowing free use of the Tridentine mass will make possible reunion with Society of St. Pius X, the schismatic group started by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The leaders of the group, however, have indicated that their rejection of Vatican II goes way beyond the vernacular liturgy.

Others in the Vatican hope that greater use of the Tridentine mass will undermine support for the Lefebvrite leaders and bring some of the society’s members back into union with the Catholic Church. Time will tell.

Benedict does not think allowing freer use to the Tridentine mass will be divisive. Let’s hope he is right, but pity the poor pastor who has a half dozen people in his parish requesting the old rite. Most priests are saying two or three masses on Sunday already, and only a few elderly priests know how to say the old mass properly. Luckily, the support for the new liturgy among the Catholic laity is overwhelming.

Some Catholics support the Tridentine mass because they say it heightens the mystery of the Mass. The mystery of the Eucharist is not that it's in Latin. The mystery is the death and resurrection of Jesus that is being celebrated. To have the mysteriousness of Latin blocking people from seeing the true mystery is one of the reasons we went to English.

Some stories in the media expressed concern that the expansion of the use of the Tridentine by Benedict XVI would include the phrase "perfidious Jews" in the Good Friday liturgy. This is not the case since the 1962 version does not include this phrase. It is the 1962 missal that was approved for limited use by John Paul II in his 1984 indult and by Benedict in his motu proprio.

The treatment of the Jews in the 1962 missal is not ideal. It prayed for the "conversion of the Jews."

For the conversion of the Jews. Let us pray also for the Jews that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, You do not refuse Your mercy even to the Jews; hear the prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of Your truth, which is Christ, and be delivered from their darkness.


It also prays for "heretics and schismatics."

The 1970 missal of Paul VI, which is used today, says:

Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant.

Almighty and eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. Listen to your Church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


The 1970 missal is far superior and in fact more traditional than the 1962 missal, which reflects the limited historical scholarship available in the time of Pius V. It is not perfect and needs improvement, but the Vatican changes that are coming down the pike are going to make matters worse not better.

For example, the Vatican is insisting that the English translation be changed to make it more literal (word for word). In the not distant future, the people will be told to respond "And with your spirit" to "The Lord be with you" rather than "And also with you." This and other changes in the people's responses is going to cause chaos in parishes. The English-speaking bishops fought this for a long time, but finally gave in. Pity the pastor who is going to have to explain this to his people, especially when he thinks it is a stupid idea.

Posted by Thomas J. Reese, S.J. on July 11, 2007 9:27 AM

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Jesus Meme

Talmida was kind enough to tag me with the "Why I love Jesus" meme. You can read her meme answers here at The Lesser of Two Weevils. The rules are that those tagged will share 5 things they "love" about Jesus. Then they must choose 5 others to tag.

Disclaimer: I don't know theology ... I may be incorrect in my conclusions drawn from scripture :-) but below is a list of 5 of my reasons for loving Jesus ....

I love Jesus for being vulnerable. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and he is easily moved - he can be brought to tears, to love, to concern, or even to the point of changing his mind, or of flipping his wig.

I love Jesus for befriending the outcasts of society. He seems willing to both like and love people just as they are, and I don't mean in that "I accept you as you are, but love you too much to let you remain that way" kind of fashion.

I love Jesus for not being punitive, but instead forgiving. When he was asked what to do with the woman who'd committed adultery, he shamed her accusers into leaving without punishing her (John 7:53-8:11). He told the disciples, who wished to strike down a village that dissed them, to get a grip (Luke 9:51-55). And after his resurrection, he didn't strive to punish any of those who'd harmed him.

I love Jesus for his active help of others When people asked him for help, he didn't tell them to suck it up and wait for their reward in heaven, he healed the sick, calmed the storm, fed the hungry, raised the dead. He cared (and cares) deeply about the quality of life here and now ... I don't believe he feels mere survival until a better day is enough - he wants life here to be a wedding feast.

I guess I love Jesus most of all because I think he loves me.

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I'm not sure who else will be up for this but here are those I've tagged ... Rob, Jeff, William, PamGB, and Rachel ... and I hope anyone else interested will join in as well.


7 Wonders - old, new, and au natural


- Machu Picchu

Recently there was voting online to choose the New Seven Wonders of the World, and there was some controversy about the fairness of the voting, with even the Vatican entering the fray with a protest that no Christian churches had been chosen. The winners were ...

Chichen Itza, a large pre-Columbian archaeological site built by the Maya civilization located in the northern center of the Yucatán Peninsula, present-day Mexico .....

Christ the Redeemer, a statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The statue stands 38 m (105 feet) tall, weighs 700 tons and is located at the peak of the 700-m (2296-foot) Corcovado mountain .....

The Great Wall , a series of stone and earthen fortifications in China, built, rebuilt, and maintained between the 5th century BC and the 16th century .....

Machu Picchu, a pre-Columbian city created by the Inca Empire. It is located at 2,430 m (7,970 ft)[2] on a mountain ridge ... above the Urubamba Valley in Peru .....

Ptera, an archaeological site in Jordan, lying in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. It is famous for having many stone structures carved into the rock. .....

The Colosseum, a giant amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy. Originally capable of seating around 50,000 spectators, it was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles. It was built on a site just east of the Roman Forum, with construction starting between 70 and 72 AD under the emperor Vespasian .....

The Taj Mahal, a mausoleum located in Agra, India. The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned it as a mausoleum for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Construction began in 1632 and was completed in approximately 1648 ...

Of all of these Wonders, I've only seen one in person - the Colosseum - though I saw Petra in that last Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and have heard Paul Horn play his flute in the Taj Mahal :-)

Lest we forget the past, the former Seven Wonders of the (Ancient) World, of which only one still exists (the Great Pyramid of Giza,) are ... the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Temple of Artemis, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Mausoleum of Maussollos, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, and the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Don't know why, but for some reason I had thought the Library of Alexandria, not the Lighthouse, was one of the Seven Wonders ... brain rot, I guess.

Next up for the organizers of the contest - a new campaign to choose the seven natural wonders of the world, from possibilities like animal reserves, canyons, fjords, coastlines, cliffs, forests, glaciers, mountains, deserts, oases, reefs, seas, lakes, rivers and waterfalls (link).


- Christ the Redeemer


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Kevin Hart and Wallace Stevens

I came across an interview in the Journal of Philosophy and Scripture - “Paul & the Reduction” - with poet and philosopher/theologian Kevin Hart. I read it and sort of understood some of it but mostly it was over my head. I noticed though that Hart mentioned a poet he liked ... Wallace Stevens ... and I looked him up. He was an interesting guy - a lawyer, a buddy of George Santayana, William Carlos Williams, and E. E. Cummings, and a deathbed Catholic convert. Here is one of his poems ...

The High-Toned Old Christian Woman

Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame.
Take the moral law and make a nave of it
And from the nave build haunted heaven. Thus,
The conscience is converted into palms,
Like windy citherns hankering for hymns.
We agree in principle. That's clear. But take
The opposing law and make a peristyle,
And from the peristyle project a masque
Beyond the planets. Thus, our bawdiness,
Unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last,
Is equally converted into palms,
Squiggling like saxophones. And palm for palm,
Madame, we are where we began. Allow,
Therefore, that in the planetary scene
Your disaffected flagellants, well-stuffed,
Smacking their muzzy bellies in parade,
Proud of such novelties of the sublime,
Such tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk,
May, merely may, madame, whip from themselves
A jovial hullabaloo among the spheres.
This will make widows wince. But fictive things
Wink as they will. Wink most when widows wince.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Ten for the 4th


- from The Messenger (Joan of Arc)

Jeff's post - Erich Maria Remarque, and the Introduction of the Anti-War Novel - has inspired me to post something similar ... a brief note of some psst movies that highlight historical battles/wars. It wasn't until I began thinking of what films to mention that I realized I'd seen quite a few, and that bothered me - I am, after all, a peace-nik. Most of these movies, however, portary the dehumanizing futility of war, so perhaps that explains it. Here are10 films, in no particular order (all info from Wikipedia) ... they may not be the most profound or the most popular, but they have the advantage of being ones I've actually seen :-)

- The Killing Fields ...
he Killing Fields (1984) is an award-winning British film drama about the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. It is based on the experiences of three journalists: Dith Pran, a Cambodian, Sydney Schanberg, an American, and Jon Swain, a Briton. The film, which won three Academy Awards, was directed by Roland Joffé and stars Sam Waterston as Schanberg, Haing S. Ngor as Dith Pran, Julian Sands as Jon Swain, and John Malkovich as Al Rockoff ..... The film opens in May of 1973 in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. The Cambodian national army is fighting a civil war with the communist Khmer Rouge, a result of the Vietnam war overspilling that country’s borders ...

- Breaker Morant ...
Breaker Morant is a 1980 Australian feature film, directed by Bruce Beresford and starring British actor Edward Woodward as Harry "Breaker" Morant. The all-Australian supporting cast features Bryan Brown as Lieutenant Handcock, Lewis FitzGerald as Witton, and Jack Thompson as Major Thomas ...... Breaker Morant concerns the murder trial of three Australian soldiers, officers of the elite Bushveldt Carbineers in South Africa. Harry "Breaker" Morant, Peter Handcock and George Witton are accused of the murder of one Boer prisoner, the subsequent murders of six more, and Morant and Handcock are accused of the sniper-style death of a German missionary, the Rev. Hesse. Their defense counsel, Major Thomas, has had only one day to prepare their defense .....

- Alexander Nevsky ...
Alexander Nevsky (Александр Невский) is a 1938 historical drama film directed by Sergei Eisenstein ...... The film depicts the 13th century conflict between the Teutonic Knights and the Russian people of Novgorod. It follows the knights as they invade Pskov and massacre its population. Alexander Nevsky then rallies the people of Novgorod and at a battle on the surface of the frozen Lake Chudskoe, the outnumbered Novgorodians defeat the Germanic invaders. Alexander Nevsky was made during the Stalinist era, when the Soviet Union was at odds with Nazi Germany. Stalin directly requested that Eisenstein make a film that would warn the Soviet people of German aggression .....

- The Last Valley ...
The Last Valley is a 1971 historical drama film directed by James Clavell. Set during the Thirty Years War, it stars Michael Caine as the leader of a band of mercenaries, and Omar Sharif as a teacher fleeing from the violence endemic to Germany during this period. They manage to find one valley, untouched by war, in which to live in peace for a time ....

- Waterloo ...
Waterloo was a Soviet-Italian film of 1970, directed by Sergei Bondarchuk and produced by Dino De Laurentiis. It was the story of the preliminary events and the Battle of Waterloo, and was famous for its lavish battle scenes. It starred Rod Steiger (portraying Napoleon Bonaparte), Christopher Plummer (portraying the Duke of Wellington) with cameos by Orson Welles (Louis XVIII of France) ..... The film includes some fifteen thousand Soviet foot soldiers as extras and two thousand cavalrymen, some of which were cossack horsemen. Fifty circus stunt riders were used to perform the dangerous horse falls. These numbers brought an epic quality to the battle scenes. This is particularly true of the panning aerial shots of Marshal Ney's cavalry charging up and over the escarpment to break like a wave around the British squares. The slow motion section of the charge of the Scots Greys is a tribute to the painting "Scotland Forever!" by Lady Butler in Leeds City Art Gallery ...

- The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc ...
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc is a 1999 historical drama film directed by Luc Besson ..... the story of St. Joan of Arc, the famous French war heroine of the 15th century and religious martyr, played by Ukrainian-born Milla Jovovich. The story begins with young Joan witnessing the atrocities of the English against her family, following her through her visions, to her leadership in battle, through doubt (with Dustin Hoffman playing a character who we are never sure is God, Satan or Joan's own conscience and who is visible to only Joan), and finally to her trial and execution ...

- A Bridge Too Far ...
A Bridge Too Far is a 1977 film based on the 1974 book of the same name. The film tells the story of Operation Market Garden, a failed Allied attempt to break through German lines at Arnhem in the occupied Netherlands during World War II. It was directed by Richard Attenborough and featured an ensemble cast of many film stars. The name for the film comes from a comment made by British Lt Gen Frederick Browning, deputy commander of the First Allied Airborne Army, who told Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery before the operation, "I think we may be going a bridge too far." ..... [starring] Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Denholm Elliott, Elliott Gould, Edward Fox, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Kemp, Laurence Olivier, Robert Redford, Liv Ullmann, Maximilian Schell, Hardy Krüger and Ryan O'Neal ...

- Das Boot ...
as Boot (IPA pronunciation: /das boːt/, German for The Boat) is a 1981 feature film directed by Wolfgang Petersen ..... The movie is the story of a single mission of one World War II U-boat, U-96, and its crew. It depicts both the excitement of battle and the tedium of the fruitless hunt, and shows the men serving aboard U-boats as ordinary individuals with a desire to do their best for their comrades and their country. The story is based on an amalgamation of the exploits of the real U-96, a Type VIIC-class U-boat commanded by Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock, one of Germany's top U-boat "tonnage aces" during the war ...

- Casualties of War ...
Casualties of War is a 1989 war drama about the Vietnam War, starring Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn. It was directed by Brian De Palma, with a screenplay by David Rabe based on actual events that took place in 1966. The theme of Casualties of War is how normal moral behavior is discarded during war times and shows it in the extreme when soldiers become savages who can dehumanize innocent by-standers, and also about personal responsibility for maintaining that morality in extreme conditions ...

- Lawrence of Arabia ...
Lawrence of Arabia is an award-winning 1962 film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence. The film stars Peter O'Toole in the title role. It was directed by David Lean ..... The film depicts Lawrence's experiences in Arabia during World War I, in particular his attacks on Aqaba and Damascus and his involvement in the Arab National Council. Its themes include Lawrence's emotional struggles with violence in war (especially the conflicts between Arabic tribes and the slaughter of the Turkish army), his personal identity ("Who are you?" is a recurring line throughout the film), and his divided allegiance between his native Britain and its army, and his newfound comrades within the Arabian desert tribes .....