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Monday, April 30, 2012

Are we what we read?

A really interesting story at The Boston Globe. It's quite long but here's just a bit from near the start ...

Why fiction is good for you

[...] Until recently, we’ve only been able to guess about the actual psychological effects of fiction on individuals and society. But new research in psychology and broad-based literary analysis is finally taking questions about morality out of the realm of speculation.

This research consistently shows that fiction does mold us. The more deeply we are cast under a story’s spell, the more potent its influence. In fact, fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than nonfiction, which is designed to persuade through argument and evidence. Studies show that when we read nonfiction, we read with our shields up. We are critical and skeptical. But when we are absorbed in a story, we drop our intellectual guard. We are moved emotionally, and this seems to make us rubbery and easy to shape.

But perhaps the most impressive finding is just how fiction shapes us: mainly for the better, not for the worse. Fiction enhances our ability to understand other people; it promotes a deep morality that cuts across religious and political creeds. More peculiarly, fiction’s happy endings seem to warp our sense of reality. They make us believe in a lie: that the world is more just than it actually is. But believing that lie has important effects for society — and it may even help explain why humans tell stories in the first place ......

Fiction is dangerous because it has the power to modify the principles of individuals and whole societies. But fiction is doing something that all political factions should be able to get behind. Beyond the local battles of the culture wars, virtually all storytelling, regardless of genre, increases society’s fund of empathy and reinforces an ethic of decency that is deeper than politics .....

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The good shepherd

- The Good Shepherd, William Dyce

The gospel for today was John 10: 11-18 ... "I am the good shepherd". I read an interesting homily on this at Jesuit Rob Marsh's blog. Here's just part of it ...

Sunday Week 4 of Easter Year A
- Rob Marsh SJ

[...] Jesus the sheepfold. Underneath the pastoral language there’s a picture of Jesus as a boundary, as a wall, as a marker of who’s in and who’s out. All the language echoes with division and separation and even violence. They’re “our own” and there’s the stranger—the wolf, the thief, the marauder. In John’s vision you are either in with us or you’re out—and not just out, you’re out to steal and kill

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Looking out the window as I turned on the porch light ....

St. Stephen's, Vienna

Latest book from the library is The English Assassin by Daniel Silva, in which art restorer and Israeli agent Gabriel Allon returns to St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, where he had once restored the baroque altar painting "The Stoning of St. Stephen" by Tobias Pock.

The cathedral is interesting in that it's the church of the newsworthy Christoph Schönborn, and it has a lot of great art and architecture as well. Here are a few photos from the Wikipedia pages ....

- Pulpit of John Capistrano (detail)

- St. Catherine's chapel

- a gargoyle

Friday, April 27, 2012


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Keith Ward interview

Listened to a 2008 interview with Keith Ward at Washington National Cathedral on "The Big Questions for Science and Religion" (text and audio here). Professor Ward is asked a number of questions in the interview, two of which were about the problem of evil. I found his answer to the second question especially interesting ....

* Question #1 (Lloyd):
Now, I want you to solve some mysteries for us, one after another. Number one: If there is a God of love behind the universe, why is there suffering?

Well, I think the best approach to this is to look at what science tells you about universe. And I will take a person, Steven Weinberg, a Nobel Prize–winning physicist, who’s not a theist, who feels his problem very intensely, but who also has to answer it, thought he doesn’t see it himself. And the answer is that the universe, to produce intelligent life forms like us, we’re made of carbon, which has been developed in certain ways in this environment with oxygen, etc. So, we belong in this universe, we’re a [central] part of this universe. Beings like us would only exist in a universe with laws like ours. So the universe and its structure are necessary to our existence. And I think that’s an approach that I find very helpful.

So, why is there suffering? Why is there frustration? Because these are necessary consequences of there being laws of nature. Laws of nature make it necessary that there would be earthquakes and tornadoes, because these are necessary to sustain the balance of the planet. Without them the planet would not exist. So, of course, we don’t like them; they’re not good for us. But they’re necessary for us to exist. So it’s a hard universe.

It’s a very hard truth.


Who is it that put it this way? If God is God, he is not good—because we see what’s happened around. Or is God is good, he is not God—which means he could have stopped it. So it’s the classic theodicy argument. How can you put together a God of love and a universe that’s filled with tragedy, Holocaust, genocide, the terrible individual tragedies of human life. How do you put those together?

Well, first of all, obviously a lot it, and you mention the Holocaust, is human evil. And that is people that God has permitted to do things which is in opposition to everything that God wants them to do. So a lot of that is human evil, and that’s permitted because, in general, it is good to be free. It is good to be free to love. And if you weren’t free to love and, therefore, free to hate, you wouldn’t be free. You would be a robot. You’ll be a programmed machine. So that’s part of it.

And then the natural evil, well that just follows. You know, we wouldn’t have carbon atoms. Carbon is formed in the supernova of stars where the lighter atoms, hydrogen and helium, fuse into carbon atoms. So that vast destructive force—the explosions of stars—is necessary for us to begin to exist.

So it’s necessity and freedom; those are the two factors, which I think a good God could indeed say, these are going to be things which are going to happen, which are intensely tragic. Perhaps a good God would say two things (I say this as a Christian): first, “I will share in that tragedy”; that’s the message of the cross. Secondly, “I will turn it to good”; that for every sentient being who suffers, there will be the possibility of an eternity of bliss, which couldn’t have existed without the world in which they were born.

Given those two things, I believe without reservation that a good God could create a universe like this, and has done.

... (snip) ...

Question #2 (from the sudience): The other day, I got the results back from some medical tests, and they were very good. I got home that night, and a construction worker at a project next door had been killed, leaving behind thirteen children in Guatemala. So I asked myself, why did I with no young children get a good report from a doctor, and the man next door with thirteen children was killed? So my larger question is not, why is there pain and injustice in the world? but rather, Why are those things distributed so unequally or unfairly, it seems to me?

Thank you. Well, I think that it would not be a universe that was the sort of universe we would want to live in if everything happened justly and fairly.

Now that may sound odd, but if you think about what that sort of universe would be like, a universe in which all the good people got rewarded and all the bad people got punished, and justice totally reigned in that sense, then we would know who the good people were and who the bad people were.

The good people would live in the big houses and have the nice cars. The bad people would be the poor people and, of course, they would deserve what they got.

I don’t want to live in a universe where I know that the poor deserve to be poor and the rich deserved to be rich. I want to live in a lottery universe to some extent, where you say, they’re poor but it’s not their fault. They’re ill, but that’s just the way things are.

It is our job as Christians to make that situation fairer. Justice is something we have to do, but the universe itself in neutral as between the good and the bad.

God makes it rain on the just and on the unjust because that’s the condition of having the universe where people can’t turn around and judge other people and say, You’re poor because you’re bad. So I don’t want a universe where somebody does something wrong and gets punished for it.

I want a universe where we’re all bound together in a community where lots of things that happen to us are good or bad luck, and it’s up to us to make it fair.

Ignatius and Desmond Hume

- Desmond and Penny

I saw this post at The Guardian's CIF Belief page - Sorry, but Christianity doesn't cure depression by Emily Band. Here's a little from it ....

[Evangelical Christian Malcolm] Bowden claims that depression and many other mental illnesses are "very deliberately decided" by the person suffering from them and that the former is a "behavioural problem, rooted in pride, self-centredness, and self-pity". The proposed solution? To submit ourselves to the Christian God in total humility, and to find peace with this deity through living our lives for others.

The irony is that many common thought processes associated with depression actually fulfil most of these criteria: the lack of self-esteem or belief in talents are examples of taking humility to extremes, and the near constant concern about what others are thinking can drive us to live our lives according to the will of other people. Advocating these as cures is highly questionable when they are both key symptoms of the illness, each likely to be as much use as trying to extinguish a fire by throwing a box of matches on to the flames.

Arrogance and a need to impress through perfection are not the root causes of the despair of depression, but are instead often generated by a fear of being judged and failing to achieve a sense of normality. Demonising people with depression for failing to satisfy the paradox of shunning perfection while falling short of the divine ideals demanded by Bowden is a hallmark of someone who is setting others up for failure – both aims are impossible to achieve simultaneously and yet both are expected of a patient. The resultant failure is then used to support the idea that the illness is a mark of personal weakness rather than something that often requires extensive medical treatment .....

II did hope that becoming a Christian would solve my depression problem. It didn't, and I still haven't figured out why not, but one thing that gives me hope is that even religious figures like Ignatius of Loyola struggled with depression - at one point he even considered suicide. In his autobiography (in which he speaks of himself in third person) he mentioned how he suffered from what he called "scruples" ....

While tortured by these thoughts, several times he was violently tempted to cast himself out of the large window of his cell. This window was quite near the place where he was praying. But since he knew that it would be a sin to take his own life, he began to pray, "O Lord, I will not so anything to offend Thee." ... - (p. 48)

All this reminded me of the fictional character from Lost, Desmond Hume. I've been using my Netflix to watch the tv series and last night there was an episode that had Desmond sent from the island where he'd been shipwrecked back to his past life in the UK. Desmond seems to me like the depressed persons described in The Guardian post and like the tortured Ignatius. ... he was in love with a woman whose father thought he was worthless because he hadn't gone to university, hadn't served in the military, had no job, and instead of ignoring that man's dismissal of him and marrying Penny, he left her and spent the rest of his time trying to gain respect by joining the Royal Scots Regiment of the British Army (he ends up dishonorably discharged and in military prison) and then by trying to win a sailing contest run by Penny's father (thus the shipwreck).

At one point when he was contemplating suicide, Desmond found a letter Penny left for him in a Dickens book he was saving to read before he died. A line in the letter read ... all we really need to survive is one person who truly loves us. Maybe this is how God fits into the depression equation - maybe he can't make the depression go away, but maybe believing that God loves us is enough to keep us from giving up.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ignatian spirituality and the environment

More on this from Roland Lesseps SJ ...

Genetic Engineering Evaluated from the Perspective of Christian and Ignatian Creation Spirituality

[A]ll of God’s creatures have intrinsic value, in and of themselves. Nature is not just useful to us humans, but is valued and loved in itself, for itself, by God in Christ. A scriptural basis for this appreciation of all creatures is in Genesis 1: "God saw that it was good…God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good." This is an amazing statement, points out Sallie McFague: "God does not say that creation is good for human beings or even, more surprising, good for me, God, but just good, in fact very good. God is saying that nature is good in itself -- not good for something or someone but just plain good. God’s pronouncement here is an aesthetic one: appreciation of something outside oneself, in itself, for itself. The writer of the first chapter of Genesis leaves no doubt that the goodness of creation is its message: it is repeated seven times in the space of 31 verses. How have we missed this?"

If we are willing to shift from an anthropocentric view of other creatures and recognise that other creatures have intrinsic value, then we will be able to accept that these creatures also have rights including the right of each species to preserve its genetic integrity. Sean McDonagh puts it this way: "From an ethical perspective the nub of the issue revolves around whether other creatures have 'intrinsic' value. If they do, then it seems logical to argue that they have rights that their own 'specialness,' especially the species boundary, be respected by another creature."

Thomas Berry attributes the cause of the present environmental crisis to "the effort of western peoples to produce a civilization that recognizes the rights of humans and grants no rights to any other mode of being." Berry, however, claims that "every component of the Earth community has three rights: the right to be, the right to habitat, and the right to fulfil its role in the ever-renewing processes of the Earth community." Fitting well with these rights is certainly the right of each species to preserve its genetic integrity.

God’s appreciation of creatures as very good is clearly reflected in Ignatius' relation to creatures. It is striking that David L. Fleming expressed this Ignatian thought as the obligation we have to appreciate and use these gifts of God insofar as they help us toward our goal of loving service and union with God. We who are made in God's image ought to reflect God’s attitude toward nature: appreciation. We are to appreciate things in themselves, for their intrinsic value. "Neither Genesis nor the Exercises offer licence to misuse the things God made. On the contrary, 'insofar as any created things hinder our progress toward our goal, we ought to let them go' is freedom and respect, not abuse and rebellion."

This Ignatian approach to creatures, which he shares with Francis of Assisi, may be even clearer in the Contemplation for Learning to Love Like God. God dwells within all creatures. "The world is charged with the grandeur of God," wrote Gerald Manley Hopkins. We experience the creative love of God flaming at the core of all creatures and are moved to respond with our own deep love, love for God and for all God’s creatures, a love expressed in our deeds. "The Contemplatio proposes a reverential respect for all things. It calls for the threefold relationships among God, humans, and nature to be not only respectful and generous, but also loving."

God labours and works in all creatures, continually calling them out of chaos and nothingness. God continues to create all things at each moment. If, through some impossibility, God would ever cease creating, we would all immediately disappear back into nothingness. This "work" of our Creator God is very different from that of a human tinker, fixing, adjusting, mending, repairing. John F. Haught presents the theological position that our God is humble, self-emptying, suffering love.

"Since it is the nature of love, even at the human level, to refrain from coercive manipulation of others, we should not expect the world that a generous God calls into being to be instantaneously ordered to perfection. Instead, in the presence of the self-restraint befitting an absolutely self-giving love, the world would unfold by responding to the divine allurement at its own pace and in its own particular way. The universe would then be spontaneously self-creative and self-ordering." ....

Monday, April 23, 2012

Climate Change and the Spiritual Exercises

- Angels of Creation by Edward Burne-Jones

There's an article at The Way, the British spirituality journal, that seems relevant to Earth Day ... Climate Change and the Spiritual Exercises by Stephen McCarthy.

Some have accused Ignatius of Loyola of having that Christian attitude of seeing all of the natural world simply as a prop for the benefit of humans - near the start of Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises is the First Principle and Foundation, Ignatius' view of the purpose of life in relationship .... Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created. John English SJ refuted this view of Ignatius in a past Compass article.

So I was interested in seeing how Stephen McCarthy would relate Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises to climate change. The article is a little conservative for me in the way it sets up the environmental problem as a dichotomy between the values of secularism and Thomism .... secularists can be just as environmentally committed, if not more so, than Thomists ... but I like the way he uses the Two Standards as an example of choosing between selfish over-use of resources or caring custodianship of the Earth (for more on the Two Standards, see my post Philip Endean SJ on the Two Standards).

Here's just a bit of the article (you can download it for free at The Way) ....

Climate Change and the Spiritual Exercises by Stephen McCarthy

[...] Two common responses are despair and denial. Despair says ‘the problem is so intractable there is nothing we can do’. Denial says ‘global warming is a myth; there is nothing we need to do; OK, maybe the climate is getting warmer but that is part of a natural cycle which has been going on for tens of thousands of years and has nothing to do with the activity of mankind’. Without going into this discussion further, let us merely note that no serious scientific opinion supports the stance of denial, notwithstanding the irresponsible statements of a number of senior churchmen who take this position. Sadly, denial is, I believe, a disguised form of despair.

So what is a comfortably well-off Christian called to do? Where do we find Christian hope in all this? This was the second theme of my talk, and one which I have continued to pursue ever since. We have to dig deeper. What are we afraid of? Is there some inevitability here? Is everyone in the world, and for future generations, predestined to aspire to the same materialist, consumerist lifestyle that we now supposedly ‘enjoy’? Does humanity really need all this stuff in order to lead a fulfilled life? Indeed, what does it mean to flourish as a human being? What are we here for? .....

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tiny proto-berries

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Was Jesus a philosopher?

There's a post at the NYT's philosophy blog - Returning to the Sermon on the Mount - that mentions Andrew Sullivan's Newsweek article, Andrew Sullivan: Christianity in Crisis, on following Jesus as a philosopher rather than as, well, God. Here's the beginning of the philosophy blog article ...

“Forget the church, follow Jesus” is the cover message on a recent issue of Newsweek, featuring an essay by Andrew Sullivan. He maintains that what’s really important about Christianity is the moral code of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, freed from the dubious theology and corrupting politics that have plagued the history of the institutional church. The idea is widely attractive, with non-Christians and even some atheists professing admiration for what Sullivan (quoting Thomas Jefferson) calls “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered.” ....

The NYT's blog article opines that Jesus is no philosopher and that the only way to really profit from the sermon on the mount is to view it through the lens of organized religion. I do think that it's probable Jesus is best understood from the pov of a believer, and I despise Jefferson's mutilated version of the bible, but I think that doesn't necessarily mean one has to be a card-carrying member of an institutional church (or need to be a fan of Augustine and Aquinas as Gutting seems to believe) to appreciate what Jesus is all about.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"They are evil .... "

- a quote from a past editorial at The Tablet (see below).

As mentioned at dotCommonweal, the Vatican says traditionalists' response marks 'step forward' in talks, and conservatives are so very happy. This drama of the Vatican's rapprochement with the SSPX has been going on for some time, and I thought it might be a good idea to take a look back to remind ourselves of who and what the SSPX really are.

* This from a Tablet editorial of 2009 ....

Not yet back in the fold

[...] But not far below the surface of the Lefebvrist movement have lurked some rather more disturbing views, not only its commitment to an ancien-régime style of Counter-Reformation Catholicism, but also to a virulent brand of Catholic anti-Semitism which has a long and disgraceful history, particularly in France (where the movement is strongest).

Bishop Williamson's recent remarks [denying the Holocaust] have to be read in that context. The Lefebvrists reject, for instance, the teaching of the Vatican II decree Nostra Aetate, including its key repudiation of the charge of "deicide" (literally god-killing, because of the supposed Jewish role in the death of Jesus). Lifting the excommunication of someone like Williamson, while he is still publicly propagating his bigoted opinions, sends an appalling signal to the world in general and to Jews in particular. To say of these opinions that they are "totally unacceptable", as the Bishops of England and Wales did in a statement this week, hardly does justice to them. They are evil ....

* Thomas Reese SJ had a past post on Benedict reconciling with the SSPX at On Faith - Benedict Undermining His Own Legacy. Fr. Reese makes some points, one of which is the idea that the Pope is a smart guy surrounded by intellectually intimidated advisers who hesitate to critique his decisions. I find that a weak excuse, if it is indeed even true, but still it's a little more believable than the assertion in a statement released by the Vatican that maintains Benedict was unaware of Williamson's stance on the Holocaust at the time of the remission of the excommunication. As someone pointed out at dotCommonweal, Williamson has been all over YouTube with his anti-Semitic rants for at least a year - another person speculated that the Pope might not know about YouTube, but of course Benedict has his own YouTube page.

* There was a past post too at NCR detailing the history of the SSPX and noting that there's really no way the pope could be unaware of this history - Lefebvre movement: long, troubled history with Judaism

* There was also a past post by James Martin SJ on the subject - SSPX Update - in which he wrote ...

While some have argued that the comments by Bishop Williamson--who has denied that 6 million Jews could have died in Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust--are unrelated to the theological import of the removal of the ban of excommunication, there is an obvious link. One of the Second Vatican Council’s most important documents, "Nostra Aetate," marked the beginning of a new age of friendly relations between the church and the Jewish people, and ushered in an era of greater understanding. It is not surprising that the bishop who made such scandalous statements about the Holocaust belongs to a group that has rejected Vatican II, because this necessarily means rejection of "Nostra Aetate."

* There was an interesting article in the NYT about the US Bishops and their lack of interest in the Vatican's decision to re-embrace the SSPX - The Holocaust Furor and the U.S. Bishops

* And finally I'll mention one of my past posts about the SSPX's past and a book I was reading, The Statement by Brian Moore, a fictional mystery based on the the real-life case of Paul Touvier, A French Vichy era war criminal who was long protected by government officials and the Catholic Church. He was found guilty of treason and collusion with the Nazis, and was also later charged with crimes against humanity for the deportation of Jews and the murder of seven Jewish hostages at Rillieux-la-Pape, near Lyon, on 29 June 1944. He was sentenced to death in absentia because he was on the run and never caught until 1989 when he was found hiding with the SSPX. As wikipedia writes of him ...

It was not until 1989 that Touvier was found hiding in the Society of Saint Pius X Priory in Nice. The SSPX stated at the time that Touvier had been allowed to live in the Priory as "an act of charity to a homeless man."

After his arrest, further allegations appeared in print, stating that he had been aided for years by the Catholic Church hierarchy in Lyon and later by members of the Traditionalist Catholic movement. He was defended by the monarchist lawyer Jacques Tremollet de Villers, who later became president of the Traditionalist Catholic organization La Cité Catholique ....

Paul Touvier was granted provisional release in July 1991 and his trial for complicity in crimes against humanity only began on March 17, 1994. He expressed remorse for his actions, saying that he thought of the seven Jewish victims of Rillieux-la-Pape every day. A Traditionalist Catholic priest of the Society of Saint Pius X sat beside him at the defense table, acting as his spiritual advisor. On April 20, a nine-person jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to life imprisonment .... On July 17, 1996, Paul Touvier died of prostate cancer in Fresnes prison near Paris. A Tridentine Requiem Mass was offered for the repose of his soul at St Nicolas du Chardonnet, the Society of St. Pius X chapel in Paris.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Getting medieval

Visiting some medieval sites tonight I came upon this video lecture (below) by Dyan Elliott, a professor of medieval history at Northwestern, on the medieval roots of the church's present sexual abuse scandal.

I found the talk really interesting, if chilling. One can see the genesis of today's sex abuse situation in the early church and increasingly in the church of the high middle ages. The question that kept coming up even back then was, when a priest or monk would commit a sin, whether it was better to expose the sin to all or to keep it secret ... always the choice made was secrecy, to tell no one because it would cause a scandal, and the public good and the welfare of the victim always lost the battle in favor of protecting the reputation of the church. It's incredible how Machiavellian the theological arguments for this policy became over time, with frequent reference back to Augustine. At the very end of the lecture, Professor Elliott says ...

Is it worse to sin out in the open or in secret? This is one of the more intriguing questions that Peter Abelard [of Heloise and Abelard fame] raised in his work Sic et Non around 1120. He proceeds to assemble a wide array of authorities, one set urging the sinfulness of publishing one's sins, the other condemning the hypocrisy of concealed sin. Now Abelard envisages Sic et Non as a kind of exercise book for his students - it was their task to reconcile these conflicting sources, not his. Of course, Abelard was a true master of the interior who knew a thing or two about scandal. Yet I doubt even he could have answered so impossible a question. It is a scandal that the church had the hubris to believe it could.

Monday, April 16, 2012

For the first time in my whole life ...

... I've bought a hose :) All the hoses here were bought by my parents long ago and who knew that drinking from the average garden hose can be dangerous, but when I saw a "safe" hose at the store I got it, since not only the birds but the squirrels and even the neighbor's cat drink out of the bird baths in the yard.

The little brown squirrel on a tree stump ...

The gray squirrel is more afraid of me ....

The roses have started blooming ...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"Guesses, of course, only guesses ...

... If they are not true, something better will be." - C.S. Lewis, writing about resurrection in Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer

I've finally finished reading Passage by Connie Willis - the title of this post is the title of the last chapter of the book. One of the main elements of the story is the sinking of the RMS Titanic (BTW, there's a post about the Titanic at America magazine's blog). The main character, Joanna, who's been investigating other people's near death experiences (NDEs), has simulated NDEs of her own in which she's on the Titanic. Towards the end of the book, she's killed, and her research partner tries to figure out why she had so often seen the Titanic in her NDEs .....


"There's a reason I'm seeing the Titanic," she'd told him, and she was right ...... It was about people who had, in the middle of the ocean, in the middle of the night, put forth a superhuman effort to save wives, sweethearts, friends, babies, children, dogs, and the first-class mail. To save something besides themselves.

Joanna had wanted to die like W.S. Gilbert [saving another's life], and the Titanic was full of Gilberts. Assistant Engineer Harvey and Edith Evans and Jay Yates. Daniel Buckley shepherding the girls he had promised to take care of up through the First-Class Dining Saloon, up the Grand Staircase, into the boats, Robert Norman giving his lifejacket to a woman and her child, John Jacob Astor plunking a flowered hat on a ten-tear-old boy and saying, "Now he's a girl and now he can go." Captain Smith, swimming toward one of the boats with a baby in his arms. And Jack Phillips. And the band. And firemen, stokers, engineers, trimmers working to keep the boilers going and the dynamos running and the wireless working, the lights on. So it wouldn't get dark. - Passage


The account of the sinking of the Titanic in the novel doesn't say much about the discrepancy in survival rate between the first, second, and third class passengers ....

49% of the children, 26% of the female passengers, 82% of the male passengers and 78% of the crew died. The figures show stark differences in the survival rates of the different classes aboard Titanic. Although only 3 percent of first-class women were lost, 54% of those in third class died. Similarly, five of six first-class and all second-class children survived, but 52 of the 79 in third class perished. - Wikipedia

It does, though, mention that there were some dogs on the Titanic and a French Bulldog on the ship appears in the novel. Of all the animals onboard, only three of the dogs survived.

I recommend the novel - it won the Locus Award for Best Novel in 2002, and as the Amazon review states: Passage masterfully blends tragedy, humor, and fear in an unforgettable meditation on humanity and death. Still, I found it both sad and super-grist for the problem of evil mill.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Spiritual bodies

- Christ's appearance behind locked doors by Duccio di Buoninsegna

The gospel reading for tomorrow has the post-resurrection Jesus visiting the disciples (Jn 20:19-31). I really like the after-Easter appearances of Jesus, partly because he comes back to comfort his friends, and partly because his "self" was so mysterious .... no one seemed to recognize him at first, he could appear and disappear at will, could pass through solid objects, he ate food, and he had unhealed wounds that didn't bleed. Was this "spiritual" body he had while making the appearances the same body he had after he ascended? What kind of bodies, if any, will we have after death?

For those interested, I saw an article today that discusses some of this stuff .... Transformations of the Flesh: Approaching the Spiritual Body through an Engagement with Sarah Coakley by Elizabeth Antus.

Giles Fraser on the cross

I mentioned in a past post that I didn't like crosses/crucifixes much - today I saw an article by Giles Fraser that expressed my feelings better than I was able to. The whole thing is worth a read, but here's just part of it ...

Giles Fraser: The cross is a symbol of cruelty, not a club badge

How did an instrument of Roman torture end up becoming a club badge for pious Christians? The cross was supposed to inspire terror, and those crucified made into a public spectacle of Roman imperial power. Crucifixion sent a message: we, the Romans, are in control. Defy us and die a horrible death .......

A better symbol of Easter is the empty tomb. It is not the murder of Jesus that makes Christianity distinctive, but His rising from the dead, through which God demonstrates the limited power of Roman execution. Love is stronger than death and fear, for which the cross was propaganda. But an empty tomb does not lend itself to a piece of jewellery .......

For some, the cross is a symbol of human salvation and has nothing to do with politics. This is both theologically mistaken and politically naive. It is theologically mistaken because salvation comes about through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Those theologies that think all the work of salvation is done on the cross where Jesus pays the price of human sin leave the resurrection stranded with no real work to do. And it is politically naive because the Gospel story makes it clear that Jesus was crucified as a threat to the authority of the empire.

So, no Cardinal O'Brien, I won't be wearing a little gold cross as a nice piece of jewellery or as a pledge of church allegiance. The cross is something dark and terrifying. Only by recognising this do we get to appreciate the measure of the victory that Christians celebrate today.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Still raining

Susan Russell to Rick Warren

'Seriously?' An Open Letter to the Purpose Driven Pastor - a Huffington Post article by Susan Russell in reply to an interview with Rick Warren on the redistribution of wealth and on contraception. Here's just the end of it ...

[...] And that brings me back to a couple of purpose driven things. First there's the purpose of God's preferential option for the poor made manifest in the work and witness of Jesus of Nazareth. And then there's the purpose of liberty and justice for all meant to protect not just freedom of religion for those who choose to practice it but freedom from religion for those who just want equal access to health care. The former would be in the Bible and the latter in the Bill of Rights.

The US bishops abd the Vatican ...

... every time I think my opinion of them can't sink any lower, they go and prove me wrong.

There's a post by Bryan Cones at US Catholic that mentions a couple of topics of interest ...

The U.S. bishops' ad hoc committee on religious liberty issued their promised statement on religious liberty today: "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty." In it, they somewhat breathlessly suggest, "that the fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts [sic, it's a memorial, and memorials don't have vigils] of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, be dedicated to this 'fortnight for freedom'—a great hymn of prayer for our country." (Seriously, that sounds like something you would hear on The 700 Club.) Commonweal's editors found the statement both unnecessarily sweeping and unfortunately partisan; at U.S. Catholic, Meghan Murphy-Gill breaks down the bishops' accounts of the "concrete threats" to religious freedom ......

And ...

[T]he Redemptorist priest who founded the reform-minded Association of Catholic priests has been sent to a monastery for six months, while a survey commissioned by said association found a shocking (?) amount of support for the ordination of married men (about 90 percent) and women (77 percent). The whole report is here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Torn Priorities

- Polychromed reredos behind the altar in St. Mary's Chapel at the Washington National Cathedral - Wikipedia

I listened to a sermon today by Marilyn McCord Adams given at Washington National Cathedral on Feb 2012. You can read the text here and on that page there's also a link to the mp3 audio file of the sermon. Her sermon was about Jesus' two priorities - effecting regime change and personal change - and how compassion guided his choices. Here's just a bit of it ....

Torn Priorities
- The Rev. Dr. Marilyn McCord Adams

[...] Mark’s Jesus is no mere word-smith. Mark does not spare space for Sermon-on-the-Mount summaries of Jesus’ teachings. No! Standing in the tradition of biblical prophecy, Jesus “acts out” his message with exorcisms and healings wherever he goes. In Mark’s mythic cosmology, God’s Kingdom is coming to reclaim turf taken over by enemy forces. Demons are the esprit de corps of merely human social institutions. Demon-possession and harrassment are the causes of mental illness, physical dysfunctions, and disease. Wherever Jesus goes, demons protest Kingdom-coming, grab for control by first-naming him. Jesus’ commanding word or healing touch sends them packing. Exorcisms and healings expose, challenge, and overturn the status quo. Exorcisms and healings are not only signs, they are “moments in the Kingdom,” sites where the Reign of God is already being restored. As such, they are attention-getting media of Jesus’ regime-change message.

Yet, this way of putting it is grossly insensitive, because it abstracts from the people who were possessed and harrassed by those demons. Crowds did not flock to Jesus seeking relief from the common cold or even of the stomach flu! They brought people who were trapped in misery then beyond merely human remedy—paralysis, blindness, deaf-muteness, epilepsy, leprosy. They were physically and mentally disabled in ways that kept them from being contributing members of their communities. Their individual needs were desperate and immediate. Their minds were not on politics and power, or even repentance and reform. Their conditions were too wretched for that.

Almost immediately, as soon as Jesus began to exorcize and heal, his appearances threatened to be mobbed by people begging for cures. In one case, they went so far as “breaking and entering,” taking the roof off his house to let down the paralytic on a stretcher in front of Jesus’ nose! Even out on backroads, in foreign villages, Jesus would be recognized and beleagured with people wanting him to speak the word, find his way blocked by a forest of outstretched arms grabbing at the hem of his garment.

The trouble is that Jesus Christ, in his human nature, is a finite person ....

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Way You Look Tonight

Lots of thunderstorms here today and they reminded me of my cat Spot. She was afraid of thunder and would hide under things. I'd sit by her and sing to her so she'd know everything was really ok .... songs like this one sung by Deep Space Nine's holographic lounge singer ...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In the Garden of Beasts

My latest book from the library is In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson. Here are a few of the blurbs at the Amazon page ...

"By far his best and most enthralling work of novelistic history….Powerful, poignant…a transportingly true story." - The New York Times

"Tells a fascinating story brilliantly well." - Financial Times

"Highly compelling...Larson brings Berlin roaring to life in all its glamour and horror...a welcome new chapter in the vast canon of World War II." - Christian Science Monitor

"Terrific." - Los Angeles Times

“A stunning work of history.” - Newsweek

This non-fiction book is about the time spent by American Ambassador to Germany William Dodd (and his family) in Berlin during the rise of the Third Reich (1933 -). I'm just a few disks into the audio version, but I'm finding it very interesting, if disturbing - it reminds me of the film Cabaret which was set in the Berlin of just two years earlier (1931). It's appalling to read about the taken-for-granted anti-Semitism that tainted the US government's decisions on how to treat Germany at this time, and on the personal level, one of the creepier elements of the story is Dodd's daughter's behavior - thought to be beautiful and befriended by notables like Carl Sandburg, she had sexual relationships with the head of the Gestapo and a Soviet diplomat who recruited her to spy for the KGB ... so far I find her an self-absorbed dope and though I've never read Sandburg, if his letters to her are any example of his style, I'm glad I've missed him. I think the book is really worth a read, though its portrait of human nature is chilling.

Here's a bit from a review of the book in the L.A. Times ....

Book review: 'In the Garden of Beasts'
by Jeff Bailey

As the events leading up to World War II go, Franklin Roosevelt's 1933 appointment of a naïve history professor as ambassador to Germany — and the professor's decision to take his adventurous adult daughter with him — rank pretty low in importance. But in these lives, Erik Larson, author of "The Devil in the White City," finds a terrific storytelling vehicle, as William E. Dodd and his daughter, Martha, are initially taken with Adolf Hitler and his reinvigoration of Germany, and then slowly come to realize that nothing would stop Hitler from waging war and seeking to wipe out Europe's Jews .........

The Dodds initially thought that Hitler would either be deposed as Germany came to its senses or that he would moderate his behavior. They refused to believe more experienced diplomats and journalists in Berlin who warned of the regime's brutality. In a letter to Roosevelt, Dodd said he disapproved of Hitler's treatment of Jews, but added, "I believe a people has a right to govern itself and that other peoples must exercise patience even when cruelties and injustices are done. Give men a chance to try their schemes."

Little by little, the Dodds' view changed. Brutal attacks on visiting Americans by Hitler's storm troopers, the growing persecution of Jews, and finally the frightening June 1934 purge, known as the Night of the Long Knives, in which Hitler had hundreds of government officials murdered, awakened them. Just a few months earlier, Dodd had met with Hitler, who became enraged on the topic of Jews. "Damn the Jews," he'd told Dodd, blaming them for any troubles between the U.S. and Germany. "If they continue their activity, we shall make a complete end to all of them in this country."

Dodd became strongly anti-Hitler, speaking out against the regime and warning of war ahead. His remarks angered his State Department bosses, who legitimately wondered how an ambassador not on speaking terms with his host government could be effective. Recognizing his loss of influence, Dodd mulled quitting but didn't want to give his enemies the satisfaction. Instead, he was sacked, Roosevelt finally bowing to State Department demands to make a change .........

Berlin's Tiergarten (garden of beasts) ...

Monday, April 09, 2012

Tikkun olam

President Obama mentions repairing the world (from Amy Davidson's New Yorker blog) ....

Tiny leaves

Got this photo by accident. The leaves of this mystery fruit tree are new and less than an inch long ...

Pelagianism abd a Good Friday homily

Pray Tell has posted the Good Friday homily by Abbot John Klassen OSB of St. John’s Abbey ..... “It is finished.” – It is not finished. I really liked it but many of the comments to the post accused the homily of Pelagian heresy. Here's a bit from the homily, but the whole thing is worth a read .....

[...] We who are the community of the Beloved Disciple
can be comforted by the words of Jesus at the Last Supper:
“Amen, I tell you, the one who believes in me
will do these works and greater works than these
because I am going to the Father…
If you ask anything in my name I will do it.”
“It is finished.”

But for the men and, women, and children
who find themselves on the edge of our society,
no, it’s not finished.
Of their suffering there appears to be no end.
We have been called here at this most sacred hour
to hear once again the saving words of the Gospel.
We are called to testify in word and deed,
that the work of the Gospel is not finished.

It is not finished until there is justice for people
who have a different skin color or a different sexual orientation.

It is not finished until women are full partners
in our Church and in our world.
It is not finished until those who hunger and thirst
for regular nourishment and clean water have been satisfied ........

BTW, there's an interesting past discussion about this whole subject here - Faith and works, and Pelagianism

Latest addition to my porch plants ...

... tulips :) ...

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Mmmmm ...

... Easter chocolate :)

Saturday, April 07, 2012


Hope on Holy Saturday

It's strange - I've seen/heard hope mentioned three times today ....

- Fr. James Martin SJ has a post at America magazine's blog, We Live in Holy Saturday, in which he writes ...

[H]ope. It is an active waiting; it knows that, even in the worst of situations, even in the darkest times, God is at work. Even if we can’t see it clearly right now.

- And I listened to a video by Matt Maher ...

... in which he talks about the disciples hoping Jesus will return .... [T[he kind of hope where I don't even want to hope this is real because I can't handle the letdown if it's not.

- And then I was watching an episode of Lost - I never saw the series when it was on tv so now that's what all my netflix disks are dedicated to. In this episode Doc Jack tells a woman with a broken back she'll probably never walk again, and his father, also a doctor, tells him ... You might want to try handing out some hope every once in a while. Even if there's a 99 percent probability that they're utterly, hopelessly screwed, folks are much more inclined to hear that 1 percent chance that things are going to be okay.

Ignatius of Loyola liked hope - he said I call consolation every increase of hope, faith and charity. Me being me, I almost always think my hopes are false, but I also try to remember the attitude of Lloyd in the movie Dumb and Dumber when he asks the woman he loves what the chances are that she'll return his feelings :) .....

Saturday Night in the Tomb

- William Coleman

I like to imagine Him dancing there,
testing his limbs' limits once more, fitting
back into his body the way we might
slip back again into a forgotten
favorite shirt crumpled in the closet,
finding ourselves wrapped in an old love's
scent and remembering the moonflowers
opening in our gaze, steadying
for another long, glorious night of worship.
That's the God I believe in—the one
who can't wait to roll back the rock, leave nothing
behind, make an appearance everywhere,
yet who still loves these nights alone, the cool
darkness of His room, that sweet, solitary
music that keeps Him humming long after the dying's done.

Friday, April 06, 2012

The incarnation blossoms, flesh and nail

Supernatural Love - Gjertrud Schnackenberg

My father at the dictionary stand
Touches the page to fully understand
The lamplit answer, tilting in his hand

His slowly scanning magnifying lens,
A blurry, glistening circle he suspends
Above the word 'Carnation'. Then he bends

So near his eyes are magnified and blurred,
One finger on the miniature word,
As if he touched a single key and heard

A distant, plucked, infinitesimal string,
"The obligation due to every thing
That's smaller than the universe." I bring

My sewing needle close enough that I
Can watch my father through the needle's eye,
As through a lens ground for a butterfly

Who peers down flower-hallways toward a room
Shadowed and fathomed as this study's gloom
Where, as a scholar bends above a tomb

To read what's buried there, he bends to pore
Over the Latin blossom. I am four,
I spill my pins and needles on the floor

Trying to stitch "Beloved" X by X.
My dangerous, bright needle's point connects
Myself illiterate to this perfect text

I cannot read. My father puzzles why
It is my habit to identify
Carnations as "Christ's flowers", knowing I

Can give no explanation but "Because."
Word-roots blossom in speechless messages
The way the thread behind my sampler does

Where following each X, I awkward move
My needle through the word whose root is love.
He reads, "A pink variety of Clove,

Carnatio, the Latin, meaning flesh."
As if the bud's essential oils brush
Christ's fragrance through the room, the iron-fresh

Odor carnations have floats up to me,
A drifted, secret, bitter ecstasy,
The stems squeak in my scissors, Child, it's me,

He turns the page to "Clove" and reads aloud:
"The clove, a spice, dried from a flower-bud."
Then twice, as if he hasn't understood,

He reads, "From French, for clou, meaning a nail."
He gazes, motionless,"Meaning a nail."
The incarnation blossoms, flesh and nail,

I twist my threads like stems into a knot
And smooth "Beloved", but my needle caught
Within the threads, Thy blood so dearly bought,

The needle strikes my finger to the bone.
I lift my hand, it is myself I've sewn,
The flesh laid bare, the threads of blood my own,

I lift my hand in startled agony
And call upon his name, "Daddy Daddy" -
My father's hand touches the injury

As lightly as he touched the page before,
Where incarnation bloomed from roots that bore
The flowers I called Christ's when I was four.

Thursday, April 05, 2012


The latest article in Thinking Faith's series on the seven deadly sins and the movies is up ... The Seven Deadly Sins on Film: Wrath by Philip Endean SJ. The movie he uses to exemplify wrath is the 1996 British film Shine, which stars Geoffrey Rush.

I was especially interested in his article because of the schizophrenic way religion looks at anger .... many hold the belief that a truly spiritual person will always be detached emotionally, yet as I've noted before, Jesus was anything but detached and was sometimes passionately angry. Here's a bit from Fr. Endean's article on this subject ....

At the outset, we need to make a distinction. Christian tradition, perhaps mirroring civilised society as a whole, is ambivalent about anger. Angry people are disruptive; by definition they want things to be different, and are prepared to be anti-social and disagreeable until they succeed. To the extent that Christianity reinforces social norms, it finds various ways of marginalising, even condemning anger. But to the extent that Christianity is an agency of change and conversion, both social and individual, anger is an important source of positive energy. The perception of unmet needs provokes responses that can be termed angry: if the perceptions are correct, then the anger is righteous, a hunger and thirst for justice that is to be sustained, not repressed. Anger is problematic only if the perception of unmet need is somehow wrong, or the resulting action out of keeping. When such disproportion is habitual, it becomes a vice—for convenience we can use the word ‘wrath’ to denote vicious anger. It is wrath, displaced and hence vicious anger, that Shine explores so powerfully.

Another interesting subject brought up in the article: a difference between sin and vice ....

The mood as Lent begins is ascetical; in our fervour and enthusiasm, we may well try to have a go at rooting out a vice or two. No harm in that. But we are dealing with principalities and powers beyond our conscious freedom; on their own our efforts at self-betterment are futile. We depend on a salvation that comes from outside, on a ‘mystical’ gift that we can only receive.

Abuse of the kind that David [the main character in the film] inherits requires us to stress this difference. If the spirit is already crushed, calls to root out vice and work harder at the moral life will only make matters worse. People in David’s plight need relief, not exhortations. The traditional faults catalogued by Evagrius and his successors are called both deadly sins and capital vices. In some situations at least, the difference here is not trivial. When we speak of a deadly sin, we are implying that it is the perpetrator’s fault. A vice, by contrast, is a habit, something that may be instilled in us by our conditioning; the bad actions which emerge from it are not necessarily or wholly our responsibility. Vicious actions, therefore, however damaging, are not always to be identified with sins. And salvation from vice involves grace first, and repentance or asceticism only later, if indeed at all.

There's much more to the article - the whole thing is well worth a read.

Backyard at dusk

I was mowing the backyard today and thought I'd take a photo ....

Holy Thursday

Feel kind of down today but what to post something for the last supper, so here's some of what I've posted before .....

Here's a photo of Jesus and Judas at the last supper, from Jesus of Nazareth ...

Here's a poem by R.M. Rilke The Last Supper ...

They are assembled, astonished and disturbed
round him, who like a sage resolved his fate,
and now leaves those to whom he most belonged,
leaving and passing by them like a stranger.
The loneliness of old comes over him
which helped mature him for his deepest acts;
now will he once again walk through the olive grove,
and those who love him still will flee before his sight.
To this last supper he has summoned them,
and (like a shot that scatters birds from trees)
their hands draw back from reaching for the loaves
upon his word: they fly across to him;
they flutter, frightened, round the supper table
searching for an escape. But he is present
everywhere like an all-pervading twilight-hour.

Here's a painting of the last supper by Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret ...

You can read James Alison's past Holy Week sermons here.

Here's a video with scenes from the last supper set to Matt Maher's song Remembrance ....

And this was my post from last year ......

This week of Creighton University's online spiritual exercises retreat (week 27) is about the last supper. We're asked to imaginatively contemplate the scene with ourselves as part of it, there with Jesus and the disciples when he washes our feet, passes us the bread and wine, tells us that one of us will betray him and that he will perish.

I find this contemplation hard because I feel guilty (one of us betrays him) and angry (he's going away from us) and depressed (he's going away through torture and death)

I pretty much like the version of this scene in the movie Jesus. It takes place in two parts, actually: the first part happens two days before Passover, when all are sharing a meal (women as well as men) ..... Judas tries to convince Jesus to lead the zealots in a coup against the Romans, to which Jesus responds by telling everyone that he's going to be killed. Peter, as usual, tries to talk him out of it, but this version also has Jesus' mother rejecting the idea of his death as well. He gives the explanation that it must happen because it's God's will (hate that idea) but later, when Jesus is alone with his very upset mother, she asks why he "has to" die and he elaborates.

Start watching the video at 1:17 into it until 4:40 ......

The second part, the actual Passover meal/last supper, is pretty short and has Jesus handing around the broken bread and the wine to the disciples (no women present, sadly), and telling them that one of them will betray him, and then bidding Judas to go do what he has to do ... interesting that he sends Judas off after he's asked him to eat the bread and drink the wine.

Begin watching the video 18 seconds into it until 4:33 ....

Adrienne Rich: RIP

I've only just learned (at Bilgrimage) that poet Adrienne Rich has recently died. I first read about her in a post at Jesuit Rob Marsh's blog - 10 Years - in which he had an excerpt from her poem “Natural Resources” ....

My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.

I mention these line in my post on Oceans.

You can read more about her and read some of her poems at the Academy of American Poets

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

"God desires everyone to be saved .....

... everyone without exception."

Listen to a sermon by theologian and Anglican priest Keith Ward from Sunday, October 17, 2010 at Washington National Cathedral, here. You may also be able to watch it in video if you have Windows Media Player (I don't) - check this page for the link. Professor Ward preaches about restorative justice and universal salvation (Luke 18:1-8) and the title of this post is taken from his sermon.

- ceiling and state flags, Washington National Cathedral

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Viggo Mortensen is Freud

This week's movie rental was the R rated A Dangerous Method directed by David Cronenberg and starring Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, and Keira Knightley. As Wikipedia states ...

Dangerous Method is a 2011 Canadian historical film .... The screenplay was adapted by Academy Award-winning writer Christopher Hampton from his 2002 stage play The Talking Cure, which was based on the 1993 non-fiction book by John Kerr, A Most Dangerous Method: The story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein ..... Set on the eve of World War I, A Dangerous Method is based on the turbulent relationships between Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology, Sigmund Freud, founder of the discipline of psychoanalysis, and Sabina Spielrein, initially a patient of Jung and later a physician and one of the first female psychoanalysts.

I probably wouldn't have rented the movie if Viggo hadn't been in it, but that's not to say I don't like Freud - I once read a biography of him, The Passions of the Mind: A Novel of Sigmund Freud - he was a really interesting person.

The movie's plot: as Freud and Jung usher in a new way of looking at mental illness, Spielrein, with "hysteria" caused by childhood sexual problems, becomes Jung's patient, then becomes both his student and his lover, and when things don't turn out well, she becomes Freud's patient, and finally an analyst herself. The interwaeving of the relationships between Freud, Jung, Spielrein, their families and their professional peers made a joke of transparency. It's ironic that these people in the vanguard of the demystification of sexual and non-sexual relationships actually had relationships at least if not more screwed up than anyone else's.

Jung finds in her [Spielrein] a kindred spirit with a unique perspective as her self-awareness sharpens, and their attraction deepens in what was already well known at the time as transference .... Jung finally begins their affair, and their relations become even more tangled as he becomes her advisor to her dissertation .... After his attempt to confine their relationship again to doctor and patient, she appeals to Freud for his professional help, and forces Jung to tell Freud the truth about their relationship ....

Freud uses his knowledge of the relationship to bully Jung, who is planning to publish new theories quite different from Freud's. Jung's theories are heavily influenced by the theme of Sabina's dissertation but he does not cite her in publication, acknowledging her only in private, and Freud does the same .... Shortly after Freud downplays the new ideas expressed by the Fraulein Doctor in the local meeting of the new psychoanalytic society in Vienna, she marries another Russian doctor, and leaves both men behind her. Neither man acknowledged publicly how she influenced them, for fear that their peers, and the public, would recognize what had happened between them. Although the small community of analysts and patients was quite incestuous, both intellectually and sexually, they were quite reasonably afraid that the radical new practice of psychoanalysis would be condemned by a less enlightened public if their methods, and their madness, were truly known.
- Wikipedia

I didn't care much for the movie, but Roger Ebert liked it more than I did and gave it three and a half stars. For those interested, there was a recent post at the NYT's philosophy blog that mentioned the movie and the worth of Freud's idea of therapy - Freud’s Radical Talking. And here's the trailer ...

Some photos

The columbine finally bloomed ...

The fuzzy loquats ...

The impossible to eradicate boysenberry bushes ....

Some violets that really belong to my sister ....

Some little trees ...

Monday, April 02, 2012

Tuesday/Wednesday in Jerusalem

It seems almost like the days between Palm Sunday and the last supper don't exist - the readings for Tuesday and Wednesday are about the events of Thursday, and this week of the Ignatian online retreat given by Creighton University is about Friday (Jesus Dies for Us ).

I want to think about Tuesday and Wednesday - what might Jesus have been doing on those days while in Jerusalem? According to Wikipedia, the Synoptic Gospels have Jesus' entry into Jerusalem followed by the Cleansing of the Temple episode, as well as his mention of the widow's mite, his dust-up with some Scribes and Pharisees, and his Olivet discourse. And then there was Judas machinating as well.

Overall it seems like a grim few days. I don't really like Holy Week, I guess - except for Easter, it seems to be all about failure, goodbyes, confrontations, suffering and death - still, I'm trying to keep Jesus company.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The anointing at Bethany: Vonnegut

- Jesus is anointed at Bethany by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

I was thinking about how Jesus spent the day after Palm Sunday. Wikipedia states .....

The Gospels of these days [M-W] recount events not all of which occurred on the corresponding days between Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and his Last Supper. For instance, the Monday Gospel tells of the Anointing at Bethany (John 12:1-9), which occurred before the Palm Sunday event described in John 12:12-19.

The anointing reading has Jesus speaking a line I really dislike because it's been used to justify allowing the continued existence of poverty - the poor you always have with you. I was interested to see that Kurt Vonnegut had something to say about this line ....

In the autobiographical Palm Sunday, author Kurt Vonnegut reports being invited to preach on Palm Sunday in 1980, and chooses for his text the Gospel of John's version of the anointing. Vonnegut did so because he had "seen so much un-Christian impatience with the poor encouraged by the quotation"; he questioned the translation, saying it lacked the mercifulness of the Sermon on the Mount, and took the opportunity to offer his own translation:[4] .....

The key to understanding Jesus' response is to recognize that he is quoting scripture here .... Deuteronomy 15:11, "Since you always have the poor with you, I therefore command you,'Open your hand to the poor and needy in your land.'" Jesus always showed special care and concern for the poor, and his disciples would be expected to continue to do so. But this is a special, one time event on the eve of Jesus' death.
- Wikipedia