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Monday, September 30, 2013

Vedek Bareil

My latest old DVD check-out from the library is Deep Space Nine, the 90s Star Trek spin-off. The picture looks a little fuzzy and the show seems a bit dated but still I'm enjoying it.

My favorite character so far (I'm in season 2) is Bareil. He's a Vedek, a monk, from a planet (Bajor) near the Federation space station DS9. He lives at a monastery ...

And has a [licit] romantic relationship with one of the station's residents, Kira ...

The Bajorans worship alien beings who reside in a wormhole near DS9, referring to them as the Prophets, and the monastery has a number of sacred objects called orbs which give one Prophet-related visions ...

In one episode, Bareil comes to the space station to give a talk and he asks Kira afterwards ...

Bareil: So, what did you think?

Kira: Of your speech?

B: Um hum.

K: I liked everything about it. Except the content.

B: You disagree with my interpretation of the Eighth Prophecy?

K: 'I disagree' is a bit of an understatement. 'I passionately disagree' is more like it. The way you have of taking a prophecy and showing that it can mean exactly the opposite of the accepted interpretation is ...

B: It's brilliant, insightful?

K: Infuriating!

B: Maybe we should talk about something else.

K: Like what?

B: The Ilvian katterpod crop maybe? Or the new nature preserve in Hedrikspool Province? Or how about the standings in the Springball championship.

K: You follow Springball?

B: Religiously.

Heh :) The introduction of the Bajorans into the Star Trek universe was interesting because they seemed to be the first seriously religious species on the series. Sadly, Bareil dies pretty early on in the show, but his alternate self from a parallel universe does make a brief appearance later on.

I wish I could post a video clip of Vedek Bareil but DS9 videos appear to be thin on the ground. On the other hand, you can watch episodes of the show free at CBS. But anyway, here's a clip showing the alternate Bareil (who was a theif, not a vedek) eating lunch with Kira and, yes, Worf :) ....

What I saw today

- Reading about Reschensee ... an artificial lake in the western portion of South Tyrol, Italy ... famous for the steeple of a submerged 14th-century church; when the water freezes, this can be reached on foot. A legend says that during winter one can still hear church bells ring.

- Taking the SNAP challenge - When I first started college, my parents got divorced and for a while my mom, sister, and I were on food stamps. I recall two things about it. One was that you could only use food stamps for food - that seems obvious but there are so many things you need from the grocery store besides food ... soap, TP, aspirin, pet food, garbage bags. The second thing I remember was the way the other people in the check-out line looked at us when we once bought Leibniz cookies with food stamps ... I guess people on assistance don't deserve snacks.

- a really interesting blog - Nineteen Sixty-four ... a research blog for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University. It has some statistics about Catholics that I wouldn't have expected, like the info in Unmentionables?: Faith and Sex, Principle and Practice

- the church's never-ending story :( ... Poland's Catholic Church Apologizes To Sex Abuse Victims

- And finally: my brain has been eaten by BuzzFeed Animals :)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Acorns :)

There are lots of oak trees in the yard and in the neighborhood and it's acorn time ....

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Some poems previously posted ...

The Angels - Rainer Maria Rilke
The Book of Images

They all have tired mouths
and bright seamless souls.
And a longing (as for sin)
sometimes haunts their dream.

They are almost all alike;
in God's gardens they keep still,
like many, many intervals
in his might and melody.

Only when they spread their wings,
are they wakers of a wind:
as if God with his broad sculptor-
hands leafed through the pages
in the dark book of the beginning.

All That Died in the Cat-Punctured Mouse - Dean Young

was needless to the eternal mouse
who gigantically stands over me
as I drop his used-tea-bag body into the trash,
even the trash standing over itself
with stink by the end of the week
suggesting a thing of beauty may linger
not eternally in the mind but it's not
beauty's fault, it is the mind's.
The mind is made of milk
and refrigeration has its limits.
So while in Italy, see as many Caravaggios
as you can and I will look here in my bushes
and grocery store. I will go through my closet.
It is shadow that brings forth grace
he would have agreed with Leonardo,
some things are truest only glimpsed
although reflectology can reveal
how a ruffian becomes a cherub,
the eyes that were once open half-closed,
a hand now lifted to a cheek.
Still as sugar is the house, distant
stays the sea, the eternal part of my friend
must be needed elsewhere which may account
for my continued grief. Come back
it's silly to plead yet the moon comes back
and it is everything to me, the springtime
crickets, the cheese steaks of Philadelphia,
my brain inside a bell until static overwhelms
the broadcast like a fire alarm a history class
and no one runs or screams,
having been so well drilled.

After St. Vincent Millay - Bruce Smith

When I saw you again, distant, sparrow-boned
under the elegant clothes you wear in your life without me,
I thought, No, No, let her be the one
this time to look up at an oblivious me.
Let her find the edge of the cliff with her foot,
blindfolded. Let her be the one struck by the lightning
of the other so that the heart is jolted
from her ribs and the rest of the body is nothing
but ash. It's a sad, familiar story
I wish you were telling me with this shabby excuse:
I never loved you anymore
than I hated myself for loving you.

And about that other guy by your side
you left me for. I hope he dies.

The Hurt Locker - Brian Turner

Nothing but the hurt left here.
Nothing but bullets and pain
and the bled out slumping
and all the fucks and goddamns
and Jesus Christs of the wounded.
Nothing left here but the hurt.

Believe it when you see it.
Believe it when a 12-year-old
rolls a grenade into the room.
Or when a sniper punches a hole
deep into someone’s skull.
Believe it when four men
step from a taxicab in Mosul
to shower the street in brass
and fire. Open the hurt locker
and see what there is of knives
and teeth. Open the hurt locker and learn
how rough men come hunting for souls.

This Error is the Sign of Love - Lewis Hyde

“Man has to seek God in error and
forgetfulness and foolishness.”
-- Meister Eckhart

This error is the sign of love,
the crack in the ice where the otters breathe,
the tear that saves a man from power,
the puff of smoke blown down the chimney one morning, and the widower sighs and gives up his loneliness,
the lines transposed in the will so the widow must scatter coins from the cliff instead of ashes and she marries again, for love,
the speechlessness of lovers that forces them to leave it alone while it sends up its first pale shoot like an onion sprouting in the pantry,
this error is the sign of love.

The leak in the nest, the hole in the coffin,
the crack in the picture plate a young girl fills with her secret life to survive the grade school,
the retarded twins who wanter house to house, eating, ‘til the neighbors have become neighbors.
The teacher’s failings in which the students ripen,
Luther’s fit in the choir, Darwin’s dyspepsia, boy children stuttering in the gunshop, boredom, shyness, bodily discomforts like long rows of white stones at the edge of the highway,
blown head gaskets, darkened choir lofts, stolen kisses,
this error is the sign of love.

The nickel in the butter churn, the farthing in the cake,
the first reggae rhythms like seasonal cracks in a government building,
the rain-damaged instrument that taught us the melodies of black emotion and red and yellow emotion,
the bubble of erotic energy escaped from a marriage and a week later the wife dreams of a tiger,
the bee that flies into the guitar and hangs transfixed in the sound of sound ‘til all his wetness leaves him and he rides that high wind to the Galapagos,
this error is the sign of love.

The fault in the sea floor where the fish linger and mate,
the birthmark that sets the girl apart and years later she alone of the sisters finds her calling,
Whitman’s idiot brother whom he fed luke the rest of us,
those few seconds Bréton fell asleep and dreamed of a pit of sand with the water starting to flow,
the earth’s wobbling axis uncoiling seasons--seed that need six months of drought, flowers shaped for the tongues of moths, summertime
and death’s polarized light caught beneath the surface of Florentine oils,
this error is the sign of love.

The beggar buried in the cathedral,
the wisdom-hole in the façade of the library,
the corners of the garden that are not farvested,
the hail storm in a South Dakota town that started the Farmers’ Cooperative in 1933,
the Sargasso Sea that gives false hope to sailors and they sail one and find a new world,
the picnic basket that slips overboard and leads to the invention of the lobster trap,
the one slack line in a poem where the listener relaxes and suddenly the poem is in your heart like a fruit wasp in an apple,
this error is the sign of love!


Putting on my hat and getting my camera, I go out to find something in the yard to take a photo of. First thing I see is my shadow following me ;) ....

Here are some little volunteer trees ...

Friday, September 27, 2013

Four things

- Sagrada Família

- Brendan Busse SJ explains what's wrong with that concept I so hate - 'indifference' ... Care-less: The Sin of Indifference ... [M]y greatest sins haven’t been moments of too much intimacy; they’ve been moments when I refused intimacy or confused it with something else, something convenient or easy, something passionless. To sin is to deny the duty of love, and cold indifference certainly fits into this category. Let’s call it care-less-ness.

- an Ignatian examen prayer at the British Jesuit site, pray-as-you-go. I especially like the music at the beginning, which is done by Tom McGuinness SJ - link

- Anxiety, a reflection by Peter Knott SJ ... Only love casts out fear. And our deepest fear can only be cast out by the deepest love of all. We need to know unconditional love. Unconditional love, whether it comes from God or from another person, gives us substance and immortality.

- watch the completion of Sagrada Família (you can virtually visit here) ....

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The missing sentence and Cardinal Pell

Two things:

- Much is being made of the missing sentence in Pope Francis' interview .... the sentence accidentally left out of the English translation of the interview was: “It is necessary to broaden the opportunities for a stronger presence of women in the church."

The thing is that even with the inclusion of the missing sentence, the pope's remarks about women and their role in the church are seriously wanting ... I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man .... The feminine genius .... we must not confuse the function with the dignity. Francis doesn't seem to understand that no "stronger presence" is going to be enough to take the place of ordaining women as priests (and excommunicating people isn't helping).

- One of the pope's "gang of eight" curial reformers is Cardinal George Pell. I was really dismayed when I saw he had been chosen by Francis ... he's the president of Vox Clara, the Vatican commission responsible for the much hated English translation of the missal (read Jesuit Philip Endean's Tablet article on the translation process), and he is a committed foe of conscience.

I saw today that there's now a controversial essay out about him - The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell by award-winning journalist David Marr (you can read an article by Marr on the book, with some extracts from it at ABC Religion & Ethics). Much of the essay has to do with Pell's handling of clergy sex abuse in Australia. In 2012 I posted a video interview with 30 year veteran Senior Detective in the NSW police, Peter Fox, who alleged a cover-up by the church in Australia and who urged the government to investigate ...

And I linked to Pell's response too in which he took absolutely no responsibility.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

World War Z

This week's movie rental was World War Z ...

a 2013 British-American apocalyptic film ... based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Max Brooks. The film stars Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, a former United Nations investigator who must travel the world to find a way to stop a zombie-like pandemic.

I tried to read the novel a couple of years ago but didn't like it enough to stick with it. The movie is quite different than the book - much better, I think. I have to admit, I haven't seen every zombie movie that's come out ;) but this is the best of all I've seen. The acting was good and there were some interesting actors in the cast, the characters were likeable, the special effects were fine, we got to visit lots of interesting places (South Korea, Israel, Wales), and I found it actually scary (hey, this could happen: read up on zombie ants ;). Also, rated PG13, it's not a gore fest. You can read The New York Times review here.

Our hero, Gerry, is married with two kids and has quit his job as a UN investigator to stay at home with his family ...

When the zombie infestation begins, his former boss at the UN asks him to try to find the cause so they can figure out a cure ...

His first stop is South Korea but when that doesn't pan out, he goes on to Israel, one of the few places that's managed to fight off the zombie hordes. Things go badly, though, and he has to escape with the help of a female Israeli soldier ....

Gerry and the soldier catch a plane which sadly crashes, especially sad as there's a little dog on board ...

But they eventually make their way to a WHO facility in Cardiff, where Gerry puts to the test his theory of how to save humanity, while a hungry zombie looks on ...

Here's a trailer ...

Still excommunicating

While many liberals are hopeful based on the pope's recent interview, I see that Francis has defrocked and excommunicated Fr. Greg Reynolds, who spoke up for same-sex marriage and women's ordination. First Things and its readers are thrilled that this seems to show the pope didn't mean what most people thought he meant when he spoke of compassion for LGBT people and a greater role in the church for women :(

Reading Bryan Cones - How big was the bang? Was the pope's interview really "explosive"? - and I agree with what he says about the church getting out from under the absolute sway of one person's [the pope's] opinions ...

[M]y takeaway from the pope's interview is simply: I've thought these things for a long time, and many Catholics I know have as well .... Pope Francis is saying what many Catholics the world over have long been thinking .... I'm sure I join many Catholics in celebrating the fact that the bishop of Rome is a man who is first a pastor. And yet, that could all change tomorrow if the pope, God forbid, should die and be replaced by someone without that sensitivity. In that light, the work I hope Pope Francis will do is to seek a church reform in which the message and emphasis of the Roman Catholic Church does not rest so much on the personality of the bishop of Rome. The actual person in Peter's chair will always matter, and if Pope Francis can begin a reform in which the pope's role is to moderate and lead the people of God in living an adult faith--one that does not rely so much on the judgments of the guy sitting in Peter's chair--that would truly be explosive. Papa Bergoglio has taken some intriguing steps in that direction in a mere six months. Let's hope there is more to come.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Life After Life

My latest book from the library is Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I've not yet started it, but picked it up because it's speculative fiction with a sort of Groundhog Day/mulitverse narrative. Here's the beginning of a review of the book in The Guardian ...

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – review

Kate Atkinson's new novel is a marvel, a great big confidence trick – but one that invites the reader to take part in the deception. In fact, it is impossible to ignore it. Every time you attempt to lose yourself in the story of Ursula Todd, a child born in affluent and comparatively happy circumstances on 11 February 1910, it simply stops. If this sounds like the quick route to a short book, don't worry: the narrative starts again – and again and again – but each time it takes a different course, its details sometimes radically, sometimes marginally altered, its outcome utterly unpredictable. Atkinson's general rule is that things seem to get better with repetition, but this, her self-undermining novel seems to warn us, is a comfort that is by no means guaranteed, either.

She begins as she means to go on, and at the very beginning. (In fact, even this is not quite true: a brief prologue shows us Ursula in a Munich coffee shop in 1930, assassinating Hitler with her father's old service revolver.) At the start of the novel "proper", Sylvie Todd is giving birth to her third child, her situation given a fairytale atmosphere by the encroaching snow which also, alas, cuts her off from outside help in the form of Dr Fellowes or Mrs Haddock, the midwife. Ursula is stillborn, with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, her life unsaved for want of a pair of surgical scissors. Fortunately, though, she is allowed another go at the business of coming into being; in take two, Dr Fellowes makes it, cuts the cord and proceeds to his reward of a cold collation and some homemade piccalilli (it might be too fanciful to notice that even the piccalilli repeats).

Ursula's childhood is to be punctuated with such near-misses: the treacherous undertow of the Cornish sea, icy tiles during a rooftop escapade, the wildfire spread of Spanish flu. Each disaster is confirmed by variations on the phrase "darkness fell", and each new beginning heralded by the tabula rasa that snow brings. Ursula carries within her a vague, dimly apprehended sense of other, semi-lived lives, inexpressible except as impetuous actions – such as when she pushes a housemaid down the stairs to save her from a more terrible ending. That misdemeanour lands her in the office of a psychiatrist who introduces her, in kindly fashion, to the concept of reincarnation and to the roughly opposing theory of amor fati, particularly as espoused by Nietzsche: the acceptance, or even embrace, of one's fate, and the rejection of the idea that anything could, or should, have unfolded differently .....

Hope I like it :)

How Pope Francis prays

One of the things that I found interesting about the pope's interview was how he prays. He mentioned this ....

I pray mentally even when I am waiting at the dentist or at other times of the day .... Prayer for me is always a prayer full of memory, of recollection, even the memory of my own history or what the Lord has done in his church or in a particular parish. For me it is the memory of which St. Ignatius speaks in the First Week of the Exercises in the encounter with the merciful Christ crucified. And I ask myself: ‘What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What should I do for Christ?’ It is the memory of which Ignatius speaks in the ‘Contemplation for Experiencing Divine Love,’ when he asks us to recall the gifts we have received. But above all, I also know that the Lord remembers me. I can forget about him, but I know that he never, ever forgets me. Memory has a fundamental role for the heart of a Jesuit: memory of grace, the memory mentioned in Deuteronomy, the memory of God’s works that are the basis of the covenant between God and the people. It is this memory that makes me his son and that makes me a father, too.

I expected this because it's the way I learned to pray from an Ignation online retreat (the examen and the colloquy and mental prayer). But I was surprised that he also said this ...

I pray the Rosary. What I really prefer is adoration in the evening, even when I get distracted and think of other things, or even fall asleep praying. In the evening then, between seven and eight o’clock, I stay in front of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour in adoration.

I don't remember ever learning in my RCIA classes or in church how to pray. I knew of the rosary from movies and novels but never even heard of eucharistic adoration until after I'd been blogging a few years. Once a priest advised me to pray the rosary but I didn't have one and didn't know how to do the prayer .... he gave me a rosary and I looked up how to do it online. I never prayed it again.

I have to admit that I don't understand why people like the rosary or eucharistic adoration - both seem to me to be ritualistic and distancing . The rosary seems like trying to communicate with someone by only always reading them the same poem or singing them the same song, and eucharistic adoration seems like trying to be with someone by spending time with their image. I know - I'm treading on heretic ground here ;) but I'm just trying to express how it feels to me. I don't doubt it's quite different for the people who like those kind of prayers. Maybe someone will explain it to me.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Theologian and poet Kevin Hart reads some of his poems ...


There are few philosophers religious people hate more than Kant. Giles Frasier writes The west is in thrall to Kantian ideals of personal freedom. And suffers for it. What's weird is that religion is indeed all about personal freedom - the Spiritual Exercises speak of freedom and the freedom to follow ones conscience is endorsed by by Pope Francis.

The best explanation I've heard of what Kant felt about God and freedom is given in this video lecture (below) by Keith Ward. Here's a bit of what he says ...

"There are a number of misunderstandings about Kant which are quite widespread .... first of all, that Kant ... made morality completely autonomous, that is, completely separate from beliefs about God ..... [this is] the opposite of what Kant himself thought he was doing ....

And what is the practical consideration about God? Kant thought it was mainly two-fold. One is that God is the ground of moral obligation ... when you feel there is an objective moral obligation, you're in fact hearing the voice of God .... it's not that you first of all believe in God, you theoretically have some arguments that there's a God, and then you say our God commands you to do something so I must do it. Kant was totally opposed to that. So Kant would have been opposed to anybody who said "I can show there's a God and that God, for example, inspired the writing of the Bible [and] because it says in the Bible you should do X, therefore you should do it .... Rather he felt it's the other way around.

You argue from your deepest and strongest moral obligation to the existence of that which grounds this obligation in objective reality. You call that God. So it can never be the case for Kant that God commands something immoral. That's just not a possibility for him because you decide what God is by finding out what your strongest moral obligation is. So if you think the strongest moral obligation is to love your neighbor as yourself, then you can say ... God is love. And you're not just saying I'm going to use the word God to stand for some human obligation - what you're trying to say is, ultimate reality grounds this objective obligation ....

For Kant, the Will of God cannot conflict with your duty, your moral obligation, because you define the will of God in terms of your moral obligation. So there cannot be a conflict between revealed morality and your own felling of what is right or wrong - it is your feeling that will actually determine you to accept something as a revelation or not. And if you have a revelation that tells you to do something immoral, for example if in the Bible it tells you that women should always obey their husbands, as I believe it does my wife tells me, then you should say, if that conflicts with my moral obligation it's not what God says. I don't care if it's in the Bible or not, because that's not what God is, God doesn't do that sort of thing. So Kant was clearly not somebody who let his morality be determined by revelation. He called that heteronomy, taking your moral beliefs on authority from somewhere else, either a book or a person or a group of people. So he did believe in moral autonomy in the sense that you have to start with what you think is right and your religion can never conflict with that ...."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"How can I be happy?"

Reading The Gift of Spiritual Intimacy: Following the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius by Jesuit Monty Williams.

A Hindu friend once told me that one of the major reasons people get interested in God is because they're suffering. I thought of that as I read this (pp. 42-3) ...

A spiritual journey often begins when we can find no substitute for what we have lost. The Buddha's journey to enlightenment began when he encountered old age, sickness, and death. These realities led Prince Siddhartha to abandon a life of luxury and comfort in order to come to terms with the issue of human suffering. Significantly, it was the illness that confined Ignatius to his sickbed that prompted his journey to a spiritual life. Two centuries before Ignatius, in 1204, a serious illness was the beginning of another saint's journey to becoming Francis of Assisi. Illness, pain, loss, poverty, lack of social success, and deprivations are things the secular world does not value. But their presence -- and they are present in each of our lives -- reveals to us that neither we nor the world is in control. This leads us to ask the simple question that starts every spiritual journey: Given this very human situation, how can I be happy?

Often we try what the world offers. For many, the pursuit of those things is distracting enough to keep us engaged for some time. But their achievement is no substitute for what we truly desire, because at the root of our being we *are* desire. Nothing less than the fullness of life can satisfy that desire. Even when good things happen to us, affirming our sense of self-entitlement, we need to accept them as gift rather than as privilege. The blindness of illusion lets us confuse the two. This illusion prompts the observation that "Those whom the gods wish to destroy they give gifts to." We tend to equate ourselves with those gifts, living as if we were our gifts. We lose our integrity as creatures radically dependent on others and on God. When bad things happen to us, we discover what beggars we truly are. We cry out for help. And whatever is given to us then is given as gift. Bad things force us to question ourselves -- who we are, what we can do, what we must do. Most of us react against such self-examination in the normal circumstances of our lives. Yet only when we do so do we discover the path to spiritual intimacy and move towards the fullness of life.

Ignatius Loyola and Martin Luther

Given the recent interest in the pope and given that he's a Jesuit, perhaps there's more general interest too in Ignatius of Loyola and Ignatian spirituality. Today I came across a past article by Philip Endean SJ on the similarities between Ignatius and Martin Luther. I think many see Ignatius as an anti-reformation saint, but that's inaccurate, and Fr. Endean explains why in Ignatius in Lutheran light. It's a long article, but here's just a bit from the beginning ....

[T]he idea of Ignatius as a Counter-Reformation figure, as a man whose main aim was to resist the forces of the Protestant Reformation – this idea is still deeply lodged in our folk-memory. What follows is an attempt to dislodge it – at least a little. If we regard Ignatius simply as the hammer of the heretics, our understanding of him is significantly impoverished. This way of looking at Ignatius has its origins not in Ignatius’s most formative experiences of God, but in the situation of his Society at a later period. Serious Ignatian scholars are now agreed that Ignatius himself lacked any burning impulse to counteract Lutheranism .....

I would suggest, however, that it is possible to go further. There are in fact important parallels between Ignatius and Luther. In what follows, I want to point to three important points of resemblance. Firstly, there is a remarkable similarity in the way they both, as old men, looked back on their most formative experiences of God. Secondly, they both tried to establish a new ideal of ministry and pastoral care within Western Christianity. Thirdly, both had difficulties reconciling conscience and authority.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Captain Hook and yard photos

Yesterday I posted about the pope's interview and thus completely forgot yesterday was pirate day. Thinking about pirates because I'm watching Once Upon a Time, which features the notorious Captain Hook :) ....

But back to reality - here are some pics I took in the yard today. My neighbor's cat naps under the pine trees ...

Picking up pecans from the driveway ....

Shady under the walnut tree ...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ftancis' interview

The pope's latest interview can be read in different Jesuit publications, like Thinking Faith ... A Big Heart Open to God. The whole interview is worth a read and I liked very much almost everything in it! I was especially touched by parts like these ...

What element of Ignatian spirituality helps you live your ministry?”

“Discernment,” he replies. “Discernment is one of the things that worked inside St. Ignatius .... What gave me confidence at the time of Father Arrupe [superior general of the Jesuits from 1965 to 1983] was the fact that he was a man of prayer, a man who spent much time in prayer. I remember him when he prayed sitting on the ground in the Japanese style. For this he had the right attitude and made the right decisions.”

- Pedro Arrupe

(I posted about the discernment of spirits here)


I am wondering if there are figures among the Jesuits, from the origins of the Society to the present date, that have affected him in a particular way, so I ask the pope who they are and why. He begins by mentioning Ignatius Loyola [founder of the Jesuits] and Francis Xavier, but then focuses on a figure who is not as well known to the general public: Peter Faber (1506-46), from Savoy.

“Ignatius is a mystic, not an ascetic,” he says. “It irritates me when I hear that the Spiritual Exercises are ‘Ignatian’ only because they are done in silence. In fact, the Exercises can be perfectly Ignatian also in daily life and without the silence. An interpretation of the Spiritual Exercises that emphasises asceticism, silence and penance is a distorted one that became widespread even in the Society, especially in the Society of Jesus in Spain. I am rather close to the mystical movement, that of Louis Lallement and Jean-Joseph Surin. And Faber was a mystic.”

(I like Peter Faber - mention him here. And let this finally end the assertion that Ignatius was an ascetic - I hate asceticism! :)


What does the church need most at this historic moment? Do we need reforms? What are your wishes for the church in the coming years? What kind of church do you dream of?”

“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up ........

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow .... "

(yay! :)


I ask, “So if the encounter with God is not an ‘empirical eureka,’ and if it is a journey that sees with the eyes of history, then we can also make mistakes?”

The pope replies: “Yes, in this quest to seek and find God in all things there is still an area of uncertainty. There must be. If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key. If one has the answers to all the questions – that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. Uncertainty is in every true discernment that is open to finding confirmation in spiritual consolation ..."

(memo to conservatives :)


I saved this part for last, though it wasn't at the end of the interview, because it was the one part that made me sad ....

“What should be the role of women in the church? How do we make their role more visible today?”

He answers: “I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man. But what I hear about the role of women is often inspired by an ideology of machismo. Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.”

It's disappointing that a Jesuit pope thinks this way about women and their place in the church. The Jesuits are better than this: here is the beginning of Jesuits and the situation of women in church and civil society, one of the documents to emerge from General Congregation 34 ...

[...] Church teaching certainly promotes the role of women within the family, but it also stresses the need for their contribution in the Church and in public life. It draws upon the text of Genesis, which speaks of men and women created in the image of God (Gn 1:27) and the prophetic praxis of Jesus in his relationship with women. These sources call us to change our attitudes and work for a change of structures. The original plan of God was for a loving relationship of respect, mutuality and equality between men and women, and we are called to fulfil this plan. The tone of this ecclesial reflection on Scripture makes it clear that there is an urgency in the challenge to translate theory into practice not only outside, but also within, the Church itself.

The Society of Jesus accepts this challenge and our responsibility for doing what we can as men and as a male religious order. We do not pretend or claim to speak for women. However, we do speak out of what we have learned from women about ourselves and our relationship with them.

In making this response we are being faithful, in the changed consciousness of our times, to our mission: the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement. We respond, too, out of the acknowledgement of our own limited but significant influence as Jesuits and as male religious within the Church. We are conscious of the damage to the People of God brought about in some cultures by the alienation of women who no longer feel at home in the Church, and who are not able with integrity to transmit Catholic values to their families, friends and colleagues.

In response, we Jesuits first ask God for the grace of conversion. We have been part of a civil and ecclesial tradition that has offended against women. And, like many men, we have a tendency to convince ourselves that there is no problem. However unwittingly, we have often contributed to a form of clericalism which has reinforced male domination with an ostensibly divine sanction. By making this declaration we wish to react personally and collectively, and do what we can to change this regrettable situation ...............

It's unjust to treat women and men as if they were ontologically different in the eyes of God - why doesn't Francis see this?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Jesuit churches, Keith Ward, telomeres

- Keith Ward on whether human beings are special to God ...

- In the news: Lifestyle Changes May Lengthen Telomeres, A Measure of Cell Aging. I only know what telomeres are from watching Stargate Atlantis :) On a two part episode, the doctor was shown to actually be a clone of himself because his telomeres were shorter ...

- And last night I got caught up in a Wikipedia page of Jesuit churches. Some are quite simple like the Chapel of the Resurrection in Brussels ....

While others are pretty froo-froo ;) like the Study Church of the Assumption in Dillingen on the Danube ......

This Jesuit Church of St. Francis Xavier in Lucerne has neat oniony domes ...

And the Pilgrimage Church of Maria Freistein looks so mysterious ...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tour of Oxford

- Christ Church

I'm rereading The Defector and in it Gabriel Allon, Israeli agent and art restorer, visits a friend in Oxford who takes him to the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens to talk and tells him ...

A hundred and fifty years ago, a mathematician from Christ Church used to come here with a young girl and her two sisters. The mathematician was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. The girl was Alice Liddell. Their visits served as the inspiration for a book Dodgson would write under the pen name Lewis Carroll -- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, of course.

You can go on a virtual tour of the garden here and here's a brief video tour of Oxford ...

What I saw today

- A past article by William Barry SJ - Spiritual Direction in Daily Life

- Beautiful photos of blown out wicks

- New report finds that effects of child abuse and neglect, if untreated, can last a lifetime

- Surprising Ally For Snow Leopards: Buddhist Monks

- :) ...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Online Retreat in Everyday Life

I see that fellow blogger Todd at Catholic Sensibility is going to make Creighton U's Ignatian online retreat in everyday life. This is the same retreat I took part in years ago and which I've mentioned now and then on the blog. Here's one of my past posts about it ...

Creighton University's online 34 week retreat for Everyday Life, a version of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, started yesterday (for those who want to be in sync with the liturgical year).

Ten years ago I made the retreat. I still remember how I felt going into it - doubtful and hopeful, excited and scared. I'd thought the hardest part of the retreat would be believing in God's existence, but instead it was realizing that even with God existing and with a relationship between us, I still hadn't been transformed into a better person, and my questions about the problem of evil still hadn't been answered.

I still believe, and I'm still trying to figure out how to be good, and why God allows suffering. I've learned more about the church in these ten years, much of it discouraging, but what's kept me from giving up has been what I learned in the retreat - that prayer can be a relationship, that the discernment of spirits can help you figure stuff out if you're willing to trust that you're made for flourishing.

I think I mentioned this in a past post, but you can watch a Georgetown U video about the Spiritual Exercises featuring four Jesuits (William Barry, John O'Malley, Joseph Tetlow, and John Padberg) discussing the retreat.

Grape leaves

Wild Thompson Seedless Grape vines in the yard ...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

"It's alive!"

Just started the second season of Once Upon a Time. It's all about different fairy tale characters who've been ensorcelled and transplanted to present day and here, but in tonight's episode it was revealed that one of the characters doesn't fit the mold. In a glimpse of the past, we see him travel to the enchanted forest to get a charmed heart with which to complete his experiment, and when it's successful and his assistant cries, "It's magic, Dr. Frankenstein!" he corrects him: "No, not magic - it's science." :)

I so like this show!

Still watching ...

the giant panda and her baby at panda-cam :)

Mission almost accomplished

Almost done with tarping. It's a relief because with my bad vision, it always seems like a miracle if I get through the whole thing without tripping over a string and falling off the roof ;) Here's a view looking down at the ladder - the scariest part is climbing down it ....

Friday, September 13, 2013

Some links

- Listen to Jesuit Thomas Reese gives a talk on Pope Francis and reform in the church here - he tells some good jokes :)

- Speaking of Fr. Reese, today I came upon this 2005 article by John L. Allen, Jr. at NCR about how he was forced from his post at America magazine - Editor of Jesuits' America magazine forced to resign under Vatican pressure

- So what's the pope's new old car look like? Here's a pic of the Renault 4 from Wikipedia ....

- How you can help animals impacted by the flooding in Colorado

- Listen at NPR ... Massive Molasses Spill Devastates Honolulu Marine Life :(

- Much interest in the Vatican's sec. of state mentioning optional celibacy. I would get hopeful about this, but looking back at my pasts posts, I see this idea comes up all the time and nothing has changed ... in 2009 the editors of America magazine wrote about optional celibacy: A Modest Proposal ... Cardinal Christoph Schönborn mentioned optional celibacy in 2010 ... in 2011 the Melkite Catholic Church in the US decided to ordain married men ... etc. Maybe it will be different, now that we have Francis - one can hope :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Lighthouse's Tale

I really like this song :) ....

I am a lighthouse worn by the weather and the waves
I keep my lamp lit to warn the sailors on their way
I'll tell a story, paint you a picture from my past
I was so happy but joy in this life seldom lasts

I had a keeper, he helped me warn the ships at sea
We had grown closer 'til his joy meant everything to me
And he was to marry a girl who shown with beauty and light
They loved each other, and with me watched the sunsets into nights

And the waves crashing around me
The sand slips out to sea
And the winds that blow remind me
Of what has been and what can never be

She'd had to leave us; my keeper, he prayed for a safe return
But when the night came, the weather to a raging storm had turned
He watched her ship fight, but in vain against the wild and terrible wind
And me so helpless, as dashed against the rocks she met her end

And the waves crashing around me
The sand slips out to sea
And the winds that blow remind me
Of what has been and what can never be

Then on the next day, my keeper found her washed up on the shore
He kissed her cold face, and that they'd be together soon he swore
I saw him crying, watched as he buried her in the sand
Then he climbed my tower, and off the edge of me he ran

And the waves crashing around me
The sand slips out to sea
And the winds that blow remind me
Of what has been and what can never be

I am a lighthouse worn by the weather and the waves
And though I'm empty I still warn the sailors on their way

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Happy ending

Almost at the end of season 1 of Once Upon a Time and about to rent season 2 - things seem to be looking up for Snow White and Prince Charming :) ...

9/11 and tarps

Strange = it was on this day, 12 years ago, that my sister came over to help me tarp the leaky roof and told me of the attack on the World Trade Center. At first I thought she was kidding :( Anyway, hoping this year to fix the roof instead of tarping, but too expensive, so we tarp. Here's one of the silvery tarps tied in place ...

An area not yet tarped ...

I'd rather look at the trees than the roof ....

Monday, September 09, 2013

Zone One

My latest book from the library is Zone One: A Novel by Colson Whitehead. Here's the beginning of the review on the Amazon page written by Justin Cronin ...

The phrase “the thinking person’s [something]” may be terminally overused, but surely that’s what Colson Whitehead has accomplished in Zone One--a savvy zombie classic, the best addition to the genre since George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. In a nutshell: Zone One is a story of three days in the life of one Mark Spitz and his squad of three “sweepers” moving through the eponymous Zone One of lower Manhattan, a walled-off enclave scheduled for resettlement in the aftermath of a zombie plague. The great masses of the undead, known as “skels” for their skeleton-like appearance, have been violently dispatched by a Marine detachment. It falls to Spitz and his fellows to take care of the handful that remain, as well as a second-tier of the infected known as “stragglers”: zombies who have bypassed the cannibalistic urges of their more lethal fellows in favor of a hollow-eyed, eerily nostalgic repetition of some mundane act. Surfing a vanished web. Switching the channels of a dead remote. Filling helium balloons in a ransacked party supply store. Running a photocopy machine, presumably for all eternity ....

Whitehead is a Visiting Lecturer in Creative Writing at Princeton University so I guess it's no surprise that the story is heavy on description - I'm just at the beginning, but while I appreciate the well-written-ness of it, I'm getting a little restless waiting for the zombies to make the scene ;)

You can read an excerpt from the beginning of the book at Esquire.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Richard Leonard SJ, Jeff McMahan, Marilyn McCord Adams

- Jesuit Richard Leonard (I wrote about him here) does a podcast review of some of the latest horror films out, like The Conjuring, a film about real life Catholic lay exorcists, Ed and Lorraine Warren - interesting :)

- Rutgers University philosophy professor Jeff McMahan (I wrote about him here) - Is There a Moral Argument for Just War in Syria?

- Marilyn McCord Adams on free will and the problem of evil. For those who don't know of her, she's an Episcopal priest and had Keith Ward's old job as the Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University, but now teachers Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ....

Snow White's intervention

I'm watching Once Upon a Time .... Snow White is living with the seven dwarves, in hiding from her evil stepmother, the Queen, and she has recently taken a potion to forget her unrequited love for Prince Charming. This trying situation has turned her into a jerk ;) and the dwarves attempt an intervention with the help of Jiminy Cricket ...

Saturday, September 07, 2013

None of the above?

Today I got a survey from one of my reps in Congress asking me what I thought the US should do about Syria. He listed a number of options and asked me to choose one .... do nothing, limited military strike, full attack, humanitarian aid only, etc. and I realized I don't know what to choose. As a mostly pacifist, I lean toward the humanitarian aid only option, but the assumption I see everywhere online - that doing nothing equals peace - seems deluded .... the reason this is an issue at all is that people have been killed, are now being killed, and will continue to be killed. Killing more people just to make a point seems wrong, and doing nothing while people die also seems wrong. I don't know what's best so I can't fill out the survey :(

Friday, September 06, 2013

The Man Who Sold the World

I wasn't a Bowie fan growing up, though my mom was, but I especially like this song of his (probably more widely known as a Nirvana cover?) - it appeared on an episode of Fringe. One of the things I liked about Fringe was the variety of the music I heard on the series, from Mozart's Requiem to Figaro and the theme for Miami Vice :)

We passed upon the stair, we spoke of was and when
Although I wasn't there, he said I was his friend
Which came as some surprise I spoke into his eyes
I thought you died alone, a long long time ago

Oh no, not me
I never lost control
You're face to face
With The Man Who Sold The World

I laughed and shook his hand, and made my way back home
I searched for form and land, for years and years I roamed
I gazed a gazely stare at all the millions here
We must have died alone, a long long time ago

Who knows? not me
We never lost control
You're face to face
With the Man who Sold the World

Three links

- A talk given on Pope Francis by Fr Frank Brennan SJ. Fr. Brennan is an interesting guy = a Jesuit, human rights lawyer, and academic.

- A book from Gustavo Gutiérrez (one of the founders of liberation theology) and Gerhard Ludwig Müller (the prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith) and how Pope Francis is so not in this loop - link

- The Economist reviews Robert Calderisi's book, Earthly Mission: The Catholic Church and World Development ...

[...] Mr Calderisi brings experience of two sorts. He has worked for many years for organisations such as the World Bank and has written compellingly about why aid has failed Africa. He is also a Catholic. He is, however, clear-eyed about the church’s flaws. He decries the breathtaking insensitivity of the Vatican’s declaration in 2010 that the ordination of women would be an ecclesiastical crime as serious as the sexual abuse of children. He left the church for a decade after Pope Paul VI confirmed the ban on birth control, so distressed was he about the damage the edict would do in the developing world. He is gay and has little time for the church’s pronouncements on homosexuality. Instead, he is interested in where the church follows the Bible’s call to love, “not in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth”. The church’s role in setting up schools and hospitals is familiar territory, as is its (mixed) political influence in Latin America. More gripping is Mr Calderisi’s examination of its actions in Rwanda and its stance on contraception ....

See my past post about the Church and what happened in Rwanda here

Thursday, September 05, 2013

A Jesuit ...

... on Pope Francis’ call for a day of prayer and fasting for peace.

I've been conflicted about the idea but oday I saw something at The Jesuit Post by Sam Sawyer SJ that made sense to me. It's long - here's just the beginning of it ...

On Syria: Praying Because We Don’t Know What to Hope for

Is it possible for there to be nothing — either practically or morally, by force or persuasion or any other means — that we can do to improve a terrible situation? And when we reach that point, when we can do nothing except fast and pray and cry out to heaven, are we really doing anything at all? Or are we just sticking our heads in the sand and hoping that God will somehow, magically, make it all better?

Faced with real tragedy and suffering, prayer can seem like a terrible answer. It seems weak and insufficient and cowardly — I know. So am I. So are we ....

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Ceremonies of Light and Dark

- Delenn and Marcus

Tonight's episode of Babylon 5 was one of my favorites - Ceremonies of Light and Dark. Delenn wants to put on a rebirth ceremony, which involves reflection and meditation on the past and the future in order to come together, to restore that which has been torn apart, and to heal wounds suffered. As part of the ceremony, one must tell someone a secret that they've never told anyone else before and must also give away something that is of great value to them.

Delenn expects Marcus to attend the ceremony but he refuses and eventually she corners him to find out why ...

M: You asked me to give something up, Delenn. I don't have anything left. It's all gone. My brother was the last of our family and he died because of my stupidity. He warned me of the Shadows. I didn't listen. And when they came, I lost him, our home, the colony where we'd grown up, and a woman I was quite fond of. I escaped with only the clothes on my back and went off in search of these Rangers he had been going on about, because he believed in them and in you. Everything I was, everything I had died that night. I don't have anything left to give.

D: Then that is exactly what you must give up. Yes, you have lost much, endured much, sacrificed greatly, but you cling to the memory of your sacrifices, of all the things you have lost or left behind. They drag behind you like chains of your own making. They can have a terrible power over you, Marcus. The power of grief, of loss, and regret. Yes, you have let go of the people, the places and the things, but you have not let go of the pain. You have not forgiven yourself.

M: For what?

D: Being alive.

By the end of the episode, Delenn is hurt and the ceremony is canceled so Marcus is off the hook, but the other characters do go through the parts of the ceremony of telling their secrets and giving up something they care about to Delenn.

It's hard to find specific video clips for B5, but here's a sort of trailer for the show ...

Monday, September 02, 2013

Is worldwide coordinated prayer effective?

Reading about the pope making September 7th a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria ....

[...] September 7 is the vigil of the birth of Our Lady, Queen of Peace”. Christians know that, as Jesus said, some intractable problems can only be healed by fasting as well as prayer; fasting is an ancient tradition, not much in evidence these days outside the dieting industry, where it waxes and wanes in popularity, but still a powerful sign of sorrow, repentance and a serious commitment to the particular prayer intention. The Holy Father concludes his appeal with an invocation to Mary, Queen of Peace, that “she [may] help us to find peace” because “all of us are her children”.

So often in our personal lives we Christians know that it is only through prayer that seemingly insoluble situations are resolved. As the Pope indicates, we also have a responsibility for the wider society, in this case for Syria, because “all men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace.” So we are obliged to do something and not merely wring our hands.

This reminded me of Jim Wallis in 2007 asking people to pray en masse for Congress to end the Iraq war, and I realized something about myself back then, and I feel the same way now - I guess I don't think coordinated prayers and fasting will make any difference as far as getting God to fix things. It's not that I don't think he fixes things, but I find just creepy the idea that he bases his willingness to intervene on numbers or on ritualized self-denial .... surely none of us think God's just waiting around for an adequate asking before he'll work for peace? But maybe this isn't about God, but about people - maybe the pope hopes this will raise people's awareness and get them to do something practical about the situation, or that it will alert leaders to a general wish for peace?

Sunday, September 01, 2013

The saving powers of Babylon 5

I've been kind of depressed lately, but today at the library I found some old episodes of Babylon 5 and it cheered me up :)

Babylon 5 is an American space opera television series created by writer and producer J. Michael Straczynski ..... Described as "one of the most complex programs on television," the various story arcs drew upon the prophesies, religious zealotry, racial tensions, social pressures, and political rivalries which existed within each of their cultures, to create a contextual framework for the motivations and consequences of the protagonists' actions .... it received multiple awards during its initial run, including two consecutive Hugo Awards for best dramatic presentation and continues to regularly feature prominently in various polls and listings highlighting top-rated science fiction series.

Thinking about my cat Grendel ...

... who died almost exactly eight years ago. Once she had a very bad herpes blister on her eye and needed to wear an elizabethan collar so that she wouldn't rub it. Every day she and I would sit on the floor in front of the tv and I'd take the collar off: I'd watch an episode of Babylon 5 with one eye and Grendel with the other while giving her a chance to groom herself - happy memory :)

My favorite character of the show is Marcus, the Ranger, a kind of sad person, actually: he had lost his whole family to the evil ones and ended up giving his life to save the person he unrequitedly loved ....

But I liked everyone else as well, including the captain ....

And the Minbari ....

Maybe I'll post more about the show as I watch the next few seasons' episodes. Meanwhile, here's a clip of Marcus fighting a much stronger opponent, a Mimbari, to protect a friend ...


Still some roses left ...

And some balck-eyed susans ...