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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Playstation earns ire of Catholic leaders in Italy

To the left is the Sony Playstation advertisement that is being condemned by Italian Catholics as blasphemous.

The ad celebrates 10 years of Sony, as the original PlayStation launched 10 years ago. It features a young man’s face, encircled by what appears to be a crown of thorns, but on closer inspection is actually the square, circle, and triangle shapes of the PlayStation controller. The caption underneath the picture reads “Ten Years of Passion,” an obvious allusion to the Passion of Christ.

Cardinal Ersilio Tonini called the advertisement “irreverent” and went on to say, “Already I often hear children say that Heaven is the place where people drink coffee, remembering also in this case an advertisement. Now children can think that the Passion of Christ is a game.” [source]

It will be interesting to see if Sony changes the advertisement as Burger King did in response to claims that one could see the name of Allah on it's ice cream cups. But I doubt it.

Using religion to promote commercialism...some things never change. I'm not sure how one deals with this - public boycotts no longer seem effective and it is clear that you can't appeal to a common sense of decency and respect either. Perhaps all you can do it strive to increase true devotion to Christ in your life and the world around. And pray for the souls of Sony executives.

Angelina Jolie - papabile?

WASHINGTON: Angelina Jolie's father Jon Voight, who is starring in 'Pope John Paul II', has said that his estranged daughter is just like the pontiff.

The movie veteran, who plays the lead role in the biopic, said that while filming for the movie he realised that Jolie has papal qualities.

"I know how he (the pope) behaves with people and my daughter has the same response to people; she likes to interact with people. What I've noticed from her is this thing that comes down, I think, from my dad - he loved people," Contactmusic quoted Voight as saying. [source]

While Ms. Jolie has done a good deal of work on behalf of the poor, I can't see John Paul II having an affair with Brad Pitt.

Movement for beatification of Pope John Paul I progresses

The beatification process for the Italian pontiff has moved swiftly ahead since its 2003 launch, the official in charge of the cause said in an interview marking the 27th anniversary of the pope's death.

"We have testimony of an apparent miracle which we are evaluating and which we are thinking of presenting to the Vatican," Monsignor Giorgio Lise told a Catholic website . [source]

Msgr Lise did not reveal the nature of the miracle due to the need to keep the process secret while it is being investigated.

Notre Dame vs the Jesuits

The new president of Notre Dame appears to want to move the University back to its Catholic roots. But he has already generated some controversy over the following quote:

"In all of American higher education, Notre Dame has a distinct position. It aspires to be, and is, among the leading universities ... It is at the same time the only one with religious character, with all respects to our friends at Boston College and Georgetown," he said, referring to the more liberal Jesuit schools. "The inertia is always to be like everyone else. To be different, you have to chart a course and have a clear idea about where you want to go."

Though a ND spokesperson later clarified Jenkin's remarks:

"What he's saying is, if you take the top 20 schools, there is only one with religious character, and that's Notre Dame," he said. [source]

Let the battle begin!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Dutch move to legalize killing children

The Associated Press is reporting that the Dutch government wishes to set up guidelines for permitting doctors with the consent of parents to put terminally ill newborns to death.

As the article notes, this is likely to also begin the slipperly slope toward the execution of any who are not able to speak a voice in their defense or to offer consent, such as those with mental disabilities or the elderly suffering from dementia.

Under the protocol, euthanasia would be permissible when a child is terminally ill with no prospect of recovery and suffering great pain, when two sets of doctors agree the situation is hopeless and when parents give their consent.

Any cases involving the execution of a child will be brought before a vetting committee to decide whether euthanasia is permissible. However, as the article notes, so far none of the doctors who apparently violated the legal prohibitions against killing the voiceless has faced any prosecution.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller

When the killing becomes justifiable as a means of ending pain, no one is safe because no one can quantify when pain become "too severe". No one can quantify whether physical pain or emotional pain or spiritual pain are significant enought to justify death. All that is left are doctors who are supposed to make an emotional decision unemotionally. The whole notion of ending unendurable pain is that one should feel sympathy with the patient, however the whole notion of making an objective medical decision is to operate free from emotions which might lead to an improper diagnosis or decision.

What you are left with is the killing of patients who don't suffer from unendurable pain but instead cause an unendurable inconvenience upon those who hold the instruments of death in their hands.

As the article notes, there are medicines and means available to mange pain - unfortunately, science can't create a conscience.

Emo Philips and funny religious jokes

One of Emo Philips' religious jokes was voted by Ship of Fools as the funniest religious joke of all time. Emo is upset at not being credited for the joke and takes out his anger by offering several other jokes as well as commenting on a proposed British law outlawing "offensive" religious jokes. None of the jokes is offensive, all of them are funny.

Reflections on Evolution, Creation and Catholicism - Part II

In the face of such difficulties, how does Catholicism respond to evolutionary theory?

Catholic teaching does not see any inherent conflict between the teachings of faith and science provided each is properly understood. John Paul II, asserts, “Rightly comprehended, faith in creation or a correctly understood teaching of evolution does not create obstacles: evolution in fact presupposes creation; creation situates itself in the light of evolution as an event which extends itself through time – as a continual creation – in which God becomes visible to the eyes of the believer as ‘creator of heaven and earth’.” In fact, John Paul calls evolution “more than a hypothesis” because of the convergence of several discoveries regarding it made by independent scientific studies. The International Theological Commission states that because of these converging discoveries it is possible “to make a convincing case for the origin of the human species in Africa about 40,000 years ago in a humanoid population of common genetic lineage.” [International Theological Commission, “Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God”, Origins 34, no. 15 (23 September 2004]

Yet, evolution needs to be understood in a particular way in order to be compatible with Catholicism. First, while evolution can be used to understand the material processes which guided creation, it cannot be understood as denying the responsibility that faith has for discerning the reasons for creation – i.e., that creation is the result of the free love of God who created humanity in his image and likeness. This truth is seen as beyond scientific investigation. For example, the International Theological Commission speaks of an “ontological leap” from the animal to the human. Therefore, the explanations for humanity’s existences lie in metaphysics and not in empiricism.

Furthermore, any Catholic understanding of evolution should also accept that the human soul is not the result of any “evolutionary process” but is “created immediately by God.” While it is possible that human body evolved from antecedent living beings, the human soul, “on which man’s humanity definitively depends” is of a spiritual rather than a material nature. Thus, the classification of a living being as human depends not on biological development, but on the presence of a human soul. Therefore, “the first true human, i.e. possessed of a human soul, need not have been evolutionarily a finished product.” [See Earl Muller, S.J., “The Magisterium and Human Origins”, The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 3, no. 3 (Autumn 2003)]

Tomorrow, I'll look at Evolution and Original Sin

Truth in Advertising - The Association of Pittsburgh Priests

There has been quite a bit of discussion up here in the Pittsburgh area and elsewhere about the news report regarding the request of the Association of Pittsburgh Priests request that the Bishop of Pittsburgh request that the Vatican discuss the ordination of women and married priests.

What is not said in the report is that the Association of Pittsburgh Priests is not indeed a truly accurate description if one assumes that this is somehow an official organization including membership every priest in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Here is their own description of themselves:

The Pittsburgh group may be unique among groups that belong to the national federation because about a third of its members are resigned priests, their wives and lay Catholics -- most of them liberal in outlook and active in church renewal issues, Oesterle said. Its membership represents about 10 percent of the approximately 500 diocesan priests in Pittsburgh. Oesterle called the Association of Pittsburgh Priests more "a Call to Action group" than a traditional priests' council. It intends to continue its links with the Catholic Organizations for Renewal f[sic] a national umbrella group of 33 renewal groups -- and to support the Eastern Pennsylvania Call to Action group in its effort to renew the church and to speak for justice and peace, Oesterle said. [source]

The "Association of Pittsburgh Priests" has been asking for the ordination of women and married men for sometime.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Reflections on Evolution, Creation and Catholicism - Part I

As a Catholic historian whose speciality is modern Europe, I don't usually have to deal with the subject of human origins, but I do have to address it in my Western Civilizations class. It can be a controversial subject area as it concerns scientific and theological truth as well as deep personal emotions. The subject is especially difficult for the historian as it concerns the pre-history of humanity - a time of no written sources and in that sense is more under the domain of the anthropologist. It is also difficult because it concerns theological opinions which also fall somewhat outside the realm of history as an academic discipline.

I wanted to jot down some of the reflections that I have had about the interaction between Catholic Theology and Evolutionary Science that I have had as I seek to present an understanding of human origins that is faithful to the truth as it is expressed both in the faith and in science. So far, it has been a challenge for reasons that will be apparent as these reflections continue.

Before I begin, let me be clear that I am not a biologist and I am not an expert in evolutionary science. So, if my presentations on the science of evolution are incorrect - I am always willing to modify my views.

In this first post, I wanted to present some of the problems that seem to exist in even looking at the subject of Catholicism and Evolution.

The Theory of Evolution has been very difficult for many to accept - especially those who believe in a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis [about forty percent of all Americans]. Evolution’s reliance on chance and natural selection for species development seems to leave no room for God within the world, much less a real purpose for creation. Evolution’s assertion that humanity is simply one of many evolving species, which arose only accidentally, appears to minimize humanity’s particular uniqueness. The importance of a “survival of the fittest” mechanism to evolution appears to make evil simply a natural part of the universe and not the result of an original sin. Some Catholics fear that if there is no original sin, there is no fall and therefore no need for a Savior.

Connected with this is the very charged language which permeates the discourse between opponents and supporters of the Theory of Evolution. For example, Robert Sungenis of the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation calls the Theory of Evolution a "Bill of Goods" which has "no-supporting evidence" and is contrary to the continuing tradition of the Church. Richard Dawkins, a vocal supporter of Evolution, claims, “if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).”

In the face of these polarized opinions, some have chosen to reject any recourse to faith in the search for truth. These “Naturalists” or “Evolutionists” [as I will call them] believe that empirical science has demonstrated the reliability of evolutionary theory and left no room for God in creation. They believe that life developed billions of years ago through “an improbable series of accidents.” As Richard Dawkins claims, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless, indifference.” A creation that is the result of blind chance and purely mechanistic causes would seem to make “theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous.” [Sources: John F. Haught, Responses to 101 Questions on God and Evolution (New York: Paulist Press, 2001) and William S. Harris and John H. Calvert, “Intelligent Design: The Scientific Alternative to Evolution”, The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 3, no. 3 (Autumn 2003)]

Needless to say, such a presentation of evolution which denies the existence of or role for God is in complete opposition to the Catholic faith tradition. For, if there is no purpose, “there is no meaning, there are no absolutes, and there is no reason for existence.” [Harris] If evolution did demonstrate faith and science to be incompatible, it would understandably be catastrophic for the reasonableness of Christianity.

The existence of multiple Theories of Evolution also makes it difficult to nail down what exactly one means when one speaks of the subject. For example, the theory of Punctuated Equilibrium of Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge postulates that there are long periods of genetic stability punctuated by short periods of great genetic change. Phyletic Gradualism, on the other hand, asserts that genetic change remains relatively constant. I should note, that some would say that there isn't a vast difference between the two.

A third reason why some are hesitant to accept Evolution is that it appears to be scientifically untestable, unlike physics or chemistry experiments which can be performed to verify hypotheses. As Harvard Professor Ernest Mayr notes: "Evolutionary biology…is a historical science – the Evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead, one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain." [Mayr cited in Harris]

Ironically, it seems that any proposal designed to demonstrate the validity of evolution requires the very introduction of the structure and design which the supporter of evolution denies is present in natural selection. Scientists can theorize about the evolution of man, they cannot reproduce the steps of that evolution.

This concludes the first part of the presentation. As I said, I come at this from the perspective of a non-expert seeking to reconcile the teachings of faith and reason. I believe that their is only one truth and that if the teachings of faith and science seem in conflict, I don't understand either faith or science correctly [or both]. What I present as problems here I mean in terms of problems that make it difficult for some to accept evolution - these are not necessarily problems in the Theory of Evolution itself.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Why the Chicago Cubs are the official team of the Catholic Church

Never one to shy away from controversy, I feel that it is time for me to address a certain failing among many Catholics to recognize the mandatory devotion they should have toward the Chicago Cubs.

There are several reasons why the Chicago Cubs are the team for Catholics.

1. Just as Cubs fans root for their team despite year after year of disappointment, so does God continue to support us despite our mistakes and failures.

2. Just as our readings for this past Sunday emphasized that God looks not at our errors of the past but instead on the good things we do in the present, so to does the National League not look upon the many victories that the Cubs have at the beginning of the season, but instead at the even greater number of losses that they have at the end of the season.

3. Note the profound significance of Pope Benedict XVI's coat of arms:

4. Is it surprising that the archfoe of the Chicago Cubs is a goat, considering that the goat is also the symbol of the devil and of all those who will not inherit everlasting life? I think not.

So, consider this a call for all real Catholics to recognize the allegiance that they owe to the Chicago Cubs must be of religious assent of the mind and the will as stated in the famous encyclical Expecto insequentem annum.

Sts. Cosmas and Damien

Today is the Feast of Sts. Cosmas and Damien - the unmercenary martyrs. Called "unmercenary" because they gave aid to all in need and never asked for anything in return. The were martyred during the rule of Diocletian and are considered the patron saints of pharmacists.

Cosmas and Damien are of special importance to those of us in the Third Order Regular because we have been given custody of the Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damien in Rome.

There is a very nice page dedicated to the saints here, including many images of the saints.

Below is an image taken from the Basilica in Rome dedicated to them. Sts. Cosmas and Damien, pray for us!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Cardinal condemns Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission

Chicago Cardinal Francis George has condemned the group Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission and banned the group from meeting in Chicago's parishes or diocesan facilities. The group has been facing a good deal of scruitiny ever since a 19 year old Iowan girl left her family to join it. The group has been called by many a cult.

This is the first time that I have heard of this group which appears to be active in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin and I don't know much about it other than what appeared in the article. I couldn't find any website sponsored by the group. Does anyone know anything more?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The podcast is up...or what have I gotten myself into?

I have begun a new podcast called Catholic:Under The Hood. Presently, I am operating on a shoestring budget but hope to improve with time and prayer. Feel free to listen to it and give me your comments.

Carlos Santana misses the point

In a recent interview, Carlos Santana voices his opposition to the papacy, saying:

"I'm not afraid of Bush and I'm not afraid of the Pope," he says. "I don't consider them to be adversaries, I consider them to be obstacles, like Nixon and LBJ."

Now, leaving aside the ridiculousness of comparing any Pope with Nixon or LBJ, the comment I found most telling was this:

"If Jesus would appear, like he said he would in the Bible, parts the sky like a zipper and - shazam! - come to Earth, the first thing I think he would do is go to the Pope and say, 'you built all of this stuff in my name?! It's worth $3 trillion? Tell you what: I want you to feed the world for the next 100 years in my name, and you can keep the other half.'

First of all, why is it that wealthy musicians and artists always feel that they have the right to condemn the Catholic Church for wealth but never seem to want to put their own ideas into practice. So, Mr. Santana - consider this a challenge. Please donate half of your income to feed the world for the rest of your life and please urge your other musician and artist friends to do the same.

Secondly, statements like these make good press but they are so woefully ignorant of reality. Let's assume for the sake of argument that he is correct about the current net worth of the Catholic Church. Let's assume, again for the sake of argument, that the Catholic Church agrees to sell 1/2 its assets. So we now have $1.5 trillion to spend. Let's say we divide that money among the 3.2 billion people that are currently defined as living in poverty - i.e. making less than $2 a day. This means that each person will get over the next 100 years a grand total of around $469 or about $47 a year. After which they money is gone - unlike the churches which would still be standing. Note that they are still making less that $2 a day and are still, therefore, poor. Note that even if the Catholic Church divested itself of all its income and gave it all to the poor, they would still make less than $2 a day and would still, therefore, be poor. I leave aside the fact that the Catholic Church dedicates far more of its time and resources to the poor than Carlos Santana and his fellow travelers do.

Thirdly, why is it that when some people look at beautiful churches, beautiful art, beautiful liturgical vessels - the first thing they want to do is to sell them all and get rid of the money. The usual complaint is that of Judas - "Why could this not be sold and given to the poor?" I'll tell you why it isn't - because the poor already own it.

The pope does not own St. Peters Basilica - it is owned by the faithful not just of today but by all those working poor who labored long hours to build it and all the other Churches in devotion and honor to God. They loved their faith, they honored it and wanted to show their love in the way they built their Church. So when I look at a beautiful chalice, I don't think "Why don't they sell that chalice and give the money to the poor." I think "What a love of God these people have."

Why do you think that many Catholics get so angry when their parishes are closed? It is because they and their fathers and mothers and their fathers and mothers sweat blood to build those churches, to leave something of themselves and their faith for their children.

Yet, some, like Carlos Santana find it so easy to spit on that devotion, to spit on that faith. They worship only themselves and turn their homes into temples devoted to self-idolization. Indeed, if there is an obstacle to helping the poor - it is attitudes like those of Mr. Santana.

When a couple purchases wedding rings - do they say to themselves, "We should just get some cheap plastic rings"? No, they go out and buy the best quality that they can afford. Many willingly go into debt to purchase these rings. It's not the rings themselves that interest them, but the rings are a sign of the importance of their marriage, of the depth of their love. In the same way, when a faithful people builds a house of worship for themselves, they will spend a great deal of money and effort to ensure that it shows both their love of God as well as their love of their neighbor - all those that will come to worship in that holy place.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart

This is the fifth installment in my series of reflections upon the Divine Praises. The previous reflections can be found here:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

I begin my reflection upon the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus wondering why it is there that Jesus directs our devotion.

Certainly, Jesus’ entire body is holy. Yet, we don’t have a special devotion to his Sacred Arm or to his Sacred Mind. Perhaps, it is becuase the holy arm is a sign of God's power, might and wrath. If our devotion were to his Sacred Arm, we might only respond to Jesus in fear. Perhaps it because Jesus does not come in power, but rather meek and lowly. If our devotion were to His Sacred Mind, we might think that salvation is for only the wise. But Jesus comes to confound our world wisdom, to show us the wonder in what might otherwise be called foolishness.

I think it is because Jesus comes to us in love. At the dawn of creation, the Father spoke the word in love. Two thousand years ago, the Word of love took upon our flesh and entered the world. In our devotion to the Sacred Heart, Jesus’ love for all people – his mercy for all people is embodied and enfleshed.

The Heart of Jesus loves and shows us how to love. As Saint John says, God is love. We love because God loves us first. And so, just as Jesus comes to us with his Heart on fire in love for us, our hearts should be burning with love for him. We must be more than open minded, we must be open hearted. We must do more than tolerate our brother and sister, we must love them. In the many pictures of Jesus and his Sacred Heart, Jesus points us to his heart and reminds us that there is but one way of salvation – through his loving heart.

Jesus also comes to us with his wounded heart. A heart wounded for love of us. On the Cross, that his heart was pierced for our sins. For our transgressions, out of it flowed blood and water. By his wounds we have been healed. By this blood and water we have been washed clean.

Jesus’ heart is wounded because we so often fail to respond in love to him. In the Gospels, he compares himself to a mother hen seeking to gather her chicks. How he longs to gather us close to his chest, to comfort us with the loving beats of his heart. How he longs to offer us his forgiving heart. Yet, how often we close our ears to his voice, to the beating of his love.

Jesus’ wounded heart is also his resurrected heart. Pierced and wounded, yet forever beating and always full of life. Forever offering the blood and water of salvation that pour forth from his Sacred Heart.

Jesus comes to us with his human heart. A human heart filled with the glory of the divine. The heart of our brother, the heart of our Lord. Because it is a human heart, it must beat as a human heart. How fast his heart must beat in joy because of our love. Just as the Father's heart beat so quickly in anticipation when he saw his prodigal son return. How heavy it must beat in sorrow because of our sins as David's heart beat over the death of Absalom. How strong it must beat in pride at the sight of the saints who have become single hearted in love of him.

Pope Leo XIII consecrated the whole human race to the Sacred Heart. Though truly all of our hearts our made holy because they are joined with God through the heart of Jesus – his loving heart, his wounded heart, his human heart.

May our hearts always strive to beat with the heart of Jesus.

Jesus, I pray that you will break my stony heart and form in me a fleshy heart.
A heart full of love for God and neighbor.
A heart full of mercy to those in need.
A heart open to all the wonders of creation.
A heart like yours.

The papal voting

Can no one keep a secret? The vote numbers for the last conclave have been released showing that Benedict had a substantial lead throughout the process. There are several things that I found interesting in the voting - that no one from Africa or Asia received any votes and that [at least according to the anonymous source] Cardinal Bernard Law received one vote.

My question is, did Law vote for himself? I can't imagine after what happened in Boston that he would have been considered as a viable candidate by anyone. Very odd.

Georgetown unveils new Jesuit habit

A picture of the new Jesuit habit can be found here on the website of the Georgetown Hoya. Personally, I think the color of the cope conflicts with that of the hat, but to each his own I guess.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Is it Jesus or...

Brent Wisniowski
is claiming to have found an image of Jesus on his tire and like all who have found miraculous images of Christ and his saints, he is making it available for adoration for the faithful worshipers in the Church of eBay.

Wisniowski was raised Catholic, but now claims no particular religion and doesn't attend church. But claims that, "I know a picture of Jesus when I see one."

But, having looked at the picture intently, I can tell that it is indeed not a picture of Jesus - but instead is a picture of famous 19th century Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky.

I am not Russian and I haven't been to Russia for a decade, but I know a picture of Dostoevsky when I see one.

The implications are astounding. Why would the author of Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, and The Devils chose to manifest himself on a radial tire? What sort of message is he trying to send about the nature of the human person?

I sense a dissertation topic here or maybe a new book!

What to do about tainted collections?

In Mexico, there is a growing conflict between the government and the Church regarding whether the Church should be spending money earned through the sale of narcotics.

On the side of the government:

"At no time, under no condition, may anyone receive illegal money," said Fox spokesman Ruben Aguilar. "No one may in this way aid in the laundering of money, and nobody can be in favor of organized crime acting with impunity."

On the side of the Church:

"If they have money, they have to spend it; I don't know why such a scandal has been made of this," Godinez said in a follow-up interview with the Televisa television network Tuesday. "If a drug trafficker gives, we are not going to investigate if he's a trafficker or not.

"Let me explain: We live on this, on the offerings of the faithful. And we do not investigate where they acquired the money."

On Monday, the bishop said money can start out being dirty but "can be transformed" when it enters the church, Mexican news media reported. [source]

On the one hand, I think that - especially with continuing focus on the scandls - that the Church should strive to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. On the other hand, I don't know that we can ask people to show us that their contributions are "clean" before we accept them.

It seems to me, if the government is worried that the Church is receiving money from drug dealers, perhaps the Church can point to how it is using these resources to help those suffering from drug addiction. If the Church can determine that certain funds were stolen, then the Church can make the attempt to return those funds back to proper owners.

I think of the early life of Francis, when he tried to donate a large sum of money he had acquired by selling his father's property. In that case, the priest refused to accept the donation and Francis tossed the contribution onto a ledge. Fortunately the priest didn't accept it, because when his father found out - he wanted his money back.

What would Francis, then, say? He'd probably tell the drug dealer to give all his money to the poor. He would not tell the drug dealer to keep his ill-gotten gains.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

For those with little patience, here's the quickie Bible

Reverend Michael Hinton of the Church of England has cut down Holy Scripture in his new "100 Minute Bible" that claims to "neatly summarize every teaching from the Creation to the Revelation."

Publishers the 100-Minute Press say the book has been written for those who want to know more about Christianity but who do not have the time to read the original in full.

"This is a book for adults and has been written in a style to encourage readers to keep turning the pages, but without resorting to any literary gimmicks[like eliminating 99% of it]," said Len Budd from the publishing firm.

I don't know how it is even comprehensible to attempt such a thing. I could see a book of mediations on the Scriptures that asked people to meditate for one hundred minutes, but how can you attempt to summarize the Bible in this way and even think that you would accurately present the faith?

I guess it should come as no surprise, it's simply another in the long line of attempts to minimize the faith to make it "more accessible" and to rewrite the Scriptures to fit our own desires. I don't know why some feel the need to abbreviated the Scriptures, Liturgy, Prayer or feel that people will lose interest if it is "too long".

There is so much real holiness in the Scriptures that should be meditated upon, mulled over, incorporated in our being not become fodder for a flip book.

Pope has some new wheels

You can see some pictures of a new car for the Pope over at Yahoo news here and here. I'm trying to think of a catchy new name for it - Popemobile II? iPopenano? Popebug? Popemini? Popecart?

Info on new mini-series about John Paul II

Entertainment Tonight has some pictures and video about the CBS mini-series on JPII. For those who haven't heard about this, the series is to be four hours long and stars Cary Elwes [of The Princess Bride] as the young pope and Jon Voigt [of Mission Impossible] as the elder pope.

The video is an interview with Voigt who seems to genuinely respect and honor the Holy Father which gives me courage that the mini-series will at least try to do John Paul II justice. Elwes notes that the spirit and essence of John Paul II was "his love and compassion".

The ideal job

After watching the news coverage of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. over the past few years, I have decided that the ideal job is that of former president.

As a former president:
You don't have to deal with any serious problems like hurricanes and terrorism.
People pay good money to hear you wax poetically about both past and present.
Even if they hated you while you were in office, they can't say enough good about you once you've retired.

Jimmy Carter - in office, he's that no good peanut farmer who couldn't deal with the Iran hostage crisis; out of office, he's Nobel Prize candidate material.
Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. have apparently put aside all their mutual conflicts to remake the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby "Road to..." movies.

So, now I just have to figure out how to be a former president without that whole election process.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Brother Ant, praise the Lord

RIO DE JANEIRO, September 20 (RIA Novosti, Andrei Kurguzov) - Images of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary discovered on leaves in tropical Brazilian forests are divine messages made by ants, a local television channel has claimed.

The show showed dried leaves of guava, mango and other fruit trees, bearing pierced images of Christian saints and inscriptions in Portuguese.

Speaking on the show, Rev. Antonio Maria said he had once seen ants cut out an image of the Virgin Mary on a palm tree branch in two hours or so.

Biologist Jose Umberto, who had been invited onto the show to give his expert opinion, confirmed that the images were not the work of man. A human hand would have deformed the leaves' structure, he said.

A microscopic examination showed that the tiny holes pierced in the leaves varied in diameter and that the intervals between each of the two neighboring holes were not the same.

While scientists continue their efforts to establish the origin of the mysterious images, theologians and psychics maintain these are messages from God. They say it is no coincidence that inscribed in one of the leaves is the word "pas," which they believe to be a misspelled version of the Portuguese for peace, "paz." [source]

Perhaps they can sell the plants/ants on E-bay like the Jesus pirogi?

Issue of married priests

Before I wade into this point, let me state a few things -
1. I fully agree that there have been married priests in the past.
2. I agree that the tradition of having a celibate clergy in the West is a matter of discipline and not dogma.
3. I fully support the Eastern Christian tradition returning to its tradition of married clergy.
4. I am biased as a celibate deacon - soon to be priest.
5. I think the effect of ordaining married men in the Roman Catholic Church as a matter of routine will have a negligable effect on overall numbers of clergy.

I post this in response to a gathering of 80 former priests in Germany calling for the Vatican to change its policy regarding married clergy in an open letter. [As an aside, why does everything have to be an "Open Letter"?] Interestingly, the group is calling for the practice of the Eastern Church to be implemented in the West. Well, according to the practice of the Eastern Church, none of them should have gotten married after they were ordained. In this matter, the policy of the East is the same as the West.

Under current church practice, priests who take a partner or marry must revert to being lay Catholics, lose their jobs and face disapproval from fellow Catholics.

If the West adopted the Eastern practice, this would be the same. Priests who wished to get married would lose their right to act as priests. They would lose their jobs and likely face disapproval.

The federation draws its optimism from a rumoured account of remarks by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in summer 2004, well before his election as pope, when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

He reportedly asked a delegation of U.S. bishops, "What would your people think about a re-introduction of the tradition of married priests?" The Americans were supposed to have been speechless for a moment with surprise.

I don't know if the current Pope actually said this, but again we are speaking of permitting married men to get ordained, not of letting current priests get married. In East as in West, once you get ordained, you can't get married. This is why many in the Eastern Church put off ordination until after they wed.

Yet, I consistently see these groups of former priests getting together in support of something that will have absolutely no benefit for them. Perhaps they are just being generous. Perhaps the reference to the East is just a canard, a distraction from their real desire that both the traditions of the East and the West be abolished.

Should the West begin a practice of ordaining married men? As I said, it wouldn't benefit me directly. But I don't see any dogmatic reason against it. I do, however, think more thought needs to be done in terms of the sociological effects - how does the parish deal with the creation of the priest wife and the priest children? will the parish be willing to contribute more to support the family of the priest? how will the church deal with divorce in the priest family?

In other words, I don't think enough thought has been done. We talk a lot about whether it would be possible, but not whether it would be helpful and useful other than simply asserting that there would be more priests. If the only reason you don't want to be a priest is because you want to get married, I don't know if you really want to be a priest.

Conservative Christian schools and the Common Ground Initiative

As a teacher, I find the apparently growing politicization in academia interesting. Most issues concern more conservative teachers or students running into problems within a more liberal academic environment. If this is not absolutely the case throughout higher education - though based upon issues presented on FIRE, one would be hesitant to doubt it, the perception of this does indeed motivate students to seek out small schools that will likely be friendlier to their political and religious views.

For example, Jason Mattera, spokesman for the Young American Foundation stated, "We kept getting calls from students and parents who said, and we agree, that their conservative values were viciously attacked on campus."

As a teacher there are a couple of points to consider on this regarding the nature of a university education. On the one hand, the point of a university education is to challenge the students - and this means including challenging the perceptions of the students, trying to get them to move beyond relying on a certain point of view simply because they have always held and instead try to found their view on a more reliable source of support.

However, this goal can easily be undermined if the teacher seeks to get the student to adopt their perspectives -regardless of evidence to the contrary.

Some feel that education only comes from presenting all points of view, however I think that you do a disservice by presenting students with obviously wrong points of view. For example, in a geography course I wouldn't feel obliged to give evidence in support of someone who believed the earth was flat. However, I can also see that it would be easy to put any idea with which I disagree into that category regardless of the evidence in support of it. For example, in my own field, I have a particular perspective about socialism and communism based upon my education which leads me to be skeptical that there is anything good in them. Still, while it might be easy for me to put the communist in the same league as the flat-earthest, it wouldn't be intellectually honest.

Thus, in dealing with the conservative student is it possible for the academic at a non-conservative institution to both challenge the student and to give them a certain degree of respect especially if the teacher disagrees with them? Perhaps if we keep this discussion simply in the mind, but not so clearly in reality.

Unfortunately, this means that neither the liberal nor the conservative treats the other with repect and they cease to speak the same language. Even among fellow academics.

Awhile back the some members of the Catholic Church began the Common Ground Initiative in an attempt to bridge the gap between liberals and conservatives. In my mind, the initiative failed for a couple of reasons. First, because either by choice or by chance it became a presentation of only one side of the problem - as can be seen by the names presented on its website.

Secondly, because it promotes dialogue for its own sake and not dialogue to honestly move toward a certain perspective - i.e to get closer to the truth. It's more along the lines of "1. Take irreconcilable issue. 2. Dialogue about it. 3. Convince no one. 4. Repeat."

Thirdly, because of my own experiences with the CGI make me doubt that anyone on either side really wants it. I can remember being at a seminar run by the CGI in DC where we had to role play a scenario in which we were pastor of a multi-ethnic parish and had to deal with a desire of many different ethnic groups to emphasize their particular tradition in the parish. One of the members of the group referred to the Spanish members of this imaginary parish community leading another of Hispanic background to complain how offended he was to be classified as "Spanish", that the first member should remember that the Hispanic members of the imaginary parish came from many different traditions. Now the first member had spent over a decade of missionary work in Brazil and didn't have a prejudicial bone in his body - but the second one saw no need to initiate dialogue in seminar precisely designed to promote it and attended by people who all appealed for more dialogue.

Getting back to conservative students at conservative universities, I can see that ideally all students and teachers regardless of political background should be able to work together in a common persuit of truth. In reality, agendas get in the way and even if we can say with our mouths that we "just want to talk about it", our hearts and minds say something different.

Being a companion

Today is the feast of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, priest and martyr, Saint Paul Chong Hasang, martyr and companions. Here is a link to a brief article about them.

Of course, one of the very interesting things about the Catholic Church in Korea is that it was founded by lay people and survived through a period of intense persecution as a lay church - there were no priests available.

I always feel a little sad for the other Korean martyrs who get all bunched up in the category - "companions". While I know that God remembers there names and that it would take a long time to recite all 113 martyrs during the liturgy, still I feel bad leaving them out.

So, here is the list of all the martyrs that they might be remembered this day:

Agatha Chon Kyonghyob
Agatha Kim
Agatha Kwon Chini
Agatha Yi Kannan
Agatha Yi Kyong-i
Agatha Yi Sosa
Agatha Yi
Andrew Kim Taegon
Cecilia Yu
Jung Hye
Paul Chong Hasang
Agnes Kim Hyoju
Alex U Seyong
Andrew-Chong Kwagyong (catechist)
Anna Kim
Anna Pak A-gi
Anna Pak Agi
Anthony Daveluy (bishop)
Anthony Kim Son-Augustine Pak Chong-won
Augustine Yi Chin-gil
Augustine Yi Kwang-hon
Barbara Ch'oe Yong-i
Barbara Cho Chung-i
Barbara Han Agi
Barbara Kim
Barbara Ko Suni
Barbara Kwon Hui
Barbara Yi Chong-hui
Barbara Yi
Bartholomew Chong Munho
Benedicta Hyon Kyongnyon
Catherine Chong Ch'oryom
Catherine Yi
Charles Cho Shin-ch'ol
Charles Hyon Songmun
Columba Kim Hyo-im
Columba Kim
Damianus Nam Myong-hyog (catechist)
Damien Nam Myong-hyok
Elisabeth Chong Chong-hye (virgin)
Francis Ch'oe Hyong-hwan
Ignatius Kim Chejun (catechist)
Jacob Chastan (priest)
John Baptist Chong Chang-un (catechist)
John Baptist Nam Chongsam
John Baptist Yi Kwangnyol (catechist)
John Nam Chong-sam
John Pak
John Yi Kwong-hai
John Yi Munu
John Yi Yunil (catechist)
Joseph Chang Chugi (priest)
Joseph Chang Songjib
Joseph Cho Yunho
Joseph Im Ch'ibaeg
Joseph Peter Han Wonso (catechist)
Juliet Kim (virgin)
Justin de Bretenières (priest)
Lawrence Han Ihyong (catechist)
Lawrence Imbert (bishop)
Lucia Kim
Lucia Park Huisun
Ludovicus Beaulieu (priest)
Luke Hwang Soktu
Magalena Ho Kye-im
Magdalene Cho
Magdalene Han Yong-i
Magdalene Kim Obi
Magdalene Pak Pongson (widow)
Magdalene Son Sobyog
Magdalene Yi Yong-hui
Magdalene Yi Yongdog
Maria Park K'unagi
Maria Won Kwi-im (virgin)
Maria Yi Indog
Maria Yi Yonhui
Mark Chong Uibae (catechist)
Martha Kim
Martin Luke Huin (priest)
Mary Yi Yon-hui
Paul Ho
Paul Hong Yongju (catechist)
Perpetua Hong Kumju (widow)
Peter Aumaitre (priest)
Peter Ch'oe Ch'ang-hub (catechist)
Peter Ch'oe Hyong (catechist)
Peter Cho Kwaso
Peter Chong Wonji
Peter Henricus Dorie (priest)
Peter Hong Pyongju
Peter Kwon Tugin
Peter Maubant (priest MEP)
Peter Nam Kyongmun (catechist)
Peter Ryau
Peter Son Sonji (catechist)
Peter Y Taech'ol
Peter Yi Hoyong
Peter Yi Myongs
Peter Yu Chongyul (catechist)
Peter Yu Tae-Chol
Protasius Chong Kurbo
Rosa Kim (widow)
Sebastian Nam
Simon Berneux (bishop)
Stephen Min Kukka (catechist)
Susanna U Surim
Teresa Kim Imi
Teresa Kim
Teresa Yi Mae-im
Thomas Son Chason

Holy Martyrs of Korea, pray for us!

Monday, September 19, 2005

The difference between good and bad ecumenism

At a mosque in Australia, there was an ecumenical prayer service involving Christians, Jews, and Muslims organized by Catholic priest Father Michael Tate.

What caught my eye was the usual justification given for this prayer - the life of St. Francis of Assisi. In modern times, Francis has become the patron saint for ecumenical activity and history has been rewritten so that Francis' attempt to convert the Muslims has become simply a proto-ecumenical exchange. Truly such a presentation is not only bad history but it does a disservice both to the memory of St. Francis and to the first Franciscan martyrs who gave up their lives trying to preach Christianity to the Muslims.

Pope John Paul II chose Assisi in which to have an ecumenical gathering seeking peace among people of different faiths. However, these gatherings were not designed to say that all faiths are somehow the same, nor did the people of different faiths pray together. Each faith community was to pray for peace in their own way and in their own space.

When, as happened at this mosque in Australia, you have people of different faiths praying in the same place, you run into the danger of a syncretism that denies the real distinctiveness between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. You also risk losing our evangelical mandate to spread the good news of Christ. The presumption becomes that all religions are the same, that there is no difference even between belief and non-belief. This certainly is not the vision of Francis who saw that his whole life was rooted and ordered toward Christ and the Church - who whenever he passed a church would pray, "We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world."

I also noted in the article:

The Islamic community welcomed the service as an opportunity to provide information on the faith. Free copies of the Koran, brochures and computer discs on Islam were available at the entrance to the mosque.

There was no indication whether Father Tate used the opportunity to provide free Bibles, brochures and computer disks about Catholicism.

The Jesuits and the Chinese

The Chinese have published a new dictionary named for the famed Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci. The dictionary is enormous at over 9,000 pages and shows the importance that the atheist government still places upon its Catholic heritage even as it silences Catholics loyal to the papacy.

The activity of the Society of Jesus in China like many things involving the Jesuits was controversial. Unlike other religious communities, the Jesuits strove to inculturate themselves into Chinese society and were willing to adapt Catholic beliefs to Chinese culture. Many Chinese were drawn to the Church by their efforts, but there were also questions of whether the Jesuits were to willing to sacrifice essentials of the faith for the sake of being more attractive.

This continues to be a question of missionary activity - what is essential to the faith and what can be changed in order to truly inculturate the faith within the reality of a particular community. It is not necessary for a community to adopt itself to worshiping solely in Latin but it is necessary that they believe that salvation only comes through Jesus Christ.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Finding a new home

The closing of parishes means trying to find a place for all of the religious items, statues, and images. Here in Steubenville, several parishes will be closed in a few years and so it was nice to see this piece about churches in the Boston area trying to find a place for these items both so that they can continue to be sources of devotion but also to serve as a continuing sign of the church to which they belong.

The archdiocese developed guidelines to disperse religious goods. Church law says they must be removed before a church building can be sold. First dibs go to a parish designated to receive people from the church that is closing. They're encouraged to take a statue, cross, or other familiar symbol to make newcomers feel at home.

After two weeks, other parishes and Catholic institutions in the archdiocese can choose. Anything left unclaimed is made available on a password-protected website, to be given away to other Catholic churches, schools, or organizations. Church law does not allow sacred items to be sold, the archdiocese said.

''Our interest is to make sure that these items stay in use," said Terrence C. Donilon, the archdiocese spokesman. ''We're working with parishes both in and outside the diocese to make sure that happens."

At St. James in Salem, the giant wooden crucifix from St. Joseph was put in a place where parishioners could easily see and touch it. ''This is a symbol of our healing," said the Rev. John Sheridan, pastor at St. James, standing in front of the crucifix. ''We put upon him our own wounds. ... But it also reminds us that what we share together is Christ's presence, in and around us."

Friday, September 16, 2005

The death of a blogger and a seminarian

Matty Molnar, a seminarian at Mundelein in Illinois and blogger first at Holy Rants and Ravings and then at JPthe2nd's Xanga Site died in a car accident on Wednesday night after the car he was in swerved to miss a deer. He was to be ordained in 2008. A second seminarian in the accident is in critical condition and two others are in stable condition.

Some words from his final blog - "We must continue the mission. no - the mission continues, and we stay in the Church and she continues the mission with us." I think that these are words that he would like for us to keep in mind as we grieve his loss.

Please pray for his family and friends. Please pray for his classmates at Mundelein.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Reuters photos Pope Benedict's "To Do" list

Reuters recently published a photo of Pope Benedict XVI making his daily list of projects.

It is rumored that the Holy Father has a penchant for jotting down several notes throughout the day. Often an idea comes to him and he is forced to write it down on whatever paper is available.

John Paul II, Benedict XVI's predecessor, left so many notes that scholars think it will be decades to sift through all the Post-Its.

The trials of vocational discernment

Jennifer over at Confessions of a Wayward Catholic offers a powerful reflection on the trials of vocational discernment. Worthwhile reading for any who are struggling to find God's will for their lives or know someone who is.

Fr. Michael Scanlon, TOR has published a short book on discernment that we distribute to those interested in our community called, What Does God Want?.

Do you hear what I hear?

The famous Whitechapel Bell Foundry has produced its first bell to bear the name of Pope Benedict XVI. It weighs 70kgs [154 pounds for those in the States] and also has the words "Come ring out our joy to the Lord" inscribed upon it.

Ironically, the foundry was established in 1570 during the reign of Elizabeth I. No word on whether she rolled over in her grave at the first sounding of the bell.

Blessed be the Name of Jesus

This is the fourth installment in a continuing reflection on the Divine Praises. If you would like to read the earlier installments, you can find them here:

Part I
Part II
Part III

Many saints throughout history have had a particular devotion to the Name of Jesus and it is a devotion that is seen very often among those of the Franciscan tradition. St. Francis himself is known to have had a special devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus and would preserve with great care any piece of paper that had the Name of our Savior and even pieces of paper that even had just letters of the Name of Jesus written upon them. St. Bernadine of Sienna also was deeply devoted to the Name of the Lord.

The Name of the Lord is full of power and majesty. The scriptures tell us that at the Name of Jesus the Jesus every knee will bow whether in heaven, on earth, or under the earth. At the Name of Jesus the demons flee in terror. There is no other Name by which we may be saved. Just think, at the utterance of one word, "Jesus", all the terrible power of the Devil is destroyed. At the utterance of one word, "Jesus", we who have been lost to the power of sin and death are restored to life and holiness once again.

So, in speaking the Name of Jesus we must always remember that we are speaking the fullness of glory, of holiness, of majesty, of strength, of divinity. This is why it is so important that we always treat the Name of Jesus with respect and honor. The Name of Jesus is our salvation from sin and our defense against the Evil One, not some cheap curse to be uttered in a moment of anger and thoughtlessness. Not only must we honor the name of Jesus with our lips, but we must honor the Name in our deeds. How scandalous it is that so much wrong has been done in the Name of Jesus!

For it is a glorious and wondrous thing that we have been blessed to be able to speak the Name! How wondrous it is that the Son, in his humility, allowed us through St. Joseph to bestow this name upon him. The Creator is named by his creation! The Word becomes flesh and is named Jesus, God saves.

And so the Name of Jesus is also full of humility, of meekness, of gentleness, of mercy, of forgiveness. How tender the Name resounds in our ears - Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. In speaking the Name, we are reminded of our salvation and the mercy of the One who accepted suffering and death that we might be redeemed. We are reminded that Jesus answers us every time that we call upon his Name, that any prayer asked in his Name will be granted.

Indeed the Name of Jesus is the perfect prayer. In praying the Name of Jesus we are able to call to mind not only our Merciful Savior, but also the Father who sent him, and the Spirit through whom he became flesh. How many saints have offered the Jesus Prayer - "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner" in their pursuit of continuous prayer? How many saints have meditated over and over again on the words "Jesus, I trust in you"?

Merciful Jesus, Saving Jesus, Tender Jesus, Glorious Jesus.

As we speak the Name of Jesus, we can sense how our tongues seem to have been made to speak this Holy Name. As we listen to the Name of Jesus, we can sense how our ears seem to have been made to hear his Holy Name. Our very hearts seem to have been made to constantly pray the Name of Jesus with each and every beat - Je-sus, Je-sus, Je-sus. Truly, have we not been made to draw entire selves more and more closer to him?

Oh my Jesus!
You are my protection against evil and my comfort in suffering.
How can I ever find the words to praise you?
To praise your holiness, your mercy, your greatness, your humility?
With each word I speak, I see that I have only begun to praise you.
I will pray your name, my Jesus, and, in that, I will say everything.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Viva la Revolution!

CAN - Churches Advertising Network has begun a new advertising campaign in Britain with a poster in which an image of the Communist Che Guevara has been replaced with the infant Christ. They chose to model the poster on the depiction of Che in order to show Jesus as the "real revolutionary."

The goal of this campaign is to proclaim that Jesus was not a "wimp in a white nighty" and the posters are free to any local church.

They face on the poster is intended to present an older child and show someone "wise beyond their years."

I'm not sure that I agree with using Communist imagery to promote Christ, the Church has had enough problems with the misguided view that Jesus was "a revolutionary" in the sense of promoting merely political change. I'm also wonder how many people know who Che Guevara was, much less what he looked like as a baby. Plus, the poster makes Jesus pretty scary looking, kind of like Dr. Evil's "Mini-Me"

It's also somewhat ironic. The Communist Party of Russia began distributing images of Lenin as an infant in order to counteract the Orthodox devotion to the child Jesus. Now the Christians are trying to use Jesus to counteract attraction to a Communist leader.

How to be an Evil Deacon

In response to yesterday's reading from St. Paul on the necessary qualities of the deacon [which, I admit, I do not fulfil as I have not been married to one wife yet] and today's reading on the seraph serpents which plagued the Israelites, I would like to offer some suggestions on how one can be an Evil Deacon. [Note, for legal purposes let me state that I discourage strongly anyone following these suggestions [especially the very evil ones] - this is purely for education and entertainment - so don't tell my superiors]

Note, to enhance the effect you should feel free to respond to each suggestion by saying "Evil! Evil!" a la Kids In the Hall's Sir Simon Mulligan and his manservant Hecubus.


1. Because many priests have forgotten what it was like to be a deacon or what a deacon is supposed to do during the Mass, you can have a great deal of fun at the priests expense by pretending that various parts of the Mass that the priest is supposed to say are actually belong to you. Simply act like you are getting ready to say something. If the priest stops to let you speak, say - "No, that's your line." If the priest doesn't stop, look hurt - as if you only have a few lines in the Mass and you don't want to lose any.

Either way you confuse the priest and he now feels he needs to give another look at the GIRM [General Instruction of the Roman Missal]. If you do this enough times, you can really get the priest to dread having to serve with the deacon.

2. You can also get the laity pretty well confused. Whenever someone asks how you are to be addressed, give different answers - Deacon, Reverend Mister [Brother], Father Deacon, the more the better. Watch them argue over which title is more proper. Let some call you Father and don't correct them - that helps to increase the confusion.

3. [VERY EVIL SUGGESTION] - Enter a Catholic bookstore and bless everything, thus putting them out of business.

4. [VERY EVIL SUGGESTION] - Wait for someone to ask if you can hear their confession. Tell them that you can, but you will also be sure to let everyone else know what they said.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Will the real Notre Dame please stand up?

For disclosure's sake let me note that I am a double domer and so have a personal interest in the issue at hand. Let me also say that much of what follows will be in "rant mode", you have been warned.

The Saturday of the Pitt/Notre Dame game, the University showed a commercial presenting a young woman lighting candles in an obviously Catholic Church. At the end of the commercial, the young woman receives an acceptance letter to Notre Dame University. If you are interested, you can find the commercial here.

The commercial has created a bit of a stir in the Notre Dame Newspaper both in the official editorial section as well as in the letters to the editor. The Senate diversity chairperson is upset because the commercial involving a young, Catholic woman is not representative of Notre Dame's diversity and doesn't include African-Americans, Muslims, Mormons, Gays [although I don't know how the chairperson can tell the sexual orientation of the woman in the commercial], the Poor, and Plutonians [ okay, I made up that last part]. David P. Costello, a retired professor of English, complains that the commercial demeans the Catholic faith and the University because it doesn't stress Notre Dame's academic quality and because it makes it look like the Admissions Office only responds to lots of prayers. An Alumnus complains that the commercial represents "cheap grace" because it seems to indicate that if you light enough candles your prayers will be answered [Hey! A homily topic!] and that neither Boston College or Georgetown would show a commercial like this. [Does he mean that they wouldn't show anyone praying? If so, I think [at least I hope] that BC and Georgetown would be somewhat offended.] The Notre Dame Observer is upset because the ad doesn't represent Notre Dame's sophisticated faith.

Perhaps one of the most saddening, and one that I hope doesn't really represent the university comes from a Notre Dame senior who writes:

It trivializes the faith and its most important conduit to God, prayer. To let Rudy pray at the grotto for admission is one thing - that's Hollywood. Twelve thousand students apply to get into here and I guarantee most of them spent a lot of time praying for admittance. Does God not hear the prayers of the 8,000 who didn't get in, or could it be that those who got in made it with credentials of academic excellence and a dedication to their community through service and activity. Of all the people that helped make this film I wonder if anyone asked the theology department what they thought. As a theology major, we laugh in class at the thought of people praying at the Grotto for an Irish victory or that one might do well on a test.

When in the world is it ever appropriate to laugh at someone who is praying? Is that a requirement for a theology major - to laugh at prayer? Or perhaps only they have a grasp on what counts as good prayer? I would suggest that perhaps there needs to be more time spent in front of the Grotto and less time in the Theology department, if that is the case. Although, if prayer is frowned upon in a Theology department perhaps it is time to give it a different name.

Does God answer prayers? Of course he does. Does the lighting of candles mean that your prayers have a better chance of getting into Notre Dame? I don't know, you would have to ask God, but I don't see how it can hurt unless you are spending so much time lighting candles that you aren't studying for your classes.

To those who say the commercial minimizes Notre Dame's academic integrity and is too exclusive, I say "Get over it" it's a commercial intended to reflect a significant - at least what should be a significant part of Notre Dame. Oh my gosh, people of faith actually attend Notre Dame - well I guess that will make it somewhat more difficult to have the V-Day celebrations, won't it? I earned a PhD at Notre Dame and don't find that the commercial lessens my achievements in the slightest. Indeed, I give all thanks to God for helping me through and answering my prayers - but perhaps that's just "cheap grace".

I should not that there are a couple who wrote into the Observer to defend the commercial but they remain the minority. I continue to pray for my alma mater and now I think I'll light a few candles. [rant mode off]

Beware the Green Eyed Monster

Sinead O'Connor, who has long since abandoned her singing career in exchange for a life of rage and vindictiveness is once again in the news. She is upset with Bono of U2's public showing of sadness for the death of John Paul II.

O'Connor is amazed by Bono's apparent hypocrisy, and admits she is getting "a little sick of Bono's self-importance".

She says: "I wasn't going to say anything until I saw him kissing he rosary beads that the Pope gave him.

"He put those rosary beads on that microphone (stand) the day the Pope died and went on about how great Catholicism is. I think he should apologise for that." [source]

Ah, Sinead, nothing compares to you.

She is obviously a very troubled person if watching someone kissing Rosary beeds and praising his faith is for her a sign of "hypocrisy" and "self-importance". Perhaps she is upset that she isn't getting as much media attention as he is. Perhaps she should try a different tack - Working to end world debt, good - Criticizing popular Pope, bad. She should also remember that when she points a finger at someone she has four fingers pointing back at her and the next time she wants to know what "hypocrisy" and "self-importance" look like, I have found that one need not go much farther than a mirror.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Bruce Lee, symbol of unity

In the Bosnian city of Mostar, the citizens are erecting a statue of the Kung-Fu master Bruce Lee in order to promote unity between the Croatians, Serbians, and Muslims. The statue will be a symbol of "justice, mastery and honesty -- virtues upheld by the late Chinese-American actor."

I'm guessing that the conflict in Mostar was so great that they couldn't find anyone among them who might bring them together, they had to look outside for some common hero - it's interesting that Bruce Lee was selected. I'm somewhat surprised that they couldn't make a statue of Jesus or Mary who are also respected among the three traditions but maybe there was the thought that a religious statue would be too Catholic.

Is war virtuous?

I am currently reading a book defending war, in some cases, as good and Christian called The Virtue of War. I have only gotten through about half of the book and while it is an interesting read, it could be structured a bit better.

The authors looks mostly at the Orthodox Church and a tradition of "justifiable war", that is - that if war is conducted for a good end, it is indeed good and not rather a "necessary evil". In support of this conclusion, the authors point to liturgical rites such as the blessing of weapons, military saints, and writings from scripture and the holy fathers.

The authors also look to the views of Vladimir Soloviev especially presented in his Three Conversations and A Brief Tale of the Antichrist republished in War, Progress and the End of History - in which Soloviev criticizes the Tolstoyan view that war is always immoral with a view that war can indeed be necessary in the struggle against evil.

Both of these are books you are not likely to see in the hands of the typical Franciscan and are certain to raise eyebrows at the next meetings of the Peace and Justice Committee. Though I have been tempted to start an organization called Bellum Christi just for fun.

I think that what Soloviev demonstrates, and a point with which I agree, is that it is one thing to personally commit yourself to pacifism, it is quite another to commit others to the same principle. For example, if someone points a gun at you and threatens to shoot you, I have no problem with someone choosing not to respond in self-defence in order to practice a non-violent alternative. On the other hand, if someone points a gun at someone else and threatens to shoot them, I believe that you have a moral responsibility to protect the one in danger - especially if that danger is not just imminent but in fact truly exists. I can make a choice for myself to practice pacifism, I cannot force that choice upon someone else.

What this means in terms of national policy is that countries do, in fact, have an obligation to defend the rights of the persecuted and some times that defense requires military force. This doesn't mean that military force should be the first or only option, but that it should not be automatically rejected because we have foolishly decided to preserve a bad peace at all costs.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Mass humor

The priest was vesting for Mass and told the altar boy that he could go home because there were so few in the Church that day. He told the altar boy, "I can take care of everything myself."

The altar boy just stood there silently as the priest continued to vest. The priest, thinking the altar boy hadn't heard him, again told the altar boy that he could go because the priest didn't need him.

The altar boy continued to stand there silently. Finally, the priest said to the altar boy quite loudly. "There aren't many people in the church. You can go home."

The altar boy responded, "But, Father, if I go who will wash away your iniquities and cleanse you of your sins?"

Blessed be Jesus Christ, True God and True Man

This is another of my continuing reflections upon the Divine Praises. If you have missed any and wish to go back and look at them, they can be found here:

Part 1
Part 2

This single phrase, "Blessed be Jesus Christ, True God and True Man" sums up the reality of our entire salvation and has been the focus of theological debate from the earliest days of the Church. From the proclamation of the decrees of the Council of Nicea to the publications of the Jesus Seminar today people continue to give many answers to Jesus' question to Peter - "Who do you say that I am?"

As St. Athanasius showed and believed, unless in Jesus Christ lies the fullness of divinity, unless Jesus Christ is God as God is God, then we have not been saved. We cannot save ourselves. We can separate ourselves from God, and we have done that, but we cannot save ourselves. The gap between ourselves and God is simply too great.

Yet, unless in Jesus Christ lies the fullness of humanity, we have also not been saved. As the Cappadocian Fathers proclaimed - "What is not assumed is not saved." While only God can save us, it is our humanity that needed saving.

The tremendous miracle of Jesus Christ is that the one who is so far above us deigned to become just like us in everything that makes us really human. In Jesus Christ the separation was ended, our redemption was attained and salvation has come. He indeed is that ladder between heaven and earth on which the angels ascend and descend and upon which we can also climb higher and higher into union with the Father.

In the past, the Church struggled against those who would deny the real humanity of Jesus. They believed that humanity was bad, it was corrupt, it was limited. Surely, they thought, God would never deign to truly become something so totally different from what He is. So, they see in Jesus a ghost, a spirit, but never a human being. But, the Church knows that in the Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection that God showed that goodness of our humanity. Jesus willingly assumed our humanity - and more than that, he glorified it. He healed the sick in our humanity, he raised the dead in our humanity, he ascended into heaven in our humanity. And now Jesus Christ, true man, sits at the right hand of the Father.

Today, the Church struggles against those who would deny the real divinity of Jesus. Some cannot understand the mystery of the Incarnation. Surely, they believe, that if Jesus Christ is truly like us he cannot be divine. So, Jesus Christ becomes the good teacher, the rebel, the philospher but never truly God as the Father is God. But again the Church knows that it is in the Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection that God shows his love for humanity and the glory of humanity. The one who is totally transcendent has become completely intimate with us. And so, we to can become completely intimate with him. In the humilty of Jesus, we can be come glorified. We too can become like God - in so far as that is humanly possible. We can become united with God without sacrificing our humanity, without sacrificing anything that makes us who we really are.

And so, when we praise Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, we praise our salvation and proclaim our belief that through Jesus Christ we have indeed been saved and united to the one who made us so that we might spend eternity with him. We proclaim the love of God, the mercy of God, the transcendence of God, the humility of God. We praise the divinity that saves and the humanity through which salvation was achieved.

Blessed are you Jesus Christ.
You humbled yourself to become one like us in all things but sin
So that we might become like you.
Through your life, death and resurrection,
We who had become lost can now call God Father.
May we follow in your footsteps every day,
Growing in your holiness,
Growing in your love,
Coming home.

Forgiveness and Religious

Today's Gospel speaks of the need to give forgiveness. I can remember hearing one of the historians at Notre Dame speaking of his research into monastic history and how he came across several copies of the Lord's Prayer in which the phrase, "as we forgive those who trespass against us" had been omitted so as to allow the monks both to pray the Lord's Prayer and to withhold forgiveness from one another.

How sad it must be to want to hold on to your anger so much that you are willing to deface the words of God.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Let them eat cream cakes!

A very brief but interesting stopover along this bus journey was the tiny town of Wadowice (pronounced Wadowitza)

Born in this little town, was one of the most charismatic leaders of the 21st Century– Pope John Paul II, who passed away on April 2, 2005. Karol Jozef Wojtyla, as he was known, was born on 15th May, 1920 during a small window of time when Poland was independent that soon ended with the Nazi invasion. The Main Square called the ‘Pope John Paul II square’ commemorates Wadowice’s most famous citizen. Elderly people in this town remember him as a youngster in school and a parish priest who reached out to everyone and stood up to Nazi and Communist rule in Poland.

The pastry shops in this square sell Pope John Paul Cream Cakes as there is a little legend as to how the Pope celebrated the completion of his school exams by treating himself to cream cakes! [source]

What a great idea! From now on I will be certain to celebrate the completion of grading exams by having cream cakes. Though, I'm not really sure what the Holy Father ate - I'm sure that a nice cupcake or one of those banana flavored snacks with the cream filling. Yummy!

Just think of it, from now on I can both enjoy tasty treats and emulate the saints at the same time! Chalk up another benefit to being Catholic.

Do all dogs go to heaven?

The Detroit News has an article about a growing desire of religious believers to integrate their love of animals with their faith. There is only one section of the article which directly refers to the Catholic Church:

The Catholic Church, for example, teaches that animals have a vegetative soul, not a rational soul, says Kevin Treston, a friar at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington. The official Catholic position is that without rationality, animals cannot go to heaven. And that is sometimes difficult for Catholic dog lovers to understand.

I can remember one of the speakers on Catholic Answers saying that if we needed our pet in heaven that he/she would be there. But the speaker also noted that he didn't think we would need our pets. I'm not sure what I think about that. One the one hand I can agree that if we have God, we don't need our pets - but, if we have God we don't need anyone else either.

I don't know of any traditional iconography of heaven which indicates any animals present - nor of any iconography that depicts animals in hell. However, there is an interesting site put together by an Orthodox believer who has no doubt that animals will be in heaven. The author gives one argument that I find someone convincing - and not just because I'm a Franciscan.

If Christ is reconciling the world to himself, that must include all of creation. As St. Paul wrote, "All creation is groaning." Therefore, the animals must participate in Christ's reconcilliation in some way as we do. Perhaps one might say that just as we are becoming more and more like God - in so far as that is humanly possible, animals are also becoming more Godlike - insofar as that is possible for them.

Note this quote from St. Maximus the Confessor taken from the above site:

Man is not a being isolated from the rest of creation; by his very nature he is bound up with the whole of the universe... In his way to union with God, man in no way leaves creatures aside, but gathers together in his love the whole cosmos disordered by sin, that it may be transfigured by grace.

Very interesting.

Helping the hurricane victims - Franciscan University

Franciscan University will be accepting as many as twenty students whose schools have been closed as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The students will not be paying any tuition to Franciscan, as they have already paid tuition to their own institutions. The city of Steubenville has opened up housing nearby for the students so that they can stay within walking distance of the University. Each student's credits will be automatically transferred to their original institution as well.

Perhaps some of my readers can note some of the concrete actions that their employer, school, area are taking as well?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

And I thought they were to lead people to God?

St. Paul's [Episcopal] in Norwalk has found itself in a bit of controversy regarding its new Stations of the Cross done by artist Gwyneth Leech. Not only were many upset by the depiction of a naked Christ at the cross but also becuase of the inclusion of American soldiers. Leech said that she was suprised at the outrage [aren't they always]. Not surprisingly, Leech also says that the Bible is "a text--the product of a human mind," not to be taken literally word for word. Still, even if no one is drawn to Christ by her artwork she can at least say, "Any work that creates this much a success." And, as we all know - that was the motivation for all great religious artists such as Michelangelo - to create discussion.

True devotion to Mary?

It's difficult enough to molify Protestant concerns about devotion to the Blessed Mother without having this sort of thing:

Concerning the Third Secret of Our Lady of Fatima

The Third Secret of Our Lady of Fatima states that MARY IS GOD; MARY IS THE SOUL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. This is in contrast to the Vatican – fabricated letter that was released in the year 2000. The Third Secret of Our Lady of Fatima is a Dogma of Faith of the Holy Catholic Church. The Most Holy Trinity demands that the Holy Catholic Church, in preparation for the Second Coming of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, declare the Third Secret of Fatima a Dogma.

The originating site of the news release has additional material that also passes from true devotion to the Mother of God into outright heresy.

I don't know much about the group, perhaps someone else does? All I can tell is that it appears to be based in the Philipines.

I have no problem with a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and believe that she was and continues to be of great strength to me in my vocational journey. Mary leads us to God. Mary intercedes for us with God. Mary is the Mother of God. Mary is not God.

What's in a name?

Many ask the source or reason for taking the name Seraphim as my religious name. Initially, the source came in my interest in Russian Spirituality and a particular devotion to St. Seraphim of Sarov. St. Seraphim is often compared with St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of my Order. Of course, there are also allusions to the angelic Seraphim and these are the ones most commonly made. About these allusions, I usually say that it is a goal to which I aspire.

There is one last allusion that is not usually made by anyone but myself - that is the allusion to the seraph serpents which plagued the Jews in the desert. So, I also tell people that taking the name Seraphim helps to emphasize the fact that sometimes I'm nice and loving, at other times I'm more like a serpent with viscious bitey teeth. You can probably tell that from many of the posts that I put up here. In community life, I am usually the one who drops the grenade in the middle of the room and then waits to see what happens. As my fellow community members say, "That's when the horns come out." Feel free to copy my picture and draw your own horns for fun.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

And they have no shame

I probably shouldn't respond to this editorial but there is just too much in it to ignore. Arthur Jones of the National Catholic Reporter has issued a end-of-career report about his tour as editor not so creatively called "The Roman Imposition" which lets you know right off where he is heading.

I will pass over the usual hand-wringing of the NCR about how bad things have gone since the election of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. But there are a few things which should be noted because they are wrong [and in at least one case, indeed scandalous].

Jones tries to bring up the tired St. Francis analogy - i.e. that the Church would be so much better if everyone were like St. Francis. Well, as a Franciscan, I can tell you that Francis is not how they attempt to portray him. Francis sought to follow the life of the Gospels in obedience to the priests and to the "Lord Pope". He did not set out to make the world Franciscan but to live a model of how one could follow the example of Christ. Francis is one model of holiness - not the model of holiness. Indeed, he didn't preach to the people that they were to live in poverty or to even become like him - he preached repentance. He preached that people should continue to listen to their priests even when they behaved poorly because it was at their hands that the bread and wine became the body and blood of Christ. He believed in the real presence. He believed that everything he did should be approved by Rome. In sum, he was and is not the man that Jones and others try to make him out to be.

But the section of the editorial that causes me the most anger, though there is a lot to reject in this piece] is the following:

I was editor when Pope John Paul II made his first U.S. visit. With all bases covered, I told one photographer -- he was Jewish, I believe -- where he’d be in the best position to get the up-close facial I needed of the pope.

The photog called in when he’d developed his shots. “I got it, Arthur!” he shouted into the phone. “I got it. I had to go to Communion five times, but I got it.”

So he sent a non-Catholic to receive Communion just so that he could get a picture of the pope" And when he receives Communion five times, Jones doesn't find anything wrong? This is why his movement fails - if you have no devotion to the Eucharist how can you be Church?