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

Monday, November 28, 2005

Podcast Update

Just a reminder that the newest Catholic:Under The Hood podcast is available offering a glimpse at the Monastery of the Holy Land and a picture of me in my Eastern liturgical vestments. Also, a plug for the From Advent to the Presentation podcast.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Je confesser!

I have been tagged by Lauren over at Cnytr and so here go my deepest, darkest secrets.

I confess that the whole meme thing has me both eager to get tagged and dreading thinking of creative responses.

I confess that I am a big fan of cartoons including Aqua Teen Hunger Force, the Tick, and Mojo Jojo.

I confess that I look pretty good wearing a cowboy hat.

I confess as a child filling an entire suitcase with fresh walnuts, placing the suitcase in a closet and then forgetting about it - until my parents found it several weeks later.

I confess that my favorite scriptural passage is Psalm 127 (126) - "In vain is your earlier rising", though I do enjoy going later to bed.

I confess to being a grenade thrower. I like starting a conflict and then standing back to watch what happens.

I confess to using wit to hide insecurity.

I confess to having a semi-secret desire to partake of the strongest alcohols from around the world - I've had grappa, vodka, bourbon, slivovice, scotch and whisky. I think tasting poitin will be the most difficult.

I confess that if I wasn't allergic to tobacco, I would probably smoke a pipe.

I confess to dressing up as Grover Cleveland one Halloween.

I confess to having been a vegetarian for a couple years until I had to give it up as a Franciscan.

I confess to wanting to try out wearing a jazz spot or mutton chops.

I confess to buying books just so that they will look good in my office.

I confess to once freely chosing to wear an "I'm stupid" t-shirt to go along with my brother's "I'm with stupid" t-shirt.

I confess to enjoying all the great Funksters from Isaac Hayes to George Clinton.

I confess to having played Dungeons and Dragons in my youth. I always liked the gnomes.

Bonus: I confess that in college I once went on an ROTC weekend in the hopes of getting free camos. During the weekend I was outfitted with a M-16 will blanks and had to defend a post against a trained enemy. As I fired my weapon, the hot shells kept hitting a friend of mine in the face. All in all, I was a lousy soldier and I never did get the camos.

Extra-bonus: I confess to buying a whole box of Chick booklets and periodically hiding them under my Atheist roommate's pillow.

Now, I will continue the madness and tag Dev Thakur, Jack Bennett, and Jennifer if they haven't been tagged already.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Evangelicals, Catholic, and Natural Law

Peter Augustine Lawler is on the President's Council for Bioethics - he makes some very interesting points on the relationship between Evangelicals and Catholics and common pro-life goals:

Evangelicals are—in terms of real life, in terms of family life—amazingly good. The Catholics cannot touch them. Orthodox Jews cannot touch them. The problem with evangelicals is that the evangelical book is too close to an oxymoron. Evangelicals lack intellectual life, and they really need it because they do not have any tradition. Sometimes tradition can substitute for thought, but when you do not have any thoughts or any tradition, then you are in big trouble. As a result, the evangelicals are rapidly becoming Catholics. They are looking for theology, and so they go to C. S. Lewis, and they go to G. K. Chesterton, and it is then a matter of time before they start reading Thomas Aquinas. So, the evangelicals lack intellectual life that would give them the vocabulary that would enable them to talk to their fellow citizens. Because the only remedy the evangelicals have for America is for Americans to convert, and they imply that, if it were not for the absolute truth of the Bible, the vulgar relativism of libertarian sociobiology would be true. They need to talk the language of Natural Law and say that contemporary individualism would be untrue even if there were no God. They need to develop a kind of law language that is not so revelation-dependent. Some evangelicals students have said that they cannot talk to anyone who does not take the Bible seriously. Then they are already politically defeated, because, while America is fairly religious,

I do not think most people go to church, unfortunately. This is why we suddenly have a Supreme Court that is a majority Catholic; even Kennedy is relatively conservative in a way. We have a Supreme Court that is orthodox Catholic, since the Catholics are able to translate the truth of revelation into language accessible to people who do not necessarily believe in revelation.

I think that Lawler makes some interesting points - Evangelicals need Catholics to provide the intellectual structure of the movement, Catholics need the passion of the Evangelicals to provide the energy of the movement. Not that the two should be seen as entirely separate.

Therefore, it is disappointing when Catholics don't know their intellectual heritage or believe that the ideas of people like Chesterton are no longer important. I guess Lewis would say that this is the way of the evil one - not to argue an idea because it is true, but because it is modern.

Unfortunately, this often happens in the fields of philosophy and theology - why worry about the ideas of past thinkers when we have the all new ideas of modern thinkers. Who is more impressive at cocktail parties - the expert on Foucault or the expert on Plato?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Dangerous precedents

A 25 year old Florida teacher has pled guilty to having intercourse multiple times with one of that teacher's 14 year old students and yet still did not receive any jail time.

There were a couple of factors about the decision which raise serious questions of justice -

1. Did the teacher receive a lesser sentence because she was a woman and the victim was a 14 year old boy? I ask because in Wisconsin a male teacher found guilty of having intercourse with a 15 year old female student was sentenced to 11 years in prison. A male teacher found guilty of solicitating, but not engaging in sex, with a fifteen year old girl in New York was sentenced to up to 4 years in prison. I do not think that the men should receive lighter sentences, rather that the sentence for Debra Lafave seems to be far too light.

2. To what degree did the defense attorney's claim that, "to place an attractive young woman in that kind of hell hole is like putting a piece of raw meat in with the lions" affect the plea and are we going to establish now one set of penalties for "attractive people" and a second set for those who are "not so attractive"?

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Theology of Superman

I was watching the trailer to the upcoming Superman Returns movie and was immediately struck by the interesting theological perspectives that are being put forward by the words of Jor-El who narrates the trailer piece.

Even though you have been raised as a human being, you're not one of them.

They can be a great people, Kal-El. They wish to be.

They only lack the light to show the way.

For this reason, above all their capacity for good, I have sent them you, my only son.

So, we have elements of Arianism, Pelagianism, Gnosticism, and New Age theology. Pretty much all the bases covered here. Though it doesn't quite have the poetry of John 1, nor does it offer the real glory of the Gospel. Superman seeks utopia through education and fails for the same reason that all Enlightenment philosophies fail - they can't deal with Original Sin. Jesus brings the kingdom of God through through a real transformation that no kryptonite can effect.

1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2: He was in the beginning with God;
3: all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
4: In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
5: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6: There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7: He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him.
8: He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.
9: The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.
10: He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.
11: He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.
12: But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God;
13: who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

New Podcast up over at Catholic:Under The Hood

New episode of Catholic:Under the Hood is up looking at Fr. Dmitrius Gallitzin, the icon of the Presentation of the Virgin, and Last's article on God and the Internet in First Things.

Friday, November 18, 2005

I'm not anti-Catholic, but....

George Mitrovich, president of the mis-named San Diego Ecumenical Council, worries about the possibility of another Catholic on the Supreme Court.

Of course, he is not himself anti-Catholic because anti-Catholicism is wrong. After all, he writes... one wants to revisit the days when it was fashionable to bash Catholics, or when employers discriminated against Catholics, or when some Christian fundamentalists claimed the pope was the anti-Christ. Those days of mindless and disgraceful bigotry are done, and their departure is bid good riddance.

Then the other shoe falls,

But still, is five Catholics one Catholic too many?

Mitrovich then goes on to pine for the good old days when you could count on Catholics to pretty much ignore their faith and vote the way that those who think like George Mitrovich.

The Constitution says there shall be no religious test for public office. But when a nominee for the Supreme Court is poised to join four of his Catholic brethren on becoming a majority of five, at a minimum we should have a public discussion as to the wisdom of that occurrence.

Once more "I know it says A, but I want it to be B." I know that it's unconstitutional, but why let the Constitution interfere especially when the situation involves that most important of political rights - Abortion?

Seriously, Mitrovich should be ashamed of himself and if his views are typical of ecumenism in San Diego county - the Catholic Church would do well to stay as far from it. Mitrovich's views are indeed anti-Catholic and anti-Christian.

I guess I'm a Yankee

According to the test "Yankee or Rebel", I'm about 50% Yankee. Which makes sense, I'm from Missouri [one of those states that couldn't decide which side they were on in the Civil War (as it is known by us Yankee types)]

The test is based on word usage and pronunciation - for example: is it soda, coke or pop? So it also provides interesting information on the geographical use of language in the US.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Dead Souls - or how to be exploited when you're poor

An art exhibit in New York and Florida is now displaying bodies in various positions and showing various anatomical organs to those who wish to pay the required fee. All of the bodies have been treated with chemicals so that they won't de-compose [can't be losing our investment, can we?]

The most telling line of the article was: The cadavers were poor people and are on loan from the Dalian Medical University in China.

Ah, since they were poor, it must be okay.

[For those who aren't familiar with the allusion in the title, it refers to a 19th century novel written by Nikolai Gogol in which a greedy businessmen was seeking to by ownership of dead serfs [slaves] in order to artificially present himself as a wealthy individual. ]

St. Elizabeth of Hungary

Today is the Feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary one of the two patrons, along with St. Louis, of the Third Order Regular.

St. Elizabeth is known for her great charity to the poor. She was Queen of Hungary. There is a great story about her relationship with her husband. It is said that she would spend many hours in the night praying in the castle which would get very cold. Her husband, the king, would often kneel behind her in prayer with his hands covering hers so as to keep them warm.

I think that it is very interesting that the patrons of our religious order were married. I think it speaks to how the holy lives of married men and women can indeed serve as great examples for religious in their own journey into holiness.

St. Elizabeth pray for us!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Commenting on the Bishops meeting - personal sanctity

I have been following the reports on the opening of the US Bishop's meeting in Washington DC and was struck by a few points in Bishop Skylstad opening address -

The priesthood in this country has suffered through a very difficult time. A handful of our brother priests have caused all priests to have to endure an avalanche of negative public attention. Perhaps never so much as during the scandals of the past four years has so much attention been focused on the priesthood, not for all of its wonder, commitment, dedication and perseverance, but for the darkness and sin which overwhelmed some.

What about the responsibilities of some of our "brother bishops" for what has happened? Isn't it this over-emphasis on presenting a "common face" among bishops what contributed to the scandal in the first place? The bishop's responsibility is for his flock, not for public relations.

What is equally reassuring is something else I find in my own experience of priests and know to be true in the experience of other bishops with their priests; something which is also supported by research. That is the high level of morale among priests. Three different and recent studies confirm that more than 90% of our priests report satisfaction with their lives as priests. What’s more, that high level of morale is confirmed by the fact that 90% of the priests interviewed for those studies say that they would make the choice of priesthood again, if they had it to do all over.

I don't know how it is in Bishop Skylstad's diocese but the reality is that a desire to become a priest is not the same as saying that there is a high morale. What it means is that we are willing to answer God's call despite the unpleasantness of the current situation, not that we are happy with the present situation.

However, I have also noticed on a couple of blog sites, even ones that I like, a disparaging of morale by proclaiming that what is needed is "personal sanctification and holiness". I think that this misses the point - All of us are called to sanctification - though I think that a call to "personal sanctification" is a bit too similar to a call for a "personal relationship with Jesus". We are all called to sanctification in Christ and with the whole world. We do not save ourselves and we are not saved alone.

I have been baptized and ordained to be prophet, priest, and teacher. These roles inherently require a relationship with others - calling them to conversion, leading them in prayer, speaking the truths of the faith. If morale is declining it isn't because of some act of self-pity, it is a concern that we are losing our ability to do that which we have been called and ordained to do.

Confessionals with glass windows to protect penitents from the priest who is supposed to represent Christ and to protect the priest from the penitent who has come seeking God's grace.

No longer are we able to minister with the use of touch, especially in our ministry with children.

Make sure that whatever ministry you do, that there are others watching just so you don't get sued.

Yes, I'm all for seeking a holy life, but I have been called to be a priest and to minister to those in need of God's grace. If I can't minister because I have become a sign of fear rather than grace, than something is definitely wrong and it is not going to be solved by telling the priest to keep a stiff upper lip in the name of "personal holiness" as if I could answer my call to the priesthood by locking myself in some desert cell. I don't get holiness by myself, I get it by ministering to God's holy people. I don't worry when some anti-Catholic makes a joke about the priesthood and pedophelia, I worry when a parishioner does.

So, the issue of priest morale isn't about making the priest happy and content in his role, the issue is whether we will be able to live that role at all.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The journey from Advent to the Presentation is underway

St. Philip's Fast begins our series of scriptural and patristic meditations for our special podcast series over the Advent/Nativity season with the Eastern Church. You can check it out over at the From Advent to the Presentation website.

Gustavo Gutierrez defends John Paul II on Liberation Theology

Fr Gutierrez robustly defended the late Pope John Paul II from accusations that he had in any way let down Latin America in the years when supporters of Liberation Theology in the region were appealing for more Vatican backing. “If you look at Freud while studying psychology, this doesn’t mean you’re Freudian – if you look at Marx’s analysis of society while studying social sciences, this doesn’t mean you’ve become a Marxist,” the Dominican priest told The Universe. “I think John Paul understood this. He really knew the meaning of poverty and injustice, and had a deeper understanding of liberation theology than anyone else in Italy. His encyclicals exactly pinpoint the causes of alienation and conflict injustice.” [source]

It just goes to show that you can't classify John Paul II as right or left and that I need to pay more attention to what John Paul has said in his encyclicals.

You don't hear as much about Liberation Theology any more, even in the seminary, though the movement to canonize Archbishop Romero may bring it back into the public eye. It does an important job of pointing to the particular concern that God has for the poor and the responsibility we have for working to respond to their suffering.

While we do not support the use of violence in response to this suffering, we also should strive to ensure that the political situation does not deteriorate to the point where violent change is seen as the only option.

We point to John Paul's contributions in the collapse of Communism, will we one day point to the Pope's responsibility for the end of the injustices of Capitalism as well?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Ok, this is just weird...

This is a figure of the baby Jesus made entirely out of white chocolate that is to be part of the world's largest chocolate nativity scene.

Now, I agree that white chocolate was probably a better choice than dark chocolate, but what do you do when you are finished? Do you eat the baby Jesus? I have enough of a problem eating the chocolate Easter bunnies. [Though I bet these young girls are wondering the same thing.]

Super Fun Pak! - Translate this phrase!

This inscription was found in an ancient Greek church almost 1,700 years old. What do you think the phrase means?

Some suggestions -

1. Please don't leave before Mass is over.

2. Tithing is still 10%.

3. St. Ignatius is a progressive and a welcoming church.

Mother Theresa, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden

Mexico City,: A private organisation is using large posters of Mother Theresa, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden to teach the residents of Mexico City good civic manners. [source]

Apparently the poster of Mother Theresa speaks out against the evils of police corruption, the other figures offer other civic advice. Posters of George Bush and Hitler will also be used.

I don't know about you, but when I think of Mother Theresa, the first thing I think of is police corruption.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

New Podcast up over at Catholic:Under The Hood

The latest Catholic:Under The Hood podcast is up with my reflections on ordination.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Catholicism at Princeton

There is a nice article about the growing Catholic presence at Princeton University written by George Weigel. It's somewhat ironically notes that in many ways, Princeton is becoming more Catholic than many so-called Catholic institutions.

Another manifestation of the Culture of Death

CNN is reporting on a young woman who killed herself with the aid of a web site entitled "Alt.Suicide.Holiday". The young woman killed herself with the assistance of a man who goes by the name "River". Mr. "River" told CNN that, "No one in ASH [Alt.Suicide.Holiday] encourages anyone else to commit suicide. ASH is pro-choice." Pro-choice? Have we come to the point where not only are you permitted to kill yourself simply because you want to?

Not surprisingly, the language used is the same used for the pro-abortion movement. The culture of death is the culture of me, me, me. It is a culture in which loneliness is promoted in the name of individuality and succumbing to despair becomes liberation. It is a culture in which a young woman kills herself alone in a hotel room and the family learns of this as a result of a short e-mail. There is nothing noble about it at all.

Unfortunately, I don't expect things to get any better as long as the social structures of family and community are assaulted in the name of the primacy of the individual.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Why don't you just arrest me now?

Louise Haggett of the Center for the Study of Religious Issues [which doesn't appear to be a very big organization as it has no web site and posts all of its reports to the website of Rent-A-Priest which was also Haggett as was the organization Celibacy is the Issue, so you can see that the author is far from unbiased in addition to being woefully unqualified, sources identify her as a "former Catholic doctrine teacher" - whatever that means] has published a book called "The Bingo Report" in which she concludes "the longer a priest remains in the priesthood, the more likely he will struggle with mandatory celibacy both biologically and psychologically, and the more likely he will act on his struggles and become deviant or criminal in his actions."

When one is governed more by agenda than by evidence, it's always helpful to paint with a broad brush and why not cast aspersions on a whole class of people while you are at it.

Do I struggle with celibacy? Of course I do. If I didn't it would mean that I wasn't truly human. We are all drawn to intimacy, especially to the intimacy of marriage. Just because I entered religious life doesn't mean that I left my sexuality at the door. Human beings are sexual and naturally seek out one another. The Catechism states:

Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.

Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.

Therefore, there would indeed be something wrong with me if I didn't struggle with vows of chastity as I also struggle with vows of poverty and obedience. This doesn't mean that I act out in these struggles that violate my vows but as Fulton Sheen has reportedly said after commenting on an attractive woman, "Well, just because I'm on a diet doesn't mean I can't look at the menu."

But to say that the longer that I am a priest the more likely that I am to become an abuser or a devient is to say that remaining celibate is impossible counter the evidence of millions of priests over the past thousand years. It's becoming more and more clear that those who are promoting married priests are not really pro-marriage, they are just anti-celibacy.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Jesuit journal encouraging podcasting

La Civilta Cattolica has come out in favor of the use of podcasting as a tool of evangelization.

The church should not pass up the opportunity to make liturgies and prayers available via podcast, as well as downloadable sermons by "podpreachers," said the magazine, La Civilta Cattolica, in its Nov. 5 issue.

Here's hoping that the American church pays attention to this. Most of the Catholics currently using podcasting as an evangelical tool are members of the laity as are most of those blogging. Encourage the use of the new media and you encourage the vocation of the laity at the same time. But when was the last, or anytime, that one noticed a mention of a podcast or blog in a parish bulletin?

The post-ordination glow, part II

If you are going to get ordained, Franciscan University is a good place to get stationed both because there are lots of opportunities for sacramental ministry and because it has been very supportive over the past few days which have been filled with many firsts.

In my time before hearing my first confessions, I must say that I was exceptionally nervous - not only whether I would remember the prayer of absolution - but whether I would say something stupid. I had to keep reminding myself that God wouldn't have called me to this place without giving me the grace to fulfil it, that this isn't about me, that God is God and I am not.

I am waiting to see how the integration of my priestly and teaching responsibilities works out - your sins are forgiven but you still flunk my course!

Monday, November 07, 2005

The post-ordination glow

I'm back from my ordination to the priesthood, so I guess I need to amend my personal description. The ordination went well and I hope to talk more about it on the next Catholic:Under The Hood episode. Let me just say that it was a most joyous occasion with many family and friends. I have gotten very busy with Masses on Sunday and Monday and hearing my first confessions this evening - what a powerful and awesome responsibility. I have to keep telling myself that God gives the grace, God gives the grace to keep from running away from it all.

Nothing in the seminary can really prepare you for the reality of this sacramental ministry, to know that what you do will have a tremendous affect on many people but also to see that God is truly bringing forth blessings in you. Wow.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Remembering the Fifth of November

Just a quick post before my ordination to let you know that this week's episode of Catholic:Under The Hood is up and, I must say, is quite timely.