Monday, January 31, 2005

Liturgical Music

R.P. Burke recommended this essay, and I'd recommend it for anyone's reading. Professor Jeffery astutely analyzes classical music forms, swings and mostly misses with his take on popular music, but comes to many of my conclusions about the need for parishes to commit to musical liturgy of a high quality.

I'd like to treat some of the conclusion of the essay in a little detail. I share absolute agreement for the need for music education: education for clergy, music professionals, parish music volunteers, and students. Jeffery touches on the issue of just remuneration.

The untrained amateurs who are often given the unpaid role of leading congregational singing should be educated to take their rightful place back in the congregation, where their willingness to sing out will do a lot more good.

Maybe. Something might be said for the need to invest in training these people. An unwillingness to improve could be a signal that a congregational position is more worthy. But many of us got our start as liturgical musicians as untrained amateurs. If well-supervised students of music have no place leading liturgical prayer, I would seriously question it.

Liturgists, liturgiologists, and theologians who write about liturgy, and those who educate pastors, need to be educated to discuss their thinking about liturgical music with musical scholars -- musicologists, ethnomusicologists, etc. This is because virtually all of theologians/liturgists are utterly innocent of musical scholarship -- indeed of the fact that it even exists -- and imagine that music as a discipline consists entirely of training performers (sometimes called "applied music").

Some are. But the blanket assumption is troubling, and overlooks important talented people who have indeed managed to combine the disciplines of theology and music.

Today, Amy Welborn has been inundated on two liturgy posts. In the second, people take aim at liturgical music (and Mr Burke recommends the essay referenced above). Music of any kind, and involvement in music in any way: these are long-term endeavors. If you have taken only a year or two to rise from the depths of musical inanity to the summit of earthly experience, I want your recipe, and I'll come and get it myself; don't bother with e-mail.

Complainers often seem to think because they have the backing of the liturgical documents, EWTN, or their favorite Eastern music professor, they will be listened to, and every recommendation will be immediately put into place. Why would they think that? I get a letter, usually anonymous, about every monthg or two at my parish. Someone hates the "folk group." Somebody else dislikes a particular hymn. Another person prefers to sing "old time music," which, without a definition of the term, has meant anything from the Beatles to plainsong.

I have a difficult suggestion for people who really want to nudge their parish. Join a choir and get involved. Sadly, if you are profoundly alienated from the repertoire of your choir or parish, you will have to sing a lot of things you don't like and don't want to sing. I'm not sympathetic, unless you realize I've been in those shoes for a very long time myself. I find that once people trust me as a person who is not out to dismantle the "folk group," scuttle the choir "traditions," or otherwise get them to sing satanist ditties backward, they trust my nudging of them to new or better directions. I've known many colleagues who came into their parish with a wrecking ball on a crane, a vacuum cleaner, and the best intentions. I can tell you that each one of those parishes and colleagues was impoverished by the experience.

One particular bugaboo is the market-driven liturgical music press. I have good news. If you think it's bad for Catholics, you should see the state of Protestant/Evangelical choir music. Nobody says a parish has to use a missalette. Or a disposable music resource. Do you realize why these choices are made? They're easy. Most pastors and many music directors devote their energies elsewhere, so having a hymnal, or a missalette subscription is a worthwhile investment of their money, so time saved can be applied elsewhere. I admit it. I've always used these items. Only once was I able to convince a parish to print their own supplement of music, but we still had a contemporary hymnal for 90% of the repertoire.

I posted at Amy's that good music takes time, effort, and money. Trust me: take me at my word on this one. It takes a long time for a beginner to become a good musician. Talent and hard work will make for less time than a person of lesser talent or laziness, but it still takes years. Do people honestly believe that their parish can go from crappy music and poor leadership to angelic inspiration in substantially less time than it takes a person to go from first lesson to conservatory?

Effort is worth a second look, especially given our American milieu of instant gratification. Digging a parish music ministry out of the depths is going to take hard work no matter how uch money and time is devoted to it. Some of that effort will be spiritual: praying, discerning, crying and grief, but celebration, too. Some of the effort will involve trial and error. Good music will be emotionally demanding on those who are involved. And if you want to sing better, you will simply need to attend to the physical aspect of producing better sound.

Money. Nobody seems to want to spend it. I will concede that in some exceptional places, unpaid volunteers with great ability will produce great music from people on sheer time and effort. I wouldn't want to close the door on that possibility. But if your music leadership doesn't get or doesn't want remuneration, the parish and pastor have a responsibility for the proper care of such people. I've known many fine volunteers in parishes who did everything Father asked, and did it well. When such people have to attend to broken marriages, trouble with children or health or work, and begin to break down from the strain ... when these people quit the month before Easter, don't scratch your heads about it.

That's enough for today. I'll probably have more to write later.

Some more liturgical things
Carafes and flagons. Should be a local decision, made at the parish level. If it's worked for years, why does it need fixing? Celebrants or presiders. Every liturgy has both. The people are the former, and whoever leads them is the latter. If an ordination distinction must be made, I adopt the GIRM lingo and use "priest-presider" or "priest-celebrant." Singing presiders. Singing should be a requirement for ordination. Should be strongly considered for major feasts, especially in "high church" parishes. Deacons at liturgy. If they're trained to speak publicly, great. Another requirement for ordination. Carpets in churches. Maybe at the entrances to wipe feet. Naves should be resonant and speakers trained to be heard, not to be lazy and rely on bedroom acoustics. Mid-week school Masses. If they model the Sunday liturgy as fully as possible. But I can't tell you the number of parents who think as long as the kid went to Mass with the school, Sunday becomes an option. The term "Children's liturgy." Thumbs down ... way down. It wouldn't hurt, by the way, for a Sunday homilist to be aware that a large segment of the Mass celebrants are children and a bit of preaching directed that way would be appreciated from time to time, if not every week. Funeral vestments. White with violet and black trim. Covers all the bases. Comments?

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Fighting the inevitable
Seen on open book, but progressive Catholics would just say the pope is having some difficulty with the Spirit of Vatican II.

Let's cast a movie

Twenty years ago, my classmate and friend Tom and I spent many summer days working the periodicals archives of St Bernard's Institute (now St Bernards School of Theology and Ministry) integrating them into the stacks of the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, where they were merging libraries. One of our frequent topics that year was casting films. We had a pretty good 80's cast for The Lord of the Rings that Peter Jackson could have used. Gratis. Anyway, I was thinking back to those fond days, and now that Jackson has indeed made the movie we yearned for while eating our sandwiches in the library tower, I thought about another round of Let's Cast.

So here goes, commenters: choose a book or a story to be made as a film (or an old movie to remake) and cast it. Go as deep as you want, or just mention the principal actors. Your only parameter is that this movie is for 2006 release, so no dead actors and directors, please.

2005 Catholic Blog Awards
Nominate your favorites here. In modelling these awards on more popular formats I think the cybercatholic people do the blog genre something of a disservice. I think there's a lot of chaff in Grammy awards, too, but that's a topic for a full post to itself. First, I point out that these awards are a combination of peer and fan recognition, something of a cross between People's Choice and Screen Actor's Guild. Which is a fine exercise of opinion. I confess a bit of bafflement over the numerous categories, many of which seem to overlap. It escapes me why men and women need separation only in overall categories while the cybercatholics award a "Best Blog Overall." Do one or the other, please, but not both. Another question: are these awards for blogs active in the past year? I'd nominate Peter Nixon's fine blog Sursum Corda in a number of categories, as I did last year, except that he's closed shop. Does it count? My last beef is that the emphasis is solely on overall achivement. I suggest the cybercatholics trim their overall awards in half, and consider nominations for single entries in writing, presentation, etc., much as the Grammys award individual songs. Of course, that would be a lot of work to consider the occasional fine writing in the bloggerhood. It might be easier to skim through the St Blog's list and look at just the surface. Oh well. Go ahead and submit your nominations. It will be interesting to see who the people's choices are.
Don't pass the carafe, please
(or ... I'll take mine straight from the bottle)
Cardinal Arinze, head of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is making the American rounds. He was one of the keynoters at the Southwest Liturgical Conference Study Week. After his address, he took questions. A friend reports he was quizzed on carafes and pouring. Rather than appealing to the age-old argument, "Because we said so," the cardinal appealed to common sense. If you have a few thousand people at Mass, who's going to buy the wine, he asked. Consider it. The Vatican actually thinks your average, ordinary, everyday American Mass has a few thousand people in attendance. And they're concerned about our budgets for altar wine. I just feel all warm inside, don't you? At another appearance, a friend relays that during the Cardinal's question-and-answer session, he said he would take questions on any topic but carafes. Catholic Sensibility, on the onther hand, will answer any and all questions regarding carafes, altar wine budget, and the thousands of people I'm expecting to show up for Sunday Masses this weekend.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Thank you, Tom Doyle
Check out John Allen's The Word From Rome, linked at the sidebar, too. Fr Tom Doyle, who pioneered awareness on clergy sex abuse, takes on Italian politician Rocco Buttiglione, who claims the Scandal is “a last consequence of the invasion of the ideology of sexual permissiveness in the 1960s and 1970s.” Doyle does a thorough takedown. Worth reading in full. “Buttiglione’s views reflect those of many ‘moral conservatives,’ yet they are almost totally inaccurate." Doyle reports his own experience with victims abused in the 50's and 60's. I know a few myself. The limits of the Jay Study, in its focus on living victims of living priests, gives no information on the extent of sex abuse in prior decades or centuries. While it's possible clergy sex abuse sprang full-blown from 1950's Catholicism--the surveys can't deny it absolutely--it's far more likely that people in power took advantage of the weak as more or less of a continuous extra-curricular ... pretty much since the beginning of time. Doyle skewers the conservative view, and their "convenient scapegoat, though, especially for those whose level of denial renders them incapable of accepting the most criminal and immoral dimension of the scandal, namely the blanket of lies and cover-up as well as the constant shifting of perpetrators by the hierarchy." Exactly. We knew about sex abuse ten, twenty, thirty years ago. What has changed is that the bishops have conspired and covered up to avoid costly litigation. Was that also a product of the so-called Sexual Revolution? Lying and obstructing justice? "The hierarchy, encouraged and enabled no doubt by Vatican officials, have staunchly resisted any and all efforts at a serious and honest self-examination into the reason the civil cases take place and the grand juries investigate.......and this reason is not the sex abuse but the mismanagement and cover-up by the leadership." Nails it again. Why were people ticked off in 2002? Bishops. People who are ordained to pastor large numbers of Catholics and oversee substantial material and spiritual resources. The predators we knew about. What most people weren't aware of was the extent to which religious leadership went to hide perps, protect bank accounts, and pass the buck. Do you think the recent trend of Fidelity cubed (TM) bishops is going to be the solution? I wouldn't bet on it. New York's Cardinal Egan tried to insulate his old diocese from its financial responsibilities by finagling parishes as "independent" entities. In St Louis, when that independence rankles, the solution is "Show me the money, or I'll show you an interdict." "Whatever it takes" is supposed to be a motto for preaching the gospel, not avoiding justice.
On the Car Radio
"Would I Lie To You," Eurythmics; Jim Rome on smoking bans in California; "Rockin' In the Free World," Neil Young. That last one was over my daughter's strong objections on the way home from our late afternoon grocery shopping.
On the Bookshelf
Still slogging my way through Iron Council by Mieville, but the end is in sight. I have about three back issues of Smithsonian waiting to be read, too. Why do I bother to subscribe to magazines that just pile up and make me feel guilty?
On the Computer
Four cd's on Australia: three on wildlife and one "Encyclopedia of Australia." Looking forward to these, but I have a thing about calling something an "encyclopedia" that doesn't have the potential to give one a hernia picking it up whole.
On the Dining Room Table
Brit and I are working a 700-piece puzzle of kittens popping out of cowboy boots. "Kitty Slickers" it's titled, not "Pusses in Boots"
On the Day Off
I worked. In the office at 9 for a meeting. Recruited a seventh grader to burn palms for service hours. Went to the diocesan music commission meeting and met our co-adjutor bishop. He had to leave mid-meeting, and asked us if we had any questions of him, so naturally I blurted out, "Do you like to sing?" Maybe he was expecting something more theological.
My wife would have asked him about his hobbies, like she did when she lunched with Archbishop Hanus of Dubuque a few years back. Turns out he raises asparagus in his vegetable garden and likes to play racquetball.
Turns out our new bishop likes to sing in the shower, and he does have a nice singing voice. I sat next to him when we prayed daytime prayer after lunch.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Saint Thomas Aquinas

From frequent contributor Neil:

These brief comments, for the feast day of St Thomas Aquinas, are meant to answer the question: Why would any normal person want to read the Summa Theologiae? I am hardly an expert on Thomism, and perhaps I barely qualify as normal, but I do want to try to give a substantive answer instead of merely gesturing at the sheer importance of Thomas’ role in the history of Christian thought. The following is largely borrowed from the Anglican theologian Anna Williams (the quoted words, save for those from the Summa, are hers). Reading Aquinas, Williams says, can help us overcome the damaging separation of spirituality from theology that we can presently see in the world around us - and perhaps within us. If we unconsciously keep prayer separate from our creeds, proclamation, and worship, these practices become diminished, rationalistic concerns of the mind alone. And prayer itself loses resonance; while it might remain the form and sign of our belief, it cannot continue to teach us or lead us more deeply into our beliefs any longer. Does it seem odd to mention Thomas Aquinas in this context? It is true that Thomas has been caricatured as a “hairsplitting philosopher” by those who have failed to notice that many articles of the Summa have a very practical focus on subjects like gluttony. But the Summa consistently refuses to divorce contemplation from understanding; it is itself a work of mystical theology that can help us take the old saying, lex orandi, lex credendi, seriously once more. “As we pray, so do we believe.” First, notice the method. Thomas begins by describing the point of theology, “Man’s whole salvation, which is in God, depends upon knowledge of this truth” (I.1,1 resp.). Theology is nothing less than an unceasing contemplation of God. This is an active participation in God’s own self-knowledge, which (because of the doctrine of divine simplicity) is God’s own self. Thomas begins the Summa with the doctrine of God, and its end concerns the Son of God, who brings us to God. In between, Thomas considers the goal of human life and describes the different ways of life that serve as means by which each one of us finds his or her way to God. Thomas does not distinguish between theoretical and practical knowledge at all during this process – God’s own self-knowledge is also the knowledge of all the things that God has created. Thus, a discourse on Love is simultaneously a consideration of the ways that we must love our neighbor to concretely unite ourselves to this Love. Theology is not an impassive sort of knowledge about God; contemplation is itself, Williams says, “part of the larger process whereby God draws humanity towards himself: the gracing of nature that we may come to glory.” Contemplation includes the love that comes from gazing at God’s beauty. It means to bring us to union with God. For God himself wants intimacy with his creation. The famous “Five Ways” of the first part of the Summa are less proofs of God’s existence than evocations of divine desire. Each “way” – the First Mover, the Efficient Cause, the Necessary Being who freely gives being to all, the Highest Being who shares goodness and perfection, and the Divine Intelligence who orders the universe – is a subtle description of the God who desires union with his creatures, ending with the antiphon, “this everyone understands to be God.” The human being, Aquinas asserts in the second part of the Summa, is ordered towards this union with God. But it is only in Jesus Christ, the subject of the third part of the Summa, that God and humanity actually meet. Aquinas quotes Augustine, “God became human that we might become divine” (III.1,2), and asserts that, in the Incarnation, creation finally responded to God’s goodness: “The mystery of the Incarnation … [was] through His having united Himself to the creature in a new way, or rather, having united it to Himself” (III.1, 1 ad 1). Williams writes, “The corrective clause indicates that Thomas views the hypostatic union not so much as God’s descent as the foundation of humanity’s exaltation.” This “exaltation” is why a normal person should read the Summa. Thomas reminds us that, whenever we speak of God, we should be practicing contemplation, a “unitive force, one that draws us beyond ourselves, towards an Other.” Thomas is not really concerned with directing apologetic arguments about Christianity’s plausibility against cultured despisers, only with “the transformative possibilities of the contemplation of God: how the believer may not only assent to the propositions of faith but may be joined to God through faith.” His concern is to show that the entirety of human experience is meant, through the Incarnation, for nothing less than theosis, deification. At a time when we can speak incessantly about doctrine without spirituality, knowledge without contemplation, and catechesis without prayer, this is more than welcome. St Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Mindfulness in the Communion Procession
Bennet requested a clarification of my comment, "Adults treat the Communion procession with a degree of disinterest." "What are these adults doing or neglecting to do?" I find lack of mindfulness to be troubling. By that I mean the inner quality of attention one gives God in prayer. One obvious example is the general leaving as soon as Communion is received, without praying or reflecting with other worshippers. Another might be insistent stubbornness with certain practices, even though they set a poor example for the young. The CDWS suggestion that the gesture of reverence precede the act of consuming the Body and Blood of Christ. I realize that people are "trained" into crossing themselves or genuflecting after instead of before, and it's not entirely their fault that some clergy choose to deemphasize new procedures. Neglecting to sing is another. " ... many people rightly or wrongly refuse to indulge the music director's or priest's or liturgist's personal whims, and refuse to sing the hymns ..." I have yet to come across something downright heretical in text. Music can be quite poorly executed and difficult to sing along to. So I have conflicted feelings about this one. "I don't like 'I Am The Bread of Life' because of voice of God." That argument rings like a personal whim on the part of the dissenter, not a good example for others. "I don't like 'I Am The Bread of Life' because they play it too darn slow." You hope there's a solution in a situation like that. If dissenting parents make a point of singing hymns with their kids at other times, I could excuse ideological persnicketiness. Did I give you something close to an answer?

From Neil: Bishop Wright on Liturgy

I know very little about liturgy. But the frequency of discussion about liturgy on the internet has convinced me that I should learn what I can. I will start with the basics. Perhaps it might be edifying for my one or two readers to follow me through a recent article by the Anglican bishop and exegete NT Wright on “biblical worship” (Studia Liturgica 32 [2002]). NT Wright begins with “the spectacular scene in the book of Revelation, chapters 4 and 5, where John the Seer is summoned to become for a while a spectator at the heavenly court.” Bishop Wright reminds us that John is being shown “the heavenly dimension of present reality” – to “come up here” (4:1) is to be “caught up in the spirit” (4:2), “suddenly open to and aware of the heavenly dimension of what we call ordinary life.” John sees worship in the heavenly throne-room; animals begin by shouting, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts,” and twenty-four elders fall down and declare that God is worthy of this worship. We can see that authentic worship has to involve creation, rejecting any sort of dualism, and that the particular task of humans “is to bring to conscious thought and expression the worship of the rest of creation.” This task is also inevitably political; the worship of God as the sovereign one who rules with the slain Lamb, and who makes his people kings and priests, implicitly challenges – perhaps even subtly parodies – the imperial court and cult. “The sovereignty of God in the New Testament is more about politics than about philosophy.” There is no room for escapism at all in authentic liturgy – the vision at the end of Revelation is not of deliverance upward, but rather of the New Jerusalem descending to earth. Next, Bishop Wright wishes to look at the letter to the Romans. For St Paul, Jesus Christ, is the fulfillment of the law, bringing all nations to the obedience of faith. Every nation will come to the authentic worship (15:7-13) that had been degraded by idolatry (1-3). The waters of baptism are a new Exodus (6) that renews creation itself from decay, so that here between death and the promise of resurrection, we find that “the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness” in prayer (8:26) and we are “conformed to the image of His Son” (8:29). St Paul then tells us “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship” (12.1) – there can be no dualism here either. And St Paul describes the community that is the renewed people of God: “A single community formed across the barriers of culture and race, giving allegiance to the one Lord and looking for his coming true judgment – this is an agenda that ought to make Caesar shiver in his shoes.” Again, we see the imperial court and cult called into question. Lastly, Bishop Wright looks at the New Testament theme of the new Passover, the new Exodus. After all, both baptism and the Eucharist are Passover events – the former being the true crossing of the Red Sea and Jordan River, the latter announcing that the blood of a new covenant has been shed for our sins. Both are effective signs: “Just as some kinds of speech are themselves actions, so some kinds of actions are themselves speech – a handshake, a kiss, the cutting of a ribbon.” Their visibility challenges the Enlightenment claim that “what matters in religion is the ideas you have in your head,” the Romantic emphasis on feeling instead of form, and the Existentialist focus on some sort of Gnostic “who you really are.” The ritual quality of baptism and the Eucharist reminds us also that “the biblical story from Genesis to Revelation is a great drama, a great saga, a play written by the living God and staged in his wonderful creation; and in liturgy, whether sacramental or not, we become for a moment not only spectators of this play but also willing participants in it.” What then can we say about Christian worship? Christian worship takes place both in heaven and on earth: “The Sursum Corda, ‘lift up your hearts,’ is the sign of what is really going on.” Heaven is not a distant place, but rather where we are “caught up in the Spirit,” where Jesus and the Spirit reveal the Father to us, “drawing us into a worship, love and obedience” that we, renewed in the image of our Creator, then reflect outward to the world. Christian worship must also integrate the whole person, the whole community, and the whole creation. It will celebrate embodiedness in place of dualism, it will restore the community since all “those who name the name of Christ belong together at the same table saying the same words,” it will unite the whole creation in anticipation of when at Jesus’ name, “every knee shall bow” (Rom 14:11). We might say, then, that bad liturgy will tend to promote a dualistic reverence that separates heaven and earth, rejects the very bodies that we are to offer as a “living sacrifice,” ignores the community, and has precious little to say about creation or its eschatological destiny.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Tolkien Movie They Should Make
Is the story of Beren and Luthien from The Silmarillion. I was pondering how PeterJackson subsumed the character of Glorfindel into Arwen in the film. Fans noted that it was the elf-lord Glorfindel who assisted in the escort of the hobbits to Rivendell, not Liv Tyler riding a horse and daring the Nazgul to cross her. Which isn't to say she couldn't do it, I guess. What was that revision about? Giving a woman a bigger role in the story? Did the producers think we guys would buy an extra ticket or two just to see the daughter of Elrond kick ringwraith butt? (Personally, I was hoping for Robin Williams to do Bombadil, but oh well.) Beren and Luthien would be perfect for a feature-length film. Rather than take a 1200-page story and condense it into nine hours of film, take a 25-page chapter and expand it into a two to three hour movie. I wonder who has the film rights to this? Tolkien fans, what do you say?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

CP is waiting for a good home
Meet Cecelia Peppermint, off to the vet tomorrow to get "fixed," coming soon to an adoptive home, hopefully yours. Lots of pets already born and ready to be loved in your neightborhood. My wife would encourage any of you prospective pet owners to research your animal of choice thoroughly before adopting him or her. Posted by Hello

Pottery, now which one is that?
We're looking so good because it's ten years ago in this photo. Thursday is our Pottery Anniversary, so if you can't rush ship a clay mug or cookie jar, just send a prayer our way. Posted by Hello
A blended approach
I haven't liked the chat I've read and heard about dividing up the country. One things that amuses me is the thought that a 1950's southerner or westerner would have in labelling his or her state red. I put MS Paint to work on mixing and shading red and blue and this is how my 2004 electoral US map looks. My daughter's favorite color is purple. What do you think? Posted by Hello

Fertility Tourism in the News
Fertility treatments were not our method of choice for having a child, and I can appreciate, however slightly, the urge to have a child of at least 50% of a couple's genetic make-up. These procedures, and especially the "tourism" aspect of it, indulge the affluent fantasy that if a person has enough money, they can do anything. It's not buying children, but it's uncomfortably close, in my opinion. This quote bothered me: "People will do anything for a baby. There're women out there who've hocked the house. So what's the big deal about taking your passport and leaving the country." People won't do anything for a baby, or even a child. Hundreds of thousands of American children languish in the foster care system for lack of parents. Too few people do much of anything for these boys and girls, whose only fault was being born to parents who were unable or unwilling to care for them properly. We continue to tell our daughter that most of her friends were born into their families, and that's a blessing, even though they weren't chosen. She's special because she was chosen by her parents. I couldn't let this story pass without suggesting some people could be better off with special children, rather than affluent ones.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Life: What is being asked?
This post on open book today led to this comment: Many of us would be moved speechless by viewing such a scene. My exposure to city violence, the stories of sexual and physical abuse from friends and family, and reading on the history and aftermath of human warfare was enough to steer me toward pacifism. Pacifism shored up my own beliefs against abortion. However, many St Blog's participants continue to misunderstand and ridicule pacifism as a coherent and sound philosophy from which to operate as a Catholic. The dynamic of abortion on demand is more complex for many people than witnessing graphic pictures and beocoming a convert. Likewise pacifism is far more than seeing violence perpetrated on innocent people and deciding to abjure rendering harm. Some commentators have difficulty getting around their perception of my "dissent," and it must be asked if pro-lifer extremists inflict their own damage to the cause by their actions or words. Sometimes those actions or words are enough to stop people before they get to the pictures. And this immediate reply: Todd: I posted this link on this day as a way of memorializing the victims of abortion in a way that recognizes the truth about their deaths. I didn't post it, really, as an opportunity for you to enter the thread and immediately try to direct it in the direction you see fit. You have your own blog for that, I believe. Your disdain for prolifers, thousands of whom are out marching today, and all of whom understand perhaps even more deeply than you do the complexities of abortion and have their own difficult journeys that have taken them to a place of advocacy for the preborn, is tiresome. For once, let's just think of others - the children lost, the children whose lives hang in the balance this very day, the girls and women who are wrestling with decisions, past, present and future...and resist the temptation to draw attention to ourselves. Deal? On Amy's first point, I entirely agree. In her second, there are two simple solutions: First, to write essays unsullied by commentary, just post without a comment connection. The second? Suggestion taken. The third paragraph essentially boils down to this: From the point of view of many Catholics/pro-lifers, I take an unconventional approach. For this, I'm told what I think and how my views are somehow inferior to the enlightened majority. What puzzles me is the strong and earnest desire among pro-lifers to convert the doubters, fence-sitters, and rigorous pro-choice folks to the reality of their views. The puzzlement is not so much that I doubt Amy's or anyone else's sincerity. Or even that they are occasionally successful. But I'm curious that people who are expecting an earth-shattering openness from pro-choice souls to a change a precious personal worldview, are themselves so close-minded to those who are in basic agreement with the Cause. The casual dismissal of a consistent pro-life ethic is virtually St Blog's Gospel. Opposition to the death penalty, for example, and mentioning it in the same breath as abortion, is tantamount to heresy in the online parish hall. On that point, I'm unsympathetic. If you think advocacy for the poor, for death row inmates, for peace, and for other life issues pollutes the pure stream for the unborn, I think you've missed the boat. If it's not your issue, fine. Leave it be and focus where you believed are called to focus. If one person's one hour advocacy for foster care reform, death penalty abolition, or the end to the Iraq War is one hour lost for the unborn, then what of that one hour reading a good book, listening to music, or indulging in coffeeklatch conversation with friend? It is a moral good to advocate on behalf of others for a good cause. If that good cannot be acknowledged as one does one's own work, then indeed I think the pro-life (or anti-abortion) movement is doomed to a frustration of failure for its proponents. I offer a different way of looking at things, a way admittedly out of sync from the St Blog's Groupthink. Amy suggests I'm drawing attention to myself. That may not be entirely false. All of us who blog are fond of our own thoughts, otherwise we'd keep them to ourselves. But to suggest that tomorrow is some kind of holiday for people to say, "Just let us say what we think about the horror of abortion and don't inconvenience us with other details," well, that strikes me as a fruitless path if the conversion of others is the end-of-the-road expectation. It's been a long time since I marched or protested. I used to do it with friends about issues here and there. I tended then and lean now to rely more on the power of the intellect or personal persuasion. I think I talked a good friend out of having an abortion once; I'm not sure the consideration was really a serious one, and I was too shocked to investigate further. I hope I've helped people to pray about life issues--that's my job after all. Against the clicker of tens of millions of abortion deaths worldwide, what can I offer on the life side of the ledger? One maybe? What more do I need to qualify as credible?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Robert de Nobili's Approach
More from Neil: I’d like to continue thinking about how the relationship of Christianity with other religions can actually become a source for mutual enrichment, instead of the violence that sadly seems to mark our times. In response to my last post, Steve Bogner mentioned the seventeenth century Jesuit missionaries, Matteo Ricci and Robert de Nobili, and “how they adapted and immersed themselves in their local cultures (China & India), finding certain truths there and gaining credibility.” Steve writes, “From what I read, both they and their targeted converts were beneficiaries of those efforts.” Let’s take a few minutes, then, to look at Robert de Nobili, perhaps the lesser known of the pair. I’ll be indebted to the work of Nobili’s fellow Jesuit, Francis X. Clooney, throughout. De Nobili, originally Italian, lived in Madurai, India from 1606 to, roughly, 1656. Recognizing that the existing Catholic mission there had proven ineffective in evangelizing Hindus because it forced any would-be converts to adopt an alien culture, de Nobili presented himself as a traditional Indian guru, followed Brahmin rules, and thoroughly familiarized himself with Hindu literature and the Sanskrit language. De Nobili justified his “inculturation” by drawing parallels between Indian and classical cultural practices that were, in his opinion, naturally good and retainable, even if they had become associated with pagan accretions. If the ancient Romans did not change the way they dressed after conversion in the third and fourth centuries, surely the Brahmin thread did not have to be forbidden now. De Nobili also pointed to the Incarnation - Jesus Christ came to directly show human beings how to live, which involved speaking according to a local pattern of words and images. The contemporary missionary should be able to imitate Christ by also fully entering into a local context. Finally, De Nobili was sure that reason and its structures did not change from culture to culture, so the translation of Christian doctrine into Tamil concepts had to be possible. The question for us is whether De Nobili merely presented (perhaps even disguised) the same Christianity in a more convenient form for his Asian listeners, or whether his own understanding of the Christian faith actually developed because of his adoption of Indian practices. Francis Clooney asks, “Is it likely that someone could live for fifty years in a Hindu environment, eat and live and dress like a Hindu, learn Hindu scriptures and philosophy, internalize Hindu dialectics sufficiently so as to argue adeptly with Hindus – without interiorizing and ‘owning’ some of that religion and religious truth?” Can we say that a real “mutual enrichment” took place during De Nobili’s years in South India? Clooney says yes. While de Nobili consistently criticized such Hindu doctrines as reincarnation and dismissed goddess worship as fruitless idolatry, his depiction of Christ as the divine guru come down to earth “potentially sheds new light on the meaning of the Incarnation itself.” For his Indian readers, de Nobili described the human condition as marred by the sickness of desire. “It is therefore necessary that humans renounce desire completely in order that there be no cause for sin; or at least that they moderate it so as to not leave the path of what is right.” We must either surrender desire, or, more modestly, live with desire bound by dharma, but human beings are too blind to see this. So, “The creator thus decided, ‘It is necessary to show this path,’ and so took on a human nature and walked the earth for a short time doing deeds of dharma as one with a holy vow (vrata) to do without the pleasures of women, etc., as one totally poor, as one rejecting worldly pride …” The life of Jesus is itself his teaching – “To show that he loathed the pride of this world he has to walk the earth as a poor man among the poor, without the pride of contact with kings, etc …” And, now, Christian disciples must follow Jesus in teaching dharma so that our fellow human beings can escape desire and “reach the shore” (de Nobili’s term for salvation): “When the divine guru, our creator, left this world and, returned to heaven (moksa), he taught his disciples (sisya) to go forth into the world to make known to all the good news of his Veda.” It seems likely that de Nobili turned to the vocabulary of Saivism, oriented to the worship of the indwelling Siva concealed in the guise of a guru, to make sense of the Incarnation. Clooney says, “De Nobili has in effect made the riches of the Saiva Siddhanta part of the theological heritage of the church.” And what are these riches? I think that it is often hard for us to consider Jesus’ life as theologically meaningful. Some theologies focus almost solely on the atonement and leave us with a messianic earthly ministry that has very little salvific value indeed. Other theologies, to be sure, take Jesus’ ministry more seriously, but they tend to presuppose the Western concept of “teacher” and contract the point of that ministry to a series of messages or duties, reducing the Gospel to a select matter of performance. But a guru is not just a teacher. If we contemplate Christ as the divine guru who reveals the hidden God to us through relationships that bring “a new perspective on a newly illumined world,” we might be able to better recover the image of Christ the teacher and the spirituality of the imitation of Christ. After all, the riches of the Saiva Siddhanta are ours.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Mass Under A Microscope: Active Participation
Traditional revisionists are at work trying to convince us that "full, conscious, and active" participation is wrong. What the Latin really means is "actual," not active. Right. Let's check out what Vatican II actually says (and it says it fourteen times), and the context of its teaching on "active participation." All references are from Sacrosanctum Concilium. 11. Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects. One of bugaboos of the movement to turn back the liturgical clock is that the overemphasis on "active" participation clouds the possibilities for interior prayer. If this were true, I might agree. The first mention of "active" in SC is as an adverb in the context of the pastor's responsibility for good liturgy. Note the first importance placed on lay awareness in the liturgy. People should know what's going on. SC speaks that knowledge is not enough, but that the rites should "engage" people, and I would interpret that fully: exterior and interior. That good liturgy should bear fruit in the lives of people keeps us from an undue emphasis on both the sins of overactive rubricism, and that the liturgy is itself its own goal. II. The Promotion of Liturgical Instruction and Active Participation 14. Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Participation has two adjectives, a compound "fully conscious" as well as "active." "Active" also gets a heading in this section, a clue that the council bishops found it central to the teaching here. I would interpret that a fully conscious person is engaged on all levels of being: the body moves, the senses see, hear, touch, etc., the voice communicates, the mind reflects, the heart feels. When the rubrics say, "the people respond ..." they mean it. They don't give the impression that in general, singing, speaking, moving, keeping silence, etc. are options. 14. In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work. "Full" again, covering the whole person. "Active" again, in the sense of "functional," namely that participation is more than just a theoretical ideal, but that on the level of the parish community, it accomplishes something, or it bears fruit. My Webster's gives seven definitions for "active," one giving the synonym "functioning, working." Liturgy is often described as "the work of the people," and for liturgy to reach its full potential, something must be working. 19. With zeal and patience, pastors of souls must promote the liturgical instruction of the faithful, and also their active participation in the liturgy both internally and externally, taking into account their age and condition, their way of life, and standard of religious culture. By so doing, pastors will be fulfilling one of the chief duties of a faithful dispenser of the mysteries of God; and in this matter they must lead their flock not only in word but also by example. This paragraph is explicit, covering both exterior and interior expressions of participation. Nobody can argue with this. 21. In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community. The communal nature of liturgy come out here. What "befits" a community? Several hundred individuals each praying (or doing other things) on their own preferred levels, in their own preferred ways? There are appropriate times and places for reflection and contemplation, and the liturgy provides these. What paragraph 21 suggests is in connection with the texts and rites of liturgy, and the presumption that people as a community should be on the same page, as it were, and expressing a "befitting" unity as the people of God. 27. It is to be stressed that whenever rites, according to their specific nature, make provision for communal celebration involving the presence and active participation of the faithful, this way of celebrating them is to be preferred, so far as possible, to a celebration that is individual and quasi-private. This applies with especial force to the celebration of Mass and the administration of the sacraments, even though every Mass has of itself a public and social nature. The revisionists might grind their teeth over this, but here it is again: Mass is a public event. And this paragraph and others like it addressed the inherent problems with the Tridentine observance, problems which permitted individual and quasi-private expressions that were out of place. 30. To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence. Emphasis on singing here. Nice mention of "bodily attitudes" from guys who likely didn't have adolescent children. Silence has a "proper time." 41. Therefore all should hold in great esteem the liturgical life of the diocese centered around the bishop, especially in his cathedral church; they must be convinced that the pre-eminent manifestation of the Church consists in the full active participation of all God's holy people in these liturgical celebrations, especially in the same eucharist, in a single prayer, at one altar, at which there presides the bishop surrounded by his college of priests and by his ministers (Cf. St. Ignatius of Antioch, To the Smyrnians, 8; To the Magnesians, 7; To the Philadelphians, 4.). The bishop's church is to be the prime example. 50. The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, may be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved. The bishops acknowledge the Tridentine Rite was not a total obstacle, but that some aspects of it should be reformed so as to make "devout" (new adjective) and "active" participation easier. 79. The sacramentals are to undergo a revision which takes into account the primary principle of enabling the faithful to participate intelligently, actively, and easily; the circumstances of our own days must also be considered. What holds for the sacramental rites should also be in force for other forms of public prayer. 113. Liturgical worship is given a more noble form when the divine offices are celebrated solemnly in song, with the assistance of sacred ministers and the active participation of the people. Liturgy of the Hours. Yes. The more noble form does not consist of a choral setting to the exclusion of the people. 114. Choirs must be diligently promoted, especially in cathedral churches; but bishops and other pastors of souls must be at pains to ensure that, whenever the sacred action is to be celebrated with song, the whole body of the faithful may be able to contribute that active participation which is rightly theirs, as laid down in Art. 28 and 30. Choirs are not to usurp the role of the people. 121. Composers, filled with the Christian spirit, should feel that their vocation is to cultivate sacred music and increase its store of treasures. Let them produce compositions which have the qualities proper to genuine sacred music, not confining themselves to works which can be sung only by large choirs, but providing also for the needs of small choirs and for the active participation of the entire assembly of the faithful. Composers must attend to the new emphasis on the role of the people. 124. And when churches are to be built, let great care be taken that they be suitable for the celebration of liturgical services and for the active participation of the faithful. The architecture of new and renovated churches must "carefully" accommodate active participation. I think the revisionists are barking up the wrong tree. They have the right idea: promoting silence and contemplation. These ideas have already been promoted by many progressive liturgists, so there's no new ground being forgotten or covered here. If anything, the active/actual debate is moot. Sacrosanctum Concilium already recognizes and respects the need for silence and the cultivation of the interior lives of worshippers. The context of "active" is at times clear and supplemental to the "interior." Other times it is carefully interpreted with the notion of "full" participation, which seems to cover both the exterior and interior aspects. The Catechism (1348) reiterates this in underscoring the "active part" of the "whole people" gathered at Mass. Let's also be sensible about things. Do I think people who are silently praying in their seats are a liturgical abuse? Of course not. Adults have good reasons for opting out of active participation in given circumstances: illness, dry throat, confinement to a wheelchair, or even an emotional experience that renders them speechless. Sometimes it is the fault of liturgical leadership: hymns unknown or pitched too high, lack of proper lighting, confusing cues, etc.. The pastor is responsible to see that these problems on his side are attended to. And most conscientious adults are capable of making proper judgments, then entering into liturgy more fully when they are able. Adolescents and children are another matter. Young people see the example of their elders and follow. Adults leave church early. Adults refuse to open a hymnal and sing even when they have the voice. Adults don't discuss the readings or homily after Mass. Adults treat the Communion procession with a degree of disinterest. The young learn from the old in public rituals. What parents wouldn't teach their child the meaning of "the Wave," or the seventh inning stretch, or a good tailgating party? Is full and active participation in sporting rituals achieved when people don't cheer, don't stand for the anthem or song, or disengage in similar ways? Being active does not mean being in constant motion, as one definition has it. The "active" participation called for in the rites means that people will be engaged and transformed by the liturgy, if the liturgy is doing its job.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Various opinions, starting with liturgy, moving on from there
Fan-shaped seating: Sometimes bad. More dangerous is that many liturgy people think they're the cat's meow and don't recognize they have more in common with the Tridentine performance set-up than with the older traditions of seating in the round, or the more communal monastic/antiphonal arrangement (with apologies to Liam's neck).
Cantors: Transitional, I hope. The ideal would be a choir at every Mass, at least a small one. I do prefer a single psalmist over a choral experience there, but I'm not dogmatic about it, even in my own groups.
Microphones: If I can get away with not using them, I do.
Greeters at church: If the parishioners themselves were doing their job before and after Mass, they would be entirely superfluous. That said, I think having people at the carport or front steps to assist movement-impaired folks out of their vehicles would be more helpful than ushers talking football or their golf game just inside the front doors.
Ban the carafe: Silly. I think Rome is jealous of American ingenuity.
Holding hands at the Lord's Prayer: Wouldn't start it where it wasn't done. Wouldn't end it where it was. It's a practice that spans the whole ideological strip, and has taken on a life of its own. Not a Frankenstein I want to deal with.
Blessings for non-communicants: see opinion above. One priest said it was incorrect on his web site and one of his readers is ready to take him at his word and start a campaign against it at home. It sure beats the parish that offered sugar wafers to young children. (Something that says a lot about the perception that altar bread isn't really bread-like.)
Performance music at Mass: If you have a performance repertoire, give a concert. If the people don't show up for it in numbers like they do for your regular Mass, that might tell you something.
Pre-recorded soundtracks: Just a poor idea, all around. Go for live, not memorex.
"Serious" blogging topics vs "safe" ones: I like reading Neil Dhingra's posts. I don't often have much to add. He's a serious academic, and I might have been one once. I certainly think issues such as Jacques Dupuis and the Catholic approach to non-Christian religion is more important than if a parish uses glass chalices or blue vestments. Since the Church teaches clearly on glass and blue, it is firm ground for many Catholics. It's even a confortable topic for dissenters: I'm not likely to go to a dungeon for saying carafes are okay. There's even a guilty pleasure in being able to suggest a matter of discipline is a bad idea.
But dealing with Buddhists, Hindus, and certainly Muslims is a real problem with far-reaching consequences. When confronted with Dupuis, it's easier to keep one's opinions to oneself, be they agreement or befuddled suspicion. After all, what if he turns out to be the 20th century's Aquinas, villified in his day, mistrusted, then rehabbed into doctorhood?
As it stands, it does the bloggerhood little credit to post like crazy on liturgical minutiae, and forego the tougher topics. I certainly count myself as a regular offender, but I'm wondering how I can alter my practices (and still have a little fun).

Saturday, January 15, 2005

On the bookshelf
China Mieville's Iron Council, reviewed here. I really like Mieville's writing, but it takes me a long time to get through his books. Another review here confirms my early suspicion, but I'm seeing it through to the end.
New York: An Illustrated History a book version of the film by Ric Burns. Now I want to see the film. My father left home when he was eighteen to make it in music in New York City. He returned home several months later to a career as a watchmaker and jeweler after some bad experiences. It was 1931, after all, and I can't imagine it was the ideal time for a young man hoping to make it big in a big city. I wondered if I'd see any photo of my dad ... a hope with barely a prayer, I know.
Elaine Cunningham's Shadows in the Darkness, which my local library shelved in New SF, but seemed to me to be 80% hard boiled private detective mystery. A nice change of pace, though the plot does turn on a predictable piece of fantasy. My wife would've guessed it by page 30. It took me a few more chapters. Caves of Steel by Asimov remains the ultimate SF/Mystery fusion tome to me.
At the library today, I picked up Tony Daniel's Metaplanetary, reviewed here. His new book, Superluminal was on the New SF shelf, and looked interesting, but I wanted to read the first few hundred pages of the story.
This month's spiritual reading is William Shannon's Seeds of Peace, found partway down the page here and here.
Now that I've practiced hyperlinking, I think I'm heading offline for a bit of reading before bed.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Neil Dhingra on Jacques Dupuis
I can’t claim to read every Catholic blog. Nevertheless, I think that I can say that there is a paucity of serious discussion about ecumenism and interreligious dialogue at St. Blog’s. Now the Tablet has reported that the Jesuit priest Jacques Dupuis, a scholar of religious pluralism, has died. Fr Dupuis had been the primary author of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue’s own document on Dialogue and Proclamation. Nevertheless, John Allen has written about how much the last few years of his life were marked by “suffering - both physical, in the sense of declining health, and emotional, related to a lengthy Vatican doctrinal investigation and its aftermath.” I’d like to say a few words about interreligious dialogue based on the work of Fr Dupuis, obviously accomplished at great personal cost. Perhaps Fr Dupuis’ last article was entitled “Renewal of Christianity through Interreligious Dialogue” (Bijdragen 65 [2004]). There Dupuis clearly states, “There can be no doubt that the Christian identity must be preserved in its integrity in the process of encountering and entering into dialogue with the other religious traditions.” But this preservation must not lead to isolation – Dupuis even says, “a renewal of Christianity is more likely to take place through interreligious dialogue than in opposition to the other traditions.” More likely? How can this be? First, we really should define what we mean by “interreligious dialogue.” Dupuis writes - “Each partner in the dialogue must enter into the experience of the other, in an effort to grasp that experience from within. In order to do this, he or she must rise above the level of the concepts in which this experience is imperfectly expressed, to attain, insofar as possible, through and beyond the concepts, to the experience itself.” This “passing over and returning” does not mean that the practitioner eventually finds herself living equally by the revelation that God has given in Jesus Christ and (for instance) the experience of identity in the Upanishads. This would simply be theologically incoherent. So what happens when, as the Benedictine monk Henri Le Saux (Swami Abhishiktanada) put it, “I reach, as it were, in the very depth of myself to the experience of my brother, freeing my own experience from all accretions, so that my brother can recognize in me his own experience of my depth”? Certainly not a facile eclecticism (Le Saux also said “Interreligious dialogue is something too important to be taken lightly”), but we should expect mutual enrichment. Dupuis writes, “The Christian partners will not only give but will receive as well. The ‘fullness’ of revelation in Jesus Christ does not dispense them from listening and receiving. They possess no monopoly on truth; they must rather let themselves be possessed by it. Indeed, their dialogue partners, even without having heard God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, may be more deeply submitted to this truth that they are still seeking, but whose rays shine on their religious tradition (cf Nostra Aetate, 2).” The Christian partner’s receiving can happen in two ways. Through the experience of other religions, Christians discover dimensions of the Divine Mystery that have been communicated less clearly by their tradition; the “shock of the encounter” might also force us to purify ourselves of certain gratuitous assumptions and prejudices. Much has been recently said about the continuous need for reformation (ecclesia semper reformanda) and updating (aggiornamento) – interreligious dialogue can contribute to this renewal. So we can speak of a complementarity, a “two-way traffic” between the religions. But Fr Dupuis is careful to note: “The complementarity under consideration is a mutual, asymmetrical complementarity. The reason is that Christian faith holds that the Jesus Christ event represents the climax of God’s personal dealings with humankind in history: the word which God speaks to humankind through Jesus Christ is, by virtue of his personal identity as the Son of God made man, the ‘fullness’ of divine revelation, and similarly, the historical event of his human life, and in particular the Paschal mystery of his death and resurrection, the culminating point of salvation history in which God’s will to save is fully realized.” Dupuis suggests that we try to see the revelation of God in Jesus Christ and in other religions as “mutually related” in “the intrinsic consistency of God’s unique design for humankind” with Jesus Christ as the “centre,” the “key of understanding,” the “climax of what God had through the centuries been achieving among the peoples of the world.” This “asymmetrical complementarity” and “mutual relatedness” means that we do not have to decide between dialogue and mission – they go together. As the Asian bishops have said, “Proclamation is the affirmation of and witness to God’s action in oneself. Dialogue is the openness and attention to the mystery of God’s action in the other believer. It is a perspective of faith that we cannot speak of the one without the other.” Fr Dupuis believes that “convergence between the religious traditions will attain its goal in the fullness of the Reign of God. An eschatological ‘recapitulation’ (Eph 1:10) in Christ of the religious traditions of the world will take place in the eschaton.” Jesus Christ will be the “end” and the “central axis,” omega and alpha, and will preserve “the irreducible character, which the distinct self-manifestations of God in history have impressed upon the various traditions.” Perhaps this can be our prayer as well. And may Fr Dupuis rest in peace and the perpetual light shine upon him. PS: Jacques Dupuis’ “The Church’s Evangelizing Mission in the Context of Religious Pluralism” can be read here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

"Bush was wrong."
My first reaction is, of course he was. This from the AP, found by a link on open book. "When I went to Washington as the pope's envoy just before the outbreak of the war in Iraq, he (Bush) told me: `Don't worry, your eminence. We'll be quick and do well in Iraq,'" Laghi told Italian Catholic TV station Telepace, which was broadcasting the pontiff's annual address to diplomats. When the United States went to war in Iraq, Laghi called the attack on Baghdad "tragic and unacceptable." "Unfortunately, the facts have demonstrated afterward that things took a different course -- not rapid and not favorable," the prelate told Telepace. "Bush was wrong." The president has been jumped millions of times on this issue, and will continue to be jumped, as he should be. But it's worth pointing out that Bush, like his immediate predecessor (or three) is a consummate politician. His goal is to be elected, and once elected, stay in power. His advisers are there to ensure his election and once that is ensured, to remain in place themselves. To that end, just about anything can and will be said, promised, traded, given away, sold, borrowed, or whatever. Regarding factual information given to diplomats or citizens ... well, caveat emptor. In the aftermath of 9/11, the president warned American citizens that the struggle against terrorists would be a long one. I think people were willing, at that time, to be told that a long battle, if ultimately successful, would be acceptable, and that appropriate sacrifices could be made. How this washes with a promise for a quick and effective Iraq operation, I can't see. And if the leaders of this country really thought this decade's war would be just like Desert Storm, but with just an extra chapter or two tacked on for a happy ending, I think competence can be called into question, no matter what side you fall on ideologically with regard to war. If the American political system cannot abide the election of a person well acquainted with statecraft in favor of a politician, I suppose I can live with that. Even in the worst of times, not everything a president does revolves around foreign relations. But having someone who is capable on a presidential staff seems to be a dire need for this administration. And not only having such a person, but also giving that person a serious voice at the table. Lacking that, the conduct of this war will not only sink the Bushies in the years to come, but it will lead to further erosion of the trust people want to put in their leadership.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Keep on rockin' in the free world
Karl and Neil provide two important essays today. On the other hand, back at the parish for my first full day in the office in two weeks, I was not feeling very reflective or intellectual. While surfing the other day, I stumbled across Catholic Packer Fan's occasional feature, "What's on my car radio." After I read Karl and Neil's e-mails, I felt a little sheepish doing my own WOMCR feature. Brittany and I had a orthodontist consultation and a trip to the grocery store, but my daughter prefers not to listen to the radio while in the car. Not NPR. Not even sports. "C'mon, Brit, let's rock out, girl!" "The only rocking I want to do is ... " and she proceeds to dive into the "Shrek" rendition of "I'm a Believer." Earlier in the day, when Brit was not in the car, I heard something I haven't heard in a long time, "Dream Police" by Cheap Trick. Always liked that song. While reading e-mails tonight, I tuned into the ABC online (Australia) morning classical show. (I just think it's a hoot I can listen to morning drive pretty much 24 hours a day -- don't ask me why I do it.) The announcer played the "Jupiter" movement from Holst's The Planets, the one with that glorious arrangement of the glorious Welsh hymn tune, Thaxted. I don't think the Dream Police are inside of my head tonight. Keep on rockin' in the free world.
From chaos
From Neil
In 1948, the Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray wrote, “Christian faith asserts its own supernatural ideal of human unity. It asserts, too, that this ideal will never be achieved on earth; it will always be blocked by the disorganizing action of Satan, by the divisiveness of sin, by the never completely healed disorder in the nature of man that makes him strangely tend to chaos.” But the “chaos” might seem to be much worse, even unbearable, recently. How do we avoid falling into despair? Mother Josephine Mary Miller, OC, Prioress General of the Bernadine Sisters of Esquermes, has written an article on “Chaos and Peace” (Alliance for International Monasticism Bulletin no. 82 [2004]) that might be helpful in difficult times. She begins by saying, “I don’t need to tell you that we are living in an era of change, that we have to change, and that we are changing, whether we want to or not.” But she recalls the words of John Henry Newman – “Abraham obeyed the call and journeyed, not knowing whither he went; so we, if we follow the voice of God, shall be brought on step by step into a new world, of which before we had no idea.” Mother Josephine says, “He is reminding us that, in the apparent confusion of our days, there is a pathway that we can discover if we are content to go one step at a time, and do not insist on having all the answers immediately.” The “confusion of our days,” this “chaos,” is very real. Many of the Church’s concepts have become “meaningless and void of sense” to people today, and, even within the Church, “many of our communities no longer have daily Mass; this situation will certainly become more widespread in the coming years.” But Mother Josephine turns to the Biblical definition of “chaos” as the “primeval forces that can be brought back into some kind of order and from whence can spring new life.” “Chaos,” though it may seem hard to believe, can actually become the source, after a good deal of suffering and patience, for renewal and purification. But we do need a pathway, and Mother Josephine suggests three values to guide us. The first is fidelity to an essential charism, which includes “relativizing everything that is indeed secondary, that we can point to the really essential values that endure forever.” She points to a group of Canadian monks who made the hard decision to establish their monastery in a new location, after 120 years in one place, because, as they said, “We want to give ourselves and our energies to the heart of our Christian and monastic commitment rather than maintaining a patrimony which does have a beauty and a value in the context of history.” The second value is to maintain a strong belief in eternal life – that “there is something beyond our present experience, something much greater that we call eternal life.” The third value is celibacy, because, for female religious, celibacy “is the way we show that for us, nothing in this life except Christ can ultimately satisfy us. We try to accept the ‘absence’ in the depths of our hearts, not just as a sterile emptiness, but as the sacred place where we await and meet the Risen Christ as the women did outside the tomb on the morning of the Resurrection.” Grasping these values, we can, like Abraham, journey not knowing whither we go. It will not be easy, but, counsels Mother Josephine, “We can find real peace in accepting our personal limitations and weaknesses, give up trying to be God, pretending to be able to cope with every conceivable situation, and allow God to do his work precisely through our faults and weaknesses, letting him answer the questions for us, on his terms.” But, remember, “There must be no nostalgia, no lamentations, no evasion of the needs of the present …”
Rosemary Kennedy
Frequent commenter Karl (who would be a most satisfactory addition to the roll of bloggers) sent me this brief essay over the weekend. I read Amy Welborn's news item on her blog, open book, where Karl also commented.
It would be boon for us to pray for the repose of the soul of Rosemary Kennedy -- until now the senior and perhaps the most travailed life of the fabled clan -- who has just died at the age of 86. As someone who grew up in a postwar household with what is now called a "special needs" child, I venture that Rosemary's life had more extraordinary influence to the good on the lives of ordinary Americans than of anyone else in her family: because it was her family's dealing with the consequences of the bungling of her situation that led them to come out of the closet about mental illness and champion all manner of special needs children. In the 1950s and 60s, the effect was electrifying for the many, many people like my parents and sibling; it truly made the world of difference. Catholic parents in particular began an extraordinary level of organizing and social action on this front, from what I can tell. Rosemary's life made a huge difference in this regard. May she finally join her mother and family in long-deserved peace.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Astronomical Recommendations
David asked below what I would recommend in the way of a telescope for a nine-year-old. If you're in the market for a kid's telescope (essentially what I have in my backyard) I think your garden variety scope you see at the retail stores is a fine start. (My wife picked up ours at a thrift store for a ridiculous $10, but I suggest getting something new, unless you know what defects to look for and can fix them.) You want to be sure the scope has two or three eyepieces, a sighter scope, and a tripod stand. Viewing through such a scope is fine for a beginner: you get great views of the moon, you can make out the disks of planets and their moons, you can see star clusters and the larger whiffs of nebulae. I don't get to the star parties these days, and I still find the small retail telescope to be quite pleasing.
An even stronger recommendation is to visit the local astronomy society. The one in Kansas City has weekly lectures, and weekly observing gatherings at the ASKC telescope south of the suburbs. The one in your neighborhood will probably welcome you with open arms. Serious hobbyists love to pass on the love of the skies to youngsters. They know the future of the hobby is in getting kids interested. Once you're ready to advance to a good telescope, you can try out the various scopes of the members, talk to them about the advantages of each. From there, you can get into photography, tracking meteor showers, comet watches, and other valuable observations. More than in any other science, amateur astronomers play a vital role in many serious scientific undertakings. With the latest computer technology and gadgets, amateurs are discovering comets, plotting near-earth asteroids, even planets around other stars.
It's just a great hobby.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Iapetus in the spotlight
Here: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/press-release-details.cfm?newsID=526 If it interests you, be sure to follow the links to the other Iapetus images. More text with these images than they've usually posted. Lots of theorizing on the moon's dark material and that unique ridge running along the Iapetan equator. (Reminds me of a walnut.) At the moment, Iapetus interests me more than Titan, though I'm eager to see what Huygens turns up next week.
Las Vegas: The Dining Mecca of the World
C'mon, Michael, tell us what you really think of Las Vegas.
"'I'm pleased to be expanding my group of restaurants into Las Vegas, which has become one of the country's top dining destinations,' Jordan said in a statement." That's what I thought you said. Anybody go to Vegas just to eat in a chain restaurant?
Our new bishop
A good interview with our co-adjutor bishop in today's paper: http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascitystar/living/religion/10591162.htm I've seen the man at various functions, but have yet to meet him. I was on retreat when Bishop Finn's "welcome" Mass for our deanery was held. He came for 5PM Mass on Holy Family Sunday, but I was home with a sinus infection. He will be attending the next diocesan music committee meeting later this month, which I get to chair. Our diocesan director said he seemed very interested in the notes on our first discussions on a structure for liturgical music formation that would encompass everything from basic music lessons for children and adults to graduate studies in sacred music. I'm looking forward to meeting the man.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Topic: US generosity

From an e-mail correspondent:

Australia, population 19,358,000;

donation to Indian Ocean disaster $810,000,000 = $41.84 per capita.

USA, population 281,000,000;

donation to Indian Ocean disaster $350,000,000 = $1.25 per capita.

US government bailout of Florida $18,000,000,000 = $64.06 per capita.

Getting old on the slopes
Age discrimination. When Anita and I were planning to adopt, many of the social workers gave us this policy: adoptions for forty-somethings were handled with some care. The suggestion was that the ideal maximum age separation between adoptive child and parents was forty years. We were in the running for sixteen adoptions in the two years before Brittany, and we had sixteen "no's." After we had viewed videos, read profiles, interviewed caseworkers, and seen these kids at large social functions, it was quite difficult. My former pastor asked us how it was going. I told him that each refusal felt something like a miscarriage, from our point of view. Anita and I were not totally congruent in our approach. She really wanted two or three children, preferably a family unit. My first choice was an only child. But we decided to be open, consider all opportunities that came our way, and see what would happen. This morning, the inch of snow over slick ice made for some fine sledding. Too nice in the backyard, for the fence at the base of the hill is a much harder backstop when there's no soft snowdrifts to cushion the end. So we trekked to the park near the bottom of the hill. I tell you: it was fun, but I'm getting too old for this nonsense. Brit wore too many socks (3 pair) and her feet got cold. I, on the other hand, sledded into an ice patch over a three-inch deep puddle, put my foot into a foot-deep hole filled with slush, then tried to get cute making a new sled path and crashed into a tree stump, bruising my hand. She whimpered a little when we had to go home early, but we all napped for a good hour this afternoon. The rest of Baptism Day had her choices for meals: fondue for breakfast, and a great Mexican restaurant for dinner. Never got around to the cookies, though. Maybe tomorrow. I suspect school will be back in session. It's my regular day off, so the vacation is extended yet another day. But I tell you: I'm not going sledding. I don't think that at 47, I'm too old to parent an active eight-year-old. But I've learned that I can't go full-speed ahead like an eight-year-old anymore. After my last mishap, I told Brit that it was time to go home. For a moment I considered gritting my teeth and playing Dad Indestructable. But then good sense took over. She took it pretty well. We had to pass a less vigorous slope on the way back, and I asked her how many times she thought we should go. "One," she said. "Let's go together." So we had one more for the road. A small concession to childhood fun, but also a sensible limit from my growing girl.
The Turn Toward the Pastoral
Now regular commentator Neil Dhingra provides a spinoff essay from "The Good Ol' Days." Comments welcome. One of Todd's posts below is titled, "The Good Ol' Days: Then or Now ... or perhaps both?" The balancing of "pre-Vatican II" with "post-Vatican II" goes on and on with little sign of resolution. Perhaps we should look a bit more closely at just what we mean by "Vatican II," and then we might be able to start evaluating the last forty years in a more useful way. The Franciscan historian Joseph Chinnici has suggested that our "guiding metaphor" should be the "turn toward the pastoral." When Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962, he announced, "The substance of the ancient teaching of the depositum fidei is one thing; the manner in which it is presented is another. This latter must be taken into great consideration; if necessary, with patience. Everything must be measured in the form and proportion of a magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character." John XXIII's "pastoral" distinction between "the substance of the ancient teaching of the depositum fidei" and the "manner in which it is presented "wasn't meant to erase Church history, even as it did signal a clear move away from "severity" and "condemnation." In a discourse from November 4, 1962, John XXIII even appealed to that most characteristic of Tridentine figures, St Carlo Borromeo: "As a great example, S. Carlo carries for us a precious encouragement. It is natural that the novelties of time and circumstances suggest various forms and attitudes to the exterior transmission and reclothing of doctrine itself: but the living and always pure substance of evangelical and apostolic truth in perfect conformity with the teaching of Holy Church often permits here with advantage the application of 'ars una: specie mille.' Particularly when it is a question of the bonum animarum. ..." Well, how did this "turn toward the pastoral" take shape in the United States? We can look to a few classic statements by two key bishops - Joseph Bernardin and John Quinn. In 1977, a year troubled by controversies over sexuality and the 1976 Call to Action conference, Archbishop Bernardin, then president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, addressed the US Bishops during their May meeting on "Pastoral Sensitivity & Fidelity to the Gospel." He noted that Dei Verbum clearly said that the bishops were to be guarantors of the faith, given "the task of authentically interpreting the word of God." But Dei Verbum also said, "Holding fast to this deposit, the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the apostles, in the common life, in their breaking of the bread, and in prayers, so that in holding to, practicing, and professing the heritage of the faith, there results on the part of the bishops and faithful a remarkable common effort." The bishops, then, were not to place themselves "in a position of arrogant isolation" from the faithful. Bernardin continued: "It is our task, then, in union with our people to listen, to learn, to discern, to judge. We must not become alarmed or overly defensive when what we hear is not in accord with our own thinking or conviction. At times we must encourage and affirm their efforts, at times we must correct, at other times we may have to withhold judgment until we see the situation more clearly. Always we must go about our ministry with patience, with love, with compassion, with a genuine respect for those whom we serve, with a willingness to forgive and to do everything possible to heal." "Ars una: specie mille" indeed. In December of that year, Archbishop Bernardin addressed the fall meeting of the US Bishops on "The Most Important Task of a Bishop," namely, to proclaim Jesus Christ. Bernardin said that "one specific difficulty we bishops face at present is that we often seem locked in a defensive posture." Bernardin's remedy for this episcopal isolation was, first of all, "direct, personal contact with all groups and individuals: those to whom we feel instinctively well disposed and attracted - those who are friendly to us, willing to listen to us and learn from us - and also those whom we may find alienated and hostile. As pastors we cannot cut ourselves off from any who retain some affiliation, however attenuated, with the church, some willingness to hear Christ's message and enter into a relationship with Him." To be sure, Bernardin insisted that the whole Gospel be proclaimed, but in a pastoral way - "we must be sensitive to the needs and concerns of people as they perceive them." Archbishop John Quinn, then presidence of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke at the international Synod of Bishops in 1980 about the most difficult issue of all: contraception. Again, we see a recourse to the "pastoral." Quinn spoke out of "acceptance of the teaching of the Church," but was quite aware that many did not share his acceptance. Quinn counseled resolving the problem by Vatican initiation of a "formal dialogue with Catholic theologians" that would proceed with reverence and honesty, and be conducted according to the Ignatian principle, "It should be presupposed that every good Christian will be ready to give a good meaning to what he finds doubtful in the person he is speaking with rather than to condemn him." Quinn's super-dialogue would begin with a "listening phase," work to a "meeting of minds" on contraception, and ultimately result in a "means of ongoing communication of a direct nature between theologians and the Holy See." Quinn also suggested that future encyclicals should be, well more pastoral - "as comprehensible as the daily newspapers are to the general readership." Pope John XXIII's "pastoral" had become, in the American accents of Archbishops Bernardin and Quinn, a call to listen, to learn, to discern, and to judge. John XXIII had thought of Borromeo; Quinn would appeal to St Ignatius Loyola and the Benedictine tradition. So, when you try to balance "pre-Vatican II" with "post-Vatican II," first ask yourself: Does Bernardin's outline of the bishop's pastoral mission and Quinn's description of Ignatian dialogue characterize our episcopacy today at all? Did the "turn toward the pastoral" ever really happen in America? And, if your answer is negative, is that the real root of our problems?
Icing, but not on the cake
Wouldn't you know it? My Christmas "vacation" ended on Tuesday, but then precipitation collided with freezing point temperatures. My able, new Worship Team chairperson took the initiative and postponed our meeting. Anita (being a southerner by birth) is always relieved when I don't have to go out in iffy weather conditions at night. We live on the top of a hill in our subdivision, so getting down ice covered streets can be a challenge (even for a northerner) and not slide off into the park at the bottom of the incline.
By yesterday morning, an inch of ice covered over everything rather nicely. We only lost power for a few hours. And now the Southwest Pod has deemed the one inch of snow on top of one inch of ice makes for dangerous conditions and a second "snow day" today. I can't disagree. So I made banana bread Tuesday night. Brittany and I talked about monasteries, watched some Arthur, did some jigsaw puzzles, and even surfed the internet a bit. Each teacher at her school has a web page on the school's web site. There's even extra credit for doing some religion quizzes or something on one link.
Today is Brit's baptism anniversary, and we plan to celebrate at home. Some sleeping in, some review of two digit subtraction, plus some baking of cookies possibly in the cards. Hmmm ... can't you smell those peanut butter chocoloate chip babies in the oven? If you're in the neighborhood, come on over, but watch that ice!

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