Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The RadTrads Aren't Going To Like This
Pope Pius XIII, anybody? Whoever seeks peace and the good of the community with a pure conscience, and keeps alive the desire for the transcendent, will be saved even if he lacks biblical faith, says Benedict XVI.
Rhea Up Close
This image was taken when Cassini was about 325 miles from Rhea. Lots of small craters, but a few larger ones seem seriously malformed by geological activity. The resolution is about 50 to 100 feet I think. A bit rougher for the internet downloads.

Commentariat on Commonweal on ICEL
Ha. It's online; I didn't need to wait till Fr John finished his latest dose of Commonweal. Amy's commentariat is already in full swing, heading toward a hundred-post thread by tomorrow. I read the article earlier today and I found it informative, especially the early history of ICEL. I guess the real devil wore papal robes and his last name didn't start with a "B." But myths still abound in the Catholic bloggerdom, so let's have at some of them: " ... nowhere do I get any similar sense that the arguments of the "bad guys" (in the writer's view) have been grappled with and understood, much less presented." We can read the documents they've produced, can't we? It would be interesting to do a whole book on this and include, yes, anecdotal testimony of the curial cardinals. "The 2nd Vatican Council merely continued what was interrupted at the 1st Vatican Council. Episcopal collegiality or dialogue does not allow national conferences to impose their own stamp on a rite that involves many languages." Well, that would be no. Rome has seen the wisdom in assembling native genius in the past in patching together the Roman Rite. Vatican II is indeed clear about the role of bishops, as evidenced after the Council. Today, the curia is stronger and has a different interpretation. If we want to get into a peeing match about who's got the longer pedigree, bishops go back to the Old Testament, the curia to the Middle Ages. The curia is little more than a diocesan bureaucracy made large for the universal Church. And yes, the failed ICEL Sacramentary included rubrical modifications such as omitting the penitential rite outside of Lent and Advent. Not exactly. It would have been optional. As it is, the penitential rite is optional on some occasions; Sacramentary II would have just expanded the possibility. It would have taken us in the direction of a missal for the English speaking world that could no longer be recognized as the Roman Rite. Well, no. Yet only two years later, Wilkins would have us believe that pretty much every English-speaking bishop, and indeed, every priest and layperson, was suddenly keen to go the whole nine yards on vernacular. That's pretty much the story as hear it related. Take a poll today: how many want Latin. See where it gets us. The truth is that the priests most willing to pray the 1970 Rite in Latin were off pouting considering their options in schism or disobedience. All or nothing: typical narcissism.

It took 13 years for ICEL to produce an updated missal!? That alone is proof enough that the whole process (and ICEL itself) needed to be 'blown-up' and started anew.

I think draft one was completed by 1989. It spent nine more years bouncing back and forth between ICEL, CDWDS and the USCCB. I'd be in favor of "blowing up" the American bishops and the curia and starting over. Any takers? I would opine that Latin is more alive than you think. No; I think it's quite dead. Poets and authors no longer use it. Latin is about as living as the English directions for replacing my refrigerator filter: functional, gets the message across, but is not what artists will use to enrich the ears for the next several decades. All the songs were rewritten to be politically correct. Blame the authors, I guess; they did the work themselves. Just teach yourself not to think "male" when you hear "man." Come on, you can do it. Okay. Man is entirely suitable for the ordained priesthood. I think I've got it. All other languages are faithful to the words of the Latin original. Why do we English speaking folks think we need to be different? The Germans were sat on, too. Their language is used to translate into various Eastern European tongues. The Italians have been kaming up their own prayers for their sacramentary for decades. From what I've seen, every language group has its own expression of invention. ICEL wrote prayers to harmonize with the three-year Lectionary cycle--something in which the Latin original is deficient. Whew. That feels a bit better. Okay, Brigid? Regarding the article itself, it shows up (however the slant) that there's a lot of bitterness in the hierarchy. The issue of the relationships between individual bishops, their conferences, and the curia remain with us. As badly as I feel about the USCCB as a group and some bishops in particular, the question boils down to the proper role of the bishop. We treated this topic on this site months ago in looking at Christus Dominus. Until the local bishops, their conferences, and the curia settle their internal warfare, the hierarchy will remain distracted instead of targetting their energies to the mission of Christ. Is a micromanaging Rome needful for the faith? Many of us would say no. The Eastern Christians are not going to be ecumenically impressed by the West moving back to Anglican English and incense if it means a reunion would see them under a set of petty Roman bureaucracies. Petty, I said? Am I being too extreme? I don't think so. I'll add jealous, too. Time to get dinner on the stove, so I'll leave y'all with this to chew.
Commonweal, Liturgy, and the Fab Four
Rock is naturally up on the latest Commonweal. I saw it on my pastor's desk yesterday, but he said I'll have to wait till he's done for me to read it. I did catch Terry Gross interviewing Bob Spitz, the latest Beatles biographer yesterday on Fresh Air. Guess that'll have to do for now.

Here Comes the Bride ... Singing?

A basic article on wedding music by Lucy Carroll in the same Adoremus caught my eye, mainly for this single comment: In the frantic days immediately after the Second Vatican Council, I remember reading of an “experimental” and short-lived wedding liturgy wherein the bride and groom were to come down the aisle together, singing a hymn. Don’t know anyone anywhere who ever did that, do you? Oops. My wife and I got married at a regular parish Saturday night Mass. ('96 was a bit after the "frantic period," though.) We dispensed with instrumental processional music and sang the gathering hymn as programmed for that weekend. The Rite of Marriage, by the way, gives a first option to the bride and groom processing together at the start of Mass. Of course, the couple singing a duet by themselves ... that would be ... something I've never seen. I did hear of a bride who insisted on singing the spiritual "I'd Rather Have Jesus" before her own wedding. Did she have a clue? Who knows?

"Where Have We Put Him?"
A nice opinion piece in Adoremus by a Washington state priest, Father W. Roy Floch. Nice, of course, in the sense it is well-written, thoughtful, and honest. Nice also in the sense that it confirms much of my recent thinking about clergy, liturgy, and narcissism. I mean no disrespect to the author: honestly. I think like most all of us, he is a man of his times. I do encourage you to read his whole piece, not just the few excerpts that follow. I confess that in my first parish assignment in 1977 (I was not ordained but was in charge for a month until the new pastor would arrive), I stopped the second collection, told the people they could receive Communion standing (rather than at the communion rail kneeling as they done had until then), began the Kiss of Peace, and hid the bells. "Vatican II in a Vatican I way," one of my dear wife's favorite refrains, comes to mind. Pre-conciliar clergy-driven Church, but just with more changes when the new priests hit town. Changes such as these, though seemingly keeping up with the nearby parishes, were not--trust me!--liturgical reform in any way, shape, or form. Committees are often the bane of churchfolk, but it's unreasonable to expect to form lay people liturgically by altering liturgy, then explaining it next. Polyester vestments, banners of felt and burlap, stained glass like that in the expensive doors at hardware megastores -- these things cannot mediate the weight of the sacred. And salad cruets for water and wine? What was I thinking! Probably what most priests think: economize. I have one server now, the others graduated. Our communion rail is long gone. This server has no natural sense of a need to genuflect before the Blessed Sacrament. He does not experience a building that defines the universe into sacred and less sacred space. Even the elderly, who complain that people talk too much in church, themselves chat loudly across the pews after daily Mass. In part, this arises because priests and lay leaders do not treat the entire liturgy with great weight and concern. Clergy have it rough. They must pick up the pieces of former pastors. The patience required to form a parish in liturgical spirituality might exceed the term of some pastors. The single server's problem is easily corrected. As for Father Floch's elderly friends, it might take some time to diagnose what's really going on. But at least they talk to each other. I aggravated the problem a year after I arrived by removing the tabernacle from a niche dating from the ‘60s. But now it is on a small altar located directly behind the main altar and elevated one step -- where the padded oak presidential chair used to be. (I demoted myself. I am not God.) The same problem I see. New priest equals changes. No wonder perhaps that the elderly folks complain about talkers but go on talking themselves. What they do or say is irrelevant, so why not talk? And I have a growing sense of unease at celebrating Mass with my back toward Him, despite “alter Christus” implications in facing the congregation.

There's always the notion of a separate chapel. But I'm not sure what this says about the priest's own sense of what he confects before him on the altar. As I said earlier today, the Mass is not about the priest's prayer; it's about the worship of God by the parish and the cultivation of holiness. The intimate sense of the encounter with God in the tabernacle or in Eucharistic adoration is not well placed during the Mass. I'd feel nervous praying in a chapel with my back to the tabernacle, too. But at Mass, I consider the presence of Christ in what the Mass is meant to celebrate, not what I did yesterday or last week. Personal "unease" like this might not be narcissistic, but anytime a person feels the need to institute changes to suit one's own ease in liturgy ... let's just say I find it suspicious.

Of all the changes in the celebration of Mass that took place after Vatican II, I believe placing the celebrant and the congregation face to face was the most wide-ranging in its effect.
I'd say the vernacular was a bigger change, but ...
No longer focussed in one direction -- toward God -- clergy and laity have turned inward toward themselves, and experience a crisis in both lay and religious identity and vocation, not to mention the poverty of self-centered music.
Again, I think self-centered music is more a function of American individualist tastes. It was with us before the Council. But getting back to that first point: what about clergy and laity both facing the altar on which the Eucharistic sacrifice is made present? Changes meant to foster “active participation” are not working. The participation that counts must be internal and spiritual. External action cannot achieve it. I think this boils down the essence of my point with priests like Fr Floch. Like many Catholics of his generation, he is focused on the externals, despite the talk about interior spirituality. While his sense of loyalty to the Church and Vatican II is laudable, I wonder how many of the "changes" he made were more about his own "ease" and how much were finessed in his parishes by working with people and urging them to a deeper interior life? Vatican II did not denigrate the internal experience, but the Council repeatedly stressed the incarnational nature of faith: that externals can lead us to the goals of liturgy: worship and sanctification. Thinking of moving a tabernacle? Fine. How does it contribute to the worship of God? How does it cultivate the holiness of the parishioners? If there are no concrete answers to these questions (and a good pastor should know without having to ask) then there are probably other changes (if changes need to be made) that should be made instead. But what if the “remote” liturgy actually created internal spiritual growth that obtained expression in those devotions, and their sharp decline after the liturgical renewal following Vatican II is the consequence of a desiccated internal spiritual life?

I sense that parishes have suffered desiccated spiritual lives before and after the Council. Sometimes pre-conciliar liturgy was to blame, sometimes post-. The Church teaches of the responsibility of the pastor. And whomever he hires to assist him in ensuring good ministry, including liturgy.

All priests and church musicians could take the time to self-examine their own motives at Mass. Who are we doing this for? Where do we find God in all of this? The more telling question I ask: where have I put myself? Am I getting in the way? Am I listening instead of always doing or playing? Do I cultivate the sense of sacrifice in my own ministry that reflects Christ's kenosis, his emptying? Well, this has been longer than I had expected. I didn't really want to fisk Fr Floch too severely; he seems an earnest and holy man. Those are good base qualities anybody can work with to get somewhere, even with the compulsion to make too many lone ranger-type changes.
The Princess Line?
I kid you not. Peruse here. Also, my first exposure to this compound word: praisewear. That's not pray-swear. But that wouldn't be far off from some people's reaction to liturgical dance.
Clerical Narcissism
I dropped the bomb on this yesterday. I should probably explain my thinking. First, narcissism is a personality quirk that knows no ideology. Musicians, tempted by the performance aspect of their art, are quite vulnerable. But musicians of all sorts: classical, pop, jazz, are liable to be affected by it. And I've known church musicians both from the loft and the guitar group to be narcissists. Organizations like NPM have labored long to disconnect musicians from performance-for-its-own-sake, overuse of microphones, the me-and-Jesus pop Christian mentality. But there's still work to be done. Getting to priests, I've known (and shuddered) at certain guys who needed to be the center of attention. Whether they hog the mic or have a flurry of servers, EM's, and gold trim around them, they all speak the same thing, despite different languages: it's all about me. Sometimes the "me" is "Star of the Liturgical Show" and sometimes it's "Look at Me, Holy Priest of God." But either way, the laity is marginalized in their own worship. To be clear, not every priest whose chair faces the people is a talk show host wannabe. Nor is every gold vestmented Tridentine cleric self-absorbed. But when they are, they are of the same species. When I go to the Latin Mass Society web site and see hundreds of pictures of clergy and relatively few of architecture alone or of the laity, it's hard not to interpret what this is about for some of these guys. Vatican II teaches that priests are to deal with their people as a brother among them, not a father. We covered this months ago in Presbyterorum Ordinis. Section three tells us: - they are not to be separated from the People of God or from any person - they are to be totally dedicated to the work for which the Lord has chosen them - they cannot be of service ... if they remain strangers to the life and conditions of (people) - their ministry ... requires that they live in this world among (people) - they are to live as good shepherds that know their sheep - they are to seek to lead those who are not of this sheepfold To achieve this aim, certain virtues, which in human affairs are deservedly esteemed, contribute a great deal: such as goodness of heart, sincerity, strength and constancy of mind, zealous pursuit of justice, affability, and others. These qualities certainly apply to liturgy, so the notion of celebrating Mass as though no one is present is nothing more than ... immature narcissism. In my opinion. While I respect the notion that being influenced by favor or disregard of an "audience" is not ideal, the priest is not a performer. He is a leader. Leaders can't make assumptions using personal preferences and count on people to follow. In the home, the cook must concentrate on cutting, slicing, baking, frying, measuring, etc., but home relationships sometimes demand an awareness outside of the task at hand. When the priest is at Mass, I don't believe his primary job is to pray. Let me repeat: the priest doesn't celebrate Mass to pray it. His purpose is to facilitate the prayer of those present. If or when a priest is able to pray, that works for liturgy. But recalling the notion of sacrifice, a priest might keep in mind his primary conversations with God might take place elsewhere.
DH 10: No Coercion
Dignitatis Humanae 10 tells it true: no one is to be forced to become a Christian. This doctrine is contained in the word of God and it was constantly proclaimed by the Fathers of the Church. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act. "(T)he reasonable and free submission of faith" is an absolute requirement. In consequence, the principle of religious freedom makes no small contribution to the creation of an environment in which men can without hindrance be invited to the Christian faith, embrace it of their own free will, and profess it effectively in their whole manner of life. So there we have it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

DH 9: Human Dignity
Dignitatis Humanae 9 The declaration of this Vatican Council on the right of man to religious freedom has its foundation in the dignity of the person, whose exigencies have come to be are fully known to human reason through centuries of experience. What is more, this doctrine of freedom has roots in divine revelation, and for this reason Christians are bound to respect it all the more conscientiously. Revelation does not indeed affirm in so many words the right of man to immunity from external coercion in matters religious. It does, however, disclose the dignity of the human person in its full dimensions. It gives evidence of the respect which Christ showed toward the freedom with which man is to fulfill his duty of belief in the word of God and it gives us lessons in the spirit which disciples of such a Master ought to adopt and continually follow. Thus further light is cast upon the general principles upon which the doctrine of this declaration on religious freedom is based. In particular, religious freedom in society is entirely consonant with the freedom of the act of Christian faith. Not in so many words, but God has ordained it. Christ honored it also.
"There is not, in fact, an easy solution"
By saying this, Cardinal Walter Kasper, somewhere in the St Blogodrome, is being vilified as a heretic. It matters not that the Cardinal said this: If we want to remain faithful to Jesus' words, we can only say that, when a marriage has been contracted with sacramental value, while the spouse lives there cannot be a second sacramental marriage recognized by the Church. The civil marriage of a divorced person is, objectively, in contradiction with Jesus' teachings. Because he also said this: There are, however, complex cases from the pastoral point of view, for example, when the first marriage, despite its validity, was entered into in a superficial way and, in the end, fails, while the second is lived in a consciously Christian manner and is happy and harmonious. In such situations, certainly impossible in themselves, some Greek Fathers of the Church have recommended the exercise of indulgence. In 1972, the then professor Joseph Ratzinger interpreted such affirmations by way of example. The Council of Trent kept to the most rigid Latin tradition, but without rejecting outright the more mild response of the Greek Orthodox Church. Yet that is exactly the point for Catholic rigorists among us. Some people only want the easy solutions: one answer fits all. Some seem to lack the appreciation for the finer points of the application of theology, for pastoral judgment, or even compassion. I'm pleased to be in the same company of Kasper and Ratzinger in stating that perhaps the East has some wisdom what will permit us a response, or at least more reflection on the situation. But the experience of good second marriages: are these all to be denied as patently deceptive? Is not the lived witness of a second marriage worthy of consideration? It is true that one must not move away arbitrarily from the ecclesial discipline, but [the experts] make possible a serious theological reflection. This reflection has nothing to do with the sensational newspaper headlines, which only create confusion and arouse false expectations which then end in disappointment. Precisely in the situation in which we find ourselves, the Church would not serve any one if it moved away from Jesus' clear teaching. Kasper alludes to the Italian press which latched onto his original remarks about divorce and remarriage and ignoring all other content at the press conference at which this "news" was broken. What's been lacking from this discussion, of course, is the situation in which a person who refuses to give up a second marriage is denied initiation because of a valid first marriage, even while being a non-Catholic. That's a tough one to explain to people.
Lessons from Tethys
The massive impact basin Odysseus (280 miles across) is at top. Note a cluster of mountain peaks at the center of it. The crater on the lower rim is Melanthius. The central peak is barely in the light, as you see. Tethys itself is only 665 miles across, almost a third of our moon's diameter. Aside from posting a pretty picture from Saturn, this shot illustrates how valuable observing our moon is when it's not full. When full, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the beauty and brightness. But astronomers value what shadows tell them. Observing the moon on consecutive nights near the day-night terminator is really fascinating. Even over a few hours, one can see subtle changes as the lunar landscape rotates into or out of the sunlight.
Dad & Daughter
Courtesy the godparents, from First Communion Day.
"Poverty Is My Vocation"
Today is the unofficial feast for Dorothy Day. I feel that all families should have the conveniences and comforts which modern living brings and which do simplify life, and give time to read, to study, to think, and to pray. And to work in the apostolate, too. But poverty is my vocation, to live as simply and as poorly as I can, and never to cease talking and writing of poverty and destitution. Here and everywhere. "While there are poor, I am one of them. While men are in prison, I am not free," as (Eugene) Debs said and as we often quote. (From The Dorothy Day Book)
Post Expulsion Interview

David Hartline has a tame interview with Wynette and Katelyn Sills. The former was the California mom who pressed for action on one of her daughter's high school teachers who had been active as a Planned Parenthood abortion escort. The latter was expelled from school after her mother's persistent e-mails even after the teacher in question had been fired. Hartline's comment in his introduction was telling: If someone at Microsoft was less than kind with their comments towards Bill Gates no one would think twice about that employee being fired. Yet he doesn't touch upon the catalyst that led to the daughter's expulsion: her mother's peristent e-mails to the school administration after the school principal had made clear the mother's status. Clearly the school personnel took Mrs Sills communications as less than kind: a veiled threat for Open House, a private confrontation between the father and a staff member, and repeated attempts to circumvent the mother's banishment. This is much less about freedom of speech or advocating justice and more about an admirable young girl caught in an adult turf tussle. "It made me think that God is really up to something here," concludes Hartline. God is always up to something, as it were. Can a young lady overcome persecution? Of course she can. Can activists get caught up in the moment and forget the big picture? Sure, and some even learn from their mistakes. Do people still get martyr complexes? Clearly. Will the media misinterpret what's going on? Yep, big and small alike, so it seems.

Thanks to Amy for posting the link.

Liturgy E-Conference
Zenit reports on "Architecture, Art and Music at the Service of the Liturgy," a conference to be held tomorrow. Real Player needed, link to the conference is here. By the way, I won't be there. I have a hot breakfast to cook for a school child. You're welcome to join us for malt-o-meal and juice if you're in KC, by the way.
Shaw on the Lay Apostolate
Zenit carries it, and even the questioner didn't seem to get the gist of what Russell Shaw was saying. Unlike the pre-Vatican II understanding of lay apostolate found in the Catholic Action movement -- the idea, that is, that the apostolate of the laity is a participation in the apostolate of the hierarchy which comes to them by way of hierarchical delegation -- the Council teaches that lay people have a right and duty to engage in apostolate simply because they are members of the Church. Spot on, Mr Shaw. The parish is not the primary place where lay apostolate takes place. Nor is some other Church structure or institution the preferred setting for the apostolate of the laity. Lay apostolate is properly directed to, and takes place in, the secular world. As "Apostolicam Actuositatem" puts it, lay people "ought to take on themselves as their distinctive task this renewal of the temporal order" [No. 7]. Right again. Our current overemphasis on lay activity within ecclesiastical institutions and structures arises from the overemphasis on lay ministries since the 1970s. The Second Vatican Council said very, very little about lay ministry. In speaking about the participation of lay people in the Church's mission, it spoke mainly about lay apostolate, and it made it overwhelmingly clear that this is primarily apostolate that carries the Gospel out into the world. Don't misunderstand -- lay ministry is a good thing. But by stressing ministry instead of apostolate, as is now commonly done, we are getting what the Council intended exactly backward. I'm not sure I agree there's too much emphasis on lay ministry. But Shaw is right that the lay apostolate is hugely neglected even today. Lay people are called to be saints, but we're still taking out cues from a pre-conciliar imprint, follwing priests and religious instead of great lay examples. Let me be contrary to this good journalist and say the hierarchy shares blame: 1. The lack of any quantity of lay people declared saints. People, especially children and youth, need substantial heroes. We don't have enough Jean LaLandes in the martyrology. Rome needs to get with it. 2. Priests themselves are seen as objects of admiration. Still. But we need more lay leaders now living their Catholicism in the world--those are the primary living role models we need. 3. Maybe bishops preach too much about public policy. We need more actions from lay Catholics in the public sphere, and it's the bishops' job to facilitate that and make it happen through formation and leadership. One of the most valuable contributions being made today by the "new" lay groups like Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation, the Neocatechumenate and the rest is their strong emphasis on the in-depth, ongoing formation of the laity. Very limited today. I would say that Marriage Encounter has probably done more than these three groups combined, not to mention the Cursillo movement. Some people were indeed getting it right from the beginning of Vatican II. Somehow (the lay apostolate) doesn't seem to be a big priority in many parishes and Catholic schools. Sad but true. I largely agree with Shaw's points in his interview. It's not different from the conclusions discussed earlier this Fall on CS when we looked at Apostolicam Actuositatem. But I raise a caution of playing lay ministry training against lay apostolate formation. They're not parts of a zero-sum syustem. I think the Church does decently well on preparing people for ministry: we have a decent track record on seminaries and educational systems. It's only natural that a lot of effort would be put into ministry formation. But we still lack a consistent approach to what it means to be a baptized Christian in the world. We carry old baggage that would have us separate the sacred and secular, the religious and the lay. The effort to build a lay apostolate in the world is not an Opus Dei or Neo-Cat undertaking led by the tradis. Progressive liturgists wouldn't nod in approval singing such texts as "We are called to act with justice" or "Teach us courage as we struggle in all liberating strife" or "So the Church is meant for mission" if we didn't believe a world-active laity wasn't important. To my mind, Shaw's lay groups are latecomers to the party. Welcome, by all means, so long as they don't spread the fantasy they were the first to take AA seriously. The real question, rather than hinto at or apportion blame, is to uncover how to develop a lay apostolate on the parish level so it can be spread to homes and schools. That's a conversation worth having.
Update on ESCR "Sermons"
I've heard there was some report on the Sunday night news locally that all priests had preached on this in all parishes this past weekend. The chancery was fielding calls yesterday asking why their parish priest didn't, so apparently we weren't alone in relegating the issue to post-Communion. Many priests ignored it outright. It seems that nobody preached on it. One priest I talked to said that St Louis priests might be more accustomed to receiving and acting on last-minute directives like this. The modus operandi in KC has been to have a meeting, figure out the best way to go as a presbyterate, and put a collaborative effort into such efforts. It'll be interesting to see what happens next, but it underscores the difference in expectations from one side of the state to the other.
The Plumes of Enceladus
Check the Cassini link on the side bar for the whole story. These are ice geysers spouting material from the moon's southern hemisphere. Inside the moon, water is in a liquid state. On the surface, the ambient temperature is cold enough to freeze earth's air--a few hundred degrees below zero.
Enceladus presents a problem for planetary scientists. Unlike the moons of Jupiter which are sizable enough to generate tides and heat, we didn't expect to see this kind of geological activity on a much smaller moon. Conventional wisdom held that Titan would be interesting because it was large and held a significant atmosphere, but that the small moons would be fairly uninteresting ice balls with impact craters. Dione and Rhea show some evidence of ancient ice resurfacing. They are probably driving internal tides under Enceladus' ice crust.
Lots of questions remain: Why just the south pole region of Enceladus: is this a seasonal effect? (Saturn and its moons are in the middle of southern summer, and it lasts for over seven years out there.) What might be happening on the other moons?

Whine To The Bishop
You'd think the first letter-to-the-new-bishop from our parish would be a liturgical complaint. Well. You'd think it, but no. The complaint was that our clergy didn't preach this weekend on Embryonic Stem Cell Research as requested by the Missouri bishops. What the three priests did do, including the diocesan vicar general, was speak on it briefly after the post-Communion announcements. In one nearby parish, ESCR went unmentioned. I don't know if the complainers realized that we have an adult ed session on this very topic planned for January. As I see it, a sensible plan would be to hit the advertising hard once the event is nailed down. Our pastor was criticized for saying the issue was too involved to do it justice in a few minutes. Two minutes seemed about right, but if someone's concerned enough about following church teaching, you don't even need that. Just say, "The Church is dead-set against it, and if you want to know why, come to the meeting." The First Sunday of Advent is significant enough for a preaching topic. Other intrusions don't belong. If ESCR is deemed as such too, it should've been preached on last month already. Now it can wait for the new year. Period.
Males in Churches
It's a problem shared by most all of us. That U Washington study I've linked before confirmed that every major world religion, including the ones perceived as male-dominated in hierarchy, have more women than men participating. Though we know women make up a shade over 50% of the population, here are the church numbers I've seen (These are approximate and from some study I read about 15 years ago): registered parishioners 55%, churchgoers 60%, active volunteers 67%, professional non-clerical ministry 83%. I think the USCCB document on lay ecclesial ministry now puts the last number at 80%, but regardless, we see where the religiosity drifts. I think boys-only altar server cadres are undeniably well done in some places. But do we want ten-year-olds starting on their path to church involvement motivated by a boys' club? Are men so immature they can't work along with women in choirs, committees, soup kitchens, parish festivals and dances? Just as an aside, my grade 3-4-5 children's choir is doing well with boys this year: about 25% of eighty-some kids. That's up from zero in year one and four or five last year. There is a hump to get over in children's activities, a barrier of sorts after which both sexes feel they can comfortably get involved. That said, how do you make Sunday Mass, if not the parish, more attractive for men? I have a few ideas. It's a fact that untrained singers will sing out less if unsupported by strong music underneath their vocal range. Treble voices (women and children) do well with guitars because of the harmonic support an octave under their singing range. However, untrained male voices tend to struggle unless their voice range is supported by organ pedals, string bass, or piano left hand. Without the undercurrent of lower tones, people feel their voices are standing out. And if the acoustics are poor, that problem is compounded. Men will sing if they have any combination of competent musicianship playing on the needed instruments and good acoustics. As for church decoration, I suspect that's a lower priority in anybody's list of must-have's in their parish. Traditional clergy tend to wear more ornate vestments. I've seen photos on priests' blogs and the Latin Mass society and all. These are not manly vestments. And most mainstream men today would probably vote for clerical shirt and black blazer over a cassock. I'll raise the importance of parental example. When Anita and I were in the adoption pipeline, I was reading various articles and books about the role of the father. I recall that in giving advice to fathers of boys, one writer said one of the most important things a father could do is to read: read to his son, and be seen by the boys in his family as a lover of reading and knowledge. No other single factor was more important for a boy to take education seriously. Except in math and maybe science, we know that girls consistently out-perform boys academically. (It's one reason why I support gender-separate education in theory.) I wonder if our fatherless society is reaping that harvest in its sliding education performance today. I suspect the involvement problem in church will require the cooperation of dads giving good example to sons: joining choirs, becoming lectors, volunteering at soup kitchens and charity drives, and especially doing things religious with their sons. This issue strikes me as more aligned with apprenticeship than instructional education. You can tell a young man: go to church, tithe your income, sing in the choir, give to the poor, pray daily. But without the let-me-show-you-how-it's-done personal example of a father or father figure, I think we cast many boys (if not most) adrift without benefit of a paddle, or sometimes even the boat.
Proper and Disciplined Use of Religious Freedom
Dignitatis Humanae 8 acknowledges situations in which people feel various pressures compromising their religion, judgment, and conscience. But ... On the other hand, not a few can be found who seem inclined to use the name of freedom as the pretext for refusing to submit to authority and for making light of the duty of obedience. What to do? People possessing freedom will always tkae the occasional opportunity to abuse it. Educators are urged to "do their utmost to form (people) who, on the one hand, will respect the moral order and be obedient to lawful authority, and on the other hand, will be lovers of true freedom-(people), in other words, who will come to decisions on their own judgment and in the light of truth, govern their activities with a sense of responsibility, and strive after what is true and right, willing always to join with others in cooperative effort. The good of the community, not the good of the individual is given an additional aim, that people "come to act with greater responsibility in fulfilling their duties in community life." At the halfway point, DH strikes me as a document strongly underscoring the need for personal freedom, but the American sensibility of self-determination is muted by two superior values: the search for the truth and the common good of society. Comments?

Monday, November 28, 2005

How To Empty Your Church

Well, Newman does have one or two good points: singing hymns in their entirety, avoiding kitsch, liturgical movement (he calls it gesture, not dance, but it's a good thought), giving one homily, not twenty-three. But there are some gems: The tabernacle MUST be on the rear wall of the chancel and on the central axis of the church. Putting the LORD anywhere else turns everything else on an angle, and no ideological justification will change the way in which this simple fact destabilizes the liturgy. And this guy claims to have "swum the Tiber?" He's clearly not been in St Peter's. However, he does have the attitude down pat. Most churches look like someone’s Italian or Irish grandmother has just finished sprucing up the place. Is it any wonder we have such trouble convincing our men that religion is not women’s work? The sanctuary is the home of the Son of Man; let’s make it look like a place in which most men would be comfortable spending a little time. So what do we need? Deer heads? Gun racks? Leather and chains from the tortuary? Men are predisposed to apathy over religion in every major religion and just about every minor one. I'm happy enough getting a balance of them in the choir; I can't imagine men being attracted to the traditional church trappings of vestments, candlesticks, and other baroque finery. Emphasize coming early and stigmatize leaving early. Being casual about being on time renders the entire activity casual. Ditto for clothing. Same for the eucharistic fast. I can't disagree, but if Newman has any effective ideas to get these points across, I'd love to hear them. Other than having the ushers (male only, I'm sure) pinning big red E's on early leavers, of course. Say Mass as though the people were not present. Nice. Mutter, whisper, decline homily preparation, and ignore any medical trauma that intrudes on the mystery. Reinforce the clerical subculture of elitism and priviliege. Not to mention narcissism. Hey, it emptied the parishes before the Council; it might do the same again today. Take Cardinal Mahoney’s (sic) ...

People do seem to take a perverse pride in misspelling the LA cardinal's name.

... pastoral letter on the celebration of parochial liturgy and throw it on the fire. Watch it burn. Now go take a hot shower. Actually, I think he means a cold shower. But whatever turn you on, I guess. Friends, if you want to improve parish liturgy, I have much better suggestions for you. Clerical narcissism is not the way to go.
Douse the Drumbeat
I've lost track of CWN retractions, but I still pop in to Dom's on occasion for a chuckle. I like the rejection of CCC 2478 for the sake of the latest gossip on "infamous" (Isn't there another adjective that means "Somebody I don't like"?) Boston priests. Cuenin and Bowers were in Rochester visiting a schismatic group, apparently being encouraged to set up their own schismatic pseudo-Catholic church in Boston. The ultra-trads are trying to recruit disaffected Catholics all the time. I'm not surprised my old Rochester friends were crowing about the good life on the edge of Catholicism with no bishops involved. Whether that's a productive or fruitful kind of ecclesial life--that's another story. What other reason could they have for visiting a schismatic, heretical group? They could've been invited. The pope does invite non-Roman Catholics, and prelates have been known to visit Protestants and Jews on occasion. Are they working on reconciliation with the Church? Doesn’t sound like it. First, I don't think it would be a natural place for clergy of one diocese to work on reconciliation with a parish from another. The task of reconciling Spiritus Christi is the responsibility of the pastors of the parish and their bishop. And second, I hardly think Dom and the bulk of his commentariat are truly concerned with the reconciliation of liberal groups. SCGS and all that. This is what happens when you don’t publicly denounce the heretics in your midst, especially among your priests: You set yourself up for scandal and schism that could take down unwary and unwitting lay Catholics with the perpetrators. Sigh. It's this kind of gossipy stuff that passes for internet journalism that yanks the humor right out of Dom's hyperbole. You need more to declare heresy that just a vague conservative feeling of "I don't like what they're doing." I think lay people in both Rochester and Boston are wise enough to know what they're getting into if they were to show up at a parish with women clergy. They also know that scandal has already infected and brought down the last archbishop of Boston. Poll any brand of "faithful" Catholic you want and ask them to tell you what's the more grave sin: harboring sex predators in the clergy and lying about it or a breakaway parish ordaining a woman. Sheesh. You can disagree with both stands. But you don't need to muckrake "somebody I don't like" to make your point. By the way, Fr Cuenin, if you're reading this, tell me: Did they take you to Nick Tahoe's?
An Advent Reflection The following excerpt is from "An Advent Reflection" (The Oblate 47 [2003]), by Fr Michael Kwatera, OSB, director of oblates at St John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. (The 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia article on Advent is here.) Benedict's prescription for his monks to sleep clothed and girded with belts or cords has two purposes: to enable them to be ready to rise without delay for the work of God, and to enable them to be ready to greet the Lord who would come suddenly. Pius Parsch has captured this spirit of watching through the night in his reflections on the hours of the Divine Office: From earliest ages matins was the Church's prayer for the Second Coming; she prayed and waited for the return of Christ as Judge of all the world (Short Breviary, 14-15). In chapter 72 of his Rule Benedict gives the best picture of a community awaiting the return of their Lord. Here lies manifest his belief that the good zeal that leads to eternal life in the reign of God is both a divine and a human work, both for each individual and for all of us together: And may [Christ] bring us all together to life everlasting! We are to be people of vigilance who live a life of mutual love, empowered by the Spirit. Each of us hastens to the heavenly homeland with the help of many brothers and sisters. May [Christ] bring us all together to life everlasting must be the Advent prayer and daily prayer of each of us for our sisters and brothers, for how we treat each other will in some way determine our future life in the reign of God. Although Benedict's monastery did not know the practices of the Advent season as we know them today, he certainly wanted the lives of his monks to have the character of an Advent observance all year long. Benedict wanted his monks to be ready to greet their Lord when he came again, and he ordered their lives to this purpose. God's love touches us not in spite of, but through those whose lives have already been marked by the presence of the living God they seek together. Individual weakness should find a healing response in the community precisely because the community lives in God's future now, and does so together. Because the reign of God is marked by a redeemed oneness in community, we must be humble but challenging witnesses to that unity, and never more clearly than in our worship. Advent is a privileged time to celebrate the unity we already share while we wait for the day when Christ will be all in all.
The World to Wicca
Zenit reports on the neo-pagan phenomenon in Europe and the US. One thing: our response as Catholics would be rooted in the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate, the one that treats relations with non-Christian religions. Another thing: We Christians should be alarmed that so many people, especially women, would choose to cast their gaze outside of Christianity in order to find spiritual fulfillment. I suspect the human spirit is diverse enough that booming "traditional" orders will not fit the bill for the Church, only for those attracted to them. Why are such orders booming? Simply because they started to take recruiting seriously. People have always longed for the spiritual aspect of existence. I knew a seminarian years ago who had no idea what the charisms of the various religious orders were. I told him during a time of stasis in his own vocation I thought he would make a fine religious brother or priest. But he had no clue about spiritual traditions nor did he focus on anything except the diocesan priesthood. Well, anyway, I knew a few neo-pagans in college. Nice enough people. Be interesting to see how many Catholic homosexuals are chased into neopaganism from a sense of disgust and searching. SCGS here we come. So much for casting into the deep.
Trio Mediaeval
If you're in town Friday night, look for me at this event, sponsored by the Friends of Chamber Music. Nice write up in the Star yesterday ... “'Singing doesn’t get more unnervingly beautiful,' wrote The San Francisco Chronicle of the trio, which it praised for its 'cool, unerringly precise blend.'” Immaculate Conception cathedral, downtown, 8pm. Don't forget. See you there.
Advent Reflection
The fine Australian program of sacred music, For The God Who Sings, includes some Byrd motets for Advent, a Bach cantata, and if you want to get into a liturgical mood, enjoy the Advent readings, antiphons, collects, and carols from St John's College in Cambridge. A variety of composers is featured, so just link up, lean back, close your eyes, and pray. The Advent service begins about forty minutes into this week's linked program.
DH 7: More Rights and Duties
Dignitatis Humanae 7 states: The right to religious freedom is exercised in human society: hence its exercise is subject to certain regulatory norms. In the use of all freedoms the moral principle of personal and social responsibility is to be observed. Individuals and groups are morally "bound" to respect: - the rights of others - their own duties toward others - the common welfare of all. The American notion of "rights" is extremely individualistic at times. The narcissistic emphasis on self long predates the so-called Me generations of the 80's and the 60's. Indeed, each of these generations produced significant movements of concern for others. It would be my contention that none of these generations were particularly more selfish than any other. (We) are to deal with (others) in justice and civility. Can be tough, even within the boat. DH 7 gives an important political instruction, and it should be noted that this falls within the responsibility of the laity, not the clergy: Furthermore, society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on the pretext of freedom of religion. It is the special duty of government to provide this protection. However, government is not to act in an arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship. Its action is to be controlled by juridical norms which are in conformity with the objective moral order. These norms arise out of the need for the effective safeguard of the rights of all citizens and for the peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights, also out of the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace, which comes about when men live together in good order and in true justice, and finally out of the need for a proper guardianship of public morality. These matters constitute the basic component of the common welfare: they are what is meant by public order. For the rest, the usages of society are to be the usages of freedom in their full range: that is, the freedom of man is to be respected as far as possible and is not to be curtailed except when and insofar as necessary.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Juste et pie vivamus, exspectantes beatam spem, et adventum Domini

The Narrow Gate

I've been troubled for some time about how narrow the gate is to be a "good" Roman Catholic. Now, I know that Jesus too advocated a narrow gate, but I'm worried that His criteria and ours might not be exactly the same.

Thus begins Susan's good comment in the annulment post today.

As it stands, one must be a celibate religious, a celibate single person, or a non-divorced and re-married person - that is, married to one's first spouse. Furthermore, one must not be using any artificial contraceptive methods. Of course being gay is totally out. A great deal of emphasis and talk is had about these (essentially sexual) categories. Very little is heard about, say, the morality of how one makes one's living, how one treats one's employees (yes, this does include the immigrant nanny), the generosity of help to the unfortunate - categories which seemed much more important to, say, the prophets than the details of marital sexual intercourse. And once they gottcha, they sort of gottcha. I'm thinking of the couple who live next door to us, formerly practicing Catholics. Both were married before: he to his childhood sweetheart (and it just didn't work out), she to a drunk who beat her and her children. They managed to shed their respective first mistakes, and to make a solid new family. But absent an annulment (which she didn't have the patience or the stomach for) they're permanently Out of The Tribe.

This is a good point. While the great teaching figures of the Bible certainly had sexual morality on their minds from time to time, I think it's fair to say the Church stresses this point more often. In their defense, it might also be that Western Society is more sexed than it was three, two-and-a-half, or even two millennia ago. And there's no denying that the interconnection of sex and family issues is vital for the maintenance of society, not to mention its future. But who's more obsessed: the Church or society? Maybe each is the product of the other to a small degree. Now personally I'm a Good Girl here, even as to the contraceptive issue (and I've got the kids to prove it!) but it still makes me uneasy to think about what a minority I'm in, and about how most of my status is due to good luck rather than to virtue. So when my marvelous lesbian friends, my next door neighbors, or just people who aren't in an economic position to roll the reproductive dice over and over are shown the door... I sort of feel like walking out myself. The higher-ups are said to want a smaller church, and it's on its way. Small Church, getting smaller.

I'm not sure I'd attribute the "Small Church Getting Smaller" movement (SCGS) to just the higher-ups. I think there are lazy-trending monastic wannabes who've forgotten the Christian tradition of heading for the hills when one discerns the world is going to hell on the express train. If I were to meet up with a SCGS person, I'd share my atlas with them and suggest the Canadian Northwest, for some remote Appalachian valley. Not only is it rude to presume to clear the decks on the Barque, but it's downright untraditional. Heterodox, if you will.

At their core, some Catholics are just fussed over the messiness of the Church. One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, (and some would now add Orthodox) okay. But also diverse, sinful, cluttered, and not always clear in preaching or example. Am I making any sense to anyone here?

Oh yeah.

But I get around it with my usual dose of progressive temperament. The Church is not about higher-ups. We are the Church: cliche, but true.

I suspect that if the people who felt their were getting a foot pressed into their behind decided to pitch their tent anyway, it might accelerate the monastic discernment of the SCGS folks. And that would be doing all of us a favor, especially them.

The narrow gate is applied variously to the rich and the self-satisfied, but not the sexual sinners, even though Jesus had ample opportunity to do so. Jesus condemns most sternly those who abuse power in the name of God. Jesus urges faith like that of a child. Some seem to have interpreted this as a license for childish words and acts. An error, obviously. But the narrow gate is a spiritual reality. We shouldn't take it too lightly, no matter what side of the Tribal enclosure we think we're on.

Does that make any sense?

Annulments: Too Many or Not Enough
David raises the issue that perturbs so many so-called orthodox Catholics. He says: It would be interesting to hear from any number of parish priests and canonists on this subject -- you know, people who actually know what the hell they're talking about, as opposed to those of us in the peanut gallery who read so much we just think we do. I'm not a priest or a canonist, but I was responsible for assisting people in preparing their annulment cases for the tribunal, so I think I do know what the hell I'm talking about. David sets the table sensibly and tells us over 80% of divorced Catholics remarry without bothering to get an annulment. It is true that some annulment cases are withdrawn before they are denied. Your parish priest or advocate might tell you going ahead is a waste of time and money--and this does happen. So is it a problem that Americans have one-third of the world's declarations of nullity and that most annulment petitions are granted? Not for me. A lot of the rest of the world's Catholics couldn't care less about a canonical system that will give or deny permission to wed a second time. Five-sixths of Americans don't, and our Catholics tend to be much more scrupulous about church law. What's the answer? A bit more preparation on the front end, maybe even before the courtship. But honestly, danged if I know how to get the significant attention of adolescents. We're pretty much in the hands of parents. Do they give good witness to the marital values of sacrifice, respect, regard, and commitment?
DH 6: The Role of Government
Dignitatis Humanae 6 treats the role of government: Since the common welfare of society consists in the entirety of those conditions of social life under which (people) enjoy the possibility of achieving their own perfection in a certain fullness of measure and also with some relative ease, it chiefly consists in the protection of the rights, and in the performance of the duties, of the human person. Typical Church pronouncement: concern not only for the rights of citizens, but a recognition of their duties as well, an item not always emphasized in the US. Therefore the care of the right to religious freedom devolves upon the whole citizenry, upon social groups, upon government, and upon the Church and other religious communities, in virtue of the duty of all toward the common welfare, and in the manner proper to each. Another sensible point, namely that all human groups or communities bear responsibility for ensuring religious freedom. Then a three-point list for the government, which has a duty in "the protection and promotion of the inviolable rights" of its people: - To assume the safeguard of the religious freedom of all its citizens, in an effective manner, by just laws and by other appropriate means. - To help create conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life, in order that the people may be truly enabled to exercise their religious rights and to fulfill their religious duties, and also in order that society itself may profit by the moral qualities of justice and peace which have their origin in (human) faithfulness to God and to His holy will. The Church teaches that religious life fosters values suportive and constructive of society at large. If, in view of peculiar circumstances obtaining among peoples, special civil recognition is given to one religious community in the constitutional order of society, it is at the same time imperative that the right of all citizens and religious communities to religious freedom should be recognized and made effective in practice. ... which leads us to the last of the three duties of government: (The) equality of citizens before the law, which is itself an element of the common good, is never violated, whether openly or covertly, for religious reasons. Nor is there to be discrimination among citizens. And a final caution about the grave situation when religious freedom is curtailed or denied: It follows that a wrong is done when government imposes upon its people, by force or fear or other means, the profession or repudiation of any religion, or when it hinders (people) from joining or leaving a religious community. All the more is it a violation of the will of God and of the sacred rights of the person and the family of nations when force is brought to bear in any way in order to destroy or repress religion, either in the whole of mankind or in a particular country or in a definite community. Thoughts? Y'all have been somewhat silent about DH thus far.
Dignitatis Humanae 5: Parents
DH 5 opens by stating, "The family, since it is a society in its own original right, has the right freely to live its own domestic religious life under the guidance of parents." Interesting that this came up today. I was listening to a bit of a sports psychology talk show earlier this morning. The topic was coaches leading teams in prayer. After the phrase "Christianity, Catholicism, Judaism, and other religions ..." caught my ear, I was interested in hearing more. The host was phrasing the sides of the debate in terms of the extremes, of course. Would you object to a coach leading your child's team in prayer? First, I was thinking what makes the coach such a spiritual leader to be doing that anyway? Then I thought about the various Christian parents who might find that situation objectionable if the prayer leader passed out rosaries or asked the players to face Mecca. And then I thought what happened to chaplains? And then I thought, why not my daughter (or some other kid) leading the prayer? Back on task, for the rest of the section is brief: Parents, moreover, have the right to determine, in accordance with their own religious beliefs, the kind of religious education that their children are to receive. Government, in consequence, must acknowledge the right of parents to make a genuinely free choice of schools and of other means of education, and the use of this freedom of choice is not to be made a reason for imposing unjust burdens on parents, whether directly or indirectly. Are you thinking of the Catholic school/taxes/vouchers issue? I'm not sure you want to get me started, but I will say I don't think paying taxes for education plus a private school tuition is an unjust burden. For most parents, Catholic schools are more prep than Catholic. If we could get government to work for us on this, I'd say the only parents who should get any tax relief would be those whose families attend church weekly, with a 2% deduction per week missed (Christmas and Easter not counting). It'll never happen for administrative reasons, of course, but that's the fairest way I can think of to settle it. Besides, the right of parents are violated, if their children are forced to attend lessons or instructions which are not in agreement with their religious beliefs, or if a single system of education, from which all religious formation is excluded, is imposed upon all. My objection to official prayer in public schools: I just don't want my daughter praying outside our religious beliefs. Any sensible parent would agree.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

More On Much Ado ...
Nathan said that " ... your dismissal of the Vatican document has offended me." I'd hope my dismissal of it bothered the St Blog's Echo Chamber even more. I can't see that this document has a lot of steam (hot air's another thing). It's treatment of homosexuality is vacuous. The theology is poor. I'd hope that calling it an embarassment and moving on is enough. The document calls for men whose "homosexual tendencies" are a "transitory problem" to not be ordained unless they have proven for three years that the "transitory problem" is gone. Well ... Most of us realize people are born homosexuals or that their homosexuality is deeply imprinted so early in life so as to be beyond conscious and personal choice. Does the Vatican really see "homosexual tendencies" defined by personal actions? The Church has already conceded that for many men and women, homosexuality is part of their human psychological and biological make-up. In other words, they are what they are, not necessarily what they do. In other words, the Vatican document does not allow for the ordination of gay men under any circumstances. Okay, sure. But bishops and their seminary and vocation personnel who were targetting gay men for denial or expulsion will continue to do so. And those who were not will read the document liberally and continue with good candidates, homosexual or not. This document changes nothing. Well, that's not quite true. It gives the Vatican a very convenient out: "We told them not to ordain homosexuals" or "We left them wiggle room; why didn't they exercise prudence?" Buck passed to the local level. Mischief managed. It only allows for the ordination of gay men who have become straight, something that is, according to scientific consensus, impossible.The Vatican document, therefore, does not allow for the ordination of gay men. That is a big deal. The document adheres to the fiction "you are what you do." That's a basic fallacy. My opinion: the document collapses under the weight of its own bogus errors. I suppose, though, that this will not be a big deal to some of our straight sisters and brothers -- even the liberal ones -- whose personal lives are not affected by it. But I would point out that such indifference to the plight of one's neighbor is hardly Christian and is an affront to liberalism. Like I say to the Echo Chamber: I'm not the enemy. But at some point if you really believe the curia is howling in the wind, consider a better solution. Instead of howling back, why not just shut the door? People were thinking like this long before the document was published, so these sentiments are not new to Roman Catholicism. What's the diff today? It came out on Vatican parchment? Is that it? Authority needs credibility to maintain itself. Playing the victim card plays into the hands of those who are smirking largely over this document. (Note: while they grit their teeth about its being watered down.) They want to see someone else go into a screaming fit. Instead, I wonder what would happen if thousands of gay Catholic men upset about this each made an appointment with their diocesan vocation director. Likewise married men, women, or other "excluded" folks. Hundreds of VD's all over getting an earful instead of a nice chat with a potential candidate. Wouldn't that be a great way to spend the next few months? Or not. But it would be a more dignified protest than other things I've seen or read. Catholic gays are too strong to play the victim over a new document which does nothing. Laugh it down. Ignore it.
700 Miles in 38.4 Hours
In between, catching up with family. But it's not a weekend I'd care to repeat very soon. I need to walk a few miles today and stretchout my back; I did all the driving this trip. After the 9AM Thanksgiving Mass, I made a point of thanking each choir member and the lady who was in charge of the Thanksgiving planning group. Then I sped home, car-loaded the luggage of the ladies of the house, and off we were by 10:31. Not bad, I thought, just sixty seconds behind schedule. Brittany soon asked, "How long till we get there?" "2:53PM," I said. And we drove, listening to the entire Joseph soundtrack. Even after it was done, "Jacob and Sons" was still driving through my head. Anita has had the casette tape for years, but recently audio-taped from her dvd. (Mostly because Maria Friedman is a superlative singer and makes the PBS version a head above the early 90's recording.) The dvd is what has gotten Brit into the music; she has most of this musical memorized already, thanks to Mom's castaway tape which now resides in her bedroom tape player. We were four minutes early to Webster City, Iowa. Diners had just settled into their chairs when we arrived: my older brother, his in-laws (hosting), and their family. Yesterday, we caught up with Brittany's godparents, an old friend in Fort Dodge, and made it to Omaha for this game. Arrived home just seven minutes after the scheduled arrival of 12:45AM, but I was in bed by 1. The game was fairly fun. We got to the arena in time to see the pre-game warm-ups. Brittany and I went down to ice level behind the goalies to watch the shooting drills. As for the game, there was good goaltending on both sides, and especially ... interesting was the Stars' Smith, who was badly out of position four or five times from playing the puck, but the Knights never capitalized on it. Both teams had somewhat challenged offenses: lots of players struggling with the puck. I saw some decent playmaking here and there, but the set-up guy never seemed to be able to pull the trigger. There was some bonehead play here and there. It was a bit below what I'm used to seeing in an AHL game. Announced attendance was 3656 (it seemed about half that to me) and people seemed really calm, as if everyone was still doped on tryptophan ... which is better, I guess, for the family atmosphere than a hockey mob on a ritalin fast. Brittany was rooting for the visting Iowa Stars, and was crestfallen with Cam Severson's seeing-eye slapshot that won the game for the Knights midway through the third period. The walk back to the car was a pouty, silent one and no consolation offered proved adequate. And so, our Forty-Hours' Vacation is history. Off to the parish to check on our 12:30 funeral coming on the heels of an 11AM wedding. I still have some Advent stuff to incorporate into the liturgy outlines. I also thought I'd finished the alleluia verse arrangements for the cantors, but I didn't find any at practice Tuesday night. In a word, vacation's over.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Dignitatis Humanae 4 begins: The freedom or immunity from coercion in matters religious which is the endowment of persons as individuals is also to be recognized as their right when they act in community. Religious communities are a requirement of the social nature both of man and of religion itself. Sounds about right, since in American jurisprudence corporations can claim such rights. The section continues, listing the various rights to education, mobility, leadership, and such that religious communities require to live out the search for the truth. Religious communities themselves are cautioned: However, in spreading religious faith and in introducing religious practices everyone ought at all times to refrain from any manner of action which might seem to carry a hint of coercion or of a kind of persuasion that would be dishonorable or unworthy, especially when dealing with poor or uneducated people. Such a manner of action would have to be considered an abuse of one's right and a violation of the right of others. Religious communities can demonstrate their beliefs to others: (I)t comes within the meaning of religious freedom that religious communities should not be prohibited from freely undertaking to show the special value of their doctrine in what concerns the organization of society and the inspiration of the whole of human activity. And they can undertake works within society that express their faith in action: (T)he social nature of man and the very nature of religion afford the foundation of the right of men freely to hold meetings and to establish educational, cultural, charitable and social organizations, under the impulse of their own religious sense. Don't be bashful; any comments?
Naming of Planets and Moons
By the way, this site has a mostly complete summary of the various meanings of the names of planets and moons. My favorite naming convention involves the moons of Uranus: characters from Shakespeare and Alexander Pope. Most moons were named for females, but males are catching up. My second favorite convention involves craters on Mercury: all famous artists and authors.
Rhea in Sight
The intrepid Cassini probe has a major encounter with the moon Rhea Friday. It looks rather like our own moon with some white streaks, but don't be fooled: this baby is two-thirds ice. Two Rheas side by side would just approach the lunar diameter--still a pretty big ice cube. This far out from the sun (880 million miles) ice is frozen so solid that it acts much like rock. On other icy moons we've seen evidence of "geology," namely geysers and volcanoes, faulting and quakes, cliffs and erosion of material, and the like. Scientists don't expect huge discoveries on Rhea, but they are interested in different cratering patterns which suggest that melted ice from the interior of Rhea once erupted to the surface and wiped out some older craters. In mythology, Rhea was the consort of Saturn. Saturn had a nasty habit of eating their children, out of fear of being overthrown. Rhea tricked her husband into eating a rock instead of their child Zeus. The baby god grew up, founded the Olympian god-community, and overthrew Saturn and the rest of the Titans. Saturn's moons are mostly named for various Titans and those associated with Saturn. One or two appear in Jupiter orbit, and some of the new Saturn moons have names unfamiliar to me, being as I'm less familiar with Inuit mythology than Mediterranean. Anyway, with a decent telescope, you can see Rhea and four or five other moons in orbit around Saturn. Titan is fairly easy. On subsequent nights, one can catch the moons in their slow orbits around the planet. And about that rock-eating episode ... I don't know about the early physical development of Titans, but anyone who can be tricked into eating a rock, for whatever reason, is probably destined to be overthrown in deitydom.
"Our bishops have nothing to say to us. And they know it."
The last line from an NCR editorial this week. More deliberately than ever they are turning inward to problems of no interest to the wider world and of little interest to most of the faithful from whom they continue to grow distant. That lay ecclesial ministry becomes a hot-button issue shows how far they have fallen. That one should be a slam-dunk, and for most Catholics, it is. We have over a century of school administered largely by women religious. We have two centuries of music leadership from the choir loft. Now we have second generations staffing DRE and youth ministry offices. Lay and religious show themselves intellectually and spiritually capable of leading parishes when no priest is present. And the bishops bicker about who's getting called "minister," a term they themselves and their presbyterate don't ordinarily use. They can't even make a liturgy call without getting dodgy about what the laity will think. I think four years of Liturgiam (in)authenticam have come home to roost. There's no questioning what the second half of section 108 means: Within five years from the publication (May 2001) of this Instruction, the Conferences of Bishops, necessarily in collaboration with the national and diocesan Commissions and with other experts, shall provide for the publication of a directory or repertory of texts intended for liturgical singing. This document shall be transmitted for the necessary recognitio to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. I'm not in the deepest circles of national liturgy, but I've heard from no colleagues on commissions or any experts who have been consulted about this. The bishops can't even adhere to liturgical documents when personally inconvenient, yet are quite willing to make changes to fill their role as Vatican errand boys. Six months to disobedience, but ah well; the Vatican probably doesn't even care about it anymore. NCR is right: the real life in the Church is in the parishes, the schools, the clinics and hospitals, the social justice outreach. I struggle to think of any one bishop lauded by both ideological extremes in his diocese. That should be the standout mark of a true leader. Anybody can gather a gaggle of dittoheads and puff himself up in a private echo chamber. Heck, lay people do that on St Blog's every day. But let's call it straight: that's not leadership. That's taking advantage of mob mentality and human tendency to idolatry. A good bishop will cause a bit of dismay across the spectrum of his people. But a great bishop should be able to engineer respect and admiration from those who disagree with him. John Paul II was able to accomplish that. Only problem is that the Church would be stronger with more leaders like that and fewer branch managers. If we want the latter, just walk into a local bank or insurance company, line up the male prospects and anyone with an average IQ who hasn't engaged in sexual intercourse in three years could be sent off to bishop school. Via seminary I guess. It wouldn't be much different; certainly not significantly worse than today's set-up. And even bank managers and insurance salesmen would know it.
Much Ado ...
Vatican on homosexual priests: not too much to say. Meaning both the Vatican and me, by the way. Three years of chastity wouldn't be a bad hurdle for heterosexual men either. Giving up subscriptions to Maxim, not peeking at Victoria's secrets, and cancelling the premium channels on cable or direct tv: that would bode well for guys entering into the seminary from the other side, as it were. The document really could've focused on maturity, which is at the heart of the poor priest problem, be they pedophiles, swindlers, womanizers, or just plain bad priests. A person heading into ordained ministry needs to be more than a warm body looking good in black clothing. Maturity issues should be settled. A priest shouldn't need to rely on creature comforts like sex, alcohol, smoke, money, food, or power to make his day. Priests--or any adults, really, who find that chef-prepared meal, that cigar and whiskey in a leather chair, or whatever to be the shining grail at the end of their day: these people need serious adjustment of priorities, especially if a family or parish depends on them. To that end, let me suggest an addendum to the document: 1. It would be a good idea for every seminary candidate to have spent three years minimum in the working world. Maybe that could include mission work, but I think the simple maturity required to hold down a regular job, pay the bills, and meet social and civic obligations would do wonders for many seminarians. It would also disconnect them from the notion that priesthood is a gift to them from the Church. Sorry, fellas: you are the intermediaries of Christ's gift to the people. 2. Some experience of small Christian community would be helpful for the years prior to seminary. A person unwilling or unable to express, share and cherish the faith with others is unfit for ordination. 3. Completing a good portion of the education before entering seminary might be a useful idea. At least half the time of seminary formation might be spent in the parish, working as a lay ecclesial minister, learning the ropes, and seeing things from the perspective of lay colleagues as well as the parishioners. But of course, heaven forbid the Vatican would actually be open to the Spirit in any form of advance leadership on the formation of clergy. This document, like so much else coming out of the hierarchy, is merely a reaction to the tides of the times. I don't know what I'd do if something visionary would ever come out of Rome. Maybe Pope Benedict will surprise me, but he's got an awful lot of deadweight surrounding him in the curia. Rock has the full document on Whispers (see sidebar for link). What do you read in the document?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Mind of Christ (A Few Thoughts) Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands toward heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.” (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection) What does all of this mean? And how can a blogger become “all flame”? As the Episcopal priest and theologian Mark McIntosh has written, the point here is that Abba Lot expects Abba Joseph to refine his well-considered scheme or add one final modification so that he can then spiritually advance. But Abba Joseph completely rejects Abba Lot’s criteria for discernment, instead opening before him “the unfathomable promise of divine grace that cannot even be conceived within the categories of the conventional scheme of self-improvement.” St Paul likewise rejected the conventional schemes for holiness found among the Corinthians – appeals to baptismal lineage, class status and cultural sophistication, or measures of spiritual elitism - and instead suggested that “what pertains to the Spirit of God” will be inconceivable “foolishness” to the “natural person” (1 Cor 2:14). St Paul is speaking of the unfathomable promise of the Cross. What happens if we rely on our own conventional schemes for self- and ecclesial improvement (and blog about them endlessly)? The fifth century bishop Diadochus of Photike writes that contemplating divine generosity frees us from dependence on the “praise of men” and “keeps the mind free from fantasy (aphantaston), transfusing it completely with the love of God.” Our schemes, however, remain vulnerable to our anxieties about our own status and how others may perceive us. Fr McIntosh writes that Diadochus links this inevitable compulsion for worldly regard with “a tendency toward fantasy, an ego-gratifying fabulation to cocoon the self or social group in an illusory world more reassuring than real.” Factions emerge with their own “needy, compulsive idols that require full adherence in order to grant validation of one’s status, worth, and position.” Amidst the bitter desperation of human conceit and its fears of deprivation, the Gospel cannot then be heard – St Paul refused any contest in such an arena and counseled that there be no divisions among the Corinthians and that no one should ever boast in the presence of God. St Paul reminds us that he himself “did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom” (1 Cor 2:1). The resulting envy, especially when its mentality is masked as “religious,” is destructive. St Paul writes, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they do not show good sense” (2 Cor 10:12). Yet another story from the desert concerns a monk and a virgin who visited an elder and had sexual relations. They departed the elder’s cell and were left wondering how the elder could possibly have failed to notice what they had done. Paralyzed by a dark curiosity, they found themselves compelled to return to his cell to ask, and the elder responded, “At that time, my thoughts were standing where Christ was crucified, and weeping.” The two were deeply affected and experienced conversion. Fr McIntosh tells us that the elder didn’t have to assert his own threatened virtue in angry condemnation. His gaze was upon Christ. He could instead humbly bring the Cross into the situation - the “foolishness” that “represents God’s powerful mercy breaking into the itching, pusillanimous needs of the fallen world, holding open the possibility of a wholly other disposition grounded in the generosity of divine action.” And then the monk and virgin were transformed. How is it that the Cross frees us from our compulsion for worldly regard? If our thoughts are “standing where Christ was crucified, and weeping,” we are forced to embrace slavery, humiliation, and death. If we really can empty ourselves, trusting that Christ has trampled death by his death, we escape “slavery by the fear of death” (Heb 2:14), no longer imprisoned by “the distortions of fear, envy, and anger – all of which have as their ultimate bogey-totem the shame and humiliation of death itself.” We see differently, without the distorting lenses of a continual and unceasing grasp for self-worth, status, or moral accomplishments, conscious of the new horizon of Jesus’ self-giving on the Cross. In the clarity of an ultimate mercy and forgiveness that replaces the shadowy anxiety-inducing bogey-totem, our beautiful and maddening neighbors can appear as more than just bearers of either the grim threat of condemnation or the intoxicating promise of self-justification. Some brethren, it is said, came to Abba Poemen to complain about others who fell asleep during the liturgy. Poemen replied, reflecting upon the generosity of God, “For my part when I see a brother who is dozing, I put his head on my knees and let him rest.” How do we become “all flame”? We must concentrate on that “foolishness” of the Cross that manifests the unfathomable promise of divine grace. Although certain beliefs would be strictly incompatible with what St Paul calls the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:14), this has less to do with particular beliefs than a more general framework involving our discernment of reality. It especially has to do with our giving of ourselves to those who are alienated from us. Diadochus writes, “For spiritual knowledge, consisting wholly of love, does not allow the mind to expand and embrace the vision of the divine, unless we first win back to love even one who has become angry with us for no reason.” Our relational life must become free from self-preoccupation or the self-referential knowledge that only “inflates with pride” (1 Cor 8:1), and be directed towards the selfless “building up” of a common life (1 Cor 14:3-5). The late Fr Herbert McCabe, OP, wrote about St Thomas (my emphasis): It is an important theme of Question 12 [of the Prima Pars] that when, in beatitude, a man understands the essence of God, the mind is not realized by a form which is a likeness of God, but by God himself. God will not simply be an object of our minds, but the actual life by which our minds are what they will have become. How do we become “all flame”? We must look away from our own projects to reinvent ourselves or reengineer our institutions and try to come into the light of the infinite, deathless reality of God. This self-giving God must be “the actual life by which our minds are what they will have become.” And I’m not very good at this. Not very good at all.

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