Friday, March 31, 2006

Latin: Having and Desiring
Go here for an illustrative discussion on Latin, liturgy, and the last two (or three) Roman Missals. It's long been my contention that the single biggest human factor in making great liturgy (by almost any definition you choose) is the intent, care, craft, artistry, and attention the leadership (meaning clergy, musicians, architects, artists, and other leaders) put into it. When and where the leadership fails to treat liturgy as the most serious earthly work they can do, the Mass fails to realize its potential. My contention is that the language of the Mass, the date of the Missal, and many other contentious factors are irrelevant. The liturgical life of the Catholic Church was in disarray fifty years ago because too many clergy took liberties with the Latin-language Missal and failed to communicate past their own pragmatism. Apathy was the norm, and beauty was the rare exception. My friends at the NLM keep trying. One moment they trumpet the supreme value of Latin, and manage to alienate all the venerable traditional rites of the East. Hint: those guys never had Latin and trads like them anyway. Naturally, the notion is surfaced that the 1970 Roman Missal is fatally flawed. Usually because of some nonsense about the Vatican II bishops not reading the fine print of the documents, or some other lapse of ignorance. I'll shock my readers by saying that if the Catholic Church could come up with a few million priests and church musicians to do a dynamite job on the Latin liturgy, I think most Catholics would go for it. But despite the near-advent of the universal "Latin" (they mean Tridentine) Missal, here are the reasons it will never fly: 1. Most clergy are more concerned with non-liturgical matters. They can't pray in Latin. They don't want to. And they have more pressing concerns, some ministerial (like the parishioners in pastoral need or if the books will balance) or personal (like the latest fine wine, cigar, scotch, or vacation adventure). They are not going to learn Latin for you. 2. The Tridentine enthusiasts have the best of all worlds right now. They worship with a nearly 100% devoted assembly, led by caring and meticulous priests and assisted by musicians who, for an hour a week, have their dream job. If the 1962 or 1570 Missal was more frequent, average quality of worship would suffer. One single single-minded community in a region is a point of strength. At some point dilution sets in. 3. What you might see is younger priests playing dilettante with the Latin Mass. Much like the previous generation was willing to "give it a go" with a polka Mass, clown ministry, or the latest temperament indicator, you'll have guys who think they can just read out of a Latin Missal and make it work. Right. I suspect that vernacular worship has put more demands on clergy. There's an expectation of good preaching. Pew people expect a ready perception of what's going on at Mass. Some priests haven't stepped up to the plate on that one, but that's a fault of training, not the Missal itself. As far as Latin's concerned, if the particular language is at issue, trads don't haven't taken either tradition or Eastern reunion to heart. And if it's any old old language, who's to say that Sanskrit, Hebrew, Egyptian, or some Hindi or Mandarin root language isn't as functional for producing raised levels of liturgical tryptophan in the brain? The Buddhists worship as reverently as any Tridentine trad, wouldn't you say? The 1962 Missal remains a largely political statement. Schismatics use it. Traditional Catholics aspire to something for which they cannot turn the clock back. Today is the era to revitalize plainsong and the treasures of tradition. The trads may well get their "Latin Mass" back, but I suspect they will find that to have and to desire are two entirely different entities.
The Armchair Liturgist: Chrism Mass
When's your Chrism Mass? Have you ever gone to it? Has your parish church ever hosted it? Dioceses are all over the map on this one. Traditionally, it's scheduled for Holy Thursday morning. But my experiences have been all over the board: - Saturday morning before Palm Sunday - A weekday afternoon of Holy Week - The Thursday evening prior to Holy Week If you were the armchair liturgist, when would you schedule it. And why?
Bushies At Work
Leave it to political mucky-mucks to muck up the public face of the government-science interface. Some sanity returns with a new NASA policy. "Scientific and technical information from or about (space) agency programs and projects will be accurate and unfiltered," the new policy stated. A NASA scientist recently complained when he was censored for stating that 2005 was possibly the warmest year on record. The release came nearly two months after the resignation of a 24-year-old NASA public affairs staff member, George Deutsch, who told space agency writers to refer to the big bang as a "theory" because NASA should not discount "intelligent design by a creator." I suppose Mr Deutsch figured the Almighty used the Bible for a recipe. Twenty or fifty years ago, this would've been a commie plot to destabilize the world. Today, they have nowhere to hide. The truth is out there.
Abuse Audit Misfires
The 2005 results of the sex abuse audit are out. No doubt other bloggers are commenting today. I'm not even going to bother reading it. Why? It leaves out one category I wish they would monitor: Bishops Who Don't Get It Clergy have physically, emotionally, and sexually abused children for hundreds of years. That's not news. What is a source of embarassment to Catholics is that too many bishops have allowed themselves to be sucked in by addicts, taking the side of liars and manipulative predators rather than the innocent. I don't think Cardinal George should resign. But he could start attending Al-Anon meetings. His handling of his most recent clergy sex predator is right out of the Co-Dependent Handbook. Until the USCCB starts a Twelve Step chapter, I'm going to sadly predict there will continue to be that occasional episcopal misstep. And while those missteps pile up, the bishops remain in a holding pattern as far as their credibility as moral teachers is concerned. The clergy will do well because people in parishes see the holy, faithful, determined, and compassionate face of Holy Orders on a day-to-day basis. In other words, people still mostly love, but sometimes dislike their priests. They do so for the same reasons they loved or disliked priests long before the Law Crisis hit the media. Bishops, on the other hand, are not easily visible to the masses. They have little contact with the majority of Catholics. When bishops do a good job, it often happens with the assistance of employees, clergy, or other underlings. When they screw up, everybody points a finger. Maybe that's not fair, but until bishops start circulating in parishes far, far more often than they do now, their ministry will remain in crisis. Even if they don't realize it.
Armchair Liturgist: Palms and Processions
It's coming up in nine or ten days. How would you handle the three options for Palm Sunday? There's the big procession, preferably done at one of your Masses. Would you do it at the Saturday Mass, or at the biggest Sunday liturgy? Then there's the choice of the solemn entrance or the simple entrance. Which would you use when? I'll tell you at my parish, after years of sagging support for the procession, we've scheduled the 80-voice children's choir for the procession Mass. Maybe we'll get 140 parents and some siblings. I'll tell you how it went in a wekk and a half. Remember the "armchair liturgist" is not necessarily asking what is done in your parish, but is meant to put you in the ritual driver's seat, asking what you would do, if you were the liturgist.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

What Bruce Springsteen Learned From Flannery O'Connor
Tonight we'll sing the songs And I'll dream of you, my corazón And tomorrow my heart will be strong; And may the saints' blessings and grace Carry me safely into your arms There across the border. For what are we Without hope in our hearts That someday we'll drink from God's blessed waters And eat the fruit from the vines, I know love and fortune will be mine Somewhere across the border --- Bruce Springsteen, "Across the Border"
It is surprising when Bruce Springsteen becomes relevant yet again. Some of you will remember that Fr Andrew Greeley, as only Andrew Greeley could, pronounced in 1988 that Springsteen was a "major religious prophet." Fr Greeley was right, I think, to point out a "Catholic imagination" in Springsteen's work, characterized by an attention to the sacramentality of the material world and the close relationship between salvation and communion. More recently, after the release of his 2002 album The Rising, Springsteen told an inquisitive Ted Koppel of Nightline, “Yeah, well, I’m a good. ... Well, I was a good Catholic boy when I was little, so those images for me are always very close, and they explain a lot about life.” And he told the New York Times last year, “I realized as time passed, that my music is filled with Catholic imagery.” This religious aspect to Bruce Springsteen has received more scholarly attention since Greeley's article. But I was most fascinated to read an article in America a few years ago by Patrick Kelly, SJ, that explained that, after reading Greeley's description of him as a Catholic, the late Walker Percy wrote Springsteen, saying:
If this is true, and I am too, it would appear the two of us are rarities in our professions: you as a post-modern musician, I as a writer, a novelist and a philosopher. That and your admiration of Flannery O’Connor. She was a dear friend of mine, though she was a much more heroic Catholic than I.
Percy then passed away, but Springsteen wrote a response to his widow:
The loss and search for faith and meaning have been at the core of my own work for most of my adult life. I’d like to think that perhaps that is what Dr. Percy heard and was what moved him to write me. Those issues are still what motivate me to sit down, pick up my guitar and write.
Regarding O'Connor, Springsteen would subsequently tell Percy's nephew, "She knew original sin—knew how to give it the flesh of a story." I recently read a short book on Born in the USA published last year by the Washington Post's music critic, Geoffrey Himes. Unfortunately, as you will see, he doesn't do anything at all with a religious aspect to Bruce Springsteen, although Himes will remind you that the chorus melody for "Born in the USA" comes from the old black spiritual "Wade in the Water" (Bob Dylan recently said in an interview that some of his own melodies have come from Protestant church music). But Himes can tell us much more about Bruce Springsteen and Flannery O'Connor: Fascinated by director John Huston's 1979 movie, Wise Blood, recommended by [manager John] Landau, Springsteen read the Flannery O'Connor novel that it was based on and then many of her short stories as well. He took the titles of two of her stories, "The River," and "A Good Man is Hard Find," and turned them into song titles. Soon he was employing not just her titles but her techniques as well. One of the great devices employed by O'Connor and such fellow Southern writers as William Faulkner and Eudora Welty was to tell stories through the eyes of a child. Because youngsters don't always understand what they're witnessing, they can describe things with a wide-eyed innocence and leave it to us, the readers or listeners, to fill in the missing information. This makes us participants in the story, and, with that kind of investment, we're more likely to appreciate the gap between reality and the narrator's innocence. Springsteen used this device brilliantly on five songs he wrote during the 1981-84 period. "Mansion on the Hill" describes a young boy and his sister hiding out in a cornfield, watching the rich people, who are laughing at a party in a mansion that sits above the town's factories and fields. For the youngsters, it looks like Disneyland, but to us, the locked iron gates represent the kind of class divisions that have spoiled the American dream. In "Used Cars," the same narrator and the same sister resent their father for buying a boring used car instead of an exciting new convertible. The youngsters think it's a failure of imagination, but we know the financial realities that dictate the choice. In "My Father's House," the narrator dreams that he's a child again, running through the trees and brambles till he collapses in his father's sheltering arms. But when he awakes and visits the house in real life, the woman who answers says, "I'm sorry, son, but no one by that name lives here anymore." "My Hometown" opens with an eight-year-old boy rushing with a dime to buy a newspaper at the bus stop, giddy to be running the streets of the only home he's known. Only in the later verses, when he becomes an adult, does he discover the town's dark side. "The Klansman" [unreleased - ed] is sung by a young boy in his daddy's kitchen who finds the recruitment pitch by a Ku Klux Klansman very seductive, because he has no context. But we have that context, and that makes the seduction very creepy indeed. From O'Connor, Springsteen also learned the value of plainspoken language. The best literary effects came not from showing off your vocabulary but from making your characters so believable and their problems so suspenseful that your audience is absorbed into every line. It was better to describe young men out on the weekend in language they themselves might use - "Some heading to their families, some looking to get hurt, some going down to Stovell wearing trouble on their shirts," as Springsteen does in "Working on the Highway" - than to describe them in kind of high-falutin' language never heard in a barroom - as he does on "Born to Run," "In the day we sweat it out on the streets on a runaway American dream; at night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines." ... O'Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1925; she died of lupus at age thirty-nine after finishing just two novels and twenty-eight short stories. As part of the Catholic minority in the Bible Belt, she was enough of an outsider to have some perspective on the rural Southerners around her, but enough of an insider to get their eccentricities just right. Her northern education gave her the tools to tell her stories well, but her subjects were always Southern. She retained an unwavering faith in Christian redemption, but nearly every story she wrote tested that faith against examples of crime, cruelty, delusion and failure of every kind. The examples were vivid, but faith always prevailed. Springsteen's faith was not so much Christian as it was Rooseveltian and Presleyian; he believed in an American dream and a rock n' roll promise that could be realized on this earth in this lifetime. But he followed O'Connor's example by testing that faith in the form of characters who had every reason to be alienated from such belief - unemployed Vietnam veterans, small-time criminals, rootless transients, abandoned women and storytelling barflies.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

More Glory: Propeller-Shaped Structures in Saturn's Rings
Scientists have found evidence for small moonlets within Saturn's rings. The moons, estimated to be about 300 feet in diameter, are as yet unseen, but they produce strange propeller-shaped disturbances in the ring matrix. First estimates suggest there could be at least ten million of these bodies in the rings. If a moon is big enough, like Pan here (below) its gravity is ample enough to clear out a path in the ring system. The Encke Gap was first observed on Earth in the 1830's. The moon was discovered a century and a half later. In fact, scientists first saw the moon while examining nine-year old Voyager images in 1990. You can just see the "scalloped" edges on the edge of the gap. In the bottom image, note the dark "waves" in the ring.
Total Eclipse
"God is great, this shows the greatness of God," Nana Appah exclaimed as she joined the crowds on Ghana's Cape Coast beach. "This shows the greatness of nature. It is very, very beautiful. I’ve never experienced anything like this before." MSNBC Space tells it. NASA provides a video link for it on that same page. Well worth watching. Plan for future eclipses here. The map doesn't print large enough for the detail, but you get an idea of where to be in the next twenty years to see something spectacular. I still have a bit of regret for not talking my parents into driving us east in 1970, when the totality corridor went up the east coast. I did have fun with the annular eclipse in 1994. I cross-hatched my fingers and projected eight "rings of fire" on the ground for amazed children.
The Armchair Liturgist: Saints' Names
Your DRE or RCIA director hands you the final list of the elect and candidates for baptism and full communion at the Easter Vigil. How many of these do you let pass to put into the Litany of Saints? Which do you send back for a middle name, or another patron saint? You can look it up on the 'net first, or you can play a little game and see how many you think are actual saint names, and which are not: Atticus Caspian Cleer Cynthia Heather Heron Herve Kingsmark Kyle Judas Sauve Sirius Teath Todd White Zephyr
The Cardinal Addresses Baptist Pastors
Rock updates us on doings in Detroit. Amy will let you comment on it on open book. Catch the original article here with the secular media.
I find it interesting that another Detroit bishop was recently up for retirement, and a good bit of bile was spat his way about not rendering his retirement in a timely and deferential manner. Brother Maida told the Baptists:
"I just talked to the pope last week, and he told me, 'You keep working there.' I have no plan to go anywhere."
Well, if the pope says it's okay, it must be okay. But it sure helps to have the St Blog's Commentariat behind you, too.
I think this is not the shining example of episcopal leadership. According to Rock, the cardinal retires to a million-dollar luxury apartment. The auxiliary sleeps on a pallet in the rectory of a poor inner city parish. I think of Christus Dominus 15:
>As those who lead others to perfection, bishops should be diligent in fostering holiness among their clerics, religious, and laity according to the special vocation of each. They should also be mindful of their obligation to give an example of holiness in charity, humility, and simplicity of life.
This isn't to say Archbishop Maida isn't holy, charitable, humble, or doesn't practice a simple lifestyle. He was never my bishop, and when I lived in Michigan, I didn't pay much attention to goings on outside of my parish and diocese. But I'm not too sure his example isn't being upstaged by his most recently retired auxiliary. Gumbleton is admittedly a radical, and it is very difficult to walk with some radicals. But parish closings are a very tough nugget to swallow. One would hope that bishops responsible for these will give more the example of "I'm in this with you," rather than playing the authoritarian trump card.
Chiming in on the JPII Cultural Center, let me say I believe this is outside the prerogative of a bishop. Running such an operation is within the purview of the laity, not a bishop.

Is There any Possibility for Light or for Joy? I hope that you don't mind my posting so many excerpts. It seems to me that this sort of thing, given my limitations, might be the best service that I can render. The BBC has recorded a series of Lent talks based on different sites along the Via Dolorosa. The most recent talk, inspired by the Garden of Gethsemane, was delivered by Fr Jamal Khader, a priest of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and chair of Religious Studies at the Bethlehem University. Here, then, is an excerpt: So is there any possibility for light or for joy? When one looks at the Gospel, one learns that Jesus' message was one of love and reconciliation. And His actions that night in the garden and during his passion are indicative of that. Indeed it is possible that the scenes of suffering and betrayal in this moment can have something positive to teach us. Because, what is striking about Gethsemane is the humanness of the event. Jesus is seen to agonise and wrestle with the fate that God seems to have in store for him. the betrayal by Judas is a painful moment and marks a point of abject loneliness for Jesus who's been deserted by everyone. Judas seems to be a man who has turned 180 degrees. He has just shared a meal with Jesus, he has followed him all the way to Jerusalem. Yet at the last moment, when Jesus needed him most - he comes with a kiss, the sign of friendship, and instead gives a sign to the soldiers for them to arrest Jesus. Why Judas did this has been the subject of debate for centuries. Was it for money? Was it to push Jesus towards confrontation with the authorities to force him to declare himself the Messiah? Either way, the figure of Judas throughout history has symbolised betrayal, someone who is possessed and guided by the devil. No one would name his son after him, it is even illegal in some countries! This whole experience is a very human one. Sometimes we feel helpless, desperate; nothing can change our fate. The example of Jesus tells us a different story, the story of the love of God to men and women in our time. And it's a story that still speaks to us today even in the complexities and tensions of modern Jerusalem. In our situation in the Holy Land, people are always asking, when will there be peace? Indeed, as we look to the left of the Mount of Olives, from the site of this Church, we see the separation barrier; it separates people, not only Israelis and Palestinians, but Palestinians from their families, students from their schools, Christians from the Holy Places, and Muslims from the Dome of the Rock, their place of worship. If we then look towards the Old city. We can clearly see from here the division; the Christian quarter, the Muslim Quarter, the Jewish Quarter. And if you walk the streets of the Old City, you should make sure not to end up in another quarter other than your own. You may have an unpleasant surprise, because one does not feel welcome in another person's neighbourhood. So people ask, and they have a right to ask, when will Jerusalem be a city of peace and not conflict? When we read the events of the last week in the life of Jesus and read of the tensions between the Jews and Romans, between Jesus, his followers and the Jewish authorities, between those who weep the unjust condemnation of Jesus and those who celebrate his death, we only need to change the names and we feel the same tensions today. We can smell the violence, injustice, and death. Jerusalem is called the "city of Peace" or "City of God" what an irony! This city can not be the city of God when the believers in the same God continue to hate each other, kill each other and dominate each other. So many have lost hope, some are desperate and desperation can lead to desperate measures. The story of Jesus however, shows us that nothing is as desperate as it may seem. And hope is so powerful, for all people. Hope keeps us alive, hope gives us courage to work for peace and reconciliation, even if everything else seems to tell us that it is impossible. Because what comes shining out from the darkness of that night, is the light of hope. Why did Jesus not rage at Judas and send him away? Because he had hope. Jesus' non resistance to the soldiers when they came to capture him is remarkable. One might ask, why did go to Gethsemane in the first place? Why didn't he leave when he had the chance to do so? What he did have was hope. And his hope came from his trust in God. Jesus believed he was doing God's will and he believed God would never fail him. This is not just a platitude to be said and forgotten, indeed it is far from an easy option. ... As we all know, sometimes our paths are not easy and may not even be the paths we want to take. But the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus can be a message of hope for all who suffer; a message of hope to mankind, to all those who have given up hope. We all bear our own cross but it is how we bear it that makes the difference. Christians believe that walking the way of the cross with Jesus means to fight in the war against evil and injustice, and it means to overcome them. This victory may come through suffering but there is hope that the sun of justice will rise again on Sunday, and this sun will never go down.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Early Music
The Tallis Scholars are coming to town. I've already got my tickets; what about you? The 2006-07 chamber music series has already been announced. Our hard-to-please local music critic approves: Who knows how they pull it off every year on their tiny budget, but the Friends of Chamber Music’s 2006-2007 season offers a reliable mix of surprises, megastars, old favorites and some oddities. I'm looking forward to an Advent concert next year by Pomerium as well as an appearance by Chanticleer. For early music, everything's up to date in Kansas City!
According to Coyne
George Coyne, SJ, head of the Vatican Observatory, that is: Intelligent design is a religious movement based on fear that if you don't teach an alternative to evolution, we will have a lot of little atheists running around. CNS link here. AAAS link here.
What is Repentance? Here are a few rather helpful paragraphs from the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin (hat tip: Lent & Beyond): But what IS repentance? Here, at the beginning of Lent this movement of the soul is a primary focus. Too often, repentance is regarded as an emotionally draining and wrenching experience. Such is not the case. On the contrary, genuine repentance begins with God. As the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to whatever it is that has intruded itself into our lives like a wedge separating us from God, it may actually come as a surprise. ... The kind of repentance that Jesus seeks when he announces: “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” is no general sort of emotion or expression of sorrow. Rather it is a challenge and a bid for our eagerness to enter the light, experience a transparency — an openness and honesty — that alone admits more light and enables us to grow and mature. It is the response of God to a hunger that He finds in us to come into that place where we will truly be children of the light. It is a hunger for such insight into reality that we will WANT to walk away from all that is destructive, or as the baptismal service puts it “draws us away from the love of God.” It is not that God ever stops loving us; it is that through many decisions and choices we become insensitive to that love of His that surrounds us continually and aches when it is clear that we are unaware or reject His approach to us and the bountiful provision of gifts He longs to bestow on us if only we had eyes to see as well as hands and hearts ready to receive. Lent causes us to take a deeper look at ourselves — not to be preoccupied with our own lives — no, just the opposite — but to alert us to habits, attitudes, and insensitivities that blind us to the Lord (prayer) to the needs of others (alms giving) or to the unconscious acceptance of self-indulgence (fasting) that crowd out God’s blessing, rob us of joy, and stunt us. The season of Lent that assists us in growing in spiritual awareness holds out the promise and hope of a life in Christ we might not dream possible otherwise. Far from the haunts of dreariness, this is the season of Spring and it prepares us for the life that can only come from the Risen Lord. May God grant us all — individually and us a Church — the gift of such repentance.
Sacrilege Shutdown
Archbishop cites sacrilege for immediate closing of a NO church. CNS has the brief. Local news coverage here. Archbishop Alfred Hughes, during a news conference, said he had no choice but to close St. Augustine Church because protesters had desecrated it by interrupting Mass. It cannot be reopened, he said, until it is consecrated again.

Sandra Gordon, the president of St. Augustine's pastoral council, said that in the meantime, parishioners and protesters would stay at the church. "We will continue to peacefully occupy the facilities because this is our parish. It is the property of the congregation, not the archdiocese," she said, trembling as she read a statement on Monday.

Great. Another local parish stands off against their bishop. The timing between the disruption of Mass (Sunday) and the order to close (Monday) seems a bit short to me. I suppose if you're going to close a church for that reason, the closure needs to be quick to avoid obvious questions like, "If the protest was an actual sacrilege, why did you let other liturgies take place there in the interim?"
British Invasion: The Passion
From CNS, a Passion based on contemporary rock songs: "Our approach is to say that if it gets people interested in the Passion and Resurrection, it sounds positive to us," said Father Michael Walsh, communications officer for the Salford Diocese. "It is aimed at younger people, the 16 to 30 age group. It wouldn't suit everybody, but we are certainly not against it." It will take place in Manchester, England. It will include songs by local bands. The music will be arranged for a string orchestra.
Fast For Iraq
Something worth considering. Zenit reports on Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly's call for two days of fasting and prayer for peace in Iraq. "We have estranged ourselves from God by our deeds, we do not obey his will, and we have moved away from piety and virtue, from forgiveness, and because of this the blood of so many brothers has been shed and so many children have remained orphans." For this reason, the Christian representative said, "we must return, repentant to God's house to do the will of our sovereign God." "To achieve this sublime objective, we invite all Iraqis, in and outside of Iraq, and all believers and people of good will, to prayer and fasting this coming Monday the 3rd and Tuesday the 4th of April, so that the Lord will restore peace, tranquility and security to Iraq, country of our beloved Abraham." Anybody in with us?
Where To Send A child?
Many adoptions are made by family members. When Anita and I were in classes and going to workshops, we met a few folks who were adopting their grandchildren. Social workers look favorably on this. It can leave open the possibility of a relationship with birth parents if they were ever to get their lives back in order. Reinforcing an existing family tie can be a lifeline for a traumatized child. If, heaven forbid, something were to happen to me and my wife, our daughter would go to live with my brother and his wife back east. We would do the same with any niece or nephew who needed to be with us. I'm sure many people would. On the gay adoption front, I wonder how the issue would or could be finessed if the nearest willing relative were SSA. What if the choice were foster care, a group home, or an SSA relative?

Gaudium et Spes 39

The heavily footnoted 39th section of Gaudium et Spes concludes this current chapter, by looking to the end times and expressing that universal longing for peace and life, and freedom from sin and death. We do not know the time for the consummation of the earth and of humanity,(cf. Acts 1:7) nor do we know how all things will be transformed. As deformed by sin, the shape of this world will pass away;(cf. 1 Cor. 7:31; St. Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, V, 36, PG, VIII, 1221) but we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice will abide,(cf. 2 Cor. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:13) and whose blessedness will answer and surpass all the longings for peace which spring up in the human heart.(cf. 1 Cor. 2:9; Apoc. 21:4-5) Then, with death overcome, the (children) of God will be raised up in Christ, and what was sown in weakness and corruption will be invested with incorruptibility.(cf. 1 Cor. 15:42 and 53) Enduring with charity and its fruits,(cf. 1 Cor. 13:8; 3:14) all that creation(cf. Rom. 8:19-21) which God made on (humankind's) account will be unchained from the bondage of vanity. Heaven is a stimulation, the Council teaches, for the transformation of the modern world in whatever way believers can effect it. The "foreshadowing" mentioned below inplies that activity to restore the world into a graced balanced, however flawed that might be in intention or result, is a participation of sorts in the coming Reign of God, as realized in its truest final form: Therefore, while we are warned that it profits a (person) nothing (to) gain the whole world and lose (him- or her)self,(cf. Luke 9:25) the expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one. For here grows the body of a new human family, a body which even now is able to give some kind of foreshadowing of the new age. It's a concern to God, that much is clear: Hence, while earthly progress must be carefully distinguished from the growth of Christ's kingdom, to the extent that the former can contribute to the better ordering of human society, it is of vital concern to the Kingdom of God.(Cf. Pius XI, encyclical letter Quadragesimo Anno: AAS 23 (1931), p. 207) What we receive at the end of our lives, at the end of time, will be familiar to those who work for these ideals: For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in His Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, (communion) and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured, when Christ hands over to the Father: "a kingdom eternal and universal, a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace."(Preface of the Feast of Christ the King) On this earth that Kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns it will be brought into full flower. Comments?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Good Prayers, Bad Prayers, an Emperor and Two Composers
Is there really a need for the patronizing tone that you take here and persistently in so many of your comments? Which God gave you the divine commission to be the voice of 'Catholic sensibility' as if all other views were less than such? I have strong opinions, and I'm willing to back them up. I tend not to rely on quoting others as some bloggers do, preferring instead to formulate my own thoughts. As a writer I strive to be somewhat original, and bring an honest synthesis to liturgy discussions. If others feel patronized, I can only sat I'm more of a pussycat in person. And if you disagree with me, be thankful youonly have to debate me and not Nathan Mitchell, or Raymond Brown, or even the documents of Vatican II. As far as I can see, this is not a post that comments on the politics of ICEL but on the texts that exist in the current English translation of the Roman Missal, regardless of their provenance and these texts are brought into comparison with the 2002 Missale Romanum, and this comparison reveals the paucity of the current English translation. I think its germane to question the usefulness of such an approach. Pile on the ignorant translators of the 1960's and early 70's without regard for the perspective of the day: that's what it looks like to me. I've been critical of the English version of Roman Missal II since I was in grad school studying liturgy. And let's admit that the hierarchy both in Rome and the US was more than content to first approve these poor translations, then in the former case, obfuscate the publication of a superior one. The problem of poor translation still persists and so long as we labour under it, there is a need to draw to the attention of the faithful, the richness of the original Latin prayers which the English rendering claims to be a translation of. I'm not so sure it's as much drawing the attention of the faithful as it is giving oneself a congratulatory pat on the back for being such a good Latin student. The new ICEL prayers (which have been published as a separate book) are rejected by Rome as being entirely beyond the remit of ICEL, which is essentially a translating body. How did it ever arrogate to itself the composition of new texts? Those were the rules Rome itself set out in 1969. Ask the Italians how they got so many prayers composed in their vernacular. And if one wants to criticize ICEL for what happened in the 1970's and 80's, the least one can do is consult the rules of the 70's and 80's. Sort of like criticizing Charley Jones for hitting only 55 lifetime homers. Then you realize he did it two generations before Babe Ruth. Other translating bodies prepared original texts; the Italians had a number of good original collects. Comparison with those would be interesting. Your notion of crafting new liturgical texts is an entirely separate issue from the current post and a red herring. I do not wish to address that here. Not if new texts are being criticized. The onus lies on you to explain why translation from the Latin is not sufficient for the modern Roman Rite? How have modern man so developed that a translated text no longer suffices? Is the same true of the psalms and the Scriptures and other translated texts from classical culture? Simpler than that: the Latin texts were compiled for the 1570 Missal and its Lectionary. I think the expanded Lectionary and the reformed sacramental rites are worthy to have a series of prayer in harmony with the entire Mass, not just what was adequate for celebration in the previous four centuries. I think Brother Lew is well aware that modern Scripture scholarship has some input to provide on translations. But the point of the article in question, as he says, is about the collects of the Roman Missal. In 1996 Mgr Bruce Harbert, who is now the Executive Secretary of ICEL, described ICEL translations of some of the Collects as “unmemorable,” flawed by a “cuddle-factor” of excessive emphasis on the heart as opposed to the mind, and revealing a “propensity towards Pelagianism” by stressing what humans do rather than what God does. I might agree. That still holds true and that is why they remain open to criticism and why the original Latin texts and any other parallel translations deserve study. Fr Z. helps us in this, as do others commentators, be they 'conservative' or 'progressive' and I am grateful for that. I would not consider this an imitation or jumping on a bandwagon. I'm not sure the "study" is all that useful. I'd be interested in seeing if ICEL of the 1980's was on the right track in translating Roman Missal II. Another interesting comparison would be to contrast the Latin originals (conceded these are the very best in the Roman tradition) with the very best modern prayers composed in harmony with the current Lectionary. Finally, I wonder if the complaints that 'progressive' liturgists have with regard to the ICEL translations have much in common with those who want to preserve a sense of fidelty to the Latin orations. I wouldn't wonder. I think progressives are concerned more with the expression of beauty, clarity, and dignity in worship than with fidelity to a Latin original. I think fidelity to the original Latin prayers must take a second seat to the higher ideals of worship as laid out in Sacrosanctum Concilium. It's enough to say the current English prayers aren't the best we can do. And while "faithful" translations of the Latin originals are a step in the right direction, I don't think they're the best we can do either. Or as musicians might ask, "Why settle for Emperor Joseph II or even Salieri, when you can have Mozart?"
The Future of Interreligious Dialogue? Today, Rocco Palmo referred us to a BBC story about Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, the former head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, recently appointed papal nuncio to Egypt and delegate to the Arab League. As you will remember, the Vatican also recently announced that the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue would be placed under the interim leadership of Cardinal Paul Poupard, already president of the Pontifical Council for Culture. There has been a good deal of speculation about Archbishop Fitzgerald's appointment and the subsequent "merging" of the Councils. John Allen reported on concerns that this might signify a redefinition, even a diminishment, of the Vatican's commitment to interreligious dialogue. The BBC story reports on one possible meaning for Christian-Muslim relations, "Some observers believe the new Pope wants to take a tougher line on the issue of 'reciprocity.'" I have no special insight into the Vatican. But I would like to share another interpretation, coming from the organization Monastic Interreligious Dialogue (in the following, "PCID" here stands for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, "MID" stands for the name of the group): By connecting the Church’s commitment to interreligious dialogue with its commitment to cross-cultural understanding, Pope Benedict XVI may well be calling us to think about religion—and to engage in interreligious dialogue—with greater and more explicit attention to its cultural context. By emphasizing this connection, the pope appears to be cautioning us not to focus our dialogue efforts on religious thought, experience, and praxis in the abstract. Rather, his intent seems to be to encourage the dialogue to look closely at the roles the world’s religions actually play and ought to play in shaping and being shaped by the stunning variety of cultural contexts in which they are, by nature, embedded. In 1991, the PCID document Dialogue and Proclamation identified four discrete yet interrelated types of dialogue: “life,” “action,” “theological exchange,” and “religious [or spiritual] experience.” Of these four types, the third has been the most common, and the fourth the main focus of MID. But what of the first two? In many ways, the dialogue of life, “where people strive to live in an open and neighborly spirit, sharing their joys and sorrows, their human problems and preoccupations” (DP, 42) may be seen not so much as one of the four types of dialogue, but rather as the larger framework in which the other dimensions of dialogue must consciously unfold. If this is true, then we are forced to ask ourselves how there can be an authentic “dialogue of life” if the “dialogue of action”—despite its utter centrality to the Church’s teachings in Nostra Aetate—remains little more than a vague ideal? One way, therefore, of interpreting the curial reorganization with respect to the PCID is that it may very well signal Pope Benedict’s effort to place long overdue emphasis on a broader, more culturally contextualized dialogue of shared values in response to the explicit call of Nostra Aetate for the members of the various traditions to work with the Church in her sacramental mission to heal the divisions within the human family. In fact, one could argue that this approach to interreligious dialogue may well be one expression of a wider papal agenda for which Benedict XVI appears to be laying the cornerstone in Deus Caritas Est. If embraced with sincerity and integrity, the approach to interreligious dialogue reflected in the curial restructuring could challenge all involved to bring to the fore of the dialogue such crucial questions as: What are the ways in which religion X helps foster a culture of caritas (or whatever the principal analogue might be in various traditions, for example "justice" for Muslims; "compassion" for Buddhists; etc.) in context Y? ; and What are the ways in which, in context Y, religion X is being used by the forces of materialism or political extremism? An approach to interreligious dialogue that emphasizes the embeddedness of religion in culture may offer an opportunity for all of us to become excited about the many ways in which interreligious dialogue can challenge intercultural exchange to: (a) become more self-conscious of the fact that cultures can and should shape each other for the better; and (b) pay heed to the fact that the world’s religions and the Church can and must must play a key pedagogical and mystagogical role in this process.
It's Not Lunacy
WaPo article reproduced here on getting back to the moon. NASA wants to get to the lunar south pole. I agree. There might be comet ice in the craters, protected from vaporizing by the eternal shadow at the pole. Previous spacecraft have detected hydrogen there. That might be ice. Might not be, but it will be worth a look. If there is ice on the moon, human beings will have a far easier go at maintaining an outpost. If I were going to the moon, I'd want to go here: Aristarchus plateau, with that bright crater, those rills, and possible outgassing from the lunar interior. From the dawn of the Age of the Telescope, observers have seen bright flashes coming from this area. What are they? I'd like to know. Another great place would be the far side crater Tsiolkovsky, notable for its smooth lava floor. That dark gray material looks very much like the maria or smooth plains which cover a good percentage of the near side. On the far side, Tsiolkovsky is one of only two such smooth lava deposits. Sign me up for a mission. Only problem is that I'll be too old by the time they get back to the moon. Maybe I could get the radtrads to take up a collection for me and get me a one-way ticket. I can think of worse places to retire. 'Course, they'd have to forego fiddlebacks for a few centuries to finance it. Could be worth it, though.
Polar Express
Cassini's Jupiter map centered on the south pole. From images taken during its flyby in 2000. Get the details here.
Fighting Amongst Ourselves The following column is written by Fr Bohdan Hladio, Chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. It is reprinted with permission from Orthodoxy Today. Conflict and Reconciliation Fr. Bohdan Hladio Conflict is a normal part of human life. There is no record of a humanity where conflict did not exist. The Church, being composed of fallen, sinful human beings, has always had to deal with the issue of conflict. St. John Chrysostom, writing in the 4th century, relates the following: "Come and take a peep at the public festivals, at which it is the custom for most appointments to ecclesiastical office to be made. You will see the priest assailed with as many accusations as there are persons under his rule. For all who are qualified to bestow the honour are then split into many factions and the synod of presbyters can be seen agreeing neither among themselves nor with the one who has received the Episcopal office. Each man stands alone . . . one man is anxious to promote above the rest a friend, another a relative, another someone who flatters him. No one will look for the best qualified man or apply any spiritual test" (On the Priesthood, book III 15). Sound familiar? One of the differences between Christians and non-Christians is that Christians have an obligation to seek reconciliation where conflict and contentiousness exist (cf. Mt. 5: 23-24, 18:15-16, Mk. 11: 25-26, etc.). The great commandment of Jesus Christ is the commandment of love. There are honest disagreements where people hold differing opinions based on sound moral and spiritual principles. There are also conflicts, both interpersonal and among groups, which are grounded in base human passions - egoism, pride, even hatred. It's easy to agree that in the first case by having open discussion, seeking God's will in a spirit of love and respect, we can usually come to a peaceful resolution. In the second instance it's even more important to remember Christ's commandment of love - Christian love, love for enemies, love for those who hate us and treat us spitefully, Christ-like love (cf. Mt. 5: 43 - 47). Without this love there will be no reconciliation. Reconciliation likewise cannot exist without forgiveness. Baptism, Chrismation, Confession, the Eucharist, Anointing of the sick, the funeral and requiem services (among others) all exist for the forgiveness of our sins. And we must never forget that our forgiveness is always three-fold: we ask forgiveness of God, we ask forgiveness of others, we ask forgiveness of ourselves. In order that this forgiveness would be actualized, that it would become real in our lives, we must at the same time offer forgiveness - to neighbour, to self, and perhaps, under certain circumstances, in a mysterious yet very real way, even to God Himself. Our Lord taught us to pray "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". It's been said that the "as" in the previous sentence is the most terrible preposition in the bible. The only condition given us by our Lord for forgiveness is our willingness to forgive others. A "troubled parish", just like a troubled family, is characterized by conflict without resolution, strife without reconciliation, sin without forgiveness. Parishes don't usually die because of deep-seated theological problems, but rather because parishioners come into conflict among themselves, become entrenched in their often misguided opinions, harden their hearts, and treat everyone who doesn't agree with them as an enemy. Children and young people in such parishes listen to the Gospel, go to Church school, learn about Christ's commandment of love, see that parishioners in reality treat each other worse than they treat strangers on the street, and quite reasonably ask themselves "what in God's name is going on here? If this is the way people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ actually live, I don't want any part of it!" They leave our communities and then we scratch our heads and ask ourselves "where have all the youth gone?" If we are serious about having healthy parishes and a growing Church we must be serious about our attitude towards conflict and reconciliation. Besides love and forgiveness, what is needed? First and foremost, the will to be reconciled. We must truly, in our heart-of-hearts, want reconciliation - not that people must be reconciled to us, but that all of us, together, must be reconciled to God and neighbour. Secondly we must be humble. Even where things run smoothly differing opinions, ideas, and approaches will be present. We must have the humility to admit when we are wrong, to listen respectfully to differing opinions, and give others the benefit of the doubt. Finally it must be said that there can be no reconciliation without repentance - repentance in the original sense of the Greek word metanoia. This word, which is usually translated into English as "repentance" comes from the roots "meta" which refers to a change, and "nous", which refers to the central intellectual/spiritual center of the human person. Metanoia literally means a "change of mind" or a "change of heart". Regarding conflict, division and contentiousness in our parishes (as well as in our personal lives) we would do well to consider these words of St. John Chrysostom, who further on in the same book writes: ". . . these evils are suffered and borne patiently by the One Who does not desire the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live. How can we marvel enough at His love for man, or wonder at His mercy? Christians damage Christ's cause more than His enemies and foes. But the good Lord still shows His kindness and calls us to repentance."

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Corporate Synchronicity
A small cadre of St Bloggers make it their mission to debunk everything DaVinci Code. Honestly, I can't get excited about the task. It's just a piece of fiction. And not terribly original, as the story has been circulating for centuries. As I was reading the Sunday paper over dinner tonight, I noted John Mark Eberhart's column on the entertainment pages, including this tidbit: Thus my theory that, somewhere in the corridors of megapublisher Random House, an eavesdropper might hear the sound of cackling. Random House’s official position is that the lawsuit is without merit. But Da Vinci and Holy Blood both were published by Random House imprints. Now that’s what I call corporate synchronicity. Indeed. Heaven save me from this kind of marketing should I ever get published.
Gaudium et Spes 38
Gaudium et Spes 38 addresses some of the recent concerns expressed in the comment boxes here. For God's Word, through Whom all things were made, was Himself made flesh and dwelt on the earth of men.(cf. John 1:3 and 14) Thus He entered the world's history as a perfect man, taking that history up into Himself and summarizing it.(cf. Eph. 1:10) He Himself revealed to us that "God is love" (1 John 4:8) and at the same time taught us that the new command of love was the basic law of human perfection and hence of to worlds transformation. Human perfection--that's a high ideal. It's also an ideal that's not without hope: To those, therefore, who believe in divine love, He gives assurance that the way of love lies open to (people) and that the effort to establish a universal (family) is not a hopeless one. He cautions them at the same time that this charity is not something to be reserved for important matters, but must be pursued chiefly in the ordinary circumstances of life. Undergoing death itself for all of us sinners,(cf. John 3:16; Rom. 5:8) He taught us by example that we too must shoulder that cross which the world and the flesh inflict upon those who search after peace and justice. Appointed Lord by His resurrection and given plenary power in heaven and on earth,(cf. Acts 2:36; Matt. 28:18) Christ is now at work in the hearts of (people) through the energy of His Holy Spirit, arousing not only a desire for the age to come, but by that very fact animating, purifying and strengthening those noble longings too by which the human family makes its life more human and strives to render the whole earth submissive to this goal. The council bishops also recognize that not every individual possesses the same calling. However, every bliever shares that ideal endpoint in God's salvific plan. Now, the gifts of the Spirit are diverse: while He calls some to give clear witness to the desire for a heavenly home and to keep that desire green among the human family, He summons others to dedicate themselves to the earthly service of (others) and to make ready the material of the celestial realm by this ministry of theirs. Yet He frees all of them so that by putting aside love of self and bringing all earthly resources into the service of human life they can devote themselves to that future when humanity itself will become an offering accepted by God.(cf. Rom. 15:16) The celebration of the Eucharist is seen as an indispensible part of the life of believers. It is also a symbol of the way in which human activity can be steered and changed by God for a greater good. The Lord left behind a pledge of this hope and strength for life's journey in that sacrament of faith where natural elements refined by man are gloriously changed into His Body and Blood, providing a meal of (familial) solidarity and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

What Does A Believer Look Like?
The comment threads on recent Gaudium et Spes posts got me thinking. I'm surprised that a generally positive document in which the Church attempts to dialogue with the world at large garners so much consternation. I could take a great deal of time and reflect on this topic, searching for theological sources like Neil does. Or bringing a high level of spiritual wisdom, like many others might. But I'm "just a singer in a rock and roll band" as the Moodies might say. My highest interest is to put some expression of this into music. But as I have other projects in the cooker right now, let me just take a stab at the notion and leave the the uncovered or weak points to my good commentators. First, I think we can only speak of the appearance of the believer. Only God knows hearts. And it is with God's full vision of the person, their motivations, their struggles and triumphs, and their orientation to grace can anyone know with certitude the person's saintliness. And since we're not God, it makes little sense to even make the attempt. So with that knowledge in mind, let's confess we only have appearances to run with, and there's always the possibility we could be gravely mistaken about these. I think there are three main venues to locate the answer to the question above: Scripture, Tradition, and Spiritual Direction. In the Word of God, we have the example of Christ and his teaching. A believer would mold his or her life to look like Christ's. Primary would be the expression of love for others, especially as it was revealed in selfless sacrifice: the Paschal Mystery. In the extreme, it would be dying for others. In other words, doing what Jesus did. Secondary would be adhering to the teachings of Christ and the Scriptures. Or if you prefer, doing what the Word says to do. I have no doubt that a serious believer would be noticed for activity in this sphere. We might say, "That person acts like Jesus." And we'd mean it. In Tradition, we would look again to lived example first, teaching as secondary. The incarnation of Tradition I would see in the lived example of the saints. Thomas More held his pen. Elizabeth Ann Seton attended to the education of children and the religious life of women. Peter was the rock. Mary Magdalene was the human herald of the Resurrection. The believer would choose one or more examples from among the saints and model his or her life after that hero. We would again notice when a high government official stands up for the truth, or an educator has obvious concern for the catechesis of the young, or that someone's faith would be a steadfast example of leadership in time of trial, or that we would tell it as we saw it in gratitude for being healed of demons. Again, we would do as the example does. We could also follow the teachings of the saints. In that, we would be doing as these figures say--and Jesus affirmed that approach, too. (cf Matt. 23:3) Included in this I would place following the written Tradition of the Church: the catechism, for example. A third approach, and also an essential part of the Christian life, is that of an ordered program of guidance from a spiritual director. Having experience with spiritual direction, I can say this relationship is extremely helpful in guiding the believer's outward example of the faith. A good director can help the disciple cut through the self-delusions and avoidance (aka crap) that may come with the temptations of the spiritual life. Let me raise a caution here. Not all people in spiritual direction are being directed. And some people who are being directed spiritually might not even recognize it as such. That said, I think a director is helpful for a person to sort out God's call. A wise figure (or figures) can help a person discern when the time for doing, praying, moving, etc. has come. You might not be active in social justice circles or in liturgy. But my presumption is that you are a serious believer until you give me evidence otherwise. When Susan complained about the presumptions I was laying out, I want to say I took her input seriously. I do think Gaudium et Spes is an authentic witness to Christ we Catholics cannot take lightly. But I remember my many visits to homebound people when I served in rural Iowa. I would not say these people were somehow less Christian because they lived their faith exclusively in a nursing home or a bedroom. Not at all. As individuals, they had unique and particular circumstances from which to express their lived faith. Likewise, I don't think that going to Mass, serving the poor, or any other particular activity marks a believer with surety. I would apply the lived example of Christ: Jesus worshipped both privately and in the synagogue. The Bible affirms keeping the Sabbath ritually and the participation in the Christian Eucharist. Saints worshipped, too. Likewise serving the poor with charity. Jesus did it. Many saints (though not all) were noted for it. Many saints told people to do it. My sense is that if a believer has any doubt about some aspect of his or her faith, that doubt could likely be movement of the Holy Spirit. At minimum, the matter might be fodder for prayer and discernment. From the example and words of Jesus and the saints, I think we have a certain guarantee if we imitate them in the sense of Sunday worship and practicing charity. In this we have a higher degree of surety about looking like a Christian. I'm assuming of course, that an accompanying orientation of heart and will goes with it. A believer might choose to go his or her own way in being a Christian: foregoing Sunday worship, refraining from charity, and the like. Such a believer lacks a guarantee, especially if doubts and inner conflicts arise from what may be a well-intentioned effort. I would never say a particular non-churchgoer was an unbeliever. I would assume a person who says he or she is a Christian (or a Catholic) is indeed so. But I might not emulate that particular example. Thoughts? Have I placed my foot deeper down my gullet or does this make some sense?
Addwaitya, RIP
He looked pretty good for being born during the French-and-Indian War. Died of liver failure a few days ago. If only General Clive hadn't fed him that imported British booze. More healthful living and maybe some yoga and Addwaitya might've reached 300. Even so, 250 is a pretty astounding age for an animal.
Of Mice and Men
German scientists may have breakthrough on the ethical impasse on emryonic stem-cell research. My cynical side still tells me ESCR is about corporate profits more than profitable research. Time will tell.
First Returns From Mars
MRO sends back test images from Planet 4. See the bitty box on the lower right? Magnification factor twelve, Mr Spock. Mars may not be big on moons or ice, but it sure has interesting geology.
Rash, Not Diaper
Fr Tucker reports on traditantrums in northern Virginia and the blogdom: I think it's totally disproportionate and exaggerated that out of the mountain of emails I've received on the Diocese's two new permissions, almost all of them have to do with altar girls and many of them are rash. I've read through some of the comment boxes on other blogs and found the same pattern. And the diocesan newspaper is the only print media to give equal attention to the far more interesting announcement of the two new Masses in the Old Rite. That's sad. I would also point out the instructive fact that, although the right wing has been very loud and at times quite savage about the altar-girl permission, I have yet to see or hear a single negative comment from the left wing about the permission for the Old Mass. In fact, the only negative comments I've heard about it have come from conservatives.
127,000 Still Waiting
Zenit interviews a priest of the Fall River diocese. It's a good concise history of the issue, not terribly biased. In responding to the question, "Are the laity rising up to defend the Church?" Father Landry raises a challenge of his own: There's also another important way in which the laity needs to rise up. The leaders of Catholic Charities in Boston have defended the decision to place children in same-sex homes because most of the children involved were very difficult to place. In other words, the children had languished in foster care or group home situations for a long time because heterosexual couples had not stepped forward to adopt these generally older children with greater physical, emotional or psychological needs. It's not so much that Catholic Charities was working on an agenda to place kids with same-sex couples; it's that the alternative was for them to remain in foster care or group homes, and Catholic Charities officials, at the time, thought that was worse. I hope that one of the positive effects of this situation will be that Catholic married couples will generously start to step forward in greater numbers to give a loving home to children in these circumstances who have already suffered so much. A few things: My contention remains that foster care and group homes are indeed worse. Landry concedes the preference is given to placement with stable, two-parent homes. I can tell you that preference is given to experienced biological parents. (That was our greatest hurdle in adopting a child.) Demonstrating stability in a relationship is absolutely essential. Adoptions and foster care placements can trigger separations and divorce. Social workers want to be assured that a relationship will stand up to stress. Any SSA couple that adopts a child is going to have to demonstrate stability probably in excess of a married couple with the same number of years together. I'm glad of Landry's challenge to Catholic laity to "defend" bishops by stepping up to the plate and adopting some of these 127,000 kids. I'm still waiting for someone from the Church to bail from the whining about proportionalism. We concede that point theologically and practically on any number of issues: baptizing children of inactive Catholics, going to war, practicing executions, dilly-dallying on support for torture. If the Church wants to refrain from placing children with gays, cohabiting couples, and single parents, that is within the bounds of good sense. But having that Massachusetts opportunity to apply for an exemption in 1993 and not bothering to do so strikes me as more of an administrative blunder than a moral one. As it is, one possible good outcome from this is that Catholics who feel strongly about defending the bishops in this arena will start whittling down those tens-of-thousands of needy children and moving them from the adoptable rolls to the home. This is a prime instance in which the act of charity will speak more about the nature of the Church than the ideological posturing bereft of love.
Three For The Show
We saw a good production of my daughter's favorite musical last night. I find that as I get older I can more easily enjoy youth theatre. We saw the local high school do a very satisfying stage version of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe last month. I find that focusing on the positives allows the best of the creator (and the Creator) to shine through. On this age level, it can be tough to find a quantity of young men to pull off a show with quality. In most high school casts I've seen, the young women--in general--outshine the men on stage. Joseph is such a male-heavy show, but the CYT found guys who were equal to the task. Probably more than equal, in balance. They employed two young women for the narrator role and made good use of that in choreography and music. The young drummer in the pit band was extraordinary. The lead had a good voice and even better stage presence as Joseph. The solo and group numbers by the brothers were really good. Everybody seemed to be having fun--which is the best thing you can tell the young performers to do. My wife commented that the set design, props and costuming were excellent. I'd have to say they were among the best I've seen in community theatre--for any age level. Seen any good shows lately?
Gaudium et Spes 37
Gaudium et Spes 37 discusses the shadow side of progress:
Sacred Scripture teaches the human family what the experience of the ages confirms: that while human progress is a great advantage to man, it brings with it a strong temptation. For when the order of values is jumbled and bad is mixed with the good, individuals and groups pay heed solely to their own interests, and not to those of others. Thus it happens that the world ceases to be a place of true (family). In our own day, the magnified power of humanity threatens to destroy the race itself. Lack of concern for others: the danger of the age. GS frames their analysis of the world's sin as being that of selfishness. Not a direct rebellion against God, necessarily, but a lack of concern for those harmed by selfish actions. Recalling Matthew 22:39, Jesus did equate the two loves as being alike. For a monumental struggle against the powers of darkness pervades the whole history of man. The battle was joined from the very origins of the world and will continue until the last day, as the Lord has attested.(cf. Matt. 24:13; 13:24-30 and 36-43) Caught in this conflict, (humankind) is obliged to wrestle constantly if (it) is to cling to what is good, nor can (it) achieve (its) own integrity without great efforts and the help of God's grace. Always on guard, it seems. I'm struck by the likeness with addiction recovery here. Recovering addicts acknowledge they are still addicts, though in a state of recovery. That is why Christ's Church, trusting in the design of the Creator, acknowledges that human progress can serve (humankind's) true happiness, yet she cannot help echoing the Apostle's warning: "Be not conformed to this world" (Rom. 12:2). Here by the world is meant that spirit of vanity and malice which transforms into an instrument of sin those human energies intended for the service of God and (people). God's will is that human beings find happiness in their own works, but cannot find a purity of contentment outside of God. Hence if anyone wants to know how this unhappy situation can be overcome, Christians will tell (them) that all human activity, constantly imperiled by (human) pride and deranged self-love, must be purified and perfected by the power of Christ's cross and resurrection. For redeemed by Christ and made a new creature in the Holy Spirit, (human beings are) able to love the things themselves created by God, and ought to do so. (They) can receive them from God and respect and reverence them as flowing constantly from the hand of God. Grateful to (their) Benefactor for these creatures, using and enjoying them in detachment and liberty of spirit, (people are) led forward into a true possession of them, as having nothing, yet possessing all things.(cf. 2 Cor. 6:10) "All are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's" (1 Cor. 3:22-23). My reading of this is that the imitation of Christ can always be fruitfully brought into human endeavor. Love and reverence for things can express that quality God desires most strongly from the created world: gratitude. The promise is that detachment, therefore liberty, promotes true possession. I suppose the extreme counterexample is when things begin to possess us by the agency of our own sins. Thoughts?
Gaudium et Spes 36
Gaudium et Spes 36 addresses the common fear that the Church is an agent for the stifling of the human spirit as opposed to a supporter of human endeavor: Now many of our contemporaries seem to fear that a closer bond between human activity and religion will work against the independence of (people), of societies, or of the sciences. As with anything, individual human beings do work to thwart human expression in a sinful way. Some of these human beings reside in the Church, where they may wreak havoc in the name of the same Church. If by the autonomy of earthly affairs we mean that created things and societies themselves enjoy their own laws and values which must be gradually deciphered, put to use, and regulated by (people), then it is entirely right to demand that autonomy. Such is not merely required by modern (humanity), but harmonizes also with the will of the Creator. For by the very circumstance of their having been created, all things are endowed with their own stability, truth, goodness, proper laws and order. (Humankind) must respect these as (it) isolates them by the appropriate methods of the individual sciences or arts. Therefore if methodical investigation within every branch of learning is carried out in a genuinely scientific manner and in accord with moral norms, it never truly conflicts with faith, for earthly matters and the concerns of faith derive from the same God. (cf. First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, Chapter III: Denz. 1785-1186 (3004-3005)) For the skeptic, the Church is in a position to labor to prove its words. The past statement I found interesting on two fronts. First, the notion that aspects of God's creation possess qualities, notably truth. Truth as a philosophical concept or ontological one is a quality of a scientific or artistic aspect of the universe. The obvious scientific item of the past would be the heliocentric model of the universe as championed by Galileo. Of the last century would be the elaboration of Darwin in developing the evolutionary model, and how it applies not only to biological creatures, but cosmology, geology, and perhaps even economics, to mention just a few disciplines. Artistically (and my second point of interest is the pairing of sciences and the arts) one might find that music contains certain truths as well. Religious chant might have an artistic and scientific basis for producing a certain psychological state of mind--a state conducive to prayer. It would be found that other forms of music, aside from Gregorian chant say, would have a comparable or superior effect. That would be a truth, an aspect of God's creation, that would be undeniable. Indeed whoever labors to penetrate the secrets of reality with a humble and steady mind, even though (she or) he is unaware of the fact, is nevertheless being led by the hand of God, who holds all things in existence, and gives them their identity. A consciousness of the agency of God in one's work is not required for such work to be part of God's plan. Consequently, we cannot but deplore certain habits of mind, which are sometimes found too among Christians, which do not sufficiently attend to the rightful independence of science and which, from the arguments and controversies they spark, lead many minds to conclude that faith and science are mutually opposed.(Cf. Msgr. Pio Paschini, Vita e opere di Galileo Galilei, 2 volumes, Vatican Press (1964)) Remember where we found this. But if the expression, the independence of temporal affairs, is taken to mean that created things do not depend on God, and that (humankind) can use them without any reference to their Creator, anyone who acknowledges God will see how false such a meaning is. For without the Creator the creature would disappear. For their part, however, all believers of whatever religion always hear His revealing voice in the discourse of creatures. When God is forgotten, however, the creature itself grows unintelligible. Comments?

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