Sunday, April 30, 2006
Breaking, But Back Thursday
I'll be taking a blogging break for a few days while I'm in Omaha. I trust Neil to hold down the fort if he cares to post anything. Otherwise, behave yourselves, keep the faith, and have fun.
It's been raining all weekend in KC, and my backyard is looking pretty ragged. Friday was supposed to be a day to cut grass, repair the deck from this past Fall's soccer matches, and get rid of a few stray treelings. At the rate things are growing, I may need to see if I can find a good machete in Nebraska.
This is old ground covered here before, but my liturgical colleague Shawn Tribe questions the post-conciliar approach to "active participation" in the liturgy
First he says something with which I can completely agree:
Now it should be noted that, understood correctly, this is a very laudable and important principle. We should indeed desire that all fully take part in the liturgy; we should desire that we are engaged in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, joining our hearts, our minds and our voices to the mystical action occuring before us.
But then he messes up a perfectly good statement with word games:
Some have proposed that the translation of "actuosa" from whence "active" has been derived in our translation, would be better translated "actual". In this sense of being engaged in the sacred liturgy, this re-translation as "actual participation" perhaps makes a great deal more sense and helps clarify the fuller intent of the Council and of participation in the liturgy itself.
This is a tendency to revisionist theology. It's a needless thing, too, for Sacrosanctum Concilium actually goes on to describe and expand upon this principle:
Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.
"Actual" or "active" participation indeed means something, and we don't need to consult a Latin dictionary to get a better sense of what the Council bishops intended:
1. Full awareness
2. Active engagement
3. An experience of enrichment
One comment from NLM:
"The way these words (active participation) are understood in modern life comes down to this: everyone must sing, sing, sing, as much as possible. But what if people don't want to sing? They must be browbeat and harangued and prodded and pushed, coerced even, by a song 'leader' who is paid to tell people what they should do for their own good."
By some understanding, this is true. But by the principle of caritas et amor, we know this is dead, dead, dead wrong. This corrupted authoritarianism was a hallmark of the pre-conciliar Church many Catholics experienced. (It's still with us today in the episcopal response to clergy sex abuse.) And certainly, authority-minded leaders (not just clergy, to be sure) carried over a tradition which should have been discarded with other liturgical accretions and the protection of predators.
I've never thought that the people must "sing, sing, sing." Do people still need formation in good liturgy? Sure they do, but there are ways expressive of caritas et amor
we can apply to get parishes going in a better direction.
The council suggested that the laity should have a full awareness of what's going on. That's why, in part, just about every bishop in the world embraced the use of the vernacular in the period 1963-70, until it became a near-universal practice. The council desired that people experience an active engagement in liturgy--something the bishops weren't seeing in the everyday parish celebrations of the Tridentine Rite. And the Mass should be a source of spiritual enrichment.
There's no denying the Mass before Vatican II wasn't much of this for some Catholics. But the overall situation of the Church led almost each one of 2,000 bishops to state that the liturgy of 1960 was inadequate. Changes came, and in some places, they were done thoughtlessly and ruthlessly. But select parishes, as they did fifty years ago, still work with the Roman Rite to produce something of what the Council wished to see--those three principles of ideal liturgy.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Aquinas on Torture
As we consider the issue of torture, we might find ourselves hesitating when we recall the not insignificant place of torture in the history of the Catholic Church. After Mark Shea composed an article for Crisis arguing that no Catholic could accept torture, a correspondent then wrote, “The huge elephant in our Catholic living room that everyone politely refrains from mentioning is the massive, trimillennial Judeo-Christian tradition that legitimized torture right up until Vatican II” as a means of punishment or extracting information.
I’ve already posted on the inadmissibility of torture, because, very practically, torture seems rather ineffective for information gathering and nearly always entangled with a dark and sadistic strategy of repression through unspeakable cruelty. As William Pfaff has told us, "Torture is intended to produce what, in the military assault on Iraq was called 'shock and awe.' It is meant as intimidation. We will do these terrible things to demonstrate that nothing will stop us from conquering our enemies." Torture is also the expression that "enemies are not simply to be defeated; they are to be annihilated morally as well as physically." And this is plainly immoral. Since I put together that post, I really haven’t read anything to change my estimation. Eric Haney, a retired command sergeant major of the U.S. Army, and a founding member of Delta Force, recently told the LA Daily News, “The only reason anyone tortures is because they like to do it. It's about vengeance, it's about revenge, or it's about cover-up. You don't gain intelligence that way. Everyone in the world knows that.” That said, please read Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ’s letter to the Senate on the prohibition of torture.
Let us try looking at the “huge elephant in our Catholic living room.” I will be drawing from an article by Jordan Bishop in the most recent New Blackfriars, a publication from which I have learned a great deal over the years. Dr Bishop begins by quoting “Law 25” of Pope Innocent IV’s bull Ad extirpanda (1252), which regulated the conduct of the Inquisition in Lombardy, Romagna, and the Marches:
The Podestà or Rector has the authority to oblige all heretics that he may have in his power, without breaking limbs or endangering their lives, to confess their errors and to accuse other heretics whom they may know, as true assassins of souls and thieves of the Sacraments of God and of the Christian faith, and their worldly goods, and believers in their doctrines, those who receive them and defend them, just as robbers and thieves of temporal goods are obliged to accuse their accomplices and confess the evil that they have done.
This would become accepted practice, so that the Italian jurist Passerinus would write in 1677, “In the event that witnesses who are clerics are to be tortured, they must not be tortured under the supervision of a lay judge, but under that of an ecclesiastical judge.”
What happened in 1252? Roman law had been rediscovered in the preceding centuries, and Pope Innocent, as seems evident, was merely allowing the Inquisition to adopt existing secular practice, which involved torturing not only accused persons but also witnesses for the purpose of gathering information. In Roman law, Dr Bishop reminds us, the testimony of those of low status (gladiators, for instance) was actually only accepted if it had first been confirmed by torture. This reliance on torture, strange to us, came in part from the Roman law’s reluctance to convict anyone on the sole basis of circumstantial evidence. As the jurist Passerinus would say, the finding of a naked man in the same bed with a naked woman was not itself grounds for conviction, but could result in the naked parties being reasonably subjected to the torture that would likely result in the confessions that would then lead to a secure conviction.
Torture was, we can say, a well-defined procedure subject to rules. Records were even kept. Torture was also a widely accepted secular practice that was subsequently adopted by the Church. Although I suspect that everyone will agree that Ad extirpanda was lamentable, the present use of torture differs because it is a hidden, secret, and often lawless practice that occurs at a climate of theoretical and official disapproval. And so, the University of Wisconsin history Alfred W. McCoy has written,
As we learned from France's battle for Algiers in the 1950s, Argentina's dirty war in the 1970s, and Britain's Northern Ireland conflict in the 1970s, a nation that harbors torture in defiance of its democratic principles pays a terrible price. Its officials must spin an ever more complex web of lies that, in the end, weakens the bonds of trust that are the sine qua non of any modern society.
That twentieth century story is also our story, even as it does not necessary implicate the medieval Church. Jordan Bishop also cannot say that sadism did not occur during the Middle Ages, but the explicit and legalistic focus on securing evidence might have served to at least somewhat prevent what torture seems to have largely become in our time, a matter of repression through cruelty, or what Naomi Klein has called “a machine designed to break the will to resist – the individual prisoner’s will and the collective will.” As bad as medieval torture was, we can distinguish it from Abu Ghraib.
St Thomas Aquinas is infamous for defending capital punishment for heretics (for a degree of contextualization, see Michael Novak here.) But he says nothing about torture, nor does he cite Ad extirpanda. He does mention Aristotle’s Rhetoric elsewhere, so we can trust that he had read "the Philosopher’s” contention that “evidence under torture is not trustworthy, the fact being that many men whether thick-witted, tough-skinned, or stout of heart endure their ordeal nobly, while cowards and timid men are full of boldness till they see the ordeal of these others: so that no trust can be placed in evidence under torture” (1377a). But Aquinas does give a hint of what he might have said.
St Thomas pronounces that “it is in no way lawful to slay the innocent.” While he does not raise the question of merely injuring the innocent, one can speculate that the answer would be similarly negative. And Dr Bishop writes, “Here, as with Aristotle, there is no question of ‘justifying’ actions otherwise reprehensible on the basis of some greater good.” Very bluntly, then, in the ethics of Aristotle and Aquinas, only the guilty can be subject to punishment, and nothing changes that. Thus, despite what Roman law might allow, witnesses should not be tortured. Nor should the accused be tortured for a confession, because, at the time of torture, there is no real proof of guilt. Even if the judge were privately convinced of the guilt of the accused, he must not treat the accused as already guilty and suitable for punishment, for “his judgment should be based on information acquired by him, not from his knowledge as a private individual, but from what he knows as a public person.” It is entirely possible that Aquinas did not entertain the question of torture because the Summa, as the late Fr Leonard Boyle, OP, informed us, was written for working friars in St Dominic’s Priory in Orvieto to deal with practical issues that might realistically come up in the course of their pastoral work. Aquinas had complained about the “multiplication of useless question, articles, and arguments.” It is possible that his students would not be inquisitors or in any sort of position to challenge a universally accepted practice, so the question was simply irrelevant.
Dr Bishop wonders, “Was this a ‘copout’ on Aquinas’ part? Or was it simply the sad recognition of the impossibility of applying his ethics to this question? One could of course say, qui tacet, consentire videtur – silence indicates consent.” But, whatever the case, it should not be so for us. And, as Dr Bishop also wisely tells us, “both Aristotle and Aquinas provide an ethical infrastructure that is quite clear,” and we should be grateful to them for that. Torture must not be accepted. And if it is a part of our past, we must remember the moving example of the late Pope John Paul II during the Lent of 2000 when he asked pardon for "the violence some have used in the service of the truth." Perhaps this "elephant in our Catholic living room" is not as large as we might think.
Well, what do you think?
Friday, April 28, 2006
Iraq: Now What?
I generally don't blog about politics, but I was struck by a blunt and difficult question Peter Nixon has asked on the Commonweal blog about Iraq: "Now what?" With his characteristic honesty, Peter admitted his own ambivalent feelings regarding an answer, "I opposed the initial war for reasons that will come as no surprise to any of Commonweal’s readers. But once we had destroyed any alternative form of civil order except our own armed forces, I felt we had an obligation to stay and clean up the mess we made. But every time someone at my parish tells me that a child or grandchild is heading off to Iraq, I get angry all over again." I'm sure that many of us can relate.
I don't have a clear answer, but we should recognize Peter's "Now what?" as a moral question. This might not be easy to do. We might dismissively think of the conflict as "Bush's war" and imagine that we have no moral obligations towards the people of Iraq. But, on the other hand our discernment might be affected by a desperate need to cling to certain narratives about America and America's place in the world at any cost, especially as we still find ourselves in the aftermath of September 11 and continue to struggle with unfamiliar feelings of vulnerability. It was on the first anniversary of that horrific event, after all, when President Bush strangely pronounced, "This ideal of America is the hope of all mankind…. That hope still lights our way. And the light shines in the darkness. And the darkness has not overcome it." Our sense of moral obligation might actually become unreasonably inflated if we imagine ourselves to be missionaries.
We might have to struggle against our natural and instinctive isolationism. The freelance writer Christopher Hayes travelled to Dane County, Wisconsin, before the 2004 elections to work for a canvassing operation. He reported that many undecided voters were isolationist, sometimes even because of extraordinarily ugly and derogatory views towards the rest of the world, writing, "Voters I spoke to were concerned about the Iraq war and about securing American interests, but they seemed entirely unmoved by the argument--accepted, in some form or another, by just about everyone in Washington--that the security of the United States is dependent on the freedom and well-being of the rest of the world." To them, the United States was somehow kept apart from the rest of a hopelessly damaged world, and this could justify even the most amoral and violent action whenever necessary for America, because, as they would say about Arabs, "that's the only thing these people understand." But American isolation could also justify simply walking away from the inevitable mess and confusion in a Middle East left to strongmen and fundamentalists, as long as American interests were not threatened, because, well, "that's the only thing these people understand." The only moral obligations that make sense as moral obligations, in such an unfortunate view, relate to American interests.
That said, what are our moral obligations to Iraq?
In response to Peter, Margaret O'Brien Steinfels very helpfully pointed readers to the lengthy transcript of a March conference at Fordham on "The Ethics of Exit: The Morality of Withdrawal From Iraq." I want to provide an excerpt of some comments by the Franciscan theologian Kenneth Himes on the question of “jus post bellum” – a "third category of the just war tradition," namely, “a set of moral norms to govern the way we end war” (I briefly posted about this earlier). Anyone arguing for withdrawal or a continued American presence (or some combination of the two) must explain how his or her position best fulfills a reasonable interpretation of these moral norms. Withdrawal must not be abandonment. But we should not keep our troops in Iraq if they are merely an irritant, just because we can then continue to believe that "this ideal of America is the hope of all mankind." Here is Fr Himes:
St Augustine, one of the founding fathers of [the just war] tradition, argued that people fight wars for the sake of peace, and Augustine saw no contradiction entailed by this assertion. For peace is not simply the absence of conflict, rather it is the establishment of a measure of social harmony that reflects, in the words of Sir Michael Howard, "a political ordering of society that is generally accepted as just."
This positive understanding of peace as more than simply the cessation of armed conflict is what Augustine meant by the expression of tranquillitas ordinis, or an order of tranquility. An order of tranquility is the result of a political community that is rightly and properly ordered, meaning that people live in truth, in freedom and justice directed toward the common good. It is a peace that is within the grasp of human possibility, not just a distant goal for the end time; nor is it the interior peace that is achieved by knowing one's self to be in right relationship with one's Creator. Rather, political peace is the construction of an exterior space through institutions and practices that permit men and women to live together; if not as a community of faith, then at least a properly human community.
Peace that is rightly ordered political community is a noble thing to achieve. This sort of political peace has its counterfeit and inadequate expressions as well. That peace can be counterfeit is testified by the Prophet Ezekiel where he reveals Yahweh's judgment upon those false prophets who misled the people by saying, "Peace where there is no peace." Recall, too, the ancient historian Tacitus' description of how the Britons bitterly described their Roman conquerors. Ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant, they make a desert and call it peace.
There is, in short, a false peace that results from oppression, from fear in the absence of public life. Both history and our contemporary age provide illustrations of a peace unworthy of the name. The risks of creating a false peace; the need to know when to end a conflict; and what must be done in order to secure true peace: all suggest a third dimension of just war reasoning is useful. Recall war, even the most just war, can only remove obstacles to peace. War cannot create peace itself. That comes only after the conflict stops and the hard work of building peace begins.
Besides the meaning of peace, the internal logic of the just war tradition also implies the need for a jus post-bellum. For example, one of the criteria of the jus ad-bellum is reasonable hope of success ... meaning that one ought not go to war if there is little chance of success in achieving the purpose of war.
The just post-bellum criteria: Besides the fundamental obligation to protect life and maintain public order, what else might be expected of an occupying victor in war? Most of those who are riding on the jus post-bellum propose some variation on what is called the "principle of restoration," or a principle of post-conflict assistance. Minimalist renderings of this principle refer to the duty to return to the battlefield and remove the instruments of war: mines, toxic wastes, unused munitions. A stronger reading of the duty is to assist in the reconstruction of basic infrastructure ... electrical grids, essential roads and bridges, water and sewage treatment, basic healthcare systems, food supplies, housing stock.
A maximal reading of the duty would expand basic infrastructure to include not only the material infrastructure of roads and utility plants, but also the human infrastructure for peaceful communal life. Securing domestic peace through protection of civil liberties and human rights will entail organization and training of the police and judiciary so that the necessary social space is created for womena dn men to begin the work of restoring public life. In effect, the maximal rendering of the duty encompasses assistance in the creation of civil society.
Sunday Afternoon With Titan
The Cassini probe
prepares for a close encounter
with the moon Titan this weekend. The target is a region called Xanadu. Scientists won't find either Kubla Khan or Olivia Newton-John there. But they're not quite sure just what they will find. Radar will hopefully settle a basic question: Is it a highland area or a large basin? At the moment we only have shades of infra-red radiation and the most basic of earth-based radar inklings.
Another patch of the Titan surface will be brought into clearer focus after this weekend. You might ask why Cassini doesn't go into orbit. Why settle for these bitty strips of radar clarity? The main reason is fuel, or lack thereof.
Cassini will be passing this moon at a relative speed of 13,200 mph on Sunday afternoon. That would be enough to orbit the earth a few thousand miles up. But Titan's gravity is about one-fourth that of earth, so that speed would need to be reduced by 75% for Cassini to have a chance of achieving orbit.
The probe already burned off an hour and a half of fuel two years ago when it entered Saturn orbit
. Getting something into space always involves a trade-off of fuel versus payload. The more fuel a mission carries, the more maneuvering possibilities exist. That option means fewer scientific experiments.
Even if Cassini could make Titan orbit, it's not likely it could ever leave the moon again to continue to explore the other sights in the Saturn system. Given the excitement at Enceladus
, I'm not sure the mission planners would commit to a Titan orbit, even if they could.
The primary mission is planned to conclude in Summer 2008, after 76 orbits of Saturn and dozens of close fly-bys of Titan and other moons. Engineers have floated various ideas in the event (pretty likely) that the probe is still functioning well and that NASA will keep things afloat with more funding. One idea is to use Titan's thick atmosphere to slow Cassini as it passes. This presents some challenges:
Slowing down in an atmosphere means that velocity is traded for friction. And friction raises the heat. Come in way too fast too soon and Cassini will burn up. Come in a little too fast and maybe something gets damaged. If it takes too long to set up the right approaches for aerobraking, Cassini may run out of maneuvering fuel before the target orbit is achieved.
My guess is that scientists will keep using fly-bys of Titan to tweak the orbit of the spacecraft. They can be patient and gradually complete fly-overs of unknown surface while they aim Cassini back to the interesting targets of Enceladus and Iapetus.
Gaudium et Spes 48
continues its treament of marriage and family issues, first by reinforcing the principle that marriage is a permanent covenant:
The intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, and is rooted in the jugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent. Hence by that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other a relationship arises which by divine will and in the eyes of society too is a lasting one. For the good of the spouses and their off-springs as well as of society, the existence of the sacred bond no longer depends on human decisions alone. For, God Himself is the author of matrimony, endowed as it is with various benefits and purposes.(Cf. St. Augustine, De Bene coniugali PL 40, 375-376 and 394, St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, Suppl. Quaest. 49, art. 3 ad 1, Decretum pro Armenis: Denz.-Schoen. 1327; Pius XI, encyclical letter Casti Connubii: AAS 22 (1930, pp. 547-548; Denz.-Schoen. 3703-3714.)
And what may go without saying, namely that the permanence of marriage contributes in a positive way to the health of human society:
All of these have a very decisive bearing on the continuation of the human race, on the personal development and eternal destiny of the individual members of a family, and on the dignity, stability, peace and prosperity of the family itself and of human society as a whole.
The end result is not just procreation, but the formation of children:
By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown.
Sifting through this entire teaching, note some important qualities of a marriage:
Thus a man and a woman, who by their compact of conjugal love "are no longer two, but one flesh" (Matt. 19:ff), render mutual help and service to each other through an intimate union of their persons and of their actions. Through this union they experience the meaning of their oneness and attain to it with growing perfection day by day. As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable oneness between them.(Cf. Pius XI, encyclical letter Casti Connubii: AAS 22 (1930), pp. 546-547; Denz.-Schoen. 3706.)
This is what struck me:
- The sexual act is not only unitive and an expression of union, but it also serves as an act of service.
- Non-sexual acts also strive for these values of union and service.
- The marriage relationship is a progressive one in that the Church recognizes that newly married persons--generally speaking--have a lesser degree of perfection in their relationship. Growth is an expected value for a marriage, but how often is such a value emphasized or encouraged?
Christ the Lord abundantly blessed this many-faceted love, welling up as it does from the fountain of divine love and structured as it is on the model of His union with His Church.
Historically speaking, this is a difficult statement. Marriage, as founded by God through human biology and affirmed in the Old Testament, predates the model of Christ's union with the Church. Unless the Church is saying there is some sacramental aspect added to the nature of marriage. But it would seem the unitive dimension predates the sacramental founding.
For as God of old made Himself present(Cf. Hos 2; Jer. 3:6-13; Ezech. 16 and 23; Is. 54.) to His people through a covenant of love and fidelity, so now the Savior of men and the Spouse(Cf. Matt. 9: 15; Mark 2: 19-20; Luke 5:34-35; John 3:29; Cf. also 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:27; Apoc. 19:7-8; 21:2 and 9.) of the Church comes into the lives of married Christians through the sacrament of matrimony. He abides with them thereafter so that just as He loved the Church and handed Himself over on her behalf,(Cf. Eph. 5:25.) the spouses may love each other with perpetual fidelity through mutual self-bestowal.
There is an authenticity for which couples strive, a grace which provides for the parenting of children:
Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ's redeeming power and the saving activity of the Church, so that this love may lead the spouses to God with powerful effect and may aid and strengthen them in sublime office of being a father or a mother.(Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 15-16; 40-41; 47.)
Parenthood defined as an "office."
For this reason Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state.(Pius XI, encyclical letter Casti Connubii: AAS 22 (1930), p. 583.) By virtue of this sacrament, as spouses fulfil their conjugal and family obligation, they are penetrated with the spirit of Christ, which suffuses their whole lives with faith, hope and charity. Thus they increasingly advance the perfection of their own personalities, as well as their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God.
Interesting phrase: "a kind of consecration." As with the Eucharist, one earthly goal of marriage is sanctification of the faithful. The other goal, that of the worship of God, is alluded to in that phrase referring to the couple's contribution to the glorification of God.
We're given a practical snapshot of what this looks like:
As a result, with their parents leading the way by example and family prayer, children and indeed everyone gathered around the family hearth will find a readier path to human maturity, salvation and holiness. Graced with the dignity and office of fatherhood and motherhood, parents will energetically acquit themselves of a duty which devolves primarily on them, namely education and especially religious education.
This is very interesting: the grace of the sacrament of marriage extends beyond the biological family. And we also have a confirmation that the primary duty of religious education is with parents, not clergy, not catechists.
The child has a role:
As living members of the family, children contribute in their own way to making their parents holy. For they will respond to the kindness of their parents with sentiments of gratitude, with love and trust. They will stand by them as children should when hardships overtake their parents and old age brings its loneliness.
And the death of a spouse is seen not as a separate state, but as a continuation of the marriage sacrament.
Widowhood, accepted bravely as a continuation of the marriage vocation, should be esteemed by all.(Cf. 1 Tim. 5:3.)
Don't look now, but "caring and sharing" rears its face:
Families too will share their spiritual riches generously with other families. Thus the Christian family, which springs from marriage as a reflection of the loving covenant uniting Christ with the Church,(Cf. Eph. 5:32.) and as a participation in that covenant, will manifest to all (people) Christ's living presence in the world, and the genuine nature of the Church. This the family will do by the mutual love of the spouses, by their generous fruitfulness, their solidarity and faithfulness, and by the loving way in which all members of the family assist one another.
Instead of the flimsy argument "divorce is bad," we get a positive treatment of the sacrament of marriage, and reasons to reinforce the intended permanence of marriage. It's no wonder that millions of Catholic American marriages struggle, given the privatized notions of both sacramental awareness and the cultural setting in which they wed.
Lots more discussion on these points. Anybody want to try?
Thursday, April 27, 2006
The Ecumenical Patriarch's Paschal Proclamation
I wonder if you have had a chance to read Patriarch Bartholomew's proclamation for this year. I thought that the following excerpt was particularly arresting:
Life is risen! Christ is Risen! And we bear witness to His Resurrection not only by offering rational arguments and proofs but rather by living our lives in accordance with the Resurrection. Only then does our witness become credible, when the Resurrected Christ lives within us, when our entire being radiates the joy, certainty and peace of the Resurrection.
Certainly, our lives and the life of our natural environment remain threatened by death. We do not mean here decay and deterioration in the biological sense, but rather those types of death and destruction brought about suddenly, in cruel and violent ways; ways that challenge our conscience, trivialize the human person, and mangle the beauty of nature.
We mean, among other things, that death which puts an end to human life before it even has the chance to see the light of the sun.
We mean those countless children, who lose their lives because of poverty, hunger, the lack of even the most basic medicine, the cruelty of those who have the power to do but who do not do what is necessary to save these children, the impudence of the exploiters and corrupters of children’s innocence.
We mean the victims of daily acts of violence, of religious, nationalistic, and racial clashes, as well as the victims of fanaticism and war. Such acts are callously and uncaringly carried out by those who turn deaf ears to humanity’s call for the end of hostilities and the establishment of peace throughout the world.
Finally, we mean the plundering of the natural environment by human beings who, driven by greed and the lust for profit, violently and cunningly subordinate and exploit it. Such conduct not only distorts the beauty of creation given by its Creator but also undermines the foundations and conditions necessary for the survival of future generations.
We mean, in short, those types of life that bear signs of death, be they spiritual or moral, the consequences of disordered passions and errors, deprivation or greed, the trivialization and oppression of life.
In this power and joy of the Resurrection of Christ, we respect the life of our fellow human beings. We call for an end to the killing of one another, and we denounce the violence and fanaticism that threatens life. The victory of the Resurrection must be experienced as a victory of life, of brotherhood, of the future, of hope.
“So that you may be perfect and complete”:
Reading the Epistle of James
I would like to look more closely at the Epistle of James. I hope that doesn’t sound so strange that I have to justify myself by suggesting some sort of usefulness for an immediate controversy. To be sure, what might first come to mind is an apologetic usefulness for Catholics, as we remember that Luther called the letter a “right strawy epistle.” And the letter does say that “faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jm 2:17). But I really don’t have any particular usefulness in mind. Luther is a good place to start, but this is because he raises provocative questions for our reading of the epistle. Why doesn’t the epistle mention the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? And how do we deal with the perception that it seems “kein Ordo noch Methodus” (“without order or method”)? At the very least, I will try to give an explicit answer to the second question. Perhaps the answer to the first question will be implicit.
I might begin by pointing out that there has been a great deal of recent research on the once neglected epistle for a number of reasons, including a welcome reconsideration of the relationship of Christianity and Judaism and the introduction of new exegetical approaches. Compared to its richness, this might seem very flat indeed. I will be indebted throughout to an article by the Carmelite priest Huub Welzen of the Titus Brandsma Institute (“The Way of Perfection: Spirituality in the Letter of James,” Studies in Spirituality 13 ).
That being said, we can begin our search for “Ordo” and “Methodus” in the epistle by first identifying it as wisdom literature. Wisdom, says Fr Welzen, is attained when we not only act according to the law, but also begin to appropriate it to become one with the law. The truly wise person, then, fulfills the aptly named “royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Jm 2:8). The epistle will go on to say, “Whoever keeps the whole law, but falls short in one particular, has become guilty in respect to all of it” (Jm 2:10), sounding very much like the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:19). Demanding, yes? This “becoming one with the law” would be depressingly impossible if wisdom were not a gift “from above” (Jm 3:17). Fr Welzen reminds us, “Wisdom is a gift from God; it is the opposite of all human wisdom and it turns the humble, poor and simple-minded into wise people.” The Epistle of James consists of the practical maxims and proverbs that are very much part of the Jewish Wisdom tradition – inclduing the teachings of Jesus Christ preserved in the Gospel of Matthew – so that we might really receive this wisdom “from above” through faith.
But we must be cautious. If we listen to the epistle, we will become aware of two paths that we might follow, which, when we happen upon trials, can lead us to either perfection or death itself. The very first Psalm poetically spoke of these two ways, “The Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Ps 1:6). We can also recognize this bifurcation from the Gospels. One way is marked by the wisdom that is a gift “from above.” Faith is tested, but this only leads to perseverance. “And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jm 1:5). The other way begins with desire, the Jamesian counterpart to the Pauline “flesh” (Rom 7:5), which, when we are faced with trials, “conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death” (Jm 1:15). How do we know whether we have received wisdom or are simply imprisoned within the funhouse of our own desires? We must go through the trial. This is discernment. We hold ourselves up to the light of truth and ask with honesty whether we really are peaceable and gentle, try to recognize whether the origin of our behavior is wisdom or selfish desire, and strive to remain faithful while purifying ourselves in the midst of our trials, trusting that the reality of who we are will unfailingly emerge as we are sifted by them.
To be honest, the picture of these diametrically opposed paths might seem rather disheartening. For many of us, “perfection” is but the prelude to despair, as we realize that we cannot immediately morph ourselves into St Francis (or even fulfill our mothers’ expectations) by a sheer act of will. What does James mean by “perfection”? The epistle’s use of teleos ("perfect") may refer to the moral perfection in Stoic theory, but probably also reflects the Septuagint’s translation of the Hebrew tamim. Tamim described the wholeness and unblemished quality in sacrificial animals, but also quite naturally indicated a similarly whole and unblemished relationship with God. Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (teleos)” (Mt 5:48), telling us that this perfection must be preceded by an experience of the perfect Father. James also suggests that an experience of the Father’s perfection must come first, for “all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (Jm 1:17). We are then drawn to mirror God’s perfection in our own lives. “But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does” (Jm 1:23). We begin with faith and go from there.
Perhaps we shy away from perfection because we assume that it should be within our grasp from the very start, and we then head quickly into despair when it clearly is not. We forget that the beginning of our spiritual journey is meant to be marked by the “fear of God,” since, after all, “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov 9:10). Perfection refers to the end. But, of course, the end is already there in the beginning. As the Carmelite friar Kees Waaijman, also of the Titus Brandsma Institute, writes, “Perfection (tmm) is completely contained already in our original integrity, integrity which via a process of gradual growth blossoms into the complete surrender which is the hallmark of perfection (Isa 18:5; Prov 20:7; Ps 18:26).” And there truly always must be a dynamism in our spiritual journey that continually bears fruits, even in the midst of trials.
James outlines some of these trials. We are tempted by double-mindedness. We are tempted by class distinctions, foolishly clinging to transitory things because of a residual fear of the powerlessness of death. James reminds us that, despite our desperate measures, “The sun comes up with its scorching heat and dries up the grass, its flower droops, and the beauty of its appearance vanishes” (Jm 1:9). We must struggle against our wild tongues. Finally, we must struggle against our passions. James writes about the latter, “You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (Jm 4:1-3). How much of this describes our own present reality, even within the Church? As we move towards perfection, we must remember to practice discernment in the midst of all these trials, focusing on how our spiritual orientation manifests itself “in the things one actually does.”
To put it bluntly, none of us is perfect. But this is not cause for despair. James is speaking “from the point of view of the end.” Perfection is eschatological. What does this mean? Fr Welzen says, “We have to take into serious consideration that the perfection James wishes to point us towards will ultimately remain outside the scope of our lives.” This does not mean that we give up, but rather that we continue to pursue “the crown of life that he promised to those who love him” (Jm 1:12) more selflessly, trusting God’s promise without looking for its fulfillment as a reward for anything we might accomplish in the here and now, even as we see anticipations when we recognize ourselves as more “peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity” (Jm 3:17).
How do you read the epistle?
Zenit has a quote
from liturgy head Cardinal Francis Arinze. I've lost track of the Catholic bloggers who have written books or set up sites to debunk the book/movie. I saw the trailer on tv last night. My wife remarked, "I'd like to see that movie." Before you start accusing my wife of being a gnostic heretic, let me say two things:
1. She likes thrillers
2. While she herself could debunk the silly notion of Jesus and Mary Magdalen having children, she doesn't think that the film will be damaging to her faith and would go for reason #1.
Personally, I think it's a book ... er, a movie. I don't think JRR Tolkien convinced anyone that the Earth used to be flat. Dan Brown is an author of fiction. I can probably pick apart three-fourths of the science fiction literary universe for propounding science errors. But it's just fiction.
People are getting fooled, some have argued, into thinking the Catholic Church is something it's not.
Well ... people will believe what they want to believe. Especially when the story is credible. And sad to say, the Catholic bishops of the world have painted themselves into a corner in which conspiracy theories are more than a little believable.
I bought this book
for my parish. But there's been very little buzz about book, movie, or the need for decoding in my parish circles. We might offer a course in New Testament Greek, though. First Divine Mercy, now language studies: what will be left for the conservatives to complain about
More On Lagging
I unearthed some information on my diocese's non-compliance
regarding chld sexual abuse prevention. My theory was correct that a final child education component was left for the new bishop and his staff.
A friend who sat on a committee in 2005 said they did make a recommendation for a VIRTUS program. But at least one diocesan school official thought some of the material was not age-appropriate for younger children. The final choice wasn't communicated till September, and even at that point, the diocese had yet to order materials. Apparently, when the idea was floated to the parish DRE's that they'd need to schedule a parent night before the end of December, the whole thing was rightly judged a ridiculous rush.
That's why the diocese declined to comply even though they could have insisted parishes work with that timetable. Instead, the VIRTUS choice has been tossed, and a new committee has formed to reexamine available materials.
The administrative bungling doesn't inspire confidence, but I can tell you the new diocesan official in charge of the program seems to mean business.
South to north: pastel salmon to yellow to blue. Saturn appears calmer than Jupiter because of cooler temperatures at cloud tops. The blue clouds in the northern hemisphere are thought to be a winter phenomenon. Saturn's axial tilt is a little more than earth's, but the 29.5 year rotational period means an earth-equivalent winter longer than seven years. Still not up to the white witch's standards, but long enough.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Another Family Grouping at Planet VI
From left to right, Janus, Enceladus, and Tethys. In order, they're notable for shepherding the outer edge of Saturn's main ring system, ice geysers at the south pole, and the Ithaca Chasma, which appears as a wide crack near the sunset line of the largest of these moons.
My diocese made the front page
of the local paper today under the headline of "Diocese lagging on safety measure."
Only 11.5 percent of the dioceses — including Kansas City-St. Joseph — were not in full compliance. Diocesan officials said they were working to correct the problem.
My friend the VG was quoteworthy.
“Our diocese has made a sincere commitment to take every step and every precaution to ensure that children are safe in church programs,” Vicar General Robert Murphy said in a statement.
Murphy said that when diocesan officials learned of the auditors’ findings, they were told that they could receive a full-compliance rating by implementing a program by the end of 2005, but officials decided to wait.
“After careful consideration, we wanted to put more time and effort into evaluating available programs, talking with child-development specialists and selecting the best program to meet the needs of our children,” Murphy said. “I’ve assembled a team of parents, educators, counselors and parish staff members to help us preview programs.”
SNAP was unimpressed:
“They’ve had four years, and almost every other diocese in America did this long ago,” said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “What on earth is more important for a scandal-ridden church than to teach kids how to protect themselves, and grown-ups how to spot abuse?”
Yes and no. We've gotten word from the diocese within the past month to tighten up the paperwork on some adult volunteers. I've had one parishioner upset with me about "insinuations." I explained there's a reality at work here:
Admittedly, dioceses want to minimize future legal impact. If parishes and their volunteers are indeed compliant, then it will also be easier to zero in on actual predators on the rare occasions they will be successful.
To my knowledge, no abuse prevention program has been specifically composed for the Church. If you're involved with a child abuse prevention program at your parish or diocese, it's likely something devised years ago. The Church isn't targeting only priests for preventative measures. Most adult awareness programs prepare volunteers and staff to be on the outlook for suspicious behavior, not particular individuals or classes of individuals.
Regarding child education, again, the emphasis is on encouraging the child to avoid situations in which he or she is endangered. I've heard Catholics complain and I've read about complaints that lay volunteers, teachers, lay staff, and even parents and family members themselves are targeted for possible suspicion. Well, yes and no.
The programs I've seen or participated in all teach people to be watchful for suspicious behavior. And the sad reality is that more parents abuse children than priests.
But Clohessy is right that four years is sufficient time for compliance. I suspect the previous administration left these aspects with the new bishop. I don't have any doubt about the eventual compliance in child education efforts. But let's not forget that the firestorm of dismay and anger in 2002 was due to bishops, not sex predators. The latter we'd known about for decades. The extent of the cover-up in some dioceses was the graver scandal. And sadly, that scandal casts its shadow of suspicion over bishops who might well be entirely innocent. We're not yet at the point where a bishop--any bishop--can come forward and say, "We've solved the problem." The Missouri approach remains in effect across the board, even in Lincoln: Show Me.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Referral to a Friend
Please check out my friend Michael's web page
. He's an outstanding musician, and a deeply spiritual man: just an all-around good guy. His 2-disk set Virtues
is available, and I'd recommend it.
Peter Nixon brings three pieces to our attention in a dotCommonweal post entitled "The Vineyard of Parish Life."
"(T)he similarities (between thriving parishes): the stress on making a personal decision for Christ and the importance of lay leadership. In an American Catholic culture increasingly characterized by religious voluntarism, those are probably critical tools for building vibrant parish life."
If you haven't checked out this blog
, please take your earliest opportunity to do so.
I get energized reading features like this. I have more of a sense that ever before that my parish is about to turn a significant corner.
Star Trek Resuscito
The movie franchise Star Trek getting resuscitated in two years, according to lots of people online. Going back to Kirk and Company: The Academy Years, from what I've read. Maybe that'll work, though I think heading a bit more into the future beyond Picard would be worthwhile.
I have this to say:
1. Find a good writer because its about story, story, and nothing but story.
2. Find good actors, not SF stiffs.
The apex of Star Trek was the final five years of the Next Generation
. The movies? Mostly forget about them. The latter incarnations of Star Trek failed not because they left beloved characters behind, but that the writing failed to live up to prior expectations. The first year of classic Trek
(and some of the second) was also very well written. Voyager
had their moments, but not enough of them.
But of course, this is about generating profit for Paramount. As long as they keep thinking like Ferengi, they'll have about as much success as this dude had crashing a Betazed picnic.
Saturn's E Ring
Enceladus, moon of Saturn, has active geysers pounding ice particles into Saturn orbit from reservoirs just under the surface. They form the E Ring, captured here in an image with two of Saturn's smaller moons.
You're seeing the ring edge-on in this image above. Notice the dark band in the middle? That's the plane of the Saturn system, otherwise described as that imaginary flat surface directly over the planet's equator. Most of Saturn's inner moons and all of its rings orbit in the plane. Why might that dark band appear here? The Cassini web page describes it
One possible explanation is that all the E ring particles come from the plume of icy material that is shooting due south out of the moon's pole. This means all of the particles are created with a certain velocity out of the ringplane, and then they orbit above and below that plane.
For the E Ring to have a pronounced "gap" would mean that Enceladus geysers have been at that moon's south pole for some time. If eruptions of ice were random across the surface (as Io's volcanoes are) the E Ring would be fuzzy (as it is) but without a dark band in the middle.
Of course, scientists must date the age of the E Ring. That will help them assess how long geysers have been spouting off on that little moon.
Gaudium et Spes 47
Gaudium et Spes
47 begins a chapter titled, "Fostering the Nobility of Marriage and the Family." This section sets the table for what will follow in this chapter.
The well-being of the individual person and of human and Christian society is intimately linked with the healthy condition of that community produced by marriage and family. Hence Christians and all (people) who hold this community in high esteem sincerely rejoice in the various ways by which (people) today find help in fostering this community of love and perfecting its life, and by which parents are assisted in their lofty calling. Those who rejoice in such aids look for additional benefits from them and labor to bring them about.
The Council realizes the positive influence marriage has for the individual and for society. Some of these aspects are spiritual, but not all. What I find missing from Church sources is the recognition of changes in society. And I don't mean the external movements detrimental to marriage. I'm not sure some of the Church's marriage thinkers have moved beyond the Catholic village mentality: extended family and the reinforcement of a Catholic culture amongst married couples.
What is needed is the development of alternatives to the "Catholic village" for married couples, especially young marrieds.
Yet the excellence of this institution is not everywhere reflected with equal brilliance, since polygamy, the plague of divorce, so-called free love and other disfigurements have an obscuring effect. In addition, married love is too often profaned by excessive self-love, the worship of pleasure and illicit practices against human generation. Moreover, serious disturbances are caused in families by modern economic conditions, by influences at once social and psychological, and by the demands of civil society. Finally, in certain parts of the world problems resulting from population growth are generating concern.
I think these disturbances need to be recognized and evaluated. These would pile in on top of the massive cultural shifts in the Western world in the past century. Note that GS lists economic conditions immediately after the Catholic favorite, "illicit practices against human generation."
All these situations have produced anxiety of consciences. Yet, the power and strength of the institution of marriage and family can also be seen in the fact that time and again, despite the difficulties produced, the profound changes in modern society reveal the true character of this institution in one way or another.
Despite these cultural problems and direct attacks, marriage retains high attractiveness as a vocation. That is a testament to our human constitution. I think it also bodes well for the sacramental aspect of marriage.
Therefore, by presenting certain key points of Church doctrine in a clearer light, this sacred synod wishes to offer guidance and support to those Christians and other (people) who are trying to preserve the holiness and to foster the natural dignity of the married state and its superlative value.
This presumption is an important one. We want to assume that married people want to succeed in their adventure. We want them to discover what is "superlative" about the married state.
Benedict on Discernment
You can't help but love this guy and his approach. I think Serra Clubs and other vocations-concerned groups would do well to listen more to what the pope and other good priests say about their inspiration. Zenit posted part 2
of a transcript of a Q&A session with young people and the pope.
One person inquires:
Can you tell us how you yourself came to understand your vocation? Can you give us some advice so that we can really understand whether the Lord is calling us to follow him in the consecrated or priestly life? Thank you.
Benedict XVI replies:
As for me, I grew up in a world very different from the world today, but in the end situations are similar.
On the one hand, the situation of "Christianity" still existed, where it was normal to go to church and to accept the faith as the revelation of God, and to try to live in accordance with his revelation; on the other, there was the Nazi regime which loudly stated: "In the new Germany there will be no more priests, there will be no more consecrated life, we do not need these people; look for another career."
However, it was precisely in hearing these "loud" voices, in facing the brutality of that system with an inhuman face, that I realized that there was instead a great need for priests.
This contrast, the sight of that anti-human culture, confirmed my conviction that the Lord, the Gospel and the faith were pointing out the right path, and that we were bound to commit ourselves to ensuring that this path survives. In this situation, my vocation to the priesthood grew with me, almost naturally, without any dramatic events of conversion.
Two other things also helped me on this journey: Already as a boy, helped by my parents and by the parish priest, I had discovered the beauty of the liturgy, and I came to love it more and more because I felt that divine beauty appears in it and that heaven unfolds before us.
The second element was the discovery of the beauty of knowledge, of knowing God and sacred Scripture, thanks to which it is possible to enter into that great adventure of dialogue with God which is theology. Thus, it was a joy to enter into this 1,000-year-old work of theology, this celebration of the liturgy in which God is with us and celebrates with us.
Of course, problems were not lacking. I wondered if I would really be able to live celibacy all my life. Being a man of theoretical and not practical training, I also knew that it was not enough to love theology in order to be a good priest, but that it was also necessary to be always available to young people, the elderly, the sick and the poor: the need to be simple with the simple.
Theology is beautiful, but the simplicity of words and Christian life is indispensable. And so I asked myself: Will I be able to live all this and not be one-sided, merely a theologian, etc.?
However, the Lord helped me and the company of friends, of good priests and teachers especially helped me.
I print only part of the youth's question, but all of Benedict's reply. I think the pope's answer reveals a multivalent and wise reflection on his own calling. In sum:
1. External opposition is a grave concern, but in the face of a well-discerned path, it is irrelevant to the journey of faith.
2. As a young person, Benedict was moved by the beauty of liturgy. That factor cannot be discounted in developing believers with a strong Christian sensibility. Ignore liturgy and one might as well ignore the future.
3. Benedict was aware his initial attraction (his infatuation, if you will) with beauty (in liturgy and of the intellect) was insufficient compared to the need for a mentality of service. That strikes me as quite apt for the married state as well. One can love the things of marriage, the external movements and expressions of a coupled life, but without a sensibility of service, sacrifice, and deliberate choice, the initial feelings will wither.
4. The pope also credits the guidance of a community: friends, priests, and teachers
Then he concludes with a neat reflection on the need for a believer to be attentive to God, to approach one's relationship with Christ as that of friendship, to balance the needful virtues (knowing when to be bold, when to be receptive). Lastly, I can't help but sense that Pope Benedict sees it all as an inspring adventure. With a playfulness like that, who would not want to pick up one's cross and walk Christ's path?
To return to the question, I think it is important to be attentive to the Lord's gestures on our journey. He speaks to us through events, through people, through encounters: It is necessary to be attentive to all of this.
Then, a second point, it is necessary to enter into real friendship with Jesus in a personal relationship with him and not to know who Jesus is only from others or from books, but to live an ever deeper personal relationship with Jesus, where we can begin to understand what he is asking of us.
And then, the awareness of what I am, of my possibilities: On the one hand, courage, and on the other, humility, trust and openness, with the help also of friends, of Church authority and also of priests, of families: What does the Lord want of me?
Of course, this is always a great adventure, but life can be successful only if we have the courage to be adventurous, trusting that the Lord will never leave me alone, that the Lord will go with me and help me.
Monday, April 24, 2006
Gaudium et Spes 46
Section 46 begins part II of Gaudium et Spes
, treating "some problems of special urgency," as the title describes.
This council has set forth the dignity of the human person, and the work which (people) have been destined to undertake throughout the world both as individuals and as members of society. There are a number of particularly urgent needs characterizing the present age, needs which go to the roots of the human race. To a consideration of these in the light of the Gospel and of human experience, the council would now direct the attention of all.
Of the many subjects arousing universal concern today, it may be helpful to concentrate on these:
- marriage and the family, (sections 47-52)
- human progress, (literally, sections 53-62 treat "The Proper Development of Culture")
- life in its economic, social and political dimensions, (sections 63-76)
- the bonds between the family of nations, and peace. (sections 77-93)
On each of these may there shine the radiant ideals proclaimed by Christ. By these ideals may Christians be led, and all (humankind) enlightened, as they search for answers to questions of such complexity.
We'll see how it works out.
Looking for Helpers
Getting away from the parish for a few days: I'll be heading to Omaha with some diocesan colleagues next Monday for planning meetings for the FDLC (Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions) Meeting next Fall in Omaha
Have you ever been to an FDLC meeting? I went once, Pittsburgh in 1990. Usually it's diocesan directors who get to go. That year in Rockford, Illinois, we didn't have a director, so four of us from the diocesan liturgical commission pooled resources (some diocesan, some personal) and attended. It was an eye-opener. And let me just leave it at that.
My suspicion on this meeting in Omaha is that the regional planners are looking for helpers for the convention. They might get that from me, but I'm also hoping to pick up some rumblings from the liturgical establishment. Just today, I've heard two items that might make some St Bloggers sizzle.
First, it appears that the Memorial Acclamation A "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again" will be returned to the latest ICEL translation.
Also, a movement is afoot in American liturgical circles to suggest a "grandfather clause" for hymns and songs not quite in theological compliance with Liturgiam Authenticam, but which have some attachment in popular circles. In other words, all the songs you love to hate won't be banned. Reason given: you won't make as much of a fuss about them as the people who really like them.
If I hear any juicy bits in Nebraska, I'll pass them along. Isn't it cool to know someone in the know?
Seeking to Understand the Whole Person: Brother Roger
I have been reading Brother Roger of Taizé: Essential Writings, edited by Marcello Fidanzio (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2006). Here are two excerpts that I hope you will find edifying:
More often than ever before young people ask me, "What is the most beautiful thing in your life?" Without hesitating I reply: first of all the common prayer, and in it, the long periods of silence. Then, immediately after that, the most beautiful thing in my life is this: when I am talking with someone alone, to perceive the whole human being, marked by a tragedy or by being torn apart within, and at the same time by the irreplaceable gifts through which the life of God in that person is able to bring everything to fulfillment.
It is essential to try to comprehend the whole person, by means of a few words or attitudes rather than by lengthy attempts at explanation. It is not enough simply to share what assaults a person within. It is even more vital to search for that special gift of God, the pivot of their whole existence. Once this gift (or gifts) has been brought to light, roads forward lie open.
No dwelling on the knots, failures, and conflicting forces; thousands of reasons for them can always be found. Move on as quickly as possible to the essential: uncovering the unique gift, the talents entrusted to every human being, intended not to lie buried but to be brought to full life in God.
The most beautiful thing in my life? I could go on forever: those rare occasions when I suddenly find myself free to drop everything and go out ... walking for hours and conversing in the streets of some great city ... sharing a meal with guests round a table ...
- A Life We Never Dared Hope For, 65
September 4, 1974
When I was young, at a time when Europe was torn apart by so many conflicts, I kept on asking myself: Why all these confrontations? Why do so many people, even Christians, condemn one another out of hand? And I wondered: is there, on this earth, a way of reaching complete understanding of others? Then came a day - I can still remember the date, and I could describe the place: the subdued light of a late summer evening, darkness settling over the countryside - a day when I made a decision. I said to myself, if this way does exist, begin with yourself and resolve to understand every person fully. That day, I was certain the vow I had made was for life. It involved nothing less than returning again and again, my whole life long, to this irrevocable decision: seek to understand all, rather than to be understood.
- (Journal entry) The Wonder of a Love
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Music + Physics
NPR's Science Friday looked at the Physics of Music
last week. I missed the show, but I'm hoping to listen in sometime this week. It's a great topic; a close friend took an undergrad seminar in it back in the late 70's. Scientific American published a series of articles on the topic around that time.
Now lots of places offer such a course, including my source
for this geeky-looking diagram.
Gaudium et Spes 45
Section 45 concludes Part I of Gaudium et Spes.
While helping the world and receiving many benefits from it, the Church has a single intention: that God's kingdom may come, and that the salvation of the whole human race may come to pass. For every benefit which the People of God during its earthly pilgrimage can offer to the human family stems from the fact that the Church is "the universal sacrament of salvation",(cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Chapter II n. 15: AAS 57 (1965), p. 20.) simultaneously manifesting and a rising the mystery of God's love.
The Church confesses its agenda: the coming Kingdom of God. GS also confesses a Christo-centric core:
For God's Word, by whom all things were made, was Himself made flesh so that as perfect (human being) He might save all (human beings) and sum up all things in Himself. The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the center of the human race, the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings.(cf. Paul VI, address given on Feb. 3, 1965.) He it is Whom the Father raised from the dead, lifted on high and stationed at His right hand, making Him judge of the living and the dead. Enlivened and united in His Spirit, we journey toward the consummation of human history, one which fully accords with the counsel of God's love: "To reestablish all things in Christ, both those in the heavens and those on the earth" (Eph. 11:10).
The Lord Himself speaks: "Behold I come quickly And my reward is with me, to render to each one according to his works. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Acts;. 22;12-13).
The focus on Christ seems pretty clear, especially in concluding the lengthy first part of this document.
"I Trust In You"
So, how were your Divine Mercy
observances? Cardinal Sean had dozens of times our numbers, But he had rain, too.
The National Shrine had a double-dip of cardinalature
We had a deacon. But the music was very fine.
Here's a quick order of service from progressiveland:
- Opening Hymn
- Incensation of the Divine Mercy image
- Psalm 145 (the setting I composed for my brother's wedding)
- Adoration begun with O Salutaris Hostia (chant setting)
- Ten minutes of silence
- Glorious Mysteries
- some of the Divine Mercy prayers
- meditation song by my friend Michael
Cookies and fruit plate reception followed.
Any reports from the commentariat? Or did you just take a pass?
KC Lay Formation
have posted on the Announcement of Ave Maria University coming to KC to conduct lay ministry formation. I knew of the story from the Catholic Key
on Thursday (the stories aren't posted online as of tonight) and I hadn't planned on commenting, but maybe I'll jump in with a few tidbits I've not seen covered elsewhere. Abbreviated reports from the dicoesan web site are available here
My student experience with non-degreed lay ministry formation is zilch. It simply wasn't available in Rochester when I was discerning the complex possibilities of priesthood, music, liturgy, marriage, and a secular job in the early to mid-80's. I had degree choices in music and theology, and I had a Master's and an MDiv from which to choose. For various reasons I chose a Master's program in theology. I very nearly re-enrolled after graduation ('88) for an MDiv, and around 1990 tossed around the notion of doctoral studies in Rome or Notre Dame. Needless to say, I remained in parish ministry, and it doesn't look likely I'll ever be heading back to school.
I've taught and been a student advisor in lay ministry programs in a few dioceses over the years. Across the board I've thought liturgical training was fairly weak, but since I've never been asked to do anything about it, I've generally kept my mouth shut. Kansas City and New Wine were not exceptions. There was very little liturgical training in the program as it was run. I thought it to be a serious drawback.
So now Ave Maria University is coming to town. There are a few rumblings in my professional circles not for Bishop Finn's choices per se
(though there were some), but for the awkward way the new direction was instituted. My sources tell me there was very little attempt to assess adult formation with the people who were actually doing it. The bishop's appointees seemed to have an agenda in mind, and actual fact-finding was sometimes set aside so as to minimize communication. Case in point: the myth that the Center for Pastoral Life and Ministry was responsible only for lay ministry formation. In fact, the Center staff conducted professional development workshops and days of recollection for parish staffs, collaborated with the Priestly Formation office on other professional workshops, and were available as consultants for parishes on any number of issues or projects. I'm aware Bishop Finn publicly stated a budget investment and connected it with New Wine, but either he wasn't telling the whole story or he was woefully misinformed.
Last time I checked, nobody at the chancery is quite sure who's responsible for parish staff formation. Or some of the other services the CPLM used to cover.
My assessment of lay ministry formation is as follows: how it's put together and what the emphasis prayer, liturgy, and spiritual direction are given for students. I assume adult catechists in these programs are competent. I've never known otherwise. So long as formation programs address student learning needs and are relevant to pastoral situations faced in actual parishes, I probably won't have a serious disagreement with the program.
A substantial number of Spanish-speaking or bilingual candidates were due to hit New Wine this past year. I'd expect AMU folks to be on-board with Hispanic minsitry needs and a facility in Spanish.
I think a helpful aspect of ministry formation is a seminar/practicum in which students (near the end of their studies) attempt to integrate their learning in a nearly-completed program to practical ministry in their parish. Even non-professional Catholic core volunteers need the pastoral tools to deal with the minefield of actual service. And a program's directors need a student assessment of the coursework provided.
In a year or two, I'll know for what we've traded a decent lay formation program. The ball is in the diocese's court. I'll keep you informed on how they're doing.
Friday, April 21, 2006
Seeing the Risen Lord
In our church we have a copy of a seventh-century Coptic icon from Egypt. It shows Christ with his arm round the shoulder of an unknown friend. By this gesture he takes upon himself the burdens, the mistakes, all the loads pressing down upon the other.
Christ is not shown facing his friend; he walks along beside him, accompanying him. That unknown friend is each one of us.
Brother Roger of Taizé, Journal, May 2, 1980 (Essential Writings p.110)The Resurrection is not a thing of the past, the Resurrection has reached us and seized us. We grasp hold of it, we grasp hold of the risen Lord, and we know that he holds us firmly even when our hands grow weak. We grasp hold of his hand, and thus we also hold on to one another’s hands …
Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, Easter Vigil, April 15,
2006There are many interesting discussions of the Resurrection on the Internet – I can point you to a returned Joe Cecil. Here, I would like to meditate on how we might come to “see” the Risen Lord, become aware that he accompanies us, and “grasp hold of his hand.” What separates the believer from the unbeliever? In a recent essay, the Anglican priest Sarah Coakley tells us that there are two common answers to this. The proponents of the first answer, she says, subscribe to the Humean principle that “the wise man proportions his belief to the evidence” and believes in a miracle when disbelief should prove “more miraculous.” And so these proponents press tough rational criteria and historical demonstrations upon us, claiming that, if we only would subject the Resurrection to the same level of scrutiny that we give to any other historical event, the “wise men” among us would surely come to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
The followers of Karl Barth, among others, object to this first answer, because our belief in the Resurrection really must go beyond the “obscurity and error and essential questionableness” that inevitably comes with belief in any historical event. They tell us that we will see the Risen Lord when we leap into the void through faith and enter a new world. There is no substitute for such a leap, for, as Karl Barth wrote, “In the resurrection the new world of the Holy Spirit touches the old world of the flesh, but touches it as a tangent touches a circle, that is, without touching it.”
Sarah Coakley finds neither of these common answers satisfactory. The first does leave us in the ambiguous realm of “obscurity and error and essential questionableness,” but the second answer has its own obscurity, as the leap into the void remains inexplicable and even paradoxical. Furthermore, neither answer seems to shed much light on the details of the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection. One can recognize Jesus and still doubt (Matt 28:17); Mary turns multiple times before recognizing the Risen Christ (Jn 20:11-18) in one of the many accounts of gradually coming to believe; and it is only when Jesus, after traveling unrecognized with companions on the road to Emmaus, breaks bread that “their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight” (Lk 24:31).
Rev. Coakley suggests another answer, and “We are in the realm here of what some patristic and medieval writers called ‘the spiritual senses’: the transformed epistemic sensibilities of those being progressively reborn in the likeness of the Son.” Rev. Coakley does believe, as she later says, that our “capacities themselves are transformed.” But in a published discussion after her presentation, a commentator worried about “the impression of new mechanics.” The Lutheran theologian Ingolf U. Dalferth then suggested that we instead follow Bonaventure: “What we have is not a change in capacities, but in how these capacities are used. It is not a miraculous change in one’s epistemic outfit, but in how we use our capacities.” Perhaps this is something to keep in mind for later discussion.
What does Rev. Coakley mean by “transformed epistemic sensibilities”? Origen suggested that we come to see “spiritually” as we are ourselves progressively transformed through a life of meditation on Scripture, climaxing in a deep communion with the eternal Word that is most profoundly described using the erotic language of the Song of Songs. To be sure, Origen’s emphasis on these “faculties of the heart,” Rev. Coakley acknowledges, comes in part from a Platonic disdain of material sense knowledge, and even “squeamishness about the final redeemability of physical matter itself.” But Gregory of Nyssa, who became a monk only after first having been married, will later subtly allow for “continuity or development from the physical to the spiritual in the spectrum of purgation of the senses.” For him, Rev. Coakley says, “the toe-hold for spiritual perception is precisely in the physical.”
This idea of coming to see spiritually helps us make better sense, she suggests, of the Gospel accounts and our own experiences. Grasping the “multi-leveled aspect of the pre-modern spiritual senses tradition” helps us to see how there can be different responses to the risen Christ, some still very much intermingled with doubt. Understanding that seeing the Risen Lord depends on moral and spiritual preparation helps us to see how recognizing Christ might first require a process of change best symbolized in Mary’s “turning.” Lastly, since the “spiritual senses tradition” integrates the erotic and affective language of the Song of Songs into our ways of knowing, we can notice how the evidences of the heart play a role in recognizing Christ: “Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?" (Lk 24:32).
Finally, the idea of the “spiritual senses” might help us to understand the theological meaning of the primacy of women’s testimony in witnessing to the Resurrection. In Jewish law, female testimony was regarded as less reliable, and the testimony to the Resurrection might seem, well, stereotypically feminine indeed with its inescapable trembling, bewilderment, and fear (Mk 16:8). One can imagine certain readers wishing that Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome had been replaced by more rational and reserved (or decisive) figures who would then provide us with the coherent and ordered testimony that would convince the “wise men” among our agnostic neighbors. One can imagine at least some of these readers imagining these replacement figures as, well, masculine. But this is not what God has given us. The spiritual senses tradition of the Songs of Songs can help us make sense of this. As Rev. Coakley tells us, this tradition claims that “it is also only the ‘feminized’ soul that can fully respond to the embraces of the Bridegroom, the exalted and heavenly Christ.”
Later, in a perhaps similar vein, Thomas Aquinas finds himself responding in the Summa to the objection that “It does not seem becoming for Christ's Resurrection to be manifested first of all to the women and afterwards to mankind in general.” Aquinas notes that women were not allowed to teach publicly in church, but, since women did see the Resurrection first, he must conclude that it is the capacity for love that brought them before others to the Risen Christ: “the women whose love for our Lord was more persistent--so much so that ‘when even the disciples withdrew’ from the sepulchre ‘they did not depart’ --were the first to see Him rising in glory.” And, so the tradition of the “spiritual senses” lets us learn from the women that it is not some masculine fantasy of absolute judgment or daring that enables us to encounter the Risen Lord, but rather a “feminized” soul and the capacity to love. These things enable us to see who is accompanying us, whose hand we must grasp.
I hope this makes at least some sense; what do you think?