Friday, June 30, 2006

Gaudium et Spes 77

Gaudium et Spes 77 finds us at the beginning of Section 2, Chapter V, "The Fostering of Peace and the Promotion of a Community of Nations."

Maybe in academic spheres, people still talk about a "community of nations," but I sense that economic and communication realities have made one world of us more rapidly than politics might have done--or would ever do. Since the time of this writing, the number of the world's sovereign nations have doubled, and perhaps there is still more splintering yet to come. At any rate, diving into the text, we find:

In our generation when (people) continue to be afflicted by acute hardships and anxieties arising from the ravages of war or the threat of it, the whole human family faces an hour of supreme crisis in its advance toward maturity. Moving gradually together and everywhere more conscious already of its unity, this family cannot accomplish its task of constructing for all (people) everywhere a world more genuinely human unless each person devotes (her or)himself to the cause of peace with renewed vigor. Thus it happens that the Gospel message, which is in harmony with the loftier strivings and aspirations of the human race, takes on a new luster in our day as it declares that the artisans of peace are blessed "because they will be called the children of God" (Matt. 5:9).

Consequently, as it points out the authentic and noble meaning of peace and condemns the frightfulness of war, the Council wishes passionately to summon Christians to cooperate, under the help of Christ the author of peace, with all (people) in securing among themselves a peace based on justice and love and in setting up the instruments of peace.

Clearly, the world continues along these lines today. Total nuclear destruction is no longer a consideration, but violence pecks away at nations large and small. Even the world's powers are not exempt from gadflies which poke at their way of life.

On the whole, Americans today are significantly safer than they were in the period of 1957-91, probably a bit less safe than 1991-2001. But the world and the Gospel aren't about the safety and security of a single nation.

The council bishops urge every believer to work for peace. So, what have we (in our relative security) done for it lately? Does anyone bother to fast and abstain on non-Lenten Fridays for peace? Or does the association with a liberal view make it too much of a bother? If peace has gone out of style as a movement, consider that Jesus valued it highly, linking those who seek it with those who are members of his family.


The End of Pluralism In the current Boston College Magazine, William Bole writes about a lecture that the provocative theologian Stanley Hauerwas recently delivered at Boston College. Characteristically contrarian, Hauerwas, among other things, said that he wanted no part in a project to "reconcile the beliefs and ultimate truth claims of world faiths" in what might be dubbed a "McPluralism." Bole writes, "Still, Hauerwas insists that he does want Christians to engage with believers of other faiths, although he argues that 'the way forward [in interfaith discourse] must be fragmentary and occasional,' and he is skeptical of a purely academic approach ('scholarship can never replace the concrete encounter with the neighbor who is different from me')." For my part, I'm not sure if, particularly for Christians in diverse settings, interfaith discourse can be realistically kept "occasional." Furthermore, recognition of the "universal action of the Spirit" places dialogue and proclamation in a mutual relationship, and thus gives an urgency to interfaith discourse. Of course, I am not sure if Hauerwas would necessarily disagree with what I have just said. His arguments for the importance of "concrete encounter" and against "McPluralism" are doubtless important. And Hauerwas does give us a moving example - his friend, the Notre Dame theologian, Fr David Burrell, CSC: As chairman of Notre Dame’s theology department, Burrell received funding to set up a chair in Judaica, but Hauerwas said the priest resisted the temptation “to make Judaism an exotic other” or to make the Jewish faith appear as a mere antecedent to Christianity, and so Burrell incorporated the Judaica chair into the curriculum “in a manner that made clear the work done by our colleague in Judaica was crucial for Christian theology.” After stepping down as department chair, Burrell, who still teaches theology at Notre Dame, went on an interfaith adventure: living in Jerusalem, where he immersed himself in the lives of Jews and Palestinians, celebrating Mass in Hebrew, learning Arabic (through Hebrew), and translating Islamic texts into English. He authored several important commentaries and books, among them Knowing the Unknowable God: Ibn-Sina, Maimonides, Aquinas (1986). For Hauerwas, a telling tribute to Burrell is that after he left the Middle East, Iranian mullahs invited him back to talk about prayer, Christian prayer, not about pluralism or interfaith dialogue as such.

“That David Burrell has been drawn into the lives of Jews and Muslims is not because he is a cosmopolitan. Rather, he has been drawn into the lives of Jews and Muslims because he is a Catholic,” said Hauerwas, whose best-known work, A Community of Character (1981), appears on Christianity Today’s list of the 20th century’s 100 most important religious books.

Hauerwas did not connect all the dots between Burrell and the purported “end of pluralism,” although he suggested that a decline in their worldly power has freed Christians to be Christian, and so to talk about Jesus, about praying to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, without seeming threatening to other believers.

“As a Christian I have no theory or policy to solve the problem of the new religious pluralism,” he confessed at the end of his lecture. “But I do have something to give. I give you the example of David Burrell."

Gaudium et Spes 76

Gaudium et Spes 76 treats a bit of the Church-State issue, starting with the need for people to know the separation between the two in mission: It is very important, especially where a pluralistic society prevails, that there be a correct notion of the relationship between the political community and the Church, and a clear distinction between the tasks which Christians undertake, individually or as a group, on their own responsibility as citizens guided by the dictates of a Christian conscience, and the activities which, in union with their pastors, they carry out in the name of the Church.

The Church stands outside the realm of politics, holding up the ideal of the free and noble character of the human person, as intended by God:

The Church, by reason of her role and competence, is not identified in any way with the political community nor bound to any political system. She is at once a sign and a safeguard of the transcendent character of the human person.

Though separate in purpose and vocation, there are mutual goals shared:

The Church and the political community in their own fields are autonomous and independent from each other. Yet both, under different titles, are devoted to the personal and social vocation of the same (people). The more that both foster sounder cooperation between themselves with due consideration for the circumstances of time and place, the more effective will their service be exercised for the good of all.

The council bishops outline the goals of the Church, and remind readers that the People of God transcend nations and their particular values, shared and unshared. The Gospel is also meant to be applied in "all fields of human endeavor." Doesn't sound very weak to me:

For (human) horizons are not limited only to the temporal order; while living in the context of human history, (a person) preserves intact (an) eternal vocation. The Church, for her part, founded on the love of the Redeemer, contributes toward the reign of justice and charity within the borders of a nation and between nations. By preaching the truths of the Gospel, and bringing to bear on all fields of human endeavor the light of her doctrine and of a Christian witness, she respects and fosters the political freedom and responsibility of citizens.

The Apostles, their successors and those who cooperate with them, are sent to announce to mankind Christ, the Savior. Their apostolate is based on the power of God, Who very often shows forth the strength of the Gospel on the weakness of its witnesses. All those dedicated to the ministry of God's Word must use the ways and means proper to the Gospel which in a great many respects differ from the means proper to the earthly city.

This chapter concludes by affirming the Church's freedom to teach and to judge situations in the secular sphere:

There are, indeed, close links between earthly things and those elements of man's condition which transcend the world. The Church herself makes use of temporal things insofar as her own mission requires it. She, for her part, does not place her trust in the privileges offered by civil authority. She will even give up the exercise of certain rights which have been legitimately acquired, if it becomes clear that their use will cast doubt on the sincerity of her witness or that new ways of life demand new methods. It is only right, however, that at all times and in all places, the Church should have true freedom to preach the faith, to teach her social doctrine, to exercise her role freely among (people), and also to pass moral judgment in those matters which regard public order when the fundamental rights of a person or the salvation of souls require it. In this, she should make use of all the means-but only those-which accord with the Gospel and which correspond to the general good according to the diversity oœ times and circumstances. While faithfully adhering to the Gospel and fulfilling her mission to the world, the Church, whose duty it is to foster and elevate (Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, n. 13: AAS 57 (1965), p. 17.) all that is found to be true, good and beautiful in the human community, strengthens peace among (people) for the glory of God.(Cf. Luke 2:14.)

There are times when Gaudium et Spes rambles or fails to make a point succinctly or adequately. But passages like this give lie to the argument the document fails to be strong enough in staking out Gospel ground.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

While on vacation, a friend sent me this note:

Hey Todd,

This situation here gives me some very mixed feelings. I'm very interested in your thoughts. (I'm sorry if you've already addressed this in the past on CS...)



The first link is the story on an upcoming riverboat ordination. The second is the official Pittsburgh diocesan response. I've likely commented here and on other blogs on this in the past, but let's delve into it a bit tonight. For those who want the Church's official position, check link 2 and your Catechism. Assuming that you are able to do so, I'll offer my comments, not in any particular order: First, I've known several women who believed they were called to the ordained priesthood. I had no reason to believe they were crazy, narcissistic, deluded, unfaithful to God, or in any way imbalanced. They had many of the qualities we all associate with good priests: they were good preachers, skilled listeners, deeply spiritual and pastoral leaders, acknowledged spiritual directors, Scripture scholars and teachers, and so on. What their sense of call is I'm not qualified to determine. I know neither their hearts, heads, nor inner standing with God. They say they have a call. I can't agree or disagree. There are times when I barely know my own life's call, and I'm not stupid enough to even attempt a decision on someone else's. Second, I think the relationship between a priest (or bishop) and the faith community--parish, religious community, or diocese is paramount. Shepherds are ordained for a specific diocese. These riverboat ordinations strike me as containing a strain of what I would see as the worst of pre-conciliar Catholicism: that priests are ordained to join a club of peers. They are not. Indeed, the peers of a priest (or bishop) are invaluable; they serve as a necessary support and check, especially for the needs of the individual. But after the relationship with God, the primary bond of any shepherd is with the people. For that reason alone, these ordinations strike me as wholly invalid, even before the Church weighs in with a cannonical opinion. Third, while I may have doubts about the intellectual or theological quality of the argument against the ordination of women, it is, at minimum, the Church's current discipline. That's enough for me to accept it. At maximum, a male-only priesthood is a part of the sacramental Tradition as handed down by Jesus, and that should be enough to give any Catholic grave concern before stepping over the line. Fourth, I do think the Magisterium is in a difficult place in convincing the Body of the veracity of this teaching to a level approaching moral unanimity in the faithful. Their track record with women as a universal institution, in dioceses, with religious orders, and in parishes is frightfully sexist. It remains so today. This fact damages their ability to communicate the teaching with a full integrity and credibility. And lastly, I believe the principle of unity in the Church supercedes the injustice these ordination candidates express, and no doubt, honestly feel. Christ may or may not have historically intended an all-male priesthood. But he did pray for unity. It may be a great mystery, but unity trumps fairness. Sometimes, for the sake of unity, a person must make painful sacrifices. As a father and husband I must do it. As a pastoral minister in the Church I must do it. In my feeble attempts to imitate Christ by loving others I must do it. Sometimes it is fair and just that I do so. Sometimes it is painfully unfair or unjust. Sometimes I complain. Sometimes, it is not a time to protest, but to accept. I do think that clergy, especially bishops, must make some sacrifices of their own and enter into honest discernment with women who experience sexism and alienation and conflict in their calling. I think that women in the Church and society continue to be gravely oppressed and sinned against, and perhaps that is the outlet for this riverboat ordination energy, to make some service not for themselves or their community of women priests, but for others who lack basic freedoms to live, learn, seek happiness or find emotional, vocational, or spiritual fulfillment. John the Forerunner acknowledged that he must decrease so that Christ may increase. It may be that these women--as well as male seminarians and bishops--must gain more of a sense of John, so that Christ may more truly increase for others. That is the greater need for the Church, in my opinion.

A Short Post on the Song of Songs

The question that this post will seek to answer is: What should we hope to learn from the Song of Songs? I asked myself this question in the weeks leading up to my marriage, especially after my then-fiancé and I chose to include a song in the ceremony that was taken from the Song of Songs. This post, however, will not consist of my musings, but be taken from an essay by the considerably more erudite Anglican priest and Fuller Theological Seminary professor John Goldingay. He begins with a few stories about certain conservative Christian cultures that will strike us as alarming, but aren’t necessarily exceptional.

A student of his from southern Africa, while writing a paper on gender violence in Isaiah and Judges, told stories from her own life. She knew of an abused woman who used to run away to her brother’s house. The brother would always quickly surrender her back to her husband because she was considered to be her spouse’s property. Eventually, her husband killed her with an iron bar. Dr Goldingay writes, “The same property understanding of marriage means that women have no right to withhold themselves sexually from their husbands when the latter have contracted AIDS or HIV through their promiscuity, so that many of the countless women who have died from AIDS were infected by their husbands.”

Another student wrote about Korean culture, which is also strongly patriarchal. If a woman’s first child is a girl, Christians there might wonder if she had committed a sin. Furthermore, a newly married couple is expected to live under the roof of the groom’s parents and under their authority, which often causes a great deal of tension, and, unsurprisingly, presents a “major reason for divorce and Korean emigration to North America.”

Dr Goldingay suggests that we can learn an “alternative style of being” in which the recognition of sexual love might challenge institutional structures maintained only for the procreation of (preferably male) children and the (sometimes violent) ownership and protection of women. The Song of Songs is a biblical recognition of the “happiness and fear, the anxiety and fulfillment of sexual love.” But to grasp this, we have to avoid thinking that the Song of Songs is solely an allegory for the relationship between God and his people. I do not want to dismiss the allegorical reading, but Dr Goldingay is surely right to point out that “the scriptures never speak of our emotional relationship with God in terms of passionate love.” Love for God, who is far different from us in status and power, is more of a matter of commitment. Psalm 18, which reads, in part, “[David] said: I love you, LORD, my strength,” using the unusual qal form of the verb raham, is an exception that proves the rule.

The claim that the Song was only placed in the canon on the basis of first having been understood as a treatise on the relationship between God and Israel is incorrect, even if the rabbis did warn about singing it in the banquet hall like any another piece of music (e.g., b. Sanh. 101a). Furthermore, we cannot say that the Song of Song is necessarily about the institution of marriage. We do have a memorable picture of a wedding procession (“look upon King Solomon … on the day of his marriage, on the day of the joy of his heart,” Song 3:11). “Bride” is also used as a label (“Come from Lebanon, my bride, come from Lebanon, come!” Song 4:6). But that is all. This makes sense – even if sexual relations should only occur in a marital relationship, even if the couple in the Song are on their way to such a relationship, sexual longing and anxieties still occur both within and without marital relationships.

The Song of Songs is, once more, uniquely about the “happiness and fear, the anxiety and fulfillment of sexual love.” Dr Goldingay wants us to recognize the “shocking directness” of its opening: “May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” (Song 1:2). Shocking as this might be, it is realistic. Furthermore, although the book is attributed in a vague way to Solomon, the opening words are those of the woman, clearly “questioning any assumption that the man has to make the approaches or set the pace in a relationship.” This is also realistic, but at the possible cost of – again - being shocking: in a Christian circle of graduate students that I myself participated in, women were subtly discouraged from making approaches.

Through the Song of Songs, the relational always goes with the physical. When we imagine “the physical,” we probably conjure up images of impossibly youthful and well-exercised bodies. But the Song of Songs’ place in Scripture reminds us that “the physical” has to do with everyone. If we deny our need for physical intimacy (and authentic celibacy is not a denial of this need), the repressed feelings might reemerge in a self-destructive way. The Song of Songs testifies to a universal need for physical self-recognition and acceptance. The woman is “dark-but lovely” (Song 1:5) in the gaze of the beloved and, in the light of one another’s love, the man and woman can even imagine themselves as prince and princess (Song 3:6-11).

The Song of Songs reminds us that relationships will always involve risk. This cannot be avoided. Separation brings pain: “If you find my lover- What shall you tell him?- that I am faint with love” (Song 5:8). There are desires that cannot yet be fulfilled, except in our dreams: “On my bed at night I sought him whom my heart loves …” (Song 3:1). There are allusions to inevitable suspicions and the need to follow social constraints – the woman fantasizes about a scenario that would let her bring her beloved “into the home of my mother” (Song 8:2). Above all, relationships involve strikingly deep passion:

For stern as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion; its flames are a blazing fire (8:6).

The couple surely needs time alone (“Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!” Song 2:9). To an extent, passion can be controlled. The woman says

I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and hinds of the field, Do not arouse, do not stir up love before its own time (2:7).

But it cannot be completely managed. Being in love is like being “ravished”: “You have ravished my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one bead of your necklace” (Song 4:9). The thorny question of desire raises the possibility that the flame of love can come and go - only to unexpectedly return once more, confirming, all in all, the wise counsel of Proverbs, “And have joy of the wife of your youth, your lovely hind, your graceful doe. Her love will invigorate you always, through her love you will flourish continually” (Prov 5:18-19). We can have confidence in marriage, then, but a couple cannot ever take one another for granted “and need to see themselves as still on the way.” Again, a certain degree of risk cannot be avoided.

How might the Song of Songs, scriptural recognition of the “happiness and fear, the anxiety and fulfillment of sexual love,” challenge the patriarchal cultures of southern Africa, Korea, and elsewhere? The biblical recognition of sexuality, particularly the sexuality of women, reminds us of the sheer cruelty of suppressing the human need for intimacy for the sake of male children or social control. But it also tells us that passionate love is a “blazing fire,” and that might serve as a needed warning for a more libertine culture.

Gaudium et Spes 75

Gaudium et Spes continues on the political front. Today's section is a long one, so bear with it, if you can: It is in full conformity with human nature that there should be juridico-political structures providing all citizens in an ever better fashion and without and discrimination the practical possibility of freely and actively taking part in the establishment of the juridical foundations of the political community and in the direction of public affairs, in fixing the terms of reference of the various public bodies and in the election of political leaders.(Cf. Pius XII, radio message, Dec. 24, 1942: AAS 35 (1943) pp. 9-24; Dec. 24, 1944: AAS 37 (1945), pp. 11-17; John XXIII encyclical letter Pacem In Terris: AAS 55 (1963), pp. 263, 271 277 and 278.) All citizens, therefore, should be mindful of the right and also the duty to use their free vote to further the common good. The Church praises and esteems the work of those who for the good of (society) devote themselves to the service of the state and take on the burdens of this office.

More optimism: citizen involvement not only as voters, but in policy-making. Note that voting is considered a duty, not a right one can opt to use. On a theoretical level, politicians are praised for the service they render and the burdens they undertake.

If the citizens' responsible cooperation is to produce the good results which may be expected in the normal course of political life, there must be a statute of positive law providing for a suitable division of the functions and bodies of authority and an efficient and independent system for the protection of rights. The rights of all persons, families and groups, and their practical application, must be recognized, respected and furthered, together with the duties binding on all citizens.(Cf. Pius XII, radio message of June 7, 1941: AAS 33 (1941) p. 200: John XXIII, encyclical letter Pacem In Terris: 1.c., p. 273 and 274.)

A reiteration of the basic principle that leads to the seamless garment approach.

Among the latter, it will be well to recall the duty of rendering the political community such material and personal service as are required by the common good. Rulers must be careful not to hamper the development of family, social or cultural groups, nor that of intermediate bodies or organizations, and not to deprive them of opportunities for legitimate and constructive activity; they should willingly seek rather to promote the orderly pursuit of such activity. Citizens, for their part, either individually or collectively, must be careful not to attribute excessive power to public authority, not to make exaggerated and untimely demands upon it in their own interests, lessening in this way the responsible role of persons, families and social groups.

A commentary on the limits of political leadership, and the trap of abusing government for one's own ends. This one seems to be more a condemnation of the principle of excesses in lobbying rather than so-called big government.

The complex circumstances of our day make it necessary for public authority to intervene more often in social, economic and cultural matters in order to bring about favorable conditions which will give more effective help to citizens and groups in their free pursuit of (a citizen's) total well-being. The relations, however, between socialization and the autonomy and development of the person can be understood in different ways according to various regions and the evolution of peoples. But when the exercise of rights is restricted temporarily for the common good, freedom should be restored immediately upon change of circumstances. Moreover, it is inhuman for public authority to fall back on dictatonal systems or totalitarian methods which violate the rights of the person or social groups.

An attempt to strike a balance between individual rights and the good of the whole.

Citizens must cultivate a generous and loyal spirit of patriotism, but without being narrow-minded. This means that they will always direct their attention to the good of the whole human family, united by the different ties which bind together races, people and nations.

A challenge to consider that the "whole" for which one seeks good is larger than one's circle of friends, neighbors, and citizens.

All Christians must be aware of their own specific vocation within the political community. It is for them to give an example by their sense of responsibility and their service of the common good. In this way they are to demonstrate concretely how authority can be compatible with freedom, personal initiative with the solidarity of the whole social organism, and the advantages of unity with fruitful diversity. They must recognize the legitimacy of different opinions with regard to temporal solutions, and respect citizens, who, even as a group, defend their points of view by honest methods. Political parties, for their part, must promote those things which in their judgement are required for the common good; it is never allowable to give their interests priority over the common good.

A difficult consideration to handle, especially when tempers run high.

Great care must be taken about civic and political formation, which is of the utmost necessity today for the population as a whole, and especially for youth, so that all citizens can play their part in the life of the political community. Those who are suited or can become suited should prepare themselves for the difficult, but at the same time, the very noble art of politics, and should seek to practice this art without regard for their own interests or for material advantages. With integrity and wisdom, they must take action against any form of injustice and tyranny, against arbitrary domination by an individual or a political party and any intolerance. They should dedicate themselves to the service of all with sincerity and fairness, indeed, with the charity and fortitude demanded by political life.

Imagine! Being a public servant to serve and not to enrich oneself or one's allies.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Seeking Competence and Peace
Their "lead" editorial weighs in on the approval of Roman Missal III's Ordo Missae, NCR dredges up old wounds, hints at a possible resistance, and praises Bishop Trautman's grace in defeat. Amy and her commentariat are on the ball with it, too. I've added my piece there, and here's a bit more to pile on: I do think the point NCR raises about competence is a valid one. Even my conservative bishop has expressed his own doubts about how the latest Lectionary has worked out. Along with competence in a skill set, be the person a language expert, a Scripture scholar, a liturgist, there are two other possibilities not often mentioned. I think competence implies an integration of the disciplines involved. Any decent computer program can translate words. And computers often serve as surrogates or interfaces for pastoral contact and ministry. A competent person (or group) has the ability to fuse various disciplines and make them work across a wide range of needs. A merely "faithful" translation from the Latin can clunk like any poor 1973 effort if those implementing and using the words are lifeless and inert as musicians, priests, or other leaders. One would hope that Latinists and poets have a liturgy background, a bishop a sense of liturgy and art, liturgists a sense of language and tradition. Poets? Were they included in ICEL? People who are the very best in the English language? People who are generally conceded to have the best and most artistic ability? I think a strong case can be made for the inclusion of such folks. If, that is, quality is part of the intent here. ICEL in the 80's and 90's did it with broad consultation: going to parishes and to poets and musicians to uncover the pieces it needed to complete the work. The curia I've seen under the previous pope seems to have something of an aversion for competence. Maybe things are changing. Rock tells me we're getting good bishops. I hope so, for the general tone of episcopal appointments for the past ten years has seemed to me to be rather thin and unimaginative. Why else would they shuttle bishops into as many dioceses as they do? My other concern is with the alarming lack of peace on Catholic liturgy. Trautman concedes on issues he's championed for years, yet much of what I've seen written in commentariat boxes shows little regard for that. In other words, St Bloggersville is mostly made up of sorehead winners. They get the triumph they want, yet they are unable to accept victory without their name-calling and their continuing misadventures in spelling. (Perhaps Latin would be a better target language for insults.) For some Catholics, let me suggest your victory might be pyrrhic. The whole point of liturgy is the worship of God and the sanctification of the faithful. Yet in focusing on the unworthy centurion who requested a long-distance cure, perhaps you have forgotten the other gospel call to leave your gift at the altar and go in search of reconciliation in your broken relationships. For indeed, if you are so indulgent in your passions, especially anger, in the liturgy wars, you may indeed have lost something more precious than an accurate rendering of Latin. In my own parish, the liturgy wars are far more muted than online. While there are a few simmer spots, some people seem to realize they have my ear for their concerns. Making liturgy policy is shared by parishioners and staff, and we make efforts to ensure substantial concerns are thought out well and if action is warranted, we discern as best we can. Our implementation of Roman Missal III will probably look like our previous implementations: careful explanation about what appears to be tinkering, and especially taking advantage of our opportunity to improve the liturgy and to bring more mindfulness and prayerfulness to parish liturgy. The liturgy in our parish will improve not by following the formulas more correctly, but by a more complete involvement with Jesus present and active in our lives. From what I've seen of the early drafts, I think we have a flawed tool with which to work. But that's true of pretty much everything in mortal life. My hope is that parishes will be able to bring competence to bear in their liturgies. My hope is that parishes will see the implementation as the first step to better liturgy, not the last one. My hope is that someday we'll see better spelling and less name-calling on the net.
Altar Server Fun
Our diocese hosted a fun day for altar servers earlier this month. Six of our parishioners attended and a few were featured by quote or photo.

Lauren Nicole Ayer Ruiz of St. Thomas More Parish, said she likes the priests.

"The Fathers are really funny," she said. "They like make jokes and make funny voices with us and stuff."

"It's fun, especially bringing up the gifts to the altar," said Kelsy Ceriotti, also of St. Thomas More. "You are with Jesus. That's going to be his body and blood."

The funny voices are courtesy of our diocesan vicar general, who is well-known for his self-deprecating sense of humor and his talent for imitation.

The bishop had good things to say:

Bishop Finn said that serving Mass is a great way for girls and boys to draw closer to God.

"Service at the altar is a special way to express your closeness to the Lord and to listen to him for direction in your life," Bishop Finn said.

But being close to Christ also means being willing to suffer with Christ and to make sacrifices, the bishop said.

"It's going to mean sacrifices" to serve God, he said. "Maybe it's getting up early to serve Mass, and maybe it's other sacrifices."

But Christ remains ready to share any burden for those who follow him, Bishop Finn said.

Gaudium et Spes 74
(People), families and the various groups which make up the civil community are aware that they cannot achieve a truly human life by their own unaided efforts. Gaudium et Spes 74 treats the human reality of politics, which is broadly defined as follows: They see the need for a wider community, within which each one makes his specific contribution every day toward an ever broader realization of the common good.(Cf. John XXIII, encyclical letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), p. 417.) The Christian approach to politics moves a bit beyond that. For believers, politics implies the striving for perfection: For this purpose they set up a political community according to various forms. The political community exists, consequently, for the sake of the common good, in which it finds its full justification and significance, and the source of its inherent legitimacy. Indeed, the common good embraces the sum of those conditions of the social life whereby men, families and associations more adequately and readily may attain their own perfection.(Cf. John XXIII, ibid.) Leadership is an important quality to acknowledge, for it also benefits the common good: Yet the people who come together in the political community are many and diverse, and they have every right to prefer divergent solutions. If the political community is not to be torn apart while everyone follows his own opinion, there must be an authority to direct the energies of all citizens toward the common good, not in a mechanical or despotic fashion, but by acting above all as a moral force which appeals to each one's freedom and sense of responsibility. A radical concept for Catholics of centuries past, namely that citizens are to rightfully determine the style of politics as well as specific leaders: It is clear, therefore, that the political community and public authority are founded on human nature and hence belong to the order designed by God, even though the choice of a political regime and the appointment of rulers are left to the free will of citizens.(Cf. Rom. 13:1-5.) It follows also that political authority, both in the community as such and in the representative bodies of the state, must always be exercised within the limits of the moral order and directed toward the common good-with a dynamic concept of that good-according to the juridical order legitimately established or due to be established. When authority is so exercised, citizens are bound in conscience to obey.(Cf. Rom. 13:5.) Naturally, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater: Accordingly, the responsibility, dignity and importance of leaders are indeed clear. But where citizens are oppressed by a public authority overstepping its competence, they should not protest against those things which are objectively required for the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and the rights of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority, while keeping within those limits drawn by the natural law and the Gospels. But consider a multivalent approach, if it works to the aim of the common good. According to the character of different peoples and their historic development, the political community can, however, adopt a variety of concrete solutions in its structures and the organization of public authority. For the benefit of the whole human family, these solutions must always contribute to the formation of a type of (person) who will be cultivated, peace-loving and well-disposed towards all (other people). GS 74 seems both vague as well as a bit uneasy over turning over the car keys to the citizenry. Being vague is also being wise in this context; I still think we have a considerable way to go to perfect our own democracy in the US, much less many other nations who suffer from more corruption, organized crime, elitism, and the like. And on the second point, is there a way to transcend media-coddled mobs? That might not be what the council bishops had in mind with their awkward caveats about protesting against the good things bad leaders might provide. Maybe you have more substantive comments. If so, have a go.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Final Travelogue
Returning home tonight, we survived this marathon of a vacation--the longest we three have taken together. 2921.3 miles was the final odometer reading--and it felt every bit of that journey's length. The pets were appropriately enthusiastic, and after viewing some of a dvd acquisition from Springfield IL earlier today, two of the three of us are in bed, and the internet scribe of the household will be soon to follow. There wasn't any place we visited on our return leg I wouldn't recommend, so quickly ... In rewind, we were rained out of our afternoon tour of Mark Twain sites in Hannibal MO. We'll have to return another time. Brittany was sound asleep in the back seat and my wife and I thought the better of a) waking her and b) trekking through a Mississippi river town in a downpour. Instead, Anita stopped in a bookstore while I read about Frances Folsom Cleveland in her new first wives book she picked up earlier in the day. We spent last night in the Illinois capital and spent the morning at the marvelous new Lincoln Museum. It was the indoor highlight of my trip. We did a speed tour of the old state capitol, passed by the front of Lincoln's law office, drove by another site or two, enjoyed a meal and a stop in another used bookstore, but cut the Springfield stay to get to Missouri. As it turned out, a quick peek at the Lincoln home wouldn't have put much of a dent in the day. And left totally unseen was the state museum. Oh well. In the Lincoln Museum, I was struck by many things: the quality of the displays as well as the content of what was communicated in them. There was a video map depicting the Civil War/War Between the States at a rate of one week per second. Red and blue shades depicted Union or Confederate control, and casualty counters for both the USA and CSA clicked in the bottom right corner. Yesterday we drove the Toledo-to-Springfield leg, interrupted by a pleasant stop at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo, an impressive and well-staffed park, at least in my experience. Sunday we departed my brother's home and went to Mass at the Abbey of the Genesee, a frequent retreat destination of mine in the 80's. We stocked up on bread and spiritual books. The night before, I finally watched my first Rhinos' match, which ended in a typical soccer score of 0-0. It was the third game at the new soccer stadium in Rochester. We sat in the upper deck. I loved the tilt of the seats and the great view of the playing field. I'll have more to blog on my reflections on seeing old friends, the books we picked up, and one or two other insights. I hope to push ahead and finish Gaudium et Spes starting in a few days when I get caught up at work and at home. Maybe a bit later this month, I'll take time for the upgrade I've been pondering for the past few months. Meanwhile, may all your journeys, especially those of the Spirit, be guided by Mary, Protector of Travellers, and by the archangel Raphael.
God's Silence This a poem from Franz Wright's new collection, God's Silence, which I am very slowly reading. Recently, Wright told Mark Temelko of the Anchorage Daily News, who asked about the religious writers who have been important to his thinking "as a Catholic, as an intellectual, as a poet": I love the 17th-century English poets in general: John Donne, George Herbert, Vaughan. Herbert is particularly interesting to me because of his sort of painful faith, his painful form of Christianity, extremely dark and skeptical, sort of a struggling, groping form of faith. That's very moving to me because it seems to reflect the condition of anybody who's involved in any kind of spiritual pursuit. You're constantly coming up against your own insufficiency, your own weaknesses as a human being, your own hypocrisy and your own failings. An earlier interview with the New Yorker is here. Did This Ever Happen to You A marble-colored cloud engulfed the sun and stalled, a skinny squirrel limped toward me as I crossed the empty park and froze, the last or next to last fall leaf fell but before it touched the earth, with shocking clarity I heard my mother's voice pronounce my name. And in an instant I passed beyond sorrow and terror, and was carried up into the imageless bright darkness I came from and am. Nobody's stronger than forgiveness.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Love Without Limits II Last December, I posted from an excerpt of Archimandrite Lev Gillet's 1971 book Amour Sans Limites. Here is a second excerpt. Both come from the "Life in Christ" column on the Orthodox Church of America website. Fire burst forth from the burning bush, yet the bush was not destroyed. Draw near to the Burning Bush, my child. Reflect on this great vision, and why the bush burned and still was not consumed. The fire that burns the bush without destroying it is a fire nourished by nothing apart from itself. It subsists alone, by itself. And of itself it spreads abroad in infinite growth. This fire does not destroy the wood of the bush. Rather, it purifies the wood. It eliminates everything in the wood that is merely brambles and thorns. Yet it does not deform the bush. It respects its original structure, even while it eliminates its superfluous growth. It renews without killing. It transforms the wood itself into fire, a lasting fire. Surely, according to the most simple, the most elementary interpretation, you can behold in the Burning Bush the expression of divine protection, which sustains your existence in the face of every burning pain and suffering. There, my child, you can find the assurance of a supreme Compassion, a preserving Mercy. There you can see as well the sign of a divine Purification: one painful for you to endure, yet one that sets you free. The Burning Bush, however, has a still deeper meaning. It bears a Revelation of your Lord and God Himself. The Burning Bush is an expression of the divine nature. In the flame of the bush you can have a glimpse of Who I am. As the Scripture declares, your Lord, the Lord of Love, is a consuming fire! Like the flame of the Bush, I am Love that gives endlessly of itself. I am that generosity that knows no bounds. No one can say of my Love: it extends to this point, and no further. I am that Love that always tends to incorporate and assimilate every element of human existence it encounters (indeed, I am the very Source of those elements). Just as the fire burns without consuming the wood of the bush, I never destroy the persons I have created. I only wish to make disappear whatever there is within a person that conflicts with the essence of Love. I take for myself and make it my own. I transform and I transfigure. I bestow life. I transpose human life on to a higher plane. He who loves unites himself to those whom he loves. I unite myself to you, my beloved. Nevertheless, there can be no confusion between myself, who am Love, and you, who receive that Love. Can you now behold this Great Vision? Do you see the flame that no one lights, the flame that leaps forth from my very Heart, the flame which is my very Being? Do you see the divine Fire that spreads out across the world? The entire universe is the Burning Bush!

Friday, June 23, 2006

What are Deacons?

On his always insightful blog, Steve Bogner writes about an article by the ethicist John Kavanaugh, SJ, in the June 19 issue of America:

He states that we 'must offer more than the impotence of outrage and moral posturing' in the face of embryonic stem cell research. Why, he asks, couldn't the church fund adult stem cell research programs at some of the major Catholic universities with medical schools? Why not fund programs that offer alternatives? Put our money, and our actions, where our mouth is?

And this brings us to an article in the current Pastoral Review by Michael Evans, Bishop of East Anglia, on the diaconate. This is not a non-sequitur. Bishop Evans tells us that the deacon has a threefold ministry of word, liturgy, and charity. But it is the ministry of charity that has preeminence. This is clear in both history and the Basic Norms of the Formation of Permanent Deacons, which says:

So that the whole Church may better live out this spirituality of service, the Lord gives her a living and personal sign of his very being as servant. In a specific way, this is the spirituality of the deacon. In fact, with sacred ordination, he is constituted a living icon of Christ the servant within the Church. The leitmotiv of his spiritual life will therefore be service; his sanctification will consist in making himself a generous and faithful servant of God and people, especially the poor and most suffering…

This does not mean that laypeople are not called to service, or, once more, will find themselves marginalized in the Church. The deacon is a “living icon of Christ the servant.” Bishop Evans reminds us that an icon is not merely a beautiful picture meant for admiration – an icon “is a work of liturgical art and an invitation to prayer.” The deacon, then, is called by God to “draw the whole Church into humble service, into the Christ’s washing of feet, into his humble ministry of love.” This is the meaning of his (or her) entire life: “Every part of a deacon’s daily life and ministry – his marriage, family life and work, the way he reaches out to others and talks to them, even the way he looks at them – contributes to the gentle power of his ‘iconhood’.” The deacon’s ministry of charity is inauthentic if it serves to exclude his brothers and sisters rather than to “facilitate, enable, animate, encourage and empower the service of the whole Church community.”

The deacon’s ministry of service is likewise inauthentic if it serves to draw attention to the deacon as a replacement for Christ, whether as the bearer of yet another ideology promising a glorious future or as a sign of ecclesiastical strength and influence in the present. Once more, the deacon is meant to be a “living icon” of Jesus Christ. Bishop Evans tells us, “That means a readiness to ‘image’ the humble servant of God portrayed in Isaiah 53, the suffering servant who came not to be served but to serve; the one who was despised and rejected, and led like a lamb to the slaughter; the servant master who washed the feet of his disciples, and who gave his life as a ‘nothing’ upon the cross.”

The bishop reminds us that Pope Benedict, in Deus Caritas Est, claimed that this ministry of charity is part of the “fundamental structure of the Church,” and has since said that it is “necessary to accompany the proclamation of the Gospel with the concrete testimony of charity.” This means attention to the new forms of spiritual and cultural poverty without turning away from the materially poor.

Let’s take Steve’s questions about embryonic stem cell research: “Why not fund programs that offer alternatives? Put our money, and our actions, where our mouth is?” These are urgent questions for all of us. But, perhaps, they also might serve to remind us of the important but often neglected role of deacons in the Church. What do you think?

Haze and Ice
Two of the more interesting moons in the solar system are contrasted in this image.
Ironically, what these two moons hold in common gives rise to their stark contrasting colors. Both bodies are, to varying degrees, geologically active. For Enceladus, its southern polar vents emit a spray of icy particles that coats the small moon, giving it a clean, white veneer. On Titan, yet undefined processes are supplying the atmosphere with methane and other chemicals that are broken down by sunlight. These chemicals are creating the thick yellow-orange haze that is spread through the atmosphere and, over geologic time, falls and coats the surface.

Finding Sacrifice on the "Platform"
Over the years, I've been exposed to much of what "KCKPriest" described in a comment on the "Lesson" thread below. I don't think his question is out-of-bounds:
How often is the Holy Mass used as a platform or background for something else, like a graduation or the nationalism of patriotic songs(?)
But I would take more care around an underlying assumption that the liturgy is necessarily sullied by its association with a national expression, a graduation, or some non-sacramental (or even sacramental, perhaps, as in the case of a wedding or funeral) event. I would presume that one of our "modern accretions" such as a home Mass, or the co-scheduling of a commencement with the Eucharist more tightly weaves such "background" into the sacrifice of the liturgy. Vatican II (in Sacrosanctum Concilium 37) makes provision for such platforms:
"Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the liturgy itself, so long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit."
The question I have is a more grave one in regard to what the including of a graduation at Mass does to the graduation rather than to the Mass. Naturally, as a liturgist, I have great faith in the efficacy of the Eucharistic celebration. Over the years, I've come to see the Mass as far more durable than I did in the past. Some of this is due in part to the personal mistakes I've imparted here and there. The liturgy still works in spite of the human imperfections. I've come to recognize that any invocation of God's grace is bound to be more pervasive than we mortals could possibly imagine. The presider's invitation to "Lift up your hearts" implies that the offering of sacrifice extends beyond bread and wine. Casual Catholics might not think twice about "platforming" at Mass. But maybe they should. First, such "offerings" no longer are our personal ones. At its core, the Mass is a public and communal celebration (SC 26). The inclusion of a graduation, for example, implies that we no longer have a simple gaggle of Catholic graduates taking leave of an educational institution. By ritual, they have placed not only their own long struggle for achievement, but the future for which they hope, in sacrifice to the Father. Some people undoubtedly snatch their diplomas and futures back, if they ever let go of them at all. But for the willing cooperator with God's grace, we believe something will come of such sacrifice. Not only have the offerings become public, as well as a public expression, they have also been turned over to God. In my most recent experience of a home Mass, my friends "got it," in the sense that they truly knew that the act of consecrating their home involved a sacrifice to God. The "intention" of that Mass had great meaning. But such intentions are not solely dependent on the human action of "getting it." If we accept God's grace as omnipotent, pervasive, and even sneaky, we must also accept that our "platforms" are far more susceptible to "corruption" than the Mass itself. Rather than give us free license to make the liturgy a free-for-all, I'd say that on many occasions, we should be asking of our national songs, our marriages, our funerals, our special events: do we really want to do this?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Professor Pelikan As you will remember, the distinguished church historian Jaroslav Pelikan recently passed away. Another church historian, Martin Marty, has a memorable column about him in the current issue of the Christian Century, which hopefully won't mind if I excerpt a good deal of it: People in our business say that no 20th-century scholar in the Christian East or West could have written what he did. Writing his five-volume work on The Christian Tradition demanded linguistic skills that were unmatched. The press reported that he spoke ten languages. I'd add "for starters." Once, riding in a shuttle bus with him, I heard him amiably chatting in a foreign language, and after disembarking I asked him what language it was. "Albanian." Albania was the most closed-off country in Europe in those years. How could he have learned conversational Albanian? "Oh, once you know one of those languages, you know them all." Oh. In his 80s he was still the Wunderkind of legend. He holds the record for having completed a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago Divinity School in the shortest time. Within days he received his B.D. from the seminary, his Ph.D. from the university, ordination in the Lutheran Church, and the hand of Sylvia in marriage—the best gift he ever got. Though he was only four years older than me, I had him as a professor at both the M.Div. and Ph.D. levels. While many of us thought Pelikan's true home was in the advanced seminar classroom, he also spoke to and wrote for the public. At Yale one year hundreds of undergraduates showed up for his course on Jesus, and envious New Haven townspeople wanted to get in on the lectures. So he repeated the course in the evening for the public. Late in life he was received into the Orthodox Church. Those who knew him well saw that move not as desertion of Lutheranism but simply as the end of the period in which Lutherans had him on loan from Orthodoxy, his Slavic soul never having made the trip that his body and mind had made into Western Christianity. Fifty-plus years ago the fiancée of a Lutheran classmate, she being of Russian Orthodox extraction, wanted to be received into the Lutheran branch of the church catholic. Pelikan was her catechist. Testimony: "When Jary was through with her, she didn't know there was any big difference between Orthodoxy and Lutheranism." Pelikan knew a thing or two about Luther. He wrote much on Luther and edited the American edition of Luther's works. But the theologian who meant the most to him was the Russian Orthodox scholar Georges Florovsky. Some Christian scholars wanted Pelikan to show his churchly and "ordained" sides more. But his vocation, he always said, was "arts and sciences" and the place of theology among them. I am told that near the end of his life he said something like: "If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. If Christ is not risen, nothing else matters." Sacredly and secularly, Jary had a keen sense of what matters. And to those of us who learned from him and were his friends, that matters still.
The Theology of Trees After our wedding, my wife and I had the opportunity to spend several days in the Olympic Peninsula. It was impossible not to be impressed by the beauty, venerability, and the fragility of the ancient forests. Some of the fragility is due to nature itself. I noticed this after I observed a "colonnade" of young spruce trees growing rather conspicuously on a fallen "nurse" log and then realized that most of their fellow seeds that had fallen on the forest floor had almost no chance for survival. And, of course, some of the fragility is the result of human actions. I was also struck by the fragility of our language to describe the theological significance of these trees. It is common now to hear talk of our "kingship" or "stewardship" over nature. These terms are indisputably biblical - usually drawn from Genesis. But they are easily misinterpreted. The Orthodox Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, in a recent lecture at Fordham, said that, although our kingship is meant to be "a true icon of the divine kingship," we often display "the arrogant and insensitive mentality" found in the more readily available accounts of earthly kings. As for stewardship, Bishop Kallistos warns, "It could be taken as implying a utilitarian, managerial approach to nature, such as regards the world around us as an 'asset' to be developed and exploited." But there is a third model, which I've already described here. Bishop Kallistos says that we are called to be priests of the creation, offering the praise of our fellow creatures as thankfulness to our Creator. But, if we are to transform the world into a "eucharistic offering," we must be aware of two things. First, there cannot be an authentic priestly offering without sacrifice, without bearing the cross. Bishop Kallistos quotes the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I: There can be no salvation for the world, no healing, no hope of a better future, without the missing dimension of sacrifice. Without a sacrifice that is costly and uncompromising, we shall never be able to act as priests of the creation in order to reverse the descending spiral of ecological degradation ... Without sacrifice there can be no blessing and no cosmic transfiguration. Second, there can be no priestly offering without love. "It is love that expresses the image of God within us, love that enables each of us to act as priest of the creation, offering the world back to the Creator with thanksgiving." Some of us too narrowly constrict the boundaries of our love. Bishop Kallistos writes: This love that gives meaning to our human personhood is to be extended, beyond our fellow human beings, to all levels of the creation. In the words of Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-81), "Love all God's creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything." I recall how, when I was a deacon at the Monastery of St John the Theologian on Patmos in the 1960's, our geronta or elder, Father Amphilochios (who died in 1970), used to say to us, "Do you know that God gave us one more commandment, which is not recorded in Scripture? It is the commandment, 'Love the trees.'" Whoever does not love the trees, so he believed, does not love Christ. "When you plant a tree," he told us, "you plant hope, you plant peace, you plant love, and you will receive God's blessing." An ecologist long before ecology had become fashionable, when hearing the confessions of the local farmers, Father Amphilochios used to assign to them as a penance the task of planting a tree. Nor was this all. He would himself go around the isalnd to see how they were carrying out their penance, whether they were keeping their tree-penance properly watered, whether they were making sure that it was not eaten by goats. Under his influence, the centre of the island has been transformed: where, a century ago, there were bare and barren slopes, today there are flourishing groves of pine and eucalyptus. "Love the trees," Father Amphilochios insisted. Do we not find there, in his emphasis upon love, the answer to the ecological problem? We cannot save what we do not love.
Catholics at Mass: Don't They Sing?
In my experience they do. I've always been amused by Thomas Day's premise--which implies nobody sings. I find myself scratching my head over the notion that people don't sing because the music is so bad compared to the good old days. First, nobody was singing chant in parishes outside the very occasional choir loft prior to 1960. Second, most Catholics, even young Catholics, have no idea what musical treasures are in existence and lie scattered around, unused. I still get more requests for "Let It Be" and Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World" than for plainsong. And the suggestion for Marian hymns usually does not mean the Gregorian antiphons, but Schubert for meditation or something familiar like "Immaculate Mary," so they can sing along. Even at the noon Masses in my parishes, some people are singing. What do they sing? The Mass parts rather lustily, their favorite hymns both contemporary and pre-conciliar. Stuff they know, and know well, in other words. My subjective experience is naturally biased. Not only do I consider myself a better then average music director (therefore my congregations are better than average in singing ability and willingness), but the parishes that have hired me have largely done so to build on existing good music programs. Sure, I've had to resurrect one or two parishes from rudderless interregna, but the pieces were well in place. This past Sunday, we visited my brother's in-law's parish a few miles from where I grew up. The music was pretty mainstream, though they did program the Haas setting of Psalm 116 and "Halle Halle Halle." The people sang those, too. They sang all three verses of my 1970-72 favrotie Communion hymn for entrance. (Guess it if you can.) And three verses of a chestnut for closing. Not too much singing of "Pan de Vida" for Communion, but unlike my parish, they didn't start the singing till after the cantor went to Communion. A missed opportunity for them. A few suggestions (some of which are repeated from prior posts) on what could be working in US Catholic parishes: - Average music can be done well, and the people will generally sing it. Corollary: without good musicians, even great music can get trashed in the making. - Very few parishes out there will raise the bar on chant and the classics without a well-paid music director who knows her or his stuff. There exists only rare amateur competence in such things. Even more scarce is the pastor willing to send his amateurs to classes and conferences to get the key to the Classical Treasure Box. - Good music programs take time. One new song a month is close to the maximum limit. You do the math: If it takes 25-35 songs to do a core repertoire (I'll post my thoughts on that after vacation) of a new style such as plainsong, you're looking at a year for ordinary Sundays, and a few more for Lent, Advent, and Easter.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Lesson To Be Learned
I confess I have peeked at Whispers since Monday to get Rock's stories on the USCCB huddles on liturgy. I also confess my pleasant surprise that the whole affair seemed to have been conducted with a good degree of adult-ness, a clear improvement over bedtime at my house. The end to the institutional tone of confrontation seems a positive development. I don't really care if it was more Benedict or Bishop Roche or Trautman. It might be nice to think it was all three of them and more. Now the task ahead will be to implement the new Roman Missal in a like-minded way in parishes. First step on that agenda will be to bridge possibly the widest gap in the institution today: that between bishops and priests. Bishops have a substantial sell-job ahead for those clerics who do not have a master of ceremonies pointing to the right spot on every liturgical page. I still see priests paging through the Sacramentary mid-liturgy looking for the right preface. The new Missal gives them all a fresh opportunity to give their presidency at liturgy a jump start. Will it happen? Maybe the priests in the blogging audience can give us a picture for them and/or for their diocese. I think teaching of the people the new responses will be difficult, but not quite so difficult as making the bishop-parish priest connection. Some pastors will botch it. Some will lead by example and bring the folks along. Personally, I think the Church would make a better decision to implement the Roman Missal in one chunk, and not do it piecemeal. Let the people see the priests renew their approach to celebrating the Mass. But if changes are seen with a let's-get-it-over-with attitude by clergy, it will be a disaster waiting to bite new pastors on the butt once they start moving around in the next six years. Musicians will have it easy. Music publishers will sell new editions of Mass settings and their luxe condos and vacation homes will get a new kitchen or boat here and there. Parish musicians will buy up those new copies and learn them. The occasional director will have to occasionally remind the tenors or the sopranos about word changes, but by and large, the music segment will get the job done. In a few years, I suspect we'll have a new edition of Music in Catholic Worship. My source tells me it will be overhauled to align with the new GIRM and Roman Missal and reflect thirty-plus years of post-conciliar experience. Don't be surprised if it goes to the body of US bishops for approval. Anybody hear "and with your spirit" from the pews this past weekend? I'm sure it was uttered somewhere.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor on Christian-Muslim Relations The Archbishop of Westminster is currently in the news for urging the British Health Secretary to review the 1967 Abortion Act. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor stated, "I welcome what appears to be a moral awakening, especially among women, to the reality that abortion is the deliberate ending of a human life." On May 16 (I'm behind with many things), the Cardinal delivered a lecture at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies on a different subject, Christian-Muslim relations. As we will see, it can remind us of an earlier speech on "Spiritual Humanism" that he gave at the Sant'Egidio conference at Lyons. Needless to say, the relationship between Christians and Muslims is very important, but it has been rather ambiguous. Even in Indonesia, it is hard to discern a "uniform picture of Christian-Muslim relations" over the last forty years, as an Indonesian Jesuit claims in the current Eureka Street. Greg Soetomo, SJ, writes: Most Indonesian Muslims say, 'We don’t live like Middle Easterners. Jamaah Islamiah – an Indonesian extremist group – does not represent the majority of Muslims in our country.' This is largely true. But the relationship in Indonesia between Christianity and Islam, which some have described as love-hate, has continued to be marked by tension. At Oxford, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor described the grounds for a positive relationship between Christians and Muslims: This is the foundation for our dialogue: our common ancestry in a single God, and the rejection by Abraham of idols. This opens the possibility – indeed the obligation – of a bond between human beings whatever their beliefs. I was very glad to be present at the meeting of world’s religious leaders last year in Lyon, organised by the Community of Sant’Egidio each year since that first meeting in Assisi in 1986. The meetings have developed what the Community calls a ”spiritual humanism of peace” which stresses that we are all divinely-created human beings, sons and daughters of a common Father. We need to keep returning to this common ancestry in the same father. More religion of the true sort means human beings becoming closer to God, and therefore to each other. There are threats to this dialogue. Some would deny the "profound differences" between Christian and Muslim beliefs in the name of a convenient but sterile uniformity. On the other hand, "Dialogue will be impossible as long as minds are closed, as long as adherents of either faith believe that we have nothing to learn from the other, or that the Spirit of God is not active in the whole of God’s Creation." But the greatest present threat to dialogue, which presupposes the freedom to witness, is the denial of religious freedom in certain Muslim countries. Without "sacred hospitality," there cannot be a Christian-Muslim relationship at all, as there is no room for mutual witness, the sharing of convictions, or any conceivable "standing together." The Cardinal writes about this "vital principle of sacred hospitality": ... Where Christians are being denied their rights, or are subject to sharia law, that is not a matter on which Muslims in Britain should remain silent. Where religious rights of minorities are disrespected in the name of Islam, the face of Islam is tarnished elswhere in the world. Sacred hospitality demands that we speak up for each other. And it impels our communities to take common action together, especially in response to social issues or in response to disasters and emergencies. One of my happier moments this past year was during a New Year’s visit to Sri Lanka. I went to commemorate the anniversary of the tsunami of Boxing Day 2004 in the company of the Catholic aid agency Cafod, which has been rebuilding houses and communities there. I was on the east coast of the island, where there is a patchwork of villages of different beliefs: some Hindu, some Muslim, some Christian. It was a visit of great joy as well as witnessing great suffering. In one Hindu village they were not too sure how to explain what a Cardinal was and introduced me to the village as, “A member of the Roman Catholic High Command”! But what struck me very forcibly was the practical ‘dialogue of life’ between the different faiths, as they tried to rebuild their lives. In one Muslim village the leader told me that “many came and went, promising things. But only the Catholics stayed, and built us new houses.” The Catholic aid workers who had helped those villagers did not engage in theological dialogue; they were not there as missionaries, to try to persuade anyone to convert. But by their actions, and by the villagers’ welcome of them and of me, there was a moving example of the mutual solidarity – and dare I say it, love – which stirred in me the desire to see such love characterise Catholic-Muslim relations in the world. Last year there were two memorable examples when I stood with Muslim leaders in a common witness. The first was at Edinburgh, during the Make Poverty History march which sought to put pressure on the G8 summit to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals; and shortly afterwards, in the wake of the 7 July bombings. On both occasions, Christian, Muslim, Jewish and other religious leaders appeared together, in a very public way, to demonstrate our friendship and to show that we shared a belief in a God of justice and of peace; and that any other versions of God were blasphemous. I remember, in particular the witness and words of the mother of one of the victims of the 7 July bombings, Marie Fatayi-Williams. She is a devout Catholic and standing with her Muslim husband a few days after that tragedy she echoed both their sentiments: "Throughout history, those people who have changed the world have done so without violence, they have [won] people to their cause through peaceful protest. ……What inspiration can senseless slaughter provide? Death and destruction of young people in their prime as well as old and helpless can never be the foundations for building society……My son Anthony is my first son, my only son, the head of my family…..I will fight till I die to protect him. To protect his values and to protect his memory….Innocent blood will always cry to God Almighty for reparation. How much blood must be spilled? How many tears shall we cry? How many mothers' hearts must be maimed? …."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Travelogue 5
Whew! Back from the Falls, weary, a tad sunburned, but no worse for the wear. We had sunny and cool conditions all day. We drove out on the Lake Ontario State Parkway. No trucks allowed. Many glimpses of Lake Ontario. Where I learned to drive over twenty years ago. It runs 35 miles from Charlotte, a beach burb north of Rochester. Then it was a nice drive on route 18 to the Niagara Gorge. We splurged and purchased the Passport, which pretty much gets you into everything on the US side. We were told two forms of photo ID or a birth certificate were required to touch base in Canada. We had Brit's, but not ours. But that was okay. We did a lot of walking: visitor center to Goat Island. (Brittany didn't believe me that it was actually called that.) We watched tons of water pour off dolomite from the various lookouts. Then it was time for the Cave of the Winds, which apparently has been open air for decades. You don flimsy rain gear and sandals and make your way along catwalks to the very base of the Bridal Veil, that skinny fall of water between the American Falls and Goat Island. We trekked back to the mainland and caught a trolley for the aquarium, which was a pleasant break from getting sprayed and UV'ed. Lucy (pictured) says hello to y'all. (Sarcasm alert) She prefers "and also with you," by the way. I really liked the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center. A timeline of the progress of the Falls over the past 12,000 years (sorry, creationists) eating its way up the Niagara River. I learned about the prehistorical Lake Tonawanda, the three different falls which have now caught up with each other at Goat Island, and the possible future of Niagara Falls as white water rapids near the present city of Buffalo. Another option would be if the Great Lakes began to drain into the Mississippi basin through the Chicago River. Then Niagara would all dry up.
We capped the day with a Maid of the Mist tour, which has us all laughing in the roar and mist. We certainly saved the best for last, as the late afternoon sun was behind us, treating us to nearly full-circle rainbows in the mist of the falls. The outlooks have their own interest, as does the catwalk and "Hurricane Deck" near the base of Bridal Veil, but the boat ride to the base of the falls is beyond words. The picture hardly does it justice either, you just need to go.

John Wesley's Conversion Well, I have returned. You will have to forgive me if I haven’t adequately kept up with all of the recent controversies. As some of you may remember, I got married at the beginning of this month and we are still unpacking. My wife and I are very grateful for your prayers. I really don’t plan on blogging extensively about my personal life (although, as I write this, I realize that I do like reading Todd’s travelogues). But, if we are to speak of God, we must speak from where we are, not some idealized world where we might dream in Latin and magically float above all the messiness of the here and now. I once quoted Esther de Waal on the value of stability in the Benedictine life, “The man or woman who voluntarily limits himself or herself to one building or a few acres of ground for the rest of life is saying that contentment and fulfillment do not consist in constant change, that true happiness cannot necessarily be found anywhere other than in this place and this time.”

So, I do want to say that I am in an interchurch marriage – my wife is a Methodist. This has meant many things, including the filling out of many forms and the completion of both Methodist and Catholic premarital counseling. But, most of all, this has meant coming to regard our situation as less of an obstacle to eventually overcome, whether through clever argumentation or something like the sheer force of love, and more of a vocation. As Monsignor Giuseppe Chiaretti, the Archbishop of Perugia, told a gathering of interchurch families, “You are carrying a kind of cross for us all: the cross which reflects the sin of divisions which are not yet healed, but which becomes for us all a warning and a reminder. ‘Explorers’, therefore, of new ways to unity in diversity, but also ‘prophets’ who urge us out of any possible indifference. … In fact, you carry very visibly in your story a sort of ‘sign of contradiction’ which can be a warning to all Christians, a bit like Jacob’s ‘limp’ or Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’. You are in effect a continuous living and painful memorial of the torn robe of Christ.”

I trust that my blogging will somehow reflect “this place and this time,” even when it is difficult. Please continue to pray for us.

And, so, I would like my first post back to be about John Wesley. In particular, I’d like to excerpt part of David Brown’s book, Through the Eyes of the Saints: A Pilgrimage Through History. Fr Brown, an Anglican priest, includes Athanasius and Anselm and Teresa of Avila and Edith Stein, but also writes about figures with whom we might be less familiar. He writes, “What attracts me to the saints is precisely their likeness to ourselves in holy imperfection, in the way in which their struggle to follow Christ demonstrates their limitations no less than their strengths under divine grace.” And so we come to Wesley.

Wesley is one of those figures who seem to inevitably bring out the amateur psychologist in us. When we hear about the 1738 conversion experience at Aldersgate that famously left Wesley’s heart “strangely warmed,” we might find ourselves remembering his recent failure as a missionary in Georgia and his embarrassment with women. When we think of the Holy Club that he had earlier founded at Oxford, we might recall his childhood and see the youthful “methodism,” as, in Fr Brown’s own words, “an attempt to re-establish the positive elements of security that his mother has provided in that troubled home.” And we might then find ourselves disappointed, in either Wesley or our own skepticism.

But what if God works through our own distinct psychologies – our own limitations? This possibility would save our interpretation of John Wesley, as well as the figures who influenced his conversion - the tormented Luther, whose preface to the Epistle to the Romans was being read at Aldersgate, and the pietistic Count Zinzendorf, whose Moravians influenced Wesley’s view of spiritual experience. It also has rather obvious ecumenical potential. David Brown writes:

And that is what I would suggest God does with each one of us. He works through the particularities of our individual psychologies, rather than requiring the same blueprint for all. This can be seen from Wesley’s own career. Even as he listened to Luther on Romans, it was to a man with a different problem. For Wesley that experience of assurance came as an answer and corrective to a deep sense of failure in personal relationships. For Luther the primary focus was rather on the almost neurotic obsession with guilt and sin that his monastic career had hitherto created. Meanwhile, the great Moravian awakening that had taken place under Zinzendorf in 1727 was different again: unadulterated joy at the dissolving of tensions within the community.

Where our natural sympathies lie will vary from individual to individual. Some will be most attracted to Luther’s experience of conversion, others to Wesley’s, and yet others to Zinzendorf’s. But for many what is required is something quite different – perhaps even the very reverse of what was needful in Wesley’s case. So laid-back have some of us become that what is actually required is greater consciousness, not less, of the role of rules, a need to be shocked out of our self-satisfaction, and so made more open to God and to our fellow human beings. By contrast, perhaps for others what is most needful is an attack of barrenness in prayer, or failure in human relationships, for that can sometimes act as an impetus to humility and as a forceful reminder of the call to empathize with those less fortunate than ourselves. In short, there is no one answer, no one remedy that meets each individual’s situation.

It is to Wesley’s great credit that this is something which he himself came to see. Shortly before his conversion he had begun to question the faith of William Law, his erstwhile hero as a spiritual writer. However, by 1770, he could write that, although Law denied the necessity of such an experience of justification, his salvation was not in doubt. In 1779 he went further, arguing that ‘no man is finally saved without works’. Instead, he now sought in his sermons to transcend all those Reformation arguments about faith versus works. Justification and sanctification (or the ‘pursuit of perfection’, as he preferred to call it) are both required, and neither should be exalted above the other. His final judgment on his conversion thus becomes not a move from unbelief to belief, but rather from the status of servant to that of son.

Zinzendorf, who had so shaped the pattern of simple Moravian belief that played such a major part in Wesley’s great conversion experience, is sometimes claimed as the first ecumenist. Certainly the first to use the word, in that unecumenical age he refused to deny faith to the Pope himself. In our own day, do we not all need a similar charity and breadth of vision, when we consider the question of conversion? Each and every one of us stands in need of the grace of God, but we do not all need the same thing. Some of us need to discover trust; others their basic sinfulness; yet others a sense of gratitude. But all are aspects of conversion, the power of God’s grace to re-make us, not in spite of what we are psychologically, but exactly through and in what we are. It is for that recreation that we need to pray. Wesley as an old man began to develop that larger vision; so must we.

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