23 December 2007

Thank you, Papa Benedict

Reading various items on Fr. Zuhlsdorf's most excellent blog, I'm humbled and grateful at the fruit of the Motu Proprio.

Fr. Ze has excerpted an article written by Fr. Michael Kemper in America. I've copied the following from Fr. Z's blog. As you read, keep in mind that this is a self-identified liberal priest writing for one of the most liberal Catholic publications.

He opens by describing how he was approached by some parishioners with a request for the Extraordinary Form. At first, he objected, citing his unfamiliarity with Latin. But ...
My original cranky demurral crumbled under the force of my own pastoral self-understanding, which had been largely shaped by the Second Vatican Council. As a promoter of the widest range of pluralism within the church, how could I refuse to deal with an approved liturgical form? As a pastor who has tried to respond to people alienated by the perceived rigid conservatism of the church, how could I walk away from people alienated by priests like myself—progressive, “low church” pastors who have no ear for traditional piety? An examination of conscience revealed an imbalance in my pastoral approach: a gracious openness to the left (like feminists, pro-choice advocates, people cohabiting and secular Catholics) and an instant skepticism toward the right (traditionalists).
As he explored the Rite, he realized that
I had never noticed as a boy, I discovered that the old rite’s priestly spirituality and theology were exactly the opposite of what I had expected. Whereas I had looked for the “high priest/king of the parish” spirituality, I found instead a spirituality of “unworthy instrument for the sake of the people.”

The old Missal’s rubrical micromanagement made me feel like a mere machine, devoid of personality; but, I wondered, is that really so bad? I actually felt liberated from a persistent need to perform, to engage, to be forever a friendly celebrant. When I saw a photo of the old Latin Mass in our local newspaper, I suddenly recognized the rite’s ingenious ability to shrink the priest. Shot from the choir loft, I was a mere speck of green, dwarfed by the high altar. The focal point was not the priest but the gathering of the people. And isn’t that a valid image of the church, the people of God?
Please pray for this priest.

I would say that his experience can be shared by the laity in attendance, as well.

The sad thing is that there are so many of us who lost, if not our faith, the belief that any of it mattered any more. I invested so much of myself into the Church, only to have it turn on me savagely and tell me I was wrong and deluded to love what it was up to 40 years ago. There were few priests as honest and fair-minded as Fr. Kemper.

I have only myself to blame that I didn't "stick it out" in hopes of relief in my lifetime. However, I had to make the choice of remaining in the Catholic Church and losing my faith, or withdrawing and staying close to God. Of course, that ultimated in life choices which mean I may never again be a communicating member of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict surely knows about the thousands of us out there. I hope he prays for us, as I do for him.

But read the excerpt quoted above again, and reflect on what this means. The Catholic Church has survived, as Jesus said it would. Deo gratias!

As Christmas approaches...

my prayer is that you will have a blessed and joyous holy day.

The new job continues to be absorbing, satisfying, and sometimes anxiety-inducing. I have a good boss, and that makes all the difference. But I start early in the morning, and get home late at night. A conversation with my dear one, a bite of dinner, and sometimes a walk ... then I'm ready for bed.

I have even less time these days because I have a new puppy, whom Bear and I are raising together.

The new one was found by a family, friends of my sister's. Unfortunately, what with two dogs of their own, and plans to downsize to a condo soon, they couldn't keep the charming little fellow. My sister sent me word, along with pictures (drat her!).

He's six months old, exuberant, smart, endearingly affectionate. Last week I hit the wall with him - I asked myself and anyone who would listen: "what was I thinking?" This week is better. He's growing and learning fast. He and Bear play hard together every day. They're comfortable together.

For here, I'll call him Inky.

Inky isn't the same breed as Bear, but their genes stem from the same group at the dog show; the Herding Group.

Once again, it looks like a quiet, solitary Christmas. Perhaps my last? I do not know. God knows. I'm content in that.

Blessings to you this Christmas.

06 October 2007

Still here...

Finding that computer at night leads me to stay up too late. Reading a book is better; i know when my body's sleepy, and it's easier to close it and go to bed.

On the computer, I'm enthralled by backgammon, the news, ... anything. I do not know when my body is tired until my head starts to ache. So I stay away.

But, once in a while, I do stop in, and read a bit to catch up.

I am grateful for all of you ... you helped me back to life, and keep me there, on my feet, moving.

20 August 2007

God has a sense of humor

For so many years, if you tried to protest the innovations in the Mass, you could be severely reprimanded by Sister/Father/Bishop/whoever. "Vatican II required it."

Thanks to the Internet, cellphones with cameras, YouTube, blogs, etc., the truth about what Vatican II did, and did not, teach is out there.

Fr. Martin Fox is one of those serene and sane priests who is taking much of his valuable time to use the Internet as another way to teach.

He writes in his blog, Bonfire of the Vanities:
... this discussion raises a very significant question: have we got Vatican II right? If not, what would a proper celebration of the liturgy, in view of Vatican II, look like?

This really is the question facing us. This is why we’ve had so much activity, in recent years, focused on the Mass: revision in the Missal, revision of the translation, stricter norms from Rome and the bishops, a lot of re-evaluation of music and particular components of the liturgy, a greater emphasis in the seminaries on liturgy, the exhortation we’re studying, and a revival of questions about the old rite, the Mass of Pius V.

And if I haven’t piqued your interest enough already, let me do so with some more surprises, concerning what Mass according to Vatican II might look like:

Ø The Mass does not envision use of hymns as we know them. None.
Ø The Mass can be celebrated legitimately in Latin or the local language (i.e., English for us), but even where the vernacular is used, some Latin is expected.
Ø While communion under both species is encouraged, it is not required, and has some practical difficulties that may make not doing it all the time more appropriate. One of those concerns has to do with over-using "extraordinary ministers of holy communion." I.e., how "extraordinary" is a ministry if it is routine?
Ø There is nothing wrong with the "old" architecture.
Ø While the priest facing the people is a well known change since Vatican II, the Council did not require it nor even mention it! In fact, what happened was that 1964 document, from Rome, proposing implementation steps, merely said the following: "It is better for the main altar to be constructed away from the wall so that one can easily walk around the altar and celebrate facing the people" (Inter Oecumenici, 91).
Father points out to a commenter that this last was not from a document from the Council.

We are blessed to have the right to have reverent worship again ... whether in the ordinary or extraordinary form of the Latin rite.

06 August 2007

POD things

I'm probably the last person in the entire blogosphere to "get" this.

I knew this:

P.O.D. = pious and overly devotional

so what are PODCAzTS, if not something to foster P.O.D. ways? ;)

(Besides his clear thinking and excellent writing, Fr. Z has the most mellifluous voice... I'm a fan - and I usually avoid podcasts, much preferring to read than listen, tyvm.)

01 August 2007

Another new voice in the blogs

The Catholic Bibliophagist (bibliophagist, n.: a devourer of books) has set up shop on Blogger. I feel at home with her already, if only because the picture of her many full bookcases looks oh-so-familiar. However, her place is much tidier than mine, I'm afraid. :)

Alas, my linking to her will do nothing to improve her blog traffic, as my readership has (justly) dwindled to nothing since my dear one came back into my life after a 30-some-odd year absence.

However, while my distraction has been bad for the blog, it's been good for my life in general. I do so much more these days ... take care of myself better ... enjoy life in general. In fact, I'm reading again. In fact, as I type this, I have a stack of books at the end of the computer table, awaiting my attention. Here's a list, in ascending order of size (like I said: stacked), with a few notes about their provenance:

The Imitation of Christ, translated by Ronald Knox. Found at Barnes & Noble and bought with a gift card given to me by my sister for Christmas.

Elizabeth Peters, Guardian of the Horizon, paperback: Amelia Peabody is part of who I am by now, and I love the books. They are good mid-range interesting novels which delight and amuse without wearying.

The Ambassadors and The Aspern Papers and Other Stories, Henry James, in Konemann editions; A Portrait of a Lady is beside the recliner where I sit in the evening and read. All gotten some years ago at Vroman's, the excellent independent bookstore in the area.

Elizabeth Berg, We Are All Welcome Here. Got this at Borders through their three for two summer sale. Rather a remarkable novel... very enjoyable. (It's actually been read and needs to go back on the shelf.)

Picture Maker, Penina Keen Spinka - has a bookmark right in the middle. I must've put it down some months ago and utterly forgotten about it, although I remember the vivid scenes.

Lamb in Love, Carrie Brown. The cover was just so intriguing. Don't know if I'll like the story. From the Book Club, I think.

Hamlet's Dresser, Bob Smith. Same place as the previous - wherever it was.

The Iowa Review, 37/1, Spring 2007.

Glimmer Train Stories, issues 62 and 63.

The Missouri Review, Vol. 30 Number 1 2007.

The Penguin Book of Columnists, edited by Christopher Silvester. Also from Vroman's.

And that's just one miscellaneous stack collected during a puttering-through of the rest of the house the other day.

Like I said, my house isn't as tidy as the new gal's.

I don't have any Harry Potter anything. Completely off the radar so far as I'm concerned. Just not interested.

But then, like I said ... I'm just sort of coming back to myself. I might just buzz thru a H.P. someday, you never know.

Anyway, welcome to the new blogger!

How the Motu Proprio is different from what went before

Jimmy Akin reports on an article with an even-handed take on the Motu Proprio, including mostly accurate descriptions of the extraordinary form of the Latin mass.

Although it has caused a great deal of clucking in the liturgical henhouse, the Motu Proprio is actually a very mild, inoffensive thing. After all, if there is no call for the extraordinary form of the Mass, no priest will have to say it. It doesn't force anybody to do anything!

If the ordinary form of the Mass is what people want, the Motu Proprio will fade into history. No harm, no foul. I can't imagine what some people are so exercised about.

It isn't at all like what happened in the name of "The Spirit of Vatican Two." That was done forcefully and without options.

Of all the articles I've read, this is the one written by someone for whom I'd like to buy a cup of coffee and sit and talk for a while.
In my desire to return to church, I see the Latin Mass as an acceptable solution: With your back to the congregation and speaking in a dead language, you would find it difficult to tell me how to vote. Allow me to experience the joy of communion without the anguish of our modern-day differences. Bring back the Latin, and bring back an embattled believer.
I think maybe Pope Benedict has people like us in his heart.

17 July 2007

It's not just Roman Catholics who cringe at their music sometimes

In an interview posted on ChristianityToday.com, Pioneer Doerksen relates "...my deep concern about some of what is going on in the modern worship explosion—the shallowness, the man-centeredness, the banality. I wanted to do something that was about God and his core attributes. A song like "Holy God" is a God song, not a song about our feelings toward God."

He's doing something about it - writing his own - but at least it shows that Roman Catholics who've been cringing in the pews at horrible music are not alone.

04 July 2007

Fr. Z did a post on Cardinal O'Malley's report of the meeting about the Motu Proprio in Rome. I have preserved some of Fr. Z.'s [comments].

In my comments at the meeting I told my brother bishops that in the United States the number of people who participate in the Latin Mass even with permission is very low. [Where in the USA? It’s a big place. Could Archbishop Burke have had a different experience?] Additionally, according to the research that I did, there are only 18 priories of the Society of St. Pius X in the entire country. Therefore this document will not result in a great deal of change for the Catholics in the U.S. Indeed, interest in the Latin Mass is particularly low here in New England. [Time will tell. I have the impression that this expresses H.E.’s hope rather than his prediction. But when you are a Cardinal Archbishop, those often coincide.]

In our archdiocese, the permission to celebrate the Latin Mass has been in place for several years, and I granted permission when I was in Fall River for a Mass down on the Cape. The archdiocesan Mass [...singular…] is now at Immaculate Mary of Lourdes Parish in Newton. It is well attended, and if the need arises for an extension of that we would, of course, address it.

This issue of the Latin Mass is not urgent for our country, [I suspect it may be more urgent than H.E. may believe.] however I think they wanted us to be part of the conversation so that we would be able to understand what the situation is in countries where the numbers are very significant. [I think that the "1" for whom the shepherd described by Jesus left the "99" was "very significant".]
I'm very glad that Fr. Z. posted this with his notes. His restraint and courtesy are a salutary model for me.

Of gnats and camels

In a column about the recent article in U.S. Catholic magazine about betrothal in which the authors wrote, "Given the current research that demonstrates that not all cohabitors are alike, we propose the re-introduction of an ancient ritual of betrothal for nuptial cohabitors, followed by intensive marriage preparation in the Catholic pastoral tradition," Archbishop Chaput wrote
... I believe in the intelligence and good will of the authors. I also believe that their argument is bafflingly naïve. If the Church, in her reflection on the Gospel, has always taught that sex outside marriage is morally wrong, then for the Church to now bless “nuptial cohabiters” amounts to colluding in sin. Ritualizing a sinful behavior, or calling it a nicer name, does not change its substance. The very last thing we need in a society already awash in confused sexuality is a strategy for accommodating it.
Now, before I go any further, let me say that I deeply respect and admire Archbishop Chaput. Having said that, I would remind him that
"...the law of abstinence embodies a serious obligation whose transgression, objectively considered, ordinarily involves a mortal sin."
Oh, no, wait - it doesn't.

Actually, in all fairness, this document did not, in any way, rescind the requirement of Friday abstinence. (However, in its own way, it is an example of the dangers of naiveté, isn't it?)

(And, before I get comments about tradition and custom vs. law, let me point out that the authors of the article base their argument on the idea that cohabitation and marriage are matters of custom rather than law. Therefore, they would say that it's as useless to condemn premarital cohabitation as it was to condemn eating meat on Fridays.)

There has been much reference to "The Spirit of Vatican II" in the last 40 years. In its usual sense, this phrase uses "spirit" in the non-personal sense.

Well, friends, I'm here to tell you that there was a spirit, all right - but no benign, sterile philosophy. It was an intelligent, extremely subtle and clever being, resolutely dedicated to undermining all the good the Catholic Church has and is. In order to face down this malevolent spirit, we must be equally as dedicated and resolute.

"Barney masses" not quite the thing one has in mind, here, if you get my drift.

There's a remarkable document over at the Vatican. It's remarkable to me because its tone seems almost breathless in its urgency. Its language is from 1907, so it's hard to read, I know; but it's chilling, because its writer clearly foresaw the impending disorders, and wanted so much to head them off.

It remains for Us now to say a few words about the Modernist as reformer. From all that has preceded, it is abundantly clear how great and how eager is the passion of such men for innovation. In all Catholicism there is absolutely nothing on which it does not fasten. They wish philosophy to be reformed, especially in the ecclesiastical seminaries. They wish the scholastic philosophy to be relegated to the history of philosophy and to be classed among absolute systems, and the young men to be taught modern philosophy which alone is true and suited to the times in which we live. They desire the reform of theology: rational theology is to have modern philosophy for its foundation, and positive theology is to be founded on the history of dogma. As for history, it must be written and taught only according to their methods and modern principles. Dogmas and their evolution, they affirm, are to be harmonized with science and history. In the Catechism no dogmas are to be inserted except those that have been reformed and are within the capacity of the people. Regarding worship, they say, the number of external devotions is to he reduced, and steps must be taken to prevent their further increase, though, indeed, some of the admirers of symbolism are disposed to be more indulgent on this head. They cry out that ecclesiastical government requires to be reformed in all its branches, but especially in its disciplinary and dogmatic departments. They insist that both outwardly and inwardly it must be brought into harmony with the modern conscience which now wholly tends towards democracy; a share in ecclesiastical government should therefore be given to the lower ranks of the clergy and even to the laity and authority which is too much concentrated should be decentralized The Roman Congregations and especially the index and the Holy Office, must be likewise modified. The ecclesiastical authority must alter its line of conduct in the social and political world; while keeping outside political organizations it must adapt itself to them in order to penetrate them with its spirit. With regard to morals, they adopt the principle of the Americanists, that the active virtues are more important than the passive, and are to be more encouraged in practice. They ask that the clergy should return to their primitive humility and poverty, and that in their ideas and action they should admit the principles of Modernism; and there are some who, gladly listening to the teaching of their Protestant masters, would desire the suppression of the celibacy of the clergy. What is there left in the Church which is not to be reformed by them and according to their principles?
All emphasis mine.

As we know, this was not just "paranoia." From 1914:
There are to be found today, and in no small numbers, men, of whom the Apostle says that: "having itching ears, they will not endure sound doctrine: but according to their own desires they will heap up to themselves teachers, and will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables" (II Tim. iv. 34). Infatuated and carried away by a lofty idea of the human intellect, by which God's good gift has certainly made incredible progress in the study of nature, confident in their own judgment, and contemptuous of the authority of the Church, they have reached such a degree of rashness as not to hesitate to measure by the standard of their own mind even the hidden things of God and all that God has revealed to men. Hence arose the monstrous errors of "Modernism," which Our Predecessor rightly declared to be "the synthesis of all heresies," and solemnly condemned. We hereby renew that condemnation in all its fulness, Venerable Brethren, and as the plague is not yet entirely stamped out, but lurks here and there in hidden places, We exhort all to be carefully here and there in hidden places, We exhort all to be carefully on their guard against any contagion of the evil, to which we may apply the words Job used in other circumstances: "It is a fire that devoureth even to destruction, and rooteth up all things that spring" (Job xxxi. 12). Nor do We merely desire that Catholics should shrink from the errors of Modernism, but also from the tendencies or what is called the spirit of Modernism. Those who are infected by that spirit develop a keen dislike for all that savours of antiquity and become eager searchers after novelties in everything: in the way in which they carry out religious functions, in the ruling of Catholic institutions, and even in private exercises of piety. Therefore it is Our will that the law of our forefathers should still be held sacred: "Let there be no innovation; keep to what has been handed down." In matters of faith that must be inviolably adhered to as the law; it may however also serve as a guide even in matters subject to change, but even in such cases the rule would hold: "Old things, but in a new way."

All emphasis mine.

Even in our day, John Paul II wrote:
"In theological enquiry, historicism tends to appear for the most part under the guise of “modernism”. Rightly concerned to make theological discourse relevant and understandable to our time, some theologians use only the most recent opinions and philosophical language, ignoring the critical evaluation which ought to be made of them in the light of the tradition. By exchanging relevance for truth, this form of modernism shows itself incapable of satisfying the demands of truth to which theology is called to respond."
Archbishop Chaput is absolutely right when he calls the premise of the article "bafflingly naive," but I am just as baffled at the naiveté of protesting a conclusion which is the natural outgrowth of all we've been commanded to tolerate over the last thirty some-odd years.

What brought all this on was some time spent in Eucharistic Adoration yesterday evening, in the church where I was baptized 36 years ago. As our Holy Father works with such dedication to heal the rifts left by the "smoke of Satan,"* let us pray and be holy and behave in charity towards those who have fallen prey to Modernism - but let us also be wise and strong and unafraid to unmask those errors of thought and belief wherever they appear. Archbishop Chaput has done so much, and he will do more, God willing. But let's not leave it all to him. Let's defend ourselves against anything that leads us away from trusting God, instead of our own weak, fallible, limited selves.

*"Riferendosi alla situazione della Chiesa di oggi, il Santo Padre afferma di avere la sensazione che «da qualche fessura sia entrato il fumo di Satana nel tempio di Dio». C’è il dubbio, l’incertezza, la problematica, l’inquietudine, l’insoddisfazione, il confronto..."

Long time, no post

My days are very full with a wonderful new job which makes the best use of my skills of any I've ever had. It's the first job I still enjoyed after two weeks, and now that liking has extended into four months. I'm learning a great deal, and also calling upon skills hard won in previous assignments. It is a blessing for me - not least because I'm earning more, even if it is mostly due to overtime. :)

Other than that, all is well with family and friends, thank God. Dearest one has been put a bit off-balance by the new job thing (he lives in another state and is looking forward to the day when we can be together). However, the job is not permanent in my mind, whereas he is permanent in my life and has been so, however deeply buried in memory at times, for 37 years.

Like many others, I'm anticipating the Moto Proprio with the same childlike hope as if it were Christmas: full of wonderful things, many of which will not be seen until they're found under the tree, and unwrapped. May God bless us at this time with maturity and patience and love.

17 June 2007

And I never did find what I was looking for about Augustine.

Took at a look at the new blog, CatholiDoxies, and found the post, Coffee with Father George. Scanning thru it, I read:
I started by mentioning how I thought it would be impossible to decide between RCism and Orthodoxy by simply examining the history and theology and coming to a rational decision. I was perhaps expecting pastoral advice here, such as I've received from Fr. Gregory Jensen on this blog, but what I got was a lesson in and hearty endorsement of the Orthodox version of church history. Not a problem at all, as far as I am concerned. I learned quite a bit. Part of this involved a discussion of Augustine as the source of so much legalism and casuistry in the West, as well as the serious issues surrounding Augustine's view of sex.

Huh? I've heard a lot about this, but never read anything that I can remember. Off to Google. After a couple of clicks, found my way to the Jollyblogger and this terrific post where he quotes from a post by Anthony Bradley:
I grew up in a black church and in the black church no subject in all of creation is off limits to speak about from the pulpit, including sexuality in marriage. I've recently heard a black pastor teach about the benefits of men pursuing their wives with love, passion, and service and the good, natural consequence of him loving her well: really good sex.

I have a friend who used to pastor an all black church and now pastors a church of mostly conservative white evangelicals. We recently discussed pastoral challenges and differences between the cultures and he admitted that most of the couples in his church now don't have sex much at all. And I said that was also true for many of my white friends as well (esp. if they married girls that grew up in conservative homes). We were both like, "huh, what's up with that?"

We sat in shock talking about the things we hear from our white brothers like "yeah we only have sex a few times a month (two or three tops)." Or we both heard this one from different men "yeah, we haven't had sex in six months." The number of married guys I know confused and frustrated about the fact that their wives just don't seem to be interested in sex much has blew us both away.
I don't know the answer to that. I suspect there is a cultural aspect to it; some cultures are more openly affectionate, whether verbally or physically, than others, and true WASP culture isn't usually that way.

However, when a man says his wife isn't interested in sex, I can't help but suspect cluelessness lurking somewhere. I'm an inveterate advice-giver, so here's mine. Your mileage may vary, opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the management, professional driver on closed track, etc.

* Get the television out of the bedroom. In fact, remove it from every room in the house where meaningful conversation might possibly occur. That might mean you end up with one small TV in the laundry room, to watch while you do the ironing. Do you think I'm joking? Do you want a loving marriage?
* Get lots of sleep. At a minimum, go to bed on time - early - right after the kids. Both of you. Always. One of the sexiest, dearest things a man can do is let a tired woman sleep. If you're raising children, she needs a tremendous amount of sleep. Take the kids to the park and let her nap.
* Keep the non-sexual affection-to-sex ratio at about 80:20. Beware of the "if he's touching me, it must mean he wants sex" pattern. Make it about her. Touch her lovingly, savour her body, gaze into her eyes - cherish her.
* Establish a weekly date night. Let nothing interfere except illness - then reschedule.
* Be helpful. Cheerful. Uncomplaining.
* Don't pooh-pooh marriage counseling. It's OK to use it before you're ready to separate. Really. Cheaper and easier than divorce. I promise. You're probably a less-than-stellar communicator, or you wouldn't be in this predicament. You'll pay someone to coach your golf game, or help you lift weights; why not pay someone to teach you how to romance your wife?
* Don't wait for someone else to strike up an email emotional affair with your spouse; get there first. Keep the "did you get the milk" email and chat to the necessary minimum. You need to have the kind of email exchanges that you would have with someone who listens, and loves, and cares, and is all about you. Be that kind of person for your spouse. Set aside ten minutes on your lunch hour to call or chat or email "how are things going?" Really listen to the reply. If you think you know the fix to the problem, keep your mouth shut unless you're specifically asked for help. Be sympathetic.
* If you ever indulge in sarcasm, hostility, or the kind of remark which is followed by "just kidding," stop doing that immediately. Forever. Just quit cold. If you want great sex, you need a great love. Needling someone is not loving.
* Be on the lookout for things you like, admire, appreciate, adore, etc. about your dear one, and tell them and anyone else who'll listen. Praise your spouse to your children.
* Look your spouse in the eye and let yourself feel love for them. Say "I love you," quietly, then kiss them gently and non-sexually. Let them respond as they will. Repeat as often as you can get away with.
* Figure out what you really need and want. A man may focus on sex as being what he needs, when what he really wants is to be held and focused on and touched with love and cared for generally. If what I just wrote doesn't make sense, go track down someone who can help you figure it out.
* Pray very humbly, for yourself and for your spouse. Prayer always works ... not necessarily to fix the situation - sometimes it can't be fixed - but to change your attitude and perceptions, so that you can discern what to do. Ask for wisdom. Act in love. Trust God. What I wrote above may or may not be true for you. But this is true: God knows and cares and wants what's best for you.

15 June 2007

Amy posts about the Motu Proprio, referencing Fr. Z's blog:

Here are the main points in the piece, which I have in Italian below (with my emphases).

* The document is ready and signed.
* It is being translated.
* It will be issued before the Pope’s summer break.
* There is a long explanatory letter from the Pope, of a theological nature to the bishops of the world to help the MP’s reception.
* There will be a press conference with Cardinals Arinze (CDWDS), Castrillon Hoyos (P.Comm. Ecclesia Dei) and Herranz (PC Leg. Texts – retired).
* The delay resulted from strong opposition of bishops conferences.
* A friend of the Pope, Msgr. Nicholas Bux (a well-known author I respect on traditional matters), says it is a matter of days.
In the first comment on Amy's post, Zach Frey said:
It is fascinating from an ecclesiastical politics perspective.

Also, the whole "is it coming?" buzz seems to me one more example that this Pope Benedict fellow is one sharp cookie.

Look at how the "maybe it's coming soon" delays have worked to keep people talking about the return of the TLM.

And if the delay really is due to opposition from the bishop's conferences, that's a beautiful piece of political aikido that His Holiness is practicing.

I'm with Zach. And I've more doubt in the Trinity than I do in the likelihood of the bishops' conferences trying to stop it from happening.

I am looking forward to it with great hope. I see God's hand in this. The method of the original promulgation of the "reforms" after Vatican II was often not God-like, but dismissive, cruel and arrogant. Did Jesus ever tell people about the Way in dismissive, cruel or arrogant language or gestures? And His message was ever so much more revolutionary than a mere church service method! It was a huge wrenching change for some. Yet He did not feel the need to rip them away from it ... He led them.

So does Pope Benedict. He has been leading up to this for years, starting with his beautifully-written works about the Mass. Now, by means of gentle suggestions and encouraging words, he has the world's attention. We are waiting. There is anticipation. Something is going to happen, and it will be both good and, at times, difficult. But he is bringing us something very special, something the family loved for centuries.

That is how a father should act - not ripping something away and slapping the hands of those who innocently (or otherwise) grabbed onto it and claimed it for their own. He leads and encourages and suggests, and their attention is drawn. He does not remove the current object, confident that the intrinsic worth of his gift will be known. And so it shall be, if God wills.

May God bless him, and us, in this and all things.

27 May 2007

Beware of these chips

My D.F. told me about Pringles Select Szechuan Barbecue rice crisps, and then actually bought some for me. Now I'm hooked on the stupid things.

24 May 2007

It's a scene played out in darkened sonogram rooms all over the country every day:
Greenbaum turned the screen toward the patient. "That’s the little heartbeat," she said, pointing to the area where a tiny organ was clearly pulsing. "And there are the little hands. There's the head. The body."

"Oh, my God, I can really see it!" the patient cried. "Oh, my God! I can see the fingers!"
But, instead of a glow of happiness, this reaction from the mother:
"Okay!" she said, abruptly, gesturing for the screen to be turned away. She began sobbing. There were no tissues in the room, so her husband gave her a paper towel, which she crumpled to her face. The patient spent the rest of the procedure with her hospital gown over her face, so she would not see any more of what was happening.
What happened was something like this:
Then he pinned [the third one] with the needle, and pushed the plunger to release the chemical. The fetus, which had been undulating and waving, went still. It would remain in the womb, while the other fetuses grew and developed.

"Let's check the other two," Evans said, and they moved the transducer to see the other two fetuses, still there, still waving, two hearts beating, unaware of what had just happened to the sibling they would never have.

I truly believe that the women facing this agonizing choice are victims. They are caught up in a web of lies fed them by thoughtless or uninformed media people, well-meaning doctors, and putative ethicists who persuade them of a series of incorrect conclusions. Where you start in your thinking determines the road you will take... up to and including taking actions which cause the very dilemma in the first place, of having more children than the doctors feel is wise to try to carry to anything like "term."

We are slaughtering untold numbers of presidents, theoreticians, waste management specialists, teachers, mothers, fathers, warriors, peacemakers, mathematicians, linguists, cookie-bakers and lawyers every single day. Of course, we are also self-selecting against chromosomally-deficient persons every day, too - including those whose male or female genes render them inappropriate for life, according to their parents. Those ill and damaged people would be a drain on society, no doubt; they would also allow us to have the opportunity to cherish and care for them. And - I realize for some this will be heresy - sometimes, the doctors are wrong. They predict all kinds of miserable outcomes, but their dire predictions come to naught.

Maybe what's needed is a dose of reality. Maybe, instead of sentimentality, we need to look at the real reason for wanting population to decline:
...the farmers of Bobai and nearby towns have been known since the Qing Dynasty for resistance to highhanded rulers. True to their legacy, they rose up against the collection teams, whom they decried as bandits. Backed by their sons, thousands of peasants and townspeople encircled government and birth control centers across surrounding Bobai County, residents here said, stoning riot police brought in to quell the unrest and, in some places, trashing local offices.

"There was trouble in all the villages around here," said a truck driver who, like most of those interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution by local officials.

Even near the main county office building, a witness said, a white banner was unfurled calling for revenge against Su Jianzhong, the Bobai County Communist Party secretary. "Crack down on the head of the bandits, Su Jianzhong," it advertised for all to see, until authorities pulled it down.

The townspeople were all the more unwilling to accept authorities' demands for payment because, as frequently is the case in China, they expressed belief that local officials were generally corrupt and that the money for fines would go to line their pockets rather than into government coffers.
Are we being persuaded to cull ourselves into small, manageable groups so we cannot fight back against people who would control us for their own ends?

As for the mothers who are persuaded to do the heinous act of allowing a perfectly healthy child to be killed, I would not trade with them for a moment. If ever their ability to remain in denial about what they have done breaks down, they will know what they have done, and they will suffer terribly. God is merciful, and loving, and knows to what extent their "choice" was theirs, and how much was in response to cruelly relentless deception and lies. If they ever feel in need of peace about what they did, I pray they will find it in His love. But, unless they are able to prevent the truth from breaking through into their consciousness, they will forever think of that little one, alive and waving.

20 May 2007

Friends first, friends forever

from Sigmund, Carl and Alfred, via the Anchoress:
Physical intimacy cannot ’speed up’ the friendship part of a relationship, much less the emotional part of that relationship. Physical intimacy will either enhance a solid platonic relationship that already exists or it will destroy a relationship that might have worked, had the physical intimacy been delayed.
I know this is true, and I know it from sad, sad experience. Fortunately, deep, real friendships never end, and God is good.

Tony Snow's address to the Catholic University of America graduates

... Commit. This is a way of talking about faith. American culture likes to celebrate the petulant outcast, the smart-aleck with the contempt for everything and faith in nothing. Snarky mavericks. The problem is these guys are losers. They have signed up for an impossible mission. Because they’ve decided they’re going to create all the meaning in their lives. They’ve either decided that no moral law exists or they will be the creator, the author of those laws. Now one road leads to complete and total anarchy. Life is solitary, nasty, brutish and short. The other is to insanity, since it requires playing God. We know in our hearts, intuitively, from our first years as children, that the universe unfolds with a discernable order and that moral laws, far from being convenient social conventions, are firm and unalterable. They predate us, they will survive us. Rather than admitting our weakness a lot of times, we just decide we’ll try to get by. And maybe rather than giving God credit, we’ll try to look for a cheap substitute.

Walk into a bookstore, you’ll know what I mean. The shelves are groaning underneath the trendy tomes promising salvation — medicine balls, herbs, purges, all sorts of weird stuff. In politics, there’s a variant that elevates government to the status of God. It says that it is the source of love. It ought to be the recipient of your tithes, but government, while it does pursue compassionate ends, cannot be loving and personal. It treats all of us as completely equal rather than uniquely divine. The point is you can’t escape the question of God and you can’t escape the question of commitments.

When it comes to faith, I’ve taken my own journey. You will have to take your own. But here’s what I know. Faith is as natural as the air we breathe. Religion is not an opiate, just the opposite. It is the introduction to the ultimate extreme sport. There is nothing that you can imagine that God cannot trump. As Paul said “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And once you realize that there is something greater than you out there, then you have to decide, “Do I acknowledge it and do I act upon it?” You have to at some point surrender yourself. And there is nothing worthwhile in your life that will not at some point require an act of submission. It’s true of faith and friendship. It is a practical passage [of the Bible], especially to marriage.

Tolstoy once said all happy marriages are happy in the same way and here’s what he meant. When both people commit, when they say, “You and I are bound together, forever, period, no questions, no codicils, no pre-nups, no escape clauses,” then all of a sudden, the temptations become irrelevant, and the glories become possible.

There is nothing like the pleasure of being a parent. Waking up the next morning to somebody whose breath has become the echo of your heartbeat. Trust me on this, it does not get any better. Commit.

Just checking in

A lot can happen in a month. Children are born. Untying of ties goes on. On the other hand, some things never change, even though some things might.

My spiritual journey continues, and this quiz correctly reflects where I've found myself of late:

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavily by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Roman Catholic


Neo orthodox






Reformed Evangelical


Classical Liberal




Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

Peace and blessings to you.

22 April 2007

Who knows why it happened?

The Book of Job used to not make sense to me. I tried to read it a couple of times, but just couldn't get "into" it.

The month my mother died, I read it through and understood it, and it comforted me.

When something like this happens, we ask, Why? And someone will say, "God knows," a sort of verbal shrug.

The Book of Job is the answer to "Why?" And the answer truly is, God knows.

God knows what the young man was thinking. God knows the crazed and twisted thoughts in his mind.

God knows the pain he inflicted. The terror.

God knows each sorrowing heart left in the wake of the tragedy ... those who are still in a daze of shock, barely able to comprehend that their child will not be with them, here on earth, any more.

Those who watch by hospital beds and feel tempted to guilt for their relief that their dear one is alive, though wounded - God knows all they feel.

God knows. There is nothing He cannot know about this horrible tragedy.

And, as I learned to do while my mother was dying, there is one way to deal with it: to sit before God, and tell Him how much it hurts, and why.

In speaking (crying, wailing) to Him about it, you will learn, and He will comfort you.

Because He knows.

He knows the name of the one you lost; He created that one out of His thought, planned for that one from time out of mind. He knows where that one is at this moment, and His love for that dear one you cry for has never ended, and never will - any more than yours has.

I do not believe God plans these horrors. I do trust Him to know about them... to know what I cannot know.

I trust Him to stand watch over those who mourn and grieve and worry because of what happened at Virginia Tech. I believe He waits to receive anyone who turns to Him in its wake, even if they only rail at Him for allowing such a senseless crime.

At least they are talking to Him.

Like any parent, He can stand it. Tell Him how you feel. He knows, of course, already; He knows you that well. But you must know the truth ... and the only way you will find out is to talk with Him, and tell Him where it hurts.

Let Him comfort you.

While it can never be His will to hurt the ones he loves - which is all of us - it is always His will to bind up our wounds, to listen to us tell Him over and over again how it was and how it is, and to hold us close while we cry.

My heart goes out to anyone who knows what the Book of Job is about. I am grateful to God that it is there. It comforted me and taught me to turn to God when I don't know why.

God knows.

Beauty and attention

I was visiting a favourite blog which I haven't read in a long time. I came across this intriguing post about this article in the Washington Post. Ann of Holy Experience writes:
It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour, and a fiddler played before his open case. On that morning in January, life had no gilded, glinting frame; life was just happening, as it so often does, one part fading unnoticeably into the next. In the next 43 minutes, the violinist performed six classical pieces and 1,097 people passed by; who had time to stop and stare? Life was happening, full of care…and with no frame to punctuate the laudable moments.
I highly recommend the Post article, which can be found here.

I had just finished reading it when the announcer at the classical music station I listen to began to speak of the same article. He interviewed the musician. As the musician spoke, I transcribed some of what he said:
"I knew that I would be ignored...it's tough to take... but it was fascinating. ... We forget that music is a participatory experience be more aware and be open to beauty... [as artists,] that's our job, in a way: remind us of the beauty around us... maybe we could be more aware of the beauty that's around us all the time."
Now, it could be argued that it wouldn't matter WHAT was going on, one wouldn't expect busy New Yorkers to stop for anything on their way to work ... in that sense, it was a setup, and almost cruel ... suppose someone did want to listen, they really could not, without suffering consequences out of proportion to the gift of music at that time.

A couple of minutes into it, something revealing happens. A woman and her preschooler emerge from the escalator. The woman is walking briskly and, therefore, so is the child. She's got his hand.

"I had a time crunch," recalls Sheron Parker, an IT director for a federal agency. "I had an 8:30 training class, and first I had to rush Evvie off to his teacher, then rush back to work, then to the training facility in the basement."

Evvie is her son, Evan. Evan is 3.

You can see Evan clearly on the video. He's the cute black kid in the parka who keeps twisting around to look at [the violinist], as he is being propelled toward the door.

"There was a musician," Parker says, "and my son was intrigued. He wanted to pull over and listen, but I was rushed for time."

So Parker does what she has to do. She deftly moves her body ... cutting off her son's line of sight. As they exit the arcade, Evan can still be seen craning to look.
I don't think it's fair to imply that people don't respond to music in such a situation. It was too early, and the music was presented in a cacaphonic, hectic environment.

The experiment does show something, however: it shows the importance of a frame for art. Yes, we should all be alert to beauty, but we're not always going to be. That's why we need cues to help us know when something is beautiful and worth our attention.

Musicians need to perform in areas conducive to thoughtful listening. Artists need to present their work in areas where it can be savoured. Writers need books - still the best way to read. And worshipers need places to think of the greatest Artist of all. Even the plainest church can, and should be, beautiful.

We cannot always wander around, rapt in the beauties of life all around us. "Life is real, life is earnest," my grandmother used to quote. I have come full circle from going through life without looking, to living in quiet appreciation of all I could absorb, to what I hope is a place of balance. I need to be open to the Beloved as He shows me His gifts to me, but also I need to concentrate on the task at hand, finding in its performance a beauty all its own.

07 April 2007

"Why are we not told plainly?"

"He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead." Mark ix. 9.

Some years My Utmost for His Highest's daily readings synch up beautifully with the liturgical calendar. This is one of those years.

The day after my mother died, I went through the motions of my day in a kind of aware numbness. I was aware of being in shock. The day I'd so often feared when younger had finally arrived, mercifully delayed by God until my sister and I were adults and out on our own. I felt exhausted. I was conscious of a profound sense of relief: I would never have to visit the hospital again and find her there, trying to keep going in spite of the mysterious illness which kept dragging her down and away from us.

Most of all, however, I just felt alone.

The soul who'd guided me and encouraged me... the one whose sense of humor was so keen and hilarious that it would never be equalled... the one who'd taken so much of my young years with her own mid-life miseries... she was gone, at last. Permanently, always, forever gone.

I felt abandoned. An orphan. I was thirty-five, but it didn't make any difference; I felt bereft. The sense of being alone was very keen, and very new.

On Holy Saturday, I can imagine that's how the apostles felt: shock, lostness, guilty relief that it was finally over. Most of all, though, they must have been so tempted to feel alone.

The temptation to doubt could never be any fiercer for anyone than it must have been for them. They'd trusted Him with everything - literally, their very souls. He had promised so much ... but He lay in the tomb, dead. Had they believed in just another one of those itinerant preachers that Gamaliel recounted, as told in Acts 5, who were slain and their followers scattered "and came to nothing"?

Holy Saturday, with the drama and agony of Friday past, and the hope of Easter ahead, is a day of profound interior quiet. Not rest; more like ... waiting. Bated breath. Listening, hoping...

After my mother died, I would sometimes have dreams about her. In my dreams, she was alive and well, usually with her beautiful tabac blonde hair hanging loose down her back, wearing a lovely white gown, her sea-green eyes bright, her manner peaceful and assured - none of the nervous tension and dithering that consumed her at times in her time on earth. In the dreams we talked, or did things together; inexplicable things, but all peaceful. I would wake refreshed, and feeling like I'd had a nice visit with her. Sometimes it would take me several moments to come fully awake and realize she was gone from my sight forever... the dreams were that real.

Did the apostles fear that they would only dream of Jesus returning? Did they look for Him in crowds?

When someone you love very much dies, you want to tell others about them. You want others to know how special they were, how much they meant ... but you know you cannot. They can understand only to the degree they, too, have lost someone so dearly loved... and some have not, and others don't want to even think about it. In sort of the same way, Jesus' little flock couldn't talk about Him to anyone outside "the family." They had to stay silent, waiting ... hoping ... listening. "He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead." Mark ix. 9.

Say nothing until the Son of man is risen in you--until the life of the risen Christ so dominates you that you understand what the historic Christ taught. When you get to the right state on the inside, the word which Jesus has spoken is so plain that you are amazed you did not see it before. ...

Our Lord does not hide these things; they are unbearable until we get into a fit condition of spiritual life. "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." There must be communion with His risen life before a particular word can be borne by us.

-- Oswald Chambers
There must be communion with His risen life ...

May Jesus bless all those who go to communion tomorrow with His risen life - for real.

06 April 2007

The Collision of God and Sin

"Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree." 1 Peter ii. 24.

Never tolerate the idea of martyrdom about the Cross of Jesus Christ.

The Cross did not happen to Jesus: He came on purpose for it... Beware of separating God manifest in the flesh from the Son becoming sin.

The Incarnation was for the purpose of Redemption. God became incarnate for the purpose of putting away sin; not for the purpose of Self-realization.

The centre of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much. The Cross if the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened--but the crash is on the heart of God.

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

05 April 2007

Uh oh ... ;)

You Are 12% Texas

Damn Yankee! You think the sun comes up just to hear you crow.

Oh well ... it just means I have a lot to look forward to ... right?

31 March 2007

Your Love Life Secrets Are

Looking back on your life, you will only have one true love.

You're a little scarred from your past relationships, but who isn't?

You prefer a quirky, unique person to be your lover. You're easy going about who you're with, as long as they love you back.

In fights, you love to debate and defend yourself. You logic prevails - or at least you'd like to think so.

A break-up usually comes as a shock to you. You always think things are going well.

10 March 2007

Revert revulsion

I came to the church as a teenager. My mother loaned me her Manual of Prayers (ca. 1923) and that was that. I could not rest until I became a true member of the Catholic Church. I still have the book and cherish it. It was an excellent catechesis. Like most hand missals, it has the English translation of the Latin prayers. It explains what happens during each of the Sacraments, the meaning of the gestures, etc.

However, that was in 1970. I had no sooner got settled into the practice of my faith than the mutinous children of the Council started scheming to throw me, and those like me, overboard from the Barque of Peter, in much the same way as Ric and Rac were laying for Bébé in The Ship of Fools.

Eventually, they won. I cannot make myself set foot into an AmChurch parish any more. It's not good for my soul. I've had to "detach in love" from Mother Church. She's been on a bit of a bender, and has put forth one Roger Mahony as my putative spiritual father. I'll have none of it.

Philip Blosser writes feelingly about those like me:

When these souls discover the truth about the Catholic Church, they fall in love with her. They are thrilled when they finally come, at least on some level, to apprehend the Catholic vision of the Church and to see and and understand her glory -- "ever ancient, ever new." They love the Church that spans the ages, the
Church of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Cardinal Newman, Pope John Paul, Pope Benedict XVI. They love the moral courage of the Church, which stands like an adamantine bulwark against the evils of abortion, pornography, and relativism. They love the magnificent beauty of her ancient European cathedrals, her basilicas, her paintings and sculptures, her Gregorian chant and polyphony (readily accessible in any music store). They love her theology, which they encounter in the writings of great doctors and theologians of the Church. They love her incarnational vision of life, which they encounter in the writings of numerous Catholic novelists.

But then they join a local Catholic parish ...

He ends with, "I worry whether, one day, one of these students who gets fired up and converts to Catholicism will want to take me to court and sue me -- or the Church, for that matter -- for dishonesty in advertising." Heh.

I do not darken the door of the local parish, which I'm sure is fine with them... can't have people wandering around who want to kneel to pray, after all. The Salvation Army gets my donations, because I can trust them to use it to help the poor and needy.

I am not proud about this. I am grieved and wounded and angry. I'm immune to well-meaning pleas to come back to the Church, fix it from the inside, be charitable, etc. & so forth. It doesn't work. Whether it's an alcoholic determined to have her own way, or an organization which insists on abusing its charges, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually, I'm not required to participate. The Church gives me the right to use my informed conscience. It tells me to stay well away for now.

It feels like spring

Lots of good thought and excellent writing out there just now... green shoots appearing where just weeks (decades) ago there was nothing but muddy snow.

Philip Blosser has made a number of amazing posts on his blog of late: clearly and carefully written, thoroughly researched (as always), and incisive. It is such a sigh of relief to read his stuff.

I recommend this post on the language of the liturgy: "Making It Real" - Part I: the words of the liturgy. But it is only a wonderful warm-up to this: "Making It Real" - Part II: the Sacrament of the Altar.

As those who've read my blog in the past are aware, I have strong feelings about all this. A year ago I wrote out my answers to some thoughtful questions from Lorna about the Mass. But I feel like a lisping child next to Philip Blosser's masterful articulation of what I have felt but could not say all these years.

He quotes Martin Mosebach, the award-winning German author and film-maker, as he describes his experience as a diminutive altar boy under the aegis of the old Mass in his book, The Heresy of Formlessness: The Roman Liturgy and Its Enemy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), in an appendix entitled "'This Is My Body': On Veneration of the Sacrament of the Altar in the Catholic Church":
I always found it embarrassing to see the Host at such close quarters, so vulnerable, as if it were lying naked on the white cloth. It was not something for my eyes, a layman's eyes, to behold. There was something secret going on between the priest and the Host. It was a real relationship: there was a kind of conversation between the Host and priest that was hidden from the eyes of the congregation by the priest's body. I, however, as an altar server, was aware and had to be aware of it, like a nurse who unexpectedly finds herself in the position of having to undress a respected personage. The gentle cracking sound of the Host made when it broke seemed not for my ears, either: it was an intimacy to which I was not entitled.

At some point - at a quiet Mass, of course - I heard the cracking of the Host and my soul shuddered at the thought of the thieves' legs cracking on Calvary. His body was broken, too, in so many ways, for us. Covered in blood and sweat, blue around the lips from suffocation, His hair matted around His face, having just died the most repulsive death... there are so many of us who still weep for Him in that moment, weeping in grief and gratitude. And there are a substantial number of those who are in love with Him to the point where they leave everything to live for Him alone. I once wanted to be one of those. With exquisite tact and tenderness, He listened to all my passionate outpourings, accepted my feeble attempts to live the life on my own, guided me with grace and the good advice of many, many writers whose books providentially came into my hands ... and said no.

My call is to love one man and know him only, and God is making that happen as tenderly and gently and firmly as He kept me at a distance all those years ago. And it is because of that love unfolding in my life that I understand exactly what Dr. Blosser is saying when he writes,
Please do not be offended, but I want to draw an analogy with another movement of cultural liberation that was concurrently underway alongside the liturgical reforms of the 1960s: the sexual revolution... It was precisely to protect the Real Presence of the Person that sex was hedged about with all those traditional taboos of courtship, ritual, decorum, and bonds of matrimony to begin with. Persons were never to be treated as mere things, to be 'used' as 'means' to satisfy our own pleasure, but always to be respected as ends-in-themselves. The taboos were a sign that we cared about the Real Presence of the other Person on the altar of sexual union. The dropping of the taboos was a sign that we no longer cared about the depth dimension of sex because we no longer cared about the Presence of the interior and irreducible selfhood of the other Person in the sexual encounter.

For those fortunate enough to know what it is to love like that, the very idea of being intimate with another human being is repellent, because they are not known... they are a stranger. And, also, because the stranger does not know one as does the beloved. Even when he was a young man, my beloved was exceptionally courteous, tender and kind. He managed to convey his deep affection without frightening me or lapsing from his habitually deeply respectful treatment of me - emotionally and intellectually, as well as physically. (Three decades later, nothing has changed. And there are still those who say there are no miracles!) Because of his gentleness, I am slowly allowing myself to be persuaded to consider life no longer alone, but forever after together, knowing and being known... and honoring one another with our care for each other's physical selves.

With the BBC News publishing the astonishing (/sarcasm) fruits of a study which concluded that not protecting young girls from sexual behavior harms them, and another study which conveyed the momentous (/more sarcasm) discovery that couples actually can space children without using methods harmful to the body or soul, and the hopeful signs that Benedict XVI is going to reiterate - tactfully, but clearly - the truth about the Sacrament of the Altar, and maybe even make it exceptionally clear that it may be celebrated as it once was ... one begins to feel that effervescent, springlike hope that the erratic thoughts and practices which followed the Council might - might - have begun to run their course, and souls might be waking up and wondering about these "new" ideas.

Count me among those who do not want to turn the clock back, but who do want to stop the endless liturgical churning and give God's Roman Catholic children at least the opportunity to experience a quiet, reverent Mass. I am not usually one to prattle on about "rights," but this is one big exception: it is our right as Roman Catholics to worship in the way we did before the Council. Even our Protestant brethren recognize this and provide both "traditional" and "modern" worship in their churches. So, if the goal of the Council was truly to adopt Protestant worship ways, then we must fall in line and allow our congregations to celebrate Mass in Latin, ad orientam. ;)

17 February 2007

The question I didn't ask

Christina posted a thoughtful list of questions - a marriage discernment quiz.

The Questions

1. Do you feel ready for marriage?
2. Is he good marriage material?
3. Does he inspire you to be a better person?
4. Do you inspire him to be a better person?
5. How does he feel about having children?
6. What things about him would you like to change?
7. Does he lift heavy things for you?
8. Are you physically attracted to him?
9. Does he admire you ridiculously?

Her answers are definitely worth checking out. In fact, I wish she'd been around about 30 years ago... especially to ask this one:

10. Is he the one you can't live without, that you are absolutely certain you can spend a whole life with?

Her answer brought tears to my eyes.

...Don't ask yourself whether you are able to spend a life with one man... ask yourself if you could possibly spend a life without him.

Ah, romance...

Lovely collection of links here which were posted for Valentine's Day. But you know what? Romance is always worth celebrating!

29 January 2007

A new temptation?

Hope posted this which she found here:
Entering Community

Jean Vanier

"When people enter community, especially from a place of loneliness in a big city or from a place of aggression and rejection, they find the warmth and the love exhilarating. This permits them to start lifting their masks and barriers and to become vulnerable. They may enter into a time of communion and great joy.

But then too, as they lift their masks and become vulnerable, they discover that community can be a terrible place, because it is a place of relationship; it is the revelation of our wounded emotions and of how painful it can be to live with others, especially with some people. It is so much easier to live with books and objects, television, or dogs and cats! It is so much easier to live alone and just do things for others, when one feels like it."

Source: Community and Growth
It is easier ... so much so, that I wonder if it isn't the predominant temptation of a certain kind of woman of a certain age. ;)

Virtuality and the death of here-ness

Terry Teachout posted this quote in his blog, About Last Night:

"The images on the screen are patterns of light, not living actors. They are not affected by applause or hissing. They will be the same in a packed house or an empty one. And they will be the same every time the movie is shown. This affects the audience. Occasionally, movie audiences applaud or hiss or walk out, but for the most part they are passive. No social bond between the audience and the actors can exist."

O.B. Hardison, Entering the Maze: Identity and Change in Modern Culture

Sometimes you read something and your mind just goes ... duh.

I want to think about this some more.

The film industry got started right around the turn of the century. Since that time, people have been watching other people perform in that behind-the-glass way, with a sense of, they're safe from me, and I'm safe from them.

What has that done to the way we experience theatre? Life?

27 January 2007

Podcast, schmodcast

I just went to a site, hoping that I could dip in and find out what an interesting quote was all about. What a letdown: it's all podcasts!

I hate podcasts. Don't even listen to radio, except for classical music. No CDs at home, no television to speak of... the house is mostly silent.

I wish those who podcast would get themselves a copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking or something, and just post the raw transcription along with the verbal. I'd happily take even a not-cleaned-up text; then at least their ideas would get my attention.


26 January 2007

This sounds about right...

Jane Eyre

Jane, orphaned at a young age, is turned out by her aunt. After a gloomy childhood at boarding school, she leaves to find mystery and romance with the dark, strange, Mr. Rochester...

Which Classic Heroine are You?

24 January 2007

Toward reconstruction

There is a school of thought called "deconstructionism" which is familiar to anyone who's been involved in academia/liberal arts at the college level. Derrida is an author whose work I've not read but which I understand to be important in this study. It's also my understanding that the deconstructionists evolved, if you will, from the pragmatists - Ralph Waldo Emerson, et al. In graduate English classes, I understood its essential aim is to eliminate all non-essentials from written expression, until the words themselves do the job of conveying meaning, rather than the emotions they invoke. I deliberately have avoided becoming too familiar with it, because I perceived that it is not good for people.

Unlike a writing technique or story structure method or anything else, deconstructionism is a kind of perverse philosophy which ends up requiring one to see all things through a lens which dismisses or explains away anything but the essence of what is meant. In religion, the same experience can be encountered in Christian Science, where all that is seen, encountered, or felt must be filtered and explained through the lens of its particular understanding.

In art, deconstructionism usually ends up in "non-representational" works - meaning, no people or recognizable figures which would convey meaning. That's cheating, in a way, in this school of thought. Instead, the construct - whether it be in art, or language, or music - should stand alone, absolutely without the trappings of culture, story, or anything else. It is judged by whether its meaning comes through without that "baggage." One must "go deeper" into the art in order to get at its meaning. In a way, it draws upon the kind of Buddhist practice of self-emptying and utter detachment, until there is nothing left but the essence of one's self. Christian mysticism seeks the same kind of self-surrender, yet it is entirely different. To the Christian, meaning and essence resolve in the one-in-three Person: love. Deconstructionism is ultimately sterile; there is no motivation to do anything but keep explaining and clearing away nonessentials. For the healthy Christian, the process results in a full and happy life.

Deconstructionism is considered courageous, and it is, in an ignorantly reckless way, because to put the self out there without any buffer or societal help to interpret life, the ordinary framework of decision-making and support is gone. Deconstructionists dismiss the Liar along with the Beautiful One, but that doesn't mean either doesn't exist.
When an unclean spirit goes out of a person it roams through arid regions searching for rest but finds none. Then it says, 'I will return to my home from which I came.' But upon returning, it finds it empty, swept clean, and put in order. Then it goes and brings back with itself seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they move in and dwell there; and the last condition of that person is worse than the first. Thus it will be with this evil generation.
Part of the fallout from this kind of thinking is a refusal to allow any kind of emotion into public discourse. Things are reduced to their absolute meaning. Anything evoking emotion is wrong. In fact, not content to have impoverished their own souls, this camp wages a lively war against the sentiments which protect all of us in our journey along the treacherous path of life.

Nowhere is this more glaringly obvious than in the area of family and motherhood. The family used to be a favourite topic of artists, writers, and preachers. It was the most important of all human relationships. Without it, we would not be here. It served as the model for our understanding of God and our role in the world. However, in its essence, family does not exist. It is a mental and societal construct, not a fact. Once that concept is deconstructed to its essence, the facts remaining are DNA - but, just because you share someone's DNA, you are not therefore required to have anything to do with them based on that fact alone.

In the ideal of the Judeo-Christian tradition, sex was best reserved for husband and wife, a legal and intensely personal bond which formed a family. Deconstructed, sex is merely "friendly exercise."

Nothing meant so much throughout time as a baby. Our Lord elected to become one of us as a baby because he knew what that would do to people as they tried to get their minds and hearts around it. But, in its essence, a fetus is a product of conception - no more.

Because it is rigorously logical, it is a seductive school of thought. To those whose catechesis was lacking, who drank in the entrenched professional academic cynicism of the 50s and 60s and 70s, it is non-negotiable. They literally know no better. To them, the only way to protect from spin is to avoid anything that would interpret the facts.

Its influence could already be seen in the 60s, as interior decoration became spare and basic, and women's clothing became less adorned. Cynicism became chic. The Vietnam war fostered both cynicism and hard-bitten detachment from all that would engender emotion. God - a construct if there ever was one - was immediately dismissed as an option. Belief was not real and therefore was repudiated.

Those involved in Vatican II - the heirs of it, if you will, the ones charged with carrying it out - were fresh out of college and university, their minds filled with this complex and exceedingly subtle bias towards disinterpretation. To them, the deposit of Faith was an accretion which needed to be cleared away in order to expose the truth about what was going on. Representational art - statuary - needed to be removed in order to open the mind to consider the pure truth, without all the clutter of devotionals, candles, customs, genuflections, novenas, prayers, etc. etc. etc. In their zeal, and because they were not contemplatives, and because they were ignorant of mysticism because it was disallowed in their understanding, they completely missed the point. Better men than they had already walked that path and done the deconstruction; men like St. John of the Cross. But the mystics emptied their minds and souls and hearts of all except the Love they followed and served. They did not empty themselves to nothingness, but to clear away the impediments to union with God. Love healed and restored them, rebuilding their understanding until they were able to see through the obscuring layers of nonsense that people throw up around their souls and their personalities and their comprehension just to get by and through this crazy life - just as Jesus did.

It is hard to talk to these people. Not only are they utterly convinced their stance is correct, the philosophy has seeped into all corners of society where academics, especially those in the liberal arts, hold sway. All public education is tinged with it. It's rampant throughout the commercial arts of movies and popular music. Government has uncomfortably adopted its tenets, accepting as fact that the separation of church and state will be endangered by the exercise of freedom of speech about forms of belief, which are not necessary (pragmatist) and nonessential to truth (deconstructionist). Saddest of all, though, are the children of all ages, pre-born, growing, and adult, because they have been robbed of so much that makes life sweet and grand. Sex is not the mystical and devoted union celebrated in Scripture (in Tobit, the Song of Songs, the Psalms, Isaiah and elsewhere). If the spiritual is allowed, it veers off into the tantric instead of seeing it for what it is: two individuals, united as one in all ways. Discussion of the conception, birth and growth of children is sterile and factual, because the societal constructs are forbidden. Anyone who would appeal to the emotions is ridiculed or shouted down as being "unfair".

Deconstructionism is an interesting and worthwhile theory, and it is useful when applied to art, following the same path as St. John of the Cross did when he progressively surrendered all to deliberately descend into the dark night of the soul, then being born anew, was raised up, made whole by Love. In the same way an artist can peel away all the nonessentials to learn and expose the essential behind painting; this may mean giving up representational art for a while. But it is true annihilation to stay in that place. Instead, one needs to come back to life, to show the truth of life through its trappings. Michelangelo, Beethoven, Rubens - these come to mind as artists whose art consciously covers itself in common constructs, but you can see the essence right through, and talk about meaning and intent for years.

The Catholic Church knows all this - and it is probable that she doesn't know that she knows. According to Paul, we are all part of the body; just as the body knows things - I'm typing unconsciously, for example - the soul can know them, too. We know Christ in the breaking of the bread. We see him in our fellow man - the Sisters of Charity literally dragging people out of the gutter because they are Christ, suffering and alone. And, while the Catholic Church goes on doing what she does, laity confused and taken aback by the superficial abandonment of what they most need, she is protected by One who created the one who whispered the thoughts of deconstruction into its proponents, and chortles with glee as its soul-deadening maxims are promulgated throughout society. And we know this by simply looking at our Leader in Christ's stead. Like John Paul II before him, he is one of the few of whom I'm aware who can deal with the most subtle and determined proponent of deconstructionism on their own ground. He is an intellectual swordsman, anticipating and disarming even the strongest arguments with a gentle touch, deep courtesy, and airtight reasoning - "rightly dividing the word of truth."

If those students of Derrida would honestly and seriously read through some of the works produced by the last two popes, and be willing to consider their points in thoughtful debate, their skill in understanding might find a whole new field of endeavour, where they could use their intellectual muscle to tread the path of real deconstruction - the kind that leads unavoidably to the tomb. But this self-emptying withdrawal from constructed meaning goes far beyond picking apart the rags of mortal existence. This deconstruction of self has been demonstrated by our Master. He calls us to take the narrow path away from self and world-clutter insofar as we can. His way requires acceptance of annihilation and nothingness and the lack of meaning in experience; but he will not let you stay there. He leads you out of the darkness through the way you cannot see from the outside. When Love itself disappears from the soul's sight in the blackness, it is the soul's choice to stay there, and despair, or to reach out and ask to be led home. There is no tomb so dark and deep he cannot find it. There is no soul so empty and lost he cannot hear its silent call to him in faith. There is no soul he cannot ransom if it hopes in him. There is no soul he does not love.

23 January 2007

How political feminism validates the hierarchical model

(OK, that's glib. But - made you look!)

A recent article in "Books and Culture," (January/February 2007, Vol. 13, No. 1, Page 28) is entitled, "On Slippery Slopes, the Blogosphere, and (oh yes) Women". In it, Susan Wise Bauer responds to the outcry following her review of a book:
I haven't come out against the Trinity or the bodily resurrection. I remarked on my blog how much I liked John Stackhouse's new book Finally Feminist: A Pragmatic Christian Understanding of Gender.

This fairly mild pronouncement got highlighted on Gender-News.com, which published a headline story announcing that "many evangelicals may have been blindsided" by my blog entry, and quoted Randy Stinson of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood as saying, "She is undermining biblical authority by holding her current position on the gender issue."
In the rest of the piece, Bauer seems to try to defend her positive review of his book, while somehow convincing people that the charge of "undermining biblical authority" cannot be true.

Well, I'm not convinced.
Women and homosexuals: they're inextricably linked all across the evangelical cosmos. Al Mohler writes that "feminism must necessarily be joined to the homosexual agenda." Egalitarian thinking, says Rick Philips on Reformation 21, "launches its adherents onto the slippery slope: by following this principle one cannot fail to end up endorsing homosexual unions." Ligon Duncan insists that as soon as the PCUSA approved the ordination of women, it had already "decided the issue of homosexual ordination."
With our love for condensation and distillation and shorthand - "blogging" for "posting to a web log," for example - the use of "homosexual" tends to get abbreviated to the word itself, which is too easily understood as "the person of homosexual orientation." That makes people mad, and rightly so: it's inaccurate, and unfair.

What is meant by "the issue of homosexual ordination" is not "we don't like homosexuals and won't have them around us." The issue is more accurately stated as, "Paul was explicit in his condemnation of homosexual acts, following a long tradition of explicit condemnation of homosexual acts in the Old Testament. Are we going to have a minister who upholds what Paul said, or not? If not, where do we draw the line? Do we want to get into those kinds of discussions in church, or do we want to worship without mental reservations?" And, in virtually all cases of which I'm aware, churches have no objection to ordaining celibate homosexuals. Churches which want to live according to the plain words of Scripture will bar from their pulpits those who engage in homosexual acts and are determined to teach and preach their acceptability in spite of the clear words of Scripture. They will also bar from their pulpits heterosexuals who violate the teachings of Scripture they are supposed to honor by example as well as with their words. It isn't about sex, but integrity. It's like helping out at Republican headquarters while actively campaigning for Hillary Clinton. Cognitive dissonance, and all that.

Now, since the Scriptures contain admittedly inconvenient teachings about sexual morality, it is a very human, albeit childish, tactic to simply ignore the unpleasant bits and enjoy the rest. However, this has a predictable effect. That's why this paragraph made me laugh in astonishment:
As a defense of the Bible, this is very peculiar. If allowing women to be ordained will destroy the authority of Scripture, why doesn't the slippery slope argument go, "Ordain women, and Christ's bodily resurrection will be the next thing to go," or, "Ordain women, and we may have to relinquish our belief in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of the sins, and the life everlasting"?
Um, Ms. Bauer ...? Excuse me, but that's already happened, and quite a long time ago. How about if you get up to speed on some of the jaw-droppingly heterodox and/or pantheistic and/or monist statements coming out of Episcopal leadership these days, and get back to us.
There's a political reality underlying this particular line of argument that has little to do with Scripture. Egalitarianism shares some its premises with political feminism, a movement which originated in the 1970s and which (as Stackhouse points out) is blamed by many conservative Christians for "a wide range of social pathologies," including promiscuity, "depression of wages" (brought on by too many women in the workplace), the phenomenon of latchkey children, a rise in divorce, and hatred of Christianity.

Whether or not political feminism is responsible for all the ills laid at its door,...
Unfortunately, this is a huge topic, and while there is room for nearly endless debate about whether political feminism is a cause or a symptom, it's a bit off-putting to have her use the written equivalent of a dismissive wave of the hand.
...this much is undeniable: as political feminism matured, it lent its language and much of its agenda to the growing gay rights movement. Politically, gay rights did build on the women's rights movement, just as women's rights had built on the civil rights movement of earlier decades.
Uh-oh... I sense where this is going. And the way she states that, it sounds like women's rights came out of the civil rights movement... instead of the cause of women's rights hitching a ride on the civil rights movement to gain traction and credibility by painting women as an oppressed minority.

But let us persevere ... here (at last) is The Point she is trying to make:
[The civil rights movement, the women's rights movement, and the gay rights movement] are secular political movements. Their task has been to figure out how a wildly diverse population can co-exist in a democracy, a secular political entity which theoretically gives every citizen an equal voice. They mix the good and the just (women should be paid equal wages for equal work; homosexuals should not be fired or assaulted because of their sexual preference) with the unholy and un-scriptural. But since when do secular political movements provide a model for the church?

This is, unfortunately, not a rhetorical question. Plenty of churches are democracies, which is not necessarily a scriptural model. Plenty of churches have adopted other elements of American political structure, more or less uncritically. To those who argue that, in some denominations, the ordination of women has led to the open acceptance of homosexuality, I would agree that this is indeed a real phenomenon. It has occurred because, in those denominations, the church has completely lost sight of the fact that it is supposed to be the gathered people of God, a counterculture which lives apart from the power-structures of the world.

When a church moves from egalitarianism to an open rejection of the biblical teachings on sexuality, hordes of conservative theologians ought to post essays on their blogs about why we shouldn't model ourselves on the world. They ought to argue that the church shouldn't be adopting secular political modes of leadership, including elections and Robert's Rules of Order. They ought to point out that the power structures of the church are supposed to be entirely different than those of American politics.
I hadn't thought of that before. I think she's right. And I think - perhaps inadvertently - she has, with that paragraph, validated the historic structure of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, which has always seen the clear difference between its modes of governing its realm and the secular techniques for achieving civilized cooperation.

(These days there is always the specter of The Scandal lurking behind any consideration of the Roman Catholic system of self-government. Whatever one's position or conclusions, I think it's fair to say that The Scandal was due more to intemperate and unwise changes to spiritual and religious practice after Vatican II, and to the appalling choices made by bishops who did not deal appropriately with problems when they became aware of them, than to the structure of the Roman Catholic church per se.)

I think Ms. Bauer's point about church governance is valid. I think she has a long way to go in her development as a critic, though, because she got waylaid along the way by all sorts of tempting side-trails, and that's where she ran into trouble, in my opinion. Her observation about church government was valid, and interesting. I believe she should have left the rhetoric and inflammatory logic to the author. He may be able to wade into those battles and win; she cannot, yet.