24 November 2007

The U.N. and its silence on the mutilation of women

All Christians should work diligently for an end to violence against women, especially unborn women.

Just today, the U.N.'s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour had this to say about violence against women:

"Every day, in all corners of the world, countless women and girls are killed, mutilated, beaten, raped, sold into sexual slavery or tortured. . .This impunity is built on a foundation of discrimination and inequality. . .unless these inequalities are addressed, including in the economic and social spheres, the violence will persist."

There is, of course, a familiar feminist bias here: violence against women is based on discrimination and inequality? Hardly. It's rooted in human evil and sin. But quite apart from this boringly predictable politically correct bumper-sticker sound bite, do you notice anything missing from the litany of evils that social and economic inequality and discrimination foist on women?

Let's edit Ms Arbour's comment to make sense from a Catholic perspective: "Every day, in all corners of the world, countless women and girls are killed, mutilated, beaten, raped, sold into sexual slavery or tortured [or shot full of saline by their doctor, sliced up with a pair of forceps, vacuumed out of their mother's womb, and tossed into the dumpster]."

Hmmmmm. . .I wonder why Ms Arbour leaves off this particular form of mutilation, torture, and murder? Maybe she's a fan of the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals and sees this procedure as a morally acceptable means of accomplishing the MDG's other goals?

Back on the air

I'm back to Podcasting. . .

Just added two podcasts this morning. I will try to get the ones I've missed up ASAP.

Click the Pod-O-Matic Podcast Player on the left side.

Why not go ahead and subscribe? That way you will get an email update everytime I post a new homily. . .

The Resurrection! So what?

St Andrew Dung-Lac & Companions: 1 Mac 6.1-13 and Luke 20.27-40
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

Our salvation as members of the Body of Christ is not a rescue operation. We are not like those cruise ship adventurers in the Antarctica who needed to be pulled from the ice flows: in immediate danger of death, helpless to help ourselves, and desperate for someone, anyone to throw us a life-line. Neither is our salvation as member of the Body of Christ a matter of “Me and Jesus,” just me and the Lord tooling around heaven on our private cloud, a VIP life in eternity where my boy Jesus takes care of me. Our salvation as members of the Body of Christ is a matter of the resurrection of the body, both mine and ours. Yours and ours. We are saved corporately. And the dogma of the resurrection of the dead, of the flesh, of the body spells this out for us. Our life here together prefigures or presages our perfected lives together in the Beatific Vision. We have died together in the waters of baptism. We have risen together out of those same waters. We live a new life together now as new creations, and though we will each die, we will rise again. From the dead? Yes. In the flesh? Yes. As a body? Yes. And we will do all of this b/c our God is a God of the living not the dead. Why? For God “all are alive.”

We would need several days and lots of good, strong Starbucks coffee (or several bottles of good bourbon!) to work our way through the biblical, philosophical, theological history of and all the nuances of what it means for us to be raised from the dead as a body in the flesh. Dogmatically, we know this will happen. What will this resurrection look like? I mean, with camcorder in hand and a crystal clear digital mpeg file to review later, what would a person rising from the dead actually look like? We have no idea. Well, that’s not entirely true. It would look like Jesus’ vacating his Good Friday tomb, but do we really know what that looked like? No. We only know that the tomb was empty on Easter morning. Nothing remained of our Lord but his burial garments and the inferno of faith possessed by those who spread the Good News of his departure. We know this: without the resurrection of Christ from the dead as a body in the flesh, there is no resurrection of his Body, the Church. We remain in the grave, dead and decomposing. We thrive then on the hope of our resurrection; that is, we prosper, abundantly flourish on the sure knowledge that just as we have died with Christ, risen with Christ, and lived with him to become Christ for others, our hope is that we will rise again with him on the last day.

So what? Good question. Here’s another good question: do you live right now “as if” you were already resurrected? Are you a glorified person? One who is radiant with the glory of God? Are you an indisputable sign of Christ’s coming, his death, and his rising from the dead? We can argue endlessly about the physics and metaphysics of our resurrection, but the point for us now, this morning, is take seriously, deadly seriously, how we live these gifted-hours as women and men who accept the Lord’s promise of eternal life. Are you living an eternal life now? Dependent on God’s generosity? Loosed from the bonds of rebellious passion? Freed from the death of sin? Are you a child of the living God, the One for Whom “all are alive”? If not, then you will end your gifted-days with King Antiochus, crying on your death-bed, “I know that this is why these evils have overtaken me; and now I am dying in a foreign land bitterly grieved.”

Philosophy's Evil Twins

UH? What!

There are a couple of new additions to the Wish List! Mostly continental philosophy of religion and philosophical theology.

One thing is becoming crystal clear to me: I am WAAAAYYYYYYY behind in the reading for this area. Unlike Anglo-American philosophy, continental philosophy is heavily historical and literary. While the analytical tradition that tends to dominate in the US/UK is heavily mathematical and scientific.

This means that it is far easier to "catch up" with the analytical tradition than it is with the continental.

Of course, I chose the more difficult path. . .sigh. . .

23 November 2007

Authority as God would have it

St. Pope Clement of Rome: 1 Peter 5.1-4 and Matthew 16.13-19
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

We could spend the day just listing the legion of challenges and difficulties facing the contemporary church. How the church, universal and local, responses will be calibrated each time either to push back against our bullies or to turn the cheek and accept insult. The universal difficulty that faces the church in these tumultuous times is the crisis of authority, that is, the general, wholesale rejection—inside and outside the family—the rejection of the Church’s ministry in defining and defending, in teaching and preaching the truth of the apostolic faith. We could spend tomorrow listing all the reasons for this rejection. But let’s cut to the chase and talk about the one reason we can directly confront and fix: the failure of ecclesial authority to define, defend, teach and preach as Christ himself did.

Matthew reports that Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” We would expect this question and its subsequent answer to lead Jesus to teach his friends and students the nature of the Son of God and Man. Rather than launching into a lecture on the Messiah, Jesus takes a decidedly different tact when Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus asks his question of ALL the disciples, only Peter answers. Turning to Peter alone, Jesus says to him that only the Father could reveal such wisdom and because of this revelation to Peter, he, Jesus, gives to Peter, the Rock, the keys to the kingdom; that is, the authority and power to “bind and loose” on earth and in heaven. In Jewish terms, Jesus is making Peter his household steward, giving him the keys to the palace pantry, treasury, and troops. “Binding and loosing” refers to the authority of the rabbis to declare doctrine either true or false. With the “keys to the kingdom” and the authority to “bind and loose,” Peter, the Rock, is made vicar of Christ on earth.

Peter, in his first letter, writes to his fellow priests, as a “witness of the sufferings of Christ,” that they, his priestly co-workers, must be exemplary shepherds, tending God’s flock “willingly” not by constraint, “not for shameful profit but eagerly” as God Himself desires it. In other words, priestly authority must be wielded FOR the people and not against the people; for the truth and beauty of the faith and not for personal wealth or power, for public celebrity, overblown ego, or career advancement. The scandal of authority raises its ugly, lying head most dangerously in clerical narcissism—the use and abuse of the gifted-keys for MY glory, for MY elevation, for MY Self, bloated and callous, hungering after attention and fame. Priestly authority, used for this purpose, will divide the church, destroy the preaching, deny God’s people the truth of their faith, and ultimately, kill the spirit of both the shepherd and his flock. Our own “crisis of authority” is less about the failure of the Father’s good sheep to obey (the failure to listen) but more about the failure of our shepherds to lead in the way that “God would have it.”

How would God have His priests and bishops lead? Peter’s answer, “You are the Christ…” does not lead Jesus to expound a theology of the Messiah. Peter’s answer, “You are the Son of the living God” leads Jesus to appoint Peter to the office of vicar, steward of the kingdom, Rock for the church! Peter and his co-workers draw the fresh water of ecclesial authority from a deeply seeded trust, a root system of flourishing faith and love, and they branch out, across the church and the world, to speak the Word, to teach and preach The Truth that liberates. It is out of the deep well of abiding love for Christ and his people that any priest, any bishop draws the power to announce the Good News, to admonish and correct error, to set right those wandering away from the beaten path of our ancestors in faith. For a priest or bishop to use that well to slake a thirst for power, for fame or glory, or to puff up a failing ego is to drink his own destruction. And what is more scandalous for legitimate authority, what could throw on the path of the Way a stone larger than one of Christ’s apostles self-destructing before the eyes of the world?

Peter, the Rock, admonishes his priestly co-workers, “Do not lord [your authority] over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock.” Show them Christ and they in return will show you redeeming love.

Vocations Crisis, vocations prayer

My Pod-O-Matic account is quickly filling up, so I've been reviewing older podcasts and pondering which can be erased. . .

. . .in my reviewing, I ran across "An Exhortation for Vocations" from a year back. Listening to it again, I am more convinced than ever that my sense of the "crisis" is dead-on.

I work one-on-one with a number of young men here at U.D. who feel the call to ordained ministry but who also feel plagued by doubt, fear, and hesitation. Some of this anxiety is formed in ignorance of the what being priest is all about. Some is formed b/c of family pressures or peer expectations. But for the most part, their anxiety is about not having the Certainty that they think they need to say YES.

Once again, I want to suggest a different way to pray for vocations to the priesthood. We demonstrate a certain lack of faith in our Father's generosity when we ask Him to send us more vocations. He is sending us more than enough men to serve as priests. The crisis is a crisis of courage on the part of those called. So, we need to pray like this:

Father, we know that you give us all that we need
to grow in holiness, to come to Christ whole and pure,
and to live with you forever.

Father, we accept as a blessing for your church
all the young men you have called to serve
as priests; we give you thanks for this
abundance and ask you to encourage
their hearts to say YES to your call.

Send your Holy Spirit among them,
drive away their anxiety, fear, hesitation,
and doubt and show them the work
they have to do among your people.

With all gratitude, Father, we lift up
your call to service and give you thanks
and praise for the ministry of our priests.
Keep them holy, keep them strong.

We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.

The theological basis for this prayer is the immediate acceptance of our Father's blessings even when those blessings are not immediately evident. A gift cannot be a gift until it is accepted as such. This is why we say "amen" when given the Body and Blood at communion. When the minister says, "The Body of Christ" and we say "Amen," we are accepting as fact and blessing that we are eating the Father's gift of the Body of Christ.

The promise becomes an offering and our acceptance of the offering makes the promise a gift. When we pray for "more vocations," we are in effect saying, "Lord, you are not providing for us. Send us more!" We need to accept that our Father always gives us enough. Accept the blessing He has given us. And offer thanks and praise! I'm convinced that we must see vocations work in this light.

God bless, Fr. Philip, OP

22 November 2007

Video for the Angelicum

Check out this video promoting the Angelicum. . .my soon-to-be alma mater and employer. . .

Though I am excited about going to Rome to study and teach at the Angelicum. . .I am worried about the living conditions, meaning, specifically, I am very worried about the lack of A/C! I am VERY hot-natured. Pretty much any day above 65 degrees is too hot for me.

Hated for Jesus' Sake

33rd Sunday OT(C): Malachi 3.19-20; 2 Thes 3.7-12; Luke 21.5-19
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Monastery of Mary the Queen, Elmira NY

It was a Friday afternoon after school. We were right outside the Ms Shear’s house—she was the one with the indoor pool with that the glass roof. She would open her gates and let us run our bikes down her driveway into the dead-end cove. At the bottom of the driveway that Friday just as I was spinning around to ride back up, my best friend, Teddie asked me, “Do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?” I stared at him for a second, mildly embarrassed, murmured something unintelligible, and headed back up the hill. He followed and asked me at the top, “Have you ever heard of the Tribulation?” No. “The Second Coming of Jesus.” No. “The Rapture?” No. “The war at Armageddon?” No. He stared at me, open-mouthed. I felt like a circus-freak, an dime-store exhibit, one of those werewolf boys or eight-legged cows you see at the state fair. And just as I was starting to think Teddie was going to slap a sign on me and start selling tickets, he said, “You need to come to Vacation Bible School at Fremeaux Ave. Baptist Church.” I distinctly remember his tone. He pronounced this possibility like a highly-effective cure for a particularly ugly disease, like suggesting radical plastic surgery to the eight-legged cow or laser-hair removal for the werewolf boy. Vacation Bible School will fix ten-year old-Jesus-stupid-Philip.

Jesus knows how to get and hold the attention of a crowd. Pointing to the temple, the very heart of the Jewish people, he says, “All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone…” And the people wonder, “Teacher, when will this happen?” Notice how Jesus answers. Typically, Jesus doesn’t answer the question asked of him; rather, he answers the question we would ask if we were less clueless! Rather than tell the crowd who or what destroys the temple, or how the temple is destroyed, or even when it is pulled down, Jesus says, “See that you are not deceived, for many will come in my name, saying ‘I am he’ and ‘The time is come.’ Do not follow them!” This isn’t an answer. And neither is any of the rest of his response. War. Famine. Earthquakes. Awesome sights and mighty signs. Persecutions of the church. These have been going on since the beginning of the Church. Before the Church even. And long after her founding. And not only that, but the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans some seventy years after the resurrection of Christ, making this passage from Luke’s gospel essentially an interesting but ultimately pointless historical curiosity for us in 2007, right? Wrong! Jesus’ response to the crowd is an answer to the ages. To us. He is speaking to us right now.

You see, our faith, done right, is a dangerous thing. It is a worm in the shiny apple of the world. A pest that buzzes ‘round the emperor’s head. Our faith is a still small voice that never stops whispering for the Lord’s justice. Never stops praying for the world’s sick, hungry, lonely, oppressed, sinful. Our faith, our firm trust in the Lord and our sure hope of resurrection, annoys; it burns to clean; it names those who would set themselves on the altar of the temple, and it pulls down the idols of the stomach. Through our faith we see clearly, hear cleanly the chaos and racket of a world infused with the spirit of the Now and the New. Easy salvation. Cheap grace. No-challenge Church. Invent as you go, believe as you wish, do as you please. Please yourself, please me! Here’s a new prophet, a new priest to tickle our ears, to scratch our curiosities. I am he. The time has come. I am he. The time is now. The time is new. I am he who comes in the name of the Lord. I am he whose time is now and I come in the name of a new Lord!

Do not be deceived. Do not follow him. Or her. Or it—a spiritual program, a method, a style or a fashion, a theological trend, or a “new thing in prayer,” the latest thing to demand your allegiance, your time and energy, your soul. Do not be deceived by easy fixes, quick cures, elaborate models of living the faith, or fanciful devotions that take your eyes from Christ. Do not be deceived by the shiny, flickering world of cable-TV commerce or media-born politics or the brain-rotting candy of cultural relativism. Your faith is old. Your trust in the Lord is sparkling new. For us, Christ is the wisdom of the ages. Always fresh, always innovative, always the original.

So, Jesus-stupid-Philip went to Vacation Bible School. A week of verse-memorization, macaroni art, disciple-tag, fevered altar calls in church, intense pressure to “come to Jesus.” On the last day, I caved. I walked the aisle to the rail. In a Baptist version of confession, I muttered a few sins to the preacher. He asked me if I accepted Jesus into my heart as my personal Lord and Savior. I said, “Yes.” But I thought, “Sure. Anything to get outta here!” Later, Teddie asked me if I felt different. I said, “No. Not really.” Again, he stared at me like I had grown a third eye. He said sadly, “Well, you didn’t get saved then. You would feel it.” All I could do was shrug and say, “Maybe next time.” He showed me the Book of Revelation where the blood of those killed in the war against the Beast flowed as high as a horse’s bridle. He pointed to the whore of Babylon and told me that was really the Catholic Church. He read out to me the parts about the angels and the seven seals and the ten-headed dragon and the number 666. And he managed to scare Jesus into me. Or maybe he scared me into Jesus.

Jesus warns us that we will be persecuted. Arrested and executed for our faith. This was made clear to me by Teddie when he showed me the chaos of the apocalypse. The energy, the fervor of his belief propelled me to seek out, to question, to look more deeply into the faith. I didn’t stop at the fundamentalist vision of the end times. I kept reading, praying, asking questions. And I found the Church…eventually. Before that though I let every alien philosophy out there, every puny little god with a creed and a priest tell me how to live. We are the Church, the Body of Christ. We are his Body and Blood. The blood of the martyrs’ faith. The faith of our ancestors in covenant with the Father. And a Father who has not abandoned us to novelty, to trendy religious nonsense. We are given the word of wisdom against whom no adversary can stand. We are given the trust of the Creator and His recreating Love. On these, we endure. With these, we persevere. And what promise we do have? This one: “You will be hated b/c of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.” Nothing cheap or easy about that!

Pic credit: John B. Wright

20 November 2007

Miscellany, etc. & etc.

Miscellany & Commentary. . .as I browse around the Net catching up. . .

Transformed. Citing a story in the UK Telegraph on the "failure" of women in the Anglican priesthood, Uncle Di does his usual excellent job of dissecting the issues:

"It's true that women have made an immense and invaluable contribution to Christian churchmanship in recent years, but this contribution has nothing whatsoever to do with ordination. It is a consequence of the Internet, which has brought readers together with part-time and non-professional writers -- many of whom write nonsense, but many of whom on the contrary are women of deep piety, insight, and wisdom, and whose thoughts had little chance for expression fifteen years ago.

But women's ordained ministry, even on its own terms, has been an undeniable flop. Putting aside the fact, enunciated by Catholic doctrine, that sacramental priesthood is void for women, one might still expect that the opportunities provided by non-sacramental ministries would have thrown up someone of substance -- or at least lasting influence -- over the past couple decades. Yet we find no Margaret Thatchers and no Hannah Arendts and no Jeanne Kirkpatricks among the clergy but, in their place, a inordinately high number of women who are just plain daft.

[. . .]

The flakiness of women ministers is a flakiness with a characteristic edge to it. It flirts with paganism and expresses itself with a facetious worldliness. I suspect this is partly due to the fact that the churches that ordain women are pro-abortion, which means the whole spiritual dimension of maternity must be amputated. The glint of the new-sharpened knife is never far from their feminism. And as if by compensation for this ideologically obedient cruelty, the same persons often display a quasi-pagan sentimentalism about nature. Katharine Jefferts Schori, we're told, dresses like a sunrise, and many other priestesses cultivate a rapturous 'wind in the face' emotivism that takes the place orthodox Christian liturgy gives to the worship of God."

Margaret Sanger. A telling pic of the foundress of Planned Parenthood drawing inspiration from her philosophical and political roots.

Humility and Hospitality. Tom K. has up a nice little reflection on the gospel from the 32nd Sunday OT. We should all write to Tom and encourage him to produce homily helps for preachers. . .he's a Dominican after all!

Ratzinger, Scripture and the development of doctrine.
Mike L. has a great post up about our Holy Father's take on the interpretation of scripture. In fact, most everything I read on Mike's site is great. You need to add him to your blogroll if you haven't already!

With theologians like these. . . Gerald has up a post on Elizabeth Johnson's receipt of an award from Barry University's theology department. Just google E.J.'s name for all the reasons you will need for why this was a bad idea. Should anyone think that E.J.'s "theology" is out of the ordinary in contemporary academic theology circles these days, I got news for you: she's tame. Downright old-fashioned even. E.J. represents the Feminist Academic Establishment-- mainline 70's political feminism, "work within the system to change it," language=reality, so change the language and you change reality. Pretty boring stuff, actually. If you want the really, REALLY cutting edge theology, you need to be reading Richard Kearney's work, or Robert Barron's. Both of these guys are very well-read in literature and use novels, poems, films, etc. in their theological and philosophical work. Just darned good reads.

Fr. Z links to a pastoral letter written by Bishop Arthur Serratelli (Paterson, NJ) to his priests, exhorting them to be faithful to the rubrics of the liturgy. I think the Good Bishop has it all exactly right. . .well, except for that stuff about religious priests needing to wear an alb over their shiny white habits. . .

Dutch Dominicans. Fr. Ed Ruane, OP, Vicar for the Master of the Order of Preachers, has written a response to that brochure our Dutch brothers published earlier this year. If you will recall, the Dutch OP's were arguing that the Catholic Mass should become a Protestant memorial service, complete with lay presider (even in the presence of a priest) who is rotated out on a weekly basis. Fr. Ruane is a great Dominican and excellent theologian. . .but I have to say that the statement is a bit anemic. Of course, politics being what they are. . .

Also, I've added a few items to the PHIL & THEO Wish List. My mom bought me my Christmas gift back in May, so now I have to hit Pop up for a book or two before I jet off to my wonderful new Roman life. Check it out!

God Bless, Fr. Philip, OP

P.S. I should add: if you have a Facebook account, look me up and add me as a friend!