26 February 2010

Quick Updates

Mama Becky recently got out of the hospital. . .again, pneumonia.  She reports feeling better than ever.  Continued prayers much appreciated.

French classes start for yours truly Monday afternoon.  

I've been offered a summer class at U.D.  Second term:  "Western Theological Tradition."

Still waiting on a gallery copy of the second prayer book.  It's due out May 2010.

First Niece is doing very well with her Sylvan tutoring.  Much like her uncle did at her age, she's battling the demonic hordes of the fiend, Math.

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Coffee Bowl Browsing

Scary:  "Presidential emergency powers" is a phrase we are used to hearing used by Third World junta thugs not from the U.S. Congress. 

56% say that the government is the biggest threat to American civil rights.  See above.

Zombies and the First Amendment!  Stumbling towards the Apocalypse.

A dangerous rhetorical shift:  "freedom of religion" vs. "freedom of worship."  Yes, it matters.  A great deal. 

A victory for free speech and free exercise in a public school.  Yes, it can still happen.

Judge calls priestly celibacy "cruel."  Of course, we all know that the real cruelty here is the idiocy of this judge. 

I'm sure that this clock is a metaphor for some important philosophical concept. . .just not sure which one.  Maybe the "fallacy of non-indexical allusion"?  Uh?

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Lenten Reflection 5: difficult questions

"I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust."

Loving your enemies in the abstract is easy.  How do you love them concretely?

What is the purpose of praying for those who persecute you?  

How exactly does loving your enemies and praying for your persecutors make you a child of God?

Why does the fact that the sun shines on the just and unjust make praying for the unjust necessary?

"For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” 

What reward is there for us in returning love for love if sinners do the same?

In what way is Jesus calling us to be "unusual"?

How can we be perfect as the Father is perfect?  He is God; we are His creatures. 

Concretely, by what means is Jesus teaching us to be perfect as the Father is perfect?

What distracts us from this path?

In what way do you imitate the pagans/tax collectors rather than the Father?

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Coffee Bowl Browsing

Anti-Catholic bigot and movie-maker, Roland Emmerich, is being sued by the archdiocese of Rio de Janiero for using their iconic Jesus statue in his movie, 2012.   This is the coward who admitted that he didn't portray the destruction of any Muslim sites in his disaster movie b/c he feared violent retaliation.  Maybe if he loses this suit he'll think twice about his gutlessness.

Experiment in totalitarianism is FL school.  Not mentioned in the report is whether or not students on either side of the "wall" were allowed to practice their faith openly.

Report on religion blogs. . .alas, HancAquam didn't make the list.  Sigh.

The necessity of Vatican Two. . .well-balanced and insightful article. 

Reform of the reform?  NB.  The liturgical document from VC2, Sacrosanctum Concilium calls for a renewal not a reform of the liturgy.  The difference btw the two words and their use in context is significant.

For geeks everywhere:  why I don't have a girlfriend.

More Japanese weirdness.  These guys have very creative minds.

Ticket to Hell?  Well, a ticket to the Art World Doghouse at the very least.  While touring the museums of Greece last year, U.D. students were constantly reminded by the docents not to pose with the statues.  Apparently, such a thing is considered disrespectful.  Now I know why.

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25 February 2010

What to do (and not do) about vocations

A four year old post on vocations to the priesthood. . .

I wanted to suggest the following about vocations:

1). There is no vocations crisis. God is calling more than enough men to the priesthood to cover the needs of the Church. The real crisis is twofold: a). crisis of commitment and b). crisis of encouragement. The crisis of commitment is the result of the reluctance of the men who are called to say YES to their call. Most men called to priesthood are opting for careers that will only partially perfect their gifts. They can be happy, of course, but they are not picking up the greater challenge of sacrificial service in the Church. The crisis of encouragement is more complex. Basically, mothers and fathers are not supporting sons who express an interest in say YES to God’s call. This has to do with a decline in the prestige of the priesthood and the easier availability of a formal education for lower and middle-class men. We also have to look to the bishops, their vocation directors, and their discernment and vetting processes. Do the people the bishop trusts to recruit and vet his vocations really believe that an ordained priesthood is necessary for the flourishing of the Church? Is there a culture of priestly community in the diocese? Are the priests happy and encouraging of vocations? Bottomline: no sensible young man with a vocation is remotely interested in signing on to a religious order or a diocese if it is clear that those in charge think his vocation to ordained ministry is an ideological problem, a theological inconvenience, or a political obstacle to the Great Lay Revolution. And no young man is remotely interested in joining an order or a diocese controlled by bitter, angry ideologues who loudly and proudly celebrate the coming demise of the priesthood. Who wants to jump on a failing project as it sinks under the weight of its stewards’ neglect?

2). If we have all the vocations we need, but those vocations aren’t saying YES, what do we need to do? First, give God constant thanks for the vocations He has called. Gratitude sets the stage for humility and the current crisis in commitment and encouragement needs all the humility it can get. Second, pray that God will encourage (literally, “strengthen the hearts of”) those whom He has called. Pray that they will say YES. Third, personally, one-on-one invite a young man to think about priesthood. If there’s any inkling in his mind that he has been called, your affirmation will reinforce that inkling into a stirring and the stirring into a desire and so on. Fourth, make sure that you understand who your priest is. I mean, study up on the nature of the priesthood. Get the Catechism and spend some time studying what the Church teaches about priesthood. Ignore functional models of priesthood (i.e., the priesthood is a job or a role) and ignore attempts to turn the Catholic priest into a Protestant minister (i.e., a minister of the Word in the pulpit but not a priest at the altar of sacrifice!). Also avoid all attempts to understand that priesthood is rooted in baptism only. We all minister to one another out of our baptisms. But the ordained priest ministers out of his baptism AND out of his ordination. To say that he ministers as a priest out of his baptism only is an attempt by some to diminish the sacramental character of Holy Orders and reduce the priesthood to something like a Parochial Facilitator of Charisms. One more thing to avoid: please don’t lump a vocation to the priesthood in with vocations to the married life, the single life, ad. nau. Of course, these vocations are perfectly true and good and beautiful. But we aren’t suffering as a Church from a lack of husbands and single women. Lumping priestly vocations in with all other Christian vocations tends to level the priestly vocation and hides the urgency of the crisises of commitment and encouragement. This is NOT about the priestly vocation being “better” than any other vocation. It is about the Church being loud and clear that we need priests and that we value the vocation for itself and not as a tacked-on afterthought during the prayers of the people.

Those called to priesthood will not be encouraged to say YES to their call until it is crystal clear to them that we need them. Communion Services and other forms of “celebrations in the absence of a priest” only serve to reinforce the idea that a priest for Mass is a luxury. Given all the other negatives about the priesthood these days, do we really need to carry on with our Sunday worship as if the priest were a rare creature slowly moving into extinction? I imagine a young man in the pews at St. Bubba’s, attending a month or two’s worth of Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest and thinking, “Hey, I don’t need to say YES to God’s call to priesthood. We’re getting along just fine here at St. Bubba’s w/o one.” In fact, why don’t we just elect one bishop somewhere in Kansas to consecrate several warehouses of hosts every week and then use FedEx to ship those hosts to all the parishes in the country for communion services. That way we can get rid of the priesthood and the episcopate altogether. Much cheaper and easier than educating men to be parish priests. Well, I guess we would have to keep one priest and one seminarian in the pipeline at all times as replacements.

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24 February 2010

Lenten Reflection 4: asking and seeking

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find. . ."

No doubt Jesus intended this teaching to be comforting.  He is reassuring us that all we need, all we seek will be provided if we but ask.  However, the assumption of this teaching is that we know what we need, that we want what we seek after.  Is this true?  Do we know what we need?  Do we really want what we seek?  If we limit ourselves to asking for the daily basics (food, etc.), then there's not much to worry about here.  But what if we already have the basics and believe that we need more, or that we need something else?  How can we be sure that what we are asking for is really a need not just a want?  How can we be sure that what we seek is really worthy of having? 

The key to knowing what to ask for, what to seek after is this:  will what I ask for/seek after help me to serve God by serving His people?  Any gift we receive from the Father is given to us so that our service might be fruitful.  For example, in the Dominican Order, we study, pray, live in community, and follow the evangelical counsels for one reason only:  to be better preachers.  Study is never an end in itself, but simply a means to achieve the goal of preaching the gospel.  So, when you ask, when you seek, discern the purpose of what you ask for/seek after.  If that purpose is the glory of God and service to His Church, then ask, seek. . .you will receive and find.

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Coffee Bowl Browsing

One of the most important ecumenical projects for this century will be the defense of religious freedom in the U.S. against the constant assaults of anti-religious bureaucrats.  

Oregon repeals ridiculous law forbidding public school teachers from wearing distinctive religious garb. 

Campus speech codes and the decay of language:  prosecuting the innocent to push an agenda.

If a doctor can bring himself to perform an abortion, should we surprised when we find out that he is a ghoul?   Evil twists wisdom to folly.

Zombies may be undead. . .but there's no good reason why they should be under-dressed.

As a staff member of a psych hospital, I frequently had to deal with patients who believed that they were Jesus.   I once asked a shrink if psych patients in Asia ever claimed to be the Buddha.  He was not amused.  This link is for him

Why are Israeli "art students" working so hard to sell their wares to DEA agents?  Weird.

There are many things that I will never caught dead doing.  This is in the top five.

U.S. hires the Borg to design and build a new $1 billion embassy in the U.K.  Apparently, when it comes to indulging the temptation to spend taxpayers money during a recession, B.O. says, "Resistance is futile."

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23 February 2010

Why do we pray?

1st Week of Lent (T): Readings
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma

What if we decided this morning—just this once—to openly defy our Lord and pray as if we were pagans? We could probably manage to sound like pagans at prayer. We might even look like pagans at prayer. But we probably couldn't pull of thinking and believing like pagans while we prayed. It's one thing to imitate a pagan and quite another to become one. Before we could successfully paganize our prayer we would have to understand the theology, the mythos, the psychology, everything that goes into the make up of someone who lives and dies, prays and sacrifices in opposition to the precepts of the Lord. But it's not enough to simply reject Christ's teaching and the guidance of the Church. Being a pagan is more complex and much more subtle than living as a non-Christian or as an anti-Christian. In teaching his disciples how to pray, Jesus gives us a glimpse into one of the differences between the pagan's relationship to his deities and our relationship to the one God. If we were to decide this morning to pray as the pagans do, we would have to believe that our prayers might not be heard; that our prayers might be in vain; that our needs might not be met; that our health, our wealth, our lives rest on the reckless will of Fate, or Nature, or Fortune. Jesus teaches his disciples, “Do not be like [the babbling pagans at prayer]. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

If the pagans of Jesus' day babbled at prayer, attempting to gain the favor of their fickle gods, then what is it that we do in prayer that distinguishes us from them? Why isn't Christian prayer just pagan babbling using a different vocabulary? The difference that matters is this: we do not pray in order to appease God, or to bargain with Him, or to cajole Him into changing His mind. We do not perform magical rites in order to gain control of God, or to summon Him before us to explain the mysteries of the universe, or to help us find buried treasure. He is not a wood sprite, or a water nymph, or a mountain spirit. Nor, for that matter, is He an impersonal Unmoved Mover, or an abstracted First Cause. Our God is our Father, a father who knows all that we need before we ask. What bargain could we strike with someone who knows us better than we know ourselves? What kind of father would subject his children to capricious fortune, to stultifying fate?

If we do not bargain or appease or cajole with our prayers, and if our Father already knows our needs, then why do we bother praying at all? By definition, it seems, Christian prayer is nothing more than vain babbling! Perhaps we are more pagan than we want to admit. And this would be true except that Christian prayer is first and foremost an exercise in transforming the ones who pray. Prayer changes us not God. By asking for what we need, even though God already knows what we need, we establish and nurture the deepest roots of our relationship with our Father: humility. By asking for what we need and receiving His gifts with thanksgiving, we feed, strengthen, and grow our obedience to His will and thrive by participating more intensely in His divine nature. 

And this is why the Word was made flesh: so that we might come to the Father perfect as He himself is perfect. Isaiah reports the Lord saying, “[My word] shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” He sent His word among us with a purpose. Not to frighten us with threats of punishment, or beat us into submission, or bribe us with promises of fabulous wealth. He sent His word among us to love us and to return us to Him in love. We do not have to consult drugged-out oracles, or read the entrails of sacrificed animals to know our Father's will for us. We pray, “Your will be done. . .” and give Him thanks and praise. His word will achieve its end. And that end is our salvation.

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22 February 2010

Coffee Bowl Browsing

I have a list of airports that I will not use--O'Hare, JFK, Miami, and Heathrow is edging its way onto the list.  Now I will have to add any airport using full body scans.  Curious:  will they have Extra Roomy Scanners for us full-figured passengers?  You know, like those open MRI machines?

Dude!  Pass the Spirit of Vatican Two peace bong!  Does this pic help explain what happened to the council?

Warning:  do not click this link if you are serious about Lent this year!

How do you say "cheese-eating-surrender-monkeys" in Dutch?

Tradition has it that Dominican wear their rosaries on the left side of the OP habit as a replacement for the knight's sword.  I wonder if a holstered .38 would be appropriate on the right side?

Technology put to the best use possible.

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Finally! The true cause of the medieval warming period. . .


(H/T:  Newsbusters)

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Satan: the First Poacher

1st Sunday of Lent: Readings
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma

Who knows what tempts you better than you do? You know the sights that can draw your eye; the possibilities that make your heart beat a little faster; the delights that lead you off the righteous path into the wilderness of sin. If power and prestige can't tempt you, maybe vengeance or victory can. If food, drink, sex have no inordinate appeal to you, maybe possessions or dissolute daydreams can grab you. Though what tempts each of us is calculated to appeal to an individual weakness, all of our weaknesses together share a common theme: sell eternal life for the price of a moment's indulgence; exchange enduring love for temporary affection, divine mercy for worldly pardon. Temptation is all about showing us what we can have right now if we would just let go of all that we have been given as heirs to the Kingdom. The Devil whispers, “Sign over your eternal inheritance, and I'll give you everything you desire right now.” You do know what you want, right? I mean, you can draw up a list of desires; catalog everything you need, true? If you can't, no worries. The Devil is here to help. If anyone knows what you desire better than you do, it's the Fallen Angel. He's eager to parade all of God's eternal rewards before you. The catch? Nothing he can show you is his to give. Everything he can show you comes with a price. 

We might wonder why the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Adversary. Is there really any chance that he might surrender to temptation and fall from his Father's grace? Could the Devil win? Nope. Jesus can be tempted, but he cannot sin. If he cannot sin, what's the point of tempting him? Why does the Devil waste his time? Quite apart from the fact that it is the Devil's nature to tempt God's children to sin, it's important for us to see how temptation works, to understand what's so appealing about what the Devil has to offer and why his wares are so dangerous. The first thing we must remember about the Devil is that he is a fallen angel. Once, he was placed at the pinnacle of the Lord's angelic hierarchy. He enjoyed God's favor; lived at the foot of the Throne. He has seen what awaits us if we endure in Christ. He also knows that if we endure in Christ and find ourselves face-to-face with the Divine, his self-imposed loneliness and despair is made all the more intense. By enduring in Christ, we abandon for eternity the demonic agenda of rebellion against our Father. And Rebellion longs for nothing more than it longs for miserable company. So, the Devil's recruitment program is simple: offer us our heavenly reward to be enjoyed now; tempt us to borrow against our inheritance and party 'til it's spent. 

Think about what tempts you. Why do those particular things appeal to you? What is it about power, prestige, sex, money, vengeance, food/drink, etc. that draws your eye? Are you so corrupted, so deeply fallen that you long for these delights? Maybe so. But your corruption doesn't explain why power, prestige, sex, etc. are appealing. Our fall from grace doesn't explain the lure of greed or envy or wrath. Pride, sloth, lust, etc. are all states of a soul already surrendered to temptation. Why do these souls surrender? Remember what the Devil knows. He has seen what awaits us if we endure in Christ. Having seen our perfected reward in heaven, he can show us imperfect copies, distorted imitations. In fact, the only thing he can tempt us with is cheap knock-offs, bootlegged versions of the prizes Christ has already awarded us. The temptation to indulge in inordinate sexual desire is nothing more than an offer to fake a genuine loving relationship. The temptation is indulge wrath through vengeance is nothing more than an offer to distort true justice in charity. Everything that tempts us to sin is a godly desire perverted to serve Rebellion.

This is what Jesus teaches us in the desert. Everything the Devil uses to lure Jesus into the demonic fold already belongs to the Lord. Christ already possesses all wealth, all power, all bodily fulfillment. The only course left to the Devil is to promise to give these treasures to Jesus now. Skip the teaching and preaching, skip the miracles; skip the beatings, the ridicule, the Cross. Skip all the nasty, brutal pain and suffering and all this can be yours. Jesus answers the Devil by saying, in essence, “These are mine already. You cannot give what is not yours.” The Devil is defeated not by the force of Christ's will to endure temptation but by the fact that the fallen angel has nothing to give, nothing with which to reward those who surrender to him. All he can do is hold a filthy mirror up to the Father's heavenly treasures and promise that the murky reflections are the real thing. The Devil is crushed by truth.

Can we turn this episode in the desert into a weapon against temptation? Yes! If the Devil is only able to tempt us using fun-house mirrors to make fraudulent promises of treasure, then all we need do is carefully examine what it is that tempts us. If we can discern our temptations, we can discern what it is that we most desire from God. If I am tempted by worldly prestige, then perhaps what I most desire from God is the chance to use my gifts for His glory. If I am tempted by inordinate sexual desires, then perhaps what I most desire from God is the gift to truly love without limits. Our weapon against temptation is not willful, stoic resistance but prayerful discernment for clarity about what gifts we need to do the work we have been given to do. Certainly, we can resist temptation but even the strongest walls eventually fall when placed under siege. At what point in the battle do we come to believe that by resisting temptation we are actually refusing a divine gift? That's the greatest temptation of all! How many Christians commit adultery in the name of true love? How many Christians welcome the abuse of worldly power in the name of social justice? Have you ever surrendered to temptation so that a “greater good” might be accomplish? It's a trap. A very dangerous, very devilish trap.

You can spend these forty days of Lent mulling over your sin and seeking after mercy. That's hardly a waste of the season. But here's a challenge for you: rather than contemplating past sins, contemplate on what tempts you to sin. Watch for those times that the Devil draws you in and then contemplate on what gifts you desire most from God. The Devil will promise you a knock-off. But only the Lord can give you a genuine grace.

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21 February 2010

Coffee Bowl Browsing

Is the U.K. Labour Prime Minister physically abusing his staff? 

"Dark Age" theologians called witchcraft nonsense.  Enlightened Renaissance scientists believed witches had real power.  Heh.  (H/T:  Mark Shea)

More proof that SSM is all about pushing the Church out of the public square.

Why are condoms taking up 70% of the medical storage space in Haiti? 

The limits of left-liberal tolerance in Sweden:  Jews leaving b/c of rise in anti-Jewish attacks.  

What lives in the deepest depths of the ocean?

I wonder if this guy could build one of these to come clean my room: Japanese Rube Goldberg machines.

Someone is just a little TOO excited by the party favors. 
World suicide rates.  NB.  the world's poorest countries have the lowest rates of reported suicide.  The rate in the U.S. is 11.10/100,000.  In Mexico it's 4.05/100,000. 

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