06 September 2009


I asked for questions. . .and I got them:

1). Who are those fun Dominicans that are in your header picture?

Hanging my head in shame: I don't know. The pic is just a small piece of a much larger painting that hangs in the National Gallery in London. Each saint or blessed has an emblem that identifies him or her. I don't recognize any of these. Anyone know?

2). Pray tell us more about the ruckus you caused among our separate brethren because of your habit.

I meant "ruckus" in a good way, meaning that everyone was intrigued by the habit and asked lots of questions. I doubt many of them have ever seen a religious of any sort. . .except for maybe on TV and they usually just put their characters in some version of a Franciscan habit even when they mean for the character to be something other than a Franciscan! Wearing the habit in public always draws attention. I've yet to run into any negativity. . .except for the three Dominican sisters at my CPE site one summer. They harassed me--along with the other LibProts for 12 weeks.

3). TV masses: is appropriate to use as background noise while going about household tasks?

Well, I'm not sure it's OK to think of the Mass as "background noise," but I take your meaning well enough. I see no problem with this. Better the Mass than some silly game show or CNN.

4). So if I buy a copy of your book and send it to you with return postage will you sign it and send it back?

Of course! No problem at all.

5). What really happened with Bishop Martino?

I wish I knew. Apparently, his rather caustic governing style won him few friends and lots of enemies. He got the attention of the Vatican and now he's out. I really don't think he was asked to resign b/c of his pro-life stance or b/c of his other orthodox views. It really does seem to be the case that he was something of a "bull in the china shop." My experience with pastors and bishops is that they have enough to worry about w/o going out of their way to find controversy. Most avoid anything that's going to provoke letters and calls. Unfortunately, letters and calls are inevitable. Bishop Martino had no problem stepping out on a limb. I think he generated one too many complaints to the Vatican. I have to say here: this is just my read on the published reports. I have no inside info.

6). Can you conduct retreats in England?

I can. And I hope I will. Right now, I am planning on spending Sept 2010 at Blackfriars, Oxford. They have a great library and lots of exceedingly clever friars and lay profs there. My hope is to get a portion of my doctoral dissertation outlined and researched in that month. Maybe there will be time to conduct a retreat or two?

7). I know you are reading and writing a lot on the relationship between faith and science. What is the basic relationship?

The theologians who both take their faith seriously (i.e. remain orthodox) and practice good science argue that the essential relationship is located in the common pursuit of discovering and explaining "how the world really is and how it works." This is usually shorthanded by saying that both scientists and people of faith are seeking the Truth. There are a number of ways of pairing science and faith: as complements to one another; as ideological opponents; as utterly incommensurable methods studying irreconcilable objects, and a few others. I argue that they are complementary based on the common pursuit of knowing more about the truth of creation--both its physical structure and divine purpose. Ultimately, what we have is an intelligible universe. Science can help us know how the universe works. Faith can help us know why we are here in the first place.

Both in theology and philosophy of science the major debates have to do with the role of language in constructing theories about unobservable objects. In theology, the issue is how we can talk about an infinitely unknowable God. In science, the issue is the ontological status of theoretical objects (quarks, etc.). Both disciplines have their respective realists and instrumentalists (or anti-realists). Fortunately, in both disciplines, the instrumentalists are in the minority. I have to say though that the instrumentalists are far more interesting to read.

8). How's your book selling (despite the typos)?

At last count, we had sold about 1,000. They printed 2,500, so we have a few more to sell! I haven't seen any reviews yet. . .if there are any.

9). Would you ever celebrate Mass ad orientum ("toward the east," or the priest facing in the same direction as the people)?

Yes. Absolutely. It can be a delicate matter though since all liturgical gestures these days are packed with ideological meaning. Everyone is watching for some indication of abuse, traditionalism, innovation, etc. To just show up one morning and celebrate Mass ad orientum would be a no-no. I would have to take the time to prepare the parish first. That's just good pastoral practice. Of course, the sacramentaty (the big red book the priest reads from) assumes that the celebrant is praying ad orientum. A number of rubrics say things like, "Facing the people, the priest says. . ."

10). What's your recipe for fried chicken?

Easy, cheesy. Marinate parts (with the skin!) in a bowl of buttermilk with a raw scrambled egg. Dredge the parts in a combination of seasoned (salt, pepper, garlic salt) self-rising flour and corn meal (about 2 tbsps of meal to one cup of flour). Dip the floured parts back in the milk and repeat the flour/meal dredge. Get your oil hot but not smoking. If the oil is not hot enough, the breading with absorb the oil. Too hot and the outside will burn before the inside is cooked. Fry until golden brown. Yum. For gravy: pour off all but about three tbsps of the frying oil, leaving the brown bits. Add three tbsps of flour and cook the flour until it is brown. Turn off the heat and add hot water or milk while stirring. Continue adding liquid until the gravy is the right consistency. You might have to give it a little heat to get the right consistency. Season it with salt and pepper to taste.


  1. Saint who? The quiz with attributes ... think you should ask Paul Camarata but I'll try:
    The guy holding the monstrans (left corner) maybe St. Johannes of Cologne, St. Hermann with the chalice, St. Katharina of Siena with bridal wreath and infant Jesus, St. Peter of Verona with the dagger, St. Thomas Aquinus with dove, Francisco de Capillas (?) with his head in his hands, Heinrich Seuse (?) normally he holds a rose wreath, but... .
    And the popes are Innozenz V., Benedikt XI. and Pius V, I think.

  2. flour and cornmeal huh? that sounds good.

    what does ad orientum mean??

  3. She isn't Catherine, is Rosa de Lima. In complete painting St. Catherine is with a cross and heart.
    Peter of Verona appears in original paint with two swords killing him.

  4. First in third line is St. Vicent Ferrer.

  5. Anonymous12:45 PM

    I'm providing a link to a a lecture about Religion given by Harvard professor Diana Eck. She is a revered scholar, born in Bozeman, Montana and studied in Banaras, a city in India deemed sacred. As a Catholic, I think she makes points that have enriched my interest and my desire to learn. Should others be searching for wisdom at the deepest level, this might be a place to start. Don't be scared. It only gets better.

    It gets interesting around minute 22 or so.


    Sometimes the internet is actually WORTHWHILE.

  6. Anonymous5:04 PM

    Thanks for understanding what I meant about watching Mass on TV. Usually, it's a papal mass I want to see/hear, so we're talking 2 hours in the middle of the day and I have 5 children at home (I homeschool the 3 school age ones). I don't sit and watch anything on a TV screen with my full attention for 2 hours - or even for 15 minutes. But we have a lot of fun.


  7. Isn't "ad orientem"?
    It means "to east". It refeers to prist's position in the Mass with the head for bottom altar.
    Sorry for my english.