27 March 2009

With Dominic at Santa Sabina

Fr. Benedict, OP; Fr. Michael, OP; three young men from Notre Dame, and I went to Santa Sabina this morning. FYI: Santa Sabina is the "motherhouse" of the Dominican Order, i.e. the curia of the Order, including the Master, lives there.

We toured the basilica--even got a chance to go into the old Imperial Roman ruins and the leftovers of Isis' temple underneath the Church! We met a wonderful group of Peruvian Dominican sisters.

The highlight: we celebrated Mass in St. Dominic's cell. I offered my Mass for the benefactors of the Order and especially for my Book Benefactors! You know who you are. . .

Fr. Philip

More Condom Lies

Diogenes gets it right...again!

Simon says, The Pope distorts science

[. . .]

Some of us can remember when AIDS was not yet a problem, back when the public health game was to get all young women on the Pill -- ostensibly to reduce pregnancy, in reality to justify the emancipated sexuality of the advocates. In that period Science (i.e., spectacled men in white lab coats grasping Erlenmeyer flasks) was droning on about the high failure rate of the condom. Condoms were ridiculed by public health advocates as a crude backwoodsy expedient that only the naive or the unscrupulous would employ. Has the science changed in the meantime? No, only the terms of flattering the People Who Count.

Take a look at the persons who really care, as opposed to persons for whom "caring" is an ideological posture. Mother Teresa's nuns have been running AIDS hospices in Manhattan, San Francisco, and elsewhere since the 1980s. The caregivers are nuns who come mostly from third world backgrounds; their patients come mostly from first world cities. The nuns are chaste and healthy; yet it's their patients, not they, who came of age surrounded by free condoms, sex ed, and the full force of the public health propaganda machine. If the Lancet were right it should be the other way around: the little sisters would be wasting on the cots and the Manhattanites would be tending to them. Can't help but think that what the Lancet calls the "Pope's error" is a very felix culpa.

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Reiki: Not Science, Not Christian

Glance around many of the Catholic retreat centers in the U.S. and you won't find a cross, a crucifix, a rosary, or even a tabernacle. What you will find is a labyrinth, dream-catchers, Mother-Goddess statues, and a Reiki room. What is Reiki? Well, for the most part, among disaffected (i.e., "bored Baby-boomers") U.S. religious, it's the latest Let's Use Anything But the Prayer of the Roman Church liturgical craze.

The following document (excerpted) was issued today by the USCCB's committee on doctrine. It directly condemns the practice of Reiki in Catholic facilities.

Let the temper tantrums begin!

Committee on DoctrineUnited States Conference of Catholic Bishops

A) The Origins and Basic Characteristics of Reiki

4. Reiki is a technique of healing that was invented in Japan in the late 1800s by Mikao Usui, who was studying Buddhist texts. According to Reiki teaching, illness is caused by some kind of disruption or imbalance in one's "life energy." A Reiki practitioner effects healing by placing his or her hands in certain positions on the patient's body in order to facilitate the flow of Reiki, the "universal life energy," from the Reiki practitioner to the patient. There are numerous designated hand positions for addressing different problems. Reiki proponents assert that the practitioner is not the source of the healing energy, but merely a channel for it. To become a Reiki practitioner, one must receive an "initiation" or "attunement" from a Reiki Master. This ceremony makes one "attuned" to the "universal life energy" and enables one to serve as a conduit for it. There are said to be three different levels of attunement (some teach that there are four). At the higher levels, one can allegedly channel Reiki energy and effect healings at a distance, without physical contact.

B) Reiki as a Natural Means of Healing

5. Although Reiki proponents seem to agree that Reiki does not represent a religion of its own, but a technique that may be utilized by people from many religious traditions, it does have several aspects of a religion. Reiki is frequently described as a "spiritual" kind of healing as opposed to the common medical procedures of healing using physical means. Much of the literature on Reiki is filled with references to God, the Goddess, the "divine healing power," and the "divine mind." The life force energy is described as being directed by God, the "Higher Intelligence," or the "divine consciousness." Likewise, the various "attunements" which the Reiki practitioner receives from a Reiki Master are accomplished through "sacred ceremonies" that involve the manifestation and contemplation of certain "sacred symbols" (which have traditionally been kept secret by Reiki Masters). Furthermore, Reiki is frequently described as a "way of living," with a list of five "Reiki Precepts" stipulating proper ethical conduct.

C) Reiki and the Healing Power of Christ

8. Some people have attempted to identify Reiki with the divine healing known to Christians. They are mistaken. The radical difference can be immediately seen in the fact that for the Reiki practitioner the healing power is at human disposal. Some teachers want to avoid this implication and argue that it is not the Reiki practitioner personally who effects the healing, but the Reiki energy directed by the divine consciousness. Nevertheless, the fact remains that for Christians the access to divine healing is by prayer to Christ as Lord and Savior, while the essence of Reiki is not a prayer but a technique that is passed down from the "Reiki Master" to the pupil, a technique that once mastered will reliably produce the anticipated results. Some practitioners attempt to Christianize Reiki by adding a prayer to Christ, but this does not affect the essential nature of Reiki. For these reasons, Reiki and other similar therapeutic techniques cannot be identified with what Christians call healing by divine grace.

9. The difference between what Christians recognize as healing by divine grace and Reiki therapy is also evident in the basic terms used by Reiki proponents to describe what happens in Reiki therapy, particularly that of "universal life energy." Neither the Scriptures nor the Christian tradition as a whole speak of the natural world as based on "universal life energy" that is subject to manipulation by the natural human power of thought and will. In fact, this worldview has its origins in eastern religions and has a certain monist and pantheistic character, in that distinctions among self, world, and God tend to fall away. We have already seen that Reiki practitioners are unable to differentiate clearly between divine healing power and power that is at human disposal.


10. Reiki therapy finds no support either in the findings of natural science or in Christian belief. For a Catholic to believe in Reiki therapy presents insoluble problems. In terms of caring for one's physical health or the physical health of others, to employ a technique that has no scientific support (or even plausibility) is generally not prudent.

11. In terms of caring for one's spiritual health, there are important dangers. To use Reiki one would have to accept at least in an implicit way central elements of the worldview that undergirds Reiki theory, elements that belong neither to Christian faith nor to natural science. Without justification either from Christian faith or natural science, however, a Catholic who puts his or her trust in Reiki would be operating in the realm of superstition, the no-man's-land that is neither faith nor science. Superstition corrupts one's worship of God by turning one's religious feeling and practice in a false direction. While sometimes people fall into superstition through ignorance, it is the responsibility of all who teach in the name of the Church to eliminate such ignorance as much as possible.

12. Since Reiki therapy is not compatible with either Christian teaching or scientific evidence, it would be inappropriate for Catholic institutions, such as Catholic health care facilities and retreat centers, or persons representing the Church, such as Catholic chaplains, to promote or to provide support for Reiki therapy.

Most Rev. William E. Lori (Chairman)
Most Rev. John C. Nienstedt
Most Rev. Leonard P. Blair
Most Rev. Arthur J. Serratelli
Most Rev. José H. Gomez
Most Rev. Allen H. Vigneron
Most Rev. Robert J. McManus
Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl

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Two Summer classes at U.D.

I am teaching two second term summer courses at the University of Dallas: the sophomore core course, Western Theological Tradition, and a senior seminar in English, American Literature.

Reading list for American Lit.:

Twain, M. Huckleberry Finn
Hawthorne, N. The Scarlet Letter
Melville, H. Bartleby the Scrivner
Faulkner, Wm. As I Lay Dying
O’Connor, F. The Complete Stories
McCarthy, C. The Road
Poetry packet

Western Theological Tradition:

Augustine. The Essential Augustine (anthology of Augustine's work)
Davis, L. The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787)
Hillerbrand, H. J. The Protestant Reformation (anthology of major Protestant theologians)
Pegis, A. Introduction to Thomas Aquinas (selections from the Summa theologiae)
Richardson, C. Early Christian Fathers (anthology of Patristic writings)
Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum & Lumen Gentium

25 March 2009

Being/Not-being: there is no question

4th Sunday of Lent: 2 Chr 36.14-16, 19-23; Eph 2.4-10; Jn 3.14-21
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Convento SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma

Have you given much thought to the difference it would make in your self-understanding if you chose to believe that you are a cosmic accident rather than a created being? Assuming, of course, that you think of yourself as a creature—a wholly made person, made by a Maker—a creature gifted with not only biological life but an immortal soul made for life eternal; assuming you think of yourself in this way, how different would your life be if you decided this afternoon to believe that you are nothing more than the fortunate consequence of cosmic circumstance, an admittedly freakish development wrought from chance chemical reactions, advantageous climatic conditions, aggressive genetic survival, and the heir to all the fortunes an opposable thumb gives this world’s more advanced primates? Would you think, for instance, that this world, this universe needs you? Needs us? Would we have any reason at all to believe that we are any more necessary to the other biological accidents of this planet than if we believe ourselves to be creatures made for a purpose? I would say, we would have less reason to believe ourselves necessary, fewer good reasons for thinking ourselves particularly important. Accidents are accidents; by definition, random clashes of things tossed at one another by chance in circumstance. If you don’t think of yourself as an accident, what difference does it make to you then to read Paul writing to the Ephesians: “. . .we are [God’s] handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them”?

The great German poet, Rainer M. Rilke, in what is arguably the greatest modern elegy, the “Ninth Elegy” of his Dunio Elegies, asks my question this way: “Why, if this interval of being can be spent serenely/in the form of a laurel[…]: why then/have to be human—and, escaping from fate,/keeping longing for fate?...” His question is not an easy one; however, rather pointedly, Rilke is asking: since we have escaped fate by being human—our human choices design our futures not fate—, why continue to long for fate, for destiny? Why do we yearn for a purpose, a story already written out for us? He says, “Oh not because happiness exists,/[…]But because truly being here is so much; because everything here/apparently needs us, this fleeting world, which in some strange way/keeps calling to us. Us, the most fleeting of all.” Fleeting though we are, we are gifted with the use of words. Rilke argues that the ungifted things of this world need us to say the unsayable, to name those things that cannot name themselves, and not only name them but praise them as well, and in praising them, change them: “[…] transient,/they look to us for deliverance: us, the most transient of all./They want us to change them, utterly, in our invisible heart,/within—oh endlessly—within us! Whoever we may be at last.” Whoever we may be at last. . .

Who are we, at last? Paul says that we are God’s handiwork. This is who we are now and at last. Rilke tells us that “truly being here is so much.” And he is right. Truly being is so much. Too much, perhaps. Just being here is overwhelming—even as rational animals crafted to live immortally and knowing it to be so—simply being so, no more than being so, just this one thing right now, this can be too much. Forget doing. Forget thinking. Forget past and future. Just being exactly who and what we are—just being this here—can be too much. Being God’s handiwork, being made, created in Christ Jesus. . .each one of us composed, molded, drawn, built; from nothing, generated and blessed with breath and memory and intellect and will. And why? Why are we made? To name our inanimate cousins in creation? No. To take them into ourselves and change them? No. To propagate our DNA like herd animals, breeding like livestock? No. None of these is too much. None of these is truly being. Why, then?

Paul writes, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us [. . .] brought us to life with Christ [. . .] that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” We were brought to life in Christ so that our Father might show us His infinite kindness through Christ. We were created in love for no other reason than to be loved. And we know that are loved by Love Himself when He shows us “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness…” The oft-repeated and much-loved gospel reading says this perfectly: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The ultimate demonstration of the Father’s infinite mercy, His immeasurable kindness. . .is His Son dying on a cross—a death that gave us birth to a new life in Christ. Prophecy and history meet to fulfill God’s will. That was no accident, no random clash of free-floating events!

So, if you don’t think of yourself as an accident, what difference does it make to you then that you are a creature created in love by Love? At the very least, you must think of yourself as the recipient of a divine gift; not only life itself, but every good thing that can given to one who lives faithfully in Christ. Read Paul again: “. . .we are [God’s] handiwork, created in Christ Jesus FOR the good works that God has prepared in advance, THAT we should live in them.” We are creatures created for the good works of Christ so that we should live in these good works. Do you live in the good works of Christ? If you do, then you do not live an accidental life, a life of chance, but rather a life of truth, as Jesus teaches us, “…whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.” Live in the good works of Christ, do these same good works, and your good works are seen as holy works done by God’s will.

Notice, however, what happens when someone begins to think of himself as the product of random processes. Paul says that we are created in Christ Jesus to live in his good works. But if you hold that you are a product rather than a creature, then you will not acknowledge Christ or the good works you were created to use and imitate. Jesus says, “Whoever believes in [Christ] will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned…” Already been condemned. How so? Random products of natural processes have no purpose, no end. Random products are not good, true, or beautiful. They just are. They cannot truly be as beings loved by a Lover. For them, there is no Lover. No love. Random products can feel passion, think rational thoughts, enjoy art, literature, and music. But can they do truly Good Things if they will not acknowledge they are the handiwork of Goodness Himself? To what—beyond their chanced, mechanical lives—does the true, the good, and the beautiful refer? What can love be but the pre-determined firing of neurons in the proper sequence to produce the physiological effect most often labeled “love”? Is this condemnation? Yes, of a sort. Life in Christ is life lived knowing you are living out a divinely-gifted purpose. Life without Christ is life lived knowing you are living until your body parts fail you—a very limited warranty indeed.

We can end with Rilke. . .knowing that we are creatures who “live and move and have our being” in God Himself, our God “who is rich in mercy [and] brought us to life with Christ,” knowing we are not products but sons and daughters, we can shout with Rilke: “Look, I am living. On what? Neither childhood nor future/grows any smaller. . . .Superabundant being/wells up in my heart.”

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23 March 2009

Homily Coming Soon!

Yes, there is a Sunday homily in the pipeline. . .it got weird, so some revision was necessary. . .and it is still a little strange.