"A [preacher] who does not love art, poetry, music and nature can be dangerous. Blindness and deafness toward the beautiful are not incidental; they are necessarily reflected in his [preaching]." — BXVI
12 September 2009
Three Characteristics of a Servant
Trading a Crown for a Paper Hat
John Zimark strikes again!
Commas are a good thing
11 September 2009
Treasures Holy and Mystical
Title: Treasures Holy and Mystical: A Devotional Journey for Today's Catholics
The litanies and novenas in this volume are decidedly more "mystical" in flavor. They are a little more challenging theologically, but that just means that they will stretch those who pray them!
I will post the Table of Contents when it is finalized. No word yet on a publishing date.
Also, there will be a third volume of prayers and readings, Ordinary Prayer, Extraordinary Grace: Talking to God in the Meantime. This volume is still just an outline on my hard-drive.
Other books in process, i.e. I think about them a lot:
"Lord, take my life": Christian Sacrifice and Suffering (based on this homily)
Believing, Knowing, Reasoning: Habits for a Catholic Heart and Mind
An Urgent Faith: Being Nothing without God (based on this homily)
All of these will be written for a general Catholic audience. I hope to be able to publish my Ph.L. thesis as a book.
The Limits of Science
[. . .]
This increasing ‘advance’ of science, and especially its capacity to master nature through technology, has at times been linked to a corresponding ‘retreat’ of philosophy, of religion, and even of the Christian faith. Indeed, some have seen in the progress of modern science and technology one of the main causes of secularization and materialism: why invoke God’s control over these phenomena when science has shown itself capable of doing the same thing? Certainly the Church acknowledges that “with the help of science and technology. . ., man has extended his mastery over almost the whole of nature”, and thus “he now produces by his own enterprise benefits once looked for from heavenly powers” (Gaudium et Spes, 33).
At the same time, Christianity does not posit an inevitable conflict between supernatural faith and scientific progress. The very starting-point of Biblical revelation is the affirmation that God created human beings, endowed them with reason, and set them over all the creatures of the earth. In this way, man has become the steward of creation and God’s “helper”. . .Indeed, we could say that the work of predicting, controlling and governing nature, which science today renders more practicable than in the past, is itself a part of the Creator’s plan.
Science, however, while giving generously, gives only what it is meant to give. Man cannot place in science and technology so radical and unconditional a trust as to believe that scientific and technological progress can explain everything and completely fulfil all his existential and spiritual needs. Science cannot replace philosophy and revelation by giving an exhaustive answer to man’s most radical questions: questions about the meaning of living and dying, about ultimate values, and about the nature of progress itself.
For this reason, the Second Vatican Council, after acknowledging the benefits gained by scientific advances, pointed out that the “scientific methods of investigation can be unjustifiably taken as the supreme norm for arriving at truth”, and added that “there is a danger that man, trusting too much in the discoveries of today, may think that he is sufficient unto himself and no longer seek the higher values” (ibid., 57).
[. . .]
People from the university (SLU) and the area started gathering across the street at St Francis Xavier Church. At noon, a memorial Mass was celebrated for those killed in the attacks.
The student brothers preached at vespers on Saturdays and Sundays. It was my turn on Sunday the 16th. The readings were uninspiring for me at the time, so I did something I have never done again: I preached on readings of my own choosing, reading aloud from the Book of the Prophet Zephaniah:
Near is the great day of the LORD, near and very swiftly coming, Hark, the day of the LORD! bitter, then, the warrior's cry.
A day of wrath is that day a day of anguish and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of thick black clouds, a day of trumpet blasts and battle alarm against fortified cities, against battlements on high.
I will hem men in till they walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD; and their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their brains like dung.
Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to save them on the day of the LORD'S wrath, when in the fire of his jealousy all the earth shall be consumed. For he shall make an end, yes, a sudden end, of all who live on the earth [. . .]
I have destroyed nations, their battlements are laid waste; I have made their streets deserted, with no one passing through; their cities are devastated, with no man dwelling in them.
I said, "Surely now you will fear me, you will accept correction"; she should not fail to see all I have visited upon her. Yet all the more eagerly have they done all their corrupt deeds.
Therefore, wait for me, says the LORD, against the day when I arise as accuser; for it is my decision to gather together the nations, to assemble the kingdoms, in order to pour out upon them my wrath, all my blazing anger; for in the fire of my jealousy shall all the earth be consumed.
Pray for the victims and their families. The heroes of the rescue teams. Those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the terrorists.
10 September 2009
Dominican friar appt'ed to SSPX Commission
Rorate is reporting that the Vatican has appointed a commission to begin theological discussions with the SSPX.
One member of the commission is Fr. Charles Morerod, O.P. Fr. Morerod, until just recently, was dean of the philosophy faculty at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum). He was elected rector of the university late last semester and that election has been confirmed by the Master of the Order.
Not only is Fr. Morerod rector of the Angelicum, a philosophy/theology prof at the school, and a member of the Vatican-SSPX commission, he is also Secretary of the International Theological Commission and a consultor for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith! Whew.
Fr. Morerod will be a busy friar in the coming years. Fortunately, he is a cheerful dynamo with an odd sense of humor. I rarely leave his company without a good laugh.
Please pray for him. . .he's gonna need it.
A.P.: Obama can't do math, or won't
Remember: this is the A.P. not the GOP or Limbaugh or FOXNews.
Now, I'm expecting an National Catholic Reporter article from Richard McBrien arguing for the mandatory use of the Tridentine Rite in the U.S.!
Truly, wonders never cease. . .
09 September 2009
I Agree with Obama
"Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics."
I wonder if he meant something like this:
"Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true."
Things that make you go, "Hmmmmmm. . .?"
Just remember. . .our choices are not: ObamaCare or Doing Nothing. We philosophy-types call this the Fallacy of the False Dilemma. If I'm not mistaken, there are at least four GOP alternatives floating around Congress being dutifully ignored by the Dems.
Coffee Cup Browsing (Not So Cranky Edition)
When I read, "It has long been agreed that Africa was the sole cradle of human evolution. Then these bones were found in Georgia..." I thought, "WooHoo! Cro-Magnon Redneck!" Of course, ahem, they mean Georgia-as-in-over-by-Russia-Georgia. Oh well.
This doesn't surprise me. . .though being ignored by the Old Media hardly seems to be hurting sales. Wonder if I can get the NYT to ignore my little book. . .oh, wait. . .
Docs in the UK using social workers to threaten "uppity" patients with losing their kids. That could never happen here. . .under nationalized health care. I understand that women in the UK and Germany are regularly threatened with losing their national health care benefits if they insist on giving birth to children with birth defects. That could never happen here. . .under nationalized health care!
Odd: the first Buddhist chaplain in the US military is from Tennessee. AND he used to be a Baptist preacher. Come to think of it. . .my Buddhist Old Testament prof in college was a Baptist preacher AND from Tennessee! Small world.
Guess who said on the floor of the Senate in 2006 : "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies." This same speaker just asked Congress to raise the US debt ceiling.
I love the internet! In an effort to justify my browsing time last night, I went to YouTube and typed in "philosophy of science." What did I find? A whole series of vids made by English philosopher, Bryan Magee, interviewing prominent philosophers! Please. . .don't everyone rush over there at the same time. . .you might crash the site. ;-)
I'll confess that I have wanted to do this. Also, if anyone knows where I can get a roof-mounted laser cannon for my car, let me know. (NB. I don't own a car, but if I can dream about a roof-mounted laser cannon, then I can dream about mounting it on "my car.")
How did I make my dad smile while I was at home recently? I told him I wanted a handgun and a concealed-carry permit! Of course, since I live in Italy most of the year that will never happen. But if I can dream of having a roof-mounted laser. . .etc.
When the truth of scripture, tradition, reason, and human experience fail to convince atheist scientists of God's existence, political expediency in advancing the agenda of the pseudo-religion of eco-tyranny works just fine. I wonder how this guy sleeps at night with that much cynicism eating away at his heart.
On B.O.'s school speech: After noting that The One used "I" 56 times in the speech, this commenter writes: "In other words, Barack Obama referenced himself more than school, education, responsibility, country/nation, parents, and teachers combined. And to think that people accused Obama of self-promotion!" Seriously, who can reasonable accuse any politician of being a self-promoter? Geez. The things that surprise people these days. . .
Getting tenure is the Be All and End All of academic achievement. However, not everyone is qualified to receive this highly sought after prize. For example, God Himself didn't make it. Guess it's back to the adjunct pool for Him!
Ahhhhhhh. . .a Mississippi bride ready for a life of martial bliss!
OK. . .back to work. . .
Preparing for Death
An very helpful outline for writing an autobiography, including many different ways of organizing materials; prompts for what to include, etc.
My guess is that you don't have to be preparing for death to get started on your autobiography!
08 September 2009
Upcoming address change
If a book arrives in Houston after I have returned to Rome it will be forwarded to me.
Mille grazie, grazie mille!
Coffee Cup Browsing (Cranky Edition)
Why did the NYT, CNN, LAT, etc. ignore the Van Jones scandal? They ignored him because they agree with him. . .that's why.
Archbishop does his job. Gets slammed. Predictable.
They didn't bother disciplining him while he was alive. . .can they slap him on the wrist now that he's dead? Hardly.
To the ELCA: it's 500 years too late to be crying "heresy!" now. . .you shoulda thought of this before leaving the Church.
They should be publicly whipped and pilloried. Seriously.
That NYT bubble must be gettin' low on air: B.O. is "explicitly non-ideological"! This reminds me of my poli sci prof freshman year who predicted with both confidence and glee that Reagan would lose big to the Democratic nominee in 1984. Lesson: experts are "former squirts."
Americans are making a crucial distinction between Labor and Labor Unions. 'Bout time.
The text of Obama's speech to schoolchildren. . .now, let us see the draft before parents starting screaming bloody murder about using their children to create a cult of personality.
OK. Enough. Back to some serious reading. . .
Bible + Aristotle = Science?
My answer: they were not Christian civilizations, or rather, they were not Catholic civilizations. More specifically, they were not and are not civilizations based on a Biblical understanding of creation taught with and through a uniquely Catholic understanding of Aristotelian natural philosophy. You might say that they were and are insufficiently Dominican! :-)
If you are insufficiently curious about the natural world, or if you see curiosity about the natural world as evil, then you will not venture out to observe and attempt to explain what lies outside the mind. If you see the material universe as a deeply flawed reflection of the True Form of the Universe, then you will come to believe that studying the reflection will only lead to error about the Form. In the same way, if you hold that material reality is not real at all and that only the mind matters in constructing what others call "real," then your study will be limited to the mind alone. Also, if you think that language alone determines reality, then you will see no use in trying to connect how you think about reality with any sort of "reality" beyond the way you chose to talk about it.
However, if you hold that the material universe is a creation of a Divine Mind, reflecting this Mind's desire for order and intelligibility, then you will venture out to discover and explain what lies outside the human mind. If you think that you can come to know the Divine Mind better by exploring its creation, then your scientific explorations become not only a professional duty but a religious one as well. Believing that creation participates in its Creator serves the highly innovative purposes of discovery and invention. Believing that you will be improved, enriched, and ultimately redeemed only fuels your natural curiosity.
Some will say that capitalism and democracy contributed to the growth of scientific knowledge in the west. This is certainly true. However, capitalism is a late comer to the world scene of science and democracy in its ancient form was little more than mob rule. Let's not forget that the scientific advances made during the Enlightenment were made possible by a medieval theology of creation. The idea that the medieval Church punished scientific research is nonsense. Almost every scientific discovery and innovation of the Enlightenment can be traced back to a priest or religious living during the middle ages. Conflicts between scientists and Church authority occurred when scientists played at being theologians.
In the modern age, atheistic communism and religious fundamentalism have been the true enemies of science. Need we review Mao's disastrous Great Leap Forward as an example? Or Stalin's collectivization of rural Russia? Or the sorry state of scientific research in Islamic countries? Christian fundamentalism has never held sway over a nation like fundamentalist Islam has and still does. The widely publicized battles over evolution in the US have not seriously damaged scientific research in this country. They have had no effect in predominately Catholic Europe. The danger to a truly advanced science in the west right now is fundamentalist secularism--science as technology without an objective morality. Combined with a "progressive" and materialist view of the human person, secularist science serves an elitist design for manipulating creation without its Creator, without reference to ultimate purpose or transcendent ideals. This means one thing: power. Potentially, unchecked power.
Thus the need for faithful Catholic scientists and theologians schooled in science. The Church has nothing to fear from a scientific method that works under the rubric that it is creation that's being studied. . .not just a physical universe without purpose or design.
Wounded Healer, Bearer of Mystery, Prophet
Robert Barron [in an article titled, "Priest as Bearer of the Mystery’, Church, Summer 1994, pp. 10-13] states that ‘what could kill us as a Church is losing the sense of Mystery. What could contribute mightily to that loss is the weakening and dissipation of the priesthood. The time has come not for dismantling the priesthood but for building it up.’ He says that one of the greatest post-conciliar mistakes was to turn the priest into a psychologist, sociologist, social worker, counsellor – anything but a uniquely religious leader. He argues that we should look again at the notion of ontological change that occurs at ordination: priests are made different, while at the same time eschewing applications that make it elitist and exclusive. Situating the priesthood within the context of baptismal ministry helps lessen that danger.
Bishop O'Kelly goes on to condemn clericalism and then outlines three models of priesthood: Wounded Healer, Bearer of Mystery, and Prophet. These are not new models. In fact, they are Biblical in so far as they recall and duplicate the life of Christ, our High Priest. Each has its positives and negatives.
The one model that we need to be very, very careful with is priest as Wounded Healer. Why? In my experience with priests and religious, this model is often taken as a way to explain away rectifiable personal deficiencies. It is certainly true that priests are as "wounded" as anyone else. Ordination does not miraculously dissipate character flaws, bad habits, personality disorders, or psychological problems. In fact, ordination, or rather, being a priest in active ministry can lead a man to cultivate these deficiencies and come to see them as advantages. For example, a man who suffers from a narcissistic personality can be affirmed in his grandiose delusion by an adoring congregation. His grandiosity can be taken as a sign of charismatic leadership and lead him and his congregation into schism.
The Wounded Healer model of priesthood also tends to allow priests a great deal of leeway in dealing effectively with their character flaws. Instead of confronting common human frailties like simple laziness, etc., the Wounded Healer elevates his unwillingness to give 100% to the level of a "wound" and treats it as a symptom of some deeper conflict or trauma. This is not to say that there are no priests out there who have experienced legitimate conflicts and traumas that impede their living out the call of the priesthood. It is to say that not every scar, blemish, or stain is a wound worthy of constant treatment.
The image of the priest as Wounded Healer should be a personal one, a private image that reminds the priest of his deficiencies rather than an excuse to play victim. The same can be said of the other two images as well. The priest as Bearer of Mystery should not become an excuse for an esoteric lifestyle or muddled teaching. The priest as Prophet should not be an excuse to become a self-appointed haranguer for or against a personal agenda. All three models should serve the Church in imitation of Christ as servant-leader--a man, a priest who leads the Church as a servant of the Church.
Bishop O'Kelly rightly condemns clericalism. Priests who use their office to elevate themselves above the lay faithful and rule the roost as local potentates are deeply contrary to servant-leadership. However, clericalism takes two forms: priest as Boss and priest as Regular Guy. We are painfully familiar with the first sort of clericalism. The second is a recent development. In an effort to avoid the clericalism of priest as Boss, some priests have set aside their role as spiritual father and taken up a role akin to older brother or regular guy "Fr. Call Me Bob," in an effort to blend in and take himself off the pedestal, ends up using his priestly power covertly. How often have you met a "Fr. Call Me Bob" who regularly pushes illegitimate liturgical innovations as a way of being prophetic about a gender inclusive agenda for worship? How often have you met this priest in council meetings and found that his casual democratic attitude about parochial governance reaches it tolerance when confronted with traditional Catholics? How often does his personal politics inform his homilies and parish activities? Clericalism is alive and well in both forms and neither serves the Church. However, the priest as Boss has the advantage of being obvious and assertive. The priest as Regular Guy is passive and highly manipulative.
Give the whole article a read.
07 September 2009
Way to go, sisters!
Great news from the center of religious life in the U.S.: Nashville, TN!
Most of the new sisters are in their 20s and want to be traditional nuns, wearing full habits and living in a convent. They say that life as a nun offers more than the secular world could ever give them.
The new sisters are a diverse group, including those right out of high school and from across the globe. One, a nurse of Vietnamese descent, came from Sydney, Australia. Another sister is from the Ivory Coast. Three were engineers before coming to the convent [so much for the prog meme that younger religious clamoring for tradition are a bunch of middle-class whites fleeing economic uncertainty!]
Now the question is: will the LCWR learn anything from this example?
Doh! Forget to link the article: CathNews.
Intrinscially unknowable facts?
[. . .]
"So far from doubting the value of the plain and honest and earnest pursuit of truth in matters of religious faith, I believe that, like the pursuit of moral good, it never utterly fails. The process of enquiry, the very attempt to know, like the process of doing or trying to do what is right, is itself achievement, altogether apart from what comes afterwards. I know nothing better than to be engaged and immersed in the process of trying to know spiritual truths and of acting upon them. Mankind, when it comes of age, will be engaged in this spiritual business even when it is handling the so-called secular concerns of life. And it will handle these all the more securely. Religion will be the permanent background of life—as the love of his wife and bairns is for a good man. The very meaning and purpose of our “circumstances,” as we call the claims of the things and persons that stand around and press upon us, may be to induce and to sustain this double process of knowing the true and doing the right. It is the method—the only natural and successful method—by which men make themselves: and I understand that the final business of man is this of making himself. We must learn yet to estimate men by the fortune they take with them, not by the fortune they leave behind; that is, if religion is true, and if morality and its laws are not fictions of man's vanity."
Henry Jones, "A Faith That Enquires," The Gifford Lectures, 1919–1921
06 September 2009
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.