Monday, December 31, 2007

Year A, Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Readings: Sir 3,2-6; Ps 128,1-5; Col 3,12-21; Mt 2,3-15.19-23

In our Psalm response today we sing, "Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways" (Ps 128,1). In the very first chapter of Proverbs we read that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Pr 1,7). Naturally, this prompts the question, What does it mean to fear the Lord? Does it mean to be frightened of God, to do what is right and seek what is good because we are scared that God will punish us if we do not? It certainly can mean that, but we find the Christian perspective in the first letter of St. John: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love" (1 Jn 4,18). Therefore, our motivation for doing what is right and seeking what is good is love, not fear. Fear is an insufficient and unhealthy motivator.

Let us consider this in the context of our human relationships. We do things in order to please the ones dear to us, sometimes at great sacrifice, because we love them, not because they will get angry and punish us if we fail to do these things, though in their imperfection and ours this is sometimes the case. Relationships, especially adult relationships, in which one person does things only because it is what is demanded by the other person, who makes threats if her/his demands are not met, are unhealthy and can even be toxic. Very often, especially in family relationships, we fall into patterns of behavior that belie and undermine our desire for health and wholeness. In this regard we do well to remember that insanity, as defined by Albert Einstein, "is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result". We can be certain that God does not call us into either an unhealthy or a toxic relationship. Rather, God calls each one of us into a healthy, wholesome relationship in which God nurtures and empowers us thereby enabling us to fulfill the end for which are created, which is love. Indeed, the "whole law and the prophets" are summarized in the two great commandments: "love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" and to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22,37-40).

Holy Family with St. Elizabeth, by Peter Paul Rubens

Today, this first Sunday after the Feast of the Nativity, we celebrate the Holy Family of Nazareth. In doing so we acknowledge the universal call to holiness of all the baptized. We acknowledge marriage and family life as every bit as much a Christian vocation as priesthood or religious life. It bears noting that the word “holy” in scripture means different, or set apart. It implies being healthy and whole in an otherwise hurting and fragmented world. In English, the phrase “hale and hearty” captures well the biblical idea of holiness. Put even more directly, being holy means loving perfectly, or being perfectly loving.

Genuine love requires fidelity. Fidelity, in turn, requires obedience, but not imposed and enforced obedience, rather voluntary and intentional obedience. In the Rite of Marriage, couples promise, with God’s help, given them in and through this sacrament, which grace allows them to "assume the duties of marriage in mutual and lasting fidelity," to "love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of [their] lives." In the fourth commandment, which today’s first reading from Sirach is likely a commentary on; children are commanded to honor their parents. This commandment is a bridge between the first three commandments about loving God and the final six about loving our neighbor. This accurately captures the unique place parents occupy in each of our lives, a space between God and all the other people.

Parents, we read in St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, also have a responsibility toward their children. Our second reading gives us a list of values that are to be nurtured in the family. It is in the family that children first experience compassion and kindness. It is within the family that children are shaped by gentleness, love, and forgiveness so they can bestow these on others. This feast reminds us that every family, regardless of its composition and circumstances, is called to be holy, to be healthy and whole, hale and hearty. For this a regular dose of God’s grace is needed. The sacraments are the means for obtaining the necessary grace, especially the Eucharist, but also the sacrament of penance and the practice of reconciliation in our homes. Family prayer and recreation are also channels of God grace. Gathering regularly to pray as a family, before and after meals, at bedtime, and reciting the rosary, praying spontaneously together, or reciting some portion or form of the Liturgy of the Hours, are all ways of obtaining what God, our loving Father, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, wants desperately to give us, His perfect and divine love, which is what constitutes the inner life and unity of the Blessed Trinity.

The Holy Family of Nazareth was supported by St. Joseph’s work as a carpenter, the very trade in which Jesus himself engaged. Perhaps it was with this in mind that the late Pope John Paul II wrote: "The family, the great workshop of love, is the first school, indeed, a lasting school where people are not taught to love with barren ideas, but with the incisive power of experience." It is in the family that each person first "experiences a living community, in which each one knows he is responsible for the others. In the family the law of mutual co-operation applies: husband and wife, adults and children, brothers and sisters accept one another as God’s gift and give each other the life and love of God" (Theology of the Body). Like the Church herself, the family, the domestic Church, is divinely constituted. Married life is "the one blessing not forfeited by original sin or washed away in the flood" (Rite of Marriage- Nuptial Blessing A). The family pre-existed and will outlast every nation and political construct of humankind. The family is the very institution that constitutes the state. Therefore, to tamper with this institution, to seek to radically redefine or alter it, is to undermine the very foundation of the state. The best way to safeguard the family is by each Christian family discovering "its own vocation to [true] love". Love "that absolutely respects God’s plan, love that is the choice and reciprocal gift of self" is what creates family unity, just as love constitutes the great mystery of the One God in three divine persons (John Paul II Theology of the Body).

That the Church is God’s family is reflected in a petition we make together often at Mass: "Father, hear the prayers of the family you have gathered here before you. In mercy and love unite all your children wherever they may be" (Eucharistic Prayer III). My dear friends, on this Feast of the Holy Family, let us not be content to relegate Jesus, Joseph, and Mary to lifeless and sentimental figures in a nativity scene. Rather, let them remind us that it is perfect love that became Incarnate for our sakes and perfect love we are called to incarnate everyday in the very ordinary circumstances of our lives. As the Holy Father exhorts us this Christmas season, "With Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, with the Magi and the countless host of humble worshippers of the new-born Child, who down the centuries have welcomed the mystery of Christmas, let us too, brothers and sisters from every continent, allow the light of [Christ] to spread everywhere: may it enter our hearts, may it brighten and warm our homes, may it bring serenity and hope to our cities, and may it give peace to the world" (Urbi et Orbi Christmas 2007).

Καθολικός διάκονος- The year in review

I have listed below a post from every month of this past year that I think is my best post for that month. I did not consider my homilies for the monthly selection because they are not really blog posts and never get posted until after they are preached. Some months selecting even one post was difficult and other months selecting only one was difficult. It was a good exercise for me, like journal keeping, because I was able to see what I was doing and whether it drew me closer to God. I encourage all fifteen of my readers to share their favorite Καθολικός διάκονος moments from 2007 in the comments.

December- Romney's primary problem is not being LDS

November- Eastern Catholic Churches: An extended hierarchy update

October- Blogging: An aided reflection

September- To love is to suffer, or passion=desire

August- Absolute truths

July- Fighting God, who dares love me

June- A perspective

May Allen's imaginary papal paradox

April Life is stronger than death

March Paul on the agon, Part II

February Lenten observance

January Sacraments, Faith, and Belief

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dion sings the blues



This interview with Dion DiMucci, entitled 'The Wanderer' Has Got the Blues, aired this morning on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday and just cannot be missed. Dion is a devout believer, a Catholic, a man whose art is prayer. He encountered Jesus in a moment of crisis in his life, practiced as a Protestant for many years, but eventually returned to the Church in the parish in which he was raised. I know that Son of Skip James is my next album purchase.

The quote of the day from Dion in this interview:

"My definition of the blues is the naked cry of the human heart longing to be in union with God."

Memorial of Thomas a Beckett



In T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral, St. Thomas a Beckett responds to his tempters, especially addressing the suggestions of the fourth:

Now is my way clear, now is the meaning plain:
Temptation shall not come in this kind again.
The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.



With these words he receives peace and chooses not to become a martyr, but to accept the inevitability of death, as we all must.
St. Thomas a Beckett, pray for us

Friday, December 28, 2007

Huckenfreude!

I stumbled across this editorial by Rod Dreher via the CL blog, Paperclippings, this morning. I have enjoyed reading Mr. Dreher for several years. While I have areas of significant disagreement with him, I agree with him more often than not and, to a very large extent, identify with his crunchy conservatism. He pretty accurately reflects my own take on this election so far, which we are about to be bombarded by with turn of the year.

These three paragraphs in particular resonate with me. They resonate because I find what Dreher has written about former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, hopeful, a political virtue in short supply as we limp to the end of what will no doubt compete with the Carter years for the most disastrous presidency in the history of our fair republic.

"But this populist revolt is not just about religion. Mr. Huckabee calls himself the candidate of Main Street, taking on a party that has become 'a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street.' He's a throwback to a kind of conservatism that had a home in the Democratic Party before it embraced the counterculture - and created Reagan Democrats.

"In a time of mounting economic anxiety, Mr. Huckabee could do worse than to position himself as an outsider critic of a party that just last week blocked an exceedingly modest tax increase on big oil companies to fund research into alternative fuels. His about-face on immigration indicates that he is either an opportunist, or that he is beginning to understand that the conservative grassroots is tired of globalizing Washington elites favoring business interests over their countrymen's common good.

"And Mr. Huckabee is hitting the demographic sweet spot in a changing conservative coalition. A comprehensive 2005 survey by the non-partisan Pew Center found most Americans who identify with the GOP favor policies that are socially conservative but economically progressive. A significant number of conservative Democrats identify with this basic outlook - and conceivably would be open to voting for him over Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, two social arch-liberals."


If I were to describe myself politically socially conservative and economically progressive would fit. I would only diverge with my conscientious stand against the death penalty and my commitment to a complete reform of our country's penal system. Then again, Chuck Colson, who can be described in many ways as an arch-conservative, founder of Prison Fellowship, has been on the leading edge of this movement for decades. I also loathe, and I mean loathe, the position of Republicans on immigration. The only Republicans who even make sense on this issue is Senator McCain and, believe it or not, President Bush. I like Senator McCain a great deal. He is a person I would trust to lead the country. His recent surge now that it is time to put one's vote where one's mouth is indicates that there are many people who share this view.

I also like Dreher's parallel between Gov. Romney and the character Douglas Neidermeyer from the movie Animal House. This post does not constitute an endorsement, just an observation at this early stage of the race for the presidency. In fact, I will not publicly endorse any candidate. In addition to Governor Huckabee, I have many positive observations about Ron Paul. However, because Paul is a libertarian, he is not somebody for whom I could vote because I find libertarianism economically unacceptable and, in terms of foreign policy, too isolationist. I also have a lot of good will towards Governor Bill Richardson, except his crazy Iraq policy, as well as toward Senators Biden, Clinton, McCain, and Obama. Of course, as with Giuliani and all the Democrats, I am concerned about their views on abortion and marriage.

O Holy Night



Celtic Woman singing my all-time favorite Christmas hymn.

O Holy Night

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.


Refrain 1
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend!

Refrain 2
He knows our need, To our weaknesses is no stranger.
Behold your King, before him lowly bend!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!

Refrain 3
Christ is the Lord, O, Praise his name forever.
His power and glory every more proclaim!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!



My favorite lines are emboldened and underlined. I cannot hear or sing those words without crying out of gratitude for the love God shows us in Jesus Christ and the love of our Lord for us in condescending to become like us in all things excepting sin, which is precisely what allowed him to make himself the perfect offering to the Father on our behalf. He is the Prince of Peace. About violence and peace, I have posted today over on Cahiers.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto assassinated

It is a sad day for all who love democracy. The extremely intelligent, lovely and very committed Benazir Bhutto, 54, was shot and killed as she rode in her armoured vehicle departing a rally in Rawalpindi. The poor young man who shot her, a young man apparently in his twenties, blew himself up after shooting the two-time and future Pakistani Prime Minister, killing approximately another 20 people. Ms. Bhutto was a devout Muslim. Muslims, according to the fathers of the Second Vatican Council, "adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men;" and who "take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting" (Nostra Aetate par. 3).

A friend of hers, Mark Siegel, who was working with Ms. Bhutto on a book at the time of her death, which was to be entitled Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West, remembers these words of Benazir Bhutto: "God has a plan for me and God will protect me. If there is a plan that I cannot fulfull my destiny to restore democracy to Pakistan, then that, too, is God's will. I am in God's hands". You can listen to Mark Siegel's remembrance on NPR.org.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"on the Feast of Stephen"

Rubens' Stoning of St. Stephen
Today, the day after Christmas day, in the octave of Christmas, we celebrate, not the memorial, but the Feast of St. Stephen. St. Stephen is my patron, even from before my becoming Catholic. My middle name, after my father, is Stephen.

This morning I had the privilege of presiding at a communion service at Holy Family Parish. The readings for this feast are Acts 6,8-10; 7,54-59; Ps 31,3-4.6.8.16-17; Matt. 10,17-22

St. Stephen was the Church's first martyr. We call him our proto-martyr. Martyr finds its origin in the Greek language and means witness, or one who gives witness. Martyr is a noun. It is due to the early Christian martyrs that we now use it as a verb, too. We see in St. Stephen, whose feast has fallen on the day after Christmas from time immemorial, what being a witness on behalf of the babe of Bethlehem can mean and has meant for many Christians from the the beginning of the Church.

St. Stephen is one of the first seven deacons of the Church, a Greek-speaking Jew, like his six fellow deacons, set apart to help keep peace within the early Christian community in Jerusalem. Problems had arisen between Aramaic-speaking and Greek-speaking Jewish Christians.

Our Lord himself predicts that persecution and martrydom will be the fate of many who seek to follow Him, to emulate Him. Indeed, we know that the apostles themselves became martyrs, witnesses to Christ with their blood, with their very lives. Far from being a nihilistic rush toward death, it shows their trust in eternal life, their belief that this life is not all there is, their faith in Christ Jesus. They believed what we hear Jesus say in today's Gospel "whoever endures to the end will be saved" (Matt. 10,22).

In baptism we died with Christ. In light of this, we are called to witness to the Truth, to show others the Way and the Life. This vocation, this call, is worthy of our whole lives.

St. Stephen is also the patron of this very modest blog. So, we implore

St. Stephen, heavenly patron, deacon forever, pray for us now and always as you exercise your diakonia at the throne of the Lamb.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

". . . who is ready to open the doors of his heart to the holy child?"





As he does each Christmas and Easter, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, gave his Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) address from the central loggia of St. Peter's. Towards the end of his address he says:


"In the silence of that night in Bethlehem, Jesus was born and lovingly welcomed. And now, on this Christmas Day, when the joyful news of his saving birth continues to resound, who is ready to open the doors of his heart to the holy child? Men and women of this modern age, Christ comes also to us bringing his light, he comes also to us granting peace! But who is watching, in the night of doubt and uncertainty, with a vigilant, praying heart? Who is waiting for the dawn of the new day, keeping alight the flame of faith? Who has time to listen to his word and to become enfolded and entranced by his love? Yes! His message of peace is for everyone; he comes to offer himself to all people as sure hope for salvation." He then concludes with these paragraphs, that tell us what it means to acknowledge the Incarnation of the Son of God:


"Finally, may the light of Christ, which comes to enlighten every human being, shine forth and bring consolation to those who live in the darkness of poverty, injustice and war; to those who are still denied their legitimate aspirations for a more secure existence, for health, education, stable employment, for fuller participation in civil and political responsibilities, free from oppression and protected from conditions that offend against human dignity. It is the most vulnerable members of society – women, children, the elderly – who are so often the victims of brutal armed conflicts, terrorism and violence of every kind, which inflict such terrible sufferings on entire populations. At the same time, ethnic, religious and political tensions, instability, rivalry, disagreements, and all forms of injustice and discrimination are destroying the internal fabric of many countries and embittering international relations. Throughout the world the number of migrants, refugees and evacuees is also increasing because of frequent natural disasters, often caused by alarming environmental upheavals.

"On this day of peace, my thoughts turn especially to those places where the grim sound of arms continues to reverberate; to the tortured regions of Darfur, Somalia, the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia; to the whole of the Middle East –especially Iraq, Lebanon and the Holy Land; to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, to the Balkans and to many other crisis situations that unfortunately are frequently forgotten. May the Child Jesus bring relief to those who are suffering and may he bestow upon political leaders the wisdom and courage to seek and find humane, just and lasting solutions. To the thirst for meaning and value so characteristic of today’s world, to the search for prosperity and peace that marks the lives of all mankind, to the hopes of the poor: Christ – true God and true Man – responds with his Nativity. Neither individuals nor nations should be afraid to recognize and welcome him: with Him 'a shining light' brightens the horizon of humanity; in him 'a holy day' dawns that knows no sunset. May this Christmas truly be for all people a day of joy, hope and peace!

"'Come you nations and adore the Lord.' With Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, with the Magi and the countless host of humble worshippers of the new-born Child, who down the centuries have welcomed the mystery of Christmas, let us too, brothers and sisters from every continent, allow the light of this day to spread everywhere: may it enter our hearts, may it brighten and warm our homes, may it bring serenity and hope to our cities, and may it give peace to the world. This is my earnest wish for you who are listening. A wish that grows into a humble and trustful prayer to the Child Jesus, that his light will dispel all darkness from your lives and fill you with love and peace. May the Lord, who has made his merciful face to shine in Christ, fill you with his happiness and make you messengers of his goodness. Happy Christmas!"


(underlining in the original)

Monday, December 24, 2007

A reminder this Christmas Eve



I was really struck by this today, heart-broken a bit, truth-be-told. Sharon posted it over on her blog, Clarity Daily. It is a reminder to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, of Bethlehem, of Nazareth, of the entire land that Jews, Christians, and Muslims revere as holy. The place where the King of kings, the Prince of peace, made his earthly dwelling.

Psalm 122, verses 6 thru 9.
"For the peace of Jerusalem pray: 'May those who love you prosper!
May peace be within your ramparts, prosperity within your towers.'
For family and friends I say, 'May peace be yours.'
For the house of the LORD, our God, I pray, 'May blessings be yours.'"


While I am on the subject of Clarity Daily, there are three other posts from this excellent blog to which I want to draw attention. The first two are on-topic and are respectivley entitled Bethelem Today and Christmas in Kurdistan, a place dear to my heart.

The final, unrelated, post is entitled The Person and the Cause, which was prompted by the rather unfortunate series of events that occurred at Princeton University recently. I also give a diaconal bow to Sharon for providing a link to a post on the blog The Bride and the Dragon, which is an article written by Dorothy Day entitled Room for Christ.

My seven year-old daughter said this morning: "I bet they're having a great time in heaven today. I hope Grandma T. is having fun with Granny Stark!" Ah, Christmas and the communion of the saints from the mouth of a babe!

Midnight Mass, Iraq 2005



To continue this stream-of-consciousness posting, I want to remember a woman I never had the privilege of meeting, but whose son is a good friend, a former boss, a mentor, and person I admire very much, Betty Lou Funk. She died last Thursday suddenly, but peacefully in North Carolina. She was the wife of a U.S. Army SpecOps NCO, the mother of two sons, both of whom attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and who went on to become pilots. Following in the footsteps of their father, both now serve their country executing and supporting the U.S. military's most dangerous, but important missions across the world and in two specific theaters of operation. Obviously, she served and sacrificed for this great country of ours throughout and with her whole life, willing to give what was most precious to her for a greater cause. May her memory be eternal.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Hail Mary full of grace . . ."



Dolores O'Riordan of The Cranberries sings Ave Maria. Anybody who wants to be critical is not possessed of the requisite Celtic spirit. Besides, Advent in general and the fourth Sunday of Advent in particular are focused on Mary, just as the second Sunday of Advent is focused on the John the Baptist.

In his Sunday Angelus address, the Holy Father, speaking on evangelization in light of the Christmas message said of our Blessed Mother:

"Mary is the incomparable model of evangelization, she who did not communicate an idea to the world but rather Jesus, the incarnate Word. Let us invoke her with confidence so that also the Church in our time proclaims Christ the Savior. Every Christian and every community feels the joy of sharing with others the good news that God so loved the world to give his only begotten Son so that the world might be saved through him [Jn 3,16]. This is the authentic meaning of Christmas, that we must always rediscover and live intensely."

AVE MARIA, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.



I am happy that this is the 600th post on this blog.

As our waiting continues . . .

Here are some links to posts on The People of St. Mary Magdalene from this past week.

In our Bishop's own words: Advent

A year in "the Areopagus of modern times"

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Oh, and it appears that Tony Blair's wait is over. He has taken the long-rumored plunge and has swum the Tiber, joining his wife Cherie, a life-long Catholic, by becoming a Roman Catholic himself. According to the Times of London, "Mr Blair was received into full communion with the Catholic Church by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, during Mass in the chapel at Archbishop’s House, Westminster, on Friday". Commenting publicly on Mr. Blair's reception, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said, "I am very glad to welcome Tony Blair into the Catholic Church. For a long time he has been a regular worshipper at Mass with his family and in recent months he has been following a programme of formation to prepare for his reception into full communion. My prayers are with him, his wife and family at this joyful moment in their journey of faith together". There have also been rumors that the former British P.M. is going to begin formation to become a permanent deacon.

In cuter news, my two year-old son calls French toast "big, fat toast". Writing about children, I also want to provide the link to a post on The Cathedral of the Madeleine RCIA Blog which I have titled "I believe that children are our future" and so does the Pope.

Friday, December 21, 2007

"It's the of the world as we know it . . ."



". . . and I feel fine." REM is our traditio for this final Friday of Advent in 2008th year of grace.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bishop Wester on immigration

On the front page of this morning's Salt Lake Tribune appears an article about a speech Bishop Wester gave Monday to the St. George, Utah Chamber of Commerce. The city of St. George is located in Utah's extreme southwest corner and is routinely identified as one of the United States' fastest growing cities. One of the factors in that growth is immigration. The immigrants come from south of the U.S. border, primarily Mexico. As one can easily imagine, as in many cities and towns across the U.S., the subject of immigration is the source of a lot of division within the community of St. George.

I am proud that Bishop Wester spoke out forcefully against the outlandish idea of building a wall to keep people out and that he spoke to the inevitable tensions created by such a large influx of immigrants. It is without doubt a case of world's colliding. It is an opportunity to make our world not only bigger and more inclusive, but more just and peaceful. Most importantly, the article, even apart from Bishop Wester's remarks, does a good job of taking on misconceptions regarding recent immigrants, especially exaggerations about how much involvement they have in criminal activity, which is actually quite low and not even proportionate their percentage of the population.

Bishop Wester, who heads the USCCB's Committee on Migration, said "What we have now isn't working". Nonetheless, "[p]utting up a fence along the border would not solve the problem. We need something to allow an orderly influx of people so we know who is coming in."

I also address matters of religion and politics today over on Cahiers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More on the liturgy and its reform

Though this photo is captioned "Pope Benedict XVI, flanked by Archbishop Piero Marini,
celebrates Palm Sunday Mass at the foot of the ancient
Egyptian obelisk in the center of St. Peter's Square in 2006"-
it is clear that he is not celebrating Mass because he is wearing a cope
and not a chasuble (From All Things Catholic)

As I eagerly await the arrival of his book A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal, I was happy to read my good friend Rocco's report on Archbishop Piero Marini's release event of the book hosted by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and held in the Throne Room of His Eminence's residence, Archbishop's House, Westminster, England.

In his article, CNS' John Thavis reports that in his new book Archbishop Marini "has chronicled the birth pangs of the liturgical reform generated by the Second Vatican Council and warned of a Roman Curia tendency to return to a 'preconciliar mindset", which puts me in mind of the comments I responded to the other day.

"The archbishop said the difficult history of liturgical reform reflects 'the prophetic vision' of Pope Paul as well as the limitations of his pontificate." I would say that the major limitation of Paul VI's pontificate was his prophetic vision, which was opposed at every step by those who Il Papa Buono named prophets of doom at the opening of the Council.

NCR's John Allen reports that Archbishop "Marini said that four historical factors made the results achieved by the Consilium [the group put in charge of reforming the liturgy after the Council]possible:

-The presence of the council fathers in Rome during the first two years of implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, Vatican II’s constitution on liturgy. The bishops themselves, he said, were 'the first guarantors of reform.'
-The personal support of Pope Paul VI
-The rapid emergence of a network of 'competent scholars,' led by Lercaro and Bugnini"
.

According to Allen, Archbishop Marini, who served as Master of Papal Ceremonies for more than twenty years until named head of International Eucharistic Congresses earlier this year, went to state that the Second Vatican Council "had four 'precise goals':

-Offering renewed vigor for Christian living
-Adapting ecclesial structures to meet the needs of the time
-Promoting the unity of all Christians
-Strengthening the church’s mission of extending its embrace to all humanity"


Linking the two together the former Papal Master of Ceremonies said that "'[t]he liturgical reform was not intended or executed as merely a reform of certain rites, but as the basis and inspiration for the aims the council set.'".

"'The goal of the liturgy is none other than the goal of the church,' he said, 'and the future of the liturgy is the future of Christianity and Christian life.'"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Punk Rock redux

Today I stumbled across a blog I had not read before, The Blue Boar, which is authored by Sean Dailey, Editor-in-Chief of Gilbert Magazine. What took me there was a post on Punk that hit me where I am currently at. This fall, as readers know, I have been intermittently re-visiting this interesting phenomenon from the mid-70s to early 80s. At 42, perhaps it is my own attenuated version of a mid-life crisis. Sean's reflection and comments on Punk are very insightful and worth reading by anyone, like myself, who came of age during the era and who was not only moved, but was informed and transformed by Punk. As odd as it may sound, Punk was very formational for me and in a largely positive manner. I was also deeply formed by reading a lot of George Orwell and not just Animal Farm and 1984- those too- but his essays, like A Hanging, which forever formed how I view the death penalty.

"Punk as a genre arose simultaneously in America and the UK, but there were distinct sub-genres and styles depending on where it came from. There was Los Angels punk (bands like X and the Vandals), New York punk (the Ramones) and London punk (the Clash and, of course, the Sex Pistols). Of course there were a lot more bands than these, and there were other regional outposts, such as Athens Georgia (home of the B-52’s), but these are the most recognizable examples. The American Midwest, particularly Chicago, Madison (yes, Madison), and Minneapolis also developed its own regional sound."

Being closer to the West Coast I am most conversant with the L.A. scene, which was quite large, and the S.F. scene via The Dead Kennedys. Everybody knows the U.K. bands Sean mentions. There were also Joy Division and, after Ian Curtis' death, New Order, as well as groups like Echo and the Bunnymen, etc., that led the transition from Punk to New Wave. I agree with what I think Sean implies, which would be something like New Wave, while a follow-on to Punk, was a commercialized and domesticated version of it to a large degree. Of course, there were exceptions who carried on the spirit, but never gained commerical traction. In addition to Penelope Spheeris' documentary of the L.A. Punk scene, The Decline of Western Civilization, there is the lesser known, but no less interesting film Athens, GA: Inside/Out.

There is an Advent tie-in to all this, which is best expressed by lyrics to REM's song from their album Document, an album that I literally wore out the cassette listening to the entire thing over-and-over, It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine): "To offer me solutions is to offer me alternatives and I decline/It's the end of the world as we know it/It's the end of the world as we know it/It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine".

Over on The People of St. Mary Magdalene, I have posted the events for this last week of Advent as well as the calendar for the Feast of the Nativity.

Cultivating inner peace

"The passionate man often thinks evil of a good man and easily believes the worst; a good and peaceful man turns all things to good.

"A man who lives at peace suspects no one. But a man who is tense and agitated by evil is troubled with all kinds of suspicions; he is never at peace with himself, nor does he permit others to be at peace.

"He often speaks when he should be silent, and he fails to say what would be truly useful. He is well aware of the obligations of others but neglects his own . . .

"You are good at excusing and justifying your own deeds, and yet you will not listen to the excuses of others. It would be more just to accuse yourself and to excuse your brother.

"If you wish others to put up with you, first you must put up with them."


Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Book II, cap 2-3).

It is my prayer that these words speak as clearly to somebody else today as they have to me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Summorum Pontificum revisited

Fr. James Martin over on one of the new America blogs, In All Things, discusses some statements made recently by Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, concerning the Holy Father's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.

Quoting a Catholic News Agency report of some remarks made by Archbishop Ranjith this past fall, which were apparently in response to the archbishop of Westminster's, England, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, commentary on the motu proprio, Fr. Martin relays these comments by Archbishop Ranjith: ""You know that there have been, by some dioceses, even interpretative documents which inexplainably [sic] intend to limit the Pope's motu proprio. These actions mask behind them, on one hand, prejudices of an ideological kind and, on the other, pride, one of the gravest sins. I repeat: I invite all to obey the Pope."

Like Father Martin I tend to think that it is rather a lack of interest on the part of the faithful , at least here in the U.S., that keeps there from being very many Latin masses in the dioceses of this country. It also bears noting that Mass according to the 1962 missal remains an extraordinary form. Hence, according the motu, a pastor cannot substitute one of the regular masses in his parish for a Latin mass. More importantly, given the lack of demand for the old form in most places, it hardly seems that what Archbishop Ranjith sees as the widespread failure to celebrate the Mass according to the old rite (i.e., the rite that those promulgated after the Second Vatican Council replaced) "will lead to discord in the Church". I do not think that the re-introduction of the 1962 missal is the formula either for increasing Mass attendance or attracting more vocations to the priesthood. "We do not have the time to waste on this," the archbishop continues. If we delay, he insists, "we behave like emperor Nero, fiddling on his violin while Rome was burning. The churches are emptying, there are no vocations, the seminaries are empty."

I may be much mistaken, but it seems that what is being suggested by way of implication in these remarks goes beyond the rather modest limits of the motu. What about the parishes and even whole dioceses in which there is virtually no desire for a return to the old rite? Should a pastor or bishop seek to impose this extraordinary form on the people? On that score I agree with Archbishop Ranjith that the Holy Father must be obeyed, that the motu must be implemented and followed. Faithful following means neither seeking to abrogate nor undermine the motu. It also means not overstepping what is directed. What is directed is allowing the celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 missal by any priest who wishes to do so, but that such celebrations are extraordinary and cannot replace Masses according to the so-called missal of Paul VI, which remains normative. The same is also true for the other sacramental rites of the Church according to the motu.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

rejesus revisited- Seeking to feed our hunger for meaning


The Anglican Church's website rejesus never fails to amaze me with its creativity, its accessibility, and its practicality. The latest gem is called, just like the cyber-lectio website of the Irish Jesuits, Sacred Space. The rejesus Sacred Space consists of ten suggestions for enhancing spirituality at work.

I also came across this quote in the interview section of this website: "Jesus isn't just a religious figure out of the distant past. Some people have had encounters with Jesus which have changed their lives – and in this section they tell their stories."

With that, posting will be light between now and the New Year. These posts will consists of pictures and short reflections. Of course, if I feel moved, there will be a full-up post or two and our Friday traditio.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

"As we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ"

Over on our parish blog, The People of St. Mary Magdalene, I have been marking this season of Advent, which always seems to catch me a bit flat-footed, unlike Lent for which I prepare. Anyway, here are some Advent posts written to assist you in your reflections during this beautiful and overlooked season of hope:

First Sunday of Advent
(Photograph by Ben Bell)
Awaiting the reign of justice

Second Sunday of Advent

Advent: The recognition of the world's renovation

Third Sunday of Advent: Gaudete Sunday



Writing about this season of hope, I know that I promised more on the Holy Father's encyclical Spe Salvi, but I could not improve on Fr. Gerald O'Collins, S.J.'s article in America entitled Pope Benedict on Hope: Considering the pope's new encylical. Additionally, over on Cahiers, Fred has a reflection on the letter that is very much worth considering: The Heart of Spe Salvi as does Suzanne (thanks for the correction Fred) with More on Spe Salvi.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What happens when M.C. Hammer gets fused with Flashdance

I know it sounds snobbish in that annoying adolescent way, but the BBC series The Office is far superior to its pale U.S. imitation. Ricky Gervias is simply brilliant!



Anyway, don't be this guy at the office Christmas party. This, my fifteen friends, is our Friday traditio.

I also offer up, especially for my readers from The Cathedral of the Madeleine RCIA community, a summary of last evening's RCIA class on the sixth and ninth commandments, which deal with sexual morality, which includes a case study.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Santa Lucia

St. Lucy



Today is the feast of Santa Lucia (i.e.,St. Lucy), a Christian martyr of the early fourth century. Yes, those are eyeballs on the plate. According to tradition, as part of her horrendous martyrdom, her eyes were pulled out. Gruesome, but then murder is usually like that. St. Lucy's day is a big deal at our house. It follows closely on the heels of St. Nicholas day. Why rush to Christmas when Advent is so much fun?

St. Lucy is a good role model of Christian virtue in an age of compromise. Therefore, it is fitting that tonight I am teaching a RCIA class on the sixth and ninth commandments, which deal with the virtue of chastity. To this end, I point you, dear reader, to another post over on The People of St. Mary Magdalene blog, which is the blog of the parish I am privileged to exercise my diakonia.

Santa Lucia ora pro nobis

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Our Lady of Guadalupé

Las Mañanitas



"Estas son las mañanitas, que cantaba el Rey David, Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a ti...." (These are the little mornings that King David sang, today for your saint's day we sing them to you....)
"...levántate, virgencita -- mira que ya amaneció" (Wake up, little virgin -- the sunrise has come). It is morning, the dawn of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupé.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Advent: Eternal life is not merely life after death, but life in the now

Advent is about time. It is about the beginning of a new year of grace, the gift of life, of supernatural life, which is the life humanity is created to lead, a life of communion, of community, a life together. It is about the end-of-time, about the Lord's having already been here and His coming again in glory. It is also about the end of time for us, a transition we call death. As Bishop Stephen Cottrell, Anglican bishop of Reading, England observes in his wonderful little book, Do Nothing to Change Your Life: Discovering What Happens When You Stop: "Time can also be the eternity of a single moment". A few sentences later he picks up this thread: Such a way of experiencing time brings the possibility of new delight and new joy in the people and things around us. It offers the possibility of opening yourself up to amazement, and for finding that the inner slob within you is really the little child you must become if you are to enter God's kingdom. So that on your deathbed you are not gagging for a few more moments, pleading with God for a reprieve, or angry with medicine for its failure to deliver immortality; rather you are at peace, dwelling in the final moment of chronological life, and welcoming the 'eternal now' it has been leading up to."

"When people say they are children of God, this is what they mean: living and enjoying life as a child in readiness for heaven, experiencing heaven now"
(59-60).

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A few thoughts on a holy day

All three of my school aged children attend a Catholic school. As part of their school experience, in addition to choir and music, they participate in sports. The sports league in which they play is a Catholic league. Well, today being Saturday, basketball was played, which is alright despite it being holy day of obligation as well as tremendously snowy. So, depending on when the game is scheduled, a family can either get up and go to an early Mass or attend a noon or afternoon Mass in observance of the day, which is what my oldest daughter and I are doing. That being written, I also want to point out that holy days are to be observed as Sundays insofar as that is possible. Many people, apart from attending Mass, observe Sunday as a day of rest, which our Catholic faith encourages.

This brings me to the point of this post. Before the start of my oldest daughter's game this morning, a little before 10:00 AM, a couple of parents in front of me were talking. One parent asked the other parent why one of the players was not at the game. The other parent answered with something like: "Well, it's Immaculate Conception or something like that, she won't be here". To which the inquisitive parent replied, with a hint of disapproval in his voice, "That's more important than the game?" Dear friends, the simple answer to his question is a clear, unequivocal, unambiguous, and enthusiastic YES!! I prefer to see it from the perspective of getting to go to Mass, rather than viewing it as having to go to Mass. Is it a challenge at times? Sure it is, but I constantly struggle with living my priorities. This is why I need God's patient and loving assistance.

Immaculate Conception

Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother was declared a dogma of the faith in 1854 by Pope Pius IX with the promulgation of his Constitution Ineffabilis Deus. This dogma holds that Miriam of Nazareth, the Mother of God, "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin." This does not mean she was conceived, like her Son, in an extraordinary manner, but in the manner that human beings are normally conceived. Tradition tells us that the names of her parents are Sts. Anne and Joachim. The Immaculate Conception means that she was free from all sin, including original sin (i.e., she was born in a state of original grace, like our first human parents). But, again, unlike her Son, she was not sinless in and of herself, but by "singular privilege and grace".

In addition to deductive theology, Mary's Immaculate Conception was revealed in a rather profound way, not to a bishop, a priest, or a theologian, but to a simple peasant girl who had difficulty learning her catechism, St. Bernadette Soubrious in Lourdes, France, a town at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains, a range that constitutes both the geographical and political border between France and Spain. The apparitions began on 11 February 1858. The Blessed Virgin Mary Conceived without sin is the patroness of the United States. Our national shrine, located in Washington, D.C. is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

In addition to our usual Sunday obligation, today is a holy of day of obligation. So, take a break from all the seasonal madness and attend Mass, pray a decade of the rosary, the Joyful Mysteries, lifting up all manner of intentions and concerns to the intercession of our Blessed Mother, who is full of grace.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Replies to Prof. DeConick concerning her article on The Gospel of Judas

Since I took an even harder shot at National Geographic than did Prof. DeConick in my post The Gospel of Judas and the lure of gnosticism, it is only fair to post a couple of responses to her article that were published as Letters to the Editor of the NY Times:

"To the Editor of The New York Times:Re “Gospel Truth” (Op-Ed, Dec. 1), about the Gospel of Judas: April D. DeConick speaks too confidently when she talks about our mistakes in translation. She knows better. The issues of translation she highlights are almost all discussed in the notes in the popular edition and critical edition of the Gospel of Judas, and the observation that Judas is the 'thirteenth daimon' in the text is open to discussion and debate. Professor DeConick’s additional insinuations of ulterior motives by her fellow scholars in the establishment of the Coptic text and the development of an appropriate translation are extremely disappointing and disturbing. She knows how we struggled carefully and honestly with this difficult text preserved in fragments. Professor DeConick comes up with her interpretation of the Gospel of Judas by virtually ignoring all the positive things said about Judas in the text. In the end, Professor DeConick’s Judas recalls Brando in 'On the Waterfront.' He coulda been a contenda, he coulda been somebody — if he just were not so demonic.When the positive things said about Judas in the Gospel of Judas are given fair consideration, it may be said: Judas is still a contenda."

Marvin Meyer, Orange, Calif., Dec. 4, 2007

The writer, one of the original editors and translators of the Gospel of Judas, is a professor of religious studies at Chapman University.

To the Editor:

"When we became involved in the Gospel of Judas project, we assembled a team of scholars to examine, conserve, authenticate and translate the Coptic manuscript. The chief translator, Rodolphe Kasser, is one of the world’s leading Coptologists. Assisting him were three other eminent Coptic scholars. We also assembled an advisory panel of nine leading scholars and religious authorities who reviewed the manuscript, advising on its importance and impact. Once we were certain of the document’s authenticity and had a consensus translation, we published it expeditiously and put the content on our Web site. Virtually all issues April D. DeConick raises about translation choices are addressed in footnotes in both the popular and critical editions. People can disagree about certain words, but the entire document needs to be considered for an accurate reading of the text. When we published, we encouraged respectful, global discourse. We invite Professor DeConick and other scholars to join us at the National Geographic Society to continue the public discussion."

Terry Garcia
Executive Vice President, Mission Programs, National Geographic Society, Washington, Dec. 4, 2007

Thanks to Fr. Imbelli for drawing attention to these responses over on dotCommonweal.

It is important to point out that I do not retract anything I posted on Monday as regards The Gospel of Judas, including about the potential problems of the National Geographic Society's translation. I have to admit that I am not familiar enough with the ins and outs of what happened with regard to making a critical edition of the original Coptic text available to add anything to this contention between DeConick and The National Geographic Society. Terry Garcia's response is most cogent and cordial, the attitude one hopes all involved would have. Nonetheless, agendas again are called into question as a result of Marvin Meyer's odd response, which is somewhat ironic as it occurs after he accuses DeConick of arrogance. He moves quickly from his contention that The National Geographic Society's translation is as accurate as the team working on it could conscientiously make it, to an assertion that what The Gospel of Judas tells us has implications for the history, development, and theology of orthodox Christianity. Once again I would draw attention to Bishop N.T. Wright's book Judas and the Gospel of Jesus: Have We Missed the Truth about Christianity?. To which Bishop Wright's answer is an unequivocal "No!"

Humanitarian



Sarah Silverman on compassionate conservatism is this Friday's traditio. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Romney's primary problem is not being LDS

Grant Gallicho, writing over on dotCommonweal provides links to several different responses to Governor Romney's speech last night. The link I most appreciated was to Kenneth Woodward's NY Times opinion piece as to why Romney's speech differs significantly from the 1960 speech given by JFK in Houston. His article is entitled Mitt Romney Is No Jack Kennedy.

For my own part, I think in the case of Governor Romney much too much is being made about religion, especially in explaining why Governor Huckabee is rising over and even eclipsing Romney, especially in Iowa. The religion explanation smacks of a case of the media trying to influence reality instead of reporting what is happening on the ground, especially in light of the many, many debates in which the candidates have participated. Now, I am not so bold as to suggest that religion plays no role in this electoral trend among Republicans. I just believe that it is not the main reason. A lot of it has to do both with personality (i.e., likability) and perceived authenticity (i.e., integrity). I read in yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune about a recent Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll that suggests as much. Here is a piece from the article:

"a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll shows that [Romney's] deeper problem is not his adherence to a faith that many conservative evangelicals view with skepticism.
"Instead, Romney has not overcome a record of shifting views on abortion and other social issues. His failure to present a clear picture of his faith and its role in his life appears to be just one part of a broader challenge: proving to GOP voters that he is being straightforward with them.
"Romney's predicament is underscored in the new poll, which found that he ranked last when Republican voters were asked which of the top-tier GOP candidates were 'best at saying what they believe, rather than saying what they think the voters want to hear.
"Just 8 percent said Romney was best at saying what he believes . . ."
Whereas, Huckabee leads Republican top-tier candidates with 20% of respondents agreeing that he is best at saying what he believes. My suspicion, though the article does not indicate it, is that Ron Paul has them all beat, but, alas, he is not a media-certified top-tier candidate

As the article points out, the religious issue only compounds the candidate's perceived short-comings. Add to that another recent poll that indicates that more than half of the people in the United States know little or nothing about the LDS and are somewhat suspicious of an organization they perceive as being somewhat secretive. Another SL Trib article, this one by historian Jan Shipps, a non-Mormon who has studied the LDS over several decades, speaks well to this issue.

So, it appears that last night Romney missed an opportunity to talk about the distinctives of his faith, the ones about which people may have concerns. In turn, he missed an opportunity to begin to close his credibility gap. In order to try to use the issue of his LDS faith to his political advantage, Governor Romney has to discuss LDS distinctives and not be content to stick with the pragmatic "At the end of day, we all pretty much believe the same thing, at least politically." Another opportunity was missed in a recent interview Romney gave to NPR's Robert Siegel, which aired on Monday. Here is the relevant excerpt:

Siegel: "One last point: In the CNN-You Tube debate, there was a moment when one of the people who submitted a question asked all the candidates whether they believed in every word of the Bible, and two of your rivals — Mayor [Rudolph] Giuliani and Gov. [Mike] Huckabee — both made a point of saying, 'Well, in some parts it's allegorical, in some parts it should be interpreted, but yet, I believe in the Bible.'

"And you seemed — if I read you right — to make a point of saying it's the word of God, and even when considering some modification, you backed up, said, 'No, I'll just stick with that. It's the word of God.' [That] left the impression — and I want to ask you — do you hold a literal belief, say, in the Genesis version of creation?"


Romney: "You know, I find it hard to believe that NPR is going to inquire on people's beliefs about various parts of the Bible in evaluating presidential candidates, and actually, I don't know that that's where America has come to — that you want to have us describing our particular beliefs with regards to Genesis and the Book of Revelations, so —"

Siegel: "I raise Genesis only because creationism is a national issue in a variety of ways, and —

Romney: "Well, but then you could ask me a question and say, 'Do you believe that we should teach creationism in our schools, in our science classes and so forth?' and I'm happy to give you an answer to that. But I don't know that going through books of the Bible and asking, 'Well, do you believe this book? And do you believe these words?', that that's terribly productive. Particularly when we face global jihad, when we have 47 million people without health insurance, when we have runaway costs in our entitlements, to be asking presidential candidates about their specific beliefs of books of the Bible is, in my view, something which really isn't part of the process which we should be using to select presidents.

"My point is the Bible is the word of God, and I try and live by it. I don't accept some commandments and reject others. I accept the commandments of the Bible as being applicable and do my best to try and live by them, although frankly, there's a big gap here and there. There are a lot of things I need to improve."


The eighth Article of [LDS] Faith would've served him quite well in that situation: "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God." By word of God is meant literally true.

For example, not only do the LDS take the creation accounts found in the Book of Genesis literally, they believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri. LDS Apostle, John A. Widtsoe, a man sustained, as all LDS apostles are, as "a prophet, seer, and revelator", writing in 1960 in his work Evidences and Reconciliations, tells us: "Latter-day Saints know, through modern revelation, that the Garden of Eden was on the North American continent and that Adam and Eve began their conquest of the earth in the upper part of what is now the state of Missouri. It seems very probable that the children of our first earthly parents moved down along the fertile, pleasant lands of the Mississippi valley." Among the LDS there is no problem reconciling the two very different creation accounts found in the Book of Genesis because these are synthesized for them in a revelation Joseph Smith, Jr. claimed to have received from God. This purported revelation is Selections from The Book of Moses: An extract from the translation of the Bible as revealed to Joseph Smith the Prophet, June 1830—February 1831, which is, according to Joseph Smith, Jr, the very same revelation given to Moses on the basis of which he wrote the first five books of the Bible. These selections can be found in the Pearl of Great Price, another book, like the Doctrine and Covenants, that the LDS believe to be the word of God, along with the Bible, insofar as it is translated correctly, and The Book of Mormon. Additionally, it is believed by the LDS faithful and clearly taught by LDS leaders that The Book of Mormon is a literal history of these Americas from roughly 400 BCE to 600 CE. The Pearl of Great Price also contains another extract of Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible, part of the Gospel according to Matthew, which is supposedly a more accurate rendering of part of this Gospel. On the subject of distinctive LDS beliefs, back in October, immediately following the semi-annual LDS General Conference, I posted on the distinctive LDS belief in God.

I also have to state that I find it odd, if not downright ironic, that a candidate who gives a speech on the need for religious tolerance is the only candidate to state publicly that he will preclude a Muslim from a being a member of his cabinet just because of her/his Islamic faith!

I want end this post by quoting from the conclusion of my previous post on the LDS:

"Let us not forget . . . that there is a distinction to be made between orthodoxy and orthopraxis. Ideally one (i.e., orthopraxis) flows from the other (i.e., orthodoxy). If forced to choose, however, orthopraxis wins every time. There will be no theology test to get into heaven. Rather, we will be judged on the basis of what we do, or do not do, after which we will all be found wanting. Our salvation will ultimately depend on God's grace given us in Jesus Christ. In St. Mark's Gospel we read this "John said to him, 'Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.' Jesus replied, 'Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us'" (Mark 9,38-40).



While I am frantically pushing hot buttons and bringing up matters political, I want to draw attention to Michael Fragoso's eloquently well-reasoned response to Prof. Stephanie Coontz's NY Times OpEd rant against marriage as a public institution, which can be read over on the First Things' blog Observations & Contentions.

CL in Salt Lake City

St. Nicholas
Last night we held our very first School of Community in the rectory of The Cathedral of the Madeleine. This is marks the beginning of something that has been developing here for awhile. Because our first meeting occurred on the vigil of the memorial of St. Nicholas, I suppose he is something of our heavenly patron. At present, we are planning one other meeting before Christmas, on Wednesday, 19 December, at 7:30 PM and one between New Year and the National Diaconia, which is 18-21 January 2008, on a Wednesday yet to be determined. For information, please contact me. A comment on this blog will work initially, or you can call me at The Cathedral of the Madeleine, my number is 328-8941, ext. 104. I am happy to say that I am attending the National Diaconia, which I am certain will be a great experience of fellowship and formation.

It looks like our initial group, including my wife and I, will be around 6 or 7 people. We will be joined in January by a university student from Argentina. So, all Celini, please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

St. Nicholas- pray for us.

Hierarchy Update- Eastern Catholic Churches

It was just before Thanksgiving that I posted a comprehensive update on Eastern Catholic Churches in the United States. Well, this morning there is movement on that front. Bishop William Skurla, who was serving as bishop of the Ruthenian Eparchy of Van Nuys, California, was transferred to the Eparchy of Passaic, New Jersey to replace Bishop Andrew Pataki, who is retiring due to age. Monsignor Gerald Dino, who was serving as pastor of St. George Ruthenian parish in Linden, New Jersey, has been appointed to replace Bishop Skurla in the Eparchy of Van Nuys.

Since the Ruthenians in the United States Constitute a sui juris Church (i.e., a Church in its own right) and do not have a patriarch, retirements and appointments are accepted and made directly by the Holy Father, as in the Roman Rite. The very fact that Msgr. Dino is a monsignor, which is a papal honor, indicates a close tie between the Ruthenians in the United States and the Holy See.

Among the Eastern Rite Catholic archeparchies and eparchies in the United States there are no episcopal vacancies and only the Armenian Rite bishop, Manuel Batakian, at age 78, is past retirement age.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Heaven and earth

According to press reports Roger Cardinal Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, was attacked last summer after dropping some letters in a mail box in downtown Los Angeles, near of Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral. Apparently, the attack was quite brutal, causing His Eminence to be hospitalized. The assault was apparently related to the sex abuse scandal, which the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has recently paid $660 million dollars in claims to compensate victims.

Cardinal Mahony did not report the assault to police, instead choosing, according to a priest of the Los Angeles archdiocese, to offer it up as reparation for sins committed by abusing priests. Cardinal Mahony himself has not spoken publicly about this matter, but has discussed it with priests of his archdiocese.

I bring all of this up because without a doubt what has come to light these past few years in many dioceses across the country has been shocking, disappointing, and very discouraging to us all. Nonetheless, we must keep our bishops in our prayers constantly. Without a doubt, even in relatively small dioceses, the duties and responsibilities of a bishop are always demanding and frequently difficult. At the end of the day, we are all human beings, with our strengths, our weaknesses, our blindspots, and areas in which we are very perceptive. We are a communion of saints and sinners. Each one of us is a microcosm in which there exists saintliness alongside sinfulness. This is precisely why we need community, communion, to pray for each other and to help each other discover our true identity as daughters and sons of a loving Father who together make-up the Body of Christ. Advent is a particularly good time to focus on the incompleteness of this world and to focus on our hope, Jesus Christ, "the light [who] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (Jn 1,5).

In an interview with NCR's John Allen during last month's consistory, Cardinal Mahony, speaking of the Holy Father's upcoming visit to these United States, put all this very well:

"I think it's also important to acknowledge the faith of our people, especially during the six or seven years of this crisis. Our people have remained so faith-filled. They realize that the church is not about perpetrators of sexual abuse, it's about Jesus Christ and his abiding presence with the church. That's the core."

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sometimes it isn't smoke and mirrors

Brad Pitt with Lower Ninth Ward resident Robert Green-
picture from NPR

For those, like myself, who frequently make fun of what Kerry Jackson, of X96's Radio from Hell, calls celebutards, it is diffilcult to admit that our deep-seated skepticism is sometimes shown for the sham that it sometimes is. In other words, it is all too easy, in a jaded and fallen world, to become completely jaded. On this note, I want to draw some attention to Brad Pitt, who, despite being a pretty boy, is a very fine actor. I am reminded of this inconvenient fact every time I watch one of his films. Unlike many so-called actors of his generation, Pitt is a consummate actor. Of course, we all love Fight Club, but for my money Pitt turns in no better performance than his role in Guy Richie's (Madonna's hubbie) film Snatch, in which he plays the unforegttable tough, Mickey O'Neil. Richie is also responsible for the film gem Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.

What I particularly want to draw attention to is Pitt's New Orleans endeavor. He and Angela Jolie, along with their assorted children, moved to 'Nawlins a year or so ago to show solidarity with those who were abandoned in so many ways after Hurricane Katrina. His interview on this evening's All Things Considered with NPR's Melissa Block is well worth listening to, not to mention inspiring.

While I am on Things Contemporary, Todd Nuke 'Em's hair is pink. I also want to publicly thank KRAD for providing me with the comprehensive Joy Division library. Thanks, man! I owe you, maybe a movie and beer at Brewvies, where ten years ago we would sometimes hold RCIA. Hey, it was a young group, mostly U students, we met in the pub and talked theology with garlic burgers, which helped to determine commitment. It was around the time the lovely film Antonia's Line was released in this country.

The Gospel of Judas and the lure of gnosticism

Okay I am going to be immodest, before Fr. Imbelli posted on this article over on dotCommonweal, I wrote this on Saturday, but left it on a computer with no internet connectivity. On Saturday's New York Times OpEd page April DeConick, a professor of Biblical Studies at Rice University in Houston, Texas, in an article entitled Gospel Truth, blows the lid on the National Geographic’s much bally-hooed translation of what is readily admitted to be the third century text of The Gospel of Judas. Gnostic silliness has long captured the front pages of national newspapers and magazines. Every year as Lent comes to a close and Holy Week beckons us to Easter, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, or another widely read publication recycles the opinions of, among others, John Dominic Crossan, Elaine Pagels, and/or Marcus Borg. All of these are scholars whose opinions have long ceased to matter among their fellow scholars, which is what causes them to pander to the popular reader. Their highly imaginative reconstructions, based on little or no evidence, are about as true as Dan Brown’s imaginative reconstructions of Christian history in his various books, The Da Vinci Code only being the best known. The re-discovery of the ancient transcript of The Gospel of Judas, which had been locked away in a vault in Switzerland, provided a great occasion for many, like Pagels, whose book, written with Karen King, Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity, was another opportunity to squander what little credibility they may have had. As expected, the most reasonable and scholarly response to The Gospel of Judas, published shortly after the National Geographic Society’s translation was made public, right around Easter 2006, was by the appropriately named New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright, who is Anglican bishop of Durham, England. His little book, Judas and the Gospel of Jesus: Have We Missed the Truth about Christianity?, is a must read for anybody concerned about these matters.

Before returning to Prof. DeConick’s opinion piece it bears pointing out that there is no dispute that The Gospel of Judas is a third century text, which means it was written in the 200s CE. That is at least one hundred years after the last written manuscripts that comprise our New Testament, The Gospel of St. John, along with The Apocalypse of St. John, known more popularly as Revelations, along with the rest of the Johannine corpus (i.e., 1,2.3 John) being the latest New Testament documents. There are ancient Christian manuscripts that are contemporaneous with the canonical books of scripture that are not included in our canon, namely The Didache and The Shepherd of Hermes. These books, while not scriptural, very well could be. But manuscripts that date as late as The Gospel of Judas, or The Gospel of Thomas, and are from places other than the Holy Land, do not even present the possibility of being accepted as apostolic.

Prof. DeConick’s article is based on her recent re-translation of The Gospel of Judas from the Coptic manuscript. In comparing her translation with the one so aggressively pedaled by the National Geographic Society, she notices some problems, to put it mildly, with the National Geographic translation. Unsurprisingly, these problems revolve around what appears to be an effort to lend credibility to the alternative history of Christianity as imagined by many, among whom Elaine Pagels is the best known. What is perhaps most ironic is that for all the abuse heaped upon the efforts to preserve and transcribe the badly damaged and fragmentary Dead Sea scrolls, the National Geographic Society, according to Prof. DeConick, in its treatment of the transcript of the manuscript of The Gospel of Judas, completely ignored The Society of Biblical Literature’s 1991 injunction “holding that, if the condition of the written manuscript requires that access be restricted, a facsimile reproduction should be the first order of business. It’s a shame that National Geographic, and its group of scholars, did not follow this sensible injunction”. I think in light of DeConick’s re-translation, we have a clue as to why a translatable manuscript was not made available sooner.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Recently viewed films

Okay, I am back to watching films, one of my true passions. One little known fact is that among the possible college majors for me were Economics, which I studied for awhile and through a class on Marxist economics became infatuated with Philosophy, which was the degree with which I was graduated, History, my minor and close to a double major, and Film.

My two most recent films, between which I watched the entire first season of The Sarah Silverman Program, were Ratatouille and The Last King of Scotland. I am nothing if not a bit eclectic. Though rated R, I watched The Last King of Scotland with my adolescent son. We spent some time discussing the film afterwards. It was a good experience for him, a somewhat disconcerting one.

I was so happy that Forest Whitaker won a best actor Oscar for his role of Idi Amin, even without seeing the film, but now having seen it, his Oscar was well-deserved. This is a film adaptation of the novel by journalist Giles Foden of the same title.

Ratatouille, while a bit predictable, was fun. It is no surprise that it was one of the most critically acclaimed films of last year, given the dreadfulness of most movies released these days. As for Sarah, she's not everybody's cup-o'-tea, but she is mine. If you watch dear Sarah, viewer beware. I can recommend the other two films with no such caveats.