Saturday, May 31, 2008

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Visitation w/ Sts. Nicholas & Anthony, by Piero di Cosimo, 1490

Today is Magnificat day, The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin to St. Elizabeth, mother of St. John the Baptizer.

Let us pray:

Eternal Father,
you inspired the Virgin Mary, mother of your Son,
to visit Elizabeth and assist her in her need.
Keep us open to the working of your Spirit,
and with Mary may we praise you forever.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Today's Random Round-up:
While I do not have a site meter attached to this blog, we do have one on our parish blog, The People of the St. Mary Magdalene. According to the most recent reports, an article I posted last October has been quite a hit with people from Germany, Denmark, and the U.K. reading it more than once this past week. The post, which was part of a series I did, is entitled Faith and anxiety. The other posts are Faith and death and Faith and doubt. The anxiety post was prompted by an article in Communio, by Fr. Jacques Servais, the citation for which is at the bottom of the post. Today I was also looking at a retrospective exhibit, now at the Musée Rodin, by Camille Claudel, who was Paul Claudel's sister. Once again, as is his penchant, Alex linked to something of interest. This time from the Catholic News Service blog- Benedict's Top 10? Last, and most definitely least, I began copying (not cutting) my homilies to my MySpace blog. I just need to figure out how to change the privacy settings.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

To bring this day to a close, let us pray this lovely litany.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God, the Son, Redeemer of the World, have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, formed in the womb of the Virgin Mother by the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, united substantially with the word of God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, of infinite majesty, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, holy temple of God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heaven, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, glowing furnace of charity, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, vessel of justice and love, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, king and center of all hearts, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Divinity, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father is well pleased, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, of whose fullness we have all received, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, desire of the everlasting hills, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, patient and rich in mercy, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, rich to all who invoke Thee, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, fount of life and holiness, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, propitiation for our sins, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, saturated with revilings, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, crushed for our iniquities, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, made obedient unto death, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, victim for our sins, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, salvation of those who hope in Thee, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, hope of those who die in Thee, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, delight of all saints, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord,
Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
V. Jesus, meek and humble of Heart.
R. Make our hearts like unto Thine.

Let us pray:

Almighty and everlasting God, look upon the Heart of Thy well-beloved Son and upon the acts of praise and satisfaction which He renders unto Thee in the name of sinners; and do Thou, in Thy great goodness, grant pardon to them who seek Thy mercy, in the name of the same Thy Son, Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, world without end.

"Bacon and eggs for half price!"

What can I say? I just love Mr. Lunt. He is the pre-eminent member of the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, a group I long to join. Anyway, here is The Cheeseburger Song, which, here in our household, we love.

As far as posting about cheeseburgers and bacon on Friday, which is a day of abstinence, it is to make us stronger and more kosher.

Today we observe the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus- Cor Jesu.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bad religion is the opium of the people

In what is turning out to be resounding reading, Bernard J. Lee, SM, in his book The Future Church of 140 B.C.E.: A Hidden Revolution, writes: "Christians have often avoided implications of creaturehood's temporality by focusing on heaven." He further observes that "Karl Marx was wrong about a lot of things. But his critique of religion for diminishing human responsibility for history is a founded position" (105).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The evil dynamic of lust: the story of Amnon, son of David

"David's son Absalom had a beautiful sister named Tamar, and David's son Amnon loved her. He was in such straits over his sister Tamar that he became sick; since she was a virgin, Amnon thought it impossible to carry out his designs toward her. Now Amnon had a friend named Jonadab, son of David's brother Shimeah, who was very clever. He asked him, 'Prince, why are you so dejected morning after morning? Why not tell me?' So Amnon said to him, 'I am in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom's sister.' Then Jonadab replied, 'Lie down on your bed and pretend to be sick. When your father comes to visit you, say to him, "Please let my sister Tamar come and encourage me to take food. If she prepares something appetizing in my presence, for me to see, I will eat it from her hand."' So Amnon lay down and pretended to be sick. When the king came to visit him, Amnon said to the king, 'Please let my sister Tamar come and prepare some fried cakes before my eyes, that I may take nourishment from her hand.'

"David then sent home a message to Tamar, 'Please go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some nourishment for him.' Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was in bed. Taking dough and kneading it, she twisted it into cakes before his eyes and fried the cakes. Then she took the pan and set out the cakes before him. But Amnon would not eat; he said, 'Have everyone leave me.' When they had all left him, Amnon said to Tamar, 'Bring the nourishment into the bedroom, that I may have it from your hand.' So Tamar picked up the cakes she had prepared and brought them to her brother Amnon in the bedroom. But when she brought them to him to eat, he seized her and said to her, 'Come! Lie with me, my sister!' But she answered him, 'No my brother! Do not shame me! That is an intolerable crime in Israel. Do not commit this insensate deed. Where would I take my shame? And you would be a discredited man in Israel. So please, speak to the king; he will not keep me from you.' Not heeding her plea, he overpowered her; he shamed her and had relations with her. Then Amnon conceived an intense hatred for her, which far surpassed the love [desire/lust] he had had for her. 'Get up and leave,' he said to her. She replied, 'No, brother, because to drive me out would be far worse than the first injury you have done me.' He would not listen to her, but called the youth who was his attendant and said, 'Put her outside, away from me, and bar the door after her.' Now she had on a long tunic, for that is how maiden princesses dressed in olden days. When his attendant put her out and barred the door after her, Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long tunic in which she was clothed. Then, putting her hands to her head, she went away crying loudly. Her brother Absalom said to her: 'Has your brother Amnon been with you? Be still now, my sister; he is your brother. Do not take this affair to heart.' But Tamar remained grief-stricken and forlorn in the house of her brother Absalom" (2 Sam. 13,1b-20- underlined and emboldened emphasis mine). Of course, two years later Absalom, whose issues emerge when he usurps his father's throne and dies while fleeing David's guard, arranges to have Amnon killed to avenge the shame of his sister.

I was really struck by this story this morning, especially in light of The cinema on sex, Life as a dirty joke: one post-feminist perspective, Re-paganization, and Baise Moi- literally, pardon my French. Lust has a deep, strange, and evil quality. It sinks a person into himself, into the darkness. This darkness permits no other subjects, only objects of desire. It objectifies and uses other people to gratify one's fleeting desire, like Amnon forced Tamar to do, then casts them aside, like so much trash. Speaking of her experience in the pornographic film industry (industrialized, commodified sex, to satisfy your lust), Karen Bach said, after a graphic description of the state of the de-humanized woman, reduced to a used commodity: "Once you've finished your scene, you aren't worth anything anymore." In Sting's song, from his album Dream of the Blue Turtles, If You Love Somebody Set Them Free, sings:

"Forever conditioned to believe that we can't live
We can't live here and be happy with less
So many riches, so many souls
Everything we see we want to possess"

Amnon could not accept the beauty of Tamar without wanting to possess her. His violent reaction against her is but a recognition that he cannot possess her beauty. To be possessed is to be cherished. Hence, the only way we can participate in beauty is as a gift freely given and freely accepted. So, here is the big question: Can I give myself to beauty without wanting to possess that which is beautiful, especially knowing that I cannot possess it? After all, participation in is not possession of.

In this scenario from 2 Samuel, Tamar is not willing, she is genuinely a victim. According to the culture in which they lived, Tamar was willing to give in to Amnon, but only if he gives in to her: "So please, speak to the king; he will not keep me from you." In other words, it has to be a mutual, free exchange, wherein the two make gifts of themselves to each other, and the value of each person, which is infinitely precious, is fully recognized, and the union is publicly acknowledged and acceptable, blessed by the congregation, not a secret, inappropriate affair that occurs behind closed doors. True love does not merely cost you something, it costs your whole self.

Speaking about pornography a few years ago, Archbishop Niederauer, perhaps with ancient stories like this in mind, observed: "Pornography is not a new challenge to single-hearted human love and to respect for the dignity of human persons and human sexuality". Indeed, as this ancient narrative shows, it is not. There is nothing new under the sun, quoth the preacher (Eccl. 1,9). He goes on to succinctly describe lust: "What should motivate us most profoundly is not the amount of pornography there is, but the kind of harm it does. Pornography assaults human dignity and commodifies people and human sexuality. Porn starves the human soul in its spiritual dimension . . . The human person, an irreplaceable gift, becomes a throwaway toy."

To come: Don Giussani and desire, emotion, and judgment.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Confirmed as a son of God

My oldest son, who, along with one of his friends, I prepared for this sacrament, was confirmed by Bishop Wester on the Vigil of Pentecost, 10 May 2008. This picture was taken by his godfather, a dear brother, Rob, immediately following the Mass. I am very proud and happy. It is always a privilege to stand next to Bishop Wester, hold the sacred chrism, and witness the joy of those who receive this vital, life-affirming sacrament.

While we are father and son by nature, by grace we are now fully brothers in Christ!

Year A Solemnity of Corpus Christi- Vespers

Reading: 1 Cor. 10,16-17

St. Paul asks the Corinthians, somewhat rhetorically: "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ" (1 Cor 10,16)? Our participation in Christ is not limited to the time we spend at Mass, or the moment in which we receive communion. It is constitutive of our whole lives.

Anyone's understanding of Christ's real presence in the Eucharist is proportional to her understanding of Christ's presence in her daily life. As theologian Paul Philibert has observed: "If we think that the 'real presence' of Christ in the consecrated bread and wine," which constitute the "graced sign" of the Eucharist, "is the totality of the divine mystery that the church celebrates and 're-members,' we are missing a lot" (The Priesthood of the Faithful 138). By means of the graced sign we become in our very persons and all together, the fully "realized mystery," that is, Christ's body, active and present in the world as salt, light, and leaven. Hence, realizing this mystery is the objective of the Eucharist. For it is only by intentionally becoming the realized mystery that the Church is able to be the sacrament of salvation for the world. Without realizing the mystery of Christ's real presence in our lives we can never fully understand what we celebrate nor the gift we offer in the great exchange that occurs in the Mass.

When we come to realize the mystery of Christ's presence in our ordinary, everyday lives, the Eucharist becomes more than a divine gift of nourishment and love- though it certainly remains that- it also becomes the way we offer and give ourselves completely to God. When we say "Amen" to the words "the body of Christ," "the blood of Christ," we make ourselves a gift to God. In this way we offer ourselves to Christ, to being incorporated by him, to living in and through him. It is important to recognize that this sacrament of love is not only the sacrament of God's unbounded love for us, but of our response to God, who is love, our intentional and free participation in Christ's body and blood.

Year A Solemnity of Corpus Christi

UPDATE: I love Corpus Christi. It was my first experience preaching on this glorious solemnity. This Mass was just beautiful, never mind the homily. I could have been in heaven, I am still not sure I wasn't. It is also a pleasure to have Christopher Gray, a seminarian from/of/for our diocese, back for the summer. Thanks to him and the IC for all their great work! Christopher's great work also captured our Corpus Christi procession.

Readings: Deut. 8,2-3.14b-16a; Ps. 147, 12-15.19-20; 1 Cor. 10,16-17; Jn. 6, 51-58

"Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf," these words, written by St. Paul to the Corinthians, links this solemnity of Corpus Christi to last week’s solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (1 Cor. 10,17). The link consists of one word, unity, better expressed as koinoia, or communion. God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is a communion of divine persons. To use a contemporary slogan, God is unity in diversity. We, too, are called to be a communion of persons, brought together by the Holy Spirit in all our diversity, to form the mystical body of Christ, the ekkelsia, the Church. However, we are human persons, often all too human. Therefore, our communion is presently imperfect. The primary instrument, the means God gives us to fully become what we both already are as well as what God intends us to be is the Body of His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Normally when we eat, we incorporate our food. In other words, the food we eat becomes us, that is, our bodies. As regards the Eucharist, the opposite is true; by our drinking from the "cup of blessing" and partaking of the one loaf, we are incorporated into Christ’s body, that is, the Church. It is important to note that in this passage, when writing about the body into which we are incorporated by sharing the one cup and the bread, Paul uses the Greek word soma. Hence, he is not writing about a mere physical substance. The first time he uses soma, he is referring to Christ’s total being. The second time, he is referring to Christ’s mystical body, the Church. These together constitute what St. Augustine dubbed the totus Christus, the total, or complete, Christ. Therefore, we must be careful never to reduce the Blessed Sacrament to a mere physical substance.

It is true that we believe the bread and the wine we offer to God in the Eucharist become Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity, but we also believe that this is a great mystery. It is a belief of faith that, like mystery of one God in three persons, we will never fully grasp. Therefore, it cannot be explained or examined in a non-theological way. We certainly seek to understand and explain these mysteries by employing various methods in a manner that is consonant with human reason. Yet, we do so knowing that these mysteries are not empirically demonstrable because they are, properly speaking, metaphysical. Even today, some nine hundred years later, theology is best described using the formula of St. Anslem of Canterbury: faith seeking understanding. The very fact that we seek to comprehend what we believe, but can never fully grasp, by applying reason to faith is a refutation of the far too widely held belief that faith is a blind leap. Let us turn again briefly to St. Anslem in order understand the proper relationship between faith and reason: we do not seek to understand in order to believe, but we believe in order to understand.

I was recently made privy to a conversation in which one, no doubt well-meaning, participant was trying to argue for something the Church has always rejected, namely, that with the words of consecration the bread and wine undergo a physical change. The level at which this change occurs, according to this person, is the molecular level. Such an empirical claim can certainly be verified or disproved by subjecting consecrated hosts and wine to laboratory analysis. Indeed, such an analysis would not constitute sacrilege if the Church actually made such an absurd claim. Sacraments are signs, but as signs they do not merely point to what they signify, they effect what they signify. To use the traditional formula, sacraments are signum sacro sanctum efficax gratiae, that is, sacrosanct signs effecting grace. Hence, the only empirical evidence that what we believe is true is the transformation that occurs in and among those of us who participate in and claim to be the Body of Christ. After all, it was our Lord himself who said, "This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13,35).

Jesus gives himself to us as food, from which we derive the strength, that is, the grace necessary to fulfill our mission of ushering in God’s kingdom. The Eucharist is not an end in itself, it points us forward to our destiny, but our pilgrim path is through this world. In other words, we are not saved despite our humanity, but through it. Our dogmatic belief, rooted in revelation, that Jesus Christ is truly God and truly human prevents us from neatly separating his divinity from his humanity. This also helps us to better understand both the Eucharist and ourselves; we are our bodies, not souls trapped in bodies, which is a gnostic belief that leads to disastrous conclusions about how to live. It is because we are our bodies that we can embody Christ in and for the world.

What Jesus teaches in today’s Gospel, unsurprisingly, is very much in accord with what St. Paul writes. Jesus, too, alludes to the reversal that happens in the Eucharist, namely that when we partake of his flesh and blood we enter into an intimate union with him. St. Hilary of Poitiers, writing in the fourth century, tells us that "When we speak of the reality of Christ's nature being in us, we would be speaking foolishly and impiously--had we not learned it from Him. For He Himself says: 'My Flesh is truly food, and My Blood is truly Drink. He that eats My flesh and drinks My Blood will remain in Me and I in him' . . . Is it not true? Let those who deny that Jesus Christ is true God be free to find these things untrue" (On the Trinity VIII, 14). Indeed, as St. Paul also writes in his First Letter to the Corinthians, no one can truly say Jesus is Lord "except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12,3).

The Eucharist is the way Christ has chosen to abide with us until the end of time. Therefore, we must not give in to the temptation to separate this truth from how we live. The Lord "refuses to allow us to abstract our knowing from our living. The gospel is not information; it is a way of life" (Hauerwas, Matthew 148). At the center of this life is the Eucharist, which is the sacramentum caritatis, the sacrament of love. It is how all of us together come to participate in the divine life of the Most Holy Trinity, for whoever eats "the living bread that came down from heaven . . . will live forever" (Jn. 6,51)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A note about School of Community

Suzanne, quoting something from her experience, builds on something from our last School of Community:

"Father Carron said we need only three things to do SoC:
1. Our heart
2. the books of Father Giussani (ie, the method) and
3. Christ. It doesn't depend on anything or anyone else, so we have our freedom, and no one can limit us or our freedom to do it because I have all I need and you have all you need."

This is a good reminder. We must make SoC a priority. We must read, reflect on our life in light of the method, and come, drawn by the Spirit, by the particular charism of CL, which is nothing but a particular manifestation of the Spirit.

I also like this from Paper Clippings: "The thing about places like Algeria is that probably nobody cares about Islam as a religion. It is just the unifying ideology of society, whereas Christianity by appealing to personal freedom is an implicit threat to power. This reminds us of Solovev's remark that Islam was just the natural evolution of the Caesaro-Papism of the Eastern Roman Empire."

Friday, May 23, 2008

"Jesus came for the people who know how it feels when you say 'sin'"

Are you broken? Another absolute gem by Jude Simpson. Broken Open:

"Jesus came
for the insane, the unfulfilled, the searching
the street child, the tramp and the urchin,
the poor little rich girl snorting coke and
cursing, and the man who sold it to her.
Jesus came for those nursing a need,
nursing a drink
out of control,
on the blink,
on the brink,
falling overboard, and about to -
sobbing at the kitchen sink."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"The Seas are stormy/And You Can't find No Port," or Ecclesia Supplet

It's funny how things suddenly strike me. It shows the low level of awareness at which I sometimes operate. I must've prayed this intercession many times before, but last evening, while praying Evening Prayer, I found myself uttering this petition to God from the bottom of my soul:

"Be mindful of those who devote themselves to the service of their brothers,
-do not let them be deterred from their goals by discouraging results or lack of support"
(Evening Prayer, Week III, Intercessions)

Not to sound too overwrought, it would be difficult for me summon a more appropriate petition at present.

Taking the slow boat to the shores of Καθολικός διάκονος, via Vitus Speaks and The Looking Closer Journal with Jeffrey Overstreet, comes this gem from the All Songs Considered Blog- Tom Waits Interviews Tom Waits. The interviewer, Tom Waits, begins the piece with an intro about Tom Waits:

"I must admit, before meeting Tom, I had heard so many rumors and so much gossip that I was afraid. Frankly, his gambling debts, his animal magnetism, coupled with his disregard for the feelings of others... His elaborate gun collection, his mad shopping sprees, the face lifts, the ski trips, the drug busts and the hundreds of rooms in his home. The tax shelters, the public urination...I was nervous to meet the real man himself. Baggage and all. But I found him to be gentle, intelligent, open, bright, helpful, humorous, brave, audacious, loquacious, clean, and reverent. A Boy Scout, really (and a giant of a man). Join me now for a rare glimpse into the heart of Tom Waits. Remove your shoes and no smoking, please."

Why not have two traditio postings this week? Here's some Tom Waits for nobody in particular, for no reason in particular:

UPDATE Alex has posted a great Tom Waits song, Chocolate Jesus, a song previously referenced on this blog in a post entitled Well it's got to be a Choc-O-late Mary, which is also a great example of me being pedantic and didactic.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Loving God is but a recognition that God loves us

"God's motive is not to exact punishment on those who have failed or disobeyed, but to befriend those who have not yet understood the reality of divine love" (Paul Philibert,OP The Priesthood of the Faithful: The Key to a Living Church, pg. 106).

Pater Tom once observed that many Christians do not become saints, that is, holy "because they imagine that holiness means imitating the lives and behavior of others whose circumstances are utterly alien to their own". In his little book, The Need and Blessing of Prayer, directed to Christians engaged in the modern world, Fr. Karl Rahner wrote:

"Man does many quite diverse things. He does not have the gift of always doing one thing, although he bears a secret, perhaps unacknowledged and semiconscious longing always to do just one single thing; something that is everything and worth the effort, the heart's final exertion and love" (pg. 1). Of course, that one thing is to pray, to be with God in awe. Because prayer is the most necessary thing, Rahner writes that "it is also the freest, the most avoidable". Prayer, he insists, "only exists when we do it freely, always with a new love." If not done in this free, intentional, relational, loving manner prayer "does not exist".

Even as people of faith, at times it is easier to a read a book, even Scripture, or watch religious programming, listen to inspiring music, than to pray. We are good at avoiding prayer and calling it a kind of prayer. Prayer, as Rahner insists, is a need. It is through prayer that, as God's priestly people, we make our daily sacrifice to Him. Our sacrifice is not merely our lives, but our very selves. Our avoidance is conscious and leaves us empty. Only prayer fills us up. Only prayer opens us, not only to the mystery and wonder of God, but to divine love. To understand that we are loved with an unbounded, divine love is the first and absolutely necessary step on the path to holiness. Any other beginning, like obedience, starts us down a dark path that quickly dead-ends. This is all summarized in the title of a work by Kierkegaard: Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing. This work begins:

"Father in heaven! What is man without Thee! What is all that he knows, vast accumulation though it be, but a chipped fragment if he does not know Thee! What is all his striving, could it even encompass a world, but a half-finished work if he does not know Thee: Thee the One, who art one thing and art all!"

So, a prayer, from Fr. Philibert's book: "Lord, today let me care and give love without resentment, just as you did."

Monday, May 19, 2008

An irksome issue, indeed

An article in today's Salt Lake Tribune, by Peggy Fletcher Stack, entitled Keeping LDS from Catholic records irks genealogists, is certainly keeping the recent letter from the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome to dioceses in the local spotlight. Without a doubt, there are competing interests. However, there is no small amount of disingenuousness on the part of many Latter-day Saints who, for decades, have sought out such records for the religious purpose of performing baptisms, temple endowments, and temple marriages (i.e., sealings) on behalf of the dead by proxy.

In fact, after receiving their own endowment and being sealed to their own spouse, whenever Latter-day Saints perform what they call "temple work," they are performing these rituals by proxy for people who are dead and, according to LDS belief, languishing in spirit prison, waiting for these acts to be performed on their behalf. The LDS do not believe that these proxy rituals are ipso facto efficacious, they believe that having a mortal human being baptized, endowed, and sealed on their behalf merely gives the non-LDS dead the opportunity to accept or reject what the LDS see as the true gospel. Were it not for this set of beliefs, the LDS Church would make no effort to collect and maintain such records.

I also happen to know that many in Rome, including several cardinals, are not happy about very heavy LDS proselytizing in and around the Vatican in recent years, especially in St. Peter's square, as well as the leaving of LDS literature in churches around the Eternal City. To wit: Catholics here in Salt Lake City do not hand out copies of Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth, or a great tract written by the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, himself a convert from Methodism, addressing LDS belief in the so-called Great Apostasy- Bishop Duane G. Hunt's The Unbroken Chain, at the entrance to Temple Square, or on Temple Square itself. Neither do we deposit copies of Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in wardhouses throughout Salt Lake City, or any city for that matter. We refrain both out of respect for their precincts, but more out of an ability to distinguish between evanglelizing and proselytizing, the latter we reject as being incompatible with our faith (see 1 Peter 3,15- see also my previous post the Church is holy and imperishable ).

I like very much what Msgr. Fitzgerald, our Vicar General, has to say in this most recent article, where, in his refreshingly straight-forward manner, he gets beyond all the disingenuousness and ambiguity:

"The problem is not about making historical records available for research. The problem is with baptism for the dead. I wouldn't want my mom and dad who were lifelong Catholics to be baptized LDS. I don't think it works, but I still think it's disrespectful." He goes on to point out that the Diocese of Salt Lake City has not allowed the LDS Church access to its records for years because, in the words or Msgr. Fitzgerald "Here we are very much aware of the baptism issue."

I also agree with Mr. Kyle Betit, a close friend and a long-time colleague, that "We have a certain responsibility to preserve people's heritage." He asks, "If you are not going to let Mormons microfilm your records, who are you going to get to microfilm them?" This is a good question. However, it is one that is answered by the massive effort, currently underway, to digitize sacramental records here in our diocese and in many dioceses throughout the world. So, there is no need to allow a third-party to microfilm, or in any other way digitally copy these vital records. It merely becomes a question, addressed by both Msgr. Fitzgerald and Bishop Wester, about who has the right to access sacramental records. As both men have said, direct descendants certainly have the right of access to sacramental records. So, folks interested in their heritage, who have ancestors who were baptized, confirmed, ordained, and/or married in this diocese, can be secure in the knowledge that their heritage is being preserved. Besides, I very much doubt that the LDS Church makes their membership records available to third parties, or the public in general, nor should they be expected to. To their credit, the LDS Church refused to comment on the matter, saying that it is an issue internal to the Catholic Church.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


I am in the process of setting up a MySpace page. I realize, in the lovely words of poet Jude Simpson, that "Jesus doesn't have a myspace page". Apparently there is no way to get all the obnoxious "hook-up" advertising off my space. I suppose it is my space only to the extent I am willing to offer advertisements to visitors. I am trying to get a winery to sponsor my house and pay me for it. Chez Dodge, brought to you by Barefoot Winery!

It makes me appreciate Blogpsot all the more. Well, rushing in where angels fear to tread, I offer a link to MySpace. To put both of my readers at ease, I have no desire to migrate my blog over. In fact, on my profile, I link back to this space.

Holy Mary, Mother of God- pray for us
St. Stephen- pray for us
St. Mary Magdalene- pray for us
St. Isidore of Seville- pray for us
Sts. Francesco and Chiara- pray for us
All holy men and women- pray for us.

Please note my update at the end of the post The cinema on sex.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Baise Moi- literally, pardon my French

This video constitutes the coup de grâce (one meaning of which is a death blow intended to end the suffering of a wounded creature) for a series of posts this week. Inherent to the word tradition are two meanings- traditia= those things handed down, like the depositum fidei and tradition as traditio=the process of handing down, of ongoing interpretation. Verb/noun, simple. Even though this montage is excruciating,it shows hopelessness in that noir manner, not romanticizing it exactly, but showing the observer the genuine poignancy of despair. Poignant= painfully affecting the feelings, piercing, deeply affecting, touching, designed to make an impression, cutting (poignant satire), pleasurably stimulating, being to the point. Wow! What a range of meaning! What a truly grand word. J'aime des mots, et la langue humaine.

From the lyrics to the song, by Dolly, Je Ne Veux Pas Rester Sage:

"Son ombre est ma couleur= His shadow is my color
Le mal est ma lueur= The evil is my glimmer
Mon parfum son odeur= My perfume smell

This puts me in mind of the three-fold baptismal rejection of sin:

Do you reject sin,
so as to live in the freedom of God's children?

Do you reject the glamor of evil,
and refuse to be mastered by sin?

Do you reject Satan,
father of sin and prince of darkness?

C'est mon désir, comme Jésus, pour ne pas flatter bassement une audience. "Nos coeurs ont été faits pour vous, seigneur, et ils sont agités jusqu'à ce qu'ils se reposent dans vous." Repos en Jésus, Karen.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What is CL?

Suzanne, who is the author of the blog Come to See, writes beatifully about her experience with CL. She also has some good information on her sidebar about CL. So, if you are at all interested in what we call the Movement, please read What is Communion and Liberation To Me. After all, it is the result of experience.

UPDATE: From Godspy, a great article on Larry Norman by Ron Wall, entitled Larry Norman’s Street Fighting Gospel. A thanks to Alex, over on Vitus Speaks for the link. Demonstrating, especially in this internet age, Julia Kristevia's principle of intertextuality, popularized by Jacques Derrida, Wall links to a great Wikipedia article on Larry. Stated simply, Larry Norman knew that following Jesus meant losing his own life for His sake.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Orgy, by Paul Cezanne, ca. 1876
"Il y a une sexualité qu'on ne peut vivre que sous alcool. Boire, c'est ça aussi : c'est accueillir ce qui devait rester caché. De notre propre désir."

Virginie Despentes - Les Jolies choses

Poor translation:
"There is a sexuality which one can live [experience] only under [the influence of] alcohol. To drink is also to accommodate what was to remain hidden. Namely, our proper [or true] desire."

Virginia Despentes - Pretty things

According to Despentes, in addition to prostitution as female empowerment, it is in drunkenness that what we really desire, at least sexually, is revealed to us. If I am following this line of reasoning, waking up in the morning and regretting my drunken escapades is intoxication, denial, repression, or, in the words of Queen, "escape from reality"? Is it true that reality is for people who cannot handle drugs? Oh, what we do to turn off, and even kill, that prickly, annoying, part of consciousness known as conscience, or, what a Freudian would call our super-ego.

The Curé d'Ars believed fallen humanity to be inherently pagan. Don Gius believed that human beings tilt toward pantheism and anarchy. Now, quite apart from proving the truth of Christianity, one can take these seemingly innate tendencies and ask, Why fight them? Well, this gets into the recognition of alienation and angst, which is nothing other than seeing the world as broken, or, stated more succinctly, f'd up. How do we overcome alienation and angst? How do we rise from our fallen condition? More fundamentally, is such a thing even possible, or, desirable? Do we simply, in the words of a certain Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant, "embrace the suck" of the void? It is my firm belief that this is what Jesus Christ did in His passion and death- which is why, even after all the controversy generated by Alyssa Pitstick's legal brief accusing him of heresy last year, I love Von Balthasar's take on Christ's descent into hell. So crucial is this insight, in my estimation, that I do not believe we can be saved without something like Balthasar's account of Christ's descent into hell actually having occurred. These are questions I have sought to deal with before and will no doubt address again, as they are perennial, existential questions. Besides, I am far too influenced by Marcel not to be deeply engrossed in these questions.

Long before Giussani, or even Vianney, St. Paul, writing as much from a Jewish as a Christian perspective, noted our tendency to exchange "the truth about God for a lie" and to worship and serve "the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever" (ESV Rom. 1,25)! One does not have to be a really keen observer to notice that the Western world is rapidly being re-paganized. Contra these trends we have St. Paul's Letter "To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints," written in approximately 58 C.E. (ESV Rom. 1,7a). In this letter we read: "Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy" (ESV Rom. 13,13). We also live according to his admonition, taken from his Letter to the Galatians, written between 48-50 C.E.: "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (ESV Gal. 5,19-23).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Life as a dirty joke: one post-feminist perspective

As noted yesterday, the Christian view of sexuality is under attack as part of the assault on transcendent meaning, for which the human heart longs and is made. In the works of no twentieth century thinker is the assault more pointed than in the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre, which amount to not much more than a strange (mis)appropriation of several deep insights by Heidegger. In Sartre the question of meaning can only be answered by the autonomous, allegedly free (i.e., unattached), individual, the radical de-linking of freedom from truth, which is but a variation on the destructive theme of the divorce between reason and faith. On his view, you invent the meaning of your life, nothing is given, and anything told you by others is oppression. If you want to really upset me, link Camus with Sartre. Camus, unlike Sartre, was no nihilist. He persisted in his quest for meaning. Whereas, Sartre went to great lengths in trying eradicate the path Heidegger made through the forest, all the work he invested in clearing space so that the question of being, which is the only question that matters, can once again be posed. "The danger facing the Western world," said Pope Benedict earlier this year in the speech he was to deliver at La Sapienza University in Rome, "is that man today, precisely because of the immensity of his knowledge and power, surrenders before the question of truth". What is truth? asked Pontius Pilate, as the truth stood facing him (Jn. 18,38). The I, Don Gius taught us, is a direct relationship with the Mystery. That, my dear friends, is the truth!

Authentic sexuality is also rendered void by what can only be characterized as a continued gnostic dualism as regards the Christian understanding of sex. Virginie Despentes, the author of the novel Baise Moi (the English edition of which hauntingly and somewhat ironically features the visage of Karen Bach) and co-director of the film, has not ever, at least as far as I can tell, appropriated Bach's experience into her thinking. This becomes clear in reading a review of her most recent book, a series of essays, entitled King Kong Théorie.

Virginie Despentes
From the review, Virginie Despentes’ King Kong théorie: "Despentes feels that society’s ‘devious and deliberate’ manipulation of sexual archetypes is not just a political and economic weapon: it’s the ultimate obstacle to self-expression, that can only saw [sic] seeds of malaise and dissatisfaction. Day after day, the possibilities of our sexuality and the potentials [sic] of our personal freedom are occulted in a variety of ways. To illustrate her point, Despentes discusses the French media’s coverage of prostitution in France, what she sees as a desperate attempt to avoid ‘sending married women the message that there is an alternative to the marital contract’. As a result press and TV go to extraordinary lengths to highlight the most sordid, dramatic aspects of this phenomenon (the all too familiar news reports of underage, drug addicted, paperless immigrant girls in near-slavery conditions on the most dangerous banlieues) rather than the stories of those, such as Despentes herself, who had decided to entertain the profession by choice. According to Despentes, it is the financial side to the equation that feels destabilising, as it spells independence: something evening the scale between genders is automatically seen as dangerous." Despentes herself writes about this: "as traditionally women and men are expected not to relate to each other so openly and explicitly, this eventuality opening into unknown possibilities is scary". The reviewer summarizes this as "the prospect of [men and women] becoming accomplices". Despentes continues, "if I had to give some advice to any girl out there, I would suggest to preserve their independence and gain some profit from her charm, rather than getting herself married, knocked up and finally trapped by some guy she wouldn’t stand unless he took her on holidays twice a year".

What is striking about Despentes' post-feminist take is that she takes the Christian view of sexuality head-on. In other words, hers is not a response to a mistaken dualistic, pseudo-Christian view of sexuality, which is ultimately gnostic, and still all too prevalent in the Church. What she proposes to "any girl out there" is striking: the way to independence and happiness is by seeking to "gain some profit from [your]charm". According to Despentes, prostitution is the way to happiness and independence for "any girl out there"! So, in the post-feminist world envisioned by Despentes and others, borrowing from the repertoire of noted anti-feminist Andrew Dice Clay, the appropriate response when a man and a woman are on a date and, before ordering an expensive bottle of wine, for which he is going to pay, the man says: Hey, that's a $50 bottle wine! How about a little [something] up front?", is saying "Okay", performing the requested act, popping back up and saying, "Where's the $50 bottle of wine?" On this account, life becomes a dirty joke and sex is always a commercial transaction.

J'ai une question si vous plait: "Si un homme parvient à posséder le monde entier, à quoi cela lui sert-il s'il se perd ou se détruit lui-même?" (from Luke 9,25 see also Matt. 16,26; Mk 8,36). Rather than an "opening into unknown possibilities", as the case of Karen Bach shows, at least one possibility is known. Or, is it the case, as a post-feminist, like Despentes, might aver, that Karen Bach was just not strong enough, could not get beyond society's insistence on "occulting" her sexuality. Or, is it the case that she got beyond it alright and found herself in the void, which led to meaninglessness and ultimately to despair?

Oriana Fallaci
Instead of formulating a detailed, well-composed, and lengthy response, I will limit myself to mentioning that it was Karen Bach's express desire to get (re-)married and have children. I also direct attention to a post here on Καθολικός διάκονος from the Fall of 2006: Yet More Signs of Hope, God's fierce love and endless mercy, Jesus Christ.

Sadly, I have created a time crunch for myself with all these musings. I offer the perspective of another post-feminist, the late Oriana Fallaci, as at least a partial corrective to Despentes' life-as-a-dirty-joke perspective.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The cinema on sex

Karen Bach as Nadine in Baise Moi
In the course of doing some research, specifically on the 2000 French film Baise Moi (a montage {"it's gotta be a montage"} from which, set to music, I am considering for Friday's traditio) I stumbled upon on an editorial from the from Winter 2001 (Vol. XXVII No. 1) issue of the film magazine Cineaste. The editorial discusses sex in film, particularly in light of a spate of French films released in 1999 and 2000, among which Baise Moi stood out for its graphic sex, not to mention violence. There is a real life tragedy that plays out in the life of one of the film's leading actresses, Karen Bach. After a four year career starring in pornographic movies, Baise Moi was her last film. She hoped that playing Nadine in this novel adapted to film by the author and co-directed by the author and another female adult film star, would launch her career as an actress. It did not and in January 2005, after several years of trying to make it as an actress and singer, she collapsed in despair, committing suicide and leaving only a note for her parents, that read "too painful".

This same issue of the magazine contains a deeply insightful article by Linda Williams entitled Cinema and the Sex Act. Anyway, here is the paragraph from the editorial that I found worth passing along:

"What passes for 'graphic' representations of sex in mainstream American films tends to be a highly stylized affair, often a suggestive montage of body parts conjoined in passionate embrace, featuring remarkably well-toned, well-tanned torsos (usually those of body doubles for the stars) athletically managing a variety of impressive couplings, which invariably result, complete with a musical crescendo, in a simultaneous climax. Such an idealized representation of sex, of course, spares moviegoers the unappealing sight of real, often flabby, human flesh and the sometimes clumsy, usually asynchronous rhythms of two desiring bodies. What is also missing is any sense of the true nature of intimacy, which results when two adults negotiate the reality of sex, which, to some extent, means abandoning the fantasy of sex as sold by mainstream cinema."

When it comes to sex, we in the U.S. are adolescents and, as far as I can tell, quite happy to remain so. By writing that I do not mean that we need more and more graphic sex in movies, but merely that what typically concerns us about sex is not much worth being concerned about. After all, de Sade was correct in his insistence, dubbed "the philosophy of the bedroom", that sex, philosophy, and politics go together. It is not a choice, it is the way things are, it is part of being human, a complex, complicated, and often ambiguous part, which makes it all the more authentically human.

"Sexuality," we read in the Catechism, "affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul" (par. 2332). Therefore, it is necessary that "every man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his[/her] sexual identity" (par. 2333). The meaning of chastity is "the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of [each person] in his[/her] bodily and spiritual being" (par. 2337). Our sexuality is an expression of our "belonging to the bodily and biological world". It is made "personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman" (par. 2337).

UPDATE: Looking at this post a few days later, my reaction is- Mon Dieu! What a predictably preachy way for a deacon to end a post such as this! So, I am reminded of a conversation between George Weigel and Dr. Rowan Williams, that took place not long after Dr. Williams, who is simply a brilliant Christian thinker, was named Archbishop of Canterbury. As Weigel reports it, the talk turned to "the human condition", specifically "the difference between 'sacramental' and 'gnostic' understandings" about what it is to be human. "The former insists that the stuff of the world – including maleness, femaleness, and their complementarity — has truths built into it; gnostics say it’s all plastic, all malleable, all changeable. The sacramentalists believe that the extraordinary reveals itself through the ordinary: bread, wine, water, salt, marital love and fidelity; the gnostics say it’s a matter of superior wisdom, available to the enlightened (which can mean, the politically correct). Dr. Williams seemed convinced that the gnosticism of a lot of western high culture posed a great danger to historic Christianity and the truths it must proclaim". I, too , am convinced. We must tread cautiously, however, because the primary truth is not about how we should behave sexually. Rather, it is about our identity, about who we are, and what we are to be in Christ Jesus.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Year A Solemnity of Pentecost-Vespers

Reading: 1 Cor. 12,3b-7.12-13

Jesus is Lord. Indeed, no one can say this and mean it "except by the Holy Spirit" (1Cor. 12,3). Jesus sends His Holy Spirit, breathes His Holy Spirit, which is also the Spirit of the Father, upon His Church continuously. This breath, this Spirit, is the giver of life. The Spirit gives us life through the diversity of gifts He lavishes freely upon us. No matter what the gift, it is to be put at the service of others, of the Church and of the world.

In his encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est, the Holy Father writes that our deepest nature, as Church, "is expressed in [our] three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia)" (DCE par. 25a). While these responsibilities "presuppose each other and are inseparable" from each other, they are distinguishable (DCE, par. 25a). What unites them is the common mission accomplished by God in us through them. This is what St. Paul writes about in our passage today.

We are one body, one spirit in Christ. Making us the Body of Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit. Of course, the masterworks of the Holy Spirit are the sacraments. Last evening and today, right here in this Cathedral, many people, young and old, received the sacrament of Confirmation. This sacrament consists in anointing with sacred chrism, accompanied by the words, "Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit." In Confirmation, as in all the sacraments, God gives us his very self, that is, we receive a portion of that divine life shared by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We call this gift grace. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift par excellence.

When we receive the Holy Spirit, we receive His seven gifts: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (Compendium, par. 389). These gifts, given for service and the advancement of God’s reign, bear fruit. The specific fruits they bear are the hallmarks Christian discipleship. In other words, they constitute the objectively verifiable criteria of our discipleship, indicating how closely we follow our Lord. These fruits are: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. All of which the world has sorely lacked since our fall from grace.

These fruits, in turn, are manifested in a specifically Christian manner, known as the works of mercy. These works are both spiritual and corporal. These, respectively, consist of counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing sinners, comforting the afflicted, forgiving offenses, bearing wrongs patiently, and praying for the living and the dead, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, and burying the dead. It is easy to see that all ministries of our parish are based on these concrete works, all of which are asked of us by our Lord himself, in fulfillment of the two great commandments, as expressions of our love for Him and for each other.

So, on this Pentecost, certain that God gratuitously gifts us, let us discern the gifts God gives to each one of us. As we bring the season of Easter to a close with this Vespers service, we are challenged to put to our gifts at the service of others in order that they bear fruit in bringing about God’s reign. By doing so, we declare in our worship, witness, and service, by the Holy Spirit, that Jesus is Lord!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

"Live in me and be free"

From the Ironic Catholic, all the way from Minnesota, from my school, to which I am once again returning this summer:

Congratulations to all the Theology graduates from St. Mary's University, it so great to see young people studying and planning on lives of service to the Church. We need you, thanks!

Let us today cultivate the awareness taught by St. John Baptiste LaSalle: "Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God"- he makes an appearance in the video, he is in the stained glass window. Let us also strive to make Christ present where ever we are. After all, he is "God from God, light from light, true God from true God". In other words, he is our God and we are his people, the flock he shepherds.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Life is good, or life as a rose

"And now," in the immortal words of Monty Python, "for something completely different" as regards our Friday traditio, namely links to two posts by Suzanne over at Come to See:

Also, over on The People of St. Mary Magdalene, our parish blog that has suffered neglect at the hands of a (too) busy schedule, there are three links to outstanding articles by our Judicial Vicar, who is one of my mentors and priestly patrons, Fr. Langes Silva, JCL, JCD. Also, a final post for this year on the RCIA blog, Admirers or disciples? There is also a post that links Spirituality, which we discussed in our penultimate (this is the premiere for this word on Καθολικός διάκονος) session, with Discipleship.

I would also like to draw attention to my revised header statement, as well as to some newer links. Under the Communion & Liberation section you will find a link to the blog Naru Hodo, the author of which is Marie. Under Spirituality there is a link to Fr. Tom's blog and, also under Spirituality, is the link the Bethlehem Monastery of the Poor Clares, which is located in Virginia, on which you can find a great page on the practice of lectio divina. There is also a link to the blog of the Abbess of Bethlehem Monastery, Clare-Light on the Mountain. Finally, rounding out the additions to Spirituality is a link to the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, an oversight that I am long overdue in rectifying.

Random point number, oh, who's counting- A good film for this weekend is La Vie En Rose, a biopic, for which French actress, Marion Cotillard, won the Academy Award for her portrayal of legendary French singer, Edith Piaf. It is a stunning film about a remarkable and deeply troubled woman. This is why she is so remarkable and, in a very deep way, a testimony to God's infinite (i.e., unbounded) love for us. Edith Piaf became part of my music rotation and entered my community of the heart during diaconate formation, when I was taught about her life, her troubles, and her unfailing devotion to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, to whom she became devoted through the prostitute in whose care she was left as a little girl by her father. This helps us to recall, quoting Archbishop Niederauer, that "what probably bothered the Pharisees most about Jesus Christ [was] His awful taste in people! Their exact words were: 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them'"! So, to conclude what has become a rather lengthy traditio, here is Edith singing Hymne á l'Armour

The last line of the song, "Dieu réunit ceux qui s'aiment!", en anglais, says: "God reunites those who love each other". There's a lot of eschatology packed into that line.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The letter

UPDATE: Bishop Wester's statement on the letter is now available over on The People of St. Mary Magdalene.

Now that the dust has settled a bit, I offer four quick points and a conclusion regarding the recent letter from the Congregation for the Clergy regarding the handling of sacramental records.

1) It is not entirely clear to which "erroneous practice" the Congregation is referring. Clarification on this point requires either a further statement from the Congregation or an interpretation by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. On my reading there are two possibilities: the reference is either to the LDS practice of baptizing the dead, which the Catholic Church rejects, or it refers to the the mishandling of sacramental records, granting access to records that are to be handled in accordance with the Code of Canon law and other legislative guidance handed down by the Holy See. To wit: journalists, even Catholic journalists, are not canonists.

2) The letter was sent without prior consultation with local bishops. In other words, it was a bolt out of the blue. This put our local Church in particular into a reactive mode, a defensive crouch.

3) The primary concern is the confidentiality of sacramental records. As Msgr. Fitzgerald, our vicar general has stated: "We have a policy not to give out baptismal records to anyone unless they are entitled to have them. That isn't just for the Church of the Latter-day Saints. That is for all groups." Msgr. Fitzgerald is quite rightly puzzled by why the LDS are singled out by the Congregation. There is one standard for the handling of sacramental records and it applies across-the-board. To wit: there is not one standard for the LDS Church and another for other interested parties.

4) Even the Catholic Church in the United States, which is far more technologically advanced than the Church in most of the rest of the world, has been slow to digitize our sacramental records. Here in our diocese we are still in the process of putting our past records into a database. Doing this makes the records easily searchable and retrievable. Still, this database is not publicly available as it does not change the long-standing policy of keeping these records confidential. I am quite certain that LDS Church's membership records are also kept confidential and made available only to those who, to quote Msgr. Fitzgerald, "are entitled to have them". This is as it should be. Of course, there is a canonical requirement to maintain what we all call a hard copy of these records. This will not change.

Conclusion: if people want to peruse Catholic sacramental records of past generations of their own family, they are and will continue to be permitted to do so. Now, two things regarding the LDS Church's massive effort to collect genealogical data:

Two more general observations:

1) It is no great secret that their primary motivation for so doing is religious. However, I believe that they have changed their practice and only do temple work for deceased persons whose families have submitted their names. It is also no great secret that the Catholic Church does not share their belief in baptism for the dead.
2) More than the religious motivation, the LDS Church provides a tremendous service in making the genealogical data they collect available to anyone who wants it for free. This is no small thing for historians, professional genealogists, even some engaged in genetic research, and for average people who want to research their ancestors and origins.

Summary and conclusion:

While we certainly have many points of disagreement with the Latter-day Saints, some quite fundamental, like the nature of God, we nonetheless strive to foster good relations and to make common cause whenever possible. For example, here in the Diocese of Salt Lake City we have a very fraternal relationship with our LDS friends and neighbors and some quite impressive institutional ties. These are not just important, they are necessary. I am quite certain that the last thing the Congregation intended to do was to erode any common ground we have established. Therefore, as Catholics, we should seek not only preserve, but to expand the territory we share. Of course, by seeking to do so we must be honest about our differences and steadfast in our own faith. We can do this because of our faith in the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Jesus Christ, who, as His disciples, we daily seek to follow.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

"Childhood living is easy to do"

Another Gram Parsons remembrance, from Hope Sandoval and Mazzy Star, from one of the best albums of all-time.

"I watched you suffer a dull aching pain
Now you decided to show me the same
No sweeping exits or offstage lines
Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind"

Friday, May 2, 2008

"Have I become the hollow man I see?"

REM three weeks in a row for traditio? What I can write? I have no excuse except that I am just enthralled with Accelerate. Here is an interview that Michael, Mike, and Peter did with the country's best interviewer, Terry Gross, on her program Fresh Air. This interview aired back in April. The Fresh Air page also contains links to some brief clips of great REM songs, like Flowers of Guatemala from their album, Life's Rich Pageant. For those of you who are interested in what I do, you might be interested in the interview that aired on Fresh Air the day prior to her REM interview.

I'm overwhelmed, I'm on repeat,
I'm emptied out, I'm incomplete.
You trusted me, I want to show you
I don't want to be the hollow man.

Meanwhile, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, writing over on Observations & Contentions, comments on the theology of the Holy Father, reminding us that our encounter with the resurrected and living Lord "is not simply a private spiritual experience of 'knowing Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.' The Christ encountered is the logos—the word and reason that is both the source and reason of all that is. It is an intensely personal encounter but never just a private encounter. The revelation of God in Christ is emphatically public." In the words of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, delivered in a homily at the funeral of dear Don Gius in 2005, just before the death of JPII: "Christianity is not an intellectual system, a collection of dogmas, or a moral system. Christianity is an encounter, a love story, an event".

Prayer: Lord, I am hollow. Fill me with your Spirit, which is nothing but you and the Father, the fullness of being.

On this Friday, as the sun recedes, I hear echoes of the prayer of Papa Luciani, in which he asks for the grace we seek each time we invoke the most efficacious intercession of the Blessed Virgin, the joy of a happy death. Besides being embedded in the Hail Mary, this grace is also the fruit of the fourth mystery of the Glorious Mysteries of her rosary:

"I am asking you a grace, my Lord.
I would like you to be nearby me when I close my eyes on the earth.
I would like you to hold my hand in yours, as a mother with her child in the hour of danger.
Thank you, my Lord"."

I just can't end on poignant note (the curse of being a 'Merican). So, I offer this gem from Vitus Speaks. Alex's post has the added benefit of being about confession. Hence, it is appropriate for a Friday, even if drop-dead funny, as are so many of Lorenzo's anecdotes.

Oh, and on this the Memorial of St. Athanasius , happy b-day to my oldest son, the aspiring guitarist, of whom I am so proud. He has overcome a lot of obstacles, not the least of which is having me for a Dad. Since we had his party last Saturday, he is spending the evening with his Godfather, Rob, who is no mean guitarist himself, and a dear brother of long-standing.

As St. Irenaeus wrote long ago: "the glory of God is a human being fully alive!"

Hierarchy Update

The Holy Father accepted the resignation of Archbishop Harry Flynn of St. Paul-Minneapolis upon His Excellency's having reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. Archbishop Flynn's resignation does not create a vacancy because he succeeded by Archbishop John Nienstedt, who has been serving as co-adjutor.

Year B Third Sunday of Easter

Readings: Acts 3:13-15.17-19; Ps 4:2.4.7-9; 1 John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:25-48 “You are witnesses of these things,” Jesus tells his incredulous...