Friday, October 31, 2008

An event that was (for me) a revelation

Yesterday I found the title of the booklet by Msgr. Giussani I read years ago in the English edition of the Italian magazine 30 Days in the Church and in the World. It was called He Is If He Changes. Sadly, this is not in the 30 Days archive. I did find a couple of reflections that Don Giussani gave to novices of Memores Domini in the summer of 2003, which would have been about a year-and-a-half before he realized his destiny. In reading these brief reflections I was deeply moved by Giussani's paternal care. I was also moved by his honesty. The quote below is uncharacteristic of the Giussani I have read:

"You have been told that one who loves is one who truly aids your destiny, who truly loves the mission of our life, who truly loves your vocation. Yes, it is true, God has chosen me as responsible for your vocation. This is a given fact that cannot leave anyone unmoved. I say this so that you may pray to Our Lady to help me in this great task that she has given me, that her Son has given me, that Jesus has given me.

"I do not know if, in the last meditation, a phrase was quoted that has been handed down to us by the history of the Church, Cardinal Baronio’s phrase, 'Oboedientia et pax,' obedience and peace. Obedience to God is given by obedience to the one He has placed as responsible for your life.

"He has placed me, He has called me, as responsible for your life—I repeat—with all my faults, with all the weaknesses I may have; but it is His strength, His strength that saves you. His strength returns to you as light on your path. His strength makes your steps sure—not the strength of men, but of God—along the road that He will point out to you through my words, through the cordiality of my heart. Any other solution is very doubtful—it does not avoid ambiguity, because someone can claim to love your destiny and your vocation, while he really loves himself, while he loves his forms of vocation, while he loves the whims of his heart as if they came straight from God.

"Let us pray to the Lord, then, with a Glory be to St Joseph, patron of the holy Church, whom no one would ever have dared to think responsible for Christ, if it were not for the fact that he was placed, by Our Lady, as responsible for His life."
The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary
and conceived of the Holy Spirit

Behold the handmaid of the Lord
Be it done unto me according to thy word

And the Word became flesh
and dwells among us

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ

Let us pray:
Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts
that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ, thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by his Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His of Resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Holy Mary, Mother of God- pray for us
St. Joseph- pray for us
St. Benedict- pray for us
St. Nicholas- pray for us
Don Giussani- pray for us

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oldest Hebrew text unearthed

Archaeologists digging in Israel have unearthed what carbon dating indicates to be the oldest the Hebrew text, which experts believe to have been written about 3,000 years ago. This is one thousand years earlier than the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Photo from Reuters

Please see today What it means to be a protagonist, An articulation of something we hold dear, and Called by name.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A few items

My dear friend Rocco, writing over on Whispers, has a piece he wrote as an explanation of another piece he penned for the U.K.'s The Tablet, for whom he is U.S. correspondent. The Tablet article is Fifty bishops say U.S. election is about abortion. The post is 50 Bishops... and Then Some. It is about bishops and the election. The takeaway is "'that Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship is the teaching that has been approved by the body of bishops of the United States.


"Except in Scranton."

And the second item is like unto the first and is posted over on Is It Possible? It is called "[H]ow to live your own freedom every day". As it pertains to the election, the criteria we follow as Catholics is that given by the USCCB, unless your local ordinary, as in Scranton, says otherwise. For those of us in CL, we also have What We Hold Most Dear, which is a set of more specific criteria that is faithful to the USCCB document. It is a synthesis, to lapse into celini-speak, of Faithful Citizenship. In fact, Cardinal Seán posted it on his blog. At the end of the day, as an act of liberation, I was forced to reconsider my own point of view in light of the criteria laid out. Again, it was a free act of personal liberation because it affirmed who I truly am, affirmed my own dignity. I made my choice in the awareness of my destiny. It also helped me, at the end of this overheated political season, to put politics in perspective. I was greatly aided by Sharon's appeal to reason, wherein she applied the criteria we follow in her four part Reasoning to a Vote. Nonetheless, I benefited from my struggle and I hope others did, too. There are issues, like abortion, that I think we need to attain more clarity as to how to translate our criteria into law and policy.

I have to say that one of the most liberating realizations I have arrived at in my whole life is coming to see that freedom is not an assertion of myself against reality. Liberation comes by means of following and obedience in the context of communion and companionship. I am grateful for my companions, many of whom I journey with along a cyber path. The kingdom is present here, too!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In memoriam- Blessed Pope John XXIII

Fifty years ago today Angelo Giuseppe Cardinal Roncalli, the Patriarch of Venice, was selected to be the 262nd successor of St. Peter. I have several posts on Good Pope John, both here and on our parish blog. So, here is a Καθολικός διάκονος retrospective

Good Pope, bad assessment

Il Papa Buono-Blessed John XXIII remembered

Papal Coronation of Blessed John XXIII

On The People of St. Mary Magdalene:

The Divine Witness of a Humble Pope

Il Papa Buono, part II

Blessed John XXIII- pray for us.

Happy Diwali to all Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs. Let peace prevail, especially in India.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Too much of a good thing

It has been an eventful week, more eventful than usual, with our new family member arriving and a full slew of activities, including me preaching this past weekend So, keeping our next to smallest child occupied and not feeling replaced has been important. We do not watch a lot of television, even movies. We rented the latest Veggie Tales movie, The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything. I love Veggie Tales and enjoyed the watching this movie with my little guy. Over the week we had the DVD he probably watched it three or four times. So, the other night, after we ate, he needed to wash his hands. There he stood in front me, his hands behind his back, when I said "We have to wash your hands, buddy". He said, calmly, "I don't have hands". I replied by asking, "You don't have hands, how's that?" He said, "I'm a cucumber".

Three year-olds are some of the coolest people I know!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Year A 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings: Exo. 22,20-26; Ps. 18,2-4.47.51; 1 Thess. 1,5c-10; Matt. 22,34-40

The words of our Lord from today’s Gospel bear repeating: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matt. 22,37-40). These words sum up our faith whole and entire.

For observant Jews there are 613 mitzvot, or, specific requirements of the law. Too often, as Christians, we belittle the commitment of observant Jews. Especially when we read passages such as this one, in which our Lord is disputing with observant Jews, we must not forget that he was one of them. Our all too easy dismissal of the scribes and Pharisees reveals a mistaken way of looking at things. The mistake we make is by believing that Jesus calls on us to do nothing and gives us no concrete requirements to carry out.

It is important for us to recognize that the answer Jesus gives to the scholar of the law is a faithful Jewish answer. He does not belittle obedience to the law by means of observing the mitzvot. His answers are from the law. The commandment to love God comes from the beginning of the sixth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, which is the fundamental Jewish profession of faith, the Sh'ma Yis'ra'eil- "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates" (Deut. 6,4-9).

The second commandment that Jesus gives when asked by the scholar for one is to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. This, too, is from the law, the Book of Leviticus (Lev. 19,18). Our Lord is not teaching anything new to his hearers. Neither is he just throwing in a bonus commandment, going the extra mile, as it were. He is showing us that while these two commandments are distinct, they are so closely bound together that the second is “like” the first. In other words, you cannot have one without the other. What is revolutionary in Jesus’ teaching is that one’s neighbor is inclusive of any person you encounter, not just your fellow Jew, or your fellow Catholic. More particularly, your neighbor is your fellow human being, especially the one who needs your help. In all this our Lord is explaining not just the intention that should give rise to adherence to the law, but the very reason for the law.

What Jesus requires of those who would follow him makes observing 613 written rules look easy by comparison. By substituting the words “with all your mind” for the words “with all your strength” in the passage from Deuteronomy, he is calling for nothing less than the commitment of our entire being and not merely for a sentimental attachment, or a superficial allegiance. The trouble is not with rules, it is with us! As Catholics, we can hardly dismiss rules and keep a straight face. We have plenty of rules, like fasting for one hour before Mass and observing Fridays as penitential days, which we still normatively do by abstaining from the meat of warm-blooded animals, and not just during Lent, when we are obligated to do so. If we choose not to abstain from meat, we are to perform some act of charity as a substitute. We also have the five the precepts of the church:

1) to attend Mass on Sundays and other holy days of obligation and to refrain from work and activities which could impede the sanctification of those days;

2) to confess one's sins, receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation at least once each year;

3) to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season;

4) to abstain from eating meat and to observe the days of fasting established by the Church;

5) to help to provide for the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability” (Compendium, par. 432).

It is certainly true that rules can be observed in a lifeless and mechanical manner. It is also true that they can be observed in a self-righteous way by worrying more about looking holy than being holy, or being more concerned about how others observe them than how we do. But these five precepts are given in order “to guarantee for [us] the indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer, the sacramental life, moral commitment and growth in love of God and neighbor” (Compendium, par. 431). In other words, rules and injunctions are not ends, but means to the end of perfecting us in love, which is nothing short of fulfilling the purpose of our existence. This is the very point Jesus is seeking to make in today’s Gospel.

Being perfected in love only happens through obedience. It is only through obedience that our will is conformed to God’s will, as Jesus showed us by his being obedient to the Father, even to the point of allowing himself to be unjustly killed. Love is not just the reason for the law. Love is the reason that anything exists at all. Love is why Christ, when we showed we were incapable of observing the law, humbled himself to share our humanity, died and rose from the dead. Love is not a feeling, but an act of the will, a choice we make, a choice we are called to make many times everyday, in all our actions and interactions.

Our first reading gives us some concrete and timeless ways to love our neighbor. These are particularly relevant with our election a little more than week a way. First, we are to look after the alien, the foreigner, in our midst. Second, we are to provide for the widow and the orphan. Thirdly, a lesson we are learning the hard way and on massive scale, due to the economic meltdown caused by issuing so many sub-prime mortgages to unsuspecting borrowers, not to loan money to those who cannot afford to repay it, especially at extortionist rates, motivated by greed. When we act unjustly in any of these ways, the Lord, in his compassion, hears the cry of the oppressed and his wrath is kindled.

St. Paul in our second reading, taken from First Thessalonians, which is probably the first book of the New Testament to be written, sees them as a community on fire with the love of God in Christ, possessed by the Holy Spirit, spilling over in love of their neighbors. They were imitators of Christ and received “the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that [they] became a model for all the believers” (1 Thess. 1,6). From them “the word of the Lord … sounded forth,” not only in their immediate vicinity, but “in every place [their] faith in God [went]” (1 Thess 1,8). In other words, wherever members of this eucharistic community went, the love of God made manifest in Christ Jesus became incarnate once again.

We gather around this altar to receive God’s love poured out for us in the Paschal mystery. From here we are sent forth to share the love we receive with everyone we encounter by living in specifically Christian way. In order to do this we have to be on fire with passion for God and our neighbor that Christ, through us, may reach him/her. My sisters and brothers in Christ, God depends on us to accomplish his purpose in and for the world, on our love, manifested in our distinct way of living, a way of life we are free to choose or reject, the choice is ours everyday.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Doing my moral duty

I voted early and that's that for a good long while! Is it bad that I feel ill? I still love politics. I just dislike never getting to vote for someone for president for whom I am enthusiastic about voting.

"Come and see"

For those curious about Communion & Liberation, please see my post Dear Don Giussani, over on Is It Possible?, which Suzanne has beautifully re-designed, which provides a link to Paul's really outstanding post Who Is Luigi Giussani? Paul's great post was the occasion of my far more modest effort.

Friday, October 24, 2008


With a diaconal bow to Rocco, over at Whispers, here are the three new dismissals that will appear in the revised Missal:

-- "Ite ad Evangelium Domini annuntiandum" (Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord).

-- "Ite in pace, glorificando vita vestra Dominum" (Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life).

-- "Ite in pace" (Go in peace).

As some may know, the very word Mass comes from the Latin for dismissal. The Mass does indeed end and we are sent forth. to live and to announce the good news we have received. Of course, we return again for nourishment, for strength, for food for the journey. I like them. I think it satisfies the desire expressed by quite a few bishops, to quote Rocco, that "the final words to reflect a more explicit connection between Mass and the church's mission of evangelization in the world". As one who has the privilege of singing the dismissal, this has been in my head all morning. What a pleasant mental state!

Michael Card and Phil Keaggy are our traditio. I am thankful for their witness to the One who is the author of our life, which we return to Him out of gratitude, out of which we craft, in the words of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, "something beautiful for God".

Thursday, October 23, 2008

End of the (campaign) trail

This, along with two posts over on Cahiers, mark my final political posts before the election:

The "promise" of Barack Obama and

The lack of promise exhibited by Gov. Palin.

There may be a surprise there, even if motivated by a half-hearted moral obligation to vote. A couple of issues:

Human life: This is always the most important issue, from conception to death and every stage in between. Without human beings none of this means anything! If a government is unwilling to protect society's most vulnerable, it is a corrupt system that will eventually teeter on the brink of oblivion. This is not a judgment sent from God, but the natural consequence of acting foolishly. Let's miss the European train to civilizational suicide by protecting life, encouraging life, which means recognizing that human rights are God-given, not governmentally granted.

Family: This means recognizing that marriage is considerably older than the United States of America. Families create, nurture, and encourage life. It should come as no surprise to anyone that study after study demonstrates that children who grow up in a stable home with their father and mother are better off than any alternative. Fostering the family is in the state's interest. This can be done without in any way ignoring the needs of those who do not belong to traditional families or women in dire circumstances who are pregnant. I am a both/and guy who rejects false dilemmas.

Health care: As a tax payer I resent having to guarantee health care only after people are destitute and when treatment is most expensive. It would be cheaper to provide access to preventative care. Economically, the cost of health care is making us non-competitive in a global market. Plus, it is a human right. So, to whoever gets elected, fix it- it is not a partisan issue. Access to affordable health care is a human issue, it is a jobs issue. So, whatever special interests you need to kick in the groin to accomplish this long overdue reform, put on your steel toed boots and kick!

Economic fairness (solidarity): Put an end to crisis capitalism. If gains are privatized, losses should be, too. If you want me to bail out a Wall Street firm when they collapse due to incompetency, greed, and mismanagement, then I want a share of the profits when times are good and so do my fellow citizens. So, establish a rigorous regulatory system for banks and investment firms and create a tough enforcement agency. If nobody goes to jail or gets fired over what has happened, then you've been bought and paid for! Labor needs to be respected and rewarded. Most of us are laborers, not executives, or business owners. The economy exists for the human person, not the human person for the economy. It may sound like a slogan, but it is a moral axiom. The goodness of a society can be measured by its respect for life and its commitment to the poor.

Environment: We must be responsible stewards of creation. Like health care, this is not a partisan issue. We need to live sustainably. This does not mean wearing hemp sandals, dreadlocks, smelling like we just left a Grateful Dead concert, and doing freaky dances in Golden Gate Park. We need to realize that while a rising tide may lift all boats, we all don't need 200 foot yachts! This is the lesson from the mortgage meltdown, both from the lender and borrower sides of the equation. It is financially and environmentally unsustainable.

To quote the late, great Joe Strummer "It's time to take the humanity back into the center of the ring and follow that for a time . . . without people you're nothing."

Hang this over your desk: It's not the economy, it's people, stupid!

Jon Stewart gives me hope. Can I be that guy? I guess I am. Thank you very much! Neil, the comment box is open.

I am so comforted to learn that suffering has caused Alan Greenspan to discover that, at least, he exists, saying to a House committee, "those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder's equity (myself especially) are in a state of shocked disbelief". Yeah, shareholder equity! Read those poor dupes who were forced to give up fixed pensions for 401Ks. Congratulations ownership society, you own $700 billion in worthless paper! Hey Greenspan, for old time's sake, let's lower interest rates to stimulate the economy and let the market work its magic. Sorry, Jon Stewart effect.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"a deadly anarchy"

These words of Pope John Paul II to Lindy Boggs, who served as the Clinton Administration's last ambassador to the Holy See, conclude an insightful article George Wiegel wrote for Newsweek, entitled, "Catholics and Obama":

"No expression of today's [American] commitment to liberty and justice for all can be more basic than the protection offered to those in society who are most vulnerable. The United States of America was founded on the conviction that an inalienable right to life was a self-evident moral truth, fidelity to which was a primary criterion of social justice. The moral history of your country is the story of your people's efforts to widen the circle of inclusion in society, so that all Americans might enjoy the protection of law, participate in the responsibilities of citizenship, and have the opportunity to make a contribution to the common good. Whenever a certain category of people—the unborn or the sick and old—are excluded from that protection, a deadly anarchy subverts the original understanding of justice. The credibility of the United States will depend more and more on its promotion of a genuine culture of life, and on a renewed commitment to building a world in which the weakest and most vulnerable are welcomed and protected."
I also learned that Wiegel used to be a Democrat, but left the party in 1992 when the former Democratic Pennsylvania governor, the late Bob Casey, who was pro-life, as is his son, Bob, Jr., now a Democratic U.S. Senator, was denied an opportunity to speak at the party convention that year. He expresses well a lament of mine: "I deeply regret the fact that the once-traditional political home of U.S. Catholics has embraced policy positions on the life issues that offend both Catholic faith and everyone's reason." Along with Wiegel, "I would welcome a new openness to pro-life argumentation and policy in the Democratic Party".

After expressing this hope, Wiegel pushes his case too far by essentially eviscerating anything that resembles proportionate reasoning as called for in Faithful Citizenship and set forth by other leading Catholic intellectuals, like Cathleen Kaveny, Doug Kmiec, et. al. I am skeptical about what seem to me to be alarmist claims made by Wiegel that within a year of being elected, a President Obama, with a Democratically-controlled Congress, will wipe out all pro-life gains.

I am glad that it is not yet election day. All of this is made worse by the fact that Sen. Obama's running-mate is a Catholic who should know better, but who, as Rocco reports, is busy explaining that he is "Not a JP Guy". I hate to be the one to tell you this Sen. Biden, but il Papa Buono would not be alright with your stance on abortion either. To paraphrase one of the distinguished gentlemen with whom I dined last night: In a country of 300 million people, we can't do better than this? More to the point, in a country with over 60 million Catholics, we can't do better than this for high political office? Channeling RFK! I will give Gov. Palin this, despite the fact that she does not seem to have a good grasp of the jurisprudence wrought by Roe, she is firm in her pro-life convictions and doesn't back-peddle from her faith. Nonetheless, as Deacon Greg reports, More Catholics [Are] Swinging Toward Obama. Trying to find the good in all of this, in addition the Democrats re-thinking their stance on human life, perhaps it is a good time for the Republicans to stop being bellicose and to revisit issues of fairness and economic justice.

Getting to some practical politics, it looks like the inevitable is beginning to emerge, Sarah Palin is a liability, and becoming a bigger one by the day. The most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll revealed that Sen. Obama has opened up a double-digit lead over Sen. McCain, despite the fact that most respondents agreed that Sen. McCain is better prepared for the White House than Sen. Obama. As regards Gov. Palin only 38% view her positively. This is down 6% from two weeks ago. Overall, 47% of respondents view her in a negative light. This brings her negative rating up 10% over the same two weeks. This gives Gov. Palin the worst negative rating of the four candidates, despite the fact that Sen. Biden has been, well, Sen. Biden. A fair majority of respondents, fifty-five percent, do not believe that Gov. Palin is qualified to be president. This is up 5% over the past two weeks. A majority of these same respondents, while they may believe McCain better prepared to be president, obviously believe Obama is qualified, which is why they prefer him to McCain 52% to 42%. It appears McCain's bold gamble is not paying off (this paragraph is referenced from the WSJ on-line article, Obama Opens Double-Digit Lead: New Poll Shows McCain Ceding Ground on Taxes, Values; Palin Loses Shine, by Laura Meckler).

Rocco also posted something about CL that is certainly worth some attention. Congrats to Rocco and all of Philadelphia, your Phillies finally made it back to the Series!

An extraordinary evening

Last night at the dedication of Holy Family Parish, I had the opportunity to sit for supper with a group of distinguished gentlemen, all of whom are priests of the Diocese of Salt Lake City and one Jesuit priest who has long served here. It was my privilege to be in their company. It was a delightfully mixed group with three monsignors, including the pastor of the parish in which we reside, Msgr. Daz and two of our younger priests, including Fr. Sam Dinsdale, our youngest pastor. Our group also included Fr. Ken Villapondo, pastor of St. Joseph's in Ogden, which includes some 4,000 families. Msgr. Daz, Fr. Dinsdale, and I are all Ogden natives.

The food was good, the wine fine, and the company extraordinary. I thank God for all of them, for their service and their sacrifice, all of which have been instrumental in building our diocese, the church in Utah.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

True education starts from a positive hypothesis

How do we engage reality without asserting ourselves against reality?

I want to look at the example of artificial contraception. Let me state up-front the truth of the matter: artificial contraception in marriage is immoral. It is important to note that in Humanae Vitae, Papa Montini begins from a positive hypothesis: "The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator". In this one sentence, Pope Paul expresses so much. It is dense! It is positive. Our collaboration with God is serious and so requires freedom, which is necessary in order act responsibly. Nonetheless, because it affects the daily lives of couples and requires choices that are difficult and no small amount of self-sacrifice, the vast majority of practicing Catholic married couples use some form of artificial contraception. In doing so they assert themselves against reality.

We all know from our own experience that it is often difficult to be reconciled to the truth because the truth requires not just something of us, but precisely us, that is, ourselves, whole and entire. This is nice and uplifting rhetoric, but what does it do for me when confronted with a situation in which I do not want to do what is right, when I want what I want now, when I lose sight of, or intentionally ignore, that which corresponds to my heart, to my deepest desire, when I have an incorrect affection towards a known person or object, when I want to give in to vice? Whenever we are not reconciled to the truth, we assert ourselves against reality. So, while truth requires us to make judgments, to engage in the struggle, we do not judge others, we respect them in their personhood, in their freedom, always mindful that they, too, are a direct relationship with Mystery, and so are loved. We also know that victory is always already ours in Christ Jesus, faith in whom is what enables us to conquer the world and not be conquered by it, even if we lose some battles.

What is the best way to engage this situation? Is it to rail and assert church teaching against them, against their experience? No! That is not starting from a positive hypothesis. Contraception is a symptom, an effect caused by something else, though immoral in-and-of-itself. It flows from a lack of true education.

What does it mean to be truly educated and how does one educate? For starters, you cannot teach apart from communicating something of yourself, from your own experience. You cannot start from an abstraction, Papa Montini does not start from an abstraction, but from human experience. I am going to take a digital musical trend, a mashup, and apply it theologically by mashing Giussani with Radcliffe: the Church has nothing to say about morality until our listeners understand that they are a direct relationship with the Mystery and that freedom is constitutive of their person. True education lies in the effective communication of this positive hypothesis, before which proposal the other person remains free. True education is never a denial of freedom; it is not coercion. True education does not consist of bending or breaking the will of another, waterboarding them with the truth. It consists of appealing to another's humanity, to his longing, to her desire. It is an invitation, given by a witness, to "Come and see" (Jn 1,44-46).

Protagonists or nobodies

The difference between a protagonist and an antagonist is how each approaches the agon (i.e., the struggle). The protagonist starts from a positive hypothesis. Conversely, the antagonist begins from a negative one. As George Wiegel observes, Pope Benedict, in his book Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, writes: "Even the one who does not succeed in finding the path to accepting the existence of God ought nevertheless to try and direct his if God did exist." Positing this hypothesis is the only possible method of verification. This method comes from our Lord himself: "Whoever chooses to do [God's] will shall know whether my teaching is from God or whether I speak on my own" (Jn 7,17).

Being a protagonist and starting from a positive hypothesis, having affection for ourselves, convinced that life has meaning, that we have a both an origin and a destiny, and that every person is a direct relationship with Mystery, does not consist of somehow trying to maintain an abstraction (this positive hypothesis) despite our experience, which, not infrequently, includes suffering. Rather, a protagonist sees this positive hypothesis proven in and through his experiences, including- maybe even especially in- his sufferings. To paraphrase our Lord, being a protagonist means not resisting the struggle, but engaging in it wholly, convinced that it is the only way to destiny (Matt. 5,39). To be an antagonist means resisting the struggle and seeing it as worthless. A negative hypothesis causes us to be cynical, to close in on ourselves and to lash out at others. We see ourselves and others as nobodies, as passive before existence. Contra Eastern religions, life is not maya, an illusion, and Jesus does not beckon us to nirvana, but to the kingdom.

In order to see yourself as a nobody, which is "to entirely lose your attachment to yourself," to your humanity, according to Fr. Carrón, "[y]ou would need some kind of total anesthesia" (Faith: The Ultimate Expression of an Affection for Oneself, pg. 8). Sadly, Carrón goes on to point out, that we live in the kind milieu, the "type of society," that is capable of providing "this kind of total anesthesia" that detaches us from our humanity, from our need (ibid). I cannot imagine practicing a religion in which the point of practice is the annihilation of the self, the detachment of myself from reality, from my humanity. Dying to myself by loving others is what makes me fully myself because it is expressive of the fundamental fact of my existence; that I am a relationship with the Mystery. Often, it is suffering and woundedness that provides the consciousness necessary to bring us back to ourselves, back to our humanity, that is, our poverty, our need, which gives birth to our desire, our longing. This opens us to the fact that God became man for us. This fact changes everything because it doesn't deny, but affirms, reality!

See also More on the event . . .

Monday, October 20, 2008

"God, come to my assistance"

"Nothing rings more true to men and women aware of themselves than the consciousness of their need; for this reason, nothing expresses what we are better than crying out, the cry of the needy person to the only One who can respond to this need" (Faith: The Ultimate Expression of an Affection for Oneself, pg. 3). I don't think this ever rings more true than on Monday mornings. May the only One capable of responding to our need accompany us today and enable us to face the reality we encounter, the people we encounter, in the confidence that we encounter Him along the path of our daily lives.

"Lord, make haste to help me."

See also Obedience: First approach at a synthesis and Affection for oneself is what opposes ideology. Oddly enough, in the latter post, I quote T.S. Eliot! So, being in a reactive state-of-mind, I exaggerated when I quoted Morrissey to the effect that Old Possum says nothing to me about my life. As it turns out, he says, in Murder in the Cathedral, "The last temptation is the greatest treason. To do the right thing for the wrong reason".

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Too true

With thanks and a deep diaconal bow to Fred, writing over on Cahiers, I want to draw attention to Politics and the Election, Revisited. Francis (someone I do not know and who is voting for Sen. McCain), writes: "Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete once said that our primary (in the sense of essential or ultimate) responsibility in politics is not to end abortion or the war but to build the Church. 'To build the Church is the task of the saints, and that is not a bad party to belong to.'" Amen.

I like the idea of voting for whoever gives the church the most freedom. It is a good criterion. This brings is back to the CL statement on the elections. It is too bad that U.S. politics split us down the middle, individually and collectively. We really do get presented with false dilemmas. This makes voting difficult. It makes the use of proportional reason difficult because it is next to impossible to attain certainty regarding our choices.

I like the idea of having more than two parties. As I wrote in a comment over on Clarity Daily, there is nothing intrinsic or constitutional about the two-party system we have developed. As Jesus tells us in yesterday's Gospel, "repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God".

Fr. Carrón, speaking to the International Assembly of the Responsibles, quoting Pope John Paul II, said, "You have no homeland, because you cannot be assimilated to this society" (pg. 4). He continues, "we are without a homeland if we want to live with our eyes fixed on Jesus" (pg. 4). He is the kingdom in person!

St. Ambrose- pray for us
St. Augustine- pray for us
St. Thomas á Becket- pray for us
St. Thomas More- pray for us

Michael Stipe, T.S. Eliot, and Anonymous

Anonymous said...
You really cannot admit you didn't know the upstream source for this song, can you? You reference it a lot without referencing the source. Not knowing all things intellectual is not a personal weakness. LOL.

October 19, 2008 8:20 AM

I reply:

Dear Anonymous:

First, I offer a reminder about how things work here on this blog. Secondly, I offer a commentary after a comparison made on the occasion of your first comment.

1) I do not publish anonymous critical comments. I am more than happy to publish and engage critical comments that are signed. I am making an exception in this case by posting your comment to show why I set forth this rule. I really dislike passive-aggression.

2) I actively ask my readers to hold me accountable, but I do not feel like I have to pander. I don't find any weakness in the fact that I did not make the connection between Eliot's poem and Stipe's lyrics when I first posted the video, or while later alluding to the song. After making a comparision, the only connection I see between the lyrics and the poem is by way of allusion (see commentary below), which is typical of Stipe's very oblique style of reference, which is kind of stream-of-consciousness, very modern in the way Eliot so despised. I thank you for the opportunity to briefly compare the two, looking at the lyrics of the song in light of Eliot's verses.
2.a) So, I reference the song a lot without referencing the song? You reference Eliot's poem a lot without referencing Stipe's song, which is the object of my references. It may surprise you to learn that underneath the title is a whole song with lyrics that have meaning even if one has never heard of T.S. Eliot, or his poem, Hollow Men. If anything, Stipe's hollow man stands in stark contrast to Eliot's Hollow Men (see commentary below).
3) How about an interesting and constructive comment in which you make some connections between REM's song Hollow Man and Eliot's poem The Hollow Men? Such a contribution would be more than welcome. A constructive comment would not even need to be signed.

4) You could fill the world with things I don't know. I learn something new everyday. I frequently share what I learn here by way of synthesis and making connections. It makes life exciting. I hope it makes reading my blog interesting. I am well of aware of my weaknesses, physical, moral, intellectual, etc. I am also aware that I have blind spots. Despite all of this, I believe I have a pretty good sense of humor when it comes to my foibles. This lightness towards my own failings is victory hard won and is still a struggle at times. I benefit tremendously from the comments and corrections of readers, who I prefer to think of as friends.

So, in an effort to make prime rib out of a bucket of s@#t, I humbly offer my . . .


I freely admit that I am not a huge devoteé of Eliot, nor I do I read a lot of poetry. He is far from my favorite poet. When I read poetry, I do not reach for Eliot because, to quote Stephen Patrick Morrissey, "he says nothing to me about my life".

I am also aware that it was kind of an influence on Michael Stipe's lyrics for this song. He is not ripping off Eliot, or even re-setting the poem. The song lyrics have to be assessed on their own, as any writing does. The song is written from the perspective of the hollow man. His most notable feature, the reason for the song, is his desire not to be hollow. It is difficult for me to tell, apart from the first stanza, in whose voice Eliot's poem is in. Further, I don't really care whose voice Eliot's poem is in.

While Eliot's Hollow Men (note the plural) have headpieces filled with straw and are truly empty, "Shape without form, shade without colour," Stipe's Hollow Man is aware of his emptiness, his propensity to "get lost inside his head". He also seems aware that the way to overcome his subjectivism and the resultant emptiness is by relating to other people. It is a blown opportunity to relate that occasions the song. Hence, he pleads with his beloved to "corner me and make me something". Being cornered by another is what forces him out of himself and makes him something other than a hollow man.

Stipe's hollow man, at the end of the day, is not quite convinced that he is empty, he asks "Have I become the hollow man I see?" He says, presumably to his beloved, "I want to show you I don't want to be the hollow man". Stipe's hollow man seems to be experiencing the phenomena identified in Eliot's poem:

"Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Nonetheless, he is not content in the shadowland, he longs for the light of another face, the face belonging to the one for whom he longs to be something.

LMAO! ;^)> What about? That of all the provocative things I write, I get grief over this bit of minutiae! I'll leave you with a poem by Steve Martin. It is called,

Pointy Birds
Pointy Birds

Pointy birds,
oh pointy pointy.
Anoint my head
anointy 'nointy.

Perhaps we could explore whether this was inspired by that Hitchcock film, The Birds, or by Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I prefer to just admire its austere beauty and its economy of language. While we are on matters literary, beginning and ending my commentary with a scatological reference is called framing.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Our own (human)kind: relationship with the Mystery

Giorgio Vittadini, President of the Foundation for Subsidiarity, speaking to the Italian newspaper Avvenire, which interview is reprinted in the current issue of Traces, about the internationalization of The Meeting and of Communion and Liberation, building on Paul's timely posting of Giussani's interview about Pope Paul VI, says:
"I think that the Meeting's heritage is this ethnic entity sui generis, as Paul VI defined it, made up of men and women who are different because they show that one can live in the world today without separating reason from experience, faith from life, or interest from desire, whereas the world tries to teach them the opposite."
Giorgio says of the Meeting what is true of CL in general: "We don't believe that all good things are in the Meeting and that outside is only secularism and relativism. We hold that our example and, even more, that of 'protagonists,' is contagious." Indeed, to hold such a view that outside CL, outside the church, there is only secularism and relativism would be a betrayal of the charism we share, the one given to Luigi Giussani and now entrusted to us. What we are about, when viewed from a false perspective, Giorgio continues, "can seem like a drop in the ocean". Vittadini looks back to the tumultuous year of 1968 and says that Giussani "answered those who made fun of him for wasting time with us-while the revolution was promising to change the world- [Giussani was] saying that what changes the world is what changes man's heart. We are trying to change hearts, along with othes, in dialogue, looking at each other, offering our encounter with Christ". In short, even today, we are either protagonists or nobodies. We are free. Therefore, we must choose, but we choose realizing that it does not depend on us alone, that we cannot do it alone. We need companions. CL is a companionship. What is a companion, but one who also begs for bread?

I have written more on this over on Is It Possible? in a post entitled Recognizing reality. I also urge you to go the Communion and Liberation website, select english and watch, you'll be moved.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hierarchy update

It was announced today by the Holy See that sixty year-old Bishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Duluth, Minnesota was named as coadjutor archbishop of Cincinnati, Ohio. As with Bishop Quinn, who was announced this week as coadjutor in Winona, Minnesota, Bishop Schnurr replaces a 74 year-old ordinary. He replaces Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk, who has served as archbishop of Cincinnati since 1982. Can we say of coadjutors that they preplace?

Bishop Schunurr's transfer increases the number of vacant sees in the United States from seven to eight.

I remember now-Archbishop Niederauer joking with me once and asking What is the difference between an auxiliary bishop and a coadjutor? I confessed ignorance (an all-too rare thing for me). He replied by telling me that an auxiliary says, Hello, Bishop how are you today?; a coadjutor asks, How's your health?

Here is the great poster the Seattle community made for my visit.

Deo gratias

I witnessed a miracle early this morning, at 2:57 AM to be precise. This miracle made me kneel in in gratitude. My lovely wife gave birth to our fifth child, a son, whom we have named Adam. It is a bit ironic being the last born and being named Adam. This little irony is a fitting welcome to the world.

Adam and his Mom are both doing well and resting comfortably.

This blog began three years ago, as Scott Dodge for Nobody, just two days before the birth of my son, Nate. In fact there is a post on the day he was born: Didactic Dialogue on God.

In addition to being the memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, 17 October is also the third anniversary of The Colbert Report.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

In Memoriam

Rocco, writing over on Whispers, reminds us of an event that happened thirty years ago today. The Salt and Light video Rocco posted made me cry. What gift JPII was to the church, to the world.

Over on Communio, Paul has a wonderful post Msgr. Luigi Giussani speaks about Pope Paul. As long-time readers know, I love Papa Montini. So, did Don Gius. Papa Montini, prior to becoming Pope, was the Archbishop of Milan. So, he was then-Fr. Giussani's bishop and one who encouraged his charism, that is, CL, while it was still in its early form.

Here is what Giussani said about the pontificate of Montini:
"The papacy of Paul VI was one of the greatest papacies! He had demonstrated during the first part of his life an extreme sensitivity for all the problems of the anguished condition of modern man and society. And he found a response! He gave this response during his last ten years. The papacy of Paul VI is a failure only to someone who has not thoroughly examined it."

Papa Roncalli, Papa Montini, Papa Luciani, Papa Wojtyla- pray for us!

Say it ain't so Sarah and Joe the (unlicensed) plumber

I knew she would finally go there. Speaking at a rally in Maine today, Republican vice-presidential nominee, Gov. Sarah Palin, made reference to Michelle Obama’s statement from early in the campaign, a statement made even before it was clear that her husband was going to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for president. According to Glenn Adams, writing for the Associated Press:

"Palin also made reference to a remark early in the campaign by Obama's wife, Michelle, who had said that ‘for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country.’ The governor's comments came after country music star Lee Greenwood sang the ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ and ‘God Bless the USA.’"

"’We believe also that there is a reason we all get teared-up when we hear Lee Greenwood sing about America, because we love America and we are always proud of being Americans,’ she said. ‘And we don't apologize for being Americans.’"

This comes three days after Gov. Palin’s Commissioner for Rural Affairs in Alaska, Rhonda McBride, resigned. According to the Associated Press, her reason for resigning is she thinks "it would help to have an Alaska Native in this position". To be fair Todd Palin is part Yup'ik Eskimo and two of Palin's 13 cabinet members are members of Alaskan tribes. Members of indigenous tribes make up 16% of Alaska's overall population. So, her cabinet seems representative. Of course, numbers rarely tell the whole story. According to the same report, Gov. Palin left the Rural Commissioner "position unfilled her first year in office and ignored Native leaders' suggestions on the selection process".

Roger Cohen, who, in an earlier column, figured that the insurance actuarial tables give Palin a 1 in 6 or 7 chance of becoming president should the Republican ticket win, wrote that "Palin, with her vile near-accusations of treason against Barack Obama, her cloying doggone hymns to small-town U.S.A., her with-us-or-against-us refrain, is really an impostor.

"She’s the representative of a kind of last-gasp Republicanism, of an exhausted party, whose proud fiscal conservatism and patriotism have given away to scurrilous fear-mongering and ideological confusion."

Cohen wrote this column, which appears in today's NY Times, before the Maine speech. It is funny how she didn't mention hubby Todd Palin's membership in the Alaska Independence Party, which advocates for secession from this country we love. Such delicious irony and all before getting to the media circus surrounding Joe the unlicensed plumber, who would actually get a tax cut under the Obama plan and nothing under the McCain plan, and who has apparently never been introduced to the idea of a graduated income tax. He is humble, saying, "I just hope I'm not making too much of a fool of myself." I know how he feels, that thought runs through my mind everytime I click on the PUBLISH POST button. I have no problem with Joe. I would like more voters to step up and ask hard questions. It is the media circus, like the whole lipstick on a pig incident, that I deplore.

I have already leaned heavily on one Jewish guy. So, I'll bring in John Stewart to seal the dealio:

I am adding to my list of notable posts for today Suzanne's far too aptly entitled The moral obligation to vote and other forms of torture.

Notes and asides

I am not up to saying much new today. I want to draw attention to four posts that I found very good. The first is by my friend Sharon posting over on Clarity. She sets forth a very clear-headed take on the current election in Unreasonable Choices. The next one is by another dear friend, Rebecca, posting on Faith's Mystery, entitled Rock the Vote- v2.

Sharon posts the Synod Intervention by Archbishop Pezzi, Moscow. Archbishop Pezzi is a member of the Fratrenity of St. Charles Borromeo, which is a priestly order established in 1985 and is born of the charism of CL, the charism of our beloved Don Giussani. Like Fr. Carrón's intervention, His Excellency's is well worth your time.

To end on a lighter note, the IC, as always, shows concern for our souls in this digital age by How To Be A Catholic "Tips on a Clip" Campaign.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hierarchy update

Bishop John Quinn, 62, an auxiliary bishop in Detroit, was named by the Holy Father as co-adjutor to His Excellency, Bishop Bernard Harrington, of Winona, Minnesota. Bishop Harrington turns 75 in 39 days. Of course, when he turns 75 he is required by canon law to submit his resignation to the Holy See. It remains to be seen if Bishop Quinn will become the ordinary at that precise point in time.

By not transferring another ordinary to Winona, the number of sede vacante dioceses in the United States still numbers seven: Cheyenne, Wyoming; St. Louis, Missouri; Gallup, New Mexico; Biloxi, Mississippi; Juneau, Alaska; Charleston, South Carolina; Knoxville, Tennessee.

The number of bishops currently serving beyond the mandatory retirement age (i.e., bishops whose resignations the Holy Father has not accepted) is now ten. These ordinaries are: Cardinals Maida and Egan of Detroit and New York respectively. Archbishops Hughes of New Orleans and Curtiss of Omaha, NE. Bishops D'Arcy of Ft. Wayne/South Bend, IN; Murray of Kalamazoo, MI; Moynihan of Syracuse, NY; Tafoya of Pueblo, CO; Cullen of Allentown, PA: Higi of Lafayette in Indiana. Archbishop Brunette of Seattle turns 75 early in 2009. Bishops Peña of Brownsville, TX; Carmody of Corpus Christi, TX are both 74.

Fr. Julián Carrón at the Synod on the Word of God

Fr. Julián Carrón, who was personally chosen by the Holy Father to be a participant in the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God, now convened in Rome. Fr. Julián is the head of Communion and Liberation. He is one who for me and my fellow celini is a leader, one I look to for guidance. He was picked by Don Giussani, before his death in 2005, to head CL. I had the pleasure of meeting Fr. Carrón personally this past January in New York City. I was introduced to him by my friend Carlo, who is Memores Domini. As a participant in the synod, like the bishops, Fr. Carrón can speak, that is, make interventions during the sessions. The following, with a deep diaconal bow to my friend Suzanne over at Come to See, is his intervention:

"Interpretation of the Bible is one of the most worrisome problems in the Church today. The essence of the challenge brought up by the problem of modern interpretation of Sacred Scriptures was identified years ago by the then Cardinal Ratzinger: 'How can I come to a comprehension which is not based on the judgement of my suppositions, a comprehension that permits me to understand the text’s message, giving me back something that does not come from my person?'

"Regarding this difficulty, today’s Magisterium of the Church offers us elements to avoid any possible reduction.

"It was the Second Vatican Council’s merit to have recuperated a concept of revelation as the event of God in history. In effect, Dei Verbum permits understanding the revelation as the auto-communication’s event of the Trinity through the Son 'the mediator and the fullness of all Revelation' (DV 2). It is Christ who 'perfected revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work of making Himself present and manifesting Himself: through His words and deeds, His signs and wonders, but especially through His death and glorious resurrection from the dead and final sending of the Spirit of truth' (DV 4).

"This event does not belong only to the past, to a certain moment in time and space, but remains present in history, communicating itself through the totality of the Church’s life that receives it. In fact, 'Christ’s contemporaneity to each human being of any time is realized through his body which is the Church' (VS 25; cf. FR 11).

"The encyclical letter Fides et Ratio characterizes the impact, that the revealed truth provokes in each person that encounters it, with two folded impulse: a) it widens one’s mind to adapt it to the subject; b) it facilitates the comprehension of its deep sense. Instead of mortifying the person’s intellect and liberty, the revelation leads to developing both the highest level of their original condition.

"The experience of the encounter with Christ present in the living tradition of the Church is an event and therefore becomes the determining factor of the interpretation of the biblical text. It is the only way to be in harmony with the experience witnessed by the Scripture’s text. In fact, 'the right knowledge of the biblical text is therefore accessible only to whom has a lived affinity with what is stated in the text' (PcB 70). Saint Augustine summarizes it realistically: 'In manibus nostris sunt codices, in oculis nostris facta'."

While I am on the subject of CL, Sharon, writing over on Cahiers has posted an article by Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete on The Ugly Campaign that is worth a few minutes of your time. Albacete's words are for me a bit of a correction. As I wrote yesterday, the selection of Gov. Palin has been a bitter pill for me to swallow. As a result I have been very hard on her, perhaps too hard. I am certain that Sarah Palin has a lot of good in her, has good qualities. Maybe in these last few weeks of the campaign she should let this side show. Anyway, as the election approaches, I once again find myself unexcited and apprehensive. It feels a lot like four years ago.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A stark realization

I am finally able to sum up what has been going on economically and financially. The answer came to me after listening to NPR Senior New correspondent, Daniel Schoor's editorial yesterday: the privatization of gains and the socializing of losses. It is the classic heads I win, tails you lose. It is crisis capitialism. All of this is the result of Republican-enacted deregulation during the six years of a Republican administration and Republican Congress and the stewardship of Alan "I don't know if I really exist or not" Greenspan, the Ayn Rand disciple, who was left in place during the Clinton Administration, too. Add to this war profiteering and you have Bush-Cheney o' nomics. Many ships have been steered aground by so-called captains of industry. In the Navy such captains lose their ships and are asked to resign their commissions.

Hesitancy and backpeddling

It is funny how things affect me. I am clinging this morning to what is past. This is not due to what lies ahead in anyway being unbearable, just a bit of hesitancy, of not wanting to let go, dragging my feet, wanting to stay where I feel safe. I feel oppressed by time today.

On an unrelated note, I am still mulling over kRad's comment last Saturday. It kind of brought me back, to borrow from our CL election statement, to what I hold dear in terms of the election. When I look at life issues, especially abortion, family issues, especially marriage, and education, especially school choice, Sen. McCain is clearly more in tune with I what I believe. I can state this in an up-front manner. I worry about healthcare and trickle-down economics. I also worry about the consequences of an aggressive, antagonistic, and exceptionalist U.S. foreign policy. On the other hand, being a bit more calculating, I am leery of one party holding the presidency, the House, and the Senate. The roots of our present difficulties, I believe, can be traced to this being the case for six of eight years during the current Administration. It brings things like the very troublesome Freedom of Choice Act and Supreme Court appointees to the fore. It sets back necessary reforms, like school choice, and creates an environment unfavorable in many ways to the bedrock institution of marriage. I have to admit, as if it were not already obvious, the choice of Gov. Palin as the G.O.P. vice-presidential nominee really complicates things for me. I am actually angry at Sen. McCain for choosing her, especially given his age and health. In most presidential elections the V.P. candidate does not require as much concern and scrutiny.

Again, the reason we have to use proportional reasoning to arrive at a prudent judgment is because, at least in this election, as in virtually all elections, there is no candidate about whom, as a Catholic, I do not have serious misgivings. It is important not to use that as an excuse to vote whomever.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Seattle, part II

My visit to Seattle concluded by attending the 9:00 AM Mass at Blessed Sacrament Parish yesterday morning before heading to the airport. It is a very vibrant community and very beautiful church. The Mass was presided over by Fr. Tom Kraft, OP. He is a dear friend, who was the associate pastor and chaplain of students while I was at the University of Utah. I had not seen or spoken to him during my visit. I was feeling guilty about it. I arrived at the church planning a visit to the priory after Mass, only to see Fr. Tom vested and standing on the church steps, in a truly Fr. Tom gesture, greeting people before Mass. Seeing him there in that moment was an answer to my prayer.
St. Dominic at the Cross

He is a dear friend and one who sealed the deal for me after I became Catholic by taking a personal interest in me, in my faith, in my struggles. It was with his encouragement and guidance that I began thinking about my vocation. He was more confident than I was that I actually had one. I explored the possibility of becoming a Dominican friar. He put me in touch with Fr. Anthony Rosevear, who was then the Western Dominican Province vocations director. Fr. Anthony helped me with my discernment. With Fr. Kraft's encouragement, I spent time at St. Albert's in Oakland, the Dominican house of formation, at the beginning of new novice class. I was not a novice, just an observer.

He witnessed our marriage and baptized our oldest son before going off to the Dominican mission in Mexicali, where he labored fruitfully for quite a few years. I commend him to your prayers as he continues his courageous struggle against cancer. His serenity, his humble trust in the goodness of God as shown forth in Jesus Christ, especially in the Eucharist, and his friendship with Sts. Dominic, Catherine of Siena, Francis, and Clare, is so beautiful.

On a related note, I cannot recommend too highly Fred's review of Frank Schaeffer's autobiography, Crazy for God. I was struck by a number of things that Fred wrote, but in a particular way by these words because they explain better than I am able the remarkable witness of Fr. Tom and others: "we should not act as if Christian ideas can save us from the sufferings and trials of human existence. This approach [is] triumphalist, dualistic, and reductionist". This way of looking at things is the ultimate abstraction. It is a lie about reality, about our experience. If our Lord himself was honest in these matters, not just in words, but in what he experienced, how can we justify not being honest? Such dishonesty is a betrayal of Christ and a denial of ourselves.

Hoping not to sound too trite or sentimental, I am thankful to Fr. Tom for showing me this truth by the honesty of his witness, by the way he bears his suffering and pain caused by cancer.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Seattle was just amazing; the city, the people, the weather! It was truly an event that became for me an encounter. I cannot express in mere words my thanks for the invitation, for the hospitality of the CL community, especially to Suzanne, Greg, and Ben for making me feel at home, to Laura and Alex for ferrying me about, and to everyone for the love and friendship. My dear brother Alex has posted a few pictures, as well as a link to more pictures of our outing to the outdoor sculpture park along the waterfront in downtown Seattle over on his space Vitus Speaks. Thank you to all who remembered us in your prayers.

I have posted my notes from my presentation last night on Is It Possible?. The post is entitled An event that becomes an encounter.

Friday, October 10, 2008

"The love you gave me/nothing else can save me"

I found the first appearance of film-maker Chris Marker's le chat orange dans l'endroit le plus inattendu- an ABBA video, S.O.S., being worn by Norwegian singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad:

If you don't like ABBA, there is something really wrong with you.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A request

I ask all of my readers to pray for me, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, by means of the Angelus, which is our traditio this week, albeit a day early, as I am departing tomorrow, that what I have to say to my sisters and brothers, my fellow celini, in Seattle this weekend will be beneficial and effacacious for them, for me, for the Movement, the furthering of the charism in which share, the one given by God to Luigi Giussani, which is always at the service of the church. Also, I humbly implore your prayers for my lovely and very pregnant wife, who is not due for another few weeks, that all be well the two days I am gone. Please pray, too, for our CL community here in SLC, our little School of Community. I also want to invite those in my vicinity who might be interested to come to see on Wednesday evening, at the Cathedral, at 6:30 PM. Finally, please pray in the same way for my brother deacons here in the Diocese of Salt Lake City who will be on retreat this weekend with Bishop Wester as their retreat master.

I request your prayers to commence at 6:00 PM this evening and carry over to 6:00 AM, Noon, and 6:00 PM tomorrow. Please continue the cycle at least through Saturday, though that is what we should be doing everyday, except during Easter, during which time we pray the Regina Coeli instead of the Angelus. I don't make such a specific request in order to give anybody a complex that leads to spiritual neurosis. Please, do not be neurotic about it! If you miss a time, when you realize you missed it, just pray then and get back on track! In this way the practice can be microcosm of our lives with God. I'll spare you the Footprints in the Sand quote, but you know what I mean. God is good because Deus caritas est and I am grateful that you would spend time praying for me anytime!


The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of
our death. Amen.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of
our death. Amen.

And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of
our death. Amen.
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.


The Angelus reminds us of the fact of the Incarnation. It is no myth, no fanciful story, but a fact that determines the world. This is articulated beautifully by His Excellency, the Most Rev. Filippo Santoro, Bishop of Petrópolis, Brazil, in an intervention at the Synod of Bishops, which is convened now in Rome and discussing sacred scripture and for which I give a deep diaconal bow to Fred who brought this to my attention, writing over on Is It Possible?:
"The Word of God is a fact: it is the person of Jesus Christ whom the Apostles met as he walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and whom the Church proclaims as one who can be met today in the paths of our life.

"There is a challenge that this announcement has to overcome; the challenge is above all anthropological. And that is does this fact show it is able to overcome space and time as something that does not fade away, that does not wear out and answers the desires of a man’s heart in a unique and singular way. Experience shows that things sparkle then fade with time: the Ancient Greek poet Mimnermus said 'like the leaves that germinate spring' and along with him Arnault, Leopardi and the literature of all times. The ego also fades and what fascinated us loses its value with time, it is consumed or it no longer attracts us. The big question, which cannot be denied even by contemporary culture, is: does something exist that can fully realizes the needs of our hearts and that lasts in time, forever."
To which the answer is YES, a million times YES, the one who did not deem equality with God something to be held onto- Jesus the Christ, born of the Virgin Mary!

What happens when reason is divorced from faith

Angelo Matera, writing over on Godspy, contributes another deeply insightful article, Alan Greenspan, Ayn Rand, and the Libertarian God that Failed. A deep diaconal bow to Sharon over at Clarity Daily for bringing this to my attention. Matera cites a New York Times article The Reckoning: Taking a Hard Look at the Greenspan Legacy, by Peter Goodman, which I also recommend. I like Matera's article because he cuts right to the chase:

"I’d always wondered how a rigid anti-government libertarian ideologue like Greenspan—an Ayn Rand disciple, no less—managed to get appointed to the most powerful economic post in the world. If he had been running the Food and Drug Administration, he would have been exposed within a few months, as soon as the first deaths caused by lax food inspection started happening. But the byzantine complexities of global finance, and the fact that Ponzi Schemes can run for a long time before collapsing, meant Greenspan could reign for twenty years before the effects of his blindness would be seen in today’s financial meltdown."
In a spirit of bi-partisan fairness, Greenspan hornswoggled (I've been waiting to use that word for a long time) Democrats and Republicans, presidents, senators, and members of the House.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The lackluster debate

It's not often that I agree with Matt Drudge, but last night's debate was boring. This is probably good news for Sen. Obama's campaign because the town hall-style format does not play to his strength. At least Sen. McCain reclaimed Never again! by applying it once again to genocide, not applying it, as did his running mate, to the Wall Street credit meltdown. He also seemed somewhat affable, even towards Sen. Obama, who he clearly dislikes, perhaps even more than he dislikes Gov. Romney

I found the idea, floated by McCain, referring to the plan set forth by economist Glenn Hubbard, Dean of the Columbia University Business School, and former chairman of the President's Council of Economic advisers during the first two years of the current administration, interesting. The plan is to have the government actually buy mortgages and renegotiate the terms with homeowners. Such a plan would have been cheaper and would have dealt directly with the problem that caused the meltdown. You can get a sketch of the Hubbard Plan, which is far superior to the Paulson Plan, over on the blog Caveat Bettor, entitled Glenn Hubbard's $340 billion rescue alternative.

It is bizarre that McCain would now express support for this plan, first made public before the Paulson bailout was passed, which bailout he supported. We've committed $700 billion, that is a done deal. I do not get why do we need two solutions to one problem, especially at the additional cost of $340 billion. Decisiveness is a key to good leadership. Once you pick a plan, you're stuck with it. So, choose wisely, but only after looking at alternatives. You can't govern using 20/20 hindsight. You can learn from past mistakes, but you cannot undo what you have done.

Lighten up Francis- Now over to CATHOLIC AND ENJOYING IT, but not before a deep diaconal bow to my friend Alex.

An exceptionally painful encounter

I have a lot of pastoral encounters. It is normally prudent not to write about them. A week ago last Sunday, after the 6:00 PM Mass, my third of the day, as I was preaching that weekend, I was going into the rectory of the Cathedral, feeling relieved that I was done for the day, when a woman said- "Deacon, deacon, wait a minute". So, I stopped, holding the door as she motioned with her hand to somebody I could not see. A second later a very young woman, holding a baby seat turned the corner. The older woman asked, "Do you have a minute?" I answered that I did. They followed me into the dining room. I was still vested in alb, stole, and dalmatic, all indicative of my sacramental office of service.

As we sat down, I removed the blanket that covered the baby seat, to see a very little, brand new, baby boy. I was asked to give little Anthony, who was a month old, a blessing, which I gladly did. The young mother was an eighteen year-old, very innocent-looking, Native American woman. She did not speak except to give me her son's name and answer yes, no, or I don't know to some questions I asked. I found out from the older women that they were both living at a local homeless shelter. The older woman worked and paid all of her money to send her two school-age sons to a local Catholic school. She had befriended the young woman because the young mother and her son appeared so vulnerable and alone. They had come to Mass, even though the young mother is not Catholic.

We had a discussion about some things and they were off. They were so thankful to me for simply imparting my blessing, which, at least to them, was Christ's blessing, but I felt powerless and useless. I walked them to the door, bid them farewell, urging the young woman to keep an appointment. I removed my vestments feeling emotionally paralyzed. I walked up the stairs, entered the hallway that leads to my office, and there became overwhelmed. Due to some issues I have, my emotional responses are almost always delayed. For example, when a very close friend died after high school I had no emotional reaction until months after his death, when I was in the vicinity of where he had worked and thought about dropping by see him. Only then did I realize I would never see him again. Finally, I grieved for him sitting on a bench in a mall. So, without thinking, or having time to get a grip, I felt tears streaming down my face and found myself on my knees. It became clear to me in that moment that I had just had an encounter, an exceptional encounter. Nonetheless, there was nothing romantic or sweet about it. I was scared for Anthony and for his young mother, terrified for them. I am still. I have thought about them everyday. I have not seen them since. I also think of her older companion, who had adopted this young woman, looked after her, brought her to Mass, to Jesus, as a refuge. There is nothing supernatural here, it is all existential, experiential, which makes it real in a way I would prefer it not to be.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Needed: Leadership, or a good film

Wise words from a wise woman, Anne Applebaum, writing in the Washington Post about Palin's Imaginary Washington. By her reckoning, as a native Washingtonian, "small-town Republicans have figured among the most powerful and most prominent Washington politicians for much of the past decade". What has been the result of this?

"Washington, however stuffy it may once have been, is no longer in need of 'a little bit of reality from Wasilla Main Street.' Washington is in need of expertise, management experience, long-term thinking and more political courage -- from wherever in the country it happens to come. More to the point, Washington needs people who think like national politicians and not like spokesmen for the local business executives who fill their reelection coffers and the local party hacks who plan their campaigns. Let's be frank: The 'bailout' bill was passed last week not because members of Congress decided it would work but because it was stuffed with the pork, perks and tax breaks without which no piece of legislation, however important to the nation as a whole, can now pass. Maybe it's unfair to call that 'small-town' thinking, but it sure is small-minded. And small-mindedness, not snobbery, is the dominant mind-set of 21st-century Washington."

Movies I watch each election year:

The Candidate
Bob Roberts
Citizen Ruth
Primary Colors

On Deep Furrows Fred reviews what is perhaps my all-time favorite film, Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire.

Monday, October 6, 2008

An invitation

Charles Peguy

I posted today over at Cahiers Peguy: the drama of Christian humanism, which, due to Sharon's wonderful diligence and insight, we're using to more clearly engage the charism of CL, which is nothing other than the charism given to our dear Don Gius, which we have all received and accepted, by responding to the invitation to "Come to see," with politics and culture. Trust me, it is no echo chamber, but, as the headers says, quoting Peguy, it is "a friendship and a city and a perfectly free association of men [and women] who all believe in something".

So, I invite you to read my post, Inherent complexity defies reduction, which is a response to another post, along with all the other faithful perspectives, including Sr. Edith's insightful Faithful Citizenship and the Common Good, also posted yesterday.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Scary thought: she is us

UPDATE III: Tom Friedman weighs in with Palin's Kind of Patriotism, in which he writes: "Whether or not I agree with John McCain, he is of presidential timber. But putting the country in the position where a total novice like Sarah Palin could be asked to steer us through possibly the most serious economic crisis of our lives is flat out reckless. It is the opposite of conservative.

"And please don’t tell me she will hire smart advisers. What happens when her two smartest advisers disagree?"

UPDATE II: Roger Cohen writes in Kiplin' vs Palin: "'One thing that Americans do at this time, also, though, is let’s commit ourselves just everyday American people, Joe Six Pack, hockey moms across the nation, I think we need to band together and say ‘Never Again.’ Never will we be exploited and taken advantage of again by those managing our money and loaning us these dollars.'


"I’m sorry, Governor Palin, words matter. Life has its solemn lessons. 'Never Again' is a hallowed phrase. It’s applicable not to the loss of a mortgage, but to the Holocaust and genocide.

"According verbal equivalency to a $60,000 loan and six million murdered Jews, or 800,000 slaughtered Rwandans, is grotesque. Perhaps Palin didn’t mean it, but that’s no less serious. The world’s gravity escapes her."

UPDATE I- political rant III: I really don't think Sarah Palin means it when she says, as she did in Florida today, regarding Barack Obama's membership in his congregation in Chicago: "I don't know why that association isn't discussed more, because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country." This is an open invitation to "discuss more" her religious affiliations and practice, which are far more extensive than that of Sen. Obama. She cannot truly welcome such scrutiny, unless she really is that naïve. I find the things said and done at her Assemblies of God church in Wasilla far more disturbing than anything the admittedly bombastic Rev. Wright, from whom Sen. Obama has clearly and publicly, if painfully, distanced himself, even going so far as cancelling his membership at Trinity, said. I mean, does Jesus really want that pipeline and was it God's will to launch a pre-emptive, largely unjustifed war with Iraq? Let's also look at Palin's political associations, namely her involvement, as well as that of her husband, Todd, in the Alaskan Independence Party, which supports secession from "our great country". I don't think even Rev. Wright went that far! I guess desperation brings out the negative.

A local business owner here in Salt Lake, Daniel Patterson, wrote an editorial that appeared in today's Salt Lake Tribune. In it he captures the reality of the Palin phenomenon better than anyone else I've heard or read. In his article, What's a voter to make of Sarah Palin?, he observes:

"The problem isn't Sarah Palin the candidate. The problem is the American culture that has unknowingly embraced 'Palin-ness' for decades, only to discover now in the 11th hour the high price of our collective incompetence. We've charmed, pushed, and leapfrogged our way into houses we couldn't afford and investments we couldn't make good on. We've supported wars in countries we didn't understand for reasons that we never bothered to question.
"For us to now deny Palin the chance to stand alongside the president is, in fact, to acknowledge all the things that we as an American people weren't ready for, weren't qualified for and had no business getting involved with in the first place. She is us"
He is correct to assert that we "are facing unprecedented payback on literally every front imaginable. From housing to credit, we've failed to manage ourselves on just about every level possible". To wit: "geographical proximity to Russia doesn't equal foreign policy readiness any more than being sequestered and prepped by strategists and campaign aides prepares you to lead a country during one of the most volatile periods in the nation's history". Indeed, the mortgage on the White House "is far beyond Gov. Palin's means".

But she's good on abortion! Given what is at stake that kind of simplistic reasoning does not suffice.

Is it too late?

St. Francis, my friend, I am too late? Please for pray us!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Ironic Catholic revealed

I like your pic Susan. It is a good one!

This tribute to a friend and professor is the 900th post on Καθολικός διάκονος.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Political rant II, plus Peggy Noonan on the election

A few laughs, courtesy of Deacon Greg's boss, who does a great job in these interviews. Seriously, Katie Couric is not engaging in gotcha journalism. She is asking questions that need to be asked. Sarah Palin is not being persecuted, she is being vetted, having her measure taken. This is important if you want a high position in a democracy and it is the news media's job, as the fourth estate in a democratic republic of 300+ million people, to do this. Obama, being a new comer and relative unknown last year and earlier this year, certainly went through a similar process. Who remembers Rev. Wright and charges that Michelle Obama is not patriotic because she had the audacity to suggest that black people feel a bit disenfranchised in our country? I think the Straight Talk Express ran off the road somewhere in the vicinity of Wasilla, Alaska where it took a dangerous swerve to the right.

Also, before I get any overreactions, I, too, believe abortion should not be legal in cases of rape and incest. I realize that this sounds horrible, but it ties into something Jon Stewart says when talking to Peggy Noonan, who certainly shares that POV with Gov. Palin and I. The tie-in is about saying what you are for and why. Give your answer the seriousness it deserves. Let's remember that to have compassion for another means to suffer with that person. In many cases, abortion only adds weight to what is already an unimaginably heavy burden. Let's explore why as if we were asked that question:

1) Life begins at conception for all human beings, not just some
2) The in utereo child is innocent, as is the child's mother, who, in cases of rape and incest, is a victim
3) So, what rationale do you use to take the child's life, especially given that, whether the woman gives birth or not, she is still the victim of rape and in certain cases also of incest, a trauma that even having an abortion cannot undo and may well add to?
4) I believe in reserving punishment to perpetrators of crimes

Editorialist Roger Cohen points out in Nixon, Palin, Bush: "John McCain rolled the dice on Sarah Palin. I’m grateful to Bob Rice of Tangent Capital for pointing out that the actuarial risk, based on mortality tables, of Palin becoming president if the Republican ticket wins the election is about 1 in 6 or 7". This gives us something to think about while striving to arrive at a prudential judgment.

I don't care what your political leanings are, Peggy Noonan is a great lady. She is a Republican, why didn't Sen. McCain choose her? Anyway, here's a little hope for me n' Marie:

Koinonia: One God, three persons

The end of our second reading is from the conclusion of Saint Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians. Koinonia is the Greek word trans...