Saturday, January 31, 2009

Never forgetting means actively remembering

There has been a lot in the news this past week about the Holy Father lifting the excommunications of the four bishops ordained illicitly, in a schismatic act, by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988. Like the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, this is something I do not personally understand, but my not getting it, even in my own mind, means little to nothing. I trust the Holy Father's judgment.

I am disturbed by so many recent manifestations of anti-Semitism in the world, especially in Europe and the Middle East, but even in the U.S. Foremost among these is Bishop Richard Williamson's denial of the murder of some six million Jews by the German Reich in concentration camps in the 1930s and '40s on Swedish television. These idiotic views deserve nothing but the strongest repudiation. Of course, Williamson is one of the four bishops whose excommunication the Holy Father graciously lifted. To their credit, the other three have denounced his delusional views and called on him to remain silent on such matters. His words are despicable. If he is now in communion with the Holy Father his first act of obedience should be a long silence. It is made even more disturbing in light of the Church's centuries-long record with regard to European Jewry, which is sad and indefensible, a denial of the humanity of Jesus Christ and a repudiation of the indispensable role of Israel in God's plan to reconcile to the world to Himself.

As to the denunciations of Israel's act of self-defense in Gaza, it seems clear that Israel cannot let random and persistent rocket attacks against towns and villages from Gaza go unchecked. Can you imagine our government doing such a thing were we to be attacked from just across any of our borders? Gaza City is one of the most densely populated places on planet earth and the Hamas cowards who indiscriminately shoot rockets into Israel take full advantage of this fact, using women, children, schools, mosques, and hospitals for military advantage, which international laws prohibit. They then use Israeli retaliation, which at times is arguably disproportionate, against these acts of cowardice to successfully curry world favor, using the media and even other nations and international organizations to execute their propaganda campaign. It may interest some to learn that international law permits the targeting of sites that are otherwise protected when they are being used for military advantage.

"War is hell", as General Sherman observed while marching to the sea. Hence, violence should be avoided whenever possible, but when it becomes necessary, violence needs to be proportionate and methodical, inflicting only the minimum amount of damage necessary to achieve the objective, the ultimate objective being the restoration of peace. Certainly there are lamentable actions that occur during military campaigns. We have to be careful when denouncing a wrong action not to deny the right of a country to self-defense. Even in our years long campaign in Afghanistan, the moral justifiability of which is not in dispute, there have certainly been unethical, illegal, and immoral actions taken by elements of U.S. and coalition forces, actions that have resulted in unnecssary deaths, destruction, and suffering. However, even in the face of horror, reason must not elude us as it did Turkish P.M. Erdogan this week at Davos with his theatrics during a speech by Israeli President Shimon Peres. After all, Pres. Peres shared a Noble Peace Prize with the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. What has Erdogan done to further the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians? If you answered "Nothing, except to move Turkey from a moderate, even friendly, position with Israel to a more hard-line, somewhat antagonistic stance" you'd be correct. Especially in light of the Republic of Turkey's shabby human rights record as it pertains to the treatment of Armenians, Kurds, Christians, and other ethnic and religious minorities, Erdogan has no moral high ground from which to shout denunciations. Although maybe he was seeking to ingratiate himself with European leaders, whose favor he needs to successfully gain Turkish membership in the European Union.

The cowardice of Hamas, which is a terrorist group whose main preoccupation is the destruction of the State of Israel, is made worse by the fact that they are using territory previously occupied by Israel, from which Israel unilaterally withdrew in 2005, to fire rockets indiscriminately into Israel. What other nation would the international community denounce for protecting their citizens and territory? I am sorry, but just as I see some residual anti-Catholicism in much anti-immigration fervor in the U.S., I see residual and latent anti-Semitism in the positions of many large European countries as regards the Israeli-Palestinian question. I assess that this is also fuelled by their fears concerning radical and potentially or actually violent elements within the Muslim populations of their countries. Of course, this does nothing to explain former Pres. Carter's anti-Israeli stance, which one sincerely hopes the Obama Administration resolutely ignores in their Middle East engagement.

A hanging question for us is how can we get so worked up and retaliate in so a great a manner when attacked ourselves, then turn around and denounce a country who is almost daily attacked by terrorists for defending themselves by seeking to end these attacks? Do not misunderstand, we were right to respond to the attacks on the World Trade Center by taking out the Taliban and seeking to dismantle Al-Qaeda, thus preventing Afghanistan from continuing to be used as a base of worldwide terrorist operations from whence other attacks could be financed, planned, trained for, and executed.

So, what is the answer? How can a lasting peace, which can only be a just peace, be achieved? I suggest that a necessary first step is that the U.S., the U.N., and Islamic states must do more than merely denounce Hamas, but take actions that force Hamas to relinquish control of Gaza, bringing it once again under the rule of the Palestinian Authority. Under no circumstances can Islamic states, again, be complicit in allowing a terrorist group to govern a territory, no matter how small. Hamas must not be allowed to continue to act independently and in a belligerent and bellicose manner against Israel, refusing to acknowledge the right of the State of Israel to exist and then crying foul. Do not misunderstand me, the plight of the Palestinian people is misery. They require just solutions to a myriad of problems. In order to achieve a just and lasting peace, they must have leaders who recognize that waging persistent and perpetual war will never allow the conditions necessary to reach that desired end state.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Red Dwarf revived

The Red Dwarf cast is reuniting! This indescribable television series has been referenced twice on Καθολικός διάκονος, here and here.

A diaconal bow to Fr. Erik over @ Orthometer for this good news!

Stimulating an important debate

Well, we have a "stimulus" plan that has passed through the House. We can only hope that the Senate shows some restraint and eliminates everything in the bill that is not stimulus, but funding for new programs that will exist in perpetuity. A stimulus package should not be used as an end run around the normal appropriations process. The rhetoric and immediacy of getting Congress to act too quickly, without an opportunity to exercise their due diligence, is far too reminiscent of Hank Paulson's Chicken Little tactics to get the TARP passed. My hat is off to those members of the House who voted against this Trojan Horse crammed full of pork, which includes all House Republican representatives, plus 11 Democrats.

At least President Obama nixed an insane part of the stimulus, talked up so technocratically by Speaker Pelosi on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos last Sunday, that would have allocated some $200 million for contraception. I particularly like Pelosi's attempt to answer the question put to her by Stephanopoulos as to how this ties into economic stimulus:

"Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government."

So, do the economy and the government exist for the human person, or vice-versa? It seems that for people who think like Speaker Pelosi, it is the latter. The state is not in the business of dictating whether we have children, or how many we might have. Therefore, it has no business asking us to fund $200 million for something that goes under what can only described as the Orwellian moniker "family planning services". I do credit Speaker Pelosi for not employing newspeak, but calling it contraception. I do not want to leap to dramatic conclusions, but this kind of thinking frightens me. Nonetheless, we must begin from a positive hypothesis. In Is It Possible to Live This Way?: An Unusual Approach to Christian Existence, Vol. 2 Hope, Giussani talks about going to a meeting of some women, who were also mothers, with a friend. Upon leaving the small gathering, his friend said of the women: "They have the responsibility of bringing to the world the reason that makes it worthwhile having children." Don Gius adds: "Those people are people called to cry out to the world the why of working, of living and of dying...." (pg 55). I think that a nice summary of our royal, priestly, and prophetic calling given us in Baptism and strengthened, that is, confirmed in Confirmation, that for which the Eucharist and Penance empower us.

Faith and hope are not something added on to life, that extra little something that gives us a pragmatic basis for being nice. Rather, faith shows us our destiny, the very reason for which we exist, for Whom we exist, in Whom we live, move, and have our being. Hope is the certainty about our future that arises from faith, which is faith in Jesus Christ, in his on-going and all-pervasive Presence, by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is why we pray- Veni Sancte Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Indeed, as His Excellency, Archbishop Francisco Javier Martinez, wrote some years ago now, "the Eucharist is the only place of resistance to annihilation of the human subject." If not already, it is a state-of-affairs that we are rapidly approaching. A state not brought about by the current political regime, but a road we have been on for awhile now, the same road that led to us getting so disastrously off-course economically. It is the path of not putting first things first, of relegating first things to the margins in the sorely mistaken belief, indicative of hubris, that human beings are sufficient unto ourselves. This view of things in the secular West also explains the gap.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

"No mo, no mo..."

This song is beautifully descriptive and a day early traditio. Well, it's only 2.5 hours early. Perhaps not caring is the key to the door of meaning... just a thought...I don't really think so, but it is a tempting alternative, at least this evening.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gentle blogs

Okay, I am tardy in doing this. Since I was given The Lemonade Award by The Ironic Catholic, it is up to me to identify other bloggers who show good attitude and gratitude. In other words, blogs of gentility and, this being the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, probably Gentile blogs, too. I did not consider blogs already identified by The Ironic Catholic or on Deep Furrows. So, many of the blogs I would otherwise identify have already identified. Of course, I certainly recognize both of those blogs as wonderful cyber-spaces:

Come to See
Always and Everywhere
Vitus Speaks
Faith's Mystery
The Deacon's Bench
Naru Hodo

Hierarchy update

Yesterday, the Holy Father appointed 63 year-old Msgr. Robert Guglielmone, rector of St. Agnes Cathedral of the Diocese of Rockville Center, the diocese for Long Island, New York, as the bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, which has been vacant since His Excellency, Bishop Robert Baker, was transferred to the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama in August 2007.

With this, the Holy See's fourth appointment already this year, there are now seven sede vacante dioceses in the U.S.: Biloxi, Mississippi; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Duluth, Minnesota; Gallup, New Mexico; Oakland, California; Owensboro, Kentucky; St. Louis, Missouri.

While on the subject of bishops, it is important to note that today, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, marks the fourteenth anniversary of the episcopal ordination of His Excellency, Archbishop George Niederauer, which took place in The Cathedral of the Madeleine. It was five years ago yesterday that I was ordained a deacon by then-Bishop Niederauer, also in The Cathedral of the Madeleine.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Please don't miss Deacon Greg Kandra's article on blogging in America, which I subscribe to and read, despite not always agreeing with their editorial positions, as recently with terrorism. His article is A Virtual Church: Give us this day our daily blog....

I have posted several items on blogging and, like most bloggers, I have a tortured relationship with my efforts. Suffice it to say, my blog is not for the faint of heart or even the mildly curious. I am nothing if not passionate. Writing publicly brings clarity because I feel a responsibility to be both accurate and honest. So, blogging does not allow me the luxury of the lazy opinion on important matters, as with our bailout/stimulus plans. It is no secret, to use an example, that I really wanted to believe and vote for Pres. Obama last summer and into the early fall. In the end, reason and conscience forbade me from doing so. Even after less than a week of him being in office, I am glad I did not. I need to add that I do not pretend that a President McCain would've been a lot better and the prospect of a VP Palin is still something that makes me shudder.

I still do not use a site meter, nor will I ever on this blog. In the interest of full disclosure, we do use a blogpatrol site meter for The People of St. Mary Magdalene blog, which is a parish effort that is withering on the vine, like a lot of good ideas. As useful as I find blogging and as many people as I have gotten to know, many of whom I have actually met in person, church cannot ever be exclusively virtual, it must be real, even constitutive of reality.

What sacrifice?

With talk of an eight hundred and fifty billion dollar economic stimulus package, plus the seven hundred billion dollars already allocated for Mr. Paulson's buds in the financial industry, and trillion dollar deficits for the foreseeable future, one might well ask, Where are these trillions of dollars going to come from? Including the seven hundred billion dollars already allocated for the TARP, our national debt is rapidly approaching eleven trillion dollars.

We are not simply going to print money, which would flood the world with U.S. dollars and lead to hyper-inflation, which would further tank the economies across the world, and make our currency useless. The money to fund all this deficit spending, as Peter Schiff, writing in the Wall Street Journal points out, must be borrowed from sources who actually have the cash to loan us. These sources are primarily other governments, like China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. Each of these countries already owns hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. debt in the form of interest-bearing Treasury notes. The yield on these notes, according to Schiff, is a "paltry 2%-3%".

In his inaugural address, President Obama spoke of sacrifice, but one might well ask, as Schiff does in his article, who is it that our president is calling on to make sacrifices? It is certainly not anybody in the United States. Schiff notes that the U.S. accounts for less than 5% of the world's population, but we "account for more than 25% of global GDP". Our current economic situation will inevitably lead to this advantage shrinking dramatically and what GDP growth we achieve will be made possible only by massive infusions of foreign financial capital, but not through the financial markets as investment. Rather, the money will flow to our economy through the U.S. government, which, in turn, will borrow it primarily from these and other countries. I have written more about the effects of this over on Cahiers.

It bears noting that the money loaned to us by these countries is money they cannot use in their own countries to provide education, adequate healthcare, transportation infrastructure, etc. When the president of the U.S. himself is forecasting trillion dollar deficits he is doing so in the expectation that these countries will continue to buy Treasury notes, let them mature, take their 2-3% interest only to put the principal and likely the interest right back into low-yielding U.S. Treasury notes. So, it seems, that the expectation is for people in other countries to sacrifice in order for us to retain our disproportionately high standard of living. In the words of Peter Schiff, "We are planning to spend as much as we like, for as long as we like, and we will let the rest of the world pick up the tab."

I readily grant that this is no different than what was being done under the previous administration, even before the meltdown late last year, but this was an administration in which the vice president went on record as believing that deficits did not matter- I'm not sure what he thought mattered. This prompts the question, How is this change? We also need to inquire about the plan to get out of the hole we are in. All I hear is the sound of more digging. It bothers me that the economic team assembled by the new president are some the same geniuses who played key roles in getting us into this current crisis. Besides, like the repeal of the Mexico City policy, this policy cannot be very helpful in our efforts designed to re-build relations with the rest of the world.

A deep diaconal bow to Paper Clippings for bringing Schiff's article to my attention.

Friday, January 23, 2009

An objectively wrong decision

Well, it looked a lot like politics as usual today with President Obama's signing of an Executive Order that reversed what is known as the Mexico City Policy. It is called this because President Reagan announced it in a speech he gave in 1984 at the U.N. International Conference on Population held in Mexico City. The Mexico City policy stipulates that no monies given by the U.S. government to foreign NGOs can be used to fund abortions or abortion-related services. The rule also prevents foreign NGOs that receive U.S. money from presenting abortion as a possibility to the women they seek to serve. Hence, the policy is known by proponents of abortion-on-demand as "the global gag rule".

It is important to point out that the policy does not extend to NGOs based in the United States because such a denial has been determined to be unconstitutional. The Mexico City policy was in force from 1984 until the first few days of the first Clinton Administration, when then-President Clinton overturned it by another Executive Order issued on 22 January 1993, the twentieth anniversary of the Supreme Court's unfortunate Roe vs. Wade decision. The Mexico City policy was once again put into effect with yet another Executive Order signed by Pres. Bush on 22 January 2001.

I gave a hearty guffaw to the idea put forward by a reporter for NPR, which she no doubt received from the White House Press Office, that by not reversing the Mexico City policy on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, Pres. Obama sought to de-politicize the issue. Wow! That is spin at its worst and least creative and most disingenuous. I agree with Ashley Horne from Focus on the Family that it is not possible to "reduce abortions by channelling more money to the abortion industry". What do we offer the world? Abortion on demand! Who does this offend? All traditional cultures. The gap widens. Besides, the right to life is not a political issue, it is not an ethical issue, it is a fundamental moral issue.

David Gibson, who I respect a great deal, but with whom I disagree on this issue, offers some insights worthy of consideration on his blog Pontifications. I will take the bait and answer the question he poses in the title of his post: Obama's Mexico City repeal is not a pro-life policy, just as not repealing it on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade does nothing to de-politicize the issue. It is the kind of logic that asserts, counter-intuitively and contra the facts that abortions went up during the Bush Administration, when the truth is that from the administration of George H.W. Bush on, abortions in the U.S. have been on the decline, including during both Clinton Administrations. I fact-checked this during the campaign early last fall. Given all this, I stand by Ms. Horne's assertion.

Gibson's post puts in me mind of a sign that hung on the door of the office of one of my logic professors: Gambling is immoral; say no to Paschal's wager- Torture is immoral; say no to torturing your conscience. I am sorry to sloganeer. If nothing else, I offer this as diakonia to the truth of the axiom that is never permissible to do evil that good may come of it.

"... contestants in a suicidal race..."

I had to go to work early in the morning a few Saturdays ago. Instead of news, I decided to tune in to X96, a local fav station. This song came on. I smiled, laughed, twitched, and drove. All-in-all a good commute:

I still know every word of this song. It is an incredible meditation on alienation, which was something that Marx nailed.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fr. Thomas Dominic Kraft, Order of Preachers Friars

I had multiple phone calls today informing me of the death of Fr. Tom Kraft. Below is a post from him his website:

Dearest family and friends of Fr. Tom:

It is with deep sadness and sorrow that I write this final installation of updates on Fr. Tom for this website. I cannot even begin to express the grief that I feel, let alone the grief that his family is enduring. The tears that flow from my eyes are difficult to bear as is the burden of the pain that weighs down heavily upon me. I can sense yours as well. Know that Fr. Tom is with us to give solace and comfort. Also know that every ounce of strength left in me will be expended in prayer on your behalf.

Let us grieve and celebrate the life of our dearly beloved friend and priest. Please join me and the Dominican community next week for the following services at Blessed Sacrament Church:

Vigil Service (Office of the Dead and the Rosary) Tuesday, January 27 at 7:00 PM

Funeral Mass Wednesday, January 28 at 10:00 AM

Blessed Sacrament Church 5041 9th Avenue NE Seattle, WA 98105

I remain always yours in Christ,


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hierarchy update

Yesterday, with his third U.S. episcopal appointment of this new year, the Holy Father named fifty-one year-old Msgr. Edward J. Burns from Pittsburgh as bishop of Juneau, Alaska. This appointment leaves eight dioceses in the U.S. without ordinaries:

Biloxi, Mississippi; Charleston, South Carolina; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Duluth, Minnesota; Gallup, New Mexico; Oakland, California; Owensboro, Kentucky; St. Louis, Missouri.

The number of bishops currently serving beyond the mandatory retirement age (i.e., bishops whose resignations the Holy Father has not accepted) is now eleven.

Archbishops: Cardinal Egan of New York; Hughes of New Orleans; Curtiss of Omaha, NE; Brunett of Seattle, WA.

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, and Carmody of Corpus Christi, TX.

Verifying Christ

I am back home after spending a wonderful weekend with many companions in and around New York. In addition to gleaning much for myself and for our School of Community here in Utah, I have a lot to share over the coming week or so. This morning I just have one thing from my experience this weekend. Those of us who belong to Communion & Liberation, the so-called celini, like all groups, have our own special language, celini- speak, which I have taken to calling celinese. Like all such phenomena, this is helpful and hurtful, useful and useless, depending on when we lapse into it. When we use it to discourse or to make our experiences abstract it is an abuse. The worst thing is to use it to reduce and categorize the experiences of others. Conversely, when we use it as method of verifying and explaining our experience, especially among others who share Don Gius' charism by applying his method to life, it is useful and even inspiring. Celinese arises from the teachings of Msgr. Luigi Giussani, whose name I pronounce with all the laziness of an anglophone person from the Western U.S.

There are some celinese locutions that I love and others that grate on me. There are two phrases that I love because they express well and succinctly the existential position in which I often find myself with regard to my circumstances. The two phrases are interrogatives: How do I stand in front of this? and How do I face this? What I love about these questions is that they explicitly accept that we must face reality, stand in front of reality. By asking them we embrace the truth that every circumstance is an opportunity and very often, as Fr. Carrón says, a challenge, to verify Christ. If we stand in front of reality without Christ behind us we will be run over by something more powerful than a New York subway train, certainly by forces more powerful than ourselves. So, what must be verified is that Christ, who is always already present (i.e., He is the "Something that comes before"- the theme of our Diakonia), is met in reality and not through some kind of mystical incantation. We stand in front of reality as we experience it, as we face it in its entirety, as Msgr. Albacete says, "nothing is excluded".

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Engaging reality realistically

As is so often the case, Paper Clippings has posted a thought-provoking response to a pie-eyed assessment of the state of the world, namely the take of the editors of America magazine on the causes of and solutions to terrorism.

I could not agree more with the assessment given by Paper Clippings. Christians, at least as it pertains to many of the causes of tension between Islam and the West, should be on the side of those decrying the many imperialistic impositions of the decadent West on the rest of the world. The real gap, as Pope Benedict has insisted and which I have documented and commented upon extensively, is not so much between Islam and Christianity, but between those who hold religious faith (i.e., the vast majority of people in the world) and the secularists, the elite super minority who seek to obliterate what we hold most dear. It is propaganda to assert, à la Christopher Hitchens and others, that religion is the cause of all the evils in the world, just as it is caving in to ideology to resort to economic determinism, which the editors of America do in this unfortunate editorial. Nothing could be further from the truth. That so many people buy this nonsense bodes ill for us. It is downright insidious for secularism to wear the sheep's wool of religion, thus being co-opted by ideology and disseminating its propaganda.

I hate to bandy about terms like "the elite super minority," which is why I linked to what I have already posted on this matter. It is not a conspiracy as much as it is a case of amnesia. Nonetheless, asserting that all Islamic and other traditional cultures need is a healthy dose of Western secularism and capitalism, especially given the state we have driven ourselves to, both culturally and economically, is as much nonsense as George Wiegel's diagnosis of the last election. It is tired, worn out, pabulum.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Program note

So far 2009 has proven to be a busy year. I have to be honest, these past few months have been rough going for me, but I am starting to emerge. I can't really say when I'll be back to posting more than just a few thoughts and asides, mostly by others, which is fine, even good. I am looking forward to the CL National Diakonia in New York, well, Jersey City (close enough), this weekend. I am so grateful that Fr. Carrón is joining us. I am also looking forward to seeing and hanging out with many friends, renewing acquaintances, and making new friends, all of whom are companions.

I appreciate everyone who reads and comments on this blog. I enjoy writing and interacting. I look forward to clearing some space and returning full force. God is good and invites us, out of love, to share in the goodness, the beauty, and the truth that is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What matters

Courtesy of my brother deacon, Greg Kandra, is what was printed on Fr. Richard John Neuhaus' holy card for his funeral, which was this morning in New York:

"Whatever little growth in holiness I have experienced, whatever strength I have received from the company of the saints, whatever understanding I have attained of God and his ways -- these and all other gifts I have received I will bring gratefully to the throne. But in seeking entry to that heavenly kingdom, I will, with Dysmas, look to Christ and Christ alone.

Then I hope to hear him say, 'Today, you will be with me in paradise,' as I hope with all my being -- because, although looking to him alone, I am not alone -- he will say to all."

Hierarchy update

Yesterday the Holy Father named Fr. Richard F. Stika of St. Louis as the new bishop of Knoxville, TN. Bishop-elect Stika is 51 years-old and fills what, up until yesteday, was the longest vacant of all the currently sede vacante dioceses in the U.S.

With this appointment the number of sede vacante dioceses in these United States is nine: Biloxi, Mississippi; Charleston, South Carolina; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Duluth, Minnesota; Gallup, New Mexico; Juneau, Alaska; Oakland, California; Owensboro, Kentucky; St. Louis, Missouri.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Baptism of the Lord

Christ, through your baptism you revealed to us the Holy Trinity when the Father called you his beloved Son and the Holy Spirit came down upon you, renew the spirit of adoption among the royal priesthood of the baptized (Petition from Morning Prayer).

Friday, January 9, 2009

"The sea is high"

Five for Fighting is our first '09 traditio- 100 Years "Chasing the years of my life"..., or

The Clash

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sadness in the mo[u]rning

UPDATE: Fr. Neuhaus passed away this morning, not long after this was posted. Eternal rest grant unto him, oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

In fulfillment of the title of his book from several years ago, As I Lay Dying: Meditations Upon Returning, written after a close a brush with death, dispatches from New York report that Fr. Richard John Neuhaus lays dying this morning. He was administered the last rites of the church by his friend, Fr. George Rutler. Fr. Rutler says "that it is appropriate that prayers be offered for a holy death." I am mindful that the fruit of the fifth Glorious Mystery of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the joy of a happy death. Far from being morbid, it is a deep and real profession of faith in the fact that Jesus Christ defeated death, our enemy, by his dying and rising again. Existentially, it is a recognition of our finitude, of the fact that we will, in fact, die.

I am terribly sad as I write this, but I embrace my sadness as a wholesome part of my humanity. I am also thinking of my dear pastor, Fr. Thomas Kraft, OP, another good and holy priest, whose physical health is failing. Part of me, considering the state of things, wants to yell Lord, we need them! Jesus Christ will never abandon us and submitting to him, to his holy will, is obedience, which is a choice I make in freedom. Therefore, I pray in the manner Jesus teaches thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; give us this day our daily bread, which is you, Lord.
Rocco draws our attention to something Fr. Neuhaus wrote back in 2000:

"We are born to die. Not that death is the purpose of our being born, but we are born toward death, and in each of our lives the work of dying is already underway. The work of dying well is, in largest part, the work of living well."
Let us uphold him as he works through his pains of labor, being born to life eternal. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

An astute observation

"Depression could become a major art form, there is so much raw material to work with" (Norman Clegg from Last of the Summer Wine).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

More on Epiphany and Christmastide

In the revision of the Roman Missal after Vatican II, Epiphany remains a fixed feast and falls on 6 January in many countries (like Italy). In other countries (like the U.S.) it falls on the first Sunday after 1 January, the Feast of the Holy Family being observed the Sunday following the Nativity.

The liturgical season of Christmas ends with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is observed on the Sunday following Epiphany. When observed in the "efficient" way, in years when Epiphany falls on 7 or 8 January, the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated the next day, Monday. When observed on Monday, this feast is not a holy day of obligation. In case you were wondering...

I am not railing or resisting, just observing and joyfully celebrating. I must admit, however, that it does get a bit confusing at times, which I think is one reason, among many, some of which are far more fundamental, that many people lose track and ultimately lose interest.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Hierarchy update

In his first episcopal appointment for the U.S. in 2009, the Holy Father named His Excellency, Allen Vigneron, 60, currently bishop of the Diocese of Oakland, California as the new archbishop of Detroit. He replaces Adam Cardinal Maida, who turned 75 in 2005. Bishop Vigneron is a native of Michigan and was a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit before becoming the bishop of Oakland. He will be installed on 28 January. The Holy Father also accepted the resignation of Bishop Jeremiah McRaith of Owensboro, Kentucky.

This brings the number of archbishops serving past the age of 75 to three: Cardinal Egan, archbishop of New York, Archbishop Hughes of New Orleans, and Archbishop Curtiss of Omaha. Archbishop Brunett of Seattle will join this group later this month. The number of bishops serving past 75 remains at six with two bishops set to turn 75 in the next month or so. With Bishop Vigneron's transfer and Bishop McRaith's resignation, the number of sede vacante dioceses in these United States increases to ten: Biloxi, Mississippi; Charleston, South Carolina; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Duluth, Minnesota; Gallup, New Mexico; Juneau, Alaska; Knoxville, Tennessee; Oakland, California; Owensboro, Kentucky; St. Louis, Missouri.

"Grossly overestimated our powers"

"Well, so that is that.
Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes --
Some have got broken -- and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week --
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted -- quite unsuccessfully --
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers."

These are first lines of the third part of W.H. Auden's poem For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio. I know, liturgically, Christmas lasts until 11 January, but today is the day we end the at-home festivities and head back from our winter idyll, which may or may not have been so idyllic. Besides, in Auden's day Christmas ended on the twelfth day, Epiphany, which fell on whatever day 6 January rolled around, not on a convenient Sunday, my how efficient we've become! Hence, today this seems all too apropos. The photograph was taken on the seventh day of Christmas, 31 December 2006, by Gregory Glenn while he was out for a walk.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Last night we hosted our annual Epiphany party. It was lower key affair than in the past, with a lot of children, which makes it all the better. Fourteen children and seven adults does make a house full. Anyway, it is always a joyful way to bring the full-up holiday celebrations to an end and move into the final week of the Christmas season, the week when get back to the world full-tilt.

So, today is Epiphany, which traditionally marked the end of the Christmas season, falling as it did on 6 January, the twelfth night, and not necessarily on a Sunday. I don't mean to sound too disparaging about the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. On the whole, they were needed and beyond necessary, but some of the calendar changes, like extending Christmas beyond Epiphany and moving Epiphany to a Sunday, don't make a lot of sense and are highly disruptive of many well-established cultural traditions, which people hold on to nonetheless. It has the effect of divorcing observances from their religious roots, which is the last thing we need at present.

Nonetheless, it has been a joyful New Year thus far and for that I am grateful.

Father of light, unchanging God,
today you reveal to men of faith
the resplendent fact of the Word made flesh.
Your light is strong,
your love is near;
draw us beyond the limits which this world imposes,
to the life where your Spirit makes all life complete.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
(Alternate Prayer for Epiphany).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

What is faith?

When Kathleen Norris takes up faith in her book Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer's Life, she mines the same vein as St. Diadochos in the passage from On Spiritual Knowledge that I posted previously. She also demonstrates what our dear Don Gius meant when he said, "This is what it means to be Christian: a newness that always opens up the road within the old words" (Is It Possible to Live This Way?, vol 1, pg. 120).
"We shortchange ourselves by regarding religious faith as a matter of intellectual assent. This is a modern aberration; the traditional Christian view is far more holistic, regarding faith as a whole-body experience. Sometimes it is, as W.H. Auden described it, a matter of '[choosing] what is difficult all one's days as if it were easy.'" (pg. 84).
This quote from Auden is from his long poem For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio Giussani's insight applies both to her take on faith and her recovery of the word acedia.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Utes 13-0

Leading from the 1st quarter through the fourth, the University of Utah Runnin' Utes beat the Alabama Crimson Tide 31-17. When the dust settles, Utah is the only Division I undeafeated team at 13-0, beating teams from the Big 10, the PAC-10, and the SEC, teams like Oregon State, the team that beat USC, and now Alabama, a team that was number one for five weeks this season. This is the second time in four years that Utah has busted the BCS, beating a BCS conference team handily and going undeafeated. It is the Utes' eighth straight bowl win, the best post-season win streak in the country. I AM A UTAH MAN!!

Remembering God

Jonah 3:1: "Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,"

On this second day of the New Year, it bears remembering what Phillip Cary writes as a comment on this verse: "The LORD is nothing if not persistent, always ready to begin again" (Jonah pg. 105- underlining emphasis mine). Of course, this "second time" was after Jonah's failed evasion of the word of the LORD the first time. God is not only persistent, but patient, even merciful. It pleases me that this remembrance is the 1,000th post on Καθολικός διάκονος.

Today we celebrate and commemorate two great church fathers, St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory the Theologian.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The New Year

As always, we begin with a prayer:

The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary
and she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord,
be it done unto me according to thy word.

And the Word was made flesh
and dwells among us.

Hail Mary, full of grace the Lord is with thee,
blessed art thou amongst 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.

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 angel, may by his Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Veni Sancte Spiritus, veni per Mariam

On loving like Jesus loves

Readings: Acts 10:25-26.34-35.44-48; Ps 98:1-4; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17 In the first reading for today, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, t...