Sunday, May 31, 2009


Lord God,
in your great mercy,
enrich your people with grace
and strengthen them by your blessing
so that they may praise you always.

Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The season of Easter is over, but we need to continue ordering our lives on the basis of the fact of Christ's resurrection, reality mediated through us by the Holy Spirit.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

YouTube orthodoxy and Saturday miscellania

In this video Fr. Robert Barron comments on Bob Dylan. I pulled this video up as the result of reading an article he wrote in the current issue of America magazine, entitled YouTube Heresies. In his recent interview Dylan somewhat confirms what Barron contends in his piece, at least as much as Dylan confirms any question asked to him directly, that the Bible has been influential for him. He also talks about, among others, Chuck Barry, Carl Sandburg, Woody Guthrie, and Jack Kerouac. About Kerouac's On the Road, Dylan says it "speeds by like freight train...It's all movement and words and lusty instincts that come alive like you're riding on a train...No ambiguity." I remember reading On the Road as a senior in college on my own. I started about eight o' clock in the evening and finished it about one or two the next morning, then reread it.

Douglas Brinkley, who interviewed Dylan for Rolling Stone, writes: "I decide to push him on the importance of Christian Scripture in his life. 'Well, sure' he says, 'that and those other first books I read were really biblical stuff. Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben Hur. Those were the books I remembered reading and finding religion in. Later on, I started reading over and over again Plutarch and his Roman Lives. And the writers Cicero, Tacitus and Marcus Aurelius...I like the morality thing'." Here is where Dylan says something so wise and concise you might miss it: "People talk about [morality] all the time. Some say you can't legislate morality. Well, maybe not. But morality has gotten kind of a bad rap. In Roman thought, morality is broken down into basically four things. Wisdom, Justice, Moderation and Courage. All of these are the elements that would make up the depth of a person's morality. And then dictate the types of behavior patterns you'd use to respond in any given situation. I don't look at morality as a religious thing."

The fact that he does not see morality as necessarily "a religious thing" is not an affront to religion, far from it. Our Catholic faith is in synch with this view. Dylan is absolutely correct, the fundamental source of morality is not revelation (i.e., the Bible), it is reason. Indeed, the four elements that make up what he sees as Roman moral thought are the cardinal virtues: Prudence, Justice, Restraint (i.e., Temperance/Moderation), Courage. Cardinal comes from the Latin word cardo, meaning hinge. Hence, these virtues are so called because the door of the moral life swings on them.

Brinkley's interview with Dylan, at least the first part before it goes to a page in the back of the magazine, is followed by an article entitled Mike Tyson Repents, which, in turn, is followed by a profile of porn actress Sasha Grey: The Dirtiest Girl in the World. Grey wants "to tell young women that sex is OK." She also wants to let them know that "[i]t's OK to be a slut." Then she latches on to this tired old discourse: "If I am working out any issues through porn, it's anger at society for not being open about sex." This from a young woman who describes catching "gonorrhea twice and chlamydia once" as "getting the common cold." She says, "When you're in the industry, and your body is what you sell" catching a STD "makes you feel like shit." I think catching a STD probably has that effect whether you're in the industry or not- Utah has one of the highest chlamydia rates in the U.S. I recently saw this on the side of a UTA bus: is it alright to play marco polo with someone who has chlamydia? According Sasha, she now has "a good enough reputation" that she can "demand tests from" those who perform with her. What about those young women who follow her advice and whose reputations, so to speak, are not that good? All of this apart from the fact that it is completely dualistic to think you can sell your body and not your soul.

Prescinding from reason to faith, not that they are knowledge of different species, that, too, is dualistic, let's look at what the apostle wrote to the church at Corinth: "The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ" (1 Cor. 6:13b-15)?

When discussing art with Dylan, Brinkley mentions Andy Warhol, which makes Dylan glare at him while saying that he regards Warhol as "Only a cultural figure...Not as an artist." Whereas, Sasha Grey has Philosophy of Andy Warhol (notice the all too chic absent definite article The before Philosophy in the title) on her bookshelf next to some of her films, like Apprentass, to name only one work in her increasing ouvre.

Since this post has miscellania in the title, I point you to an article that appears in this morning's Salt Lake Tribune about a good friend of mine, Brian Diggs, a Methodist minister who recently left the pastorate of his church to run the United Methodist Committee on Relief depot here in Salt Lake City. Brian earned his M.Div at Duke, studying with Stanley Hauerwas.

I have to end by asking, How does it feel?

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Friday, May 29, 2009

"Don't you know me I'm the boy next door?"

With Memorial Day just behind us, this one is for our vets, to which company I am proud belong. Huey Lewis singing Walking on a Thin Line is our Friday traditio. The trend is starting to show in the devastation of many who have served now, especially in Iraq: PTSD, mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness. So, whether you served or not, consider contributing to a Veteran's organization. A lot of our fellow citizens who served need our help.

For their sakes, adhere to 1 Peter 2:16a "Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil."

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fatima prayer

Quite a few years ago, I stopped praying the Fatima prayer when reciting the rosary. Beginning last Sunday, I felt compelled to include it again:

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Your Mercy.

This prayer was revealed by our Lady to the children, Jacinta, Lucia, and Francisco (l to r in the pic), at Fatima on 13 July 1917. Responding to Lucia's question about she wanted them to do, Our Lady replied: "I want you to come here on the thirteenth of next month; to recite the rosary every day." She then told them to do something they had never heard of before: "After the Gloria Patri of each decade, you will say, ‘O my Jesus, forgive us our sins! Deliver us from the fires of hell! Have pity on the souls in purgatory, especially the most abandoned'."

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hierarchy update

Today, the Holy Father accpeted the resignation of Bishop Edward Cullen of Allentown, Pennsylvania, who was a bishop serving past the age at which bishops must submit their resignations to the Holy See, which is 75. In short order, the Holy Father named Msgr. John Barres of the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware to succeed Cullen.

The number of Latin rite bishops currently serving beyond the mandatory retirement age of 75 is now ten.

There remain five vacant sees in the U.S.: Cheyenne, Wyoming; Duluth, Minnesota; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Ogdensburg, N.Y.; Owensboro, Kentucky.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Monday, May 25, 2009

What Jesus Christ has accomplished

Praying Morning Prayer this morning, I noticed that one of the Psalm-prayers, after Psalm 96, summarizes very well what I was trying to communicate in my homily yesterday:

Lord, you have renewed the face of the earth. Your Church throughout the world sings you a new song, announcing your wonders to all. Through a virgin, you have brought forth a new birth in our world; through your miracles, a new power; through your suffering, a new patience; in your resurrection, a new hope, and in you ascension, new majesty

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

We remember...

Today we remember all those who answered the call to service and who carried their duties to the maximum, giving their lives for this great country of ours. It is these men and women who guaranteed that we will remain the land of the free and they are also the ones who make the U.S.A. the home of the brave.

We remember and we are grateful.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Year B Feast of the Ascension

Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Ps. 47:2-3.6-9; Eph. 1:17-23; Mark 16:15-20

Fr. Peter Schineller once asked a theology student of his, a religious sister, what she would say if she were to preach on the feast of Ascension. She immediately replied, "The Ascension is God’s act of faith in us." Indeed, this is a masterful summary of the Ascension of our resurrected and living Lord. To verify the sister’s claim we need look no further than our Gospel today, wherein Jesus tells the disciples, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). In obedience to this command, "they went forth and preached everywhere" and as a result of their steadfastness, "the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs" (Mark 16:20).

In order to accomplish this great commission, the ascending Jesus tells them that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit descends on them. Only then will they be his "witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). The fact that we are gathered here in Salt Lake City, Utah for Sunday worship, celebrating and commemorating the Ascension some 2,000 years later is the verification of the success of their mission.

May is a month when we venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary in an especially devout way. We do this by holding May crownings, by keeping fresh flowers by all her statues and shrines, and by seeking her intercession more fervently. We seek her intercession by praying to her, especially through our devotion to the rosary. The mysteries of the rosary we focus on in a particular way this year, due to the fact that Pentecost, which marks the end of fifty days of Easter, falls on the very last day of May, are the glorious mysteries, depicted so beautifully in stained glass on the East side of the cathedral. I urge you to contemplate each window as we briefly explore these mysteries together.

The first of the Glorious mysteries is the resurrection, the fruit of which is faith. Indeed, as Christians the resurrection of the Son of God is the cornerstone of our faith. As St. Paul, whose powerful and dynamic apostolate we are commemorating this year, wrote to the Corinthians, who were floating philosophical theories, which continue to proliferate down to our own day, about Jesus’ rising from the dead: "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins…If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all" (1 Cor. 15:17-19). Our own beloved and benevolent patroness, St. Mary Magdalene, was the first witness of this cosmos-shattering event, making her apostula apostoloroum, the apostle to the apostles. Faith is to believe the testimony of a witness. As the People of St. Mary Magdalene, marking one hundred years in this lovely cathedral dedicated to her, we are called to continue giving witness to our new life in Christ right here and right now. As the apostle wrote to the Romans: "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Rom. 10:13). He goes on to ask, “how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent" (Rom. 10:14-15a)? We are an apostolic church, thus we teach and practice what is handed down from the apostles and by our reception the truth are sent forth as witnesses.

The second Glorious mystery of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Ascension. The fruit of this mystery is hope. Hope is the flower of faith. Hoping is different from wishing or dreaming. To conflate hope and optimism is to tragically reduce this theological virtue. To be optimistic means to remain positive about the future despite being uncertain about the outcome. Hence, optimism is often unreasonable. By contrast, to be hopeful is to be certain about the future precisely because we know the outcome. This knowledge is rooted in reality, in the fact of Christ’s resurrection from the dead; because Christ has been raised from the dead our last enemy has been defeated. One day this past month I wrote to a friend that while I am always hopeful, on that particular day I was feeling strangely optimistic. He replied: "Stick with hope. Optimism is almost always a fool's substitute." Nonetheless, I think a positive outlook arises from one who places his/her hope in Christ and can be maintained even when things do not work out exactly as we might want them to, confident that God is at work even in and through our disappointments and discouragements.

The third Glorious mystery of the rosary is the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Virgin Mary and the other disciples at Pentecost. The fruit of this mystery is the love of God for us, the reassurance that he is always with us in every circumstance of our lives. Pentecost is the Greek name given the Jewish festival of Shavu'ot, the Festival of Weeks. This is the second of the three major Jewish festivals, Passover and Sukkot being the others. Shavu’ot is the celebration of God’s giving the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Next weekend, on Pentecost, Bishop Wester will administer the sacrament of confirmation here in the cathedral, anointing the confirmandi with the oil of sacred chrism, thus conferring on them "a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit like that of Pentecost" (Compendium of the Catechism par. 268). This outpouring will impress "on their souls an indelible character" and produce growth in the grace they first received in baptism, giving them "a special strength to witness" to Jesus Christ, "“the way and the truth and the life"” (ibid; John 14:6). By conferring the Holy Spirit on us, God carves his law, which is the law of love, on our hearts.

The final two Glorious mysteries have to do with Mary herself. The fourth mystery points us to her bodily Assumption into heaven, prompting us to pray for the grace of a happy death, which directs us back to the Ascension, to hope that is our certainty about what Christ has done for us. Finally, we come to the fifth of the Glorious mysteries, Mary’s coronation as Queen of heaven, the fruit of which is trust in her intercession. I believe what St. Therese, our beloved Little Flower, wrote about Mary: "She is more Mother than Queen."

If the Ascension is God’s act of faith in us, then he equips us to carry out the mission to which he calls us. Like the first disciples, we, too, are witnesses of these things because Jesus Christ lives and because he sends his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is Christ’s resurrection presence among us. Jesus also gives us his mother to be our mother and so we pray: Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam. Come Holy Spirit, come through Mary.

I challenge everyone here today to invoke the help of the Blessed Virgin every day during this last week of Easter by praying a five decades of the rosary and meditating on the Glorious mysteries with an intention for all those in our parish who will complete their Christian initiation on Pentecost, for our parish during this, our centennial year, in light of our emphasis on parish stewardship, to discern your witness, role and responsibility among the people of St. Mary Magdalene, a people who exist only to testify that Christus Resurrexit quia Deus caritas est! Christ is risen because God is love!

Friday, May 22, 2009

A few Friday thoughts

It has been a busy and very good day. I did a lot of yard work, finished a pre-residency assignment, and wrote my homily for Sunday, which in our diocese and several other churches in the western United States, is Ascension. I have a lot more reading to do over the next month, but it is interesting stuff. Yesterday, I finished an article I was asked to write. 1,500 words is not a lot of space, you have to make every word count. I ask you, is that not as it should be?

Blogging is a very undisciplined form of writing. I can write about whatever I want for as long as I want. The discipline of school, preaching, committee work and writing articles is very good for me. I am sure that all of these more disciplined endeavors helps my blogging, too.

Look for my homily to be posted at 7:00 PM MDT on Sunday.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Memento mori

Sometimes, while lying in bed, I meditate on death, my own death. It is not really an intentional act, it kind of comes upon me unbidden, especially when I wake up on those mornings and still feel really tired. What I see and feel are pretty explicit and not fanciful in the least. It used to bother and disturb me, but I have come to see that confronting my own mortality is necessary. In fact, I was listening to an interview with a journalist a year or so back. He traveled the world in order talk to people he had met and who struck him as being happy. I remember one man in Germany who said that he thought in order to be happy one needs to spend a few minutes each day remembering death. Each time we go to sleep is a little death and each morning a resurrection, a miracle in the form of the gift of another day, which is a grace.

In accordance with the fact that I will die someday, I must continue to die daily to myself, in the way my baptism and diaconal ordination bid me do.

Last night I attended the ordination of two deacons for our diocese. The Gospel reading had Jesus saying, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life" (St. John 12:24-25).

In his homily Bishop Wester said something that comforted me. In talking about how diaconal service is self-emptying, he said the deacon must forgo many pleasures and give up aspirations in order to serve. I needed very much to hear these words because I have been feeling a bit discouraged. It helps even more to hear them spoken by my bishop. These words also help me deal with my expectations about service and return on investment. Ministry does not operate according to the principles of market exchange. In the end, it is not the point of diaconal ministry for me get anything at all. Besides, if I have Christ I have everything. By the grace and mystery of God, I have Christ. Why me? I have no idea, except perhaps that God saw that if he can accomplish his work through me, given my weaknesses and limitations, his glory would shine through. After all, as the apostle wrote, "we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us" ( 2 Cor. 4:7). A point of serious Christian maturity is reached when you realize that you are Christ's presence in and for the world and that his light shines through the places you are broken.

Let's think about Mass in concrete terms. We receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ, he is in us, so to speak. After this we are sent forth, but sent forth to be his presence. Something mysterious happens when we grasp this- Christ's presence is more readily discerned in the people and circumstances we experience.

I am posting an early traditio by Jars of Clay, their song Jealous Kind. I love this song and album very much. When I bought it several years ago, as I am wont to do, I listened to it in order to absorb it.

While I am on the subject of gifts, I did not know until yesterday that America magazine, the premiere Catholic periodical in this country, because this year is their centennial year, is giving away free access to all on-line content during May and June. This is truly a great gift. I urge you to avail yourselves. Registration is required, but can be done very quickly. I have subscribed for quite a few years now and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hierarchy update

Moving quickly to fill the vacancy created when His Excellency, Bishop Robert Carlson, was transferred to St. Louis, the Holy Father named Bishop Joseph R. Cistone, 61, an auxiliary of the archdiocese of Philadelphia, to be bishop of Saginaw. Michigan.

With this appointment there are now five vacant sees in the U.S.: Cheyenne, Wyoming; Duluth, Minnesota; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Ogdensburg, N.Y.; Owensboro, Kentucky.

The number of Latin rite bishops currently serving beyond the mandatory retirement age of 75 (i.e., bishops whose resignations the Holy Father has not accepted) remains at eleven.

Since my last posting, the Holy Father has also accepted the resignations of Bishop Bernard Harrington of Winona, Minnesota, who was succeeded by his coadjutor, Bishop John Quinn, and that of Bishop Ignatius Wang, auxiliary of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Both men resigned in accordance with canon 401 §1, with canon 411 also applying in the case of Bishop Wang.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

At the mercy of the body

A quick thought on the fifth chapter of a fascinating book on sacramental theology, using as it does Wittgensteinian analysis, even if only to a slight degree:

I very much like conceiving of the symbolic language of the liturgy as a language game. To see it as such is not to trivialize it in the least, but to recognize it for what it is and to make sense of the thesis floated at the beginning of the book, namely that all of reality is mediated to us and that language plays a key and indispensible role in this mediation. Language is certainly the only way we are able to make sense- in the liturgy that is what we do- make reality, that which constitutes reality (i.e., the paschal mystery), sensible and sensory; reality being that which comes to us involuntary from outside ourselves. As he writes in the previous chapter: "Not only is language efficacious but it is what is most efficacious" ( The Sacraments: The Word of God at the Mercy of the Body 91 italics in the original).

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuesday notes, or reflections on Monday

After the Monday I had, I believe that the armor of God as described in the sixth chapter of Ephesians is missing a critical piece, classically known as a codpiece, with a more contemporary moniker of a cup. The difference, as far as I can tell, is whether you wear it on the inside or the outside.

Good taste requires that I spare you the picture of Rowan Atkinson modeling a medieval codpiece in his role as Prince Edmund in Blackadder I. I could easily stay home today and watch all four Blackadder series and not give it a second thought, but duty calls and I am convinced that Christ has something great in store for me in carrying them out!- "Remember, O Blessed Virgin Mary, that never was it known..."

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Obama and ND- a last gasp

It is odd that President Obama invoked the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin in his ND address yesterday. For those of you who remember this great man, the last few chapters of whose autobiography I cried my way through while on retreat several years ago, he was the force behind the seamless garment of life view and the initiator of the Common Ground Initiative. Both of these endeavors are very worthwhile, though the latter has kind of run out of steam.

What is odd about the president invoking Bernardin is that when it comes to the seamless garment of life, he is content to rip it apart, being pro-choice on abortion, in favor embryonic stem cell research, and for the death penalty. Of course, he is in a position to tip the scales, as it were, by naming a Supreme Court justice, but I am not holding my breath. As for Fr. Jenkins invoking the mystical Body of Christ and asserting ND's place in it, it is one thing to say it and quite another to live it and to recognize that it is a hierarchical body, one in which ND is not an ecclesial island nor a law unto itself. This whole affair, started by ND's flawed process, is a wound inflicted on our communio. Many responses and protests, especially those that ignored the direction of the local ordinary, Bishop D'Arcy, had the effect of pouring salt into the fresh cut.

The best comment on this whole affair was reported by Rocco over at Whispers and was uttered by St. Louis' archbishop-elect, Robert Carlson, who, according to Palmo, said that "'whatever process [Notre Dame] used' in selecting Obama 'was flawed,' and that 'when this is finally over, that we're going to have to sit down and have a heart-to-heart discussion about what is its future' as a Catholic institution." This seems to me a constructive attitude. In my opinion, there is a lot to be learned here about just what it means to be Christ's mystical body and to belong to it.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

David Brent, chilled out entertainer- Saturday media miscellania

I have wanted to post this video for quite some time. I really love The Office, not the U.S. knock-off, but the real deal, the U.K. version. I am an Office purist of sorts. I own the original series on DvD. What I like about Ricky Gervais is that, in addition to being over-the-top funny, he is poignant and very human. His HBO series Extras is also very good in just this same way. Oddly, I don't much care for Gervais as a stand-up comedian. Besides, we've all had to sit through training days at work, wouldn't a little Brent-like take-over of these proceedings make them infinitely more entertaining? There is a full-up version of Free Love Freeway, with an assist from a member of Oasis, trivia question is, which member?

Who knows, perhaps next week we'll have a little Father Ted? The new Green Day album, 21st Century Breakdown, was released yesterday. I have to finish digesting Dylan's Together Through Life, which I am loving, first. My favorite cut thus far is I Feel a Change Comin' On. "I'm listening to Billy Joe Shaver/And I'm reading James Joyce/Some people, they tell me/I've got the blood of the land in my voice."
"The Court of Catholic Conscience is now open. His Most Catholic Majesty will now administer open air justice. Free medical and legal advice, solution of doubles and other problems. All cordially invited. Given at this loyal city of Dublin in the year 1 of the Paradisiacal Era" (Ulysses, pg 487 of Modern Library edition).
Perhaps we can substitute South Bend for Dublin. On this Joyce-ian note, President Obama delivers his commencement address at ND tommorrow. I have to say that this whole affair has gotten to be embarrassing. Why can't we just let Bishop D'Arcy's (the local ordinary) statement suffice? Whether you agree with ND's decision or not, it is happening! The world will not end, Christ is still risen and we are still called to give witness to our new life in Christ. This is THE positive hypothesis, or rather, fact. As St. Paul wrote: "If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied" (1 Cor. 15:19). I also think Ambassador Glendon's refusal to take up her position in ND's all too clever triangulation strategy laudable. Beyond that, what ya gonna do, 'cept pout and grouse?

In my opinion, the real scandal is the polarization and public divisiveness this has sparked within the church. This merely demonstrates, yet again, that virtually nobody, regardless as to which "side" you're on, really accepts the hierarchical nature of our communio. It also shows what happens when we put the political over what really matters and reduce faith to ideology. Again, I want to thank Chris Bacich and our National Diaconia for A New Commencement. I am more convinced than ever that this represents the right attitude and approach.

I would like to be spared all these 1) over-cooked 2) cris d' coeur!

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Governor Huntsman to be U.S. Ambassador to China

Utah's Republican Governor, Jon Huntsman, Jr. who was overwhelmingly re-elected just last November and who is seen as a rising star in the G.O.P., was named today by President Obama to be the U.S. ambassador to China. This comes as a bit of a surprise because it is hardly a secret that Huntsman was considering a presidential run in 2012.

Last campaign, Huntsman was an early endorser of Sen. McCain, which was seen by some as a betrayal of his fellow Latter-day Saint, Gov. Romney. He spoke at the Republican convention in St. Paul last summer, rallying the troops on behalf of his fellow governor, Sarah Palin.

Huntsman has diplomatic experience, having served as ambassador to Indonesia during the administration of President George H.W. Bush. At the time, he was the youngest U.S. ambassador in over a century. He also served in the early first George W. Bush administration as a deputy U.S. Trade Representative. He served his LDS mission in Taiwan, where he became fluent in Mandarin Chinese. Given how important our relations with China are, I think the president has chosen wisely.

Huntsman made it very clear that he would not serve as governor beyond his second term. It comes as a surprise, however, that he is not finishing his second term. Gov. Huntsman has been trying to position himself as a moderate by coming out in favor of some form of civil unions for same sex couples, which has drawn the ire of many. In fact, this stance resulted in him being disinvited from giving a major address to a conservative group. He has been an effective governor, a good governor. I am sad to see him go, as he is a breath of fresh air in Utah's often frightening and extreme political culture.

He was wishy-washy about private school vouchers. When the Utah Legislature passed a private school voucher bill, it was with Gov. Huntsman's support and approval. When the voucher question was put to a referendum, Huntsman initially supported it. The bill was a win/win proposition. As public support began to lean heavily in the direction of voting against vouchers, Huntsman, while not withdrawing his support, just sort of disappeared, became very luke-warm and tried to distance himself publicly from the whole matter. On the other hand, before the economic melt down, in the years when Utah was chalking up hundreds of millions of dollars in budget surpluses, the legislature tried to eliminate some $2 million in funding for a program that provided disabled Utahns with some medical help, like eye care. After failing to convince to the legislature to reinstate funding for the program, Governor Huntsman raised the money privately and funded it.

He also been known to pop up at my parish, The Cathedral of the Madeleine, for Mass from time-to-time, as well as to participate in the worship of other religious communities around the city. He and his wife have seven children. Five of which are theirs by birth and two daughters who are adopted; one from India and one from China. Like President Obama, he shows family values by living them and not just as some political stunt. More often than the president, Huntsman translates this into coherent political positions, ones that are in step with his values, which flow from his faith. In case you can't tell, I am kind of lamenting the fact that he will not likely run in 2012. He is only 49. So, there is time for him.

Anyway, it made an interesting Saturday morning headline: Obama: Crucial Role for Huntsman in China

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Friday, May 15, 2009

"When I was young and fever fell..."

I Believe by REM is our traditio this Friday, albeit a late one.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Reality is not against us

There is something I know to be true but I have a difficult time adhering to it. It is the fact that reality is not against me, but for me, that my life and the moments, events, and people that make it up are my path to destiny. I am never reminded of this more than when I receive Traces each month. I am particularly reminded by reading the letters. Two that I read this evening after School of Community moved me to the point of needing to turn my laptop back on and write about this experience, both to make sense of it myself and to perhaps communicate it to others. The first was sent by Giuseppina, who is 85. In her letter she shares some experiences she had during a recent hospital stay; what struck me were these words: "If you let His presence in, you learn to look, stay, and to come to the judgment that reality is not against you, but is for your own good." If being the key, it is up to us, left to our freedom. Too often I assert myself against reality, trying to twist it.

In another letter, from Laura, who writes about her relationship with her daughter, the magnitude of experience, everyday experience, is realized, simple things that happened to her that caused her to lift her gaze and realize that reality is not against me. This caused a shift "from an obstinate reliance on [her] own strength to the openness to the forms reality was presenting [her].

It is funny because I had an unpleasant conversion with my own son on the drive home this evening. I was the cause of the unpleasantness. I also felt that our School of Community this was a little abstract and discursive, which I find a bit frustrating. This frustration is a provocation for me to be a better leader, which requires me to realize that even the reality of SofC is not against me and to see that the charism of the Movement is the work of Another, not my work and that not adhering to the method is an assertion of myself, a failure of trust, which is to entrust myself and our School to Another. It is not just facing reality, but engaging it, seeing that everything that happens to me is for my own good. These are the kind of words that sound empty, but are not when filled with desire.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Slippery slope?

Slippery slope arguments are logical fallacies. However, not every argument that sees the loosening or tightening of certain strictures as having negative consequences is a slippery slope. The de-humanization of various classes of human beings, especially those at the end of life and the very beginning of life, is one such example. Assisted suicide leads us on a march toward euthanasia, especially as we begin to discuss the rationing of health care to lower costs. At the root of all this, at least in the U.S., is the right to privacy, created out of whole cloth, or the penumbra of the constitution, by the Supreme Court in 1973. Not only is it an invented right (i.e., one not explicitly articulated in the Bill of Rights, which are set forth in the first ten amendments to the constitution), it has risen to the most important of all rights.

I see it as axiomatic that a healthy society cannot be based on the absolute supremacy of the individual. While a free society must guarantee certain individual rights, there is a need to create a balance from the inherent tension between individual rights and the good of society as a whole. In recent decades, at least since the disaster of the late 1960s, a period of attempted anarchy that is still lionized by many, most western countries are out of balance, exalting individual rights over the common good. This results in exalting a woman's right to choose over another person's right to live. To fill this void, many countries, increasingly the U.S., are becoming more statist because without undue influence by the government, such an imbalance is unsustainable.

When it comes to advancing the culture of death the reality is beginning to out pace the most dire predictions. Deacon Greg points us to something very disturbing, a development that should get our attention. In Sweden health authorities have determined that no abortion can be refused, at least until the eighteenth week of pregnancy, even abortions for women who cite the gender of the in utero child as the reason for seeking one. You guessed it, the woman who challenged the previous restriction, has now aborted two girls. In addition to being racist, abortion, as with infanticide in China, is sexist. Proponents of abortion on demand continue to insist that they are on the side of human rights, even when their support for abortion fatally undercuts so many other human rights. It is alarming that this incoherence is permitted to persist and not even noticed. When will we see that morality cannot be grounded in a kind of agnostic pragmatism?

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What am I doing?

Being busy is the characteristic of Easter for me, more so than any other time of the year. We are getting close to the Pentecost confirmation and First Communion of our parish young people, who receive both sacraments at age 8. There are those 11-14, who we group together, who will receive these sacraments along with them. Then there are our 14-16 year-olds, who are preparing for confirmation, who will be confirmed by Bishop Wester, along with a third group of full-fledged adults who, for various reasons, were never confirmed, on the vigil of Pentecost. I have primary responsibility for the 14-16 year-olds and the adults and I teach a series of Sunday classes for the parents of all the young people.

RCIA is just coming to a conclusion for this year, too. Then there are my weekly baptismal preparation classes for parents of infants and small children. I am glad that School of Community is on Wednesday, it is my mid-week sustenance. In the midst of all this I did manage to complete a five-page paper, which I started on the weekend, last evening. I still have to finish my works cited page. I have nine sources for five pages!

I can tell you that two people make all this possible, my lovely wife, who supports me and loves me, and the Blessed Mother, who intercedes on my behalf and for those I mentioned above and for whom I pray fervently everyday, lifting them up to her. Without either one of these sources of strength, I would be sunk. Instead, I feel good, energetic, excited. Once next week is over, I have a lot of time at home before trotting off to Winona for my last year of courses. Remarkably, I have been able to get my yard in shape, too! Of course, it is great having a son who just turned 15 and who had been quite helpful. Bottom line: I am blessed and I am grateful.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday and the world awaits

It is Monday, a new week dawned yesterday and the world awaits us this morning. Strengthened by our Sunday Eucharist, it is time for us to go forth, as we were sent, and usher in God's kingdom today. On the whole, it is no small task. However, it is done by many small tasks, motivated by love, throughout the day and week. Always, but especially during this month, we have recourse to our Blessed Mother. Do not forget the Memorare and/or the rosary today.

Please pray for those young people in your parish who are preparing to continue or complete their Christian initiation by receiving the sacrament of confirmation and making their First Communion. If possible, get a list and pray for them by name. If not, just pray for them as a group.

Remember to pray with intention, to ask for what you need and to lift up others in prayer. Be specific about what you ask our Blessed Mother to intercede for on your behalf. Only in this way can you come to know that her intercession is efficacious.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lemonade Stand Award

I'd like to thank David who blogs over at A Roman Catholic Convert for giving me the Lemonade Stand Award two weeks ago. I have cherished the award since then, but it is now time for me to relinquish it and hand it on. The award is given to bloggers whose posting demonstrates great attitude and gratitude. So, I award it to the following:

If you have never read these blogs, I encourage you to do so. You won't be disappointed.

Here are the rules:

1) Put the Lemonade Award logo on your blog or post.

2) Nominate at least 5 blogs that show great attitude or gratitude (half of the original 10)

3) Link to your nominees within your post.

4) Let the nominees know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

5) Share the love and link to the person from whom you received your award.

Even though I do not know how to leave a comment on Clarity Currents, I know Sharon visits these pages.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was also given this award by the IC awhile back. The Ironic Catholic is, indeed, a blogger who shows great attitude and gratitude. She demonstrates that being a Christian means being joyful and happy, as opposed to being a long-faced moralist. To quote her longtime heading, gently lifted (and attributed- I can expect no less from a professor of mine) from our dear Flannery: "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd."

You can see many images from my school, St. Mary's University, in a video posted by the IC for Mother's Day.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Penance brings forth beauty

I love Bono's shout out to Michael Hutchence (the guest guitarist from the audience is wearing an INXS t-shirt), who was a dear friend of his. In fact, Stuck In A Moment off the All That You Can't Leave Behind album is a tribute to Hutchence. Friday is good time to face reality squarely, to take stock of our lives, our foibles, our sins. Besides, most of us have lost friends and loved ones along the way. To see in Christ crucified the perfect and infinite love God has for each one of us. Even with all our wounds and scars, we are beautiful to God- more beautiful for all that. I am personally convinced that the Son was never more beautiful to the Father than when he was hanging on the cross.

It goes to show that Bono, being possessed of the requisite Celtic spirit, can make up lyrics like a mad man and that being able to play Knockin' is a prerequisite to being in a true rock n' roll band.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

"That long black cloud is comin' down"

From the same 1976 unreleased footage that Bob does a reggae version of Like a Rolling Stone, comes this version of Knockin' on Heaven's Door. To quote the most ironic of the lyrics from Dylan's new album, "it's alright because it's all good." Knockin' is our traditio today. Even today, if you want to be a rock n' roll band, you have to know this song and It's a Long Way to the Top. As a full-blooded Celt, there is nothing cooler than the haggis solo! Of course, there is this classic Gn'R version of Knockin'.

Take a listen to Doug Brinkley's interview with Tom Ashbrook about his recent opportunity to talk to Dylan. There are few people that I respect as much as I respect Bob Dylan. You can read Brinkley's interview with Dylan in the current issue of Rolling Stone- I bought it yesterday.

At points in life, we're rolling stones, with no direction home, like complete unknowns. Like so many Dylan songs, this one resonates with our experience, as does Knockin'.

I found this gem over on Clarity Currents: "Teach me, O Lord, whence I ought to hope, so that I can pray. For I long to pray to you; but I neither know how because of my ignorance, nor am I able to because of my hardness." - St. Anslem of Canterbury. To learn I turn to the Blessed Virgin.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

May is Mary's month- flee to her protection

Deacon Greg, author of The Deacon's Bench, writes something quite beautiful about Dom DeLuise, who passed on 4 May. Apparently, he was devoted to our Blessed Mother. The fourth mystery of the Joyful mysteries of the rosary is Mary's Assumption into heaven. The fruit of this mystery is the joy of a happy death. Of course, May is the month of Mary.

Praying to our Blessed Mother, indeed, calms us, help us, reminds us to live in awareness of our destiny. To that end, Suzanne, who posts something quite stunning for its concreteness over on Come to See about praying to the Virgin Mary, Learning to flee and implore (and to arrive and receive), posts this by St. Augustine:

"But there is another and interior way of praying without ceasing, and that is the way of desire. Whatever else you are doing, if you long for that Sabbath, you are not ceasing to pray. If you do not want to cease praying, do not cease longing. Your unceasing desire is your unceasing voice."


Remember, O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored they help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee O Virgin of virgins, my mother. To thee I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, do not despise my petition, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

I updated my link to Sharon, Clarity Currents.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"Explain the change, the difference between..."

The fact that time passes is a good indication that it does not belong to us, we cannot hold it, it forces us to relinquish. I have been fascinated by the very concrete, real, and yet elusive nature of time since first immersing myself in Heidegger's Being & Time. I like very much when Giussani said "time [is] a mobilization of everything, of all that we see, of all that we feel" ( Is It Possible to Live This Way?, vol. 2, pg 124- see also U2's Leave it Behind).

"All that we see, all that we feel is the object or subject of a mobility," an inevitable movement forward, which we cannot halt, "that passes and filters everything - mountains, stars, faces - through something within us, awareness of destiny and freedom: now it becomes a mobilization, awareness of past time that becomes awareness of time that passes" (ibid).

On what I think is their best album, Life's Rich Pageant, REM recorded their song I Believe, the first verse of which begins with these words: "When I was young and full of grace", before moving on to the second:

"I believe in coyotes and time as an abstract
Explain the change, the difference between
What you want and what you need, there's the key,
Your adventure for today, what do you do
Between the horns of the day?"

So, time is as good an indication as any for which we could ask that we do not belong to ourselves. We belong to Another, which, Don Gius observed, is "strange in itself, enigmatic, mysterious; we are used to calling it God, but we can't even call it God, we don't have the right to call it God if we don't perceive it in its elusive mystery" (Is It Possible, vol. 2, pgs. 126-7). In other words, faith is neither pragmatism nor day-dreaming, but an honest facing of reality, of the reality of my life in its elusive mystery, or, recognizing that I am a direct relationship with the Mystery, which, despite being direct, is somewhat elusive. The elusive nature of my being is what makes it necessary for me to recognize it. It is this reality that makes faith, as Cardinal Martini observed, "living the dialectical tension between the seen and the unseen." This tension flows from the kind of being I am. This is also why it is recognition of the what of my being that makes me a who, an I.

Because hope, which is certainty about the future, is borne from faith, I must engage reality according to the totality of its factors. If I do not, then I can't have hope, which is a certainty and not a mere wish. In other words, faith does not render what I do in the time of my life, which is given to me, irrelevant, it is precisely what makes what I do relevant, giving it meaning and value.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"Deliver us from evil"

God does not tempt us in order to test us. Nonetheless, there are temptations because God does not deprive us of our freedom. That we find what is evil alluring is sign that we are not yet free. Indeed, as Glen Stassen observes, "if we spend all our effort on our own white-knuckled struggle against a temptation, it grows bigger and bigger."

"It isn't necessary," Giussani taught us, "to cultivate plans of perfection, but to look Christ in the face" (Is It Possible to Live This Way?, vol. 2, pg. 117). He urged us not to "daydream and aim for perfection, but look Christ in the face: if one looks Christ in the face... everything is straightened out, everything falls into place..." (ibid).

"Deliver us, Lord, from every evil and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ."

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A prolegomena to any future captured terrorist interrogation

Torture is wrong;
water boarding is torture, therefore
water boarding is wrong

It is never permissible to do what is wrong to obtain a desired good end. In other words, ends do not justify means. On my understanding, ethics are to morals what technology is to science. Stated more clearly, ethics is about applying morals. If you get the morality wrong, it is most likely that you will do something wrong. Morality needs to be grounded and pragmatism is not a sufficient ground for morals, which is why, even if embryonic stem cells led to therapies and cures (this is far from certain), it is still wrong to create life in order to destroy it. Now, I will accept that ethics, applying morals to life, requires a certain degree of pragmatism, but never to the degree that results in it being okay to do what morality forbids.

So, the take away here is that even if this particular "enhanced interrogation tactic" yielded actionable intelligence, it was still wrong, a contravention of U.S. and international laws. Think of the precedent this sets across the board, at home and abroad.

We must never forget, as Giussani reminds us, that "[t]he source of being moral is loving someone, not fulfilling laws" (Is It Possible to Live This Way?: An Unusual Approach to Christian Existence, vol. 2, Hope, pg. 117).

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Friday, May 1, 2009

"They don't give a damn about any trumpet playing band"

This is just too cool not to post, it helps with the blahs!!! Mark Knopfler rules. Hey, since we're now friends on Facebook, this is for Alex, who I know loves DS. It was from Alex's blog that I found the link to this: Congressman Reads Long List of Sex Acts on House Floor. Either you're curious, or you're a liar!

The far away shots look like it's at Mecca with that canopy looking like it is over the Kaba'a. I'd make the Hajj if it featured a live concert by Dire Straits! On the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, to whom a very blue-collar parish in our diocese is dedicated, the pastor of which parish I had the privilege of sharing lunch today, albeit a working lunch; this is for those who play, like Dire Straits, the music of the working-class, of which I am a born and bred member, having been apprenticed to a plumber at age 15. I was told today by the Judicial Vicar of our diocese that I looked like a Lutheran pastor. What a compliment! If I were not Catholic I'd probably be a Lutheran, or possibly an Anglican.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.


Some Goldberg Variations, by Maria Yudina, is our traditio. I love the Goldberg Variations, they are beautiful. I also fixed the link to the Pew Forum study. See also May is the month of Mary.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Year B Third Sunday of Easter

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