Monday, August 31, 2009

We pass another time marker- August

I can't believe August ends today. It has been quite a summer and a fairly quiet summer. I am thankful for that, it is a grace. Time is a function of change.

Writing about change, I have been following the case of Bishop Joseph Martino whose resignation as bishop of the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania was accepted by the Holy Father this morning, over the past week. He submitted his resignation with reference to canon 410, par. 2, which allows a bishop to resign for health or other grave reasons. Pope Benedict named Justin Cardinal Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, as Apostolic Administrator of Scranton until a successor to Bishop Martino is installed.

Without a doubt, Bishop Martino's six years in Scranton have been difficult, as the diocese needed to make big changes during his time as bishop. There is a press conference in Scranton even as I type. Watching it I am moved to compassion for Bishop Martino, especially given his honesty about the toll episcopal ministry has taken on him as a person. This should move us all to have compassion and even mercy for our bishops. I believe we are called to pray for our bishops daily and to support them as we would Christ. Having had the privilege of seeing two wonderful bishops work up close, I can attest to how hard they work, how much they care, and how committed they are, as shepherds, to following Christ, the Good Shepherd, which is the only way they can effectively lead God's holy people . We all know how much criticism many bishops take. They take it patiently without getting defensive and lashing out.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

"resistance to annihilation of the human subject"

Fred, writing over on la nouvelle, reflects on the political legacy of Sen. Kennedy: "For too long, Catholics in this country have accepted the findings of experts, journalists, and statisticians as facts: objective and neutral facts. Too often, the knowledge that is acceptable is only a knowledge that excludes faith. Only after the experts have pronounced 'what is' can the person of faith then judge what the Gospels would recommend for be done in the situation (and this judgment is either an opinion or a feeling about what is right). The end of this process is a passionate action empowered by one's religiousness." The religiousness thus empowered is best described a religiosity, a trivialization of religion, a reduction which is at once moralistic and sentimental. Of course, such an instrumental view cuts across party lines and exposes so-called conservatives as well as self-professed liberals. I might also delicately point out that taking such a mechanistic view of the human person was a mistake made by several bishops with regard to pedophile priests.

This line of reasoning made me think of emotivism as defined and described by Alasdair MacIntyre in his still important book After Virtue, especially his dealings with what is known as the fact-value distinction. Let's lay this out clearly at the beginning- facts do not and cannot determine value, much less meaning. 50% of people prefer chocolate to vanilla and 65% of people prefer vanilla with hot fudge to chocolate. I made that up. I am not contending that is meaningless or even useless, especially if you own an ice cream shop! The latter observation forces a reasonable critique of capitalist/consumerist manipulation. Marx wasn't wrong about everything. In fact, his critiques were mostly right on, especially regarding alienation and that capitalism thrives by conflating what we want with what we need. Turning wants into needs is what brought the U.S. economy to its knees. Any attempt to go back to a situation in which 3/4ths of GDP is consumer spending is bound to yield the same result.

Referring to the work of American pragmatist philosopher and mathematician Willard Van Orman Quine, MacIntyre writes: "if there is to be a science of human behavior whose key expressions characterize that behavior in terms of precise enough to provide us with genuine laws, those expressions must be formulated in a vocabulary which omits all reference to intentions, purposes, and reasons for action" (83). The result here is that you might have science, but you certainly have no humanity. MacIntyre calls this view mechanism. A better view of human action, a more ancient view, is opposed to mechanism and asserts that human action has to evaluated teleologically, which means that facts about human action must necessarily "include the facts about what is valuable to human beings (and not just the facts about what they think to be valuable)". On the mechanistic view, there are no facts about what is valuable to human beings (ibid). "'Fact' becomes value-free, 'is' becomes a stranger to 'ought' and explanation, as well as evaluation, changes its character as a result of this divorce between 'is' and 'ought'" (ibid).

This may all seem very abstract, but MacIntyre goes on to show its concrete implications by referring to Marx's third thesis on Feuerbach: Marx's mechanistic understanding of human action included his belief in "the predictability of human behavior," as well as his belief about how to manipulate human behavior (ibid). Even for the philosophically and politically uninitiated, red flags should be going up, the freedom wire tripped, prompting a cultural response because culture, unlike science, is about ultimate meaning, a response such as writing a song like Know Your Enemy. This is a wholly human response, even if there confusion about who and what the enemy is.

MacIntyre continues:"As an observer, if I know the relevant laws governing the behavior of others, I can whenever I observe that the antecedent conditions have been fulfilled predict the outcome. As an agent, if I know these laws, I can whenever I can contrive the fulfillment of the same antecedent conditions produce the outcome." This brings us to literature, to Dostoevsky in particular, to his revolt against this kind of scientific socialism. A negative reaction to this grand and erroneous reduction of the human person was also the cause of Camus' metaphysical revolt as described in The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt. This, too, is what I meant when I wrote, "I think it is the desire to impose values that often makes Christianity unattractive in our late modern milieu" and when I stated that "I have no interest in being an example," but a witness and, finally, [t]he church is never less the church than when we try to make the Gospel a political program, which is not to say that certain Christian commitments don't inform our stance as citizens in a free society."

Awhile ago, when Cahiers was flourishing, I posted an observation made by the the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan that it is axiomatic for conservatives "that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society." By implication this means that it is "an atomic truth of liberalism that politics is more fundamental and important to society than culture." On this score, both U.S. Republicans and Democrats are liberal, a thesis that David L. Schindler has posited for a long time. Hence, the least desirable outcome, one that began in the late 1960s, "is the politicization of culture; culture co-opted in the service of politics." This is something I believe post-modernism is inclined to overcome, even if unconsciously at times. Post-modernism is fragmentary because, culturally, almost all we have are broken pieces. It is due to this reduction of human life to politics that some seek to banish religion from the public square. But, as Fred's insight shows, religion has not so much been banished as co-opted. Religion is dangerous because it dares to insist that meaning has its locus somewhere other than in political schemes, that is, in the reality that each human person is a direct relationship with the Mystery! Dostoevsky was right: we fear our freedom as the children of God!

I could not agree with Fred more when writes that "there is no experience without judgment. It's only a matter of which criteria [is] used." So, the question for today, is what does it mean to be free? I would contend, using the quote in my heading- "the Eucharist is the only place of resistance to annihilation of the human subject"- that Camus was on to something and that he was right to reject politics as the basis of action! Let's be martyrs, that is, witnesses! To this end, let us engage in the building of a truly human culture. We have a holy example in the person of Karol Wojtyla, who as a young man resisted the Nazis by performing Polish plays, reciting Polish poetry, and studying theology in an underground, illegal seminary.

So, instead of rallying up the demons of our souls, let's rally up the angels, just the really kick-ass ones, like Michael and Gabriel! I am pretty certain my guardian provokes me often, if not always! Indeed, as Billy Joe Armstrong observes, "violence is an energy against the enemy." Love is an energy, too, the energy the made everything, that urges creation to its fulfillment, and makes us protagonists. Love is not a sentiment, it is a provocation. Think about the word provocation, as with Michael Keaton's analysis of another word in the movie Night Shift: provocation= pro vocation, that is, living in the awareness of your destiny.

Synthesis momentarily achieved. Thanks to Fred and Mr. Cherry for provoking my latest bout of logorrhea.

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Is it always a man with a gun"?"

The Stranglers song There's Always the Sun is our traditio today. This was a great group, really solid New Wavers with a bit of a Goth twist.

"You know its not up to the Politicians and leaders, when they do things by halves."

St. Augustine, whose Memorial is today, might remind us There's always the Son! I would apologize for the overly pious pun, but I am not sorry for it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What happens when language prevails over reality

Oscar Giannino's response to the challenge that his approach to life was too philosophical, helped me arrive at a judgment regarding my recent re-reading of some of Samuel Beckett's works, particularly when he said that "the prevalence of language over reality, condemns culture to being merely a descriptive shelf on which the prevalence of Non-being drowns, rather than the instrument for continuous transformation based on the person who wants Being."

With these words Giannino described well my repulsive attraction to Beckett. It is my thanatos urge to wallow in contingency with no reference to transcendence. At least it consists of dismissing my desire, as in the case of Godot, seeing my longing as pointless and absurd, a distraction from really living. I think this is where Camus stands out, he takes transcendence seriously and does not dismiss it as fantasy, he wrestles with meaning. I would love to see, even participate in, a serious discussion on Camus in a setting like the Meeting. Today, I cannot help but think about Camus at the Meeting. To my mind, it would have been a good milieu for him. I think of the fragment, preserved in the book Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, of remarks he made at the Dominican Monastery of Latour-Maubourg in 1948, in which he addresses the phenomenon of what he calls "lay pharisaism": "To me a lay pharisee is the person who pretends to believe that Christianity is an easy thing and asks of the Christian, on the basis an external view of Christianity, more than he asks of himself. I believe indeed that the Christian has many obligations but that it is not up to the man who rejects them himself to recall their existence to anyone who has already accepted them. If there is anyone who can ask anything of the Christian, it is the Christian himself. The conclusion is that if I allowed myself at the end of this statement to demand of you certain duties, these could only be duties that it is essential to ask of any man today, whether he is a Christian or not" (Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, pg. 69). In this same set of remarks, he also states that he "shall never start from the presupposition that Christian truth is illusory," even though he could not himself accept it (ibid).

I want Being, that is, what Camus' fellow North African, whose liturgical memorial is tomorrow (his mother's- St. Monica- is today), St. Augustine, called the life that is truly life! This requires passionate engagement. Even more it requires Christ risen from the dead! My dear Camus understood this quite well.

Having utterly failed at coherently tying this in- I love his novel Happy Death. To over think it to the point of risking getting my ass kicked, I think punk rock was an attempt to re-establish the priority of experience.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy

I want to draw attention to a post on The Catholic Story by Deacon Eric Stoltz entitled “Go and do likewise”: Thoughts on Health Insurance Reform. It is about health care reform and what it means to see this issue from a Christian perspective.

I have to say that I am appalled by the vitriol heaped upon Ted Kennedy by many in the wake of his death the day-before-yesterday, Eric points to this at the beginning of his post. There are two things I have thought about these past few days. One is his career-long commitment to universal health care and the second is the dignity with which he faced his cancer. In response to Deacon Eric's piece, I wrote the following:

"The thing about Sen. Kennedy is that he was pragmatic about how to achieve universal coverage- as long as it was universal, affordable, and easy to access! He is probably the missing ingredient in the Administration's current push to achieve universal coverage.

"The church clearly teaches that access to basic health care, to include preventative care, etc. is a human right. So, we are committed to this cause. Ted Kennedy, as early as his first campaign for Senate, made this his cause. He was being honest when he said last summer it was the cause of his life. It is a worthy cause."

Of course, there other worthy causes of which he was champion, including unions, inclusion of the diabled, and civil rights.

The other observation I weighed in with in response to another thoughtful reflection by my friend Kim, was how much I admired "the courage and dignity with which he endured his terminal illness." To me, this speaks volumes about a person.

None of this ignores the fact that were issues, even fundamental and crucial issues, on which I thought he was just plain wrong. Most prominently among these was his stance on abortion, which changed from pro-life to pro-choice and his views on marriage. Also, he seems to have never proposed or supported a program that was too expensive for U.S. tax payers to fund. Stated simply, subsidarity was a word with which he seemed utterly unfamiliar, although he understood solidarity quite well. I also disagreed with his request, made last week, to change Massachusetts law to allow Gov. Patrick to appoint someone to take his place in the Senate, instead of holding an election. I opposed this because the law was changed to require an election in 2004, when Mitt Romney, a Republican, was governor of the state and there was the possibility that Sen. Kerry would be elected president. The change was made to prevent Gov. Romney from appointing a Republican. This struck me as way too political in the worst sense. Of course, there is the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, for which he was undeniably culpable, at least to some extent. Who knows how this weighed on him over the years? I certainly do not.

I think the New York Times obituary summarized the life of Sen. Kennedy well: "He was a celebrity, sometimes a self-parody, a hearty friend, an implacable foe, a man of large faith and large flaws, a melancholy character who persevered, drank deeply and sang loudly." Sounds pretty Irish to me. Ted Kennedy, R.I.P.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"The prime question in life is value judgment"

I read an interview in Traces last night with one of the most fascinating people I have encountered (albeit indirectly- I am liking the word "albeit" these days) in a long time, Oscar Giannino. Mr. Giannino, a trained lawyer and economist who worked for many years at high levels of Italian politics and who is now a journalist discusses Giussani's assertion that "the root of the heart is judgment." Giussani goes so far as to state that "value judgment is the prime question in life," as well as to assert that knowledge of reality is not possible "without an argument drawn from a value judgment."

Oscar Giannino
Giannino does not try to make us all infallible, he states quite clearly that "[o]ne who judges often makes mistakes." A mistake should not and, in fact, cannot stop us from making further value judgments. At one point the interviewer asks Giannino whether his approach to reality is too philosophical. Giannino responds by saying he doesn't think it is. Instead, he says "that the relativism which impregnated the terrible 20th century, child of the crisis of modernity and of the prevalence of language over reality, condemns culture to being merely a descriptive shelf on which the prevalence of Non-being drowns, rather than the instrument for continuous transformation based on the person who wants Being."

In the speech he was not allowed to deliver at the now ironically named La Sapienza University in Rome, due to ideological dogmatism, the Holy Father captured well what Giannino alludes to about the relativism of "the terrible 20th century."- "The danger for the western world... is that today, precisely because of the greatness of his knowledge and power, man will fail to face up to the question of the truth."

We must first look at ourselves and ask Am I willing to face up to the question of the truth? To ask this is to ask yourself if you are willing to make value judgments and make those judgments according to the criterion based on what you believe without evasion, without caving in to popular opinion. To that end, Giannino states, when asked what being a witness means for him: "I prefer thinking in categories different from authoritativeness..." He prefers to think "of people who involve us with their heart, and with it offer better arguments to experience in the future on which they base 'the prime question of life,'" value judgment. Or, you can do your own personal enactment of Pontius Pilate who, when staring Truth in the face, asks, "What is truth" (John 18:38)? Remember, "if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."

While this is not a long advertisement for Traces, it does give a good reason for you to make a judgment and subscribe.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It is not what you value, but whom

Comforming Jesus to what we already believe is an ideological move, one that puts values before Christ, who is the Pearl of Great Price!

Verifying Truth

If it can't be verified through experience, then it is not true. In a Christian context, even more particularly in a Catholic milieu, Giussani's dangerous idea remains controversial, even, I suspect, among many in the Movement. If I take seriously the fact that Christ became human to appease my longing, then being uncompromisingly true to my longing, my desire, must lead me to Him. If it does not, despite whatever steep, rocky, twisting, winding roads, and dead end allies my desire leads me (God knows I have taken plenty and that, even now, I wander), then it is not true. The extent to which I am suspicious of this is equal to how much I am lacking in faith, which is a form of knowledge that arises from my experience. I think it is the desire to impose values that often makes Christianity unattractive in our late modern milieu. It is not a question of whether or not to take a stand, or that being a Christian lacks a certain and true content, but how we stand: witness in the form of service, or, diakonia.

I am quite sure that, taking a cue from Giussani, this is what Pope Benedict meant when, at the beginning of Deus Caritas Est, he wrote: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction."

This also addresses the issue of not adhering to values, but to Christ, which is nothing other than the old question about faith and works. In following Christ what I hold dear becomes ever more apparent to me, my life as a disciple takes a certain form; being a witness of the encounter which, for me, became an event. Hence, obedience- that dangerous and heavy word- can never be mindless or unquestioning adherence to something imposed on me from outside. Truth is an experience and so must correspond with what is inside of me. If it does not, then it is enslaving and not liberating.

The truth is inside me because I am a direct relationship with the Mystery.

Living witness

Last Sunday I preached about marriage, but more moving or inspiring than any homily, sermon, book, essay, or dare I say, song is the fact that today my parents have been married for 48 years.

Happy anniversary Steve and Connie!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Year B 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Josh. 24:1-2a. 15-17. 18b; Ps. 34:2-4.16-21; Eph. 5:21-32; John 6:60-69

What does it mean to be a Christian? I think this is the question prompted today by our readings. Inevitably, this leads to questions about faith or, more precisely, the question what does it mean to have faith? The first thing that needs to be dismissed is reducing faith to mere belief. While believing is necessary for faith, it is not the sum total of faith. Faith is your response to what God has done for you. Hence, faith arises from experience and elicits not only a reasonable response, but the only reasonable response. This much is made clear in our first reading today when the children of Israel respond to Joshua’s challenge:

"Far be it from us to forsake the LORD
for the service of other gods.
For it was the LORD, our God,
who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt,
out of a state of slavery.
He performed those great miracles before our very eyes
and protected us along our entire journey
and among the peoples through whom we passed.
Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God" (Josh. 24:16-17.18b).

To detach faith from experience not only severs it from reason, but from life. Your faith does not merely need to be integrated into your life; you must come to recognize that your faith is precisely what allows you to live a life of integrity. To state it more clearly, faith is the integrative principle of life. Without faith, life lacks coherence and even meaning. Without faith, which arises from our being true and honest about what happens to us, we are not oriented to what is authentic and real. Living a life of integrity takes an objective form. One of the forms an authentic life of faith in the service of God takes is marriage.

Without question, today’s second reading is one of the most misunderstood passages in all of Scripture. This passage is frequently clipped, thus presenting an erroneous understanding of Christian marriage. The clip that is often employed is Ephesians 5:22-24: "Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything." Two keys to demonstrating that this clip does not capture the intent of the author are the verses that immediately precede and follow it, which read respectively: "Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ" and "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her" (5:21,25). It is also important to recognize that in this passage marriage is used as a metaphor to explain the "great mystery" of the unity that exists between "Christ and the church" (Eph. 5:32).

It is important to recognize that this mysterious unity is not identity and marriage, when lived in a Christian manner, amply demonstrates this, as neither the wife nor the husband ceases to be a unique and individual person. Just so, Christ is not the church and the church is not Christ, if such were the case, the church would be perfect, which we clearly are not. As with all the church’s sacraments, Christian marriage is a sign making the unity between God and His people a visible reality in and for the world and it does so in a very real, human, and existential way.

In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, when challenged by some Pharisees about the nature of marriage, Jesus takes the origin of the union between woman and man from Genesis as defining the reality of marriage when he responds with these words: "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), and the two shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24; Mark 10:2). Our passage from Ephesians quotes this same verse from Genesis. Fr. Richard Clifford observed that from "the biblical perspective, the origin of a reality often defines the reality." On this basis we can conclude that the view shared by the authors of Genesis, Matthew, Mark, and Ephesians sees that God made marriage part of creation. Biblically, marriage is not abstract, but is a fully embodied reality. The author of Genesis "stresses the fact that [sexual] union," which is bodily union, "is willed by God" (Clifford). This constitutes a deep and irrefutable basis for sexual complementarity and differentiation, as well as the need for openness to children in marriage. Along with the first creation narrative, in which we read, "God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them," this passage lays the biblical foundation for equality between the sexes, which is essential for accurately interpreting the passage from Ephesians as well as correctly understanding and living Christian marriage (Gen.1:27).

In all of this we see that marriage is a concrete value of the kingdom of God, one of the values that we prayed for God’s help in seeking at the beginning of Mass. Like all signs of the kingdom, marriage is not an end in itself; it points us to a greater reality, to what we might say is really real.

While faith gives rise to values, we cannot reduce faith to values anymore than we can reduce it to mere belief. Christian values are only valuable to those who have encountered Christ. Hence, we live them in the awareness that we do not adhere to values, but to Christ, who shows us what it means to be authentically human. If we fail to understand that Christian values arise from Christ made flesh and only become visible, that is, comprehensible, to us in our encounter with Him, then "we will try," as Fr. Julian Carrón recently said, "to beat others over the head with these values, thinking that this will make them understand… then we complain, wondering why they don’t understand. We would not have understood them like this either! Jesus did not become flesh by mistake! No, He became flesh because if He had not, we would not have understood." Jesus tells his troubled, yet faithful, disciples: "It is the spirit that gives life… [t]he words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life" (John 6:63). It is the life of the spirit, the very life of God that this Eucharist invites us to taste and see, then to go forth and give witness.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Queenship of Mary

Today we celebrate the Queenship of Mary, something we also meditate on when we pray the Glorious Mysteries of the rosary. This observance brings to an end the octave of our observance of her glorious Assumption.

Remember, O most blessed Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen."

The fruit of the fifth Glorious Mystery of the rosary is faith in Mary's intercession. In Catholic theology we speak of latria, dulia, and hyper-dulia. Latria means worship, which is given to God and God alone: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Dulia means veneration. We venerate the saints. Hyper-dulia means something like super-veneration and falls somehere between latria and dulia, which we give to Mary in recognition of her unique and indispensable role in the economy of salvation.

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

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Friday, August 21, 2009

"A perfect day for a quiet friend"

It is amazing that I have never posted a Sonic Youth song as Friday traditio. Well, today that changes with Sunday.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday rememberances and rambling

Dead Kennedys
I don't know what it is about late summer that causes my intensity to ramp up. The energy carries over into the early fall. For those who know me, I am pretty intense all of the time. I am not hyper, or frenetic, just intense. If you don't know me, I seem pretty calm, until you talk to me for 5 minutes. My intensity carries over equally to what I don't care about. There is a lot about which I couldn't possibly care less, especially administrivia, office, parish, and diocesan politics, etc. I have people tell me I should go into politics. I would be horrible because I can't function in an environment in which I am not free to say to what I think and why. It is not because I am crude and inarticulate, unable to persuade, I just hate observing false niceties. I am never more ill-at-ease than when at some social event where there is a lot of backslapping going on. I shut down and fantasize about the Dead Kennedys suddenly showing up as the "entertainment", this always cheers me up as the words of Holiday in Cambodia run through my mind.

When I was younger I really had no direction, but I was intense. So, for quite a few years years I lived in my head and I pursued what I wanted to pursue, studying Philosophy and History, to include Latin, reading eclectically, and cultivating my cinematic and musical tastes. I was lonely for much of this time, not to mention broke, working as little as I could and barely scraping by. I only had one really good friend during this time.

We used to talk through the night 'til early morning about everything. We listened to and played music, went to anything that struck us as interesting, even if it meant spending our last few bucks. These years in my early twenties were so formative for me. I took my desire so seriously then and lived life to the full, knowing that I was searching for meaning, but unwilling to settle for the easy answer, and deeply suspicious of religion, having consciously rejected the fantasy-world theology in which I grew up.

For example, I remember going to see The Last Temptation of Christ. I was moved by Scorsese's film so much that I bought and read Kazantzakis' book the next day. I then re-read the Gospels. It wasn't that by doing these things I immediately determined x, y, or z, but it moved me and I freely followed that movement.

Relax, this is not installment one of a long auto-biography. Instead, it is the product of few minutes' reflection on a Thursday morning.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

To give witness to my encounter

There is no need, no requirement, no obligation for me to defend values abstractly, even Christian values. For me, I must live the Movement, live my encounter that arises from an event, which is something that happened, happens, will happen to me. Living from my faith as it arises from my experience is called witness. By living this way I am faithful to Christ and true to myself.

For me, faith lived as an experience, an encounter, from which hope (i.e., certainty about the future) blooms, means not having to pretend.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"the motto was just a lie"

I tend to use the word ideology in a narrow and restricted sense, meaning programmatic assertions that make up a socio-political agenda. Taken in that sense, saying Jesus did not teach us an ideology is not lacking anything, but is true to what he teaches, to what he communicates, which is nothing less or other than himself in whom "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (Col. 2:9 ESV). Because of this, the Gospel survives social and political upheaval and is even made stronger, more attractive as a result. The church is never less the church than when we try to make the Gospel a political program, which is not to say that certain Christian commitments don't inform our stance as citizens in a free society. Even then, we become ideological when we take that stance reflexively and/or thoughtlessly, as Carrón said: "because the boss said so. This is not human; it is not human!".

Experience, then, your experience, seeking what you really desire, is what must inform any authentic engagement. This is Giussani's dangerous idea.

I fully recognize that there are two obvious and a few more subtle ways you can take the picture and slogan above. So, don't look to me to clarify it for you.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"when the virtual occupies the whole place of reality"

Writing today in Il Sussidiario Albert Conti tackles the question of technology as it pertains to human relationships, especially for young people, who often lack personal relationships: FACEBOOK / The enemy of young people is loneliness, not technology , It is very insightful, especially to those of us who use these means daily. At the end of the day, as useful and good as Facebook, blogging, and text messaging can be, they are not substitutes for getting to know people, doing things with others, and dealing with the ups and downs of relationships, growing, through often painful experience and regrettable episodes, etc
Image by freeparking, used under
the Creative Commons license

Of course, the backbone of CL is School of Community. SofC has to happen in person. It is an event that happens once a week for about an hour. We gather, sing a song, pray, and talk about experiences in light of our encounter with Christ, exploring what it means, how it applies, where it is difficult, support one another in striving for Christian maturity in light of the teachings of Msgr. Giussani, learning to trust Christ and each other, becoming companions on the way.

I like the way Conti ends his piece: "Father Giussani used to repeat that education is a matter of mimesis and experience. The virtual society is the epitome of mimesis, an uncritical imitation, and, without the principle of experience, it collapses every possible scaffolding on which to build human relations of whatever kind.

"If this is what we want, we are simply desiring the end of the world."

Is it, to quote REM, "the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine"? This brings me, yet again, to the quote in my blog heading: "the Eucharist is the only place of resistance to annihilation of the human subject." This insight grows deeper with each passing day.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Church, "a flourishing garden of life"

With The Cathedral of the Madeleine's centennial now over, let us heed the words of Blessed Pope John XXIII: 'We [the Church] are not on Earth as museum-keepers, but to cultivate a flourishing garden of life and to prepare for a glorious future."

A deep diaconal bow to my brother deacons, Eric and Vince, authors of the forthcoming book Ascend, for the JXXIII quote. They also have a website: Catholic Story. If you're a Facebook user, become a member of Ascend. I recommend both!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A letter to permanent deacons

In this year for priests, the Holy See has not forgotten permanent deacons. His Eminence, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy wrote a letter to permanent deacons this week on the Memorial of St. Lawrence, the third century Roman deacon and martyr:

"My Dear Permanent Deacons:

"The Church discovers more and more the richness of the permanent diaconate. Whenever Bishops come to the Congregation for the Clergy, on the occasion of their ad limina visits, the theme of the diaconate, among others, is often commented upon and the prelates are generally very much pleased and full of hope in regard to you, Permanent Deacons. This fills all of us with joy. The Church thanks you and recognizes your dedication to your qualified ministerial work. At the same time, the Church would like to encourage you on the way of personal sanctification, in your prayer lives and in the spirituality of the diaconate. To you one can equally apply what the Pope has said to priests, for the Year for Priests, that is that it is necessary 'to work in favor of this pull of priests toward spiritual perfection, upon which, above all, depends the efficacy of their ministry.' (discourse of March 16, 2009).

"Today, on this feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, I would like to invite you to reflect upon two areas, your ministry of the Word, and your ministry of Charity.

"We recall with gratitude the Synod on the Word of God, celebrated in October of last year. We, ordained ministers, have received from the Lord, through the mediation of the Church, the task of preaching the Word of God to the ends of the earth, announcing the person of Jesus Christ, who has died and risen, His Word and His Kingdom, to every creature. This Word, as the final Message of the Synod affirms, has one voice which is His, Revelation, has one will which is His, Jesus Christ, and one Way which is His, Missionary Activity. To know Revelation, to adhere unconditionally to Jesus Christ as a fascinated and enamored disciple, to base oneself always upon Jesus Christ and to be with Him in our Mission, this is then what awaits a permanent deacon, decisively and without any reservation. From a good disciple a good missionary is born.

"The ministry of the Word which, in a special way for Deacons, has as its great model St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr, requires of ordained ministers a constant struggle to study it and carry it out, at the same time as one proclaims it to others. Meditation, following the style of lectio divina, that is, prayerful reading, is one well traveled and much counseled way to understand and live the Word of God, and make it ones own. At the same time, intellectual, theological and pastoral formation is a challenge which endures throughout life. A qualified and up to date ministry of the Word very much depends upon this in depth formation.

"We are awaiting, in the proximate future, a document of the Holy Father regarding the Synod which we have referred to. This must be welcomed with an openness of heart and with profound commitment to study it.

"The second reflection regards the ministry of Charity, taking as a great model St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr. The diaconate has its roots in the early Church’s efforts to organize charitable works. At Rome, in the third century, during a period of great persecution of Christians, the extraordinary figure of St. Lawrence appears. He was archdeacon of Pope Sixtus II, and his trustee for the administration of the goods of the community. Our well beloved Pope Benedict XVI says regarding St. Lawrence: 'His solicitude for the poor, his generous service which he rendered to the Church of Rome in the area of relief and of charity, his fidelity to the Pope, from him he was thrust forward to the point of wanting to undergo the supreme test of martyrdom and the heroic witness of his blood, rendered only a few days later. These are universally recognized facts.' (Homily Basilica of St. Lawrence, November 30, 2008). From St. Lawrence we also take note of the affirmation 'the riches of the Church are the poor.' He assisted the poor with great generosity. He is thus an ever more present example to permanent deacons. We must love the poor in a preferential way, as did Jesus Christ; to be united with them, to work towards constructing a just, fraternal and peaceful society. The recent encyclical letter of Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), should be our updated guide. In this encyclical the Holy Father affirms as a fundamental principle 'Charity is the royal road of the social doctrine of the Church' (n. 2). Deacons must identify themselves in a very special way with charity. The poor are part of your daily ambiance, and the object of your untiring concern. One could not understand a Deacon who did not personally involve himself in charity and solidarity toward the poor, who again today are multiplying in number.

"My dear Permanent Deacons, may God bless you with all his love and make you happy in your vocation and mission! With respect and admiration, I greet the wives and children of those of you who are married. The Church thanks you for the support and multifaceted collaboration which you give to your respective spouses and fathers in their diaconal ministry. In addition, the Year for Priests invites us to manifest our appreciation for our dear priests, and to pray for them and with them.

Vatican City, Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, August 10, 2009

Claudio Cardinal Hummes
Archbishop Emeritus of Sao Paulo
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy"

A deep diaconal bow to my brother deacon, Greg Kandra, who is back from vacation, for bringing this encouraging letter to my attention. I pulled the text from the Congregation's website, As a permanent deacon, I express my gratitude to Cardinal Hummes for his exhortation and encouragement.

The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Assumption of the Virgin, by Peter Paul Rubens (1612-1617)

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

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Sometimes I give myself the creeps"

Basket Case by Green Day is our traditio this Friday. My oldest son and I are there Sunday with Billy Joe and the guys. Heaven help us. It's a bit early, but I'm sleeping in tomorrow, gettin' my slacker back on for the concert!

I like this song: social commentary on how mental illness is treated and issues about judgment- by what criteria do you judge, the shrink, who says it's lack of sex that's bringing you down, or the whore who tells you your life is a bore?

Do you know how to play Jesus of Suburbia?

For the record, Armstrong, Dirnt, and Cool are not much younger than me!

For love of God alone

"And I hold in veneration,
For the love of Him alone,
Holy Church, as His creation,
And her teachings, as His own.
And I take with joy whatever
Now besets me, pain or fear,
And with a strong will I sever
All the ties which bind me here. {328}
Adoration aye be given,
With and through the angelic host,
To the God of earth and heaven,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."

From part 1 of John Henry Cardinal Newman's The Dream of Gerontius. This is Gerontius in death throes.

Last night's performance of Sir Richard Elgar's musical rendition of Newman's poem by The Cathedral of the Madeleine Choir and Orchestra was truly beautiful! Congratulations to Gregory Glenn and everyone involved! I was enraptured. Martin Thompson, who sang Gerontius, a part for tenor, deeply moved me. He sang it so well and with so much passion! His singing made me feel the part.

My appreciation of last night's performance was greatly enhanced by Dr. Owen Cummings' lecture on John Henry Newman, his poem, and what it means for us today, delivered in the Cathedral the previous evening. His lecture caused me to consider my own stance toward death. What came through to me in last night's concert was God's great mercy, given us in Christ Jesus, which was revealed to me in the beauty of the music and of the sacred space in which it was performed, a space that, after almost 15 years, is my spiritual home. It was also a nice antidote to my recent re-immersion in Samuel Beckett. Such an experience certainly makes me more modest, that is, more realistic, not only about the limits of preaching, but of my preaching!

It is very humbling, yet gratifying, to be a part of this Cathedral family, this center of human excellence in which all is done for love of God alone. This excellence is most fully realized in the passion, intensity, and love of our Cathedral musicians, led and directed by Gregory Glenn.

The second and final performance is this evening in the Cathedral at 7:30 PM.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Samuel Beckett

I originally composed this for my humble blog, but at the request of my dear friend Sharon I submitted it to Il Sussidiario and Dario published it. So, here is Samuel Beckett: life in two dimensions. It did not appear here first. In its stead I posted the interview with Beckett, knowing that virtually, or literally, nobody would like it. If you don't want to link, below is a slightly modified version of my Il Suss piece:

Harold Pinter wrote something very visceral about Beckett. I am not sure how I feel about it, other than Pinter is spot on. It's the truth of what he writes about Beckett's writing that I can't quite figure out how to take, that is, how to write about it myself, except to quote it.

Pinter writes that Beckett is "not leading me up any garden path, he’s not slipping me a wink, he’s not flogging me a remedy or a path or a revelation or a basinful of breadcrumbs, he’s not selling me anything I don’t want to buy — he doesn’t give a bollock whether I buy or not — he hasn’t got his hand over his heart." In my bumbling philosophico-religio-blogosophical way, I guess it is about experience and desire and not settling for any old b.s., grasping at straws to find meaning and, dare I say, truth.

As Vladimir says to Estragon in act one of Waiting for Godot: "is it –this is not boring you I hope– how is it that of the four Evangelists only one speaks of a thief being saved. The four of them were there –or thereabouts– and only one speaks of a thief being saved. (Pause.) Come on, Gogo, return the ball, can't you, once in a while?" Returning the ball, engaging, talking honestly, not abstracting, but looking at what faces you. The best way for me to engage the writings of Beckett is to understand that he works in two dimensions- depth and length. As Pinter asserts, in Beckett's literary world, there is no looking up. That is okay because Christians spend too much time looking up. Since, it is Godot that we heard about Luke, we'll stick with that Evangelist and turn to his sequel to his Gospel, Acts:

"And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven'" (Acts 1:10-11 ESV). It is clear that the end of time is not when he will come, but when the Holy Spirit descends, which happens in the next chapter. The Holy Spirit keeps our gaze level and allows us to look at what and who it is that faces us.

After some correspondence (i.e., writing back-and-forth) today, I may turn next to Milan Kundera, whose novel Immortality provokes me in much the same way that Beckett affects me. I was a Kundera addict for several years. His book of essays, The Curtain, is one of the most thought-provoking books I have ever read.

Today's neo-logisms: blogosophical and protagonize. I am very proud of both. I guess I better get to work writing what I am supposed to be at work writing!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

St. Clare of Assisi

I am reposting this, which is one of my first posts after I began blogging seriously three years ago. Since I have many new readers, I figured I would introduce them to my friend Chiara. Besides, it has a link to the monastery in Virgina, the one a dear sister of mine is joining this Saturday, the Feast of the Assumption.

San Daminano

Chiara Offreduccio (St. Clare) was born in 1194. She died 11 August 1253. Along with Francesco Bernardone (St. Francis of Assisi), she is considered co-founder of the Franciscan Family. Chiara began to meet with Francesco after hearing him preach during Lent in 1211 at the Cathedral of San Rufino in Assisi. On 28 March 1211 she left her father's house to elope with Jesus Christ. She receive her habit from Francis in the Porziuncola. Afterwards, Chiara lived a cloistered life in San Daminano (pictured above).

So close were their ties that when Francesco died in 1226, his body was brought to San Daminano so Clare could say goodbye to him. Not long after receiving a Bull from Pope Innocent IV granting her and her sisters the Privilege of Poverty, Chiara died. Her holiness was of such renown that she was canonized in 1255. In 1958 Pope Pius XII proclaimed St. Clare the patron saint of television because toward the end of her life, when she was too ill to attend Mass, an image of the service would display on the wall of her cell. Papa Pacelli's Apostolic Letter is available from the Holy See's website, but only in French.

Hagiographers write that when Chiara was in her mother's womb, an angel appeared to her and said, "your child will be a light that will illuminate the world!" According to this legend that is why she was named Chiara, meaning "light." With that I encourage you to link to the lovely daughters of light, the Poor Clares, descendants of the virgin Chiara Offreduccio, living lives of holiness in Virginia eight centuries after her birth into eternal life.

With a deep diaconal bow to my friend Jim, I was deeply moved by the post Sincerely, John Hughes. I also owe a gracious bow to my friend Paul, whose blogging over at Communio often keeps me squared away on the calendar.

Monday, August 10, 2009

St. Lawrence- deacon and martyr

Today is the feast the deacon St. Lawrence of Rome. As a brother deacon wrote this morning: "A Happy Feast day to a great patron and exemplar for deacons, holy Martyr Lawrence. Through his intercession and example, may we be strengthened in our Christian diaconate."

Lawrence died during a persecution that took place in AD 258 under the emperor Valerian. When Pope Sixtus was on trial Lawrence went to him and said: "Father, I have already fulfilled your command, and distributed by hand your treasury; forsake me not!" Upon hearing that he had charge of treasures, Lawrence was placed under arrest and taken to jail. According to the ancient story, the deacon Lawrence was placed under the watch of the head jailer, Hyppolitus. While he was in prison, Lawrence prayed always. He also healed the sick. He baptized many who were in prison with him, including Hyppolitus and his whole family.

Lawrence was brought before the emperor and asked to reveal where the treasure was. Lawrence asked for three days to produce the treasure, a request that was granted. He used the time to gather a large group of the poor and sick, who depended solely on the church. He took the Roman soldiers to where this group was gathered and said: "Here are the vessels in which is contained the treasure. And everyone, who puts their treasure in these vessels, will receive them in abundance in the Heavenly Kingdom."

As a result, Lawrence was brutally tortured and killed, thus sealing his witness, his servitude to Christ, his diaconate, with his blood.

O God, the blessed Lawrence burned with love of you:
he is renowned for his faithful service and his glorious martyrdom.
Grant that we may love what he loved, and act as he taught.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.

St. Lawrence- pray for us.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"Why do I find it hard write the next line?"

I am having a hard time just letting John Hughes' passing go. I think A.O. Scott's piece, The John Hughes Touch, in today's NY Times goes a long way towards explaining why. Given my dependence on his article for this post, I might well ask, Why do I find it hard to write any line? I forgot that he also wrote the movie She's Having a Baby, which I liked a lot.

Scott writes: "A few years ago an article in Slate pegged Mr. Hughes as a conservative, even a reactionary, whose celebration of rebellion had more to do with the middle-class resentments that brought Reagan into office than with residual anti-establishment radicalism. The answers to this accusation are: maybe so, and so what?" Exactly!

I also like the comparison of Hughes with Jean Luc Godard: "But I don’t think I’m alone among my cohort in the belief that John Hughes was our Godard, the filmmaker who crystallized our attitudes and anxieties with just the right blend of teasing and sympathy. Mr. Godard described 'Masculin Féminin,' his 1966 vehicle for Jean-Pierre Leaud and Ms. Karina, as a portrait of 'the children of Marx and Coca-Cola.' Mr. McCarthy and Ms. Ringwald, in 'Pretty in Pink,' were corresponding icons for the children of Ronald Reagan and New Coke." Exactly!

Scott goes on to say that the death of Hughes makes him "feel old, but more than that, they make me aware of belonging to a generation that has yet to figure out adulthood, for whom life can feel like a long John Hughes movie. You know the one. That Spandau Ballet song is playing at the big dance. You remember the lyrics, even if it’s been years since you heard them last. This is the sound of my soul. I bought a ticket to the world, but now I’ve come back again. Why do I find it hard to write the next line?" Again, exactly!

How to live

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight" ( Rom 12:14-16 ESV).

These words, which constitute the reading for Morning Prayer today, are either innocuous or tremendously challenging.

Friday, August 7, 2009

John Hughes, R.I.P.

I am a child of the '80s. I graduated in 1984. I unabashedly love The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, all movies made by John Hughes, who unexpectedly died yesterday after suffering a heart-attack while walking in Manhattan. It is not too much to say that I was kinda shaped by these films, not completely, but in a significant way- The Breakfast Club in particular. The lyrics by David Bowie, from his truly great song (one of my very favorites) Changes, at the beginning are apropos. Young people are, indeed, "quite aware of what they're going through."

This tribute is additio traditio- too cute by half I know! Besides, this Simple Minds' song is pretty great, a cri de coeur.

Samuel Beckett 10 years on

A 1987 interview with Samuel Beckett, who died in 1989. Beckett was notoriously private and not prone to give interviews, especially on camera. I read his one act, one man play Krapp's Last Tape before going to sleep. This interview, which will not interest everyone, is our Friday traditio.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The only starting point for broken people in a broken world

As I am out-of-town I had to settle this morning for reading USA Today in lieu of a newspaper. It is always surprising what I find in the most unexpected places. In the Life section of USA Today this morning is an article (I can't locate it on-line) entitled Fighting postwar stress: Groups, congregations pave a path of spirituality to help veterans. It is a moving story, to which the generic term spirituality in the title does not do justice.

James Knudsen, a Vietnam veteran in Iowa, who is involved in outreach to the new generation of combat veterans who are suffering sums up well, not just the mission of Point Man ministries, but the Gospel, when he says:

"We emphasize that everybody else can forgive you, and now it's your turn to forgive yourself because God already has." He continues, "And then we go from there." What Knudsen and Point Man ministries understands is that there is no other starting point.

In the movie Rachel Getting Married there is a powerful scene in which Kim, Rachel's sister, played by Anne Hathaway, goes to a rehab meeting and talks about how driving the family car off a bridge while high and killing her little brother has impacted her life, how she feels about it. She says that doesn't want to believe in a God who would forgive her for what she has done. I cried at that scene, it broke my heart because I know people who feel and think like this.

What can you say? Let me answer that: Nothing and you are foolish to try, believe me! You just have to hang in there compassionately and prayerfully. Let's not forget that compassion means to suffer with... I am nobody's savior. The point is not to play God and be the dispenser of what Dietrich Bonhoffer called cheap grace, which pastoral ministers are often all too eager to do in order to avoid suffering with someone through a struggle. Besides, to do that shows a distinct lack of faith and trust in God, who is at work in the situation and in the life of the one with whom you are suffering. The point is to be human, to share my humanity that has been changed because of an encounter with the Presence, who deigns to come to me in my nothingness. As Don Giussani taught us: "He mounted the Cross to free us from the fascination with nothingness, to free us from the fascination with appearances, with the ephemeral." He came to save me from, in the words of a REM song, "being lost inside my head," in what Sting, in a long ago Police song, described as "this desert that I call my soul" where "I always play the starring role... so lonely."

Last night I was watching CNN before I went to bed. It was program about the 40th anniversary of the Manson Family murders. The film-maker John Waters was interviewed about his friendship with Leslie Van Houten who became involved with Charles Manson as a teenager. At nineteen she participated in the LaBianca murders. Van Houten, who turns 60 later this month, has been imprisoned for 40 years. Her death sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1971 when it was abolished by the California Supreme Court's ruling in People v. Anderson. Subsequently, the California State Assembly passed a resolution calling for the execution of the Manson Family murderers despite the court decision.

Van Houten and Waters emphatically claim that over these past 40 years the woman who committed a violent murder has changed. Waters says she should be "the poster girl for the prison system," a rare case of a rehabilitated person. She is asking for parole for the 17th time at the end of this month, a request that John Waters supports. He has just written a book, Leslie Van Houten: A Friendship. The Huffington Post has serialized the first chapter in five parts- part one.

What strikes me about this is the notion of mercy. It is correct that Van Houten and the other drug-crazed and maniacal members of the Manson Family had no mercy on those they killed, even as their victims pleaded for it. There is no way around this ugly and disturbing fact. I suppose the question on the table is, Should mercy be denied them on that basis, especially when they are genuinely remorseful? Wasn't it Jesus who said: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matt. 5:7)? Doesn't his question imply that we need mercy, too? Waters lambasted no one in his interview. He said he understood how the families of victims must feel and in no way diminished the horrific nature of these seemingly random and evil acts, made all the more frightening by their randomness.

We need look no further than Merriam Webster to gain insight into what it means to have mercy: to show compassion, to be lenient. Mercy is "a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion." I remember many years ago seeing hats, t-shirts, and bumper stickers that read "To err is human, to forgive is out of the question." Typically, there was a hangman's noose underneath the words "to forgive is out of the question." This was an attempt to humorously deviate from the saying To err is human, to forgive is divine. I never found it the least bit funny. To forgive is divine. If Jesus showed us what divinity looks like in human form, when we contemplate the cross, we see that it is not easy. How else can God bring life from death except through love? Love is the only thing stronger than death, than the thanatos syndrome from which we suffer until we come to know, through often painful experience, that we are redeemed.

Who knows, perhaps I would feel differently if something horrible happened to someone near and dear to me? I know it would be a struggle, a process, something that would wound me for a lifetime, but I hope I would be merciful and not because the other person deserved it- that is not mercy. We use the word gracious too liberally. To be merciful is to be gracious in just the way God is gracious. To be gracious is to be like Christ to die to yourself, not annhiliate yourself, but to rise to new life, the life for which you are created.

Jesus, the healer of my soul, help me to see my need in your cross and its fulfillment in your rising from the dead. Amen. Let's not forget Mary's response to the unjust execution of her son. So, I pray: Remember, O Most Blessed Virgin,..."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

President Corazon Aquino

The world is poorer today because we have lost a truly great woman. Yesterday former Philippine president Corazon Aquino passed away at age 76, after a battle with colon cancer. Corazon means heart. This woman's heart was big enough to embrace her entire country. After the public assassination of her husband, an opponent of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, she picked up the standard of freedom and democracy and carried it bravely. Appropriately, the Philippines are entering a 10-day period of mourning for this self-described housewife, first woman president of this Pacific nation, who led a truly human revolution in her beloved homeland, a revolution that was not bloody, but overthrew a ruthless dictator nonetheless.

Image by Anita Kunz for TimeAsia magazine in 2006 for an article- 60 Years of Asian Heroes

Mrs. Aquino was truly devout and trusted in Christ and His Blessed Mother always. So, please pray a rosary for her. The BBC has a nice article with video that is worth reading and watching: Philippines Mourns Corazon Aquino. Last night on All Things Considered Madeleine Brand spoke with Philippine expert David Steinberg, who is now president of Long Island University, and a friend of Mrs. Aquino. I found it beautiful that his love and admiration for her did not permit him to maintain his academic detachment.

In typical fashion, her son, Benigo Aquino, Jr., in publicly announcing her death said: "She would have wanted us to thank each and every one of you for all the prayers and the continuous love and support.

"It was her wish for all of us to pray for one another and for the country."

The week before she passed into eternity, as her condition took a turn for the worse, the apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Edward Adams, delivered a letter conveying a message from the Holy Father through Cardinal Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State. Pope Benedict wished to affirm to her that he was "spiritually close" to her as she suffered. In the letter Cardinal Bertone wrote : "The Holy Father has asked that you be informed that he is remembering you in his prayers.

"At the same time he invoked upon you the blessing of Almighty God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in pledge of healing and comfort."
She is now fully healed and comforted and no doubt interceding for her beloved Filipino people.

As the old saw goes, some are born to greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them, while Mrs. Aquino was a daughter of a privileged family, with the dramatic assassination of her husband as he left the airplane bringing him home to the Philippines after exile, she had greatness thrust upon her. She handled it with grace. Given that she was democratically elected after the long dictatorship of Marcos, she declined to serve more than one term. As far as I am concerned she showed us how following Christ fulfills our humanity- she was truly a holy example of what it means to be a Christian woman.

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...