Sunday, July 26, 2009

Another Home run for American Catholic Biblical Scholarship

Dr. Scott Hahn from Franciscan University of Steubenville has just published a new bible dictionary called the Catholic Bible Dictionary. This is a very exciting thing in Catholic Biblical Scholarship in the 21st Century. It will be an invaluable resource for lay ministers, laity in general, priests, students, religion teachers, and biblical scholars alike. It's both concise and thorough. Dr. Brant Pitre gives a real good description and recommendation on his blog. Check it out.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

So Long and Thanks for all the Fish, the number 42, the Infinite Improbability Drive, and Vogon Poems

I just finished reading the first installment of the Douglas Adams sci-fi series, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It is a great summer read for all those looking for a last lovely hoorah before they hit the real books accorded to them to by professors of such fame and fortune that only use the books they themselves have written while sometimes using the books of popular noteriety and sometimes, on occasion, or something to that effect, an actual classic in their own field, i.e. Aristotle, Aquinas, Newton, Hippocritus, Einstein, da Vinci (he wrote stuff right), whoever is famous in engineering, and of course, Dante, Shakespeare, and Crichton (the great writers of the English language).

Never mind the long run on sentence. I found Hitchhiker's to afford me the time to laugh out loud because of ridiculous yet intelligent hilarity such as that (I'm glad you caught and appreciated my self-proclaimed brilliance). It is very well written. The plot and character development allow you to get into the story and feel right with Arthur Dent, who has lost his home, Earth, because it was destroyed to make way for an intergalactic bypass. The obvious microchasm and macrochasm show that the Adams uses throughout adds to the level of comedy. His characters are creations of comic genius. Zaphod Beetlebrox, the man from a planet somewhere near the star Betelgeuse, affords most of the laughs because of his out-of-this-world personality, a mix between Indiana Jones bravado, James Bond womanization, and Inspector Clouseau recklessness, all while having two heads, three arms and the distinction of being the Intergalactic President.

It really is a much fun to read. I found it most difficult to read in public places though. Can you imagine the odd looks you would receive if you were singularly watching your favorite comedy in busy coffeehouse? Your laughter, which would also be singular, would permeate their tepid and poor existence for having not experience the same hilarity you were. It creates odd situations, comical ones in fact, and that is what the comedy of this novel is all based. Create odd situations with maladjusted and far-out characters and watch the laughter arise.

So drink your three pints, eat you some peanuts, and stick out your thumb. Get ready for a very funny ride.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How about a second helping?

My fellow blogger recently discussed The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Well, I hope you don't mind reading another thought about Lewis. This one is about his book A Grief Observed. And just for fair next one will be on him as well. :) Anywho, on to grief! It's a short book (less than 100 pages) and a relatively easy read, although there being some parts where one might like to stop and ponder the text a bit. I found this to be the case as I was reading.

The book itself is originally Lewis sort of journaling about his experience of grief after losing his beloved wife. The book is full of those all-important questions such as "why does God allow this?" "where is she?" and "is she at peace?" He does offer some thoughts on these questions, but also addresses many other things in the process. As noted, there were a number of thoughts that I had to stop and ponder. Several things in here were issues that I've thought about a good bit, and even some things that I'm currently struggling with. Just a couple of quotes that I found to be good food for thought:

"Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief. Apparently the faith - I thought it faith - which enables me to pray for the other dead has seemed strong only because I have never really cared, not desperately, whether they existed or not. Yet I thought I did."

"Lord, are these your real terms? Can I meet H. again only if I learn to love you so much that I don't care whether I meet her or not? Consider, Lord, how it looks to us."

A good book to read to see one man's experience of death and grief, and to maybe get a different viewpoint on a theology of death and suffering. Certainly gave me some more concrete visualizations to turn to for explanation.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

More Than Just Entering into the Underworld

Dear reader,

I have been meaning to post this for almost a month. My lazy behind and maybe some sly remarks in my imagination from the cousin of Wormword have caused a month's worth of procrastination. Nonetheless, The Screwtape Letters by renowned Christian novelist, philologist, philosopher, and theologian, C.S. Lewis holds within it much more than a possible introduction to spiritual warfare and the very scary topic of demonology.

The book is a series of letters from a very experienced and high ranking demon named Screwtape. This "affectionate" uncle is providing advice for his "young nephew" who is charged with his first soul to damn. Screwtape speaks in opposites. What is actually good (as in participating in the infinite goodness of God) is bad, and what is actually bad (a privation of God's infinite goodness) is good. He calls God, the Evil One. Every time I read that I would shudder. It really got me thinking as to what evil does. It slowly erodes reason and goodness and turns it into irrationality and emptiness. The odd thing is that Screwtape spoke very rationally. He explained himself very well to Wormword, his nephew, about how to lead the soul to hell. Hell is described as a demonic feast. Demons are feasting on souls as if they were at table with a great king. Its puts an interesting perspective on the opposites with regards to the eternal wedding feast. In hell, souls don't participate in the feast but are the feast. Interesting thought, I must say.

There is another level, not immediately tangible, but very present. It seems that Lewis, through the lens of a demon, is critiquing modernity. Countless times he makes reference to how the hordes of demons orchestrated the focus on self that occurred in modernity. That they planned the total irrationalism of the Romantic period that still lives on today. In fact, that is a main focus of temptation. Try to not let the human use reason. Let him stay on his emotions. (Also, an interesting thought for me being in the emotion driven CPE program.) Lewis connects all the problems with modernity to demonic influence. He also pokes fun at the cultural defects of the English, which are indeed quite comical because of their semi-comparability to American cultural defects.

I would definitely suggest this book to anyone. It can give insight to spiritual warfare and what to be aware of in regards to possible ways we can be tempted. It also gives a good critique of modern man, than can open our eyes to cultural and sociological defects that can lead us to sin.

Your affectionate blogger,

The Ministry of Absence

So for several years now we've been hearing about this thing called ministry of presence, when you're "there for people" in their time of need and minister simply by being there...more or less. With that stuck in my head as a common model of ministry, you can imagine my confusion when I read through Henri Nouwen's book A Living Reminder and find him talking about a 'Ministry of Absence'. I immediately went "HUH?!" As I read on it made sense though. So often we feel we have to be with people to comfort them that we forget that it is God who actually does the work in the person. Nouwen's point is that just as Christ had to leave this world to send the Holy Spirit down upon us, so to in ministry must we know when to leave the person in the hands of God and allow the Holy Spirit to descend upon them and begin the healing that only the Hand of God can work. There was more in the book than just that one concept, but that is the thing that stuck out to me as I read through so I wrote on that. The book was a quick read, coming in at under 75 pages long in the big-margin, 1.5 spacing print (gotta love it!). Decent book; though I wasn't entirely sure how it all came together as a whole...the pieces were nice.

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 6-Saint Maria Goretti

Today we celebrate a young martyr who died at just 11 years of age—Maria Goretti. This Italian girl was known for her strong faith at a very early age. She was so beloved in her farm town that the whole community came together to help her obtain the needed white dress for her first Holy Communion. But for her this white dress was a symbol of a true reality. She was known for her purity her entire life. In fact, it was in protecting her purity that she found the gift of martyrdom.

Aside from being pure she also had great beauty for her age. Her neighbor Alexander always had her in his sights and wanted to have her for himself, despite her desire to keep her purity. His interest in her grew so great that one day in 1902, at 18 years old, Alexander grabbed Maria and attempted to rape her. In the end, he stabbed her and left her mortally wounded. She would go on to die in the hospital not long after. But before dying Maria forgave her murderer.

Unrepentant for his crime, Alexander was sentenced to 30 years in jail. Nevertheless, one night he dreamt that he was in a garden and received flowers from Maria. He awoke a converted soul begging for forgiveness from Maria’s mother. He was present in 1950 for Maria’s canonization.

In Maria the Church has given us a model for purity. Parents can learn from Maria’s conviction just as much as our children of today can. After all, parents are the first representatives of God in a child’s life. If a parent loves purity, so too should their child.

May Maria always intercede for our youth from heaven, but also for their parents and teachers, that they may be proper role models. May we also learn her ways of forgiving our persecutors.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Although we typically focus on books and such for this blog, I felt compelled to write about something else today... I guess it falls under the "other tidbits" category.

As part of my chaplaincy program here in Orlando, we do a variety of activities aimed at helping us to become better chaplains/pastors. One such exercise was done this morning, in the form of a movie. The film was called "WIT" and starred Emma Thompson; it was originally a play, written by Margaret Edson. It ran about an hour and a half and at the end, half the people in the room were crying. Even I felt like I should have been shedding a few tears. It was certainly yanking on my heart-strings like few movies can. The story is about a woman who undergoes treatment for ovarian cancer and illustrates her experience of the hospital and staff, among other things. At the end of the film, the five of us just sat there unable to say a single word as the credits rolled past. After watching it, it made me seriously consider what it is that I do when I go meet with patients. I would strongly suggest that everyone watch this movie. It's not just about a woman's battle with cancer - it is much much more.