Monday, August 17, 2009

Wisdom from a dead British guy who sought to make fun of the monotony of Life, the Universe, and Everything

Log stardate ... wait wrong sci-fi series. Welcome to the second installment of Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's Guide series titled The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. After stealing the Heart of Gold, finding an ancient planet, and finding out the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything (42, just in case you didn't know), our protagonists worked up quite an appetite. Where better to go than the Restaurant at the End of the Universe? Well, I would beg to differ being from New Orleans and all, I think Commander's Palace or Emeril's would be much more appetizing and enjoyable than eating a cow who wants to be eaten and watching the finality of the universe. Nonetheless, Adams wields with his pen another goop and hilarity worth your time. It might even work better at making your abs fit than 10 minute abs.

In this installment, one meets the man who runs the universe, a very interesting look at the true wielding of power.

The major problem - one of the major problems, for there are several - one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.
To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: people are the problem.
And so this is the situation we find: a succession of Galactic Presidents who so much enjoy the fun and palaver of being power that they very rarely notice that they're not.
And somewhere in the shadows behind them - who?
Who can possibly rule if no one who wants to do it can be allowed to?

Humility and the desire to see reality as it is forms a true leader and one who can wield power. Who thought comedy could be so theological (probably not Douglas Adams)?
We also find out the final answer to the question on whether man evolved from apes. The answer is no. We are rather descendants from a species called the Golgafrinchanms. The majority of the people were absolutely brilliant comparable to Einstein, Newton, Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle, da Vinci, and Hawking. However, there was a third of the population that was a tad bit less than mediocre whom the other considered absolutely useless. These useless individuals had such unprodigious jobs as hairdressers (not my own opinion), middle management, and telephone cleaners. The brilliant 2/3rds of the population tricked "the useless third" into fleeing from a dying planet (which was very easy to do). This third was set on a 3 year course towards a primitive planet called Earth. After crash landing, they bored to death the native population of Cro-Magnon and unfortunately reproduced, hence Earth-man. All has been solved. No need for scientists to work any longer.

If you wish to break the monotony and/or intensity of mid-semester reading, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is a good choice (of course after you read the first). It will provide answers to the question on the top of your brain like: how to blow up a star, the time of the second coming, how to suspend the space-time continuum, or the nature and origin of our species.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Poustinia: Embracing God's presence

Poustinia: Encountering God in Silence, Solitude and Prayer.
Catherine de Hueck Doherty

The statement, "God exists," is one of foundational importance in the life of a human person. One's acceptance - or rejection - of God's existence shapes all of the beliefs and practices carried out by a person, whether in the "mundane" sip of coffee before heading out to work, or in the extraordinary courage in endangering one's own life in order to protect another. The individual's lived answer to this statement not only shapes what they do, but the way in which they do what they do. So, for instance, the coffee-drinker could enjoy his morning occasion of coffee in manner open to eternity: savoring the qualities of each sip, being grateful for a simple pleasure, recognizing in its bitterness the suffering of the world around him and recalling his duty to suffer-with (com-passion) through his prayers and actions; in short, he could be reminded of God's presence through his appreciation of coffee. (And, as Chesterton says in "On Lying in Bed," without a pre-meditated reason or justification for any of them.) Or, he could simply drink his coffee in order to get on with the rest of the day.

For those who answer in the affirmative that God exists, Poustinia is a book which (simply by its exposition) invites the reader to live the affirmation. It is one in a series of books in which Catherine de Hueck Doherty introduces the Western mind to the traditions of Russian Christianity. The Russian practice of the poustinia (which means "desert") is one in which a person is called to live a life of solitude and prayer, usually residing in a small cabin outside of a community and living very simply: bread, water, Bible, prayer, and solidarity with the locals. There is no habit, no rule of life per se, but the habit of life is ordered (as simply as I can put it) to "breathing" God. That is, through whatever the day brings, the "job" of the poustinik is to "practice the presence of God" that he may more fully unite himself to God, that he may be purified by Him, and that he may see the happenings of his interior and exterior life in the light of God...that he may see with God's eyes, and not his own. In this "practice," the poustinik is doing nothing other than becoming more Christian - more like Christ, so that Christ may be made Incarnate once more in and through the poustinik.

Likewise, it is the call of every Christian to become (as it is known in the Eastern tradition) "divinized," that is, to become like God. Catherine argues that it is necessary for every Christian to be a "poustinik," yet not of necessity the type that lives in solitude. The poustinia to which we are all called, she says, is the poustinia of the heart. The poustinia of the heart

is a place within oneself, a result of Baptism, where each of us contemplates the Trinity. Within my heart, within me, I am or should be constantly in the presence of God. .... It's as if I were sitting next to God in complete silence, although there are always many other people around.

In whatever situation any person finds himself in, it is possible to remain with God in the "desert" of his own heart, and listen to Him speak amidst the noise of the world which surrounds him.

The practice of poustinia, the task of every Christian, directs him to the depths of the affirmation, "God exists," so that it is not merely a statement of belief in an impersonal God, nor an exposition of one's general philosophical reasoning (for that is not Christianity, but sophistry). God enriches and enlivens the soul with His grace and His life and enables him to see (everything in) life through His eyes, to talk with His words, to act like God would act; to think and reflect, be happy and sad, angry and weak - before Him and with Him. Through embracing this relationship with Him, He enables men to live the "glorious freedom of the children of God" (Romans 8:21), so that "it is no longer [him] who live[s], but Christ who lives in [him]" (Galatians 2:20).

Now, the coffee cup is not just a coffee cup. One can see God in his coffee cup.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover

Handbook for Ministers of Care by Genevieve Glen, OSB, Marilyn Kofler, SM, and Kevin E. O'Connor

This book was written for laity new to ministry of any kind, but especially to the unique and difficult ministry of visiting the sick.
Judging by a cover such as the one you see, worry is probable. I worry about books with such abstract drawings. These show up in various part of the book almost insultingly as if lay people can't read a book without pictures. I didn't particularly find the images even helpful in illustrating a point the authors were making.
In the first chapter, the writers made sweeping generalizations without backing them up. This book was written for people discerning such a ministry so it is written simply and matter of factly. However, one could give one historical example to back the claim, "{Ministry of care} was a ministry open to all the baptized that gradually, through the ages, became a ministry for priests and religious, especially those who established and served in hospitals," (4). That might be true be a pastor or supervisor might not have the same historical theological background as the authors. One cannot take such a statement without some evidence. This happens a few more times where the authors make blanket statements such as the previous one.
The writing style is colloquial. This brings across the points the authors mean to make, and it makes for a clear and easy read. However, the colloquial style surrender theological clarity a few times using common phrases that can leave ambiguity.
If one who recommends it is aware of its shortcomings and properly explains things, it is a great source for those visiting the sick. It is very practical and helpful in providing someone with a good solid base knowledge of visiting the sick. It gives practical guides on how to order a visit. It goes through the liturgy of a communion visit. It goes through special cases that someone might or probably will run into. I found the entry on demetia and alzheimer's disease to be very enlightening. It is good resource for someone visiting the sick to have.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Reading Insights from Catholic Underground

I don't know if any of you are familiar with Catholic Underground's podcast. Two priests and two layman get to get together to talk about faith and technology. Trying a new format, Fr. Ryan Humpheries heads this show. He talks about the Pope Benedict XVI's new encyclical Caritas in Veritate as well as a very popular book called The Death of a Pope by Pierce Paul Reid. Fr. Humphries gives a great explanation on Benedict's idea of the continuity and unity of Catholic teaching. He also warns people of the problems of Pierce Paul Reid's book. I personally have not heard all of the hooplah over this novel, but according to Fr. Humphries it's been the book to talk about in Catholic circles. Nonetheless, it also deals with the continuity and unity of Catholic teaching or lack thereof. Check it out.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Friends Rocking the Blog-o-sphere

About a month and a half ago, I was sent an invitation on Facebook to be a fan of Histube. I was evidently curious as to what this would be. My first thought was a cheesy Christian ripoff of youtube. (I love first thoughts. They get proved wrong so many times.) This is one of those cases. I found out a friend of mine and fellow seminarian, Joshua Johnson (a diocesan brother of Brent, the dude without a nickname that writes for this fantastic blog), had set this up in conjunction with Focus Television Studios. Focus most definitely has an older audience in mind with more of their television programing. Histube is their foray to the younger generation. It's basic premise is the same as youtube (post video, comment about said video and other videos, etc). It thankfully lacks the useless and tactless comments found on many videos you find on youtube. Furthermore, they are very spiritually helpful. It also has a blog section called Through the Grapevine. Two fine ladies new to the blog-o-sphere have taken over this arm of the site. My younger sister Katie and fellow lover of John Paul II, Dorissa, write for the blog. Although they new to this medium of publication they are new in sharing their faith and minsitering through their written word. They are very much guided by the Holy Spirit. Although at the moment, one cannot follow them via RSS feed. Checking the blog every once in a while will never leave you disappointed.

Upon further research of said site there is a place to gather a feed (the bottom left hand side of the homepage). Sorry for the misinformation