Friday, December 31, 2010

The Renewal of the Liturgy, Ratzinger's a Good Place to Start

If you have in any way been following us on Twitter, you can't help but notice the abundance of quotes from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, or Joseph Ratzinger, or Ratzi.  It's because I had been engulfed by his 2000 work, The Spirit of the Liturgy.  If you remember, this book was part of our failed attempt at a summer reading.  This is why I picked up.

I had read parts of it in preparation for a talk on the importance of Mass a few years back.  Then, I gained some insights into the liturgy that helped me participate better.  When I entered into the full breadth of the work this fall, I got to understand the undergirding Scriptural and philosophical base of his theology of the liturgy.  He is honest.  With many things pertaining to the liturgy, many seem to be pushing an agenda, either this or that.  This work wishes to sift through the opinion and pull out the tradition of the Church guided by Ratzinger's now famous "hermeneutic of continuity."

There are those books in one's life that alter your weltanschauung.  For me, this was one of those books.  So much of the Christian life is connected to the liturgy, some may know this and I had unclear suspicions that was the case, but much was cleared, the light of the liturgy shone forth before my eyes.  Symbolism had meaning.  Liturgical actions have symbolism not just utility.  Because of the age in which I have grown up (no doubt the same as yours), liturgical action and indeed liturgy seemed simple, to the point, and utilitarian.  It satisfied a need to make contact with God and fulfill Sunday obligation.  At some points in my life, it was something to endure.  The less there was the better, not just in time but in liturgical art.  Architecture, statuary, painting, and music were extras like the sprinkles on top of a hot fudge Sunday.  They made it taste better, but they weren't necessary for it.

These thoughts were in ignorance, as high schooler.  Entering seminary my confreres and the monks who taught me, had different ideas that clashed with my closed, experiential understanding of the liturgy.    They had more knowledge and understanding of the nature and focus of liturgy.  I knew this implicitly as worship of God, but what I didn't understand is how human ego can get in the way this very easily.  Along with this, I was and still to some extent am ignorant of the richness of the Church's liturgical history.  What I am aware of, is the hermeneutic of discontinuity in which I grew up as a Catholic.  My experience is no different than many of the Catholics in the United States.

One of the main insights I received from this work was the importance of ad orientem worship.  By turning the priest toward the congregation, it turns the focus.  Egocentricity becomes that much more a temptation for the priest now that he prays looking at the congregation.  Does he now have to put on a show?  Now does he have to perform?  From a celebrant's standpoint, it's a nightmare.  Actors face their audience.  Generals lead their armies into battle with their backs turn to their men.  Priests lead their congregations in the worship of God through the sacrifice of Christ, his Son.  They look towards the east the place the rising sun, the image of the Risen Christ, the promise of our own resurrections and eternal life and happiness.  They look towards the Cross which as the crux (pun intended) for the whole liturgical action of the Church, the proclamation of the word, the unbloody sacrifice, all of the other sacraments.  Clericalism disappears when the worshiping body is focused solely on He alone who deserves worship.

Thank you Ignatius Press for printing this in English, thank you John Saward for providing a clear and eloquent translation.  Thank you Border's for selling it to me.  Going into my final year of seminary, the lessons and insights learned from this book will be invaluable, and I'm positive I will return to it in years to come.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sorry Rivers You Are Not God

This blog was originally written on October 30, 2010.  The reason for postponement is in the update below.

Tonight was a definitive night.  Why should I make such a bold statement about a cool night in late October on the eve of Halloween weekend?  You might expect some earth shattering revelation or some revolutionary idea that will change the way we see the world.  In fact, I simply chose not to worship the music.  My favorite band, a band I've admired, at times I wished to be in, and at other times just plain worshiped plays as I type, in my hometown, for the first time since my knowledge of their existence.  They are not playing an ordinary show, just another stop on the tour.  No, they are playing the Voodoo Music Experience.  Where "spirituality" meets the music on the weekend of all hallows eve.  Ghosts and goblins and witchcraft all come together for the sake of the music.  All come to "worship the music" as the Experience's slogan proclaims.

I have experienced the Voodoo Music Experience twice in my life.  First in the fall of 2001, the buddy that came with me fled a sentence of house arrest he received from his parents.  We worshiped the likes of 311, Eminem, a young Black Eyed Peas, and the Stone Temple Pilots.  We left in ecstasy (not drug-related) from such a vast experience of music.  It was the greatest musical experience of my teenage life.

This trend of not fulfilling obligations continued.  My second "worship service" occurred seven years later when I chose to not fulfill some requirements of presence at a certain function.  Instead, I chose to listen and adore the great deconstruction and reconstruction of music that comes from the mind of Jeff Tweedy and Wilco.

Music seemed more important than responsibility, as if music superseded responsibility and became the categorical norm.  If it was musical it was more important.  I was indeed following what had been taught to me by MTV and VH1.  I was so influenced by this worldly concept that it in some ways cause spiritual turmoil in my own heart.

I speak this candidly for a purpose.

I chose tonight to forgo what would undeniably be the greatest musical experience of my life, Weezer playing live in New Orleans.  I chose this for my own virtue.  I have no obligations tonight.  I could have gone and not skipped on anything.  Instead, I chose to not "worship the music."  It is a step of many steps towards freedom from the concept that music supersedes responsibility but more importantly freedom from being bound by a created reality whereby I can more freely worship He who alone is worthy of worship.

Rivers Cuomo is second from the left

Sorry Rivers you are not God.

Update: I have been reading The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.  In his chapter, he specifically speaks on rock music.
"Rock," on the other hand, is the expression of elemental passions, and at rock festivals it assumes a cultic character, a form of worship, in fact, in opposition to Christian worship. (p. 148)
Cardinal Ratzinger's quote confirms my thoughts that evening.  I previously was a reticent in posting it because of its candidness, but after reading that, it seemed appropriate.

Music can easily become a source of idolatry.  One can worship the creator of the music, as seemed to happen with the overly popular acts like The Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Elvis to name a few.  As Ratzinger says it even holds worship services, known as rock concerts.

There's a certain rite, if you will humor me.  One pays a tithe for entrance.  After entrance is granted, one either moves to the assigned seat or finds the best place to participate in the service.  There is an entrance rite performed by a local DJ.  This is followed by open acts, who are usually of lesser notoriety and do not deserve full worship.  They are the lesser deities that get you emotional revved up for the deity you came to worship.  Finally, after waiting, the time arrives when the sound waves hit your ears that excite those elemental passions and bring one over edge into musical ecstasy.  This is a communal experience.  Libations are present as ways of preparing for the ecstatic experience.

The cultic character is no doubt present.  No man, or creation, deserves that worship.  God alone.

So I repeat again.  Sorry, Rivers, you are not God.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas: The Epic Interruption

The word ‘epic’ is over-used by holiday advertisers. The word ‘interruption’ is mostly avoided. It seems a silly thing to call a cellphone or a car ‘epic,’ just as it would be ludicrous to call a tugboat ‘titanic’ or a shovel ‘earth-shattering.’ Calling them ‘interruptions’ would be more appropriate. Who hasn’t had their enjoyment of a concert or conversation interrupted by the ringing phone, or had a pleasant afternoon destroyed by a car accident? One may argue that advertisers’ unscrupulous application of words like ‘epic’ undercuts the meaning of such words and renders them impotent. I, of course, agree, but as far as I can tell, this isn’t problem with using these words to describe the mundane. Hyperbole is a relatively innocent way of reminding us that the everyday can be transcendent. No better example is there than the case of God’s being born into a stable.

-Wait a second, didn’t you blog about the Nativity already? You mean I read through all that tom-foolery about the Incarnation on Ice only to have you shove it in my face again!

Yes, kind reader, I’m afraid I’m among that number trying to keep Christ in Christmas. As I was saying, the Christmas story is more-than-epic, or rather, it is monumental without being a monument. It is alive. Were it truly epic in the way that the ‘Iliad,’ ‘Les Miserables,’ ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera’ are called epic, than it would have long since become a relic of academia collecting dust in the Ivory Tower. Obsolescence is the destiny of everything that takes upon itself the term ‘epic.’ A cellphone that claims to be ‘epic’ might very well have amazing speed and revolutionary communicative capabilities, but precisely because it desires to be this generation’s (the 4G or Fourth Generation we are told) epic event, it will be the next generation’s antique.

-Not that I’m complaining, but I thought that you were going to talk about the Christmas Story. All this cultural commentary is almost as repulsive as your apologetics.

O good reader, an excellent point. Thank you for your patience. I was hinting that the Christmas Story is a ‘transcendent epic.’ The term is strange so I will lay-out some common charactersistics of an epic.

1) Epics begin ‘in medias res,’ a good translation of which would be ‘in the middle of things’ or ‘in the thick of it.’ In short, an epic is a glorified interruption! Having already established that other epic-titled things are indeed interruptions, let’s stress that St. Luke’s gospel makes it clear that the Nativity was one too. Mary, Joseph, the Wise-men, Herod, the Chief Priests and the shepherds were all quite busy. They had their own set of expectations. It certainly wasn’t a very convenient time for God to bust-up into their world. Even the faithful characters of the gospel narrative have to be given visions and miracles to be pushed in the right direction. St. Luke’s opening lines make it clear that the world was in the midst of several other reigns-of-kings when the King of Kings arrived on the scene.

2) Epics are sweeping. There are journeys, adventures, plots, councils and heroism. In this department, the Nativity Story carries its own weight. Only the drama Christ’s death can outdo the drama of Christ’s birth. There are twists and turns that contrast well with the somewhat ponderous sermons and healings populating the rest of Luke’s and Matthew’s gospels.

3) The setting is romantic. Robes and royals. Insurrection and Incense. Exotic cities and angel’s singing. The Christmas pageant has more authentic pageantry than all other pageants put together.

-That was rather redundant.

See how tempting it is to interrupt. This brings us to a fourth point that applies only to the Nativity:

4) Most importantly of all, the Christmas Story is a real story. Therefore, it was a real interruption. It threw human history out-of-sorts. Time is measured in relation to IT. As a result nothing else that claims the adjective ‘epic’ can hold a candle to the advent wreath. Hector never really ran laps around Troy. A car’s state-of-the-art fuel injection system will never bring about the revolution in society that it can bring about in mechanics. But Jesus was indeed born. Anything that rightfully or wrongfully claims the name ‘epic’ is destined to pass that torch to something else. Jesus, however is still alive. And this Christmas is his 2010th birthday party. He is epic still.

-Now I see where you’re going with this. It’s another one of those ‘True-Meaning-of-Christmas’ bits. Well, if you think I have the time to incorporate any more pious drivel into my holiday schedule, you have another thing coming. I’m already going to make it to church on Christmas day: that should be enough for you and God.

You know, honest reader, there is more in common between our feelings than you would guess. But we were talking about the epic-ness of God, and you seem reluctant to accept the concept. I don’t blame you either. Compared to super-fast cars, movies and cellphones, what chance does a first century Jew born in a stable stand? But there is this final trait of epics:

5) Epics implant meaning. They interrupt the follow of an already-proceeding storyline and provide it with the twist necessary to render the whole event plausible. Voldemort is around before the Harry Potter books begin. The Ring exists long before Frodo is even born. Christ comes into an already doomed world to give it new life. But because His is a real story, there is no way that it can be robbed of its value.

The choice before us, you and me both kind reader, is whether or not we’re willing to celebrate the Nativity over-and-above the holiday-hijinks that are now claiming to be as epic as the Word-made-Flesh. The Reality of Christ keeps Him in Christmas. It’s whether or not we bother to invite Him into our own messy, stinky, cluttered stable that will determine whether own Christmas will be epic or anti-climatic.

Friday, December 17, 2010

We were Recommended

Christopher's Apologies gave us a shout out on his blog. Thanks Chris for recommending the blog.

Mission and Emmaus

I am currently on a mission trip. This is one of my reflections on traveling to the country.

The last chapter of Luke gives look at travel. The road to Emmaus can provide multiple reflections with regard to this trip, but I will look at just one right now. The Risen Christ walked with his two disciple as they returned home from Jerusalem. They were unaware of his true identity; he was hidden to them while being present with them. Notice also they traveled in two. One can possibly infer that they traveled together in twos in a previous time maybe as part of the 72 that were sent out by Christ. They might have been on mission previously. Christ walks with them who had gone on mission and lights on fire they're stony hearts that were unable to perceive the depth the Scriptures held in proclaiming Christ and him crucified and risen, which indeed became their mission after Pentecost. In a sense their hearts burn because they wish to continue the mission of the Scriptures and proclaim Christ crucified and risen.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mary's Womb

Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb. He dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith. He will dwell for ever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul. - Blessed Isaac of Stella

Advent: Charity, an Advent Virtue

Not soon after Mary heard she was to be the mother of the Son of God what did she do?  She traveled in haste to her cousin Elizabeth.  Mary lived in Nazareth, which was about 50 miles north of Jerusalem.  Elizabeth lived in “a city of Judah” “in the country,” (Lk 1:39).   This was most probably about 5-10 miles west of Jerusalem.  That means a young teenage girl, newly pregnant, traveled around 60 miles to visit her aging and pregnant cousin.  That’s a great distance, and the terrain wasn’t flat either.  It was hilly and maybe even slightly mountainous.  Mary began her waiting for Jesus, then, in a selfless manner.  Getting up and traveling rough terrain to offer assistance to her cousin.  She didn’t say to herself, “Self, I’ll wait till she has the baby.  That’s just way too far.”  Nor did she neglect her cousin after hearing such extraordinary news.  Such a pregnancy as Elizabeth’s would probably be a dangerous pregnancy, one that needed additional help and support.  Hence, Mary traveled in love and selflessness to the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth.

As we await the coming of our Savoir, God gives us opportunities to take care of Elizabeths.  He gives us opportunities to travel great distances, sometimes physical, as in Mary's case.  Other times we gives us the opportunity to travel a great distance relationally and minister to someone whom we despise or with whom we are angry .  Once we receive Christ, we don’t just sit at home with Him.  We go out; we proclaim His greatness.  I emphasize "just" because he calls us to sit with Him in prayer each day, but the fruit of prayer is charity, hence going out.  

He dwells within the womb of our hearts.  Our bellies don’t show the trimesters; our actions do.  One can see that Christ was about to hit full term in many of the lives of the saints. St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Vincent de Paul, are just a few.  Our hearts must dilate and grow for Christ to be born in them.  This is Advent, and indeed, each day of our lives provides opportunity for the dilation of the heart.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Advent: Becoming a Worthy Vessel of the Coming Christ

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  I figured it would be a good day to continue the series on learning from Mary how to wait for Jesus.  We hear in the Gospel the Annunciation.

It was here at the Annunciation, the Church understands, that Christ was conceived in the womb of Mary (this is not the Immaculate Conception, mind you.  The Immaculate Conception was Mary being conceived in the womb of Anne).  The Holy Spirit came upon her and overshadowed her.  She became a virgin mother.  This image of a virgin mother is very important in her waiting. 

If we look in the Old Testament, Israel was seen to be the spotless bride of God.  She was his beautiful and magnificent bride adorned with costly jewels and fragrant perfume.  We hear in the prophets, especially Hosea and Isaiah, how Israel prostituted herself to other gods.  Idolatry was connected with adultery.  Here we have Mary, a virgin mother, who is singularly devoted to God.  She is “his handmaiden," (Lk. :38).  Her singular focus to God prepared her to receive Christ in her womb.  No other god was before her.  She was His alone.  She was not divided or distracted.  She was ready to give herself as the Bride of the Holy Spirit.

Where is our focus?  Do we solicit ourselves to things, worshipping our car, or our computer, or our smartphone?  Do we prostitute ourselves out to false ideas like Communism, which denies the dignity of each individual or an unchecked free market that canonizes greed?  Do we set ourselves up to be worshipped, trying to direct all attention toward ourselves while neglecting the needs of others?  No longer are pagan gods the objects of idolatry, like they were in Israel.  The aforementioned things are our modern day ‘gods.’  Our focus and singular devotion, should be like Mary, on God alone.  Advent is a time we can rid ourselves of these idolatries and be singularly focused on making our house ready for the coming of our king, preparing the womb of our hearts.  Confession provides us with an opportunity to start anew, alive with God’s grace and His indwelling.  After confession, He dwells in a more worthy vessel.  If we could only mirror the vessel that Mary provided for Him!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What a Christian Is?

For the sake of a friend I repost my first ever blogpost, originally written January 30, 2008.

"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." Deus Caritas Est 1

There is this idea in the world today that Christianity, Catholicism in particular, is no different than every other religion (to each his own). That is not true. In fact, it is a lie. Pope Benedict shows us in the aforementioned quote why. You can't reduce Christianity to an ethical choice. Christianity is not solely an ethical system wherein the Ten Commmandments set up guidelines and boundaries to live our lives. It is not a group of people who casuistically tell if you've sinned, and, therefore, need redemption. Although some of these things have their part, they are not the core of Christianity.

Christianity is about Christ. It says so in it namesake. As St. Paul says, "We preach Jesus Christ, and him crucified." We are not Ten Commandmentians. We are Christians. Our focus, our meaning, our lives are centered on the person of Christ and the decisive event of the Paschal Mystery, His death and resurrection.

There's an interesting point here. In the quest for the "historical Jesus" there has been this drive to find out who Jesus really was. Was he just a liberal Jew stirring up things in an already chaotic time in history? Was he a just a rabbi with followers who got some crazy ideas that he rose from the dead after he was crucified for plotting an uprising? Luke Timothy Johnson, a Catholic Scripture scholar, wished to put his two-sense into this empirically driven quest. He bases his claims on the New Testament just as the rest of the scholars did. He said that these scholars tended to separate the gospels as individual entities without any correlation except Luke and Matthew using Mark as a source. Johnson, however, finds a continuous thread throughout not only the gospels but even many of the Pauline epistles. In all of them there is a "story of Jesus" as he calls it. "It expresses the meaning of Jesus' ministry in terms of its ending: Jesus is the suffering servant whose death is a radical act of obedience toward God and expression of loving care for his followers," (LTJ The Real Jesus 165-6). In other words, the common thread among the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John, the Pauline and Petrine letters is Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Now I'll return to the previous train of thought

The person of Jesus and the event of the Paschal Mystery opens new horizons of eternal life; opens the new horizon of union with the Creator, opens the new horizon of communion.

Finally, Christ gives decisive direction to our lives. No longer are we nomadic wanders looking for the next unsatisfying meal. No longer are we lost in the jungle of uncertainty and lies. No longer are we in fear of the future. Christ satisfies, certifies, and is the future of our very beings.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Advent: Prayer as Preparation for the Coming of the Lord

The Annunciation by Philippe de Champaigne
We are coming to a close on the first week of Advent.  I thought I would share some insights I had preparing (pun not intended) for an Advent mission focused on learning from Mary how to wait for Jesus.

Most images of the Annunciation have Mary kneeling and praying when the angel Gabriel appears.  This is most curious since Luke never mentions either prayer or kneeling.  He just says, “he came to her,” (Lk. 1:28).  These artists’ imaginations are guided by the Tradition of the Church, which says Mary was a woman who was often in prayer.  From whom do you think Jesus learned how to pray?  Especially in the Gospel of Luke, one can read Jesus going off and praying.  It seems likely that she could have been praying at the time Gabriel appeared. 

Gabriel came to her to deliver the message that she would be the mother of the “Son of the Most High God,” (Lk. 1:32).  She was not prepared for his presence nor his message.  He came to her suddenly and without warning, and startled her so much so he had to say, “Do not be afraid,” (Lk. 1:30).  Yet, in the images the Church has given us she is praying, humbly kneeling before the God she cannot see.  Her prayer prepared her heart to say, “Let it be done unto me according thy will,” (Lk. 1:38).  Prayer prepares our hearts to say yes to God, to answer his call.  I heard my call to the priesthood in prayer, but that is another story.  Indeed, prayer should a great part of our day.  It builds up for us treasure in heaven.  It prepares us for the coming of the Lord, which will come like a thief in the night.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Incarnation: On Ice!

Christmas is, after all, still a month away, but a recent excursion to the ice rink got me thinking about that central mystery of the Advent and Christmas season: the Incarnation.

First, this flippant thought passed through my head: Network TV is about to roll out its yearly set of ‘holiday specials,’ with their strange and slightly humorous promise to definitively reveal “the true meaning of Christmas.” What if some television producer staged the Christmas story on ice? Byran Boitano would be a back-flipping St. Joseph, Christi Yamaguchi would play the cross-ethnic Virgin Mary. The fiat could be represented by a dramatic duet dance between her and the angel Gabriel, Evan Lysacek. The shepherds could do an all-out group musical number, featuring Arabic/MC Hammer poofy-pants, fireworks and little kids dressed as sheep. Tara Lipinseki would deliver the angelic message of the Savior’s birth. The wise men could appear throughout as the comic relief, slipping and sliding all over the ice, spilling their gold, frankincense and myrhh, and speaking in strange foreign accents alá Cirque du Soliel. NBC’s Bob Costas could commentate, interspersing figure skating trivia amidst Scripture (“Now Elizabeth is greeting Mary and, together, they will re-enact her Magnificat. This is the first time these two have skated together since the Salt Lake City Olympics in ‘98, when Christi made that nasty fall during her warm up set. I was talking with her coach about that fall earlier today, and he recalled that…”)

There have been worse ideas for a Christmas special. In fact, most of them have already been produced. All joking aside, however, I did find a deeper reflection while gliding over the mirror of ice on Sunday. The Christian owners of this skating rink interposed Praise and Worship with the usual pop-songs. A couple of times, a song about Emmanuel came on and I got a weird vision of God ice skating with us. What would He have made of it? As the Logos, Creator of this strange dynamic where ice melting forms thin water strips that maintain their surface tension long enough to induce sliding, would he have reveled in explaining such physics? As the Healer of Soul and Body, would he touched the bruises of all those slipping and falling down, bearing their ills and getting them back on the ice. As the ‘Lord of the Dance’ (that’s for you, Branson Hipp), would He glide to the center of the rink and pull off the perfect triple-lutz. To be honest, I think he would have just skated the laps like everyone else, racing his family and friends. One could draw on some chessy metaphors about Jesus going round and round in circles like the rest of us, or about Him gliding over the ice the way the Spirit glided across the water in the Beginning. We could talk about Him slipping and falling flat on the cold reality He had created. God puts up with such cheesiness, just as He puts up with Christmas specials, figure skating, Olympic commentators and silly blog writers, and the Incarnation is the biggest proof of that. In a certain sense, His walking on water, in all its miraculous splendor and unexpected glory, has sanctified even the trivial practice of skating on ice. There is indeed a certain grace to skating, but there is also a great deal of giddiness, a giddiness Christ does not disapprove of. Perhaps “The Incarnation: On Ice!” is a stupid idea for a Christmas special (in fact, I have no doubt that it is), but God risked such stupidity in becoming human. Even though TV producers, ice skaters and bloggers sometimes have not a clue, He certainly must have known what He was doing when He became one of us. So let’s not be so hard on our own silliness. God seems to…let it slide.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Remain Faithful Till Death

A Reflection on today's Readings
Revelation 14:14-19, Psalm 96:10, 11-12, 13, Luke 21:5-11
Over these past few weeks, we have been hearing about the end times.  Today, we hear about a sickle cutting the vine, and Jesus speaking about events that will precede the last days.  We could concern ourselves with trying to predict when that will be.  We could even find ourselves asking the same questions that were asked of Jesus, "When will this be?" or "What sign will occur?"
The heart of the matter, though, is in the Alleluia verse, "Remain faithful till death, and I will give you the crown of life."  Futile wars, fought by our friends and family, in far away places, can occur.  Mass distrust of public officials can rattle our land.  Floods can knock down our houses.  A famine of the truth can cause the population to be feeding off of lies.  The plague of terrorism can cause fear in the hearts of our countrymen.  All this will pass away, just like the stones of magnificent temple fell down.  Despite all of this, our primary therein lies our crown of life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Worship, the Life or Death of Culture

"Cult, liturgy in the proper sense, is part of this worship, but so too is life according to the will of God; such a life is an indispensable part of true worship ... Ultimately, it is the very life of man, man himself as living righteously, that is the true worship of God, but life only becomes real life when it receives its form from looking toward God.  Cult exists in order to communicate this vision and to give life in such a way that glory is given to God."

Here I quote Joseph Ratzinger from his book The Spirit of the Liturgy.  I was struck, first of all, by the paragraph's likeness to the beginning of Pieper's essay "Leisure: the Basis of Culture."  Cult, worship, is an inalienable part of culture.  It shapes, forms, and helps define culture.  A culture without worship is not a culture at all, and a culture whose worship is misdirected is a culture that is misdirected.  Take for instance the Old Testament pagans, the Babylonians.  In history's eyes, the Babylonians were a great culture and civilization in the ancient Middle East.  They advanced in technology, in social construction, in legal construction, in physical construction of one of the eight wonders of the world.  Who did they worship, many gods, false gods, gods of small power and deceptively small influence.  We no longer have Babylonians today.  Their worship, which indeed was central to their culture, was their downfall.

The history of Israel gives the same picture.  When the Israelites began worshipping idols, their culture, built around the tabernacle, and later the temple, began to crumble.  Idol worship eventually led to exile and the destruction of the central place of worship, the temple in Jerusalem.  Culture was restored although irreparably damaged by previous idol worship.  The temple was rebuilt, but the ark of the covenant, the seat of God, was not present.  In the time of Jesus, a new form of worship had emerged.  No longer were people in the area worshipping false gods; they were worshipping men as gods.  Worship began to turn inwards on oneself.  The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector seems to illustrate this.  In the Pharisee's "worship" of God he really is proclaiming himself, worshipping his own works and his moral distance from the tax collector.  One could say this turning inward started with Descartes and indeed, he did nothing but advance humanism, but worship of man reared its ugly head way before the misguided mathematician.

Worship, then, is of the utmost importance.  It is the hinges of culture.  Proper worship to He who alone deserves worship will transform any culture.  This is why liturgy is so important.  This is why Fr. Z's statement, "Save the liturgy, save the world," finally makes sense to me.  It is through authentic divine worship that culture is transformed.  The culture of life stems from the "Way, the Truth, and the Life" who is sacrificed, in an unbloody manner, on the altar and whom receive at each mass.  When we actively participate in this sacrifice, our hearts are transformed.  They take on new looks and have new things written on them.  They become more and more like the Sacred Heart of Jesus, wounded, burning with love, pouring forth in self-sacrifice.  Culture is transformed from the inside out by the vessels of the living God.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Verbum Domini

Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI presented the church with a new Apostolic Exhortation on the Scriptures aptly named, Verbum Domini.  Its significance has been somewhat understated, but it will have lasting impact on the world of the Church.  Although I have not read the whole document, a few things have hit me.  

The concept of the Word of God, the Logos, in the prologue of St. John's gospel (to which he in passing acknowledges as the author of the gospel of John), seems to be the guiding light of understanding, relating to, reading, studying, and worshiping with Scripture.  The Scripture, the Word of God, is intimately connected with the Logos, the eternal word spoken by the Father.  "The Christian faith is not a 'religion of the book': Christianity is the 'religion of the word of God.'"  Reading Scripture, we encounter Christ.  It becomes immediately apparent St. Jerome's oft-quoted statement, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."  

The Holy Father said, "With the Synod Fathers I express my heartfelt hope for the flowering of 'a new season of greater love for sacred Scripture on the part of every member of the People of God, so that their prayerful and faith-filled reading of the Bible will, with time, deepen their personal relationship with Jesus.'"

He is attempting to foster a deeper encounter with Christ in each person of his flock.  Listen should we?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Nightcrawler and Catholicism

I have always been a fan of the X-Man Nightcrawler.  He had a most enviable ability, teleportation.  He also had a most unenviable appearance.  Nonetheless, the wisdom of Marvel and its writers put him in a monastery where he learned what true love and mercy is.  I post here an episode from the X-Men cartoon series of the 90's that features mercy, forgiveness, repentance, and the existence of God.  It is one of the more favorable portrayals of Catholicism in the media.  Nightcrawler shows much in virtue and self-understanding.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Trick or Treat Indeed! (or, Empiricism and Fear)

Jon Stewart, a man whose ambitions I support with a tinge of conscience, has announced that he is going to march on Washington the day before Halloween to remind our elected officials that: everything is okay. Not to be outdone, Steve Colbert has announced that he will march opposite Stewart, protesting that everything is absolutely terrible.

Yes, funny stuff. But there is a point behind their punch line. Americans are afraid. The enlightenment optimism that is one of the most dynamic parts of our country’s heritage has been transformed as-of-late by another hangover of the enlightenment period: blind faith in empiricism. For, as any expert will tell you, the world is about to end and it’s mostly your fault.

One that note, I have a confession to make. I believe Al Gore. And, do you know what else, I believe Sarah Palin. Gore’s math seems quite sound to me: the booming world population HAS dumped thousands of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Despite climate-gate and other conservative groups’ attempts to conspiraize the green movement, it seems self evident, given the number of humans and the nature of our energy expenditure, that the sheer amount of air pollution we’ve created must have some drastic adverse effect on the environment. (NOTE: I’m am NOT supporting the Green Movement’s conclusions, just agreeing with one true premise out of their many false ones).

Ms. Palin’s math is just as convincing. The United States has a ridiculous deficit. There is no way that increased spending will solve the problem. Yes, taxing the rich might put us out of the red by the end of the decade, but what then? If we try to maintain all the federally run programs that the current administration supports, it’s only a matter of time before it will slip out of the black again. (NOTE AGAIN: I am NOT a Tea Party enthusiast. I simply agree with their logical assertion that spending past your resources usually results in debt).

With both the environment and the economy, the math is infallible. Epiricism, after all, doesn’t lie. Put it on a pie chart, a bar graph, research it and record it and the facts are before you in black and white. (Or in multi-color 3-D graphics, if you happen to be reading a news-magazine. [Oh American periodical editors: no one makes catastrophe look as pretty as you do!]) We are doomed.

Yet, what is the real problem. Gore says greenhouse gases and Palin says pompous politicians, but our consciences ultimately implicate ourselves. We are the ones who drive gas guzzlers. We are the ones who demanded a high-price military, education system and social security program. We cannot deny our own greed. And that is the problem with empiricism: that, for all its facts and figures, it can’t silence conscience. The Green Movement and the Tea Party are driven by guilt ridden Americans who’ve been told that political activism can expiate their many sins. Carbon dollars are sold like indulgences. Tea Party members attend quasi-religious rallies where preachers expound like Glenn Beck and Glenn Beck like the preachers. This is escapism at its worst. Responsibility, after all, means beginning the change in your own heart.

So to the Green of heart, I say stop using your iPhone! To the Tea Partier, sell your McMansion! Change your own life, remove the splinter from your own eye, and then tell the rest of us what to do. I believe sincerely in your sincerity. I ridicule not the true principles you stand for. I ridicule your behavior. O, Scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You drain out the hydrocarbon but swallow the toxic waste. You preach tax cuts for the rich and then become rich yourself. You traverse the world to gain one convert and make him twice as silly as yourself! Trick or Treat indeed!

Ending on a bad note annoys me. Therefore, on Monday, I encourage each of you to celebrate the Holiday of All Saints. If you are looking for the people to change the world, the legion of Christ’s chosen should be more than sufficient.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Litany of the Passion by Blessed John Henry Newman

LORD, have mercy.                                                               Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.                                                              
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.                                                                 
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us.                                                          Christ, graciously hear us.
Son of Mary, hear us.                                    
Son of Mary, graciously hear us.

Heavenly Father, who hast Mary for Thy daughter,         Have mercy on us.
Eternal Son, who hast Mary for Thy mother,
Holy Spirit, who hast Mary for Thy spouse,
Glorious Trinity, who hast Mary for Thy handmaid,

Mary, Mother of the Living God,                                         Pray for us.
Mary, Daughter of the Light Unapproachable,
Mary, our light,
Mary, our sister,
Mary, stem of Jesse,
Mary, offspring of kings,
Mary, best work of God,
Mary, immaculate,
Mary, all fair,
Mary, Virgin Mother,
Mary, suffering with Jesus,
Mary, pierced with a sword,
Mary, bereft of consolation,
Mary, standing by the Cross,
Mary, ocean of bitterness,
Mary, rejoicing in God’s will,
Mary, our Lady,
Mary, our Queen,
Mary, bright as the sun,
Mary, fair as the moon,
Mary, crowned with twelve stars,
Mary, seated on the right hand of Jesus,
Mary, our sweetness,
Mary, our hope,
Mary, glory of Jerusalem,
Mary, joy of Israel,
Mary, honour of our people,

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,          Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,     
Graciously hear us, 
                                                                                                              O Lord.                                
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,        Have mercy on us

V. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
R. Blessed art Thou among women.
Let us Pray
O Almighty God, who seest how earnestly we desire to place ourselves under the shadow of the name of Mary, vouchsafe, we beseech Thee, that as often as we invoke her in our need, we may receive grace and pardon from Thy holy heaven, through Christ our Lord.—Amen.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Triumphant Return of the Melisma

Since returning to New Orleans, I’ve had the opportunity to tune into my favorite Christian radio station again: Lifesongs 89.1 FM (God is good, all the time…) and am thoroughly surprised by the return of that medieval eccentricity so prevalent in Gregorian chant: the Melisma.
What is a melisma? According to, a melisma is “an ornamental phrase of several notes sung to one syllable of text, as in plainsong or blues singing.” If you’re having trouble picturing (or, rather hearing) that, think Aaron Nevilles’ style minus the falsetto. In western culture, it was originally employed by Christian hymnographers to accent the significant theological word or liturgical phrase of the song. Since the enlightenment, it had gone out of vogue with mainstream music, being erroneously associated with the more affected operatic style of singing. As with all such corrupted simplicities, the melisma has since only been used by the lower class folksong-writers, singing “with full and naïve conviction that the whole meaning of a song lies in the words and that the tune comes of itself, and that apart from the words there is no tune…”(I quote Tolstoy, War and Peace, 7vii) After all, the blue collar bard’s pedigree is of that noble breed of artists who believe that style is at the service of substance and not the other way round.
Yet in our day, when art-for-art’s-sake seemed to have reached its triumph, the melisma is making a return! Matt Maher, Chris Sligh, Sufjan Stevens, and Regina Spektor are just a few of the Lord’s singers who’ve resurrected this device in their worship. This reappearance of the melisma is a consoling sign. In the very least, it demonstrates that there are songwriters that have more concern for communicating their message than emphasizing their vocal ability. After all, the melisma is a silly device and would never make a diva out of anyone. My fellow schola members can attest that something of your ego dies when, instead of singing a simple Ave Maria, the chant notation forces you to sing AveeEEEEeeeEEEEeee MaaaAAAaaarIIIIiiiiIIIIAAaaa. In addition, it’s much easier to picture the Blessed Mother smiling benevolently at something melismatic in comparison to, say, the belting of Shubert’s AAAAAAAAAAve Mariiiiiiiiii----iiiiiiiaaa (which, I am convinced, usually leaves her rolling her eyes.). In short, the Melisma strikes down any attempt by the cantor to shift focus from the meaning of the song to the sound of his/her voice.
The other advantage to the melisma is that it leaves little room for variation outside of its own leaping and bounding. A group using melismatic chant is forced to listen to the words and listen to each other if the singing is to be successful. This focus plugs the individual into the community’s attempt at worship and translates into an encounter with the transcendent.
With the falling and rising of the notes, one must let go of the internal ups and downs that plagues one in the moment and, as a result, is connected to the rhythm of the rest of the room. Physically, this effect results in the uniting of breathing, pitch and even bodily movement. Spiritually, there is that amazing realization that occupancies all profound worship; namely, that the whole body (both one’s own and the Body of Christ) now stands before God in harmony.
Then there is this third attribute of the melisma, namely, that it is unnecessary. The very sight of its notation makes this evident. Over an ‘a’ or an ‘e’ there is this besplattering of ink that looks like a doodle from high school algebra class. Only this doodle represents, not daydreaming, but its close kin: contemplation. For nothing so confronts and defeats the utilitarianism of our day quite like prayer. And when substantial prayer is made long and frilly, our hearts, purified of our stresses and schedules, are left to bask in that most unnecessary action of God: His overflowing love for us.

An Anti-climatic and Procrastinated Ending to Leisure

There have been many post since the last one about Pieper's Leisure.  I wish now to finish by just quoting the last three paragraphs of the essay.  The speak for themselves.
Worship is either something 'given,' divine worship is fore-ordained - or its does not exist at all.  There can be no question of founding a religion or instituting a religious cultus.  And for the Christian there is, of course, no doubt in the matter: post Christum there is only one, true and final form of celebrating divine worship, the sacramental sacrifice of the Christian Church.  And moreover I think that anyone inquiring into the facts of the case from a historical point of view (whether he is a Christian or not) would be unable to find any other worship whatsoever in the Europeanized world. 
The Christian cultus, unlike any other, is at once a sacrifice and a sacrament.  In so far as the Christian cultus is a sacrifice held in the midst of the creation which is affirmed by this sacrifice of the God-man - everyday is a feast day; and in face the liturgy knows only feast days, even working days being feria.  In so far as the cultus is a sacrament it is celebrated in visible signs.  And the full power of worship will only be felts if its sacramental character is realized in undiminished form, that is, if the sign is fully visible.  In leisure, as was said, man oversteps the frontiers of the everyday workaday world, not in external effort and strain, but as though lifted about it in ecstasy.  that is the sense of the visibility of the sacrament: that man is 'carried away' by it, thrown into 'ecstasy.'  Let no one imagine for a moment that that is private and romantic interpretation.  The Church has pointed to the meaning of the incarnation of the Logos in the self-same words: ut dum visibiliter Deum cognosciums, per hunc in invisibilum amorem rapiamor, that we may be rapt into love of the invisible reality through the visibility of that first and ultimate sacrament: the Incarnation.
We therefore hope that this true sense of sacramental visibility may become so manifest in the celebration of the Christian cultus itself that in the performance of it man, 'who is born to work.' may truly be 'transported' out of the weariness of daily labor into an unending holiday, carried way out of the straitness of the workaday world into the heart of the universe.
A reflection on Chapter V of Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Benevolent Christian Witness, Cardinal Bertone, and the Knights of Columbus

Back in 2004 as a move that would help in my poor seminarian status, I joined the Knights of Columbus in hope of being support.  I admit, it was not the most pure of motives.  Since then, I have come to love the Knights.  They are on the battlegrounds of contemporary society.  They support men discerning priesthood, which believe me is not just a monetary thing.  As seminarians, we are surrounded with prayer from men all around the world, who pray for us and priests at every meeting.  They are big supporters of things Catholic within our American society.  They helped in giving a standard of beauty for churches in America by funding all of the art in the National Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C.  It is indeed a shrine to our blessed mother.  Another of their ministries is to uphold their members in things Catholic by printing a monthly magazine called Columbia, of which I read faithfully every month.  This month's issue began with a letter to the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus from Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, the Secretary of State for the Vatican.  Part of his letter really struck me.
"In the face of often unfair and unfounded attack on the Church and her leaders, His Holiness is convinced that the most effective response is a great fidelity to  God's word, a more resolute pursuit of holiness, and an increased commitment to charity in truth on the part of all the faithful.  He asks the Knights to persevere in their witness of faith and charity, in the serene trust that, as the Church embraces this period of purification, her light will come to shine all the more brightly (cf. Mt 5:15-16) before men and women of fair mind and good will."
He speaks in a way that hearkens back to old persecutions of great scope.  Society sees malevolency where it does not exist.  To show them the error of their thinking, we most live benevolently.  The holiness of the Christian faithful must shine forth to the world.  Bushel baskets need me cast aside, burned, even, never to be used again.  This Christian witness will not only reveal error but shine forth truth that will gather into the fold those thought to be totally lost.

This is indeed a period of purification for the members of Holy Mother Church.  Do not shrink or flee from the fire.  It is a gift to help us rid ourselves of our impurities, moral, spiritual, intellectual, or otherwise.  Let the fire fall.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

References for the Saints

I wanted to provide some references for the lives of the saints and other such sundry things

Butler's Lives of the Saints is one of the definitive collections of the lives of the Saints.  You can find it here.

This is a lives of the saints for the visually oriented.  Pictures are cool and moving and can really assist in meditation and prayer.  
You can find it here

There are some great films about saints as well.  Film is great medium to allow someone to be moved by the life of a saint.  Some of my favorite are:
The Passion of Bernadette follows the life of St. Bernadette after her apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes.  It shows the value and beauty of obedience, and how, for her, it assisted in her heroic virtue.

Therese shows in drama some of the highlights of St. Therese of Liseiux's life.

Another one is a classic movie that won an Academy Award, Becket.  Peter O'Toole plays St. Thomas á Becket.  Becket was martyred in his own cathedral.  To me, it's a bit overacted but is still a good film.

The last movie is an adaptation of Leonardo Defilipis' (he directed Therese and played her father) one-man play about St. Maximilian Kolbe, called Maximilian: Saint of Auschwitz.  I had the opportunity to see Defilipis perform the one-man play.  It was very moving, the film captures the emotion and the beauty of Kolbe's life.  

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Sorry for the lag in posts.  All of us are adjusting to new situations, which hopefully will provide new insights to publish here.  Soon we will be adding another contributor who will probably eclipse all of us with his writing style alone.  As for books and the such here's a few books to check out

Dr. Michael Barber suggests a new book for the biblical scholar in you.  It is a very important look at the role of the Temple in the Gospel of Mark.  It is called The Temple in the Gospel of Mark written by Tim Gray, who is a scripture professor at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver.

For the one desiring fiction, Ignatius Press put out a novel featuring the famous Inklings, J.R.R. Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams.  It centers on a look for the spear of destiny through the lens of research on the Authorian legend.  It seems like a good read.  Written by David Downing, it's called Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Warning! Says the Bishops. Beware Catholic Faithful.

I was reading the blogs that I frequent and I came across this by Dr. John Bergsma on his shared blog The  Sacred Page.  I was not aware things like this were taken care of at a more local level.  

The USCCB's Committee on Doctrine wrote a document last week warning the faithful of the book, The Sexual Person: Towards a Renewed Catholic Anthropology by Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler.  It finds its empitome in this blurb: 
"Its interpersonal and experiential approach points to a thorough revision of Church teaching on birth control, reproductive technology, premarital sex, and homosexuality." — Edward C. Vacek, SJ, professor, Department of Moral Theology, Weston Jesuit School of Theology (my own emphasis added)
 The bishop's document (found here) is coherent, clear, and straightforward about the inadequacies and outright problems with the work.  First and foremost, it oversimplifies and (possibly) unintentionally desacralizes Sacred Scripture treating it with as much or less reverence than a publication of poems written by and for four year olds.  Each moral statement in Scripture is sociohistorically conditioned, so conditioned as to have no relevance in the 21st Century.  They don't even bother to do the work of deconstruction to take down the arguments they go the easy route of absolute relativism.  However, "The Church has never doubted, however, that with proper study and analysis it is possible not only to come to an understanding of the meaning that the scriptural writer intended but also, through an understanding of the human words, to come to an understanding of what God intended to convey to us by means of the human writers.  History is not an impassable barrier for communication of God's truth through Scripture." (7 of bishop's document)

The document goes on to speak about Salzman and Lawler's lack of grasping the natural law.  Their conclusions are dissident, disrespectful, and moral relativistic.  Be warned this book is not representative of Catholic sexual ethics.  Do not be mislead by their use of Catholic language including the Theology of the Body-esque title of the book.  

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Love or Money?

I found this ad on Facebook.  It's an ad for the sequel of the award winning '80's movie Wall Street.  Is this not indicative of our current culture?  Money or love?  Which would you choose?  Neither!!!  Money has no intrinsic value after its very existence.   I don't want Wall Street's understanding of love either.  Furthermore, I don't care for Shia Lebeouf other than his Even Stevens role.  Money does never sleep, rather it doesn't have the capacity.

This has been brought to you by the Daily Rant Service.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Called to be Saints in the New Millemium

 This is taken from the Holy Father's speech to Students Yesterday.
It is not often that a Pope, or indeed anyone else, has the opportunity to speak to the students of all the Catholic schools of England, Wales and Scotland at the same time. And since I have the chance now, there is something I very much want to say to you. I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the twenty-first century. What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness.
Perhaps some of you have never thought about this before. Perhaps some of you think being a saint is not for you. Let me explain what I mean. When we are young, we can usually think of people that we look up to, people we admire, people we want to be like. It could be someone we meet in our daily lives that we hold in great esteem. Or it could be someone famous. We live in a celebrity culture, and young people are often encouraged to model themselves on figures from the world of sport or entertainment. My question for you is this: what are the qualities you see in others that you would most like to have yourselves? What kind of person would you really like to be?
When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best. I am asking you not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others. Having money makes it possible to be generous and to do good in the world, but on its own, it is not enough to make us happy. Being highly skilled in some activity or profession is good, but it will not satisfy us unless we aim for something greater still. It might make us famous, but it will not make us happy. Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.
Not only does God love us with a depth and an intensity that we can scarcely begin to comprehend, but he invites us to respond to that love. You all know what it is like when you meet someone interesting and attractive, and you want to be that person’s friend. You always hope they will find you interesting and attractive, and want to be your friend. God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. As you come to know him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life. You are attracted to the practice of virtue. You begin to see greed and selfishness and all the other sins for what they really are, destructive and dangerous tendencies that cause deep suffering and do great damage, and you want to avoid falling into that trap yourselves. You begin to feel compassion for people in difficulties and you are eager to do something to help them. You want to come to the aid of the poor and the hungry, you want to comfort the sorrowful, you want to be kind and generous. And once these things begin to matter to you, you are well on the way to becoming saints.
In your Catholic schools, there is always a bigger picture over and above the individual subjects you study, the different skills you learn. All the work you do is placed in the context of growing in friendship with God, and all that flows from that friendship. So you learn not just to be good students, but good citizens, good people. As you move higher up the school, you have to make choices regarding the subjects you study, you begin to specialize with a view to what you are going to do later on in life. That is right and proper. But always remember that every subject you study is part of a bigger picture. Never allow yourselves to become narrow. The world needs good scientists, but a scientific outlook becomes dangerously narrow if it ignores the religious or ethical dimension of life, just as religion becomes narrow if it rejects the legitimate contribution of science to our understanding of the world. We need good historians and philosophers and economists, but if the account they give of human life within their particular field is too narrowly focused, they can lead us seriously astray.
A good school provides a rounded education for the whole person. And a good Catholic school, over and above this, should help all its students to become saints. 
 Let us join in the great hope of the Holy Father.  His hope is that he is speaking to some future English saints.  He calls them out at the very beginning.  You are called to be saints, don't settle for something less.  He challenges the celebrity cult.  His goal is to refocus the youth on the saints.  He doesn't want us to settle for created things what he prudently calls, "second best."  Happiness is found only in God.  He invites the youth to friendship with God, what St. Thomas Aquinas called one of the greatest goals of human life.  Friendship with God helps us to see the truth of things in humility.  
The pope knows the scientific outlook is strong in England, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Stephen Hawking being its prime examples.  He warns them of the narrow outlook of scientific mentality.  He calls it dangerously narrow, cataracts on the intellect.  


I have been enthralled by Pope Benedict's visit to Scotland and England.  I've been excited for weeks on end.  He would enter into places previously unfathomed for Pope, Westminster Hall, the place many of our English martyrs were condemned to death most famously Sts Thomas More and Edmund Campion.  Another intellectual Catholic entered that door, this time he is welcomed and not condemned.  What does this mean for Catholicism in England.  Will Elizabeth II undue what was solidified by Elizabeth I?  Probably not, but this visit brings great hope.  Over the last three years the Pope has made a mission to the English speaking world.  He traveled to the United States and Australia in 2008 and England in 2010.  The English language still dominates world intercourse despite diminishing economic stability in the US.  The English changed the course of history with its vast empire.  The Americans controlled the 20th Century by way of a victory in both theatres of World War II.  They created an economic empire.  Australia, well, I don't know much about the land down under, but I can surmise that she is influenced by her two more powerful English speaking sisters.
I think that Benedict sees the enormous influence the English speaking world has on the rest of global civilization.  He is calling us to be the evangelizers of the 21st Century.  We're to pick up were the Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italians left off.  Now WE take on the new evangelization.  We bring the gospel anew to those Christian areas.  It is certainly not our burden alone, but to quote Uncle Ben, "With great power comes great responsibility."  We have our chance, English speaking Catholics, to take up the standard of Christ and proclaim the cross!!!  Let us follow in the footsteps of St. Francis Xavier, St. Boniface, St. Columban, St. Augustine of Canterbury, St. Isaac Jouges, and Bl. Junipero Serra.  Let us bring Christ to the world, a world that once knew him, a world that once consecrated itself to him, to the world that fostered saints who imitated him.  Guided by the Holy Spirit, let us be the NEW EVANGELIZATION!!!!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fulfill your Baptismal Call, Evangelize the Culture

This is a quote from Pope Benedict XVI's homily to the Scottish Church in Glasgow earlier today.
The evangelization of culture is all the more important in our times, when a “dictatorship of relativism” threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man’s nature, his destiny and his ultimate good. There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty. Yet religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect, leading us to look upon every person as a brother or sister. For this reason I appeal in particular to you, the lay faithful, in accordance with your baptismal calling and mission, not only to be examples of faith in public, but also to put the case for the promotion of faith’s wisdom and vision in the public forum. Society today needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility. Do not be afraid to take up this service to your brothers and sisters, and to the future of your beloved nation.
The Holy Father is speaking to the Scots, but it is just as pertinent to us in the US.  This evangelization begins  in our hearts.  We must die to the self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms that are projected onto us by media and our secular education system.  Live a life of the sacraments.  Live a life absorbed in shadow of the cross.  It is then that we will fulfill our baptismal call and evangelize this culture which is ruled by a dictatorship of relativism.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Stabat Mater

Stabat Mater dolorósa      
iuxta crucem lacrimósa    
dum pendébat gládius.      

Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, or Mater Dolorosa.  This line we know well.  It begins the traditional hymn used in the Stations of the Cross.  This afternoon in going through my daily missal is was filled with both joy and sorrow at finding this.  This familiar hymn is one of a few sequences we have in our liturgical year.  It would have been a great addition to a daily liturgy, but unfortunately it was never even mentioned.  I wish to share it with you, along with a small commentary on a few of the verses.

Stabat Mater dolorosa         At the cross her station keeping
iuxta crucem lacrimosa       stood the mournful mother weeping
dum pendébat gladius.        close to Jesus to the last.
Notice she is standing.  Despite her overwhelming sorrow, she stands at the foot of the cross.  She is not sitting.  The English translation gives the impression of her keeping vigil, like a watchman standing on the parapet in the night.   She is there with the fruit of womb, and there for the fruit of womb.  Her standing could indeed impart that she shares in her Son's passion.  St. Mary Magdalene is usually picture lying against and embracing the cross.  Mary stands with her Son as he is lifted up.  

Cuius animam gementem,     Through her heart, his sorrow sharing
contristatam et dolentem        all his bitter anguish bearing
pertansivit gladius.                now at length the sword had passed.
All three images show the swords piercing her heart.  This is in reference to the passage in Luke about the Presentation of the Christ-child in the temple.  "Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, 'Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted-and you yourself a sword will pierce-so that the thoughts of many hearts be revealed.'" (Luke 2:34-35).  The image of the Seven Sorrows shows the seven swords that pierced Mary's heart as she, without sin, shared spiritually in the sufferings of her Son.  The third sword seems special to me.  It pierced her when He, at the age of twelve, went missing from their pilgrimage group.  As any mother can agree, the disappearance of a child is certainly a sword that can pierce the heart.  Imagine the piercing of such a pure and tender heart as Mary's, it would have reacted like a warm butter does a knife.  

Who Am I?

Several months ago, I was asked to reflect upon three questions. These questions were to be the center of my contemplative prayer and the answers of which were to be the aim of all my efforts. The questions were: Who am I, Who is God, and What is our relationship.

At first this may seem very simple, and maybe you can even come up with a quick easy answer to these. However, one needs to go deeper than a surface level response in order to remotely grasp the answer. Strip away everything before answering any of these.

All three of these questions have a common link, humility; thus, before going farther, I feel the need to define such a holy fundamental word. Humility is not hiding away your talents. It is not becoming small in the eyes of others. It is not degrading or allowing yourself to be degraded by others. Humility is simply having and acting upon the knowledge of who you are in relationship to God. It means seeing the gifts God gave you and using them when they are needed. Humility means realizing exactly who you are, not what people have made you out to be. It means seeing the great value you are worth and living that truthfully and faithfully.

Now, let us look at the questions. There are two inseparable recognitions one needs to make to genuinely understand who they are. The first aspect is the perception that compared to God we are nothing and deserve nothing. Without God, simply put, we would not be living; in fact, we would not even exist much less be able to take a single breath. The second part is the realization that God loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to the world to open the gates of mercy and salvation to us so that we may become His adopted children through the death of Christ, the sacrificial Lamb, upon the cross.

What many of us tend to forget is that God not only made us in His image and likeness, but He also saved us out of LOVE! Live that LOVE and DIGNITY! While the world screams in our ears to be totally self-sufficient and to walk over anyone who gets in the way of our success, our God whispers to our soul, stay in Me and I shall remain in you, be humble and depend upon Me for I shall fill you with My mercy and grace because I love you.

Thus, as I often do, here is my challenge. I dare you to take sometime after reading this and see if you can answer the questions: Who are you? Who is God to you? What is your relationship with Him?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Confessions of a Former Time Killer

"I'm bored."  I found myself, especially in my high school years, saying this line.  "I have nothing to do.  Nowhere to go.  I'm bored."  Time and time again I found myself in that situation.  To relieve boredom I would play video games, call up a friend to go hang out, maybe listen to music, or do other things.  In any case, I felt I had to relieve my boredom by DOING something.  I had to keep myself occupied, although, honestly, I never occupied myself with constructive things like homework or household chores, both being obligations that needed fulfilling. 

At other points in my life, I found myself with others "killing time" either by way of distraction from school work or seminary formation or as a replacement for the obligations of such.  In any sense, this wasn't a productive time, but it wasn't a restful either.

I found that after both trying to relieve boredom or "killing time" I was more restless.  I couldn't sleep.  I couldn't relax.  I felt more tense.  Boredom held for me a certain restlessness.  I can't sleep when I'm bored nor am I wholly awake.  I'm restless.  In all of this, I found myself wishing and desiring rest and relaxation.  Acutal, time worth spending doing nothing. 

"The vacancy left by absense of worship is filled by mere killing of time and by boredom, which is directly related to inability to enjoy leisure; for one can only be bored if the spiritual power to be leisurely has been lost."  My heart was restless because it did not rest in Thee, O Lord.  The restless of boredom directly resulted from my inablity to enjoy leisure.  Each occurence of boredom was an opportunity for leisure.  I was afforded the opportunity for divine worship, and I occupied myself with created things. 

Daily I have the opporunity to be leisurely and worship God.  Those times when boredom sets in or the temptation to kill time comes upon me are times to turn to festivity.  Those are times to glorify God in my heart, and perhaps they are times to practice works of charity.  Where before I was blinded by my restlessness, now I have the oppotunity to be the light of the world. 

Lord give me the gift of leisure that I may love You, serve You, and glorify You each day of my life.

A reflection of Chapter V of Leisure: The Basis of Culture