A Catholic Blog for Lovers

A celebration of beauty, truth, and goodness, and, of course, love...and perhaps a little nastiness

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Saturday, May 08, 2004

Be sure to read the comments - lots of them! - spurred by this post of Mark's. At least sometimes, Catholics do have more fun!

Methodists Vote Overwhelmingly Against Call to Split the Church

PITTSBURGH, May 7 — One day after United Methodist conservatives stunned many church members at the denomination's convention here by proposing a split because of disagreements over homosexuality, delegates voted overwhelmingly Friday to remain unified.

The vote, on the closing day of the church's quadrennial General Conference, was primarily a symbolic measure meant to signal anguish at the conservatives' initiative. Delegates, many teary-eyed, linked hands in long chains across the convention center's bleachers and sang a hymn just before the vote on unity passed, 869 to 41.

But the tally does not preclude the conservatives' carrying their proposal to members and congregations around the country, a step that some of their leaders said they intended to take. They say the church is so deeply divided over homosexuality that the "covenant" that holds it together has already been broken..."

Today in Christian history

May 8, 1373: English mystic Julian of Norwich receives 15 revelations (she received another the following day) in which she saw, among other things, the Trinity and the sufferings of Christ. She recorded her visions and her meditations on them 20 years later in her book "The Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love."

May 8, 1559: The Act of Uniformity receives Queen Elizabeth I's royal assent, reinstating the forms of worship Henry VIII had ordered and mandating the use of the Book of Common Prayer (1552).

May 8, 1828: Henri Dunant, founder of the Red Cross and the Young Men's Christian Association, is born in Geneva. He won the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

May 8, 1845: The Southern Baptist Convention, one of the largest denominations in America, organizes in Augusta, Georgia.

May 8, 1895: Roman Catholic archbishop and broadcaster Fulton J. Sheen is born in El Paso, Illinois. With his ABC shows "Life is Worth Living" and the "Bishop Sheen Program," he became the most prominent American Catholic of broadcasting's golden era.

Friday, May 07, 2004
Chileans granted right to divorce

Chile's President Ricardo Lagos has signed a new law giving Chileans the right to divorce, despite opposition from the Roman Catholic Church.

The law, approved by Congress in March, will take effect in six months.

Until now, Chilean couples could only have a marriage annulled by a civil registrar - but this did not give them the rights of a legal divorce.

Chile has long been one of only three countries in the world where divorce is banned by law..."

Anyone know the other two countries that forbid divorce? An internet search didn't help me.

The critics are always ready to attack.

But I am delighted at the news and hope to see photos of the finished works of iconography. How petty the critics seem to me anyway!

(Thanks to Patrick Rothwell, here's a look at the images discussed).

Just in case you don't want to register for the online Tablet, here is the report:

"Neocat founder attacked for Madrid cathedral murals. Praising the 'lucky hands' of their creator, the Archbishop of Madrid, Antonio María Rouco Varela, blessed a series of murals and windows in Madrid’s Almudena Cathedral last week.

But the 'hands' he referred to have already had an impact on the Catholic Church far beyond Madrid: the artist commissioned for the work is Kiko Argüello, the founder of the Neocatechumenal Way, a Catholic movement which counts more than a million members worldwide.

'Art proclaims the word of God in this cathedral,' Cardinal Rouco told those present at the inauguration ceremony, who included the artist himself and many other members of the Neocatechumenal movement. In his address the Cardinal described Argüello’s naive style, inspired by Byzantine iconography, as a symbol of unity between the Orthodox and Catholic traditions of East and West.

In total, there are seven murals, situated above the altar of the Neoclassical cathedral, which was inaugurated by the Pope in 1993. Above them are eight stained-glass windows depicting the life of Christ. Begun in the New Year, the works were completed in less than four months.

Argüello was originally approached to consider the project four years ago by Cardinal Rouco, who had seen one of his murals in the Church of Santa Francesca Cabrini in Rome. He was formally chosen to carry out the work by the cathedral authorities last year.

Sixty-five-year-old Argüello was a professional artist in his earlier career, winning Spain’s National Painting Prize in 1959. But then came his vocation and lifelong mission. With its roots in evangelising to Spain’s urban poor in the 1960s, the Neocatechumenal Way he founded now has a presence in 150 countries.

Its commitment to conservative social values and theology of continual 'post-baptismal' renewal has won the organisation warm approval from the Pope, who recently endorsed the movement as 'Catholic formation that is valid for society and the times we live in'.

But there have been criticisms from the Spanish press that Rouco’s appointment of Argüello puts church loyalties above artistic integrity.

Some newspapers have questioned the transparency of the commissioning process for this national monument, and some critics have dubbed his work 'infantile' and 'archaic'.

Doubts were also raised about the extremely short time in which such a major project was executed.

Entitled the Crown of Mystery, the series of murals is dominated by the central iconic depiction of Christ 'the ‘Pancreator’' – the 'Creator of All'. This is flanked on the left by scenes from Jesus’ earthly life, the Baptism, Transfiguration and Crucifixion; and on the right, by scenes of the Risen Christ: the Empty Tomb, the Ascension and Pentecost.

Argüello says he managed to complete the work in three months thanks to a dedicated team of 13 assistants, and also by praying and fasting.

Given the timing of the inauguration, some media pundits have suggested that the work had been fast-tracked in time for the wedding of Prince Felipe, heir to the Spanish throne, that will take place in the cathedral later this month. The cathedral authorities deny that there is a link between the two events."

Islam's turbulent critic

The Tablet Interviews Irshad Manji

Irshad Manji has produced an insider's view of oppression, which has outraged Muslims. She talks to Michael Hirst about faith, religious reform and women

FOR a marked woman, Irshad Manji is remarkably unperturbed. She has received death threats for her book attacking mainstream Islam for its subjugation of women, its anti-Semitism and its authoritarianism. Even the title, The Trouble with Islam - A wake-up call for honesty and change, seems designed to attract the fury of Muslim critics, many of whom have written off the 35-year-old journalist and television presenter as a "self-hating Muslim", and even a Mossad agent. As a lesbian feminist Canadian of Ugandan Asian origin who also happens to be an outspoken supporter of Israel and the West, Manji knows what it is to be despised by fellow Muslims...."

While I do not necessarily endorse all that this author writes, I do think it an important topic and an important - and rare - book. Perhaps you may be interested in it as well.

Today in Christian history

May 7, 1274: The Second Council of Lyons convenes with the goal of reunifying the Roman and Greek Churches. Orthodox delegates agreed to recognize the papal claims and recite the Creed with the filioque clause, but the union was rejected by the majority of Orthodox clergy and laity fiercely rejected the union.

May 7, 1605: Russian prelate Nikon, patriarch of Moscow and the head of the Russian church, is born in Valdemanovo. When he tried to reform the Church in 1642, a schism erupted, and the Church deposed and banished him. The schism continues in the "Old Believer" communities, which have experienced schism as well.

May 7, 1833: German pianist and composer Johannes Brahms is born in Hamburg. Intensely religious, he wrote many works for the church though one never officially employed him. He even compiled the biblical texts for his "German Requiem" himself.

Thursday, May 06, 2004
Sufficient for the day is the trouble thereof....

Today I had a few minor "set backs" and I don't like that, of course. I like it when things turn out well and to my advantage, which seems to happen often enough. But today's have not so turned (yet) and so I live with a sense of loss and disappointment. But all is not lost: in fact, I may have needed this jolt. I do tend to get too complacent, too much tied into a routine that can be stifling of the Spirit, and my priorities can be very unbalanced. Sometimes it seems a measure of troubles is needed to restore balance. At least I am hoping for this..... and would appreciate your prayers as well. Thanks.

37 parishes are notified they might face closing

The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has sent letters to 37 parishes, informing them that they have been recommended for possible closure by a regional vicar, a regional bishop, or a central archdiocesan committee of lay people and priests.

The archdiocesan spokesman, the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, said the letters were sent so that every parish being considered for closure will know that it could be closed. The 37 parishes are in addition to about 100 parishes previously recommended for possible closing by local clusters of churches; those recommendations were already made public through church bulletins..."

Today in Christian history

May 6, 1527: An army of barbarians who had been sent—but were no longer controlled—by Emperor Charles V sacks Rome. Many Protestants interpreted the attack as a divine rebuke, and some Catholics agreed: "We who should have been the salt of the earth decayed until we were good for nothing," wrote Cardinal Cajetan, Luther's adversary. "Everyone is convinced that all this has happened as a judgment of God on the great tyranny and disorders of the papal court."

May 6, 1638: Dutch theologian Cornelius Jansen, who became the leader of a movement in the Roman Catholic Church - later known as "Jansenism", dies. Jansen opposed the teachings of the Jesuits and of Thomas Aquinas, urging the church to rediscover what he believed to be Augustine's doctrine of irresistible grace. For his views on grace and predestination, the church prohibited Jansen's teachings.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Europe Passé?

James Hitchcock writes about the situation of Europe vis a vis Christianity. Not a hopeful picture! I keep hoping things will turn around and get better. There are, I believe, some signs of hope here and there. But overall I think Hitchcock is quite on target. For me, one of the most discouraging realities is the low low birthrate in western Europe. For the first time in history - without famine, war, pestilence - a whole group is not reproducing itself. That to me is a sign of despair. Yet I hope against hope. Veni, Sancte Spiritus!

Local Loveliness

As much as I look forward to upcoming travels and new and revisited sites of great beauty, I realize that right here locally there is more beauty than I could ever take in! Here's an inadequate look at one of the local wonders of spring: what seems to me in real life a cascade of azaleas, a cascade of color and loveliness. Photos taken later in the afternoon yesterday, May 4th.

Our Mother of Perpetual Help

A May offering

The shrine with the miraculous image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the Mission Church in Boston

This beautiful shrine in Roxbury, Massachussetts, has been called "Lourdes in the land of the Puritans." The Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, known as the Mission Church since it was started as a Mission station for Redemptorist mission preachers, is one of the great churches of the United States. Its Wednesday Novena used to draw many thousands from all over the Boston area. For decades this great Novena was preached by Father Joe Manton, one of the most popular preachers ever in the American Catholic Church.

With all the changes around that area, even Mission Hill itself, the parish is much smaller than it once was. But work goes on and prayers continue. And just recently a major clean up and restoration made the church shine more beautifully than ever since it was dedicated in 1878. If you are ever in the Boston area, it is well worth a trip and visit. If you do so, please remember me before the miraculous icon of Our Mother of perpetual help!

The Mission Church in Boston

Today in Church history

May 5, 553: The Second Council of Constantinople convenes under the presidency of Eutychius, the city's new patriarch. The council, loaded with bishops from the Eastern church, attacked "Nestorianism". St Gregory Nazianzen had harsh words about this Council and the treatment he received there: the younger members of this Council, he said, "attacked him like a swarm of wasps."

May 5, 1525: Frederick III, the elector of Saxony also called "Frederick the Wise," dies. An avid collector of relics and a supporter of modern scholarship (he founded the University of Wittenberg), Frederick protected Martin Luther after the Diet of Worms condemned the reformer.

May 5, 1813: Christian existentialist Soren Kierkegaard is born in Copenhagen. The Danish philosopher believed no philosophical system could explain the human condition; the experience of reality was what mattered, not the "idea" of it. His most famous and his first book, "Either/Or", sought in part to explain why he suddenly broke off his engagement.

May 5, 1816: The American Bible Society (ABS) organizes in New York to distribute the Bible throughout the world. The organization has distributed hundreds of millions of Bibles in thousands of languages worldwide.

May 5, 1925: Dayton, Tennessee, teacher John Scopes is arrested for teaching evolution in his classroom. (He volunteered to admit violating a recent statute prohibiting such teaching so that the law could be tested in court.) The resulting trial—the first "trial of the century"—led to public mockery of fundamentalist Christians, driving them into a more self-contained subculture.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Another causality of "PC" religion or a good move?

My gut reaction is negative: not sure why. I don't like political correct religion. I do not think "sensitivity" should be an ultimate norm. I don't like a religion that seems to "cave in" and deny some of its own history and "story." I suppose it's no big deal but in the context of the lastest developments in Spain (and most of Europe for that matter) it seems just another negation of its culture in all its riches and nuances (and shadows). I don't think it has anything to do with the threat of more terrorist attacks from extremist Muslims but it can sure look like it does.

The sweet lilt of English and targets

The Holy Cross Australian Orthodox Mission is the first Orthodox church in Australia to have services in English

"...Kakos says Melbourne's other Orthodox churches are watching but have not opposed them. "They know we are a canonical church," he says.

And they are no threat to other Orthodox congregations. The Holy Cross Mission does not intend to "poach" other Orthodox believers. Its targets, according to Kakos, are Catholics, Protestants and unbelievers ? the non-Orthodox and those who are seeking spiritual succour."

Any Australian Catholics out there? Good luck being "a target!" :-)

Troubles between Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop of Athens

According to other news services, the EP Bartholomew has removed Christodoulous from the Diptychs (the list of heads of Orthodox Churches in communion with one another) and has excluded the Archbishop from eucharistic communion.

Let us pray for the well-being and unity of the churches of God!

Sergius Bulgakov: The eyes of the heavenly Queen... pierced my soul

A May offering

Raphael's Sistine Madonna

"In 1898 a new wave of intoxication with this world came upon me. I experienced 'personal happiness'. I met the West for the first time. My admiration of its culture, its comfort and its social democracy was boundless; and then suddenly a wonderful encounter with Raphael's Sistine Madonna took place in Dresden.

It was autumn and a foggy morning, I went to the Art Gallery in order to due my duty as a tourist. My knowledge of European painting was negligible. I did not know what I could expect to see.

The eyes of the Heavenly Queen, the Mother who holds in her arms the Eternal Infant, pierced my soul. I cried joyful and yet bitter tears, and with them the ice melted from my soul and some of my psychological knots were loosened. This was an aesthetic emotion, but it was also a new knowledge; it was a miracle. I was then still a Marxist, but I was obliged to call my contemplation of the Madonna by the name of 'prayer'.

I went to the Zwinger early in the mornings in order to be there before the others arrived. I ran there every day to pray and weep in front of the Virgin, and few experiences in my life were more blessed than those unexpected tears."

- Sergius Bulgakov, Russian Orthodox priest-theologian

That was towards the beginning of Father Sergius Bulgakov's conversion. Towards the end, after many years of service and profound theological writings (some a bit polemical vis a vis the papacy, etc.), after a visit to the Grotto of Our Lady at Lourdes, he wrote:

"The remembrance of this place embalmed by the presence invisible to our eyes, but clearly perceptible to our souls, of the most holy Mother of God, ...will remain among the dearest memories of our lives. At least in our heart the interior dividing wall which separates us from the Roman Church has lost much of its opaqueness."

Monday, May 03, 2004
"A lengthy screed about the New English draft translation"

Here is a response to the proposed new English translation of the Roman Rite Mass from someone I respect very much. I have not yet had a chance to study the text in a sustained way, but hope to do so soon. In the meantime, I share this "screed" to offer some input into a necessary dialog. (I hope the author doesn't mind my doing this - he is a reader of this blog!):

"My initial response is one of extreme disappointment. It is true that the draft translation hews much more closely to the Latin, and in most cases that is to be lauded. But as English prose, it is, in places, even worse than the current translation -- something I did not think was possible.

On the whole, I think the Liturgy of the Word is fine, though I don't much like the translation of "ante omnia saecula" as "before time began," which strikes be as boringly prosaic. I'd much prefer to have seen Cranmer's "before all worlds" or, if that is too archaic, "before all ages," either of which captures better the sense of "saeculum." On the other hand, the restoration of missing phrases in the Gloria and confetior is, to my mind, a plus.

But my chief problem is with the Eucharistic prayers. I think they are positively dreadful in places.

My problem begins with the "sursum corda": what is wrong with translating this with "Lift up your hearts," as every English translation since the 16th century has done? True, it is not a literal translation (which would be "hearts up!"), but neither is the proposed "Let our hearts be lifted high." And the response - ""We hold them before the Lord" not only conjurs up rather gruesome imagery, but is again not particularly more faithful to the untranslateable Latin ("Habemus ad Dominum" -- literally, "We have them to the Lord") than the current, more familiar translation.

"God of mighty hosts" -- if the present version really is unacceptable (and I'm not convicned it is) why not simply leave "Sabaoth" untranslated, since its a loan word from Hebrew anyway. Or we could go back to the 1965 version:
"Lord God of hosts," which would allow us to use 400 years worth of Anglican settings for the Sanctus.

The translation of the memorial acclamation "Mortem tuam" as "We acclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection until you come" is some of the flattest liturgical prose I've ever seen. I realize the "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again" is a paraphrase and cannot even pretend to be a translation, but it is a far better piece of English prose (particularly the way in which each line increases by one syllable) and I think it would be a shame to consign it to the dustbin.

The translation of the Roman Canon is certainly more literal, though it has some very puzzling bits: e.g. in the Communicantes "venerantes" is translated "they venerate." The problem is that "venerantes" is present participle "venerating" and has no subject. The translation seems to presume that it refers back to the previous prayer for the offerers at the Mass. But other translations render this as "we venerate", which seems to me to make more sense.

I think the other Eucharistic prayers are more problematic. In both the second and third, the word "vere" is translated as "truly", which is certainly accurate, but no more accurate than the the current "indeed." Is "Truly, Lord, you are the Holy One" really superior English prose to "Lord, you are holy indeed"? The latter is at least rhythmically regular. And the translation of Eucharistic Prayer II's "Haec ergo dona, quaesumus, Spiritus tui rore sanctifica" as "Therefore make holy these gifts, we implore you, by the outpouring of your Spirit" seems to be slavishly wedded to the Latin word order, whereas "Therefore, we implore you, make these gifts holy by the outpouring of your Spirit" actually sounds like English and is equally faithful to the Latin text. Sometimes, however, there are mistranslations: again in EPII, the translation of "astare" as "to be" rather than "to stand"is limp. If "to stand" is a problem, since the congregation is in fact kneeling, then one might try "to take our place before you."

However, I must say that the ne plus ultra of horrific English prose is the first paragraph of EPIII: "Truly, Lord, you are the Holy One, and all you have created rightly gives you praise, for through your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit you give life and holiness to all that is, and you never cease to gather a people to yourself, so that form the rising of the sun to its setting a pure oblation may be offered to your name." Perhaps you can pull off a sentence that long in Latin, but not in English. There's not even a semicolon in this monster! Even worse, there is absolutely no sense of poetry.

This is just a sampling of the dismaying prose in this draft. I agree with Jim about "Offer each other the peace." And "Go, the Mass is ended" isn't much better, especially when followed by "Thanks be to God." It sounds like we are thankful that Mass is over. Again, the Latin isn't translatable into useable English (lit. "Go, this is a dismissal"), so why not opt for something that is good English prose (I'm quite happy with "Go in the peace of Christ").

Sorry to sound so grumpy about this, and to go on at such length, but I'm terribly disappointed. If this is what we end up with, I will not be a happy camper."

Welcome to St Blog's

Sodakmonk - Fr Matthew Kolwaksi OSB
Liturgia de las horas: her blog - Gia Horas
ReVersion 2.0 - Nicole B
Catholic Kerry Watch - several contributors
Inklings - Diana
True Catholicism - Sir Lancelot

Today in Christian history

May 3, 1512: The Fifth Lateran Council, the last attempt at papal reform before the Lutheran revolt, opens in Rome.

May 3, 1675: A Massachusetts law goes into effect requiring church doors to be locked during services. Officials enacted the law because too many people were leaving before sermons were over.

May 3, 1738: English preacher George Whitefield, the most famous religious figure in the colonies of the 1700s, arrives in America for his first of seven visits. In his lifetime, Whitefield preached at least 18,000 times to perhaps 10 million hearers.

May 3, 1861: The Southern Congress approves a bill installing chaplains in Confederate armies. The American military did not normally employ chaplains, but they became a permanent fixture during and after the Civil War. Between 100,000 and 200,000 Union soldiers and approximately 150,000 Confederate troops converted to Christianity during wartime revivals.

May 3, 2000: John Cardinal O'Connor, Archbishop of New York, outspoken and influential American prelate, died on this day in 2000 at 80. His eulogy was preached by Bernard Cardinal Law of Boston.

Sunday, May 02, 2004
Holy See Says That a Church Shouldn't Be Used by Muslims

Addresses Question Posed by Muslims in Spain

The great mosque of Cordova, now a church

VATICAN CITY, MAY 2, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Is it permissible to allow Muslims to worship in a Catholic church?

The answer is no, according to Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The question, asked by a Spanish Muslim, had sparked a national debate in that country, as followers of Islam in Spain wish to be able to worship in the cathedral of Cordoba, a former mosque.

In statements to AsiaNews, Archbishop Fitzgerald clarified that no official request has been made to the Holy See. It was simply communicated in a personal capacity in March by a Spanish Muslim during a dialogue meeting of the pontifical council, he said.

"A general reflection is needed here," Archbishop Fitzgerald said. "As there are monumental buildings in Cordoba, there are also others around the world which currently have a use different from that of the original -- like the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, now an Islamic museum, despite pressure put on by some Muslims to use it again as a mosque."

"The Holy Father visited the Umayad Mosque in Damascus, praying in front of the tomb of St. John the Baptist," the archbishop recalled. However, the Pope "did not ask to celebrate Mass in the mosque."

"It is difficult to have Christians and Muslims mixing and sharing a common life," Archbishop Fitzgerald said. "The shared use of a building by various churches is problematic. There are spaces dedicated to this purpose, for example, in airports. But they are not churches or mosques. They are interfaith spaces, capable of being used by Jews, Christians, Muslims and persons of other faiths alike."

He continued: "But this is based on a type of agreement to allow for their shared use. Yet this is not the reality in Cordoba, where the building belongs to a specific community."

"We want to live in peace with persons of other religions," Archbishop Fitzgerald said. "However, we don't want to be pushed, manipulated and go against the very rules of our faith."

"If it is a Catholic chapel with the Blessed Sacrament inside," he said, "it should not be used for prayer services of another religious tradition."

I decided that this question if of such import that I must visit this mosque turned church in Cordova myself. God willing, I will be there sometime during Holy Week of next year. Just booked a package for Holy Week and Easter in Seville, Spain. The price was too good to pass up and this has been a dream of many many years which never seemed close to possible. And now hoping against hope....

If any one has suggestions for Seville, send them along! Thanks.

Rich, rich, rich!

Richard John Neuhaus shares riches upon riches in his latest online Public Square (April's). Don't miss his reflections on preaching and the "missalette culture."

Denomination court issues rule

PITTSBURGH -- United Methodist law clearly teaches that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, the highest court in the denomination ruled yesterday.

The Judicial Council, which met during the denomination's General Conference, said violating that church law could be cause for removal from church office..."

Today in Christian history

May 2, 373: Church father Athanasius, "the father of Orthodoxy," dies. He attended the Council of Nicea, and after becoming bishop of Alexandria, he fought Arianism and won. He was also the first to list the New Testament canonical books as we know them today. Anthanasius' tenacity and fidelity, despite all odds, earned him the well deserved phrase, Athanasius contra mundum (Anthanasius against the world).

May 2, 1507: Reformer Martin Luther is ordained a priest, a role in which he would serve for 13 years before being excommunicated.

May 2, 1611: The Authorized or King James Version of the Bible was first published. The names are inaccurate, since King James did little other than convene the Hampton Court Conference, and no one, neither the king nor Parliament nor the bishops, gave their official approval of the final version.

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