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, August 30, 2003
Welcome to St Blog's

CatholicPundits - several
Oro et Laboro
Running off the keyboard - Carrie Tomko
Catholicism, holiness and spirituality - Steve Bogner

Rembert Weakland

Commonweal has decided to publish an article by Archbishop Rembert Weakland, which is not available online. The following is the editorial comment on the decision to publish his essay "LOOKING FORWARD" (Bringing laity & hierarchy closer together):

Several correspondents have asked about the decision to publish Archbishop Rembert Weakland’s article (“Looking Forward,” see page 18), especially in the light of our criticism of Cardinal Bernard Law’s visibility at the bishops’ recent meeting in Saint Louis (“Learning Curve,” July 18). As Weakland acknowledges in his essay, he is acutely aware of the feelings of betrayal caused by his actions, which included his decision to pay an out-of-court settlement to a man with whom he acknowledges having had a sexual affair. Certainly the archbishop has given scandal, but he has apologized repeatedly, and, unlike Cardinal Law, he has not sought to continue as a visible presence within the bishops’ conference since his resignation.

It is not easy to judge contrition. As Catholics, we believe in forgiveness and the reality of redemption. As editors, we try to judge every submission on its merits, and we would extend that courtesy to Cardinal Law as well. We believe that Weakland’s service and dedication to the church can be a great resource, and that his article deserves a fair hearing.

I would add this, however: Cardinal Law, for all his serious failures, was not himself involved in any sexual scandal or offense. I think that is a distinction that needs to be made. The Commonweal article seems to lump both bishops together. I applaud them in their decision to publish Archbishop Rembert's article (who has never been one of my favoirite authors!).


Jean Baptiste Henri Lacordaire, O.P.

A saint is not simply the point of confluence, the meeting of all the Christian virtues in one and the same soul. This is but ordinary sanctity, that which is necessary to the salvation of every Christian.

There is no Christian in the state of union with God in whom humility, chastity, and charity do not meet together in a degree more or less perfect. We call such people pious men; we might even, to speak widely, call them saints; but this is not what we understand by that great expression - the saints! What then are the saints? What then is sanctity thus understood?

Sanctity is the love of God and of men carried to a sublime extravagance. If communion between the Infinite and the finite really exists; if the heart of God creates a dwelling and lives in the heart of man, it is impossible, at least in certain souls more ardent than the rest, that the presence of an element so prodigious should not become visible, should not produce extraordinary effects which the weakness of our nature and of our language would constrain us to call extravagant. For what is the meaning of this word? It means that which goes beyond.

There is in sanctity a phenomenon of extravagance, a love of God and men which frequently defies ordinary human understanding. But this is not the unique characteristic of sanctity; extravagance alone would be only singularity, and singularity proves nothing in favor of the man who makes it a part of his actions, if it is not perhaps a great deal of vanity and a little of bad education.

Extravagance in sanctity should be corrected by another element, and it is in fact by the sublime - that is to say, by moral beauty in its highest degree; by that beauty which causes the rapture of human sense. Thus, there is in sanctity something which wounds human sense and something which enraptures it; something which produces stupor and something which produces admiration.

And these two things are not separated there, like two streams which flow side by side. But the extravagant and the sublime, that which wounds human sense and that which enraptures it, mingled and dissolved the one with the other, make of sanctity but one tissue, in which it is impossible for the most active spirit of analysis, at the moment when it sees the saint in action, to distinguish that which is extravagant from that which is sublime - that which binds man to earth from that which lifts him up even to God.

Defining sanctity in these terms, we would naturally expect the history of the saints to be a rare phenomenon, reserved to one time or to one country. But the truth is the exact opposite.

It is a general and a constant phenomenon. Wherever Catholic doctrine takes root, even where (so to speak) it is placed as a grain of seed between rocks, sanctity appears and becomes manifest in some souls by fruits which defy the esteem and the scorn of reason.

That sublime extravagance dates from a yet higher and more unutterable folly - the folly described by Saint Paul of a God dying upon a Cross, His head crowned with thorns, His feet and His hands pierced, His body bruised and mutilated. Since that time the contagion of holiness has never ceased to choose victims in the world - victims to whom belong the heritage of the cross, the living tradition of voluntary martyrdom, the dignity of extravagance and the glory of the sublime.

Friday, August 29, 2003
Question Added

Below the Oxford Declaration in the last post I added a simple question.

New Liturgical Movement

There has been a good bit of liturgical discussion around St Blog's lately, due, in part, to the implementation of the new GIRM (General Introduction to the Roman Missal). I was reminded of what I have considered the "magna carta" of the new liturgical movement, known as "The Oxford Declaration." I post it here for your personal reflection and any comments you might have:


1. Reflecting on the history of liturgical renewal and reform since the Second Vatican Council, the Liturgy Forum agreed that there have been many positive results. Among these might be mentioned the introduction of the vernacular, the opening up of the treasury of the Sacred Scriptures, increased participation in the liturgy and the enrichment of the process of Christian initiation. However, the Forum concluded that the preconciliar liturgical movement as well as the manifest intentions of Sacrosanctum Concilium have in large part been frustrated by powerful contrary forces, which could be described as bureaucratic, philistine and secularist.

2. The effect has been to deprive the Catholic people of much of their liturgical heritage. Certainly, many ancient traditions of sacred music, art and architecture have been all but destroyed, Sacrosanctum Concilium gave pride of place to Gregorian chant, yet in many places this "sung theology" of the Roman liturgy has disappeared without trace. Our liturgical heritage is not a superficial embellishment of worship but should properly be regarded as intrinsic to it, as it is also to the process of transmitting the Catholic faith in education and evangelization. Liturgy cannot be separated from culture; it is the living font of a Christian civilization and hence has profound ecumenical significance.

3. The impoverishment of our liturgy after the Council is a fact not yet sufficiently admitted or understood, to which the necessary response must be a revival of the liturgical movement and the initiation of a new cycle of reflection and reform. The liturgical movement which we represent is concerned with the enrichment, correction and resacralization of Catholic liturgical practice. It is concerned with a renewal of liturgical eschatology, cosmology and aesthetics, and with a recovery of the sense of the sacred - mindful that the law of worship is the law of belief. This renewal will be aided by a closer and deeper acquaintance with the liturgical, theological and iconographic traditions of the Christian East.

4. The revived liturgical movement calls for the promotion of the Liturgy of the Hours, celebrated in song as an action of the Church in cathedrals, parishes, monasteries and families, and of Eucharistic Adoration, already spreading in many parishes. In this way, the Divine Word and the Presence of Christ's reality in the Mass may resonate throughout the day, making human culture into a dwelling place for God. At the heart of the Church in the world we must be able to find that loving contemplation, that adoring silence,which is the essential complement to the spoken word of Revelation, and the key to active participation in the holy mysteries of faith.

5. We call for a greater pluralism of Catholic rites and uses, so that all these elements of our tradition may flourish and be more widely known during the period of reflection and 'ressourcement' (going back to the sources) that lies ahead. If the liturgical movement is to prosper, it must seek to rise above differences of opinion and taste to that unity,which is the Holy Spirit's gift to the Body of Christ. Those who love the Catholic tradition in its fullness should strive to work together in charity, bearing each other's burdens in the light of the Holy Spirit, and persevering in prayer with Mary the Mother of Jesus.

6. We hope that any future liturgical reform would not be imposed on the faithful but would proceed, with the utmost caution and sensitivity to the sensus fidelium, from a thorough understanding of the organic nature of the liturgical traditions of the Church. Our work should be sustained by prayer, education and study. This cannot be undertaken in haste, or in anything other than a serene spirit. No matter what difficulties lie ahead, the glory of the Paschal Mystery - Christ's love, his cosmic sacrifice and his childlike trust in the Father - shines through every Catholic liturgy for those who have eyes to see, and in this undeserved grace we await the return of spring.

- The Declaration was published in the name of the Liturgy Forum of the Centre for Faith and Culture, constituted under the chairmanship of Mgr Peter J. Elliott, a Vatican official and author of Ceremonies of the Roman Rite, at the conclusion of the Centre's summer conference.

I would sign this declaration if asked.

Would you?


Mark Shea, prolific blogger, posted this letter to the editor in the recent issue of "Crisis" (mine came in the mail yesterday but I hadn't yet read the letters section). Be sure to read the wonderful comments on Mark's blog:


I was delighted to read the Manichaean ramblings of Danel Paden, director of the Catholic Vegetarian Society ("Letters," June 2003). It confirmed my theory that fanaticism in Western society alternates between nudism and vegetarianism, both of which contradict the order of grace.

As an optimist, I happily trust that Paden confines his extreme commitments to vegetarianism.

Taste is one thing; it is another thing to condemn meat eating as "evil" and permissible only "in rare and unfortunate circumstances." Paden disagrees with no less an authority than God, Who forbids us to call any edible unworthy (Mark 7: 18-19), and Who enjoins St Peter to eat pork chops and lobster in one of my favorite revelations (Acts 10: 9-16). Does the Catholic Vegetarian Society think that our Lord was wrong to have served up fish to the 5,000, or should He have refrained from eating the Passover Lamb? When He rose from the dead and appeared in the Upper Room, He did not ask for a bowl of Cheerios, nor did He whip up a meatless omelette on the shore of Galilee.

Man was made to eat flesh (Genesis 1: 26-31; 9: 1-6), with the exception of human flesh. I stand on record against cannibalism, whether it be inflicted upon the Mbuti Pygmies by the Congolese Army or on larger people by a maniac in Milwaukee. But I am also grateful that the benevolent father in the parable did not welcome his prodigal son home with a bowl of radishes.

Vegetarians assume an unedifying posture of detachment from the sufferings of vegetables that are mashed, stewed, diced, and shredded. In expensive restaurants, cherries are publicly burned in brandy to the applause of diners. It is not uncommon for people to submerge olives in iced gin and twist the peels of lemons. Be indignant, vegetarian, but not so selectively indignant that the bleat of the lamb and the plaintive moo of the cow drown out the whine of our brother the bean and the quiet sigh of the cauliflower.

Vegetables have reactive impulses. Were we to confine our diet to creatures that lacked sense and do not even respond to light, we could only eat liturgists and liberal Democrats.

The Rev. George W. Rutler
New York City

I have often said to friends, "I don't trust anyone who won't eat steak." Joshing of course. But I am a meat and potatoes type of guy (though I grow fonder and fonder of fruit and veggies). Some of those I love and respect deeply are pretty much vegetarians, from strict to "more or less." OK. Live and let live. But I found Father Rutler's piece irresistible as a swedish meatball!

Today's Feast

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes: The Beheading of John the Baptist, 1869

OBITUARY - Vivien Greene

The Tablet online has a nice obit of the wife Graham Greene left

Thursday, August 28, 2003
In the Name of God

Just watched the documentary "In the Name of God: Scenes from the Extreme" about Muslim extremists and I must say it was very disturbing. It conveyed an aspect of Islam I can only call revolting. It showed Muslims without any joy of living but with an obsession with death and killing. And raising the children in a culture of hatred and destruction and death. Disgusting. While we Christians have our problems and our societies are not without serious weaknesses, how much I prefer this to the tension-filled, vacuous culture of so much of the Islamic world. (Even the food seen in this documentary seemed so lacking in color, texture, presentation as did almost everything else. And is there no natural beauty left in the Islamic world?).

But this frightening and powerful world needs to be better known and we had better be prepared.

Evangelicals poised to take over the (Anglican) Church

"Evangelicals, dismissed as a vociferous minority by senior liberals during the Jeffrey John affair, are now poised to take over the Church of England.

A new study suggests that, if current trends continue, evangelicals will make up more than half of all Sunday church worshippers in 10 years' time, up from about a third now..."

Favorite Father of the Church

Augustine of Hippo is my favorite Father of the Church. I find him a guide to opening the Scriptures, a guide to greater self-knowledge, and, by far, the most quotable of all the Fathers of the Church. He speaks my own "language" perhaps more than any other - the "language of the heart." Reading him often resonates deep within me. This is not the case with most other Fathers most of the time (and that, of course, may well be my problem). Augustine seems to be vital and actual and contemporary beyond any other Father.

Do you have a favorite Father?

Stokes charged with assault

Man tried in priest shooting accused of hitting woman; He, ex-fiancee have daughter, 3; If convicted, he could face 10-year prison sentence

"Dontee D. Stokes, the West Baltimore barber who avoided prison last year after being convicted in connection with shooting a priest, has been charged with assaulting the mother of his child, an allegation that could land him in jail..."

This is the same person who Cardinal Keeler praised during his trial relating to shooting a priest of Keeler's Archdiocese, alleged to have sexually abused Stokes (no conviction yet). Cardinal Keeler never even mentioned the priest, total silence. But of Dontee Stokes, who shot one of his priests three times, he said: "He is a young man who has shown much promise; may God bless him now and in the days and years to come."

Stokes was convicted of a hand gun violation and sentenced to six months of home detention. The Sun article here blurs the reality - implying that Stokes was convicted of shooting the priest, Maurice Blackwell. Not true. He was convicted of a handgun violation.

Honoring the 9/11 hijackers

London Islamic group plans celebration

WEDNESDAY, ON THE streets of London, there was a jarring poster, extolling the 9/11 hijackers as the “Magnificent 19.” It features a picture of each of the 19 hijackers, the smoking World Trade Center towers and Osama bin Laden. It’s all the work of a radical Islamic group known as Al-Muhajiroun.

In an interview with NBC News, the group’s spiritual leader, Sheik Omar Bakri, says the hijackers deserve to be honored.

“The word magnificent is to attract if you like really the attention of the people to those particular 19 Muslims who in our eyes we see as Muslims what really they are — they are more than magnificent,” Sheik Bakri said. “In our eyes, they are the people who sacrifice their own life and that’s the most valuable thing and they offer it. It must be for a good reason. It must be for divine reason....”

Augustine of the burning heart

Revised from last year's entry

Yesterday was the feast of his mother, Monica. How fitting to keep together the mother of many prayers and tears and the son who benefitted so magnificently from this mother's love and perservance!

I love St Augustine very much, and consider him the greatest of the Fathers of the Church! Certainly the most quotable of the Fathers, and the one whose actuality is most alive today, it seems to me anyway. His "Confessions" are still read and wrestled with by many. (I don't know any other work by any Father that approaches the abiding popularity of the "Confessions").

I love him for his account of his own conversion: that dramatic scene in which he hears that child's voice singing out: "tolle, lege" "take, read" - and how, in the midst of his anguish and divided heart, he opens the Letter of Paul to the Romans and reads: "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and take no more account of the flesh and its lusts" and the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God listened to in faith, gives the gift of a new heart, integrated in Christ.

I have often, in my own struggles and with my own divided heart, gone back to this scene and prayed for a Word that would be effective and transforming as it was for Augustine.

I love him for his profound insights into Christ and the Church. Augustine seems to live in the Scriptures, and this Word informs his vision and his every word. Augustine seems to have been so influential in the unfolding of the Catholic vision of the sacramentality of the Church and its historical incarnation. I am not an "Augustine scholar" but have read enough to sense that Augustine's Trinitarian, Christological, ecclesiological vision has had a profound impact, especially in western Catholic thought. And I sense that today Augustine once again takes his place as we see the truth of his theological vision regarding the power of sin and the need for grace! (Augustine has been unfairly criticized and he has been dismissed as too "pessimistic" etc.)

He is known, too, as "the Doctor of Grace" and he seems more than most Fathers, if not all Fathers, more explicitly tied to the actual words of the Scriptures, especially the epistles of St Paul and St John (with the possible exception of the golden-mouthed John Chrysostom).

I even love him, in a way, for his "errors" and some opinions ultimately rejected by the Church! He demonstrates that no one saint or doctor can be the sole norm or sole teacher - but that the Church's teaching gleans the truth from all, and rejects what is distorted and false even.

Augustine wrote his "Retractions" and revised often. Some of his teachings have not been healthy for the Church - e.g. von Balthasar critiques his beloved Augustine quite harshly for his teaching that one can only hope for oneself...(and this was accepted in the west for centuries - until St Thomas Aquinas, I believe). And his teachings on predestination and the number of the damned has not been received by the Catholic Church as such. (Yet I admire St Augustine for *dealing at all* with these themes, prominent in St Paul and elsewhere in the Scriptures).

According to Romano Guardini, Augustine needs St. Thomas Aquinas for the balanced catholic vision. Augustianianism can tend to a type of "fideism" that doesn't give "secondary causes" sufficient room in God's Plan. But his fire, his warmth of faith, his personalism, his absolute centering in love, is a needed corrective in any attempt to have a full Christian vision of Reality. I suspect that Thomas quotes Augustine more than any other source, outside of the Scriptures themselves. And today, perhaps, Thomism needs the corrective of Augustine: a more realistic appraisal of the sinfulness of "the world" and of the pervasivenss of the effects of original sin. And a renewal of the place of the heart in discpleship, not just the mind and intellect and "rationality" - but the ever sought balance.

Ah, the quotes of Augustine! I know of no other writer who can say so much in so few words - and sear the heart as well.

Many of us are familiar with his memorable phrase, so profoundly true:

"You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

And the daring, startling words::

"Ama Deum, et fac quod vis."
"Love God and do what you will."

Augustine cherished his friends and knew how to know God's love in their midst. Again, he says it incomparably:

"I confess that I give myself entirely to the love of my friends, tired as I am of the troubles of this world. In this I am perfectly at ease, for in this common love I experience God in whom I trust and in whom I take my rest in peace."

"Happy are those who love you, my God, and their friend in you. Such a one is the only person who never loses those who are dear, for they are all loved in you, my God, and you are the God who id never be lost".

Finally Augustine gives such perspective on suffering and the inevitable trials of life in another favorite quotation of his that has nourished me over the years:

"Let no day go by in which I do not bless you; if we do not cease to praise him, even though we seem to be faring badly in a day of sorrow, yet all will be well for us even then in our God."

And this most famous selection from The Confessions:

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

Dear St Augustine, for these - and countless other words - glory to you and to the One who enflamed your heart.

Ora pro nobis, saint of the burning heart!

Today in Christian history

August 28, 430: As Vandals invade Roman North Africa and overwhelm Hippo refugees, Augustine dies of a fever. Miraculously, his writings, including "City of God" survived the Vandal takeover, and his theology became one of the main pillars on which the church of the next 1,000 years was built.

August 28, 1828: Leo Tolstoy, Russian novelist and social reformer, is born. Though the Russian Orthodox Church excommunicated him in 1901, his later works emphasized Christian love and the teachings of Jesus. (His novel, "Anna Karenina" is my favorite of all time).

August 28, 1877: (Venerable) Zelie Marie Guerin Martin, the mother of Saint Therese of Lisieux, died. Married to (Venerable) Louis Martin, a watchmaker, they had nine children. Two boys and two girls died in infancy, and they were left with five daughters. Her mother passed away from breast cancer when Therese was only five years old.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

At least to me. A while back I posted a link to an article about a seemingly fabulous exhibit of art from the Vatican at the Ft Lauderdale Museum of Art. Bill Cork, in a comment, said "if you can, get to it." It dawned on me, just then, that I would be on a cruise in late September and that we would be spending a day in the port of Miami. Not too far from Ft Lauderdale. When I posted the link it never even dawned on me that I could possibly see it.

I have some friends in that neck of the woods, and had called one already and we had plans of meeting while I was in dock in Miami. Then I called her and mentioned the exhibit and she enthusiastically said "let's do it." Alleluia! God willing, then, on September 24th I will be enjoying this glorious exhibit. Father Michael, my traveling buddy, is very enthusiastic about it as well.


Myers-Briggs Profile

A unique profile so far!

Father Jim Tucker has been compiling the Myers-Briggs profiles of some of the St Blog's bloggers. I notice that so far there none who match my own, from about fifteen years ago: ENFJ - extravert (just slighly more than introvert and now I wouldn't be surprised if I have slipped into an "I" here), intuitive, feeler, judger (I like closure!).

I enjoy this personality "test" and even had a few good, enjoyable, Myers-Briggs parties over the years. While it is very limited and inadequate, it has helped me some to know myself a bit better as well as others. In a small but helpful way. It's the only personality test I like. (I dislike the Enneagram intensly, not sure why).

Hindus die in festival stampede

"At least 33 people have died in a stampede at a Hindu religious festival in western India. Many others have been injured in the incident, near the town of Nasik, north-east of Bombay in the state of Maharashtra. The devotees were attending one of India's Kumbh Mela festivals.

During the festival, millions of Hindus seek to bathe in the holy waters of the Godavari river...."

Other stampede deaths among Hindu in recent years:

1999: 52 dead at shrine in southern Indian state of Kerala

1986: 50 dead at festival in Haridwar

1954: about 800 die during Kumbh Mela in Allahabad

Muslims, too, seem prone to such deaths, as these records indicate:

July 2, 1990, Mecca, Saudi Arabia: 1,426 pilgrims killed in a stampede in an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel leading to holy sites. It is the worst hajj tragedy.

May 23, 1994, Mecca, Saudi Arabia: 270 killed in a stampede as worshipers surge during stoning of the devil ritual.

April 9, 1998, Mina, Saudi Arabia: About 180 trampled to death when panic erupted after several pilgrims fell off an overpass.

March 5, 2001, Mina, Saudi Arabia: 35 killed in stampede during stoning of the devil ritual.

March 31, 2001, Multan, Pakistan: 30 people killed when crowd of worshipers surged through the gates of a shrine.

Feb. 11, 2003, Mina, Saudi Arabia: 14 Muslim pilgrims trampled to death at a ritual near the end of the hajj pilgrimage.


The royal lion dog of the Emperor of China (the Pekingnese)

I took ONION to the vet's yesterday for his bi-annual booster shot and "geriatric screen" and a few other tests. While his health is remarkable for his sixteen and a half years (pekingnese life span is usually given as 13-15 years). He has had several seizures this past year and a few times at night he gave out a blood curdling cry for a few moments (and was fine afterwards). He doesn't hear too well and has the beginning of cataracts in his eyes. But his main potential problem has been a long standing heart murmur.

Now the vet said it has become much worse (on a scale from 1 to 6 it is now a 5). Some suggestion for more tests, EKG, sonogram, etc. And then maybe meds, etc. Right now I am staying away from all of that (the money is not a real issue), and want ONION to live as naturally as possible. So far he is ageing so "gracefully." He is loving life! He has, yes, slowed down some. But he still climbs stairs, chases cats and teeny boppers, plays enthusiastically with his toys, and wags his tail a lot. He seems a very happy dog. He sure brings me lots of delight and joy.

The photo is from a time when we were both younger!

Touched with sadness

Ever since reading of John Goergen's violent death while in prison, I have been touched by a profound sadness. I have, more than once, thought of the last moments' of this former priest and the horror of it. I am not in any position to judge the inner state of John Goergen, but no matter what it was, here was an ordained priest being murdered by a fellow inmate in "protective custody." I haven't noticed much sadness expressed; and have seen some comments that strike me as quite out of place and without any heart or soul, even among Catholics.

How true the doctrine of original sin! How true that there is a corruption deeply imbedded in non-redeemed humanity! And while the immense failures and scandals of the Catholic Church have been highlighted these past years, I wonder just how the "Justice System" and "Correctional Facilities" would stand to a deeper scrutiny (and there are many good poeple involved just as in the Church).

At any rate, I am saddened by John Goergen's death. I think of his sister, Catherine, who accompanied him to every hearing in court (oh how hard that must have been for her but she stood faithfully by her brother, despite all). May God wipe away her tears someday. And may she find some justice if she seeks it! And may God bless the victims who have suffered so deeply and who must have such deep emotion about this brutal murder.

May GOD have mercy on us all!

Behind every great man.....

Monica and her son Augustine, "the son of so many tears"

Today the feast of the mother; tomorrow the feast of the son.

Monica, Augustine's mother, has found a special place in the life of the Church and especially with so many mothers who weep for their own sons and daughters.

Saint Monica, pray for us and bring those tears of so many to your son and with him to Our Lord Jesus Christ, who rejoices more over the one who returns than over the ninety nine who never strayed.

Let angels rejoice today!

True and False Reform

Once again I point you to the fine article on this important topic by Cardinal Avery Dulles. Worth reading more than once!

Today in Christian history

August 27, 1660: Charles II, newly restored to the throne, orders the works of poet John Milton (who supported the Parliament) to be burned by royal decree. Milton though imprisoned for a short while, continues work on his masterpiece, Paradise Lost.

August 27, 1727: Count Nicolaus von Zinzendorf's Moravian community at Herrnhut, Germany, begins a round-the-clock "prayer chain." Reportedly, at least one person in the community was praying every minute of the day—for more than a century.

August 27, 1910: Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu is born to an Albanian couple in Yugoslavia. At age 18, Agnes entered an Irish convent. She later bacame known worldwide as Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She said of herself: "By blood and origin I am Albanian; my citizenship is Indian; I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the heart of Jesus."

August 27. 1999: Dom Helder Camera, 90, the former archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Brazil, who was also known as the "Red Bishop," died Aug. 27. Dom Helder pushed the Church to move beyond mere charity and advocate social change in areas such as land distribution and access to education to empower the poverty-stricken in the world's largest Catholic nation. He argued that the Church must have a preference for the poor and used Marxist sociological analytical tools to criticize social structures, actions that branded him a Communist by some church members.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Not really surprised

Some thought I was serious about the new stained glass window and wanted to know which cathedral was installing it. And I thought it was pretty obviously a joke! (At least let's hope!).

Liturgical Renewal or Disaster?

While there are blessed exceptions (such as my own wonderful parish), I still wonder at times if the decades after Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and its implementation have produced more disaster than renewal. If Sacrosanctum Concilium (The Constitution on the Liturgy) had been implemented with a tilt towards tradition, I wonder if the results would have been quite different and the divisions less deep.

I still think it a pastoral mistake to have changed so much - much of which did not need any change; it wasn't broke so why fix it..... let me give just one example here: why eliminate the genuflection during the Creed at "and was made man" and put in its place a less bodily, less expressive, and mostly neglected, "bow" instead? Makes no sense to me anyway.

Renewal or disaster since Vatican II in regard to the Roman Rite Liturgy or perhaps a bit of both?

Mother Teresa's 93rd birthday celebrated

Press Trust of India
Kolkata, August 26

The Missionaries of Charity houses the world over celebrated on Tuesday the 93rd birthday of Mother Teresa with prayers and renewed their commitment to the poorest of the poor.

At the Order's global headquarters, Mother House, in Kolkata the day began with a special Mass in Mother's memory at the building's first floor chapel.

Yesterday, a mass feeding programme was organised by the MCs in the Tangra area of east Kolkata as a prelude to the celebrations of Mother's birthday.

Cardinal Ratzinger Sees "Weakness of Faith" Behind the Crisis

Warns of the Anonymity of Bishops' Conferences

IRONDALE, Alabama, AUG. 24, 2003 (Zenit.org).- For Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the crisis the Church is going through, particularly in the United States, is "a weakness of faith" that calls for conversion and "clear moral teaching."

The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expressed this conviction in an interview with EWTN news director Raymond Arroyo, in Rome, for the news show "The World Over Live." The complete interview, in English, will be aired by Alabama-based EWTN on Friday, Sept. 5, at 8 p.m. (U.S. Eastern time).

The cardinal answered far-ranging questions posed by Arroyo on, among other topics, the root causes of the sexual abuse crisis in the United States, the Vatican official's estimation of the Church's future, and a comment on his possible retirement.

On the latter, Cardinal Ratzinger said, "Yes, I had the desire to retire in 1991, 1996, 2001, because I had the idea I could write some books and return to my studies as Cardinal Martini did. But, on the other hand, seeing the suffering Pope, I cannot say to the Pope, 'I will retire, I will write my books.' I have to continue."

Asked what he identifies as the root cause of the sexual abuse crisis, Cardinal Ratzinger said, "The general element is a weakness of human beings, even of priests. Temptations are present also for the priests. I think the essential point is a weakness of faith."

"So, two things are essential: Conversion to a profound and deep faith, with a life of prayer and sacraments, and clear moral teaching and awareness of the teaching that the Church has the Holy Spirit and can give us the way," the cardinal said.

Arroyo asked: "The bishops' conference has largely taken the lead, the national conference, in trying to heal and put an end to this crisis. Because there is such a lack of confidence, if you will today, among the faithful in their episcopacy, do you believe the bishops' conference to be the best instrument of that healing at this point?"

Cardinal Ratzinger replied, "Coordination between the bishops is certainly necessary because the United States is a great continent. From the outset it is clear that the personal responsibility of the bishop is fundamental for the Church, and perhaps the anonymity of the bishops' conferences can be a danger for the Church. Nobody is personally, immediately responsible. It was always the conference - and you do not know where or who is the conference..."

Church 'never persecuted Galileo Galilei'

"Citing a letter recently discovered in the Vatican's archive, a senior Curia official has denied that the Church persecuted Galileo Galilei for pointing out that the earth goes round the sun.

The new secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Angelo Amato, has claimed the letter proves that the Church treated Galileo very well.

The letter, sent by the Commissioner of the Holy Office to Cardinal Francesco Barberini in 1633, expressed the pope's concern that the trial of the scientist accused of heresy be concluded quickly as his health was poor.

The idea, he said, that "Galileo was incarcerated and even tortured so that he would abjure" was no more than a legend, "transmitted by a false iconography", he insisted..."

From formulas that seemed barren flares a flaming holiness

"Let us be united in teaching the same things: not opinions more or less reputable, but what the Magisterium of the Church proposes. The criterion in catechizing is then the depositum custodi of Saint Paul, not the other one sometimes used: 'What do people like? What's in fashion today? What will make me look trendy and bright?'. Along with the Pope, I beg you not to to nurture too much prejudice against a wise and moderate use both of formulas and memorizing. Agreed, knowing by rote is not knowing ... Nevertheless a formula understood and known by heart is like a clothes-hook on which, despite the passage of the years, the most important religious beliefs stay hung.

Certain formulas in chemistry and algebra, some fundamental articles of the legal code because they demand exactitude, are learned by heart at high school and university. Now, is there a code more crucial than religious truths and moral precepts? Formulas, it's said, are barren. The match seems barren as well but, when struck, it becomes a flame.

Here in the Veneto, we have the case of Saint Bertilia Boscardin who learned the catechism almost only by formulas. The parish priest had given it to her, when she was a young girl; she took it into the convent; she read it and re-read it constantly; they found it in the pocket of her dress after her death. It was almost threadbare, but from those formulas, which seemed barren, the saint had learned how to make a flaming holiness flare."

- Albino Luciano, Patriarch of Venice, future Pope John Paul I, Homily to Catechists, Venice, October 29 1977

I am grateful I was made to memorize words and "formulas" and prayers - I have been growing into them ever since!

The Pope who briefly smiled on us

The gifted, simple, humble, smiling Pope, John Paul I

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 25, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Twenty-five years ago, on Aug. 26, 1978, the patriarch of Venice, Albino Luciani, was elected Pope, taking the name John Paul I.

The solemn commemoration of this pontificate, which lasted only 33 days, will be presided over on Tuesday by the present patriarch of Venice, Archbishop Angelo Scola, in Canale d'Agordo, Luciani's birthplace.

Over the past few months, Bishop Vincenzo Savio of BellunoFeltre, the diocese to which Canale d'Agordo belongs, has successfully concluded the investigation verifying the premises to open the cause of beatification.

The cause will be introduced officially this autumn. Testimonies are already being gathered.
"It is important to keep Luciani as a companion who will lead us to discover ordinary holiness," Bishop Savio said.

"Luciani is not a holy saint characterized by many miracles or works of who-knows-what extent," he added. "His holiness consists in the exercise of daily virtues, in the ordinary character of life."

Albino Luciani was born on Oct. 17, 1912. Ordained a priest on July 7, 1935, he dedicated his priestly ministry to the study of theology and the formation of seminarians of the Belluno Diocese, of whose seminary he was vice rector.

Appointed bishop of Vittorio Veneto in 1958, he took part in the four sessions of the Second Vatican Council. In 1969, Paul VI named him patriarch of Venice.

Father Diego Lorenzi, Cardinal Albino Luciani's secretary since 1973, recalls that the prelate was timid, and that he walked around Venice dressed as any other priest.

"But it must be added that when the truth had to be told, there was no timidness able to silence him," he recalled.

Albino Luciani had a sense of humor, the priest continued. The former used to say that the not-so-interesting homilies he had given as a priest, automatically became brilliant and exciting for the people the moment he was consecrated bishop.

At least on two occasions, Paul VI expressed publicly before Patriarch Luciani the possibility that he would succeed him as Pope. However, in his first address, the new Pope John Paul I said: "Today, when entering the conclave, I would never have thought what was going to happen to me. Danger has started for me."

And he added: "I don't have either the wisdom of the heart of Pope John, or the preparation and learning of Pope Paul, but I am in their place, I must try to serve the Church. I hope that you will help me with your prayers."

John Paul I with the future John Paul II

Monday, August 25, 2003

Today in Christian history

August 25, 1270: Louis IX, king of France since 1226, dies. Louis had been close to death 26 years earlier, and he vowed if he recovered from his bout with malaria, he would lead a crusade. In 1248 he kept his promise and led the Seventh Crusade in an unsuccessful attempt to crush the Muslim political center in Egypt. When he died, the holy king (who had spent much of his reign wearing hair shirts, collecting relics, and visiting hospitals—where he often emptied bedpans) was fighting in the northern Africa city of Tunis during the Eighth Crusade. Lying on a bed of ashes, his last words lamented the city he never won: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem". Louis was canonized in 1287.

August 25, 1560: Led by John Knox, the reformed Church of Scotland is established on Protestant lines. The Scottish parliament accepts the Calvinistic Scots Confession, forbids the mass, and declares the pope has no jurisdiction in Scotland.

Sunday, August 24, 2003
"Sunshine and Surburban Cheer"

Stained Glass Window to be installed at renovation of the old cathedral

Years ago I read somewhere and committed to memory a sentence of Michael Novak's regarding the ICEL translation of the Liturgy: "The Liturgy wasn't translated into English; it was translated into sunshine and surburban cheer."

Reflecting a bit on both John Allen's report and Cardinal Stafford's interview - both referenced in prior posts - I have come up with a few fragmentary and tentative thoughts on the crisis in the Church. I wonder if at least part of it isn't due to a simple lack of understanding of human nature and of original sin and its effects (and cure)? I recall a wonderful older Redemptorist who. while hardly rejecting Vatican II, did tell me that he thought it highly overestimated human nature. (I hear an echo of this in Cardinal Stafford's comments about the over optimistic approach in Guadium et Spes, Vatican II's famous Constitution on the Church in the modern world).

The new thinkers both Allen and Stafford mention can be, perhaps, described as "post-modern Augustinian Thomists" at least according to Tracey Rowland, who is one of those identified by both of these authors. I like that! Thomism was, in some ways, a corrective to Augustinianism, which can tend to pessimism and fideism (at least according to Chesterton and Guardini) unless corrected by the optimism and common sense of Thomas. Now it seems the need is for a corrective of Augustinianism! More sense of the fallenness of our nature, less optimism about the "world", more realism and more "faith" and "mystery" - "dynamic orthodoxy."

I see the need in things like this: the almost total disappearance of the ascetical dimension of ALL Christian discpleship: without the ascetic effort can we ever say "no" to our self-serving selves and be free to love freely and genuinely (of course, the family can be the great school of asceticism for many). The discipline of fasting has pretty well gone the way of the bathtub and baby. Everything has been made easy and accessible and understandable and brigth and cheery. My God, even those who went to church perhaps twice in a lifetime are buried with white vestments and ringing alleluias! And God help a priest who wears black vestments! There would be most likely "zero tolerance" here! Bring in the sunshine!

Interesting that in the past decades since Vatican II so many safeguards that were in place over many centuries - in place since the Church has known human nature so well - were ripped out overnight (so to speak). The protective grills in the confessional, the glass doors in Rectories (at least this was a rule in some religious orders), clerical garb worn most of the time, silence in religious communities, boundaries based on common sense and long experience. Now everything seems up to the individual - and based on a very optimistic view of human nature..... (yet look at the reality of these past decades!).

The ICEL translation is a good example. Look at what is so often cut out, deleted, distorted: much of what is "negative" and shows us what our true place is: God forbid we actually "beg" or "implore" God for anything! And "humbly." Forget it. And the problem goes deeper. Less obvious and less massive is the deletions in the reformed Liturgy - e.g. the innovation of removing the "cursing Psalms" from the psalter sung at the Divine Offices and prayed in the Liturgy of the Hours. Today we had a choice of readings from Ephesians: one that spoke about the "subordination" of the wife to the husband and the "shorter version" that omits this troublesome phrase. Let the sunshine in! No troubles! Make it easy and unoffensive!

I realize these reflections are fragmentary and hardly conclusive and hardly touch the surface. But maybe some of it points to real problems in today's Church. I conclude with words I could have written but not as beautifully as this writer-poet:

"I am glad that I learned of life from my awry family and from a Church on the brink of Vatican Two. Nothing then was dull. Now, in this new Church, everything becomes, very quickly, very dull. There are no processions, no incense, no sin, no candles, no vestments, no long, drawn-out liturgies where one was forced to think, whether one liked it or not, about the divine. Everything now is short, clean, brightly modern, and for all the 'relevance', morbidly uninteresting."

"I learned to love the world amidst the whimsical conjunction of the old world at its end and new world of the Church and its war with modern life at its beginning. I am glad I was not born at that time when I would have had to learn of the Church under the sun-shadow of the Second Vatican Council and totally liberated universe. It would have been a little for me like learning to love music through Wagner. There was still then style enough left over from the past to enable me to worship the Lord, fear Him, adore the world, honor my parents, delight in the day, keep chaste, and yet wonder continually about what a glorious, bountiful and sensuous thing life was."

And yet with the poet I can confess:

"I think of the Church, my family, and me in the bark of the world, growing with it, disappearing now and then into it, living with it, dying with it, resurrecting with it in the riddle of my life. I write of the Church from the place it has taken me, as judge, as the beginning of my poems, as the form of my dreams, and the splendid, four-dimensional bulk of my salvation."

- Ned O'Gorman, Catholicism Past

The Church needs genuine renewal - and not another "renovation"l

Thanks to Amy for this link

Auction off the pews and get in those chairs!

Hopefully this is not the full story about the proposed renovation of the Rochester cathedral.

Want a confessional in your living room?

Patriarch (Bartholomew) visits Astoria (Queens, NY)

I was surprised to learn this morning that the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, is in the United States. I keep up with several Orthodox message boards and blogs and not a word about it that I noticed. Not a word in the New York Times either. A low key visit, I suspect.

End of Long Lent of 2002?

Trying to discern Providence in the latest sad chapter of the "long Lent of 2002" (a phrase coined, I think, by Richard John Neuhaus to describe the scandals and ensuing troubles afflicting the Catholic Church in the US, intensified during Lent of 2002 and extending well beyong the Lent of 2003): I wonder if the brutal murder of offender John Goergen isn't a "sign" that an era has ended and it's time for a new era in the life of the Church (which is not to say a return to "business as usual" - far from that!).

Now the focus must be the genuine renewal of the Church, a reinvigorated priesthood, a more "dynamically orthodox" and pastorally aware episcopate, a laity formed by the Word of God and the authentic Tradition of the Church: in short, a time for HOLINESS.

Just a little gesture: I removed from my sidebar the link to my own webpage on The Scandals and Hope. It's time to move on, chastened, humbled, repentant, grateful, hopeful, with a new joy that the Christ lives in His Church and that the Church, our Mother and Teacher, still reflects the Light of Christ as the moon reflects the light of the sun. She wanes and waxes. May she now wax radiantly in the United States and throughout the world!

Veni, Sancte Spiritus!

Conservative U.S. Catholics plan summit

Not exactly sure why I just can't get excited about yet another meeting and another summit. I do think, though, a Provincial Council would be a good step. But we just don't need more Declarations and Statements and Programs and Plans... for "the Kingdom of God is not in words but in power" (1 Cor 4: 20).

Former priest Geoghan is slain

The Boston's Globe's report

"...When news of Geoghan's slaying reached his victims yesterday, it provoked little sympathy. "Good," said Frank Leary, who was assaulted by Geoghan in the early 1970s at the rectory of St. Andrew's Church in Jamaica Plain. "What do you expect? He's where he was supposed to be and this is probably what's supposed to happen to him...

Church officials were stunned.

"The Archdiocese of Boston offers prayers for the repose of John's soul and extends its prayers and consolation to his beloved sister, Cathy, at this time of personal loss," the church said in a statement offered by spokesman the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne."

Baltimore Basilica finds itself at center of a constitutional quandary

"A fund-raising drive to renovate Baltimore's basilica, the nation's first Roman Catholic cathedral and a symbol of religious freedom, defies another cherished notion in American life, according to critics: the division between church and state.

The basilica's historic trust is applying for up to $4 million in state and federal money to help refurbish the church for its bicentennial in 2006..."

Today in Christian history

August 24, 410: Alaric and the Goths sack Rome. Pagans blamed pacifist Christians and their God repudiated for the defeat. Augustine, in his massive "City of God", rejects this claim and blamed Rome's corruption instead.

August 24, 1572: Catherine de Medici sends her son, young King Charles IX of France, into a panic with threats of an imminent Huguenot (French Protestant) insurrection. Frenzied, he yelled, "Kill them all! Kill them all!" In response, Catholics in Paris butchered the Huguenots who had come to the city for a royal wedding. Between 5,000 and 10,000 Protestants died in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. The Pope referred to this sad event in his sermon given at the World Day of Youth in Paris in 1998:

"On the eve of Aug. 24, we cannot forget the sad massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day, an event of very obscure causes in the political and religious history of France. ... Christians did things which the Gospel condemns. I am convinced that only forgiveness, offered and received, leads little by little to a fruitful dialogue, which will in turn ensure a fully Christian reconciliation. ... Belonging to different religious traditions must not constitute today a source of opposition and tension. On the contrary, our common love for Christ impels us to seek tirelessly the path of full unity."

August 24, 1662: The deadline arrives for all British ministers to publicly assent to the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). The Act of Uniformity, passed on May 19, 1662, also required the BCP to be used exclusively from this date forward. The act remains on Britain's Statute Book, though it has been modified over the years.

August 24, 1939: Pope Pius XII broadcast an appeal to the world on the radio today in an attempt to avert World War II.

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