Thursday, December 13, 2007

Drive-By Blogging

I won't be posting any more until after my exam tomorrow, but here's a story I hadn't heard before. I much more familiar with the scrubbed version of the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Fr. Stephanos, OSB, has a far more interesting version.

As Fr. Corapi is fond of saying, our mama wears combat boots.

I will be getting to the book meme with which Mark at Dominican Idaho so kindly tagged me.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Lost Bohemians, Weird Al Style

I found this oddity on Cordelia's Shoes, a relatively new blog whose title alludes to one of my favorite Catholic novels.

This one's for you, Julie D.

P.S. I'm beginning to come out of my torpor and have two posts I hope to drop in a day or two... or maybe after my sacred scripture final this Friday.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

My Gloat Post

Okay, I have to admit that I occasionally get a litle jealous when I read of some people who get copies of books gratis to review. I think, well, heck... I could write reviews. But the plain truth is, I burned out on review writing a long time ago. So it would really be all about getting free books, and I guess there's really no advantage to a publisher to do that.

But today I got an email from a software distributor for major company that deals with publishing tools, and they're sending me the first release of a new suite of tools. Unlike some of the others who send me free licenses that I never use beyond an evaluation, this is a toolset I use and love. (It also comes in really handy if you self-publish.)

I can't complain.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Still kicking...

I'm still here, and I apologize for not posting more frequently. I've been meaning to post some pictures of the monstrous turkey my wife roasted last weekend (33 pounds). I've also finished my second paper for the semester and am preparing for my final. When I read about Adoro's workload, I feel a little guilty.

The latest class has been very interesting, and I think I've finally decided that my focus should be on sacred scripture. The approoach for the course has been unusual (compared to most scripture studies I've seen), but it blends well with my background in literature and linguistics.

If you haven't read the latest encyclical, do so. NOW. It's very good. I'm still chewing on it mentally and will probably need to read it again.

God bless!

Friday, November 16, 2007

God Writes Straight with Crooked Lines

Michael Yon has this story of a neighborhood in Baghdad where Christians and their Muslim neighbors restored a cross on the neighborhood Catholic church and prepared it for the return of their Christian neighbors. The photo Yon posted several days ago was quite stunning, but I have to say that I found this post particularly touching. There are several images of the Muslim neighbors attending Mass in a show of support for their Catholic friends.

If you aren't aware of Michael Yon's efforts, definitely check out the stories and photos. He's an independent journalist who works for donations and embeds with miltary units throughout Iraq. If all of your war coverage has been coming from CNN or AP, you should take a look at what they aren't as eager to report.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Nuns Having Fun

Hat tip to Matthew at CMR for this clip. It's a group of nuns in habit playing ultimate frisbee.

Well, Title IX was obviously good for something.

UPDATE: Here's the original source, a blog called NunEssential.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Big Surprise

It seems that my inner European matches my predominantly outer European as well.

Your Inner European is Irish!

Sprited and boisterous!
You drink everyone under the table.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

It's not a bad rating for a fledgling theologian...

...but not so good for a former technical writer. The general rule is to aim for an eighth-grade reader if you want a wide audience of people to understand what you're trying to communicate. As they say, don't use a big word when a diminutive one will do. (I have no idea who they are.)

Anyway, I didn't exactly hit the mark for accessibility.

Check the reading level of your blog!

HT to Julie D.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Snark: Mea Culpa?

This is a good day for the sorrowful mysteries.

I couple of incidents have opened my eyes to a potential character flaw. I won't go into detail, but one was from someone very close, and the other from someone I don't know. What both of these incidents revealed to me is that how I intend to be heard is sometimes not how I come across. This shouldn't be a surprise to me, especially when it comes to written communications via the Internet. However, those who know me well will know that the possibility I might have offended someone inadvertently caused me some anxiety and no small amount of reflection on my "style." (No, I'm not kidding or being flippant. I can be overly scrupulous when I believe I've offended someone.)

For the last year or so, I've tried to keep this blog a relatively snark-free zone. I figure that there's more than enough of that going around the blogosphere and that my adding to it was unnecessary: first, because I'm just not as witty as many of you out there, and second, because I often find it to be uncharitable. The second, to me, far outweighs the first in importance.

However, when I comment on other people's blogs, I have a slightly different approach. If the tone of the blog post is light hearted, I try to make my response light hearted. If the tone is sort of smart-alecky, I'll do the same. I still avoid being acerbic, antagonistic, or confrontational (although I have certainly failed on those points before). My humor tends toward the wry or terse comment, and I can see how that can sometimes come off as sarcastic or cynical. The latter is the last of my desires; I've been attempting to excise cynicism from my mindset ever since I returned to the faith. However, it does occasionally sneak in.

In any case, I've received an occasional sharp comment in my combox, and I've noticed far too often that people don't respond to my comments on their blogs (or respond in ways that surprise me), so I have to conclude that perhaps my attempts at humor have been weak, at best, or hurtful, at worst.

In any case, the fault is mine for writing in such a way that my intentions have been misunderstood. Mea maxima culpa. I hope you will accept my apology.

UPDATE: One more thing... I'm not a spiteful person. If something I wrote rubs you the wrong way, please attribute it to ignorance on my part rather than malice.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Is there a JCL in the house?

Of course, I know the answer to that.

Mark, I have a couple of questions on canon law. Could you shoot me an email?

technicoid - at -

The Saudi Imperial March

Here's a priceless clip from Ace of Spades. The king of Saudi Arabia recently visited the UK, and he was received by the Queen's own Horse Guards. The band apparently had a special march just for the Saudi king.

HT to Dale Price.

Monday, October 29, 2007

My Special Intention and the Result

I requested prayers for a special intention of mine last week, and I received a response very soon after posting. Some of you will think it strange that I needed guidance on this particular subject, but for me, there were some strong feelings about whether I should make a particular commitment. Anyway, the die is cast.

I was asked to join the music ministry for the Lifeteen Mass, and I accepted the job. I'll be playing bass and singing. Now, I'm much more of a traditional choir guy, and I like chant. I tend to think that those musical expressions are more appropriate for the liturgy. However, I've had several indications that this might be where I'm needed and where my daughter's faith will thrive (at least for the time being). I suspect that many of the kids who are attracted to the Lifeteen Mass would be attracted to the extraordinary form as well, simply because it isn't what their parents have taken them to all their lives. Ultimately, I want my daughter to understand that the liturgy is the liturgy is the liturgy. The reason for being there is not because we prefer the music, or like a particular priest, or want everyone to keep their hands to themselves during the sign of peace, but because that is where Christ comes to us and where we relive and re-present the pascal sacrifice.

Anyway, please pray for me in this new endeavor. Perhaps I can convince the leaders of te youth ministry that Gregorian chant is really much more appealling to adolescents these days.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Catholic Minority Report Points out the Obvious

Some organ of the United Nations recently castigated the Catholic Church for its positions on the use of condoms to "prevent AIDS." Patrick at CMR has helpfully illustrated to absurdity of this charge with a short script.

Mark Shea's commentary is a bit more terse.

Music—The New A-tonists

Elliot has a link to this post by millinerd concerning the next new protest. What would we do without these brights?

Sunday, October 21, 2007


I have two requests. First, if you could pray for a special intention of mine, I'd appreciate it greatly.

Second, I'm trying to find a good interlinear bible (or possibly two good interlinear bibles), but most that I've come across are based on the Protestant "canon." I have found a CD version of the Septuagint and Greek NT, but I'd much prefer a hard copy. I will probably settle for a separate copy of either the Septuagint or Masoretic text (since the Hebrew to English OTs are missing a few books).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Paper 1 IN!

Yes, I've been working on my first paper of the semester, which of course means endless agonizing about what the instructor is expecting. If you want to feel sorry for anyone, don't waste your pity on me. Adoro has it much harder (God bless her) trying to hold down a full-time job and attend grad school full time as well.

Anyhoo, I can't promise more frequent posts, but I'll try to be more consistent... for the 20 or so people who apparently have an RSS feed to me.

A Catholic Dad: You Think?

If this doesn't qualify me for the title, I don't know what will.

I've been attending the games at my daughter's junior high lately to watch her cheer and offer my support. I also want to support the girls on the volleyball team because Kellina played with them last year (and actually wishes she were playing with them this year). I've also attended one 8th-grade football game, and I tend to keep a close eye on the kids and what they do.

I'm sure you won't be surprised that not all of the kids are models of exemplary adolescent behavior. Frankly, I don't expect them to be. They're junior-high kids; they're going to be goofy and occasionally draw attention to themselves. When I take exception is when they draw too much attention to themselves with obnoxious behvior or when they start directing their behavior toward the cheerleaders or the school team (mostly the volleyball team since they can actually hear the comments). What appalls me to no end is how little attention the teachers and other school employees sometimes pay to the behavior, not to mention the other parents. When I was growing up (yes, another one of those stories), adults felt perfectly within their rights to take a kid down a peg if the latter were acting out. What's happened? I can't belief how some of these kids behave, and the adults pay no attention.

Anyway, on at least three occasions, I've done what should've been done by a school authority. Much to the chagrin of my daughter, I've called these kids on their behavior. The first two times, both grudgingly modified their behavior (and moved away from me). Today, I had a young lady* get in my face and essentially assert her right to behave however she liked. That worked fine for her until she called my bluff and suggested I go ahead and talk to the vice principal down the hall. And she seemed to be shocked, shocked, I tell you, that he actually backed me up and suggested she leave.

To his credit, he didn't seem to have much tolerance for disrespectful behavior toward any adult. That's quite frankly what disturbs me (and I know I shouldn't be surprised)—just how a kid that age thinks she has every right to speak and behave as she pleases and that no adult (outside of the school officials—and she wasn't particularly respectful to him either) has a right to call her on it.

I explained to my mortified daughter that I will not sit around when she, her cheerleading compatriots, or the kids on the sports teams have to listen to harrassing speech from rude adolescents. She acknowledged that she wasn't comfortable with it, but she also acknowledged that she understands why I need to do it.

Ironically, the school has posters up in all the halls with all kinds of pollyanish nonesense such as "Just say no to violence" and "Don't be a bully." Uh, yeah. How about the teachers put some teeth into those statements. The two girls today were actually repeating the words on these posters sarcastically between the comments they made to the volleyball players.

*I say "young lady" with the utmost lenience in standards.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Your monitor might shatter...

...but here's a picture of me that my wife took today. We're updating a flier for a boxing circuit class that I just took over a few weeks ago. It's a combination of bag work, classical boxing training, and some mixed martial arts technique. Since I don't have some of the more impressive credentials that our previous instructor Gordon had (like this), I have to resort to cheap props (like my embroidered belt).

Actually, now that I think of it, that wasn't a cheap prop by any means—five years of work and four special trainings. If you haven't been to an SKA special training, you haven't really lived. (Okay, well, the Seal Adventure probably makes it pale in comparison.) Here's Norm Welch's story of his first special training. Mr. Welch is a godan (5th degree, a high level in SKA) in Vancouver, BC. I've gone to three special trainings with him. I remember remarking to him once that I hoped I was still training when I was his age. (He was in his late 40s, and I in my late 20s. And here I am at 42.) He laughed. I could have benefited when I was younger by embracing silence a little more frequently.

In a sick way, I miss it.

Kennady at Six Weeks

Here's the latest. Kennady is about six weeks old now and weighs 11 pounds. We're making arrangements for baptism and are trying to talk Hannah into having her uncle and aunt (good solid Catholics) as Godparents.

My wife says Kennady smiles whenever she tells her that Jesus loves her.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Know-Nothings Within

Matthew at CMR has a recent example of anti-Catholic bashing in student news, from a self-confessed Catholic no less.

You can read the editorial here.

Here was my response:

Dear editors,

I highly recommend that your editorialists read some primary source material before launching off on a tirade like the one written by Andrew Ragni in your October 5, 2007 issue. Not only does he march out every cliché about his religion (burning witches, Office of the Inquisition, damning of non-Catholics—hey, what about Ratzinger the Hitler Youth?), he manages to completely ignore what the CDF document actually said (which you can read here). The document simply affirmed what has been written during and since Vatican II on the subject (which you can find by following the links in the previously mentioned document). These are not ultraconservative claims by the Church. These are actually far more nuanced, theological, and charitable statements than some on the extreme right of the Church at the time were making. In addition, the recent CDF response says nothing—not a word—about the state of the individual souls of non-Catholics. It does, however, quote the following from Lumen Gentium 12:

“It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church.”

However, I wouldn’t expect a little thing such as historical perspective to get in the way of a good rant, particularly when one can join in and bash everyone’s favorite punching bag, the Catholic Church. It’s much easier to pile on and repeat popular misconception than to employ some actual critical thinking (or maybe even some basic reading comprehension). While such “enlightened” Catholics such as Ragni like to poke fun at those “sheep” who follow the Church’s every word, he joins the herd of secular evangelists and “Christian” dissidents in lambasting what they do not know or understand. Please, demonstrate a little enlightenment yourselves and add a little historical depth and academic rigor to your polemic.


Bill Burns

You can send your own opinion here

Monday, October 08, 2007

On the Road Again...

This time, in Hershey, PA. I'm staying at the Hershey Lodge, which beats the place I stayed last year hands down. They give away chocolate at every opportunity, and they stock cocoa soap in all the rooms. I was half way through my second bar before I realized that was all I had to wash with!

Okay, maybe not.

Paper #1 for the semester is still brewing in my head. I'm not sure if there's enough there to ferment yet. This class (Sacred Scripture: the Torah and Historical Books) seems a bit more difficult to gauge. Having a background in literature, I should feel right at home. However, the academic world in which I earned my degree was much too frivilous and fraught with ideology to give anyone a good grounding in literary hermeneutics.

Is there a patron saint for scripture scholars? St. Jerome, maybe?

Friday, September 28, 2007

How Did THIS Happen?

No, I did not add my name to the OCP email distribution list. Nonetheless, somehow an announcement for this ended up in my inbox.

The horror, the horror...

S.M. Stirling's Latest

The Sunrise Lands is now on the shelves and doing well. Dale Price has an early review here.

I haven't picked up my copy yet (sorry, Steve), but I've read all of the sample chapters at the author's site and am looking forward to getting it (probably around Christmas time when my course work is finished).

Monday, September 24, 2007

My Spanish Vacation

I'm back, and it was an interesting time. I would post some photos, but we forgot to take the digital camera. I'll be posting from the disposables once we get them developed.

All in all, it was enjoyable. We spent a lot of time on foot roaming the Barri Gotic and seeing sights in southern Barcelona. We spent way too much time on the subway (mostly because it was stuffy and hot), but we appreciated the mobility. Saw a few great museums, spent way too much to see the aquarium, but otherwise had a god time. The not-so-fun part of the trip occurred on the return flight. I'm sure this will be funnier to me in the future, but today, it's only mildly so. It wasn't the least bit funny on Saturday.

We arrived at the Barcelona airport at 7:30 AM, earlier than the recommended 2.5 hours prior to leaving. That decision turned out to be fortuitous because the flight one hour earlier than ours was backed up, and the kiosk would not allow me to check in. We waited in line for about 75 minutes. When we did get to the front, the agent was confused because the reservation had my nickname (Bill) instead of my given name. That was due to Travelocity's odd reservation process. She let me go ahead (for which I was grateful). Off we were to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.

For some reason, the fine folks at Travelocity thought there should be no problem on an international flight making a connection between two terminals in 40 minutes. Of course, they'd forgotten a little thing called security. They also forgot to take into account the complete dearth of maps in CDG airport. Under the best circumstances, we probably would've missed our transatlantic flight because the gate closes nearly 30 minutes prior to takeoff. In this case, the narrow connection time was irrelevant. That's because the terminal was closed.

Yes, closed.

We arrived at the escalator to find French police officers and military (armed with automatic rifles) blocking the escalator. At the time, we were still holding out hopes of making the flight (probably naively). As we waited for something to happen, the hope melted away. No one knew what was up (or at least no one announced it to the travelers). However, after about 25 minutes, a whistle blew twice, and all the police officers and military personnel covered their ears. I saw one traveller do the same, and I told Kellina and Gina to cover their ears.

Nothing happened. The police and military folks relaxed and went back to chatting. Then about 45 seconds later, there was an explosion. That made even the police and military folks jump, but they went right back to chatting afterward. I calmed my daughter's fears and pointed out that the police hadn't sent us for shelter or anything, and after another 10 minutes, we were allowed to enter the terminal.

We got to the terminal entrance and were sent off to the reticketing agent. The Air France agent was great. She rebooked us on a flight the next day (no more available for Saturday) and gave us meal and lodging vouchers.

Now let me just add that te French seem to have a very different set of standards for hotels than we do. We were put in a triple room at the Ibis Ville (in Roussy en France, a charming little village very close to the airport). I should've know that a triple room would not be quite the same as we'd find at your average US aiport hotel. We caught the courtesy shuttle and a short time later were standing at the desk of the Ibis Hotel. I said in my weak French, "Je ne parle pas de français. Parlez vous Anglais, s'il vous plaît?" The clerk jovially said, "I speak everything."

No worries.

Until we get to the room.

It was the size of my home office, with a full bed and an extra trundle bed. The trundle bed had a lock on it to prevent people from sleeping more than they'd registered. Fortunately we were promised a triple, so the bed was available for our use. The orange indoor/outdoor carpet had a few stains, and the sliding door to the restroom (sans ventillation) left rather large openings.

The air conditioner didn't appear to be functional, which was not good. The air was warmer inside the room than it was outside. So we slept with the window cracked.

Did I mention that Roussy en France is really close to the airport?

There were upsides to the stay. The village is very charming, and we spent some time in the little church there waiting for Mass (which unfortunately didn't happen because the priest supported several parishes). The meals were very good. However, by 9:30 AM, I simply wanted to put the Ibis behind us. So we did, and we arrived early for our flight home (rerouted through Atlanta). After a lovely 15 hours in transit, we were home—a little worse for the wear, but home, thanks be to God.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

¡Vamos a España!

After an unusually stressful week (due to the wife's work load and my own technical difficulties), we're finally heading out. We're leaving for the airport in an hour to fly to Barcelona*. I wasn't sure I'd have a functioning laptop to take, but HP came through again and had it back to me in record time (four days). If you EVER buy a computer from HP, it pays to get the care pack.

Anyway, please pray for our safe travel there and back.

*I sound like Fez when I say this in Castillian Spanish. My wife finds it quite amusing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I'm Not Dead Yet

Still under self-imposed hiatus from blogging and trying to get my head back into the game. That's a challenge with all that's going on personally, educationally, and professionally. (By the way, if anyone can tell me if there's an evening Sunday Mass at Sant Cugat del Valles, I'd be grateful for the details.)

And here, just days before I leave for a business trip, my laptop has decided to kack on me again—the monitor for the second time in six months. I sent it off today to see just how responsive HP warranty service can be (pretty responsive, if history is any indication).

For your entertainment, I've added Ironic Catholic's widget to my sidebar. If Mike Aquilina decides to create one, I'll make good my threat to add a feed to his patristics blog here.

God bless you all, and thanks for the prayers for my daughter.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

What's a Catholic Father to Do?

I ask for your continued prayers for my daughter and her mother. About three years ago, my daughter chose, after witnessing my reversion and confirmation, to come into the Church. She seemed happy with her decision until the last six months or so. In the last two months, she has become increasingly disaffected, but she wouldn't ask questions or make comments. She simply became more and more irritable. I finally confronted her on this issue, and she indicated that she doesn't know if she believes in the teachings of the Church anymore.

Mind you, she's 13. She did very well with her lessons coming into the Church, but educating her for the last year (the start of junior high) has been like pulling teeth. When I actually asked the teaching to which she referred, she came up with some standard items, some real and some simple misinformation: no ordination for women, the Church's supposed "hatred" of other denominations and of homosexuals, the issue of choice. She told me that she considers herself a feminist. She also has mentioned not feeling God's presence at Mass.

These are all the same issues that her mother has with the Church. While she claims that no one has influenced her, I have a hard time buying it, and her mother as much admitted that she shares her opinions with my daughter. I suspect it's a bit more than a simple sharing of her opinion, but I have no control over it, whatever it was.

I've tried to get my daughter to ask more questions, and I've provided plenty of reading material on the subject. When we talk, she seems open to discussion, but when she goes back to her mother's house, all bets are off. She seems to swing back and forth weekly.

Please pray for my daughter, and perhaps more importantly, pray for her mother's conversion of heart. Thank you all in advance, and God bless.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tarazi and the Old Testament

I'm starting a scripture class this semester that focuses heavily on lectures and writings by Paul Nadim Tarazi, an Orthodox scripture scholar. He's clearly very knowledgeable about the cultural and linguistic contexts of the Old Testament books, but I have to say I'm not really sure what to make of his take on the Old Testament in terms of history. If any of you are familiar with Tarazi, I'd be interested in your impressions.

BTW, I'm trying to decide whether I should retire the blog. I just am not finding much to inspire me these days.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A new arrival

I'm officially an old codger (or step-grandfather, whatever).

Kennady Lynn Rose, born 12:47 PM MDT, weighing 7 lbs, 14 oz.

Yes, I know how to spell Kennedy. I didn't choose the spelling. Sheesh.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Emmaus and the Liturgy (or "Doh! Came in second again!")

Something today drew my thoughts to Luke 24 and I was struck by the parallels of the story with the Catholic liturgy. The story itself takes place on the day of the resurrection, a Sunday. This much is confirmed in both Luke and Matthew. The first part, the Liturgy of the Word, parallels Christ's interpretation of the Old Testament scriptures to the two disciples. The second part, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, parallels the events at the table, when Christ essentially re-enacts the Passover meal, then disappears. The act of breaking the bread opens the eyes so that they can see Christ's living presence in front of them.

I thought I had something unique here, until I found this on the web site for St. Paul's Center for Biblical Theology.

Well, at least I'm in good company.

Still Kicking

I apologize to my friends that I haven't submitted any posts in a few weeks. I haven't had the desire or inspiration to write. However, my next class begins in a week, so I'll have subject matter soon.

I would like to request some prayers:

- My stepdaughter, Hannah, will be giving birth any day now, and I will officially become a stepgrandfather. Please pray for her and for her unborn child.

- Our bishop, Most Reverend Michael P. Driscoll, is having back surgery. He has been sufferring noticeably for some time. Please pray for a successful outcome and relief from his pain.

- A special intention for my daughter and her mother.

God bless you all.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Prayer Request for a Friend of a Friend

A friend of our has a prayer request.

She has a friend whose very young son has cancer. He recently had surgery to remove the cancerous growths, and they found more cancer than they had anticipated. Of course, the little boy needs our prayers, but the parents are also really struggling. Please pray for them as well.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Foolish Inconsistencies and Vain Repetitions

As a student and sometime instructor of literature, I'm rankled occasionally when I hear people excuse their flighty decisions and vascillations by saying "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, don't ya know?"

Uh, no I don't know.

These people attempt to cover their indecision or inconsistency by a false appeal to authority, namely Ralph Waldo Emerson (a dubious authority, but a very quotable one). However, this reference to Emerson's essay "Self Reliance" misses the point, in large because it's so frequently misquoted.

So what did Emerson mean when his said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines"? Did he mean that we should vascillate willy-nilly or not attempt to apply rigor to our thought and behavior? No. Quite the opposite. The point was to follow the truth where ever it leads us, to the point of abandoning those beliefs we claimed before. To cling to a position out of the desire for consistency alone is foolish. To cling to something because it is true is not.

The same sort of thought frequently infects those who attack Catholic devotions such as the Rosary as being "vain repetition." This particular phrase comes from the King James translation of Matthew 6:7:

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

This verse is often taken to mean that we should not use repetition in prayer, or that we shouldn't use rote prayer at all. There are two problems with this perspective. The first is that what the KJV translation renders as "vain repetition," other translations render differently. For example, the Revised Standard Version translates the same verse as follows:

And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words.

or Douay-Rheims

And when you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. For they think that in their much speaking they may be heard.

The NIV even seems to be more in line with the Catholic translations than the KJV:

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

So the accuracy of the translation "vain repetition" is rather sketchy. Even if it weren't, what does the phrase "vain repetitions" mean? Does it mean that all repetition is vain, or does it refer specifically to repetitions that are vain? One sense is restrictive and applies to a specific set of repetitions, while the other classifies all repetitions as vain. If nothing else, the superfluity of translations that refer to babbling or meaningless repetitions should indicate that Christ was referring not to all repetition but to repetition that is not from the heart, hence, meaningless or vain.

The devotion most commonly targeted as "vain repetition" is the Rosary. That the devotion is repetitious is undeniable. However, is it vain? Or is it unscriptural? An examination of the two dimensions of the Rosary (prayers and meditations) show that it is not unscriptural. The Lord's Prayer, of course, is included in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. While the Glory Be isn't quoted in scripture directly, the realities it reflects can certainly not be considered unscriptural.

Then what about the prayer that is most repeated in the Rosary, the Hail Mary? This prayer comes right out of the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1, verses 28 ("Hail, full of grace!") and 42 ("Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruuit of your womb!"). The only part that is not scriptural, strictly speaking, is our request for Mary's prayers. For Catholics who believe that saints in Heaven (St. Paul's "cloud of witnesses") are living, spiritual entities, there is little difference between requesting prayers from a saint or from a friend on Earth (except that the prayers of a saint may be more efficacious, coming from one perfected in Christ). So how could reciting scripture and requesting prayers be considered a vain activity?

The other component of the Rosary, one of which most non-Catholics are unaware, is the meditation on the mysteries of Christ's life, death, and resurrection. While one of the Glorious mysteries (the Assumption) is not strictly scriptural, it is borne out in the traditions of both the Eastern and Western Church, albeit under different names. Every other mystery has some connection to an event or scene in scripture. In a very real sense, the mysteries of the Rosary are a meditation on the Gospel itself.

When done with the right intent and attention, the Rosary is quite simply one of the most scriptural and most spiritual devotions we have.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Postconciliar Chaos

Pope Benedict XVI met on Tuesday during his vacation with a group of priests and answered some of their questions. Sandro Magister has posted the Holy Father's response to a question by a priest who acknowledged some disappointment with the fruits of Vatican II to this point.

Toward the end of his eloquent response, the Holy Father comments on the so-called "Spirit of Vatican II" versus the actual conciliar documents:

And thus it seems to me that we must rediscover the great heritage of the Council, which is not a “spirit” reconstructed behind the texts, but the great conciliar texts themselves, reread today with the experiences that we have had and that have born fruit in so many movements, in so many new religious communities.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Preparing a "Worship Space" for the Extraordinary Use

Shawn Tribe at the New Liturgical Movement has a post on how a so-called "peope's altar" can be prepared for use for the extraordinary form of the Mass (the Mass of Blessed John XXIII).

The argument about the insuitability of a "Vatican II space" for the classical use Mass has always struck me as either unimaginative or simply disingenuous. Cleary, the photos in Shawn's post underscore that point.

Monday, July 23, 2007

What's Happened to Our Eucharistic Theology?

Fr. V. at Adam's Ale has a couple of interesting posts concerning how we discuss and think about the Eucharist. Part of the first post discusses the proper disposition for extraordinary ministers. The second post concerns how our liturgical music reflects our Eucharistic theology. I don't think you'll be surprised to learn that many of the hymns reflect a watered-down theology, one that doesn't highlight the true mystery of the Real Presence.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Discipline for Disciples?

I was thinking a bit more on the meaning of the term “pastoral” this morning, particularly in relation to a passage I chose for lectio divina this morning, Isaiah 57: 18–19:

I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
I will lead him and requite him with comfort, creating for his mourners the fruit of the lips.
Peace, peace, to the far and to the near, says the Lord.

I was puzzled over these verses because of the verse preceding them: “I smote him, I hid my face and was angry; but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart.” To me, the passage in its immediate context seemed to go against what I posted yesterday, at least in the sense that a pastor’s role is not solely in comforting sinners. The gist of Isaiah 57 seemed to be that wrath didn’t work, so consolation would.

But was that really the message? Yes, God desires mercy, not sacrifice, but is mercy
only given by way of soft words and “there theres?”

Then Psalm 23 popped into my mind:

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Of course, this psalm reiterates almost everything I wrote yesterday, but I remembered something that struck some time ago and that makes sense of the passage in Isaiah: “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”

The meaning here is easy to miss, particularly if you don’t know how shepherds use the rod and staff. These tools are used to guide sheep to the right or left, to prompt them to move forward, and when necessary, to get them back into line. They’re tools of guidance and discipline. What does one use the crook of the staff for? To drag a straying sheep back into the flock. What do you do with the rod when a sheep isn’t moving in the direction he or she should? You whack it on the rump with the rod to prompt compliance. A good shepherd would never beat the sheep with these tools (not that some of us couldn’t use a good beating now and then), but he knows when discipline is necessary to get us back on track.

Proverbs 13:1 underscores both the responsibility of the good child, and the foolishness of those who will not be led: “A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to a rebuke.” In the same chapter, we see that it is indeed discipline that demonstrates ones love for a child: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13: 24). Paul reminds us again in Hebrews 12: 5–8 that discipline is a sign of love, not wrath or antipathy:

And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? –“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

The very word disciple comes from the same root as discipline. How can one call oneself a disciple if one will not heed discipline?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What Does It Mean to be Pastoral?

Fr. Phillip Powell, O.P. has some comments on National Catholic Reporter's recent howling about the motu proprio. The name of his post is rather ironic (for reasons that will become clearer shortly): Dissenting Wolves Bleat at Their Dissenting Sheep.

What got my mental gears grinding in particular was this comment by Fr. Powell concerning the NCR's worry about the "pastoral studies" of seminarians:

Anytime you see the word “pastoral” attached to a noun—BEWARE! What this actually means most of the time is “emotive,” or “dissenting,” or “purely subjective.” The category of the “pastoral”—misused as I’ve described—has been one of the most effective soldiers in the PLRC/SAAM revolutionary army.

The word "pastor" comes from the Latin word pastorem, meaning "shepherd" (hence, the irony but utter fitness of Fr. Powell's title). The pastor is a shepherd. To be pastoral, one behaves as a shepherd. Let that sink in for a moment.

What does a shepherd do?

- Keeps the sheep within eye sight
- Protects the flock from predators
- Leads the sheep where they will be fed and watered

So a pastor's job is to keep those in his charge within he fold (the bounds of the Church's teaching), protected from danger (false teachings that lead us into spiritually dangerous places), and in an environment where we can be fed with the Body and Blood of Christ, the Living Water, and the Eternal Word.

But, as Fr. Powell notes, the term typically suggests something

- emotive
- dissenting
- subjective

Essentially, "pastoral" in the progressive mind means everything that drives one out of the fold and into the world of subjective "moral" choice. It's diametrically opposed to the true role of the pastor.

Now, I doubt that all progressives believe this is what they're doing. However, when a priest takes the role of comforter and consoler over the role of moral and spiritual teacher, they're doing precisely this. They're exposing the sheep in their fold to the very dangers from which they should protect them. They're placidly holding and patting the hands of their parishioners while those in sin skip along the road to Hell.

The pastor becomes a wolf in shepherd's clothing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Question for Pre-Vatican II Catholics...

... and I mean that literally.

I was born in 1964, so I can faintly remember Latin and Greek used frequently in the liturgy (although never for the readings, homily, or eucharistic prayer). I remember that catechesis used to be much more direct and concrete, particularly concerning matters of sin and punishment. However, that's about the extent of my memories of "traditional" Catholicism. While both of my parents grew up in the 40s and 50s and attended Catholic schools through high school and undergraduate studies, they both seemed to gravitate toward the more charismatic expressions of Catholicism in the 70s. (Nonetheless, I don't recall seeing anything even in my adolescence remotely like what goes on today.)

What I've noticed when I engage people from my parents' era and a bit later is a bizarre distortion of the teachings of the Church. What I mean is that I can see the structure or formulation of certain doctrines or disciplines with absolutely no understanding of the intent or theology behind the doctrines. Let's use a most obvious example, abstention from meat on Friday.

From what I hear of it, eating meat on Friday was a mortal sin. Now, you don't need to explain that Friday abstinence was a penitential discipline and that the rules pertaining to abstinence changed. I understanding that, and personally, my wife and I adhere to the Friday abstinence because we believe it helps us in our spiritual lives. What seems to be completely lacking from the claim that "eating meat on Friday was a sin" was the reasoning. There was nothing beyond the rule: no mention of what constitutes a mortal sin, no mention of the necessity of conforming to Church law, no discussion of obedience to authority—essentially no explanation of the sinful aspects of the act, the "whatness" of the sin incurred

Once after I had begun my journey back to the faith, I had a discussion with an Eastern Orthodox fellow who had grown up attending Catholic schools. What I found fascinating were all the various "doctrines" he had been taught that he found in conflict with his own faith. With only a few exceptions, the doctrine his church taught lined up almost perfectly with current formulations of Catholic dogmas (with the exception of their doctrines on contraception and Purgatory).

Occasionally, my dad will come out with some claims that simply make me go, "WHAAAATT?"

Clearly, Catholics from my parents' era were responding to something, and clearly what they remember from their upbringing was not always positive and often not doctrinally sound (or was, at very least, theologically shallow).

So what was it, aside from the liturgy and all of the "below the waist" stuff, that people (or maybe, more accurately, progressives) from this era were reacting against? What doctrinal formulations were they actually getting, and how do those formulations differ from current, orthodox understanding? Do they actually differ?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Summorum Pontificum Database

Jacob Michael (the Lumen Gentleman) has craeted a database for those who would like to organize efforts for requesting the classical Tridentine use or the Missal of Blessed John XXIII. You can nter your name and contact information here. If you tried a few days ago and got an error message (which is what happened to me) give it another shot.

From author to another

Michael Barber notes Dominic Crossan's "recommended meditation" for the Holy Father:

Finally, I suggest this meditation for Pope Benedict—courteously, of course, as one author of a Jesus-book to another. When the People of God were on trek towards their Promised Land, they needed both a Leader and some Scouts. The Scouts went ahead and were the first to enter the Promised Land—although they did end up there on some surprising rooftops. The Scouts returned and reported what was up ahead. They had seen the future and the People followed them into it. But the Leader never made it into the Promised Land. He only glimpsed it from the peak of Pisgah and was buried in the midst of Moab.

and then takes him to task for it.

Funny thing about it is (as someone in the combox pointed out), most of the scouts never made it to the promised land either, but for completely different reasons.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Anaphora of Addai and Mari

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting with a number of other parishioners to listens and take part in a broadcast of Catholic Answers. Jerry Usher just happened to be in the area to visit a friend and offered to do the broadcast and to share his thoughts with us on how to promote Catholic radio on our area. If you haven't met Jerry before, he's as genial in person as on air. It was a pleaser having him here.

Anyway, there was a question on the words of institution, and Tim Staples had mentioned the requirement of these words for a valid consecration. I posed a question at the very end that sort of stumped hi, I'd heard that the Assyrian Church (formerly referred to unflatteringly as Nestorian) had a eucharistic prayer that did not include the words of institution, yet was still considered validby the Holy See. I say "sort of" stumped Tim because he really didn't get the answer wrong. First, he correctly identified the church in question. (I wasn't sure it was the Assyrian Church, so referred to them as "the Church formerly known as the Nestorians.") Next, he was familiar with the controversy in question, even though he wasn't certain that the Holy See had come to the conclusion I had mentioned. He promised to get back with an answer. Since I'm only sometimes able to listen to the show, I don't know if he has or not.

However, I did shoot an email to Mike Aquilina and asked him about the matter (since he tends to know these sorts of things). Certainly enough, he shot me two articles and copies of the official curial documents confirming that the anaphora of Addai and Mari (as its known) is both an ancient eucharistic prayer and considered valid for the consecration. The same curial documents also allowed intercommunion for Chaldean Catholics who could not otherwise celebrate the eucharist.

What Mike did not mention is that he covers this very subject in his book Mass of the Early Christians on page 188. Guess he didn't want to ruin the surprise. Did I mention that Mike's the guy to go to for these kind of things?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fr. Powell throws in the Towel!

Okay, not really, but he had me going there for a second.

Fr. Powell, OP, has an excellent homily up today about a real recruitment program for vocations (and not just priestly vocations). He's not kidding about Tertullian's comment either. A program of martyrdom sorta puts Lifeteen in a different perspective, ne c'est pas? Who says todays kids want all pap and pop these days?

Blessed are you when you are hated. . .

Incoming Indignation Alert! (subsistit in)

Now he's done it! Okay, actually, THEY'VE done it (although AP doesn't seem to know the difference).

It's not surprising that the AP so badly mangles the details of reports on the Church but that they even care at all what the Curia publishes. Of course, it gives them a nice big spoon with which to stir the pot. As Mark Shea is fond of saying, deduct IQ points whenever media types talk about the Catholic Church.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has released a Document Regarding Certain Aspects of Church Doctrine. If you think the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum and its accompanying letter would cause fits among the prophets of the Spirit of Vatican II, just wait to see their reaction to this.

"A blow to ecumenism!"

"Rolling back the reforms of Vatican II!"

"A slap in the face of the faithful!"

"I nearly broke down in tears!"

.... except that this statement simply reiterates what's in both Lumen Gentium 15 and the paragraph 838 of the Catechism.

So there is yet more evidence that those who claim the rupture from tradition have either not read the documents from Vatican II or have "nuanced" them into senselessness.

Not that we should not still seek unity. We need to pray for it, for ourselves, for those who disagree with us, for those who choose to ignore the teachings of the Church and the authority of the Magisterium.

UPDATE: Thomas Peters (the American Papist) points out a lacunae in the reporting. There were actually two documents published regarding these questions. Thanks, Thomas!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Just Winging It (Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi)

I'm reading Mike Aquilina's The Mass of the Early Christians, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the early Church and liturgy. Mike He comments now and then on some of my posts, and he's pointed me to some great information on the early Church fathers (some through his excellent blog, Way of the Fathers). I really don't know why it's taken me so long to buy his books (other than the other dozen or so texts stacked by my nightstand). I finally decided to bump his books to the top of my to-read list, and I'm not in the least sorry.

I've often seen the phrase lex orandi, lex credendi translated as "the rule of prayer is the rule of belief." Mike's translation is a little different: "the law of prayer is the law of belief." His translation implies something entirely different than the former. While both indicate a norm, the former has a hint of flexibility to it. We even have aphorisms in English associated with rules: they're made to be broken, and there are exceptions to every one of them. Not so with a law. Laws are not made to be broken, and doing so has consequences.

When Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers was here in December for a conference at our parish, he pointed out that altering the words of the liturgy is altering God's word, as the words of liturgy are taken from scripture. That point hit home with me back then. However, Mike's formulation goes even further: to alter the words of the liturgy is to break the law—not just a rule or a norm. He also makes an important point concerning heresy and liturgy, reiterating what Irenaeus posited in Against Heresies:

As the law worked to build up the Catholic Church, its violation brought about the destruction of the heretics. Irenaeus noted that sectarians' missteps in doctrine often emerged as irregularities in liturgy as well. The Ebionites rejected the two natures of Jesus, divine and human, and held that Jeus was only human. So they refused to offer a mixed cup of wine and water—for the Church saw the mixed cup as a symbol of the god-man. In clear contradicton to Jesus' model and command, the Ebionites offered only water in their eucharistic chalice (Against Heresies 5.1.3). Marcion, for his part, held on to the Church's liturgy; but, in doing so, he committed himself to doctrinal inconsistency, for the Lord took bread and wine—things of creation, which Marcionite doctrine rejected as evil—and affirmed them to be his own sacred body and blood (Against Heresies 4.33.2).

The lesson of Irenaeus is clear: Those who tampered with the Church's doctrine inevitably butchered the liturgy as well. And, in doing so, they cut themselves off from the ordinary means of salvation, the sacraments instituted by Christ himself.

Of course, I can think of a number of areas where spontaneous changes in the liturgy overemphasize one aspect of Truth over another—and that is, in essence, the nature of heresy. The truths of our faith often involve parodox, and in our struggle to reconcile these, we can overemphasize one side of a paradox over the other, or even exclude the "opposing" side altogether. Here are a few:

The Church is the people/The Church is the Hierarchy
Men and women are equal/women can't be ordained
Christ was human/Christ is|was|always will be God
Mary the Blessed Mother/Mary, ever virgin

When we take only one side of any of these doctrines, we distort the teaching of the Church, and that has consequences that affect our prayer lives (as well as our proper spiritual and moral formation).

One of my biggest concerns when I go to Mass is that I will have to correct something that my daughter (or my friends as visitors) will hear the priest say. On one occasion that I invited one of my dear friends (you reading, Theri?), the priest commented that saying "Amen" when receiving the eucharist was to say "I am the body of Christ." (Yes, I was mentally banging my head on the pew with that one.)

So when priests spontaneously change the liturgy or change it after personal reflection, they're putting their own interpretation of the law or prayer over and above the law of the Church. That is an exercise of magisterial authority, but it isn't legitimate authority. We should not only be suspicious of what such alterations imply; we should question those who make them.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

AH..... (my motu proprio post)*

Nothing like sitting down ona cool summer morning with a cup of coffee in one hand, and a copy of a motu proprio in the other.

Naturally, there are comments all over concerning how this will be implemented and what the effects will be. Gerald, my early-release source for Vatican news, has more information and some analysis.

Summorum Pontificum is all Motu Proprio news, all the time. He even has a link to the reaction of the General Superior of the SSPX. I won't include that here. Suffice it to say that it's sad to see continued posturing on Fellay's part. I'm not sure what part of Latae Sententiæ he doesn't understand.

And no discussion of the MP would be complete without Fr Z's input.

As for me, I have a lawn to mow and a house to clean (and clothes to wash, et cetera, ad nauseam).

UPDATE: Fr. Z's resident song writer has a new composition just for the occasion:

Go to the altar (turn, turn, turn)
look to the East now, (turn, turn, turn)
there’s a time for every Mass now, if it’s valid.
The time for banjos and dancing is gone,
dust off the censer, and toss out the bong.
No need for hugging, we all get along
let’s keep our focus together, on Jesus.

Page through the Missal (turn, turn, turn)
remember the rubrics (turn, turn, turn)
there’s a time and a purpose for those words there Pure,
humble rev’rence is what we now lack,
just do the red words and say those in black.
When we say High Mass, there’s no need for crack,
just let your deacon and subdeacon guide you.

Now weed your library, (turn, turn, turn)
use some discernment (turn, turn, turn)
it is time now to brush up on your Latin.
Farewell to Vosko, McBrien, Hans Keung,
deep down you knew that they just peddled deung,
the 60’s are old and the Church is still young
what still subsists is a thing of great beauty.

UPDATE: Fr. Martin Fox has a great post on the potential benefits of the Holy Father's action, as well as some of the practical constraints he faces as the pastor of two parishes. I hope we see more priests who respond with this enthusiasm.

*I haven't had any comments on this post (not that comments are rolling in for the others), and I thought just maybe, maybe the title was a bit unclear.

Just maybe.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Forthcoming Motu Proprio

Yes, I know I'm late by a day. I saw the news on Gerald's blog first. Of course, Fr. Z, always in the know, also had the story, as well as blow-by-blow coverage of the handling and mishandling of the news.

So I'm a latecomer. That's my code: arrive late, leave early. And, now, I think it's clear that no one is speculating any longer. Today, the Vatican News Service released the following statement:

VATICAN CITY, JUN 28, 2007 (VIS) - Given below is the text of a communique released today by the Holy See Press Office concerning Benedict XVI's forthcoming "Motu Proprio" on the use of the Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962.

"Yesterday afternoon in the Vatican, a meeting was held under the presidency of the Cardinal Secretary of State in which the content and spirit of the Holy Father's forthcoming 'Motu Proprio' on the use of the Missal promulgated by John XXIII in 1962 was explained to representatives from various episcopal conferences. The Holy Father also arrived to greet those present, spending nearly an hour in deep conversation with them.

"The publication of the document - which will be accompanied by an extensive personal letter from the Holy Father to individual bishops - is expected within a few days, once the document itself has been sent to all the bishops with an indication of when it will come into effect."

Deo Gratia! I believe this will be one of many good things that will renew the life of the Church and return some sanity to the current liturgical landscape.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

God the Father

Fr. Dwight Longenecker has an excellent post on the propriety of referring to God the Father. In addition to the points concerning the relational aspects between Father and Son, and the ubiquitous references to God as Father throughout scripture, Fr. L. also says this about the rather flat formulation, "Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer":

These are also not personal terms of reference for the three persons of the Trinity, but references to their functions. Imagine referring to your parents not as 'Dad and Mom' or even as George and Phyllis, but as 'Businessman and Housewife.'

Or if my wife referred to me as "consultant." Or worse.

Pope Benedict made a similar point in Jesus of Nazareth concerning God the Father and Christ's Sonship. He mentions the use of maternal language in the Old Testament, particularly the word rahamim or womb, which the Holy Father explains "is the most concrete epression for the intimate interrelatedness of two lives" (139). However, he continues on to explain that Israel was distinct in that it, unlike its neighbors, had a Father, God, rather than a mother deity:

By contrast, the image of the Father was and is apt for expressing the otherness of Creator and creature and the sovereignty of his creative act. Only by excluding the mother deities could the Old Testament bring its image of God, the pure transcendence of God, to maturity.

He continues on the scriptural bases for calling God the Father:

But even if we cannot provide any absolutely compelling arguments, the prayer language of the entire Bible remains normative for us, in which, as we have seen, while there are some fine images of maternal love, "mother" is not used as a title or a form of address for God. We make our petitions in the way Jesus, with Holy Scripture in the background, taught us to pray, and not as we happen to think or want. Only thus do we pray properly.

By the way, if you have not yet read Jesus of Nazareth you owe it to yourself to get your hands on a copy. Like most (if not all) of the Holy Father's books, it's an excellent read.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Myth of Hitler's Pope

Not news to me, might be news to some of you who lurk. All of these stories about Pius XII's mythical collaboration with Hitler didn't get their start until the publishing of a play called The Deputy in 1963 by Rolf Hochhuth. There have recently been reports that the KGB had set out to discredit the pope and the Church. I understand that Hochhuth later admitted that the claims in the play were contrived.

HT to Phatcatholic. He also has a link to additional information about the role of Pope Pius XII ad the Church during World War II.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Why Latin?

Fr. Dwight Longenecker asked some questions about the use of Latin in the classical Roman Rite. Shawn Tribe at the New Liturgical Movement has done a pretty fair job in responding. Fr. Tim Finigan has pointed us all thataway.

And me? Well, I'm just sitting here taking advantage of all the good pointers.

Rated G?

That's what it says. Even with the post on the pod people.

Online Dating

HT to Rufus at Korrektiv.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Smackdown Making the Rounds

Gerald Augustinus and Rich Leonardi both posted on the Absp. of Omaha's recent letter to U.S. Catholic concerning an article on cohabiting couples. The letter is refreshingly direct:

June 5, 2007

Letters to the Editor

205 W. Monroe St.
Chicago, IL 60606

Dear Editor,

I would like to respond to the article in your June edition entitled "A Betrothal Proposal" by Michael G. Lawler and Gail S. Risch.

The teaching of the Catholic Church about fornication is clear and unambiguous: it is always objectively a serious sin (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church #1755, #1852, #2353). Couples who live together without marriage do in fact live in sin objectively.

Because the position of the authors is contrary to Church teaching about the intrinsic evil of fornication, I have disassociated the Omaha Archdiocese from the Center for Marriage and Family at Creighton University.

Neither Lawler nor Risch are reliable teachers of Catholic moral theology, and certainly are not spokespeople for the Church regarding human sexuality and sacramental marriage.

I remain sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Elden Francis Curtiss

Archbishop of Omaha

Thursday, June 21, 2007

New ICEL Translation and the View from the "Top"

Consider this about as close to a round up as you'll ever get from me. I've been reading with some amusement the comments from St. Blog's concerning Bishop Trautman's comments (which I read with some bemusement) on poor John and Mary Catholic, who are apparently so bereft of research skills that they cannot open a dictionary or use context to determine the meanings of words.

Alive and Young has a few words for those complaining cardinals and bishops who think the language is out of the grasp of little John and Mary. Amy Wellborn notes the contradictions in two bullet points (albeit numbered bullet points). And Julie D., the Happy Catholic, happily goes to town.

I'm not going to compare texts, as everyone else has done such a fine job of that. I'm appalled at the sterlilization process that has taken place in our scripture and in our churches. The constant over simplification to put things intellectually within our grasp, to humanize Christ, to demystify miracles, and to otherwise refashion the Church to make it look like every other secular institution does not edify us. It does not lift us up. It does not bear us into God's ineffable being. Instead it makes the extraordinary ordinary. It makes the beautiful banal. It destroys the message of the Gospel.

Christ, the Logos, the Word of God, did not come down to Earth to lower Himself to our standards but to lift us up to His.

Why Do Men Avoid Vocations?

Jeff Miller pointed to this fantastic article by Anthony Esolen in Crisis this month. Esolen has captured something that I've come to know over the last decade or so (after sloughing off the nonesense I learned in college), and he confirms something my father (a child psychiatrist/pediatrician) has been saying for years about how boys operate. I'll go ahead and spoil it for you and give you the conclusion:

But these days, if all the boys have long been absent or tuned out, depend upon it: That church has become as safe as a slumber party, as comfortable and informal as a picnic, as ordinary as a wait in the dentist’s office; it has substituted for a passion for truth a breezy engagement with social fads, or simple emotionalism, regardless of whether the emotion comes from the left or the right, from newfangled universalism or old-fashioned damnation. It is not command, but etiquette. It is no sacrifice of the Eucharist, but a tea party with cucumber sandwiches. The Lord who Himself was once a boy, who wrestled in argument with the elders in the Temple, who alongside His father taxed His muscles at the plane and the lathe, who inspired men by seeking them out and calling them and dividing them into ranks and preaching the solemn truth, who freely lay His broken body down for our sakes and who freely took it up again, deserves better.

Go read the rest!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mass Times in Barcelona

It looks like I'll be doing business in Spain in September. We're set to arrive on a Sunday afternoon, which means that we'll not have a chance to go to Mass until late on Sunday. We're going to be staying in Sant Cugat de Vallés. I'm not sure if the monestary is still operating or if they have public liturgies. Anyway, if you can recommend a church in the Sant Cugat area where we can attend Mass in the evening of our arrival.

Any suggestions concerning sites to see while we're there would also be greatly appreciated.


Monday, June 18, 2007

It all started when he hit me back...

Okay, not really. I just knew some of you would bite.

It all started when a title popped into my head, and I'm sure that means that a year from now, I'll be pulling out my hair and wishing I'd never started this blog.

Whenever I have an idea brewing, it doesn't actually become conscious until I come up with a title. Papers, presentations, poems... whatever it is. If I have a title, or better yet, an opening paragraph, the thing is going to happen whether I like it or not.

And that's what happened last night as I was drifting off to sleep. A title for a book popped into my head. I'm not going to say what the title is, but I will tell you the audience and the aim of this work. I want to write a book for nonbelievers who want to seriously assess the claims of Christians, in general, and Catholics, specifically. It will work much in the same way as the Summa Theologica, without nearly the degree of sophistication. What I mean is that I will begin with objections first, then address arguments in support, and move through three primary subject areas:

- Existence of God
- The Divinity of Christ and the Triune nature of God
- The Catholic Church as the church ordained by Christ

ASIDE: I now have to applauded the blogger developers for adding the autosave feature. My system "terminated ungracefully" in the middle of my post, but because of the excellent work of the nlogger team, I only lost one bullet item. Way to go!

Anyway, I thought I could begin by a review of the literature currently presented by the best and brightest of the new athiests currently publishing. I've read nothing firsthand of what they've written, but most of the reviews indicate that it's mostly a miasma of false assumptions, question begging, well poisoning, and sundry other logical errors. Naturally, that means I actually have to read these authors. Then, after a long shower, I could address their major contentions. Then I would treat the three topics above.

This book would not be for Christians enquiring about or disputing the claims of the Catholic Church, nor would it be for people from other monotheistic faiths. While I respect the journey that many converts to the faith make, my aim is to speak from my own experience as a skeptic and how I came to embrace the faith.

I would be interested in hearing from Brent, Mike, Jeff, or Jennifer (if she can sweep the scorpions off of her keyboard) on this idea. And, hey, wasn't Julie D. an atheist or agnostic at one time, too?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

You haven't experienced true joy...

...until you've used a sod cutter. Putting sod in might be much fun, but taking it out? Well, that's a whole 'nother bundle o' joy.

This is my second time using a sod cutter, and if I never have to do it again, it will be too soon.

This one goes up to eleven.

The pup, that is.

We had Brutus fixed about two weeks ago, and I had the apprently mistaken assumption that he might, well, mellow out or something.

Not that I didn't get a kick out of his goofy puppy gallumph as he zipped around the back yard.

Anyhoo, such was not the case. He's exactly the same--stuck on eleven, and with way too much enthusiasm.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

**SNORT** - Che Mania

Louise at Purcell's Chicken Voluntary has an excerpt from an eyewitness account of Che Guevarra executing a boy in his early teens.

I see Che shirts all over the place, and I've been truly tempted to approach the wearers to point out the truth about their icon. Louise also posted this image from Mark Shea's blog.

Now there's a shirt I could wear.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Some Help with Evolutionary Biology

I'll come right out and say that I do not belive the science of evolution to be in conflict with Catholic doctrine. I do have qualms about various theories, and I most certainly believe that evolution must, if at all true, be a process driven by intelligence (that is, a Divine creator). What might be random in a scientific sense is not necessarily random in a metaphysical sense.

So what I'm trying to get at is how we get from an inorganic universe created in a big bang to a universe occuppied by organic beings. The latter seem to be able to thrive only by consuming other organic beings. In a universe created in a big bang, it would be difficult to claim organic beings at the offset. Therefore, there must be some kind of force present that converts inorganic matter to organic matter. Otherwise, there's no way for the evolutionary process to begin. And if such a force existed in the past, there's no explanation for why it doesn't now seem to be present. If a process were present in the past, we should be able to witness the process or effects of the process in the present in a way that would explain the origin of organisms.

Another issue is with the finite amount of organic material. If we include all carbon-based compounds, we still have to accept that there is a limited amount of such compounds available on this planet. We might be "refreshed" to a degree by some cosmic source, but for the most part, there are limited amounts of carbon-based materials, therefore limited amounts of material by which evolutionatry processes can take place.

So I see two problems with a completely atheistic concept of evolution. One doesn't explain how organisms came to be at all, and the other doesn't explain why we continue to get more and more organic material rather than having stasis.


Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Or at least I'm hoping so. I've been lame about posting, and I have no excuse. I've been just a little preoccuppied with LOTR online.

Bad reason, I know. But come September, it's all back to business.

I do have some thoughts to post, so I should pobably be cranking something out, oh, say... tomorrowish.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Not Quite Moblogging

I made an attempt to post from my Treo today. Having been lured in by the deceptively clean layout of the blog itself, I thought the dashboard would be equally straight forward.

Not at all.

Had to scroll back and forth, up and down, and after typing up my post, I clicked Publish Post only to have the links fail.

Apparently you have to do something special to moblog.

Anyway, I'll probably be somewhat quiet this week. I'm in Houston on business until Wednesday. Strangely enough, it's cooler here than in Boise (or at least than it was this weekend).

Friday, June 01, 2007

Requesting Book Recommendations

I have a special request from a young lady in my small faith group (an offshoot of our Catholic evangelism retreat). She's in her early 20s and has some difficulty reading. She's a convert to the faith, and she often struggles with some of the concepts we discuss. She asked if I could recommend some books for her so she can better understand her faith. Can any of you recommend texts that are simple enough in language that aren't necessarily directed at children? I'm hoping to find something on Church doctrine and something else on saints, devotions, or Catholic history.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hermeneutic of Continuity

Peter at the Catholic Restorationists blog has posted an assessment of the Holy Father's program of restoration. If I had anything to add, I would; but I don't, so I won't. I think Peter is spot on in his analysis.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Aaaaaggghh! Pod people!

I've been encountering an odd species of mushroom in my yard recently. I looked them up last year when we had a couple because they have a rather, uh, distinctive look about them. I tracked them down and found that they were variety of stinkhorn, phallus impudicus. I don't think I need to comment further on the name or the images. Clearly, though, it's not the sort of thing you want popping up (so to speak) in a respectable garden.

So when I pulled a few of these mushrooms, I noticed a hollow tube remaining underneath the surface of the soil. I decide to be adventurous and dig these tubes out. This is when I discovered that stinkhorns are really pod people. You see, under the surface were these sac-like objects filled with gelatinous goo. I am not putting the name of those sac-like things in this post for fear that I'll start attracting the wrong kind of traffic (that is, people who misspell the names of body parts).

Fleshy things filled with gelatinous goo aren't my favorite. They're not even my tenth favorite or my last favorite. They look just like the fleshy egg sacs from which alien creature burst forth—goo and all. I know those stinkhorns were just waiting for us to go to sleep so they could sneak in, parade around the house, and wipe their slimy caps on our fruit basket. Then, three days later, what comes bursting out of our solar pexi but more alien pod people.

None of that for me!

I caught another one today. I do catch-and-release with pod people, since I figure they don't survive outside of damp soil or people's intestinal tracks. Anyway, had to prove the existence of the pod people to my ever-so-skeptical wife, so I left it on the porch railing close to her gardening equipment. I'm sure she appreciated the positive proof, but for some reason, she hasn't been very talkative today.

So, note for you who have to remove "mushrooms" from your flower beds. Dig out the fleshy sac-like thingee or you'll continue having invasions... I mean, growths that you'll have to remove repeatedly.

Coming out of Semi-anonymity (sort of)

I've decided to dispense with the pseudonym and use my real name. I have my reasons for not doing so until now (and for not using my last name). However, I know that it rankles some bloggers that people hide behind pseudonyms. Probably not coincidental is that many of these semi-anonymous bloggers use the shield to lob shibboleths and firebombs at others. I hope no one has ever thought of my comments in this fashion. In any case, here I am, Bill B., the blogger formerly known as Theocoid.

Our bishop here in Boise recently published an article about many of the tensions in the Church and in our diocese. While he didn't point fingers at a particular group, he did mention electronic media and the potential for both abuse and for negative witness. I've tried to keep my comments here civil and will continue to do so. I want to post what I believe is the truth, and I am willing to discuss issues and be corrected. However, I don't want to be yet another voice ranting in the night. I don't think ill-tempered rants serve the Body of Christ well at all (although they can make for amusing reading).

Friday, May 25, 2007

Retroactive Intercessory Prayer

I was involved in a discussion on another blog recently concerning whether acts of vicarious faith or retroactive intercessory prayer can result in someone's salvation after that person has passed away. I used as an example of vicarious faith the healing of the paralytic in Matthew and Mark in which Christ heals the paralytic based on the acts and faith of his friends. This interpretation was disputed, but I've come across it enough that I'll let that point stand on its own. Marcellino D'Ambrosio elaborates on that passage here. I've read it in numerous other places, Protestant and Catholic.

The other question also surprised me because it seemed so obvious that I wouldn't have considered otherwise. Someone had mentioned having known someone who was essentially a notorious sinner and that person had passed away. The concerned friend had asked whether prayers of intercession after the fact of this person's death could do any good. I answered that, yes, prayers of intercession can have an effect on those who have died in the past. On it's own, this statement might appear to support the notion that God can change what happened in the past. That isn't what I'm claiming.

One of the commenters suggested that we are bound to statements that "are philosophically and scientifically meaningful." I found that a ludicrous proposition, not because we should make meaningless statements, but because theological positions do not fall by necessity under the constraints of science (that is, empirical proofs). (I mentioned that such constraints would leave us theologically impoverished. Science cannot prove matters of the spirit.)

However, we do have to make reasonable arguments for a position, so here's mine.
My understanding derives from a few points of belief that, taken together, warrant this conclusion:

- God exists and can act outside of the temporal limitations of time.
- God has foreknowledge of our future contingent actions. (Summa Theologica PI, Q14, A13)
- Intercessory prayer merits* graces that can be granted to someone other than the one saying the prayer. (ST, Part IIb, Q83, A15).
- God can act based on knowledge of events that are, to us, contingent.
- God can move someone to repentance through grace based on a contingent event.
- Therefore, intercessory prayers on behalf of the dead can be beneficial for the deceased.

Here's the sequence.

1. Notorious sinner (NS) is on deathbed, feels remorse, is moved to faith (baptism of desire?), and makes an act of perfect contrition with no external indications.
2. Friend in the future learns of NS's death and prays that something moved NS to repent.

Can the prayer have any effect?

God sees future contingent acts of ours as if they were actual. Because He's outside of time, He sees all, even those actions that we do not know we are going to choose. Mind you, he doesn't choose them for us. He simply knows we're going to do them. To Him, there is no past, present, or future. Everything exists in an instant. He hears the friend's prayer. He grants the grace merited by that prayer to NS prior to dying. NS feels moved to remorse and repents.

What's important here is that NS must still make a decision for or against repentance and faith. God will not force a conversion. However, nothing prevents God from using contingent future actions in the present to move someone to repentance. If the person had chosen to reject God and has passed away, then certainly, no amount of intercessory prayer would help.

Thoughts from any of my theologian friends? Dominicans? Countrymen?

*I use the term "merit" in the Catholic sense rather than the Protestant sense. Grace is a gift, plain and simple. However, God has promised to respond to our requests and to our obedient actions. When Catholics say "merit," that is what we mean. We "merit" something for our faithful works solely because God has promised to reward us, not because of anything intrinsic in us or our actions.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Movie Meme: the Answers

Elliot posted his answers, so I guess I'de better post mine, too.

1. skull crushing, cyberpunk, noir, megalopolis, dystopian = Bladerunner

2. famous score, Elba Island, Prussian, 1810s, Engaged Couple = Waterloo

3. Corporeal moritification, hunchback, autopsy, glasses, labyrinth = The Name of the Rose

4. peril, ancient sword, undead, giant spider, wizard = Return of the King

5. katana, captain, alcoholic, honor, redemption = The Last Samurai

6. Vietnam, brutality, cobra, poker, booby trap = Platoon

7. cautery, Scotland, Bannockburn, spear, weight throwing = Braveheart

8. soldier, racism, flogging, civil war, friendship = Glory

9. masked man, kissing, famous line, cliff, true love = The Princess Bride

10. Appalachia, drunkenness, pacifist, WWI, turkey shoot = Sergeant York

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tolerance and Catholic Public Life

Archbishop Chaput has an excellent essay in First Things today on the need for Catholics to espouse their faith publicly and heroically. I'm trying more and more to live up to this ideal, but I have a long way to go.

Monday, May 21, 2007

One last MP Prediction

I indicated prior to Holy Week that I did not think the motu proprio would be coming until after Easter. So now I'll make my actual prediction, which is probably a bit anticlimactic. I think it will be released on or just shortly after Pentecost. It only makes sense to me that this document loosening the restrictions on the Tridentine Mass would be released in honor of the birthday of the Church.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Contraception: a Reformable Teaching?

I recently received a comment from John Kippley on an essay I posted concerning different levels magisterial authority and what we owe to each. I'm actually quite grateful that John's comment got me back to this question while it was still fresh in my mind. I long ago accepted the wisdom of Pope Paul VI's teaching on contraception, and I found Pope John Paul II's teaching on the theology of the body beautiful and compelling. So for me, although I was bothered by the idea that the prohibition could be reformable, I felt it was a wise teaching nonetheless and one that should be upheld and proclaimed.

However, John's comment impelled me to go back and reread Humanae Vitae, and I have to say I'm mystified that there could be any question of whether it's a reformable teaching.

First, if you read the Magisterium's reply in HV 6, it's clear that the Holy Father does not accept the findings of the commission convened to discuss the matter:

However, the conclusions arrived at by the commission could not be considered by Us as definitive and absolutely certain, dispensing Us from the duty of examining personally this serious question.

So the question fell to the Magisterium to settle. Pope Paul VI then notes several points:

- This teaching has been constant from the earliest days of the Church (and earlier) and conforms to natural law. (HV 11)

- This teaching is the promulgation of the law of God Himself. (HV 20)

- Since the Church didn't make this teaching up, She cannot be its arbiter and can only guard and interpret it. (HV 18)

John's NFP website points to some of the early Scriptural references to contraceptive methods, as well as the early Church's prohibitions against pharmakeia (sorcery), which many consider to be a reference to abortifacient herns or medicines (Galatians 5:20; Revelation 9:21 and 18:23. The Didache also makes reference to pharmakeia as well.

This teaching has all of the marks of dogma, except for the formal declaration.

I'm still looking for an explanation from the camp that claims this teaching to be reformable. John's essay points out a few claims, but most of these seem like the kinds of smoke and mirrors used by those pushing for women's ordination—in large, delay and denial tactics.

What was missing from Humanae Vitae was a definitive statement. HV 14 declares the position, but without a clear statement in the kind of faith with which the faithful need to hold this teaching, the question will continue to be unanswered in the minds of many.

The Code of Canon Law, canon 749 §3 makes it clear when a teaching is to be taken infallibly: "No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this [a clear declaration that something is to be definitively held] is manifestly evident.

I think a definitive statement on the matter is overdue.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

More Motu Proprio Teasers

This one comes to us via Fr. Z. In an address to CELAM, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos made specific references to the loosening of the restriction concerning the 1962 Missal. To the point...

For these reasons the Holy Father has the intention of extending to the whole Latin Church the possibility of celebrating the Holy Mass and the Sacraments according to the liturgical books promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962. For this liturgy, which was never abolished, and that, as we have said, is considered a treasure, a new and renewed interest exists today and also for this reason the Holy Father thinks that the time has come to facilitate, as the first Commission Cardenalicia had wanted it in 1986, the access to this liturgy, doing of her an extraordinary form of the only Roman rite.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out here in Boise. Our cathedral is undergoing renovation of its lower chapel, which would've been an excellent place for the Tridentine liturgy. I can think of one other church (St. Mary's) that would be perfect, but it's about to undergo renovation as well.

I have no idea who would be qualified around here to offer Mass according to the Tridentine missal, but it would be lovely to experience it in one of our local parishes.

Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI

I just received a copy in the mail yesterday and am reading during my break. I just came across something pertinent to the essay I posted here. And he also touches on something else I wrote about here.

In the Foreword, the Holy Father writes concerning the historical-critical method and the four senses of scripture:

There are dimensions of the word that the old doctrine of the fourfold sense of Scripture pinpointed with remarkable accuracy. The four senses of Scripture are not individual meanings arrayed side by side, but dimensions of the one word that reaches beyond the moment.

I love our German shepherd! I'm really looking forward to delving into this book.