Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Greetings

Merry Christmas to all of you out there, and happy Chanukah to my Jewish friends (although they're not likely to be reading this blog anyway). I may get off my duff and post some more soon. I have a Patristics class through Holy Apostles coming up in a few weeks, so that will be fodder for blogging.

If you are in the Treasure Valley, you might dial in to 790 KPSD this afternoon at 3:00 PM or this evening at 8:00 PM for "Faith with Father." You can also listen online at I was asked to sit in for someone as a studio audience member. Our rector, Fr. Henry Carmona, asks a number of questions, and we're called to respond. This is the first of two sessions we recorded, and I suspect I'll be asked to take part in more in the future. Anyway, please tune in.

Also, please keep my wife in your prayers. Surgery is eight days away.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Forty Four

Forty-four years ago tonight, at a military hospital about 60 miles east of Boise, I came wailing and crying into the world. I have lived in three other states since then, tried and left several lives behind, had some experiences I wish I had forgone, and have had others that I remember fondly. I'm happy to be married, to have a wonderful wife, daughter, step-daughters and stepson, and two beautiful grandchildren.

By God's grace, I think I'm a better man than I was half a life ago. In whatever time I have left, I hope God will make me into the man he intended.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Barcelona 2008

Sorry for taking so long with this post. I'm in Lexington, Kentucky today doing some business training. Everyone is at lunch, and since I often don't eat lunch when I travel (to avoid the afternoon crash that often follows), I'm sitting here with little else to do.

I'll add most of the architectural shots without comment, since I don't recall the names of many of these buildings. A couple were designed by Gaudi, but others are just in and around the city. I shot many of these while I was on one of the bus tours. I bought a two-day pass, then promptly left the pass in my hotel room on the seond day (the one one which I would have actually used the pass extensively). Yes, I was annoyed. I could have gone back to the hotel and gotten the pass, but for some reason, I didn't. Can't explain why. Still kicking myself a little.

Same building from the side.

Here are some shots from various angles of Sagrada Familia.

UPDATE: Okay, a few more. Lexington, KY is pretty much frozen over. I'm really hoping things thaw a bit before my flight time tomorrow.

This monument, I think, is a tribute to a Catalunyan poet and friend of Gaudi's.

I've been trying to find an image online of this lovely little church. From the painting on this first image, I assumed it was dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul. However, I haven't been able to find a church in Barcelona of that name.

Another church I can't name. Like many European cities, there's a Catholic church every hundred yards or so. This is probably more the case in Spain than many northern European countries, which retained its Catholic heritage well into the 20th century.

The last time I was in Barcelona, I failed to take photos of the interior of the cathedral. This time, I probably overdid it. However, there are so many beautiful altars in this cathedral that it's shame they aren't more well known.

Here's the high altar.

Below the main altar, in the crypt, is the tomb of Santa Eulalia.

I don't remember where I took this shot, but it's an awesome altar nonetheless.

I have to admit to an error of judgment. I thought it would be better to try to shoot the side altras from behind the protective bars. That was a mistake. Next time, I'll stick my camera through and get some good shots. Until then, I can only tell you that the side altars in the cathedral are incredible.

I think I still have some other shots on the camera that I'll post later.

UPDATE 2: Oh, almost forgot this monstrance that was on display in the cathedral museum. Wish I'd remembered to turn off the flash.

Also, when you go through the churches and cathedrals of Europe, you are truly treading sacred ground. Many of the graves are underfoot.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Prayers for My Wife

If you would please add my wife (who sometimes comments here under the name St. Joan) to your prayer lists. She will be going into surgery in early January to have a myomectomy. The recovery period is 3 to 8 weeks. I have no doubt she'll bounce back quickly. She just seems to do that.

Peripherally, this situation has developed since we moved to a high-deductible insurance policy (on which I cover all premiums, as a self-employed person). We will be having a tight winter and spring financially.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Hi. Just thought I'd drop by to water the blog and say hello.

Don't have much to write, but you can always go check out Patrick Madrid's new blog. He even has this catchy bug you can put in your sidebar.

Yes, I suspect he's a silly man.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Blog's Personality Type

Check your blog here.

I can't say I'm two surprised. I've taken that darn MBTI about four times and come out as INTP every time (except for the last, which was a reduced version of the test). It's interesting that some people came up with different results between blog and the blogger.

INTP - The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especialy attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Boots on the Ground

So now that we're facing some stiff challenges on the prolife front, we need to get to work where it matters.

I received a note yesterday from Several Sources indicating their precarious financial situation. Several Sources runs several shelters for unwed mothers. If their current situation holds, they may have to close down one of their shelters.

If you want to follow up your prolife votes with prolife action, visit the Several Sources Shelters site and donate today.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

It's finally over

Yeah, not too happy with that outcome, but it's done, and we have to move on. I can say there are two bright spots in this outcome.

1. The decision was clear, and there won't have to be any debate about the outcome. We have another peaceful transfer of power, even in a time of great division.

2. We have the first black president in our nation's history. For most of us who supported McCain, it was never a matter of Obama's race but of his policies and associations. However, that we've turned this corner is a good thing.

I didn't vote for Obama, but he's my president, and I pray that he does a good job.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

What I'm doing on this election day...

Wy, I'm bitterly clinging to my guns and religion! What else?

Go vote! Don't listen to the exit polls! And pray for our country!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Who's the dope, and where's the rope?

I mentioned before that this campaign is playing out like a boxing match, with Obama appearing to have the upper hand, while McCain occasionally makes fairly significant attacks that have clear impact in the polls.

I just recalled (don't know why it took so long) Muhammed Ali's name for this strategy: rope a dope. Oddly enough, Andrew Sullivan used it in reference to Obama's strategy against both Hillary and McCain.

The way Ali always used it was to encourage his opponent to expend energy while he rested on the ropes. Then he would come back with an unexpected flurry of punches when the oppinent was at his weakest and end the fight.

Are we in the flurry stage? There are punches coming in from all sides, and the lead seems to be slacking.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

McCain as POW

This video comes from an interview done shortly after McCain was taken prisoner.

HT to Blackfive.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Bleg for All Seasons OR Charitable Giving

I'm stepping up my donation requests in an effort to actually make this blog useful.

I've mentioned to you previously about the needs of the Salesian Technical School in Bethlehem, and the assistance that Salesian Missions is providing to help funnel funds to this school.

You can help by sending your donations here:

Salesian Missions
2 Lefevre Lane
New Rochelle, NY 10802-0030

Please put Code AX in the memo section of your check.

You can also donate online or by phone at 1.888.608.2327.

You might notice that the story on the technical school is hosted on the Catholic Near East Welfare Association site, a papal charity that works specifically for needs in the churches and people of the near east.

Another organization under the authority of the Holy See is Aid to the Church in Need.

If you want to follow up your prolife votes with prolife action, visist the Several Sources Shelters site. This organization provides shelter and aid to unwed mothers.

One of my preferred prolife organizations is American Life League.

If you haven't heard of FOCUS, it's an outreach ministry to Catholic university students.

Finally, if you want to support a growing Benedictine monastery in Tulsa, see the Clear Creek Monastery site. And to be fair, here's one for the Sisters of Life.

If you have any charities to suggest, please let me know.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting article on charitable giving by political affiliation.

USCCB Clarification on "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship"

As mentioned in the update to the bumped post below, Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Murphy came out with a much more direct statement today concerning the obligation of Catholics to actively work to reverse Roe vs. Wade:

Roe v. Wade is a clear case of an “intrinsically unjust law” we are morally obliged to oppose (see Evangelium vitae, nos. 71-73). Reversing it is not a mere political tactic, but a moral imperative for Catholics and others who respect human life.

They note that much headway has been made, but that a threat looms:

Bans on public funding, laws requiring informed consent for women and parental involvement for minors, and other modest and widely supported laws have saved millions of lives. Laws made possible by reversing Roe would save many more. On the other hand, this progress could be lost through a key pro-abortion proposal,
the “Freedom of Choice Act,” which supporters say would knock down hundreds of current pro-life laws and forbid any public program to “discriminate” against abortion in providing services to women.

Obama has promised to sign the “Freedom of Choice Act” if he gets into office.

The authors could not be more direct without telling us how to vote, which of course, they can't.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

BUMP: Catholics for Obama?

There have been numerous statements concerning Catholic social teaching during this campaign season. The USCCB released its latest advisory on the subject in May. Several bishops (Bsp. Farrell of Dallas, Bsp. Vann of Ft. Worth, and Bsp. Finn of Kansas City) have all come out with more specific statements. Thomas Peters has the scoop here.

I have heard numerous people recently talking about well-formed consciences and the role on conscience in terns of our moral obligations. Sometimes, I get the impression that people think that forming their conscience has to do with getting in touch with their feelings or being "compassionate," but that's not what it means to form your conscience. The USCCB puts it this way in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship:

Conscience is not something that allows us to justify doing whatever we want, nor is it a mere “feeling” about what we should or should not do. Rather, conscience is the voice of God resounding in the human heart, revealing the truth to us and calling us to do what is good while shunning what is evil. Conscience always requires serious attempts to make sound moral judgments based on the truths of our faith.

Not judgments based on our feelings, the secular mindset, the national consensus, but on "the truths of our faith."

The same document goes on to explain intrinsically evil actions and the relationship between the right to life and other human rights. As the bishops state,

The right to life implies and is linked to other human rights—to the basic goods that every human person needs to live and thrive. All the life issues are connected, for erosion of respect for the life of any individual or group in society necessarily diminishes respect for all life.

In short, without a primary right to life, the right to these other goods is in doubt. The right to life precedes them and is necessary for them. On the hierarchy of rights, it is the preeminent right, and the others derive from it.

The next few paragraphs are where people get tripped up:

27. Two temptations in public life can distort the Church’s defense of human life and dignity:

28. The first is a moral equivalence that makes no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity. The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.

29. The second is the misuse of these necessary moral distinctions as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity. Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act.

So we are required to make our decisions based on all factors, not on a single factor. We need to balance all good and evil to make our determination.

Next, they get to the crux of the disagreement:

34. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

We can't dismiss issues on either side but must consider all together.

36. When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.

This is the position that Mark Shea has been talking about heatedly at Catholic and Enjoying It. He takes the former position, and I the latter. Both are principled and acceptable positions based on Church teaching, and I think people should get off his back. He knows what his conscience tells him. I'm still a bit of a neanderthal and might need more convincing to accept his position, but I can't fault him for voting as he sees fit.

Finally, they sum up our responsibility and the moral weight of particular issues:

37. In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions. These decisions should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue.

Now, here's where things choices to go awry. Some people use the war and the "traditional" advocacy for the poor by the democrats as an excuse to dismiss the intrinsically immoral positions regarding life issues (abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, abortifacient "contraception"). I'm not going to defend the decision to go to war in Iraq (although I would absolutely insist that we have an obligation to stay there and try to rebuild). However, even if all war were intrinsically evil (it's not, or we wouldn't be able to have just wars for defensive purposes), the Iraq War specifically has not come anywhere close to causing the number of deaths as one year with the abortion indsutry in the U.S.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, the tally for 2005 was 1.21 million abortions were performed, "down from 1.31 million abortions in 2000." One year of abortions in the U.S.—the richest nation in the world—where childless couples frequently struggle to adopt children and often have to go overseas.

The casualities in the war in Iraq? For all U.S. and Coalition troops, 4499. Iraqi military and civilian casualties are 7412 and 43528 respectively. I find that last number appalling, and its unclear whether that includes Iraqi insurgents. However, even if it doesn't, you simply cannot compare the morale weight of the deaths of 55439 innocent and not-so-innocent people over a three year period with the deaths of 3 million of the most vulnerable during the same period.

There are many other issues: preferential option for the poor, health care, living wages, immigration, high-paying jobs. For each of these, there are proposals for addressing them on both sides—some good, and some bad. We have prudential judgment on how to address these issues, so long as we attempt to address them. The whole point of rbinging up moral equivalency was to highlight this point. A bunch of prudential judgments do not outweigh supporting an enormous intrinsic moral evil.

While the USCCB didn't come out and say that directly, the aforementioned bishops did:

Bishop Finn: "A candidate who asks us to add our weight to such a destructive momentum in our society, asks us to be participants in their own gravely immoral act. This is something which, in good conscience, we can never justify. Despite hardship, beyond partisanship, for the sake of our eternal salvation: This we should never do."

Bishops Vann and Farrell: "But let us be clear: issues of prudential judgment are not morally equivalent to issues involving intrinsic evils. No matter how right a given candidate is on any of these issues, it does not outweight a candidate's unacceptable position in favor of an intrinsic evil such as abortion or the protection of 'abortion rights.'"

How about other intrinsic moral evils such as embryonic stem cell research and torture*? The rule then is to weigh proportionality (to choose the lesser evil) or to do what Mark Shea has done. I'm willing to say I tried to reduce evil in my voting. Mark may well be a better man than me, but I think God will accept that we both are trying to do our best. I agree with Mark the torture in intrinsically immoral. The fact that it was part of Bush's policy does not mean it will by part of McCain's.

We have a duty to weight these decisions proportionally. Unfortunately, the evil and impact of abortion is disproportionate to most if not all other issues.

*McCain's position on ESCR has always been a bit dodgy, but he essentially allows for it only on existing lines or on nonviable embryos. This isn't good enough, but it's better than a wholesale acceptance. On torture, McCain is against it for military personnel but again, a bit dodgy on how intelligence agencies figure into the picture. I think he needs to "just say no."

UPDATE: A met with a Baptist friend of mine the other day, and she was under the impression that most Catholics were pro-choice. While I know there are some who are, I don't believe support for abortion is the norm among Catholics. (I've personally known only one who was outspoken in her support for it and a few others who didn't consider it as big of a deal. That's still too many.) However, I did mention that some Catholics will vote for pro-choice politicians for other reasons, typically when they lack an understanding of the matter of proportionality.

UPDATE 2: Here's an excellent testimony from an abortion survivor from the Feminists for Life organization.

UPDATE 3: This just in from the Bishop of Scranton:

“No social issue has caused the death of 50 million people,” he said, nothing that he no longer supports the Democratic Party. “This is madness people.”

UPDATE 4: The USCCB is now coming out with a much clearer statement because apparently, too many Catholics are getting misinformation.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Meet Joe the Plumber

If you haven't yet, his chance encounter with Obama has netted him with both more than his allotted 15 minutes of fame*, but also an undeserved liability that may cost him the ability to continue in his career.

Here's the encounter:

So, Obama walks up to this guy's house and addresses him, and this man is being dressed down for not being a licensed plumber? Around here, someone who does plumbing and does plumbing is called a pipefitter, but what they usually do is the same thing.

It's appalling. A man who is acosted on the street and dares to voice his opinion is threatened with the loss of his livelihood because of his opinions. This is the man that Sens. Obama and Biden claim to be standing for. He wants to buy a business that grosses more than $250K, and for that and his willingness to voice his opinion, he is trashed.

What the hell? I don't respond this way often, but this is one of those inexplicable intersections of data that don't make sense. This is a guy who does a typical, blue-collar job who is simply trying to move up and has a simple question. Yes, he recognizes the dangers of an Obama predidency, but doesn't he have a right to voice that opinion?

Please let me know if you know how we can support Joe Wurzelbacher. Let's get behind him and let the left know that this won't fly.

UPDATE: The take on Hot Air. I suspect this chance incident may be pivotal.

UPDATE 1: What the hell? "

Trying to represent someone in the working class is now suspect?

I'm still trying to get enough info to discern just what Sen. Obama was trying to say.

Don't Lose Heart

It would be easy to give up right now because the sound of defeat seems to be ringing in our ears. However, things may not be as bad as they seem.

This from RedState.

This from Townhall. (Yes, I know. I'm not always wild about Coulter's approach, but she is insightful.)

And this from Hot Air.

I mentioned the way this campaign is starting to look like the last few rounds of a boxing match a few days ago. I think the little pieces of the strategy are starting to fall into place. The last thing is the market. If that will settle down, McCain can launch fully into the FannieMae/FreddieMac connection without looking like he's being "erratic" (which is how it would look right now).

UPDATE: My wife and I just watched the comments from both candidates at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Charity Dinner. Both were funny, but I think McCain had the edge. He has quite a schtick going when he does those townhall meetings, and it should tonight with his deadpan delivery. That's not to say Obama wasn't also quite funny, particularly when he noted that his political views resembled Alfred E. Smith's and his ears, Alfred E. Newman's. He made a few comments that clearly seemed to make the audience (mostly Manhattan deomcrats) a bit uncomfortable. McCain applauded Obama's good lines, and Obama occasionally acknowledge when McCain had delivered a good one as well. Both gave gracious closing statements.

You know, many of us (perhaps most of us) don't dislike Obama. We just think he's so profoundly wrong on the basics. Given some of his stances and associations, we have reason to wonder about his character. While I will never vote for him (based on his dismal prolife voting record, his clear preference for socialistic methodology, and his penchant for liberation theology), he would do himself a favor by clearing the air, unless he really does have something to hide.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cult of Personality

I've been reading Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, which notes the rather interesting fact that fascism in the U.S. has always been a phenomenon on the left and is, in fact, still closer to socialism than to U.S. conservatism.

Just tonight, I was thinking about one of my favorite bands form the late 80s, Living Color and one of their hits, Cult of Personality. Seems that the band was prescient in its recognition of this fact. To whom does the song specifically refer? Kennedy, Mussolini, Ghandi, FDR, Stalin. Hmmmm. Mostly the same people mentioned in Goldberg's book (with the exception of Ghandi, I thik, but I'm only halfway through).

I noticed that the ending of the video shows two little boys crossing themselves—a traditional blessing for Catholics and Orthodox Christians. While most of the other images seemed militaristic and showed average everyday citizens acting in mob-like fashion, this one image appeared at the very end. I grappled with why this image was saved for last, but then it made perfect sense.

When we as Catholics encounter something from which we want protection or when we say a spontaneous prayer or encounter a sacred space or object, we cross ourselves. The final image is of two innocents putting their faith in God's hands. Fascism is the opposite: rejecting God and putting faith in the corporatized government.

Thursday, October 09, 2008



Do you remember that comment that McCain made about Obama not knowing the difference between a tactic and a strategy? So right now, the McCain camp is throwing a lot of small shots that could be damaging but are mostly just getting the Obama camp off balance. The second debate gave the Obama camp a reason to increase their expectations, but the Ayers question and the new NP relationship are starting to make waves. Sarah Palin was presented to the MSM in one fashion, then set loose to upset the lowered expectations. And, of course, the relationship with ACORN is drawing more scrutiny.

Those are all tactical maneuvers. I think McCain is correct. The Obama campaign has had an overall strategy of not engaging directly in negative politics while allowing surrogates free reign. But they haven't shown the kind of intentional thrusts one would expect from tacticians. They're thinking globally, but not locally.

The McCain campaign has gone through some periods of what seem to be frustrating complacency. They often have information that they withhold and use later. They often seem to feint and then draw back, and then later attack more powerfully on those lines they see as successful. The McCain camp is treating this campaign like a boxing match. The Obama camp is acting like this is Rover Red Rover, where you intentionally call over the girl on the other side who will fail to crash through and then come about and hold your hand.* There are no tactics, just a plan based on wishful thinking.

I think we'll begin to see the real thrust at the final debate.

*I don't know if this was your tactic, but it was mine—at least it was in fourth grade.

UPDATE: Funny, Jay Cost is using the same conceit, but in the opposite sense. I think it is like a boxing match, which are cumulative but also subject to immediate resolutions.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Obligatory S.M. Stirling Post

Dale Price is reviewing some of S.M. Stirling's latest offerings, in particular the follow-up to the Sunrise Lands, The Scourge of God and a collection of short stories. I've previously commented that Steve Stirling is a essentially a fantasy crack dealer, a description I suspect Steve finds rather amusing. That post also just happens to be one of the few that draws traffic.

Yes, I will be buying both, when I actually have time and funds to do so. Currently, I'm reading Liberal Fascism, which is both scary and fascinating, and The Children of Húrin, which I think is a rather interesting episode in the Tolkeinien universe.

And if Steve decides to visit Boise to get an accurate sense of the geography here, I will be happy to show him around.

The Character Issue

John McCain and Sarah Palin are finally going after Obama on the questionable relationships he has and his connection to the subprime mortgage debacle. Conservatives have been saying, "It's about time." Many have not been happy with the lack of aggressiveness on these issues.

I'm wondering if the timing was intentional. A few bloggers have commented that this is pretty much the last week in which campaigning will have any real influence. If so, wouldn't it make sense to hold your best attacks for the moment at which they'd do the most damage? Tactically, it make sense. If I'm in a sparring match, I take my time until I get my opponent tired, off-balance, or cocky. That usually happens when they think the end is in sight. That's when you pull out the big moves, when they do the most good. McCain has had all of this information for months (if not years). Would anyone have heard him a month ago? Last week? Would the Obama team have time to smooth over the bumps if he had?

Catholic Organizations that Support Obama

Inside Catholic and Catholic Citizens are both reporting on a Catholic agency affiliated with the USCCB, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, has been supporting the Alinskyian community organizing done by Obama and ACORN. If you aren't aware of Saul Alinsky and his model of activism, see this and this.

Make sure to let your bishop know how you feel about this organization and its efforts.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What the Heck...

Let's help this thing go viral.

The Democrats have been using the conomy to bash Bush. I'm not a fan of Bush (never voted for him), and I'm not affiliated with either party, but the Bush administration didn't put us here. If anything, he tried to address the situation in 2003, and McCain has brought this problem up more than once.

UPDATE: Here's another with clips from C-Span. Hmmmm. Certainly, the person who spliced the video together had a specific agenda, but it sure doesn't reflect well on the democrats in the video.

(HT to Belmont Club)

Complaining as Vocational Discernment?

The Ironic Catholic thinks it may be so.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Return to Barcelona: Sant Cugat

I spent last week in Sant Cugat del Valles, a suburb outside of Barcelona, on business. This was my second trip to Spain and my second time staying in Sant Cugat. While Barcelona has many sights to see, I have to say I like being able to come back to a quiet little village for the evenings and see Spanish life as it is from the overwhelming crush of humanity that is Barcelona. The rail service makes it easy to get in and out of the city, so you get to see two sides of Spain on one trip. Since my business trips tend to be pretty short (no more than 6 days, usually), this arrangement works pretty well.

Now I have to say that the hotel at which I've stayed the past two times is a bit too... Eurochic for me. However, it's smack in the middle of Sant Cugat, which means you're within walking distance of shops, cafés, restaurants, and other sights. The hotel is at the bottom of a hill below the Monestir de Sant Cugat del Valles.

Regardless of how well the hotel is placed, the decor is a bit much. It truly reminds me of something out of a 1970s Bond movie. In fact, I think it's intentional. On arrival, I noticed these interesting vases at the registration desk:

Yes, semi-automatic pistols as vases. I really should've taken more photos, but you can check out the lobby here. If you like Eurochic, this place is for you. If you're more of the traditional, tea-and-crumpets Chateau Frontenac set, it might not be your thing. But the staff is friendly, and the price is pretty good if you book via the Web.

While I was still lively, I decided to walk around and reorient myself. I seem to be pretty good about remembering my way about places. That's helpful in European locations, where street layouts defy the laws of nature and human planning. First, I walked up to the monastery and took a few photos.

If you go to the Wikipedia entry, you'll see some great shots, but here's one that you will probably not see, the monastery's foodbank in action:

Surely, it's not an impressive shot, but I was heartened to see the Church doing in Spain much the same as what it does here in the US.

The art exhibits don't seem to move around as much either, and I'm not sure if it's just something about the people wo run this particular museum in Sant Cugat. I never once managed to find it open (even during posted hours), and this particular exhibit has been running since last year at this time.

Yes, that is what you think it is: hands extended and shaking from the area where the genitalia should be. Perhaps it's best that I didn't get into the museum after all.

As I walked back through the village to see wat had changed over the past year (very little), I saw this storefront and had to capture it for my daughter's sake.

While she no longer sports the Hello Kitty bedroom decor, she's still a little wistful about HK. I'm almost tempted to buy her one of these. Heck, if this young lady can learn to field strip and reassemble an AR-15 in one minute, I imagine my girl will do just fine.

What does this have to do with Sant Cugat? Uh... not a thing.

Anyway, I made my way back to the Palaçe de Potmodernisme a la Sant Cugat, had a glass of wine, and fell promptly asleep.

Next: Scenes from the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia and Various Locations

Monday, September 22, 2008

Announcements, Announcements, ANNOUNCEMENTS...

First, I just want to say to all of you who are landing here after searching "Palin evil" you are most welcome. I hope you see something here that tempers the PDS that seems so rampant in the left blogosphere of late. I might post about the whole "conservative = anti-intellectual" meme that seems to have captivated so many of a liberal mindset. But not now... no time.

I'm heading off to Barcelona tomorrow. I promise to take more pictures and post them. I even emptied my camera's memory ahead of time. If you have any special requests, please let me know. I won't be doing the Dali or Picasso meseums this time, but I'm open to any other suggestions.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Day Late, and a Dubloon Short. ARR!

My pirate name is:

Bloody William Kidd

Every pirate lives for something different. For some, it's the open sea. For others (the masochists), it's the food. For you, it's definitely the fighting. Even though you're not always the traditional swaggering gallant, your steadiness and planning make you a fine, reliable pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

I recall dressing up as Captian Kidd one Halloween (when I was 6 I think). Maybe it's time to break out the cutlass again this year.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Whose Fault is the Current Economic Meltdown?

UPDATE: Dafydd ab Hugh has more here and here.

UPDATE 2: Jawa Report has more.

UPDATE 3: Always good for a timeline, Flopping Aces doesn't disappoint.

Well, if you listen to the Obama campaign and the Left, it's all the fault of those money-grubbing Republicans who "run" Wall Street. However, when you start looking at who proposed what and when, the picture is quite different.

Ace has the scoop here.

Bush attempted to pass a bill in 2003 to provide more oversight for the two big Fs.

McCain spoke out about this in 2005.

Obama's campaign has close ties to many people involved in the subprime mortgage market, as Ace explains.

Sarah Palin: Is She Really a Hockey Mom?

Some hockey moms don't think so.

(HT Mark Shea)

I don't know if I can vote McCain/Palin now. This is just too damning.

Monday, September 15, 2008

BUMP: More Palin Evil Goofiness

UPDATE 4: Okay, I may have spoken too soon. Apparently, there is much to fear in Sarah Palin. Much.

UPDATE 3: Heh! Sen. Mike Gravel unloads on some radio talkshow hosts in defense of Gov. Palin (for whom he's not even going to vote).

UPDATE 2: The hits keep coming! See's Palin page.

UPDATE: Apparently, the number one query today that results in an actual visit is "palin evil[.]" That quite frankly amazes me. It suggests only three possible ideas in the minds of those searching: 1) they're pro-McCain folks looking up the ridiculous slanders that have been leveled at Palin; 2) they're people who actually buy the ridiculous slanders; and 3) they're Obama supporters who haven't delved very deeply into their own candidates many warts. What's truly amazing is how much attention the media is paying to Palin's personal life and how little it pays to Obama's. When conservatives claim that the media is biased, this particular issue should be proof positive—no Obama vetting by the media. It seems to be off limits for him but required double-plus for others.

Anyway, for those who have come searching for dirt, welcome. Please read all links and posts before commenting.


Explorations has a list of all of the debunked allegations that have "surfaced" as of last Friday.

I think "surfaced" is an appropriate term to use, given that most of this stuff appears to be BS anyway, so it tends to bob up and float for a while, until it breaks down and sinks to the floor.

Mark Shea has touted David Smirak's review of Gov. Palin's speech. While I love Mark's blog and I also like Zmirak's writing, I have to point out that they're expecting a bit much from a convention speech. Gov. Palin's speech wasn't intended to be an exposition on policy. Convention speeches are the political equivalent of pep rallies. They are intended to appeal to emotion. Palin hit both the tone and the audience she (and the campaign) meant to hit. They did not intend to address those outside the party but those within who were wavering. If you try to view the speech outside of those parameters, you'll miss the aim. In addition, if you automatically take a cynical position, you color yourself blind to the full implications of a speech. See the MSM for a clear example of this.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Papal Infallibility

This comment thread is open for discussions on papal infallibility in response to a post elsewhere. Feel free to comment, understanding that I will accept legitimate points and reject those that are merely attacks.

The particular comment in question was posted on the Ace of Spades. A certain DrewM wrote: "And the Pope thinks he's infallible. He's a piker compared to these f*** heads."

No, Drew, you completely misunderstand what the term "papal infallibility" means. Given that you tossed this bit into a completely unrelated topic, I have to believe that you have a particular animus for the Catholic Church. If you'd like to lay out that disagreement here, then you're invited to do so. I will accept that you might misstate some points of Catholic belief. I will censor for inappropriate comments, and I will respond to any distorations of Catholic doctrine.

For anyone else who wants to join in the fray, please regard the points above and please be charitable.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

My Reservation

So clearly, I've picked my side in this fight. However, I have to acknowledge that some of the criticisms of this ticket and of the True Conservatives® in general is the lack of consistency in the prolife ideology. Abortion and euthanasia are not the end of the story. While I personally believe that these are God-given absolutes, I don't believe one has to have a theological world view to accept these points:

* A prolife ideology should emphasize that some aspects of nature ought not to be manipulated simply to meet a market demand or to allow people to escape the consequences of their decisions. Doing so usually results in more severe and unforeseen consequences down the road.

* A prolife ideology should reserve the most severe punishments for those who commit the most severe crimes, with a bias toward mercy when it is reasonable. When we can incarcerate indefinitely without endangering other lives, it should be done. When it can't, the government has an obligation to protect its citizens—all of them, not just those walking freely.

* A prolife ideology should take a high road that determines not to treat human dignity as something that is dispensable and exchangeable for some other perceived good. Torture is simply wrong regardless of the context. I think McCain knows this but struggles with it because he truly wants to serve the country. However, serving the country also means protecting its moral stature and its principles. This is something that many conservatives seem to have forgotten.

* A prolife ideology needs to include principles of Just War theory. Pre-emptive military strikes factor in when there is an obvious immediate threat to our nation's (or another's) sovereignty, not when there is merely a perceived indirect threat to our "national interest."

I'm solidly in the McCain/Palin camp, but I know this choice is flawed. However, compared to the leftist leanings, extremely questionable associations and methods, and the overwhelmingly pro-abortion/pro-death stance of the other party, I have to work not only to avoid supporting it but to actively defeating it. I know some Catholics feel that abstaining from the two-party vote is a better choice. They must vote with their conscience. However, most of their reservations seem to be based more on a cynical view of "the way the world is" than the way God moves. McCain is imperfect, and *SHOCKER* so is Palin. However, God makes use of weakness and imperfection to do His will all the time.

*Oddly enough, sometimes a war initiated without just motives must still be completed in order to bring about justice. I believe the war in Iraq is such a war. As Gen. Colin Powell said, "We broke it; we own it." If he weren't "pro-choice," I'd vote for him as POTUS in a heartbeat.

UPDATE: Looks like this concern is in the air now. Whole life. I like the sound of that. (HT Feddie).

Thursday, September 04, 2008

All I can say is Sham WOW!

Sarah Palin kicked butt and took names last night. When even the AP acknowledges it, you know it's not just conservative wishful thinking.

Naturally we're going to hear about the McCain campaign going negative because of Palin's references to Obama's work as a "community organizer," specifically this one: "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities."

Ouch, that's gotta hurt. But I have to say, based on his refusal to acknowledge that she is a sitting governor, he deserved it.

*If you're scratching your head because of the title, go here.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

BUMP: What do YOU think of Sarah Palin?

UPDATE: Hey, I noticed that I had a pretty lengthy visit from someone in the USMC in North Carolina. Semper fi, and thanks for stopping by. Thanks, as well, for your service.

Well, what amazes me is how liberals* are responding to McCain's pick of Gov. Sarah Palin—some of it merely demeaning, some of it just plain sexist. This is one of the reasons they seem to lose presidential elections. They think a president should represent the best of the European tradition rather than everyday Americans. They don't look at how conservatives (much less independents or working-class democrats) respond to such people. That should tell them a whole lot more about what's in the air here. I've yet to meet anyone here who thinks Palin is a bad choice. Risky, yes; bad, no.

Some other thoughts:

- Palin's political experience ranges from the lowest to highest echelons in the state government. Beginning in 1992, she served on a city council, then as mayor, then as president of the state mayors' association, and finally as chair of the state Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission prior to being elected governor. Overall, that gives her four more years of political experience than Obama, and 12 years of executive experience in four different roles.

- Palin walks the walk. He prolife stance is backed up by real-life decisions.

- As much as people are trying to make an isue of her foreign affairs credentials, they seem to forget that she governs a state bordered by two foreign countries, one of which is an economic and military rival. I recall hearing stories of how the Soviets used to do touch-and-gos on the airstrip at Elmendorf AFB. Somehow, I don't think she'd stand for it.

- BTW, she's the commander and chief of the Alaskan National Guard. She and McCain have something in common that neither of the Democratic contenders share—some actual involvement in military affairs.

Democrats can play down the seriousness of the move, but they do so at their detriment. This move has fired up the base, and there's no turning back.

UPDATE: Just saw this in The American Spectator, confirming that Gov. Palin indeed has better foreign affairs credentials then Biden, if you consider negotiating with major foreign oil companies a foreign affair. (HT to the American Princess).

*I use this term loosely because I've always considered myself a classic liberal. Most of today's liberals are actually leftists.

Troopergate: What Really Happened

Flopping Aces has the rundown of events leading up to the so-called Troopergate scandal.

From reading this timeline, one has to wonder what took them so long to go after Wooten's job. He's clearly not the kind of person you want carrying a gun and a badge.

Gov. Palin has requested the ethics board to look into the matter themselves and files this affadavit (HT to Hot Air).

The only people who think this will be damaging to Gov. Palin seem to be the people who are attempting to damage her with it and only providing a partial story.

Couldn't say it any better

This from Suann Therese Maier in First Things:

And those who think that Palin’s beliefs and family struggles are funny or worth jeering at, simply reveal the venality of their own hearts.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Eucharist: A Seven-Week Bulletin Series

The second assignment for the Synoptic Gospels course was a seven-week bulletin series on some topic. I chose the Eucharist. This one is more "pastoral," and in my mind, doesn't reflect the kind of work that I would expect in a scripture class. It would be fine if it were an instructional methods course, but it strikes me as a little unacademic. However, I got an acceptable grade on it, and I do think it would work as a bulletin series.

The Eucharist: The Basics

Nearly every hour of every day all over the world (except on Good Friday), Catholics take part in a “thanksgiving” ritual that draws us all together into the One Body of Christ. Most of us refer to this ritual as “Holy Communion” or as “the Blessed Sacrament.” More formally, we use the traditional word Eucharist, which comes from a Greek word meaning “thanksgiving” (eucharistia).[1] Most of you have already begun receiving this sacrament, which is available to baptized members of the Church.

The Church has long associated Eucharist with the Passover of the Jews. Scripture itself makes several references and allusions to the Passover in its own text and in the various symbols throughout the story of Jesus’ last day before his arrest. In our liturgy, we will sometimes hear of the Paschal Sacrifice, which again is a reference to the Pesach or Passover of the Jews.[2] Whereas the Passover of the Jews commemorates the passing over of the Hebrew first born in Exodus 12 and the Hebrews’ flight from Egypt, the Eucharist commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion and death, the sacrifice that gives us freedom from the slavery of sin. The Eucharist also represents a new covenant, one that replaces the old covenant established between God and the people of Israel through Moses in Exodus 28:8. This new covenant Jesus established with us, His Church, during the Last Supper.

Over the next few weeks, we will look at the Eucharist from several perspectives. Using the text from the three synoptic gospel accounts, we will explore the meaning of the Eucharist to us as faithful Catholics to gain a deeper appreciation for this grace-giving gift.

The Eucharist in the Gospels

The Sacrament of the Eucharist is established in the Last Supper accounts of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. We call these three gospels the synoptic gospels because they are “seen together.”[3] The accounts are very similar, most likely because they all come from a single account, probably Mark 14:22–25:

And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’

Matthew makes a few modifications to clarify that the blood of the covenant is poured out “for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Luke changes the order in which events happen, but the most important variation is that he adds words that are very familiar to us from our liturgy: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

In Mark’s account, we get just the facts. Both Matthew and Luke elaborate. This elaboration is one of the reasons scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark came first, because we have a tendency to try to explain things and flesh them out rather than subtract details and make them less clear. Mark is the most basic account, and Matthew and Luke add to it. Whether this reasoning is historically accurate, we can’t know for certain, but this is a standard way that scripture scholars look at text to see what came first. They assume that the shorter readings and those that are more difficult are the earlier readings. If you’ve ever written a book report or an essay, you can probably verify some truth in this view. As you revise, the clumsy or difficult parts of your essay get a little more detailed and clearer.

As mentioned in last week’s column, the Eucharist establishes a new covenant with God’s new people, the Church. As covenants go, the words are important. When we look next week at the Eucharist in Liturgy, we’ll explore just how the scriptural passages relate to the Liturgy.

The Eucharist in Liturgy

At a very important point in our liturgy, the priest says a blessing over the gifts of bread and wine on the altar that have been presented for the congregation. This moment is called the institution narrative, and it contains the consecration. The words sound very familiar to the gospel accounts we’ve discussed. While the Eucharistic prayers vary in length and in content, the institution narrative stays very close to the story of the Last Supper from the synoptic gospels,[4] but the narrative elaborates on that event to make clear the close relationship between these acts and Jesus ultimate suffering, death, and resurrection.

The consecration itself is fixed and always repeated in the same form, if the consecration is to be valid. First, the priest lifts the host and says,

Take this, all of you, and eat it:
this is my body which will be given up for you.[5]

He genuflects, and then he continues the narrative. Then, lifting the chalice of wine, he says,

Take this, all of you, and drink from it:
this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.[6]

You can see similarities in the words of consecration to all three synoptic gospels, and each gospel clearly leaves its impression on the liturgical text. With these words of consecration, the priest transforms the materials of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, as noted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the consecration is more than just a transformation of the bread and wine:

In the celebration of Mass, during the Eucharistic Prayer, not only does Christ become present, body and blood, soul and divinity, under the forms of bread and wine, but Christ's saving action, His passion, death and resurrection are once again enacted and offered to the Father by Christ Himself in the person of the priest, and by all present.[7]

During the Eucharistic Prayer, Christ in the person of the priest offers Himself again to the Father and to us. Rather than a new sacrificing of Christ, however, the Eucharist is a re-presentation of the original sacrifice. Next week, we’ll look at the historical reality of the event that instituted the Eucharist—the Last Supper.

The Eucharist as a Historical Event

We can talk about the Eucharist as part of a story in three different books (the synoptic gospels), or as something that happens in our liturgy (the consecration), but it is also based on a historical event: a Passover meal that Jesus held with several of his followers just prior to his arrest. Strictly speaking, sacred scripture is not history[8]—that is, when we read the accounts of Jesus’ life, we should remember that the intent is not to teach us about history but to guide us to salvation.[9] Scripture tells us the story of who Jesus is, not just what happened where and when. However, scripture sometimes contains historical details that support its accuracy and tell us something about the world during the time of Jesus.

In modern Jerusalem, many tours of the Old City stop at a location on Mt. Zion known as the Cenacle, the upper room where Jesus and his disciples shared the Last Supper,[10] very close to the traditional Tomb of David. The original structure of the room no longer exists, but the location has been maintained from early Christian testimony. The Gospels of Mark and Luke note a small detail that helps to confirm this place as the location of the Last Supper. In both gospels, Jesus sends several of his disciples to find a man carrying water (Mark 14:13; Luke 22:10) who will lead them to the upper room: “And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready” (Mark 14:15). This detail is important for a few reasons. First, Jews considered carrying water to be women’s work. It would have been unusual at the time for a man to be doing this task. However, the Cenacle was believed to have been in a guest house in the Essene quarter of Jerusalem.[11] Essenes were a group of Jews who lived a sort of early monastic life.[12] They were all male, so naturally tasks that would have been performed by women in regular Jewish society would be taken up by men in a largely male religious group. So a seemingly insignificant detail in scripture can often reveal much more than you might expect.

Next week, we’ll look at the Eucharist as a communal meal shared by Christ’s new family, the Church.

The Eucharist as a Communal Meal

The Eucharist is not just a memorial ritual that helps us to recall Jesus’ sacrifice. It’s also a way that we as members of the Body of Christ come together as one. We come together in several ways. First, we come together in the act here and now, in the event as we each line up and walk forward to receive the Eucharist and also as we gather in this building for this very purpose. We also come together as we profess a common belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist—that in some unique way, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. This belief is no small thing. In chapter 6 of the Gospel of John, verses 48 through 56, the author reports that many of Jesus’ followers couldn’t handle this message. To them, Jesus’ words were simply disgusting.

There’s good reason for the reaction of his disciples. Food, for Jews, was serious business. Leviticus 11 outlines numerous laws on what kinds of foods can be eaten and how they can be prepared. However, even among Jewish sects of the time, dietary restrictions were used as a means of identifying different sects of Jews—those who were part of the group and those who were not.[13] These rules dictated what you could eat and with whom you could eat it.

Jesus constantly challenged the Jewish authorities (primarily the Pharisees) on these points because they excluded the poor and outcast, the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 10:6, 15:24). His own ministry was one of inclusiveness, often exemplified in the sharing of food (for example, eating with tax collectors in Matthew 9, Mark 2 and Luke 5; and the multiplication of loaves and fish in all four gospels). The Eucharist, too, is a sign of inclusion, of being part of the group represented by the word we commonly use for it—communion. However, just as Jewish purity laws dictated the conditions for communal meals for Jews, so the Church requires certain conditions to be fulfilled. First, a person must be joined to the Church through baptism and, for adults joining the Church, confirmation. In addition, participants must be free from mortal sin. As Jesus responded to the Pharisees, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19), so part of being worthy for the communal celebration is to have the correct inner disposition—a right relationship with Jesus and the Church.

The Eucharist as a Sacrament

Sacraments are physical means or visible rituals established by Jesus that transmit grace to us by the Holy Spirit, or as the Catholic Encyclopedia describes, “Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification.”[14] Most if not all of us have received the Sacrament of Baptism, which uses the physical means of sprinkling or immersion in water. The Eucharist is also a sacrament that uses the physical materials of bread and wine and the institution or consecration based on the words of Jesus at the Last Supper. One of the differences between many non-Catholic Christians and Catholics is the emphasis we place on these outward signs. For Catholics, outward signs are important indicators of another reality that takes place internally. In this emphasis, we are not alone. Jesus frequently used outward signs as a means to bring about an inward change, as when he used spittle to restore a blind man’s sight in Mark 8:22–26 or anytime he laid his hands on those whom he healed.

In the case of the Eucharist, the bread and wine are transformed into the grace­giving Body and Blood of Christ. Grace is a supernatural gift from God that sanctifies us and helps us to become more like Christ. One of the reasons why receiving this sacrament is so important is that it gives us the spiritual food we need to resist temptation and to lead holy lives. While all of the sacraments are important in the life of the Church, the Eucharist is unique in that we are drawn physically and spiritually into a grace-giving relationship with Christ as He commanded us in all four gospels. Receiving the Eucharist also cleanses us of venial or minor sins and helps us to resist mortal sin.[15]

Jesus tells His disciples in John 6:53 that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood or they will have no life in them. However, Paul warns the Corinthians not to receive this sacrament unworthily—that is, in a state of mortal sin (1 Corinthians 11:27). Fortunately, when we do fail and fall into mortal sin, Christ gave us another sacrament, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so that He can make our relationship with Him right again. The two sacraments together allow us to partake fully in the sacramental life of the Church.

The Eucharist as Sacrifice

In the first week of this series, I mentioned the term Paschal Sacrifice, which we often hear in relation to the Eucharist. In the Old Testament, sacrifices were the means by which the People of Israel atoned for their sins. The Paschal Sacrifice was the yearly sacrifice of an unblemished lamb that took place during Passover prior[16] to the Seder meal (the primary Passover meal outlined in Exodus).[17]

For Christians, Jesus replaces and perfects the Paschal Sacrifice by offering Himself in atonement for our sins (Matthew 26:28). About this sacrifice the Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

After agreeing to baptize him along with the sinners, John the Baptist looked at Jesus and pointed him out as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. By doing so, he reveals that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter and who bears the sin of the multitudes, and also the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel's redemption at the first Passover.[18]

These words from John 1:29 are part of our Eucharistic celebration as well following the breaking of the bread just prior to communion. In the Book of Revelation, repeated references are made to the lamb. Christ in the Eucharist becomes the spotless, unblemished, sacrificial lamb by His own free choice to free us from sin and death. As the Holy Father recently spoke,

The Eucharist—the centre of our Christian being—is founded on Jesus’ sacrifice for us; it is born from the suffering of love which culminated in the Cross.[19]

Christ’s love for us is ever evident to us in the Eucharist. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Such a great love Christ had for us that he died even for those who persecuted Him and put Him to death. Today, He calls us to our own sacrifice, to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:34–40).

Works Cited and Referenced

Adler, Cyrus and Dembitz, Lewis M. “Seder.” 2002. <>. 14 July 2008

Catechism of the Catholic Church. New York: Doubleday, 1995.

Feeley-Harnick, Gillian. The Lord's Table: Eucharist and Passover in Early Christianity. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 1981.

Just S.J., Felix. “Eucharistic Prayers I-IV.” 26 May 2008. Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology. <>. 14 July 2008.

Lauterbach, Jacob Zallel. “Passover Sacrifice.” 2002. <>. 14 July 2008.

Mills, William. “Lecture 2: Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels.” Synoptic Gospels. Holy Apostles College and Seminary. 2007. < webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab=courses&>. 10 July 2008.

Pohle, Joseph. “The Blessed Eucharist as a Sacrament.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. 1909. <>. 14 July 2008.

Pohle, Joseph. “Eucharist.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. 1909. <>. 9 July 2008.

“Q&A with Bargil Pixner.” CenturyOne Foundation. 2003. <>. 13 July 2008.

Rich, Tracey R. “Pesach.” Judaism 101. 2005. <>. 12 July 2008.

“The Cenacle.” Bibarch. 2 February 2007. <
ArchaeologicalSites/Cenacle.htm>. 13 July 2008.

XVI, Benedict. “Celebration of First Vespers of the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul for the Opening of the Pauline Year: Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI.” Vatican: the Holy See. 28 June 2008. < benedict_xvi/homilies/2008/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20080628_vespri_en.html>. 11 July 2008.

[1] “Eucharist,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, <> 10 July 2008.

[2] Tracey R. Rich, “Pesach,” Judaism 101, 2005, <> 12 July 2008.

[3] Fr. William Mills, “Lecture 2: Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels,” Synoptic Gospels, Holy Apostles College and Seminary 2007, <
frameset.jsp?tab=courses&> , 10 July 2008.

[4] Felix Just, S.J., “Eucharistic Prayers I–IV,” Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology, 26 May 2008, <> 14 July 2008.

[5] Ibid, <>.

[6] Ibid, <>.

[7] “The Eucharistic Prayer,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, <
liturgy/girm/bul6.shtml> 14 July 2008.

[8] Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu, 30 September 1943, <
Pius12/P12DIVIN.HTM> 13 July 13, 2008.

[9] Leo XIII, “Providentissimus Deus,” 18 November 1893, <
Leo13/l13provi.htm> 13 July 13, 2008.

[10] “The Cenacle,” Bibarch, 2 February 2007, <
Cenacle.htm> 13 July 2008.

[11] “Q&A with Bargil Pixner,” CenturyOne Foundation, 2003, <> 13 July 2008.

[12] “History of Monasticism,” Historyworld,16 June 2008, <
PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ab88> 13 July 2008.

[13] Gillian Feeley-Harnick, The Lord’s Table: Eucharist and Passover in Early Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 1981) pp. 91–96.

[14] Daniel Kennedy, “Sacraments,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 13, (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912) <>, 12 July 2008.

[15] Joseph Pohle, “The Blessed Eucharist as a Sacrament,” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5, (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909) <> 14 Jul. 2008.

[16] Jacob Zallel Lauterbach, “Passover Sacrifice,”, 2002, <> 14 July 2008.

[17] Cyrus Adler and Lewis M. Dembitz, “Seder,”, 2002, <> 14 July 2008.

[18] Catechism of the Catholic Church, (New York : Doubleday, 1995) 175.

[19] Benedict XVI, “Celebration of First Vespers of the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul for the Opening of the Pauline Year: Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI,” Vatican: the Holy See, 28 June 2008, <>, 11 July 2008.

Three Homilies

For the latest scripture course on the Synoptic Gospels, we were required to write our assignments in a way that was accessible to a wide audience (or as our instructor called it, in a "pastoral" style). I didn't quite attain that tone with the first assignment but still fared well enough. I'm still not sure I think this approach is appropriate for a graduate level course, but it's behind me now.

We were required to select one or more passages (or pericopes) and write three brief homilies. I chose Matthew 16:13–20.

For the latest scripture course on the Synoptic Gospels, we were required to write our assignments in a way that was accessible to a wide audience (or as our instructor called it, in a "pastoral" style). I didn't quite attain that tone with the first assignment but still fared well enough. I'm still not sure I think this approach is appropriate for a graduate level course, but it's behind me now.

We were required to select one or more passages (or pericopes) and write three brief homilies. I chose Matthew 16:13–20.

The Church of Christ

The gospel reading today comes from Matthew 16:13–20 (RSV). In this section of the gospel, Jesus asks His disciples who people say that He is. The apostles give Him a variety of responses—Elijah, John the Baptist, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets. Then He asks the disciples directly, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15). Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Whether Peter fully understands what it means for Jesus to be the Christ, we will set aside for now, because our real interest today is in Jesus’ words to Peter:

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:17–18, emphasis mine)

This passage is particularly relevant to us as Catholics because it is commonly used to support the authority of the papacy or the See of Peter. The Catechism of the Catholic Church cites this passage in sections 552 and 553 as the basis for ecclesial authority: “Christ, the ‘living Stone,’ thus assures His Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death.” Given the importance of this passage to the doctrine of the faith, we must understand its full implications. Today, we will focus on a word that is largely misunderstood today, the word “church,” particularly as it is used in the context of this passage: “I will build my church.” We will come back to why the words “my church” are important, but first let us explore some of the language used here so we can better appreciate Matthew’s meaning.

The word “church” that we find in our English version of scripture is a loose translation of the Greek term ekklesia, which means “assembly.”[1] You may have heard two related terms—ecclesial or ecclesiastic—which refer to Church-related matters. The English word “church” comes to us through west Germanic from a Greek word (κϋριακύν) meaning “the house of the Lord,”[2] which might explain why we sometimes confuse the place of worship for the people who worship there. Nonetheless, the word properly refers to the people assembling rather than the place. Without the building, we still have the Church. So while our English term has obscured the reality of the original Greek term ekklesia, the spirit of scripture is still with us.

The word, ekklesia, appears throughout the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, which is the scripture that most Diaspora Jews used at the time Jesus lived. The word ekklesia is also used in Acts; in the letters of Paul, James, and John; and in the Revelation to John. So the word ekklesia has a long-standing history of use in scripture prior to and following its use in Matthew, and it reinforces the relationship between the Jewish-Gentile Church and the People of Israel.[3]

Out of all the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the term ekklesia occurs only in Matthew in chapters 16 and 18. This omission has been remarked upon by numerous scholars. The common consensus seems to be that the author of Matthew wrote this gospel to address some specific dilemma facing a local church, most likely the church of Antioch,[4] and to clarify the relationship between the followers of Christ and the Jewish tradition from which Christ and the original Christians came.[5] The people of the church of Antioch were trying to understand why they came from the same scriptural roots as the synagogue down the street but did not worship with them. The author of Matthew made intentional connections back to the ancient tradition of the Hebrews, using words that came right out of the text of the Old Testament.

What makes Matthew 16:18 unique is that Jesus is not talking about a local church. Jesus is talking about His church,[6] the Church of Christ—not just a local congregation. Jesus’ Church is the whole Church, and it belongs to Him. Matthew relates that this is an assembly belonging to Jesus, called out by Him, for Him. This church exists both in Jewish tradition but also as a reality established by Christ. We are the assembly called by Christ, established on the rock of Peter against which the gates of Hell shall not prevail.

As modern people, and particularly as modern U.S. citizens, we like to think that our opinions and preferences take precedence over everything else, and that sensibility often extends to how we think the Church should operate. More than one so-called Catholic organization touts slogans such as “We are Church” as if somehow our participation were the very thing that gives the Church legitimacy. Such thinking is a misunderstanding of the term sensus fidei or “sense of the faith.” Many of us act as if the Church should operate as a democracy, with “truth” conforming to the will of the majority. The Holy Father has commented numerous times on this culture of relativism—this sense that there are no absolute truths and that every belief is up for negotiation. Part of that culture is this insistence that all “truths” somehow match our culture’s expectations. But that is not the nature of Truth, and that is not what it means to be a part of Christ’s Church. We did not select Him, but rather He selected us (John 15:16–19). As those who are called to the assembly,[7] we must fully accept that to which we are called.

If we are truly to be Christ’s Church, it must be on His terms, not our own. We must reconcile ourselves to Christ and not expect all things to be reconciled in a way that we expect. We must submit and obey and accept that Christ’s Way may not look like our way. Accepting the Truth of Christ and embracing the Church cannot be done by degrees. Our baptism into the ekklesia, the assembly, means an acceptance of the call—a complete immersion[8] in and submission to Christ and His Church.

The Keys of the Kingdom

Our Christian culture has a common image, shared by many Catholics and non-Catholics alike: St. Peter standing at the gates of Heaven with the “book of life,” allowing those whose names are in the book to pass and sending those whose names do not appear in the book off to the Netherworld. It is a common context for jokes and even somewhat of a euphemism for death itself—meeting St. Peter at the pearly gates. This image comes to us in part because of this passage from today’s reading in Matthew 16:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt. 16:17–19, emphasis mine)

St. Peter is the one with the keys. Who else would be watching the gates of heaven but the guy holding the keys? However, the passage isn’t really addressing the gates of heaven but something right here on earth. That something is the visible Church, the means by which we attain salvation in Christ.

While keys are useful for locking and unlocking doors and gates, they can also represent something, namely authority. In fact, Matthew’s words here are intended to evoke a memory for those familiar with scripture, in particular, a passage from Isaiah 22:

In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. (Isaiah 22:20–23)

In this passage, the Lord God raises Eliakim to be steward for King Hezekiah over the house of David. The name “Eliakim,” by the way, means “God of raising” in Hebrew,[9] so the name of the person raised here reflects the action taking place. This meaningful use of names in scripture is very common, and you can often find greater meaning to a passage and to the relationships among books in the Bible by searching out the meanings of the names.

God raised Eliakim to the position of steward. Being a steward was a big responsibility because one was expected to make decisions on the king’s behalf. Needless to say, if the steward did not make decisions that conformed to the king’s wishes, the steward did not live long. The steward’s authority had to be exercised with care toward the wishes of the king and not solely according to his own whim.

The similarities between Matthew 16:19 and Isaiah 22:22 are
striking: the key to the house of Judah versus the key to the kingdom of heaven; and the authority to open and shut versus the authority to bind and loose. What we see in Matthew 16:18–19 is that Christ is bestowing the authority of stewardship on Peter.[10] He gives to Peter alone the keys and then the power to bind and loose—a power He later extends to the other apostles in Matthew 18:18.

Let’s consider what kind of authority is conferred in stewardship. Someone who is a steward has no power or authority on his own. He exercises power in someone else’s name. Peter holds the keys to bind and loose and can use that authority, but the keys he holds do not belong to him. The authority of Peter is not of absolute power but of leadership in someone else’s place, namely in the place of Christ. Peter (and the bishops who later became bishops of Rome) held the keys for Christ. This fact does not mean that the authority was false but that it resided in Peter only in trust. The true authority belonged to Christ.

What, then, do the words “bind” and “loose” mean in this passage? Peter’s stewardship, like the stewardship of Eliakim, is over a house, in this case, “the house of the Lord,” the Church. Inherent in the allusion to Isaiah are the responsibilities of opening and shutting doors to keep people in or out. However, the authority also includes the binding and loosing of sins, as Christ clarifies in Matthew 18:17–18: “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Section 553 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies what this authority includes:

The “power of the keys” designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: “Feed my sheep.” The power to “bind and loose” connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church.

Peter’s authority is over the whole of the Church, and this authority is shared with the other apostles, just as the governance of the Church involves not only the Pope, but the bishops of the local churches as well. Peter’s role is unique, as the keys are given specifically into his hands, but the exercise of that authority falls not only to Peter but to all the bishops down through the ages. The stewardship of Peter represents a headship and centralization of authority—the “visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.”[11] Peter and the bishops who followed in his place are a visible sign of communion, albeit a communion that is at the time imperfect and broken, but one to which we as Catholics owe our loyalty and obedience. Let us as faithful Catholics accept that authority, embrace that tradition, and pray that the communion it represents will someday be complete again.

Does Peter Truly Hear?

I have found over the years that I have come to sound much wiser than I actually am, and I attribute that perception to one trait I’ve developed: I keep my mouth shut more often than in the past. A quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln noted this sentiment: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”[12] I’m a walking example of this principle. Simon Peter in the gospels also fits the description. He is impetuous and passionate, and he often seems a bit foolish. He sounds a whole lot like me.

That’s one of the reasons I love him so much. I love the image of him in John 21:7 putting on his clothes before jumping into the water to meet Jesus on the shore. I also love the story of him with James and John at the Transfiguration. While Matthew and Luke let Peter off the hook in their accounts of the Transfiguration, Mark doesn’t let him escape so easily. While Peter is fumbling for words about how to honor Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, “[A] cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!’ (Mark 9:7, emphasis mine). The irony here is in what Mark does not say. Peter’s real name is Simon, which comes from the Hebrew name, Simeon or Shimon (שמעון), which means “hearing.”[13] Simon Peter, the rock who has heard, has to be reminded to listen.

Perhaps the ultimate irony, and some evidence of God’s great sense of humor, is that Jesus chose to make this man Peter the foundation of His Church. In Matthew 16, Simon Peter indicates correctly that Jesus is the Christ, to which Jesus replies:

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:17–19)

This is Simon Bar-Jona, the son of Jona who hears. If we are not paying attention, we might miss the fact that not more than a few minutes later, Peter attempts to tell Jesus how things will be (Matthew 16:22)—that Jesus will not suffer at the hands of the elders and chief priests and that He will not be killed and raised. And Jesus, moments after blessing Peter and predicting that He will build His Church upon the rock, rebukes Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God but on men.” (Matthew 16:23). This gaffe is not the only misunderstanding or failing of Peter either. Before the gospel of Matthew is over, Peter denies he even knows Jesus (Matt. 26:69-75).

Some rock. If this man is the foundation for the Catholic doctrine of infallibility, we’re in trouble, right? However, Jesus called him Peter—the Rock. He said He would build His Church on this rock, and that “the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). So is Jesus mistaken? Is Jesus lying? How can we see this fallible man Simon and accept him as the rock on which Christ’s Church is built? These are reasonable questions, so we have to look to the real meaning behind Jesus’ promise and His words to Peter.

First, Jesus notes the source of the truth that Peter speaks in verse 17. We can see other places in scripture where Peter falls back on his own flawed understanding and either says or does something foolish: when Peter relies on his own concept of the Christ in Matthew 16:23, the passage cited above; when Peter claims he will never betray Jesus even to death in Matthew 26:33; even after Pentecost when Peter distances himself from the gentiles in Galatians 3:11. However, when Peter listens to Christ and allows the Holy Spirit to work through him, he speaks the truth. For example, in Acts 2:2–4 following the descent of the Holy Spirit, Peter speaks out forcefully and truthfully to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In the next chapter, Peter says to the lame man in the temple, “I have no silver or gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6). While Peter relies on what he has been given by Christ, he sees and hears the truth and passes it on. When he relies on his own understanding, he fails.

Second, Jesus does not promise Peter that he will not fail. He promises that the Church will not fail. At the end of Matthew, Jesus sends the apostles forth in the Great Commission and says, “[L]o, I am with you always to the close of the age” (28:20). In John 14:26, Jesus says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said.” The Church, Christ’s assembly, prevails because of Christ’s continual presence with it and because of the constant teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Third, Jesus indicates that Peter binds and looses on earth what is already true in eternity. In the original Greek of Matthew, the verb tenses in Jesus’ words reveal something interesting. He says to Peter:

[W]hatever you should have bound upon the earth, it shall have been bound in the heavens; and whatever you should have untied upon the earth, it shall have been untied in the heavens. (Matt. 16:19, emphasis mine)[14]

He verb tenses tell us here that whatever Peter does in binding and loosing, it shall already have been done in the heavens. What Peter does, what he hands on, is already the truth, not some new truth that Peter has invented. To invoke the allegory of the steward and the house from Isaiah 22:22, Peter’s role is only to safeguard what already exists in the house. He can bind and loose, can open and shut. He cannot make up his own truth. The truth is Christ’s and Christ’s alone.

Simon Peter, the rock who has heard, gets it right when he hands on what has been given to him, and he fails when he relies on his own understanding without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is no personal faculty of his but a Divine trust to which he and all his episcopal brethren humble themselves. The charism that the Holy Father shares with the college of bishops depends on this Divine guidance and only confirms and preserves in doctrine what is already the Truth.

Works Cited and Referenced

“Abraham Lincoln Quotes.” BrainyQuote, 2008. <
quotes/a/abrahamlin109276.html>. 18 June 2008.

The Apostolic Bible: Lexical Concordance. Newport: Apostolic Press, 2006.

The Apostolic Bible: the New Testament. Newport: Apostolic Press, 2006.

Brown, Raymond E., and John P. Meier. Antioch & Rome: New Testament Cradles of Catholic Christianity. New York: Paulist Press, 1983.

Catechism of the Catholic Church. New York: Doubleday, 1995.

The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971. 2 vols.

The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version. Catholic Edition. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1966.

Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation. Revised. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999.

Strong, James. “A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Hebrew Bible.” In Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, by James Strong, 53. Iowa Falls, Iowa: World Bible Publishers, Inc., 1986.

[1] εκκλησίαν, The Apostolic Bible: Lexical Concordance,, (Newport: Apostolic Press, 2006), 110.

[2]“Church,” The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 411.

[3] Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, Revised ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999), 192.

[4] Raymond E. Brown and John P. Meier, Antioch & Rome: New Testament Cradles of Catholic Christianity, (New York: Paulist Press, 1983), 57–72.

[5] Johnson, 191.

[6] Brown and Meier, 66.

[7]εκκκαλέω,” The Apostolic Bible: Lexical Concordance, (Newport: Apostolic Press, 2006), 110. Also, “ecclesia,” The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 830.

[8]Βαπτισμός,” The Apostolic Bible: Lexical Concordance, (Newport: Apostolic Press, 2006), 52.

[9] James Strong, “A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Hebrew Bible.” In Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, by James Strong, (Iowa Falls, Iowa: World Bible Publishers, Inc., 1986), 15.

[10] Brown and Meier, 64.

[11] Austin Flannery, ed., Lumen Gentium, Vatican Council II: the Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, (Northport, New York: Costello Publishing, 2004), 376.

[12] “Abraham Lincoln Quotes,” BrainyQuote, 2008, < quotes/quotes/a/abrahamlin109276.html>, 18 June 2008.

[13] James Strong, “A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Hebrew Bible.” In Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, by James Strong, (Iowa Falls, Iowa: World Bible Publishers, Inc., 1986), 157.

[14] The Apostolic Bible: the New Testament, (Newport: Apostolic Press, 2006), 26.