Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Remote Corner of the Catholic Blogosphere

My readership here has never been large, and oddly, I seem to get fewer hits when I post. Perhaps this blog is more of a palate cleanser. Anyhoo, take a lookee at my stats for today.

Impressive in a way...

My blog is the raspberry sherbet of the blogosphere.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Cool Thing About Studying the Fathers

You get to learn just how long these little disagreements and misunderstandings have been around. Case in point is St. Ignatius. Here's a paragraph from his "Letter to the Philadelphians":

I beseech you, therefore, do nothing in a spirit of division, but according to Christian teaching. Indeed, I heard some men saying: "If I do not find it in the official records in the gospel I do not believe." And when I made an answer to them, "It is written!" they replied, "That is the point at issue."
But to me, the official records are Jesus Christ; the inviolable record is His cross, His death, and His resurrection, and the faith which He brings about: in these I desire to be justified by your prayers.

This passage underscores that even in 110 AD, there were people who mistakenly followed the doctrine of sola scriptura. So it wasn't Luther's invention after all. Jurgens (the editor) explains that the question may actually be related to whether something appears in the Old Testament as well as the New. However, even the history of Judaism, you have the Pharisees (those who believed in an oral tradition or Oral Law, the Talmud) and the Saduccees (those who did not accept anything other than the written word).

Review Topics for Lecture 1

These are the study questions from my first lecture in Patristics. Feel free to leave comments if it apppears that I've gone off the tracks.

Describe the four criteria necessary to be considered a Father of the Church

Chronology: To be a Father of the Church, one must have lived during the early formative age of the Church beginning with the late first century and ending in the East in around 749 (at the death of John Damascene); and in the West in 604 (the death of St. Gregory the Great), 636 (the death of St. Isidore), or 735 (the death of Bead). Our lecturer indicates that the Apostolic era begins with the writers after the compilation of the Canon of the New Testament. Is it possible that he meant composition, as the final canon wasn’t affirmed (hence, compiled) until long after the first century? (While the books existed and had been composed, there wasn’t general agreement as to which books belonged in the canon.) I’m not trying to be pedantic here—just seeking clarification.

Holiness of Life: Clearly, one reason for naming Fathers of the Church (which is much the same for canonization) is to set them up as exemplars, and no Christian exemplar would be worthy of that esteem unless he or she lived a holy life. It wasn’t necessary for a Father to be a canonized saint (although many were), but holiness is a must.

Orthodoxy: While not every Father had every detail correct and while there were some legitimate differences of emphasis for some schools (for example, the Alexandrian and Antiochene), one could not be considered a Father if one actively supported a heresy. Jurgens notes in the “Introduction” to Volume I of The Faith of the Early Fathers that “occasional material heresies can be found” in the works of the Fathers but that the Fathers’ works are marked by “a devotion to orthodoxy and a faithful adherence to the orthodox Church” (x). All the Fathers held the central doctrines of the faith. While I don’t have a problem with this as a condition for being named a Father, I’m a little confused as to why Tertullian is still named one. Clearly, as a Montanist, he was at least schismatic, so he couldn’t be said to have “faithful adherence to the orthodox Church.” Is it because he did not reject the doctrines central to the creed that he’s still considered a Father, or is it because Montanism in itself taught no actual heresy? Or am I misunderstanding the extent of Tertullian’s ties to Montanism?

Ecclesiastical Approval: This is the implicit approval of these teachers of the Church because the Church has preserved and proclaimed their writings and sermons. In many cases, their words have been incorporated into worship, and certainly the catechetical works through the ages have resorted to the writings of the Fathers when a particular phrase captured the essence of a teaching. So the issue of approval reflects how the writings of the individuals have been received into and transmitted by the Church through doctrine and liturgical practice.

Theological Methods of the Fathers

The Fathers were not academics but pastors, so their theological understanding came from a lived spiritual life in conjunction with deep reflection and reason rather than intellectual study alone. As Dr. D’Ambrosio mentioned in the lectures from Norms of Catholic Doctrine, theology must be engaged in conjunction with a life of prayer. In this point, he must have been taking a cue from the early Church Fathers. As Fr. Mosey states in Lecture 1, “The first point of their theological method is to never have a theological thought or theological discourse outside of a living relationship and love for Christ and His Church.”

The Church Fathers were primarily interpreters and commentators on sacred scripture, so their theology was heavily informed by their understanding of scripture. They brought together thought and spirituality in an integrated way, both to deepen the faith lives of those in their pastoral care, but also to defend the teachings of the Church (which they did with much fervor). As theologians are still called to today, the Fathers at times had to reinterpret the living tradition of the faith to the people of their times. This activity required them to bring together the teachings of the Church with elements of their contemporary cultures, and to assimilate those elements that did not conflict with Catholic doctrine. Throughout their efforts, they were able to maintain and foster a true sense of God’s presence in all its mystery.


Patrology—study of the life, history, writings, and thought of particular Fathers of the Church. Jurgens notes that patrology covers not only Fathers but other Christian “Ecclesiastical writers” of the same era. He notes that even heretical and schismatic writers fall under this heading (vol. 1, x). However, non-Christian writers such as Josephus do not fall in this category.

Patristics—study of the theological thought of the Fathers of the Church, in a sense, a survey and history of their thought as it relates to particular doctrines of the faith, derived from their own writings but also from conciliar documents and liturgical practice.

Dogma—an indispensable truth of the Faith, revealed central or foundational doctrine taught authoritatively by the Church that cannot be denied by the faithful.

Doctrine—teachings of the faith that reveal the saving truth of Christ. These include both infallible teachings (dogmas and teachings on faith and morals that can be derived logically from revelation) and fallible teachings.

Theology—in a broad sense, the study of faith by use of reason or the application of reason to matters of faith. It begins with the dogmas and doctrines of faith but extends them and addresses their deeper implications.

Heresy—rejection or persistent denial of a central (foundational) doctrine of the faith.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

We All Need Socialist Artwork Now and Then.

Maybe I won't say anything more about this. Make your own here.

If you don't recognize the photo, see this post.

Help! Patres Eccelsiae

For all of you fellow theology geeks out there, I would appreciate a little assistance. I'm taking a class on patristics this semester, and I'm attempting to find an English translation of Patres Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter written on the 16th centenary of St. Basil. It's assigned reading for the course, but apparently it's only available widely in Latin or Italian. Our course tutor believes it to be available somewhere on the Web, but I'm having no luck finding. If you happen to know where I can find it, please let me know. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Poems by Emily's Younger Brother

Emily Dickinson, that is. Didn't know she had a younger brother who was also a poet? There's a good reason for that.*

Ansley Dickinson's style seems somewhat derivative, yet he has a completely different vision than his elder sister. Let me share just two pieces. I'm sure you'll spot the similarities very quickly.

Some Madness is okay to me
With my unwitting Eye—
Some Sense—I guess, is fine as well—
Unless you're short be three
Sense—which not a nickle makes
Me think—I've lost some Change—
And change, Things will—the more they do—
The more they stay the same

Clearly, the fluidity with which Ansley moves from idea to idea is almost dizzying, and the imagery juxtaposed to such sharp contrasts in word play reveals a truly intrepid poetic spirit.

Ansley also had a more earthy side, which he captures brilliantly in this little gem:

I tasted Liquor never brewed—
Distilled in some guy's Barn.
No quantity of Anodyne
Could soothe my Head forlorn!

Inebriated Fool—was I—
And out a half-month's Wage—
Reeling—through someone's Flowerpatch
In blinded, drunken Rage.

When there I fell—amidst the Blooms—
Disgorging all I'd drank!
The Tulips wilted from the Waft
Of Moonshine that I stank.

So now I sit—my Temples pound,
And Eyeballs fit to burst.
Next time, I'll choose a different Draft
To quaff—and quench my Thirst.

No doubt, the genius of this poet is obvious. Perhaps someday the academy will give this American treasure the recognition he deserves.

*Actually, it's because these come from a parody I wrote for my sophomore American Literature survey course.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Once more with feeling...

Jim Treacher posted this video today. I posted it prior to the election. As good now as it was in the early 90s.

Can that man sing?

Fender Bender

I have a small request for prayers today. I had a small accident on my way to morning Mass after dropping my daughter off at school. Traffic was heavy, and I was attempting to change lanes when the traffic in my lane came to a standstill (only moving around 10-15 MPH). The damage to my vehicle (almost paid off) was small and probably more than the other vehicle, but I can feel a bit of misalignment in my next and back. It's a good possibility that the passengers in the other vehicle are also feeling it as well.

This comes at a time when we're feeling the economic pinch due to my wife's surgery. I know everything thing will be okay, but a little extra grace could do me some good right now.

And don't forget to pray for our new president. He has a tough road ahead, and he'll need God's guidance.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Let the Jeers Begin

I'm not sure why I'm posting these, and I'm fairly certain I'll regret it. Maybe Patrick Madrid will stop by and be tempted to post some band photos of his own.

I was proposing to my current bandmate Chris that perhaps it would be fun to throw in an old Stryper song, and suggested this one. Michael Sweet, the vocalist, was something else. He's actually filling in for the late Brad Delp on ths current Boston revival tour. There aren't many people who could pull that off. Anyway, if you watch the clip, play it to the end and hear the last note he hits. Unbelievable. He had the same vocal coach as Geoff Tate from Queensrÿche, another unbelievably talented rock singer. (Yes, I am—or was—a long time Queensrÿche fan.)

Anyway, it got me thinking once again about my past career as a musician, and I pulled out some photos from those days. Before I came to my senses, I had scanned several of them in. Apparently, I still haven't come to my senses, because I'm now posting them for you all to see.

Here's a photo my friend Alan took at a local club that used to be called the Whiskey River. It was later remodelled and called the River, and then eventually sold to another owner, who transferred his club (The Emerald Club) there and renamed it the Emerald City club. It's a straight-friendly club... which means it's actually a gay club. Anyhow, that was not the case when this photo was taken. Here's the whole band, Targa, probably on a two-week stint after having been roaming the northwest for a few months. It was always great to come home and play locally. I'm the bass player, the guy with the faux snake-skin pants, Ibanez Destroyer bass, and the big hair. I could make really big hair back then. Not so much now.

(Last year, I had my friend Doug, the guitar player in this photo, repaint my bass for my daughter—a nice pink worthy of Hello Kitty. Yesterday, I heard her playing Crazy Train. While I don't want her listening to Ozzy regularly, that song brought back some memories. And yes, I went down and showed here where the tablature she found was a little off.)

I played with Targa (my fourth band, second pro band) after I left college following my third semester. Why did I leave college? Wanted to pursue my music career. I have to admit that studying music at University of Idaho sort of helped. They didn't seem to appreciate self-taught rock musicians all that much. (I actually played in a working band for my last year in high school. It was a bad place for anyone to be without a solid mentor, but it was a great way to make money.)

This next photo, also by my friend Alan, was taken a bit later (probably 87 or so). We had retrofitted our stage and added a lighted drum riser and large lighted sign. We had a light show of about 28 par 64s, rain lights, a fog machine. Back then, a nightclub act pretty much had to travel with its own light show and sound system. I don't think that's as much the case anymore. Some bands even had flash pots.

Anyway, you can't see any of that. This is just a shot of me. (I remember talking to a guy in an original band in a Shreveport bar. He said he'd cry if they had to play for one night for what we made in a week. It's hard to make a living as a musician in the northwest.)

UPDATE: My younger brother scanned some old promo shots. Here's one we had taken after we got out of the whole leather and spandex phase.

I'm the short guy in the middle. The shot was taken in the stairwell of one of the basement shops in the Belgravia building in Old Boise. This seemed to be an excellent place to take photos although the shadows might be a bit much here.

One of the guitar players (Doug) and I absconded to play in a second band (hoping to have two bands to play in). The others didn't like that and kicked us out. They bought Doug out but made me pay for my equipment, mostly because Doug had been with them from the beginning. And because I had been a bit of a flake. (I have to admit that my commitment in the band realm has not always been very good. It's easy to be a flake in that field. Or at least it was for me.)

Anyway, that band (and I won't even mention its absurd name) managed to record two very poppy songs and played a few very bad gigs. When the lead singer fell into a habit of begging off practice to hang out with his girlfriend, we fired him and hired another guitar player. We renamed this band Dash Riprock (I know, great name), and this was probably one of the best bands I have ever played with in terms of combined musical ability and stage performance. We did fairly well, but we only lasted a couple of years.

This photo was taken by a fan who followed us from Boise out to the NCO club at Mountain Home AFB. We had only played a few gigs, so I don't know how we had much of a fan base. However, we did seem to have a consistent following.

I have no idea what song I was singing here. I was playing a G&L bass that I had traded for my Rickenbacker 4001 (after it had been crushed in a Christmas-party accident and no longer had stock parts). Dash Riprock covered some great music (Rush, Living Color) and even did some pretty cool versions of Eleanor Rigby and Drift Away.

Here's a shot of Danny and me at the same gig. Notice that the stage isn't nearly as elaborate as the earlier shots. Part of this was because we were playing for a dance at the NCO club on the airbase at Mountain Home. They paid for music and didn't demand a stage show. A lot of the other clubs in Boise still did, but that became less and less important as the clubs stopped paying for week-long engagements. We used to have to travel with all of that. Now days, everyone seems to hire locally.

Danny is still one of the best and most tasteful guitar players I've ever played with. He can mimic anyone from Eddie Van Halen to Alex Leifson to Muddy Waters.

Notice the difference in stage dress. The Targa era was during the second phase of glam rock (the first being way before our time). By the time Dash Riprock rolled around, Guns 'n' Roses had slithered onto the scene, and Motley Crüe had gone from "shlock" to glam and back to biker togs. It was a confusing time to be a rocker. Anyway, by this time, the thing was to rip up your jeans and wear them over spandex or leather. My, we looked so tough, right down to our flabby biceps. (I think I was still under 150 back then.)

I left that band before I started my graduate work and married. They continued playing together for the most part. (Doug left and was replace by another Doug from the former competition, a local band called the Uninvited). They played together as Rumble Doll—not the same as the current band of that name—for several years, and I rejoined them around 1998. Even at that point, my disfunctional relationship with music was still influencing me in ways that don't promote band unity.

I've played with various former bandmates off and on since then. Right now, I'm playing in something completely different. After leaving the Lifeteen group at my church, the director of that group and I have put together something the focuses more on what we want to give to the Church. We've been playing regularly for the Treasure Valley Young Adult Ministry gatherings since last summer. Our next date is this Monday (1/19/2009) at the Perks of Life in Eagle. If you're local, please come on down.

I'm hoping my brother will send a scan of a promo shot that he has from the later Targa days. If he does, I'll post it post haste.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Greatest in the Kingdom

I woke this morning to the news that one of our elder parishioners, Jim Finney, had had a heart attack last night and passed away. This is another loss for us in two weeks, the first being Monsignor Donoghue, a priest of the Diocese of Boise for some 54 years. He's been in declining health for some years, so his passing was expected. However, he was highly esteemed in the diocese, a hero to many of the younger priests, and all around an inspirational figure in our community.

Jim was a much less public figure in the Church. I knew him primarily from his involvement as an usher and greeter. However, he was also active in Knights of Columbus and in the St. John's Social Justice committee. I also used to run him frequently at the YMCA, where I'd see he him lifting weights or on the rowing machine, and no short time later, see him riding his bike past my house some three miles from the Y. He apparently rode to and from his workouts. I hope I'm that fit when I'm in my mid-80s. (Once a marine, always a marine... or at least I think I recall hearing he was one.)

Jim had a very distinctive way of greeting people. He would take a person's right hand in his right hand. Then as that person was walking away, he would reach out to the next person with his left hand. That's how he'd progress: hand over hand until everyone passed through the doors. I will miss his greetings on Sundays.

As I was considering Jim and his passing, I began to think about many of the other elder members who add a certain character to the lives of Catholics in our parish. What stands out most for me is their willingness to serve in whatever capacity was needed. This usually meant doing the less popular tasks such as helping during coffee hours, serving at morning Mass when no regular altar servers were available, amd ushering. I can think of several people at the parish who serve very humbly in various ways, and I think of what will happen when they leave us and how they will be missed. And that struck me as part of what Christ meant in Matthew 23:11–12 when He said, "He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Here I am, studying to be a theologian and a deacon (or at least in aspirancy for the diaconate), and I seem so wrapped up in my thing that I'm not out there doing the more mundane tasks at Mass or at other community gatherings. Doesn't seem very humble.

Of course, the immediate meaning applies to eternal life, but in a sense, we see this heavenly reality played out here on earth all the time. When a humble servant of God like Jim is remembered with love by his fellow parishioners, or when a great priest like Msgr. Donoghue leaves such an indelible impression on three generations of priests and laity.

And then I turn and look at myself and wonder, how can I possibly step into those shoes? How can I be a Jim (or Bob or Cecil) for the coming generations? I don't know if I have that capacity, although I certainly pray that I will aquire it.

Anyway, eternal rest grant unto Jim, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine on him.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ultraconservative Rag Attempts to Divert Attention from Israeli Aggression

Oh, wait. That's the New York Times reporting on the tactics of Hamas that thwart Israel's attempts to avoid civilian casualties.

I'm horrified by the deaths of the women and children, but I'm also not sure what other options Israel has other than capitulation. I do pray that the offensive comes to a halt as soon as possible, and I pray for God's protection over the innocent.

Michael Totten has more at Commentary Magazine. He also has a few more posts concerning Hamas' threats to target any international peacekeepers who might be part of a truce deal as well as some requests for reasonable (read "nonhysterical") arguments against Israel's actions.

Church Teaching on Same-Sex Attraction

Back in November, I read this post at American Catholic on the Church's teaching on homosexuality. One comment in particular stuck with me: "'Eric, never once is a prayer uttered for homosexuals — for their souls, for their struggles, or for their concerns — in prayers of intercession during Mass.'" I forgot where I had read this comment, but the idea stuck nonetheless. Since then, every Wednesday morning at Mass, I have been offering an intercessory prayer for those who have same-sex attractions. If we truly love others as we say we do, we can do no less. Please consider adding this intention to your list.

I'm going to have an opportunity to comment on this issue and the Sacrament of Matrimony on "Faith with Father" at the end of February (on KSPD 790 in the Treasure Valley).

By the way, it looks like the Treasure Valley is getting closer to having its own Catholic radio station. Salt & Light Radio (KXSL) has signed a letter of intent for the purchase of a local station from a mainstream broadcasting company. In addition, it looks like they might be able to purchase two construction permits from Immaculate Heart Radio. Please help if you can!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Wife's Progress

I mentioned a week or so ago that my wife would be going in for surgery. The surgery has come and gone, and my wife is now at home. Everything came out (no pun intended) more or less as planned. Thank you for your prayers.

Scott Ott on Conservatism and Love

Scott Ott is a former journalist who now does speaking engagements and edits the satire web journal Scrappleface (downright hilarious news satire site). If just come across some of his video commentaries, and I have to say he has a very Christian (if not downright Catholic) sense of his conservatism. I say this because, in large, my thinking has largely followed the same trajectory. I'm conservative not because I don't care about the poor but because I know that government intervention doesn't work. The homelessness and poverty we see now is a result of the reduced sense of responsibility that we have because of government intervention, not despite it.

When I was a liberal, my motivation was compassion and a grossly naïve understanding of how the world works. Now that I'm a conservative, I'm still motivated by compassion, but I think I have a much more realistic understanding of the world.