Friday, December 12, 2008

RIP - Avery Cardinal Dulles SJ

Rocco is reporting the death of Cardinal Dulles:
Word from New York brings the sad news that Avery Dulles SJ -- the celebrated convert, teacher, prolific author and first American theologian elevated to the College of Cardinals, a giant of the age -- passed to his reward overnight.
May he rest in peace.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fun!

A really cool meme - via the Shrine:
Just click each link and put the results together:
1. Band Name: Random Wikipeda Link
2. Album Title: Random quote generator (take the last four words from the first quote on the page)
3. Album Art: Flickr Interesting Photo (pick one)
I enjoyed this meme so much, I did it twice.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Misc (Mainly Marital...)

Seraphic announces an engagement (hers, to him) and tells the story.

One of my favourite podcasts is Jawbone Radio. It's like eavesdropping on the evening conversation of Len and Nora who celebrated 15 years of marriage recently. (6 kids!) Anyway, their latest podcast includes Nora's tips on how to ruin a marriage - a typically ironic way of marking the big occasion.

Finally, Rocco reports on a recent lecture by James Cardinal Stafford at CUA. Stafford's an interesting guy... I've heard him speak a number of times in Rome and found one homily of his in recent times very interesting. He was very critical of certain aspects of the American national outlook, government and society when contrasted with the demands of our faith. It wasn't an ill-informed or lefty critique of America, but I suspected that some (please note that I said some!) of the guys at the NAC might have heard it as such because it wasn't 'The Holy Gospel according to the Republican Party.' It was interesting, therefore, to read his criticisms of the incoming administration:
James Francis Cardinal Stafford criticized President-elect Barack Obama as “aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic,“ and said he campaigned on an “extremist anti-life platform,” Thursday night in Keane Auditorium during his lecture “Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II: Being True in Body and Soul.“
“Because man is a sacred element of secular life,” Stafford remarked, “man should not be held to a supreme power of state, and a person’s life cannot ultimately be controlled by government.”
"For the next few years, Gethsemane will not be marginal. We will know that garden,” Stafford said, comparing America’s future with Obama as president to Jesus’ agony in the garden. “On November 4, 2008, America suffered a cultural earthquake.”
Cardinal Stafford said Catholics must deal with the “hot, angry tears of betrayal” by beginning a new sentiment where one is “with Jesus, sick because of love.”
(snip)
“If 1968 was the year of America’s ‘suicide attempt,’ 2008 is the year of America’s exhaustion,” said Stafford, an American Cardinal and Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary for the Tribunal of the Holy See. “In the intervening 40 years since Humanae Vitae, the United States has been thrown upon ruins.”
This destruction and America’s decline is largely in part due to the Supreme Court’s decisions in the life-issue cases of 1973, specifically Roe v. Wade. Stafford asserted these cases undermined respect for human life in the United States.
“Its scrupulous meanness has had catastrophic effects upon the unity and integrity of the American republic,” said Stafford.

Monday, November 03, 2008

First Pregnant RC Priest?

Via Ruth Gledhill:
Congratulations to Jessica Rowley, who has achieved distinction by becoming the world's first pregnant Catholic priest.
RiverFrontTimes reports:
'A little over a year ago, 26-year-old Jessica Rowley shattered the stained-glass ceiling, so to speak, by being ordained a Catholic priest. Now the St. Louisan is on the verge of giving birth to her first child, and a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for women’s ordination says that makes Rowley the world’s first pregnant Catholic priest.
Well, I hardly need explain to my readers that Ms Rowley is not a Catholic priest... but it will be interesting to see how many of her supporters will trumpet her as being the 'First Pregnant RC Priest'. I suppose this means that they don't really believe their claims that there were tons of female priests in the 1st Millennium... Or maybe they're presuming that all these previous Womenpriests were celibate.
Interestingly, the original news item has the following:
Rowley says her congregation cheered when she told them she and her husband, a minister for the United Church of Christ, were expecting.
So what church – the ECC or the UCC -- will Rowley’s baby boy join?
"That's a good question," says Rowley, with a laugh. "It's a topic of conversation in our home a lot. We're going to baptize him in both churches. But eventually he'll be able to make a decision for himself."
Repetition of baptism is, of course, a very serious sacrilege.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Atheist Objection to Harry Potter

I'm sure we've all come across Christians of various stripes who object to the Harry Potter books, but I was amused to see that prominent atheist Richard Dawkins also finds them objectionable:
Outspoken atheist Professor Richard Dawkins is to warn children of the dangers in believing "anti-scientific" fairytales such as Harry Potter.
Prof Dawkins will write a book aimed at youngsters where he will discuss whether stories like the successful JK Rowling series have a "pernicious" effect on children.
The 67-year-old, who recently resigned from his position at Oxford University, says he intends to look at the effects of "bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards".
'I think it is anti-scientific – whether that has a pernicious effect, I don't know,' he told More4 News.
'Looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious affect on rationality, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's something for research.'
However, the outspoken atheist said he hadn't even read Harry Potter and admitted he "didn't know what to think about magic and fairytales".
Now, in fairness to Professor Dawkins, it does seem as though the journalist is exaggerating his objections to Harry Potter and fairy stories and so on... However, it's interesting that Dawkins seems to be entertaining the suspicion that the stories he heard as a child might have had a negative effect on his rationality.

Friday, October 24, 2008

More Mafia News...

Via the Telegraph:
A small-time mafia gang have been branded "idiots" after sending a donkey's head to a shopkeeper in an ill-conceived stunt apparently lifted from The Godfather.
The gang's target, a local bread shop owner who had refused to pay protection money, was so puzzled by the confused threat that he presumed it was a practical joke.
In Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 film, mafia boss Don Corleone uses the "gift" of a severed horse's head to intimate film producer Jack Woltz into giving his godson a part.
Woltz woke up one morning to find the bloody head lying next to him in his bed, and immediately consented to the request made by the Don, played by Marlon Brando.
But while that threat made sense – the head was of Woltz's prized thoroughbred stallion - there was no such context for the donkey.
"The man didn't know the donkey, he didn't own the donkey, he doesn't care about donkeys. It didn't make sense. It was the work of idiots," a police spokesman in Villafranca Padovana, northern Italy, said.

Monday, October 20, 2008

QE1 Portrait Discovered...

Via the Telegraph:
A lost portrait of a young Elizabeth I that was discovered in the attic of a country house has intrigued historians after X-rays revealed that it was painted over an earlier picture of the monarch.
The painting, which had lain unnoticed in the dirty loft for more than a century, depicts the Queen as a pale, pious and austere young woman, and is one of the few pictures to show the 16th century royal in the early years of her reign.
Elizabeth, who is dressed in simple black clothes and clutches a Bible, was believed to have been around 26 when the portrait was painted.
But X-ray scans of the canvas have uncovered an earlier portrait of the monarch, in which she was drawn without the Bible and with a more ostentatious ruff.
"The assumption is that the artist – and we do not know who he is - did an intitial portrait, and either he or the Queen did not like it," said Philip Mould, the London art dealer who owns the work.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Roman nun votes - aged 106

I don't normally do American politics on this 'blog, but this caught my eye:
The last time Mother Cecelia Gaudette voted, Dwight Eisenhower won the race for the White House.
Now, 56 years after she cast her last presidential ballot, the 106-year-old nun has decided this election is too monumental to miss.
"I think it's very important," she said. Mother Cecelia, who resides in Rome, may be the oldest voter to cast an absentee ballot this election. She reads the paper daily and watches the evening news to keep up with current events.
She asked fellow nun 78-year-old Mother Mary to help her get an overseas ballot. The problem was that on the U.S. election Web site the birth years for potential voters only goes back to 1905 — three years after Mother Cecelia was born.
And her political opinions?
And while the last time she voted Mother Cecelia sided with the Republican candidate, this year she decided to go with the Democrat.
"[Barack] Obama. I think he's the man, really. I think so," she said.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Tagged...

Seraphic has tagged me... So, instead of doing something productive, I'm answering these questions (originally posed to Yves Saint-Laurent:

What is your chief characteristic?

High-functioning Mediocrity

What is your principal fault?

Inertia

What is your favourite quality in a man?

Personal integrity

And in a woman?

Compassion

Who is your favourite historical figure?

Horatio Hornblower... Oh, you mean outside of fiction? Probably Cardinal Newman

Who are your living heroes?

Persecuted Christians

Who would you like to be, if you could?

A scholarly and saintly Benedictine (Even thought I know I'm not called to be a monk)

What is your idea of earthly happiness?

A steak dinner and a good book

What is your idea of misery?

Losing the ability to think and communicate

Where would you like to live?

An Italian monastery... with a pied à terre in the middle of Rome

What talent would you like to have?

Fluency in several languages

For what fault do you have the most toleration?

Arrogance

Who are your favourite painters?

El Greco, Fra Angelico, Caravaggio

Who are your favourite composers?

Is Tom Lehrer a composer?

What is your favourite colour?

Black

Of all things, what do you most detest?

Betrayal of trust

Have you got a motto?

No... anyone want to suggest one for me?

What would you like to do right now?

Say a few prayers from my breviary

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Marcus Aurelius Statue in Asia Minor

Via the Telegraph:

The 15-foot statue was originally located in the frigidarium, the coldest and largest room in the Roman baths at Sagalassos, where two other statues have already been found.
Archaeologists now believe the frigidarium contained a gallery of large imperial statues running around its long walls, offering a treasure trove of antique images.
Marcus Aurelius, who was portrayed by Richard Harris in the 2000 film Gladiator, ruled from 161AD to 180AD and won fame for his standing as a Stoic philosopher, as well as for his wise governance of the empire.
Sagalassos, high in the western Toros mountains in the south of the country, was destroyed by an earthquake between 540AD and 620AD, bringing down the baths and filling the cross-shaped frigidarium with rubble.
The large fragments of the statue began to be uncovered on 20 August, when a pair of giant marble legs, broken above the knee and clad in army boots of lion skin, tendrils and Amazon shields, emerged from the debris.
A delicately carved three-foot head, with bulging eyes and ruffled beard, was uncovered next, followed by a five-foot-long right arm bearing a globe.
Meanwhile, in Rome, Fr Philip is settling in and waiting for his medication (!) to arrive from the States:
I noted my disappointment to the current vicar of the house, and he said in a bored tone, "Oh, well, the postman said we had too much mail stacked up, so he will deliver it a little each day." I was just a little stunned at this. . .yes, I'm slowly learning that efficiency and customer service in Italy are not high priorities. I said, "I wonder if the post office could give our postman a larger truck." The vicar, a veteran of Italian living, replied, "No need. He will bring a piece or two at a time." I wondered aloud if I could go to the post office and claim my mail. This caused some gnarled faces at the table. I could almost see their brains trying to wrap themselves around the idea of direct action. The conclusion: "No. Where would you go? They would not give it to you."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Literary/Historical Question

I was re-reading on of CS Forester's Hornblower novels (The Happy Return) when I came across the following passage:
But Hornblower could give no vent to the flood of protest which was welling up within him. His cautious mind told him that a mad-man in a ship as small as the lugger must of necessity be chained to the deck, and his conscience reminded him uneasily of the torments he had seen el Supremo inflict without expostulation. This Spanish way of making a show out of insanity and greatness was repulsive cnough, but could be paralleled often enough in English history. One of the greatest writers of the English language, and a dignitary of the Church to boot, had once been shown in his dotage for a fee. There was only one line of argument which he could adopt.
'You are going to hang him, mad as he is?' he asked. *With no chance of making his peace with God?'
The Spaniard shrugged.
'Mad or sane, rebels must hang. Your Excellency must know that as well as I do.'
Who was this writer and 'dignatary of the Church' who comes to Hornblower's mind? I know that Jonathan Swift was a writer and clergyman, and that his mind went in old age, but I've never heard of him being 'shown in his dotage for a fee'. Was it someone else?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mary as the Pattern of the Church in its Perfection


I take a certain (possibly perverse) pride in the fact that my library contains more books by Hugo Rahner SJ than his more famous brother Karl. On this feast day I always draw upon the former's Our Lady and the Church because the feast of the Assumption seems to me the clearest proof of his maxim that 'what is said in the widest sense of the Virgin Mother the Church, is said in a special sense of the Virgin Mary. And what is spoken of the Virgin Mother Mary in a personal way can rightly be applied in a general way to the Virgin Mother the Church.' The Preface of the Feast Day reminds us that by being taken up into Heaven, Mary is the 'beginning and pattern of the Church in its perfection.' It therefore seems apt to post the quotation from Pseudo-Caesarius with which Rahner closes his book:
Let the Church of Christ rejoice, for she like Mary has been graced by the power of the Holy Spirit and has become the mother of a divine child. Let us once more compare these two mothers: each of them through giving birth strengthens our faith in the child of the other.
Upon Mary came in mysterious stillness the shadow of the Holy Spirit, and the Church becomes a mother through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at baptism.
Mary without blemish gave birth to her son, and the Church washes away every blemish in those she brings to birth.
Of Mary was born He who was from the beginning, of the Church is reborn that which from the beginning was nothing."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The priest as vampire...

I'm not sure if there's anyone around still reading this - I've been on somewhat of an extended hiatus - but Seraphic's written something that I must link to:
I think the Church is full of priests, seminarians and men-who-want-to-be-priests who are emotional vampires. I think there are dozens (if not hundreds, if not thousands) of men in orders who, having "given up" women subsequently latch onto women for tea and sympathy. And this is fine if those women have busy, happy lives and--dare I say it--more important men in those lives. The women who get into emotional trouble are the Single women who are delighted, absolutely delighted at the male attention. A lot can go wrong.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-clerical. And when I die, I hope I am reciting the Nicene Creed. But I have been dealing, on an adult level, with priests since I was 14 years old and the idiot associate pastor of my parish dissolved my youth group. And, come to think of it, I have been dealing with self-absorbed young Catholic men just as long. On my Confirmation Day, when the Archbishop clapped his heavy hand on my shoulder (a nice subsitute for the traditional reminder-of-martyrdom slap of the old days), he might have been saying, "Tough row to hoe, Seraphic. Get tore in."
Please read the whole thing, as it's hard to do justice to this piece with a brief quotation. It all makes very interesting reading for priests and layfolk alike.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Annoying Take on Newman Beatification Moves...

It;s disappointing that the Telegraph has put the following spin on Newman's proposed exhumation.
The final request of Britain's most famous Roman Catholic convert, Cardinal Newman, is to be overriden as the Vatican prepares to make him a saint.
It was Cardinal Newman's dying wish that he be buried with his closest friend in the grounds of the house they had shared as priests.
But now, nearly 120 years after his death, Britain's most famous convert to Roman Catholicism is to be reinterred in a sarcophagus in preparation for his becoming a saint, leaving the remains of his friend behind.
The decision to separate the remains of John Henry Newman and Ambrose St John has upset figures in the Church and led some to question whether it is embarrassed about their relationship.
[snip]
Martin Prendergast, a homosexual campaigner in the Catholic Church, claimed the Cardinal's relationship had caused misgivings in the Vatican and slowed his path to beatification. "I don't think they can just pretend the relationship didn't exist," he said.
"We shouldn't be afraid of acknowledging that he had his trials and torments yet was able to deal with these in a positive manner, without compromising his commitment to celibacy."
That's a most unfair reading...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Oh dear...

One of the things which are capable of pulling me out of seclusion is an article such as this about the forthcoming Brideshead film. It makes for depressing reading. For example, the scriptwriter says:
"Although the book is set in the rarefied world of the aristocracy between the wars, it still speaks directly to many of the issues that count as 'current' - religious fundamentalism, class, sexual tolerance, the pursuit of individualism. For those reasons, I didn't feel I had to worry about the TV series and, as I wrote, I felt that more and more."
Religious fundamentalism in the novel Brideshead Revisited? I really can't understand what character's religious outlook could be so described.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Hiatus

Hi folks,

Life is hectic at the moment. Being dropped from Seraphic's list of daily reads (because it's not been daily for quite some time) reminds me that I should apologise for this indefinite period of absence.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

More of the same...

From the Telegraph:
Thousands of leading Roman Catholics including Lord Patten and Baroness Williams are calling on the Church to allow women and married men into the priesthood.
Senior clergy are also among the 2,000 who have so far signed a petition demanding that action be taken to tackle the "major crisis" of dwindling numbers of Catholic priests.
One wonders about the author's definition of 'leading Roman Catholics' when coupled with the word 'thousands'. Are there 'thousands of leading Roman Catholics' in the UK? Also, one wonders why the report is so shy in naming the supposed 'senior clergy' who have signed the petition. If they were chuchmen of any note, then I'm sure their names would have been part of the report.
Looking at the online petition, I note that the wording is as follows:
We, the undersigned Catholics, wish to express our support for our bishops who are preparing the Catholic Church in England and Wales for new forms of ministry and leadership. We request the Catholic Bishop Conference to place the following items on the agenda for their next plenary meeting.
We ask that the bishops:
1.Acknowledge that there is a major crisis in ministry within the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
2.Acknowledge that there is no doctrinal or theological barrier to the ordination of married men. Our Church has already ordained married former Anglical priests.
3. Take practical steps towards ordaining suitably qualified married men.
4. Encourage a wide-ranging discussion of the role of women in ministry and in the authority structures of the church, including the question of women's ordination.
5. Establish appropriate scriptural, theological and pastoral training programs [campus, distance and on-line]to prepare suitable women and men for ministry. These candidates should have the recommendation of their parishes and communities, and should participate in mentored pastoral work.
6.Invite priests who have left the ministry to return to , subject to negotiation with the local bishop active priesthood.
Needless to say, it muddies the water significantly when the issued of married priests is linked to that of women priests. One also notes the vague talk about 'ministry' and 'authority structures'.
Point 6 is interesting - it's not unknown for priests who have left ministry to return. However, calling for some kind of general invitation to them and talk about 'negotiation with the local bishop' doesn't do justice to the delicate issue surrounding such a return. In general, the decision to leave active ministry is not taken lightly and there usually are serious issues at question.
Is there a crisis in ministry in much of the Western Church? Certainly. However, I suspect that Pope Benedict has a better awareness of what the real issues are. Let's be frank - if the life of the Church as a whole was healthy, then there would probably be no shortage of vocations. The fact that the organizers of this petition think that the question of women's ordination needs to be looked at again shows that their understanding of the faith is defective. They may be sincere and holy people, but that's a theological non-starter. Benedict said the following to the American bishops:
Let us be quite frank: the ability to cultivate vocations to the priesthood and the religious life is a sure sign of the health of a local Church. There is no room for complacency in this regard. God continues to call young people; it is up to all of us to to encourage a generous and free response to that call. On the other hand, none of us can take this grace for granted.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send workers. He even admits that the workers are few in comparison with the abundance of the harvest (cf. Mt 9:37-38). Strange to say, I often think that prayer - the unum necessarium - is the one aspect of vocations work which we tend to forget or to undervalue!

Nor am I speaking only of prayer for vocations. Prayer itself, born in Catholic families, nurtured by programs of Christian formation, strengthened by the grace of the sacraments, is the first means by which we come to know the Lord's will for our lives.
One needn't be in thrall to an exalted idea of 'authority' to recognize the simple good sense in what the Pope is saying.

And in other news...
Seraphic frequently blogs on free speech and religion issues in Canada. Today is no exception and she points to an article by a priest who is starting to worry. She (Seraphic, not the priest... see above) writes:
When I was 19 and heavily into the Canadian pro-life movement, my friends and I indulged in a little fantasy about persecution and the end times. I remember one adult pro-lifer who was allegedly told by police that if he didn't stop his kids from chaining themselves to clinic furniture, they'd be taken away from him. And there was some post-rosary conversation about demonic persecution or whatnot. One day there would be a big persecution of Christians, it was in Revelations, etc., etc.

I didn't really listen. Searching Revelations for references to current events is not really a Catholic thing anyway. Yes, I thought that eventually--at the end of the world--things would get really tough for Christians. But not any time soon. Even the pro-choice activists screaming hate and blasphemy couldn't make me believe that. I mean, this is Canada.

Well, well, well. Was I wrong?

When the "Catholic" Prime Minister Paul Martin shoved gay marriage down the throats of his cabinet, I wrote my frantic letter to my MP. After I finished it, I thought the man would write me off as a weirdo. Gay marriage, I said, would open Christians (and orthodox Jews, and observant Muslims) to all kinds of persecution. I found my own letter paranoid. But it sure looks like I was right after all.

Rapture-ready?

Via the Telegraph:
A new internet service allows Christian subscribers to send emails to non-believing friends and relatives after they have died.
Youvebeenleftbehind.com offers users a facility to store emails and documents that are sent to up to 63 email addresses six days after the sender and fellow believers have been transported to Heaven.
(snip)
Youvebeenleftbehind.com was created by Mark Heard, a 49-year-old supermarket shelf-stacker from Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
He said he got the idea in 1999 while trading in shares online. It suddenly occurred to him that he would not be able to send his trading password to his wife if the Rapture suddenly took him, he said.
(snip)
Recognising when the Rapture has actually happened is obviously an issue for the email server.
The service will be triggered if any three of Mr Heard's five employees fail to log on to their work accounts for six days.
"We don't want these things to go out early," said Mr Heard.

And from the website itself:
We all have family and friends who have failed to receive the Good News of the Gospel.
The unsaved will be 'left behind' on earth to go through the "tribulation period" after the "Rapture". You remember how, for a short time, after (9/11/01) people were open to spiritual things and answers. (We are still singing "God Bless America" at baseballs' seventh inning stretch.) Imagine how taken back they will be by the millions of missing Christians and devastation at the rapture. They will know it was true and that they have blown it. There will be a small window of time where they might be reached for the Kingdom of God. We have made it possible for you to send them a letter of love and a plea to receive Christ one last time. You can also send information based on scripture as to what will happen next. Each fulfilled prophecy will cause your letter and plea to be remembered and a decision to be made.

"WHY" is one last chance to bring them to Christ and snatch them from the flames!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A farewell!

It's often a pity when a blog closes down, but I think that in this case we also have cause to rejoice. Mary Gibson, aka The Roaming Roman, entered Priory of Our Lady of Ephesus of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in Kansas City MO.
I invite my readers to say a prayer for Mary as she seeks the Lord's will by trying her vocation in the cloister. Whilst her entering is the work of the Holy Spirit, I think that it's also fair to applaud the courage of a young woman who discerns a call to the contemplative life. Wherever the Lord leads her, I pray that Mary's warm personality and her enthusiasm for faith, truth and holiness will bear witness to His love, and that she will never lack for His presence.

Pray too on this memoria of St Barnabas that young people everywhere will listen attentively to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Miss Headscarf 2008

Via The Telegraph, this slightly surreal offering:
Denmark is facing a renewed bout of Muslim protests after a television station chose an Iraqi woman to be Miss Headscarf 2008.
The television programme reviewed videos posted online by 46 woman wearing the veil prescribed by Islamic ideals of modesty before choosing 18-year-old Huda Falah.
But there was a furious reaction from some members of the Islamic community which is already antagonised by the Scandanavian nation's role in a cartoon scandal involving the Prophet Mohammad.
"The whole point of the headscarf is that it's a symbol of chastity," said spokeswoman Bettina Meisner. "We don't wish young women to expose themselves as objects."
Public broadcaster DR1 declared Falah the winner with a commentary that attempted to avoid inflammatory commentary on her looks. Falah was chosen because the light blue Islamic headscarf was "a fantastic and shocking colour," said Uffe Buchhardt, one of the judges.
The Iraqi victory lives in Denmark and in the tradition of beauty contest winners said she had come forward in the noble hope of promoting understanding between the country's youth. She was insistent that a headscarf is a girls best friend.
She said: "The woman is like a diamond and you don't show it to everyone."
The contest highlights a continuing debate over Islamic traditions in Denmark, which drew world attention in 2006 when Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad triggered violent protests in Muslim countries.
Denmark's embassy in Islamabad was bombed by al-Qa'eda last month, an attack that fulfilled Osama bin Laden's promise to avenge reprinting in Danish papers of a cartoon depicting Islam's Prophet Mohammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban.
Organisers of the month-long television competition said they started it as "an alternative way of encouraging young people to participate in the debate, by addressing them on their terms," DR1 said, adding it was a fashion – not a beauty – contest.
First prize in the contest included an iPod, a headscarf designed by a Danish fashion boutique and a one-year subscription to the English-language Muslim Girl Magazine.
She said by participating in the contest she hoped to help remove barriers between young Muslims and Danes "who don't talk easily because of the image [of Muslims] created by the media."
The contest has sparked little debate in Denmark where the government has said it will introduce laws to bar judges in court from wearing religious attire or insignia, including Islamic head scarves, crucifixes, Jewish skull caps and turbans.
But the Islamic Faith Community, a small Copenhagen-based Muslim organisation, had advised young women not to participate in the contest.
I'm sure that Miss Mantilla can't be far behind!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

UK Catholic Adoption Agency to Stand Firm

Via the Daily Mail:
A Roman Catholic adoption agency headed by Britain's most senior Catholic churchman is to defy the Government over its controversial gay equality laws.

The Westminster Catholic Children's Society, whose president is Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, will ignore new rules that require it to place children with same-sex couples.

While other Catholic adoption agencies are caving in to the legislation by severing their ties with the Church or even closing, the Westminster Society will continue its policy of placing children only with married heterosexuals and single people.

Its stance will set the Cardinal - who welcomed Tony Blair into the Catholic Church last December - on a collision course with New Labour and the gay rights lobby.
It is a high-risk strategy that could provoke a costly and bruising test case in the courts, with campaigners determined to see the Society closed down.

But advisers to the Cardinal, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, believe they have found a legal loophole that could allow the Society to remain open and loyal to Catholic teaching, which opposes gay marriage and adoption by gay couples.

(snip)
The Society, which was founded in 1764, has been advised by lawyers that if it amended its constitution it could comply with the Sexual Orientation Regulations, which take effect next year and aim to end discrimination against gays by businesses.

At the moment, the constitution simply refers to helping couples who wish to adopt. However, a quirk in the wording of the regulations means that the Society may be able to protect itself by amending its constitution to refer directly to married heterosexual couples.

The Cardinal said yesterday: 'I fully support the decision of the trustees in their endeavours to continue the valuable work of the Society.'

His defiance could influence Catholic agencies that are still considering their fate, although some have already thrown in the towel.

And it will be welcomed by London's Catholics, who raise thousands of pounds each year for the Society. In 2001 the comedian Frank Skinner donated £125,000 he won on ITV's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Italianate

Shelly of At Home in Rome is back with a post about some very Italian concerns:
1. Air conditioning “fa male.” It’s just generally “bad for you.”

How did I live nearly three years in Phoenix, Arizona, without dying? (Italians are so attached to this one, I’ve no doubt I’ll get at least a few angry comments telling me that it does “FA MALE” and explaining all the reasons why. I give up.)

2. Sweating.

There’s a whole encyclopedia of italianate on sweating. If you sweat, you have to change clothes before it evaporates or you can get pneumonia. Don’t stand in front of a fan if you’ve been sweating. God forbid the air conditioner.

3. Wet hair.

Not using a hair dryer can cause any number of ailments, not the least of which is a migraine in the exact spot where you neglected to dry your hair. However, for example, when my husband didn’t dry his hair thoroughly the other day and I pointed out this grave error, he merely laughed and said, “But it’s summer, that’s different.” Doh!
There's more... and her readers remind her about the Italian obsession with the fegato (liver).

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The times we live in...

Via the Telegraph:
Emma and Michael Wing from Plymouth were astonished to learn that they were expecting four babies.
"We weren't actually trying for a baby," said Mr Wing, 22, a Gunner with 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery. "But we didn't mind if one came along."
Mr and Mrs Wing had vague hopes for a girl to complete their family of two sons Mason, 3, and Callum,10 months.
Instead, a scan revealed that their brood is about to treble in size.
Mrs Wing, 23, is only 12 weeks pregnant, but is already suffering from the strain of carrying four babies.
[Snip: Pregnancy details]
The hospital has offered them a selective reduction, removing one or more of the foetuses to increase the others' chances of surviving. But the couple are determined to let Nature take its course.
"Both of us are against abortion," Mr Wing said. "We decided to take the risk. Selective reduction results in a five times greater risk of total miscarriage.
"We wanted a girl so how would we feel if we had selective reduction and found out that the ones we selected were girls? Anyway, we didn't want to say, 'Right; you can live and you can die'.
"It was horrible even when the consultant was talking to us about it."
"Selective reduction"... another chilling euphemism.

"I cannot shut God's house"

A year after the killing of the Chaldean Catholic priest Fr Ragheed Ganni,
Asianews publishes this account:Damascus (AsiaNews) - He could have run away, saved himself, but he went to meet his destiny without fear. Fr Ragheed Gani, killed one year ago in Iraq, died because up until the very end he remained convinced that Christians should not be afraid, that "God's house cannot be closed!". On the first anniversary of the "martyrdom", the only witness to it is speaking out: Bayan Adam Bella, wife of one of the three subdeacons murdered in cold blood together with their pastor on June 3, 2007, in Mosul. This is the same diocese that last March lost its bishop, Faraj Rahho, also a victim of terrorism.
The woman, interviewed by Ankawa.com, is now a refugee in Syria together with her four children. They live with her brother-in-law's family. She suffers greatly and is full of questions over a fate that she is still not able to understand, and over her continuing difficulties in obtaining a visa. But now, twelve months later, she finally has the strength to give a more complete account of those tragic moments. After celebrating the Eucharist in his parish, the Church of the Holy Spirit, Fr Ragheed had departed by car together with one of the deacons, his cousin Basman Yousef Daud. Bayan was in a car behind them, together with her husband, Wahid Hanna Isho, and the other deacon, Gassan Isam Bidawed. Recently the three had begun to accompany the priest wherever he went in an effort to protect him after repeated death threats.
"At a certain point", the woman recounts, "the car was stopped by armed men. Fr Ragheed could have fled, but he did not want to, because he knew they were looking for him. They forced us to get out of the car, and led me away. Then one of the killers screamed at Ragheed, 'I told you to close the church, why didn't you do it? Why are you still here?'. And he simply responded, 'How can I close the house of God?' They immediately pushed him to the ground, and Ragheed had only enough time to gesture to me with his head that I should run away. Then they opened fire and killed all four of them". At this point, Bayan fainted. In the hours immediately after the killing, the bodies remained abandoned on the road because no one dared to get close to them. They were all buried in Karamles.
Bayan has many questions: "Why did they make me a widow, why did they tear the word 'papa' from the mouths of my children? What did we do wrong? What did my husband do?", she asks, addressing the terrorists. In August of 2007, she asked the UNHCR for humanitarian asylum in the West, but the difficulties are enormous. "At first no one believed my story. How can they shut the door in the face of such suffering?". In January of 2008, she met again with UN staff. Now she is waiting for nothing more than to start life over for herself and her children.
Ceremonies commemorating the four martyrs were held in northern Iraq. In Rome, the Pontifical Irish College organised a conference last May 31 entitled "Witnesses to Christ, Past and Present", to recall the sacrifice of Ragheed, a former student of the college. Cardinal Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, and Monsignor Parolin, undersecretary for relations with states, participated in the event.
Laodicea has an account of the Ugandan Martyrs who are commemorated today.

Desperate and needy...

That's what this proposal sounds like:
The August bank holiday should become the UK's "national day" as part of a drive to promote a common British identity, the immigration minister is to say.
Liam Byrne will argue that a national day should become the focal point of a campaign for "stronger shared standards" and a cultural code to which immigrants should be expected to adhere.
"Britishness Day" should be a "celebration of what we like and love about living in this country", Mr Byrne will say in a speech to the think tank, Progress.
Trying to build up a national celebration around something as abstract as 'Britishness' is not going to work, and sounds like something a Communist government would try to do.
All the best national holidays seem to be based around a concrete event or person. We therefore have Independence Day which marks the signing of the Declaration of Independence, St Patrick's Day, Bastille Day and so on... Even Canada Day (anniversary of quasi-independence) isn't 'Canadianess Day'.
The problem is, of course, that Mr Byrne can't come up with a single event or person that reflects 'Britishness' and that isn't liable to offend some section of the British population or (more importantly!) his own New Labour political sensibilities. The obvious thing for the British to do would be to make a bigger deal of the Queen's Birthday. That, however, would be politically unacceptable for a Labour government.
Of course the trade unions know what's really important:
Some, including trade unions, have argued that any national day should be on a new bank holiday, giving workers an extra day off each year.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Most Unfortunate Medjugorje Article

I'm decidedly skeptical about Medjugorje, and with all due respect for the sincere and holy devotees to this place, I don't mind folk knowing that I doubt the authenticity of the visions and have grave reservations about the seers and the Franciscans of that place. However, I realise that this is a personal conclusion, albeit one founded on what I believe to be solid reasoning, and recognise that other Catholics of good will could reach the opposite conclusion.
That's why I find this article by the Daily Mail most objectionable:
Vatican denounces group's claim of seeing the Virgin Mary more than 40,000 times as 'work of the devil'
The Vatican has denounced a group who claim to have seen the Virgin Mary more than 40,000 times in the past 27 years.
The six Bosnian 'seers' attract five million pilgrims a year to their home town of Medjugorje, providing a lucrative trade for local businesses.
Hundreds of thousands travel there each year from Britain alone.
But now one of the most respected voices in the Roman Catholic church has accused the visionaries of perpetuating a 'diabolical deceit'.
Andrea Gemma, 77, a bishop and once the Vatican's top exorcist, told a magazine in Italy: 'In Medjugorje everything happens in function of money: Pilgrimages, lodging houses, sale of trinkets.
'This whole sham is the work of the Devil. It is a scandal.' He said the Vatican would soon crack down on the group.
The Medjugorje phenomenon began on June 25, 1981, when six children told a priest they had seen the Virgin on a hillside near their town.
A church investigation dismissed the vision, and the Vatican banned pilgrimages to the site in 1985. But many Catholics ignored the ban.
Today, the seers own smart houses with security gates and tennis courts and expensive cars. One is married to a former U.S. beauty queen.
Catholic officials in the U.S. have recently banned the group from speaking on church property during their world tours, on which they allegedly take the Virgin with them.
It's the usual media blunder - a retired Italian bishop says something, and the press present it as being an authoritative Church or Papal statement. Whenever the press reports 'The Vatican' saying or doing something, one needs to ask the question, who really said this, and in what context? Are we dealing with a Papal encyclical or (as we see in this case) a magazine interview with a retired bishop. Of course, what will happen is that many sincere and devout Catholics will be very shaken by this article. It will raise in them a genuine distrust of the Holy See. It may be that in the future the Church will formally say some very negative things about the alleged visions - then devotees of Medjugorje may have a difficult time accepting this, but I'm sure the vast majority have a love for the Holy Father and will listen to the voice of Peter. However, the Holy See has not decided that that Medjugorje is a diabolical deceit, and this article will be the source of much upset and confusion.

Edited to add:
Here's what seems to be the original interview
- in Italian. I don't have time to translate, but Bishop Gemma certainly doesn't pull any punches.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

What nonsense!

Via the Telegraph:
Children will learn by downloading information directly into their brains within 30 years, the head of Britain's top private schools organisation has predicted.
Chris Parry, the new chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, said "Matrix-style" technology would render traditional lessons obsolete.
He told the Times Educational Supplement: "It's a very short route from wireless technology to actually getting the electrical connections in your brain to absorb that knowledge."
Mr Parry, a former Rear Admiral, spent three years determining the future strategic context for the military in a senior role at the Ministry of Defence.
He is now preparing the ISC's 1,300 private schools, which collectively teach half a million children, for a high-tech future.
He told the TES that the Keanu Reeves thriller may not look like science fiction in 30 years' time.
"Within 30 years, sitting down and learning something will be a thing of the past," Mr Parry said.
"I think people will be able to directly access, Matrix-style, all the vocabulary you need for a foreign language, leaving you just to clear up the grammar."
Statements like this were made in the early days of computing and robotics. When the calculational potential of strings of ones and zeroes was discovered and then implemented electronically, it was presumed that the brain:computer analogy was very strong, and it was only a matter of time before computers could think themselves or that humans could think in a manner assisted very directly by machines. Mr Parry's assertion is slightly different - he seems to think that wireless technology can enable the fast and permanent transfer of information from the computer to the brain. However, he doesn't seem to appreciate how different human knowing is from the storage of information on a computer. Setting aside the philosophical question of the human soul and its role in human knowing, I think his presumption that somehow foreign language vocabulary could be transferred from computer to brain, in such a way that it links up with the student's knowledge of his native language (or alternatively with the student's knowledge of the world around him) is nonsensical. Additionally, why he thinks that this might be possible, but that grammar would not be portable in this manner suggests that he knows very little about languages, computers and brains.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Varia...

Via the Telegraph:
A homeless woman has been arrested after living undetected for almost a year in a tiny cupboard in a man's house in Japan.
The woman, identified as 58-year-old Tatsuko Horikawa, was found by police searching the home of the man, who believed he lived alone in Fukuoka.
The resident of the house, who has not been named, became suspicious that he was the victim of repeat burglaries after he noticed food was going missing from his refrigerator.
The man decided to install security cameras linked to his mobile phone and on Wednesday caught images of a woman walking around the house while he was out.
Believing he had detected the burglar, the man contacted police and, after an exhaustive search of the property, officers found the woman hiding in the top of a built-in cupboard designed to store bedding and mattresses.
Behind the sliding door, she had laid out a thin futon and had several plastic drinks bottles, police said. There was just enough room for her to lay down, they added.
Gosh!
And the Shroud of Turin is going on display...
The Turin Shroud is to go on public display for the first time in a decade, the Vatican has announced, coinciding with a new set of tests on its age.
The Vatican keeps the 14ft by 4ft piece of linen, believed by some to be the death shroud of Jesus, in an aluminium case built by an Italian aerospace company to shut out all light, air and humidity.
The case is filled with Argon gas in order to prevent bacteria from eating the material.
However, the success of the exhibition of Padre Pio’s remains in Puglia has convinced the Vatican to bring forward the next public showing of the shroud from 2025 to the year after next.
The linen has only been put on display five times in the last century and the last time it was exhibited, in 2000, over half a million visitors arrived in Turin in two months.
The exhibition will coincide with a new set of scientific tests on the Shroud in order to verify its age. Professor Christopher Ramsey, the head of Oxford University’s Radiocarbon Accelerator unit, first dated the Shroud to between 1260 and 1390 in tests conducted 20 years ago.
Even though the Shroud is kept in Turin Cathedral, I understand that it is owned by the Holy See rather than the Archdiocese of Turin, so this time, it seems as though the newspaper is not wrong in attributing everything to 'The Vatican'.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Extraordinary Twin Reunion

Via the Telegraph:
Spanish twins who were separated at birth due to a hospital mix-up have met by chance 28 years later.
The two Spanish women, who have yet to reveal their identities, were born in a hospital in Gran Canaria, in the Canary Islands, where one of them was switched by mistake with the baby of another family.
(snip)
Sebastian Socorro, the lawyer for the separated twin, told the Cadena Ser radio station that the encounter was thanks to a friend of one of the women.
"It happened by chance," he said. "The friend was working in a shopping centre. The other twin came in one day to buy clothes. The sales assistant tried to greet her with a kiss thinking that she was her friend, but the customer refused.
"The surprised sales assistant then called her friend who assured her that she had not been in to the shop."
When the other twin came back to the shop a few days later, a meeting was arranged between the two sisters.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

300 BC Cup

I love found artifact stories - and this one is exceptional:
The grandson of a rag and bone man who acquired a small metal cup is in line for a windfall after discovering it is a pure gold vessel dating back to the third or fourth century BC.
The piece could be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The 5½ in cup, believed to be from the Achaemenid empire, has two female faces looking in opposite directions, their foreheads decorated with a snake motif.
Experts were baffled by the piece, but laboratory analysis of the gold put it in the third or fourth century BC. The Achaemenid empire was based around Persia, but at its height stretched from Iran to Libya. It was wiped out by Alexander the Great in 330BC.
There's a picture on the Telegraph's website.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Today's Gospel

Mark 10: 17-27
Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, 'Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.' And he said to him, 'Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days'. Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, 'There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.' But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, 'How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!' The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, 'My children,' he said to them 'how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.' They were more astonished than ever. 'In that case' they said to one another 'who can be saved?' Jesus gazed at them. 'For men' he said 'it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.'
One could write an awful lot about that gospel, but what strikes me as especially suggestive is that when Jesus examines this man on the commandments, he leaves out those commandments which have to do with God directly. When one considers the fact that at the root of the commandments is the first commandment which prohibits idolatry and the worship of any one or any thing apart from the One God of Israel, this omission is very thought-provoking, especially when put alongside Christ's question, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.
Perhaps Christ realised that despite the seeming virtue of this man, that virtue was hollow at heart because he didn't 'do God'. Combine that with the instruction to the Apostles concerning how to enter heaven (It is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God), and you have a decent starting point if you want to explore the relationship between the Pauline doctrine of grace and the synoptic Gospels, to say nothing of the question of the relationship between theology and morality.

Update on CoE Conversion Row

The Telegraph reports that things have gone surreal:
The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, accused the Church of failing in its duty to "welcome people of other faiths" ahead of a motion at July's General Synod in York urging a strategy for evangelising Muslims.
However, his comments were condemned by senior figures within the Church. The Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, the former Bishop of Hulme and the newly appointed Bishop of Urban Life and Faith, said: "Both the Bishop of Rochester's reported comments and the synod private members' motion show no sensitivity to the need for good inter-faith relations. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs are learning to respect one another's paths to God and to live in harmony. This demand for the evangelisation of people of other faiths contributes nothing to our communities."
A Church of England spokesman added: "We have a mission-focused Christian presence in every community, including those where there are a large number of Muslims. That engagement is based on the provisions of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for freedom of thought, conscience and religion."
Has the European Convention on Human Rights superseded Matthew 28:19?

I don't have time to read these...

But the Times points to this interesting series of short essays on the topic Does science make belief in God obsolete?  Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, O.P answers with an interesting No, and Yes:
No, as a matter of reason and truth. The knowledge we have gained through modern science makes belief in an Intelligence behind the cosmos more reasonable than ever.
 Yes, as a matter of mood, sensibility, and sentiment. Not science itself but a reductive "scientific mentality" that often accompanies it, along with the power, control, comfort, and convenience provided by modern technology, has helped to push the concept of God into the hazy twilight of agnosticism.

I don't recall precisely where, but I think that Newman justly worried that about the effect that science would have on people's imagination.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

It has always been thus...


It seems there was a Laodicean presence in Rome this weekend, and it sometimes seems that pretty much all serious Catholics (if I might use that term...) know someone in Rome.  With modern means of communication, this is not surprising.  What's interesting is that if you look at the closing of St Paul's Letter to the Romans, you read the following:
I commend our sister Phoebe to you; she has devoted her services to the church at Cenchrae. Make her welcome in the Lord as saints should, and help her in any business where she needs your help; she has been a good friend to many, myself among them. 
My greetings to Prisca and Aquila, who have worked at my side in the service of Christ Jesus, and put their heads on the block to save my life; not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles have reason to be grateful to them. My greetings, also, to the congregation which meets at their house; to my dear Epaenetus, the first offering Asia made to Christ, and to Mary, who has spent so much labour on you. My greetings to Andronicus and Junias, kinsmen and fellow-prisoners of mine, who have won repute among the apostles that were in Christ's service before me. My greetings to Amplias, whom I love so well in the Lord; to Urbanus, who helped our work in Christ's cause, and to my dear Stachys; to Apelles, a man tried in Christ's service; and those of Aristobulus' household; to my kinsman Herodion, and to such of Narcissus' household as belong to the Lord. My greetings to Tryphaena and Tryphosa, who have worked for the Lord so well; and dear Persis, too; she has been long in the Lord's service. My greetings to Rufus, a chosen servant of the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me; to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them; to Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, Olympias, and all the saints who are of their company. Greet one another with the kiss of saints; all the churches of Christ send you their greeting.
 Even though he didn't found the Church in Rome, and had not yet visited it, St Paul had a friend (Phoebe) who was traveling to Rome and was willing to bring his letter with her, where she would find a whole slew of people who already knew Paul. Just shows that in some ways, things haven't changed at all.

Convert Muslims says Bishop

The UK's Daily Mail reports on one of the Church of England's more sensible bishops reminding his colleagues of the obvious:
The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, said Church leaders had rightly shown sensitivity towards Muslims as part of efforts to welcome minority faiths.
But he said: ‘I think it may have gone too far and what we need now is to recover our nerve.’
Dr Nazir-Ali, who faced death threats earlier this year after saying that some parts of the country had become ‘no-go areas’ for non-Muslims, said that it was important for faiths to talk to one another without diluting their core beliefs.
‘Our nation is rooted in the Christian faith, and that is the basis for welcoming people of other faiths,’ he said. ‘You cannot have an honest conversation on the basis of fudge.’
Quite! And that really is how evangelization must be done. Speak honestly and respectfully to those of other religions, but without obscuring the basics of our own faith. To do otherwise is dishonest. Why would we not want to let people know about Christ? Keeping silent about Him suggests to others that we don't really care about Him.

The Pakistani-born bishop, who in 2002 was tipped to become Archbishop of Canterbury before Dr Rowan Williams took over from Dr George Carey, was echoing concerns that many Church leaders are abandoning attempts to spread Christianity among Muslims out of fear of a backlash.

Members of the Church’s ‘parliament’ have now forced the highly sensitive issue on to the agenda of this summer’s General Synod – despite the efforts of liberal bishops to warn them off.

A private members’ motion calling on the bishops to clarify their strategy has gathered so many signatures of support from Synod members that it has leapt over others in the queue for the July meeting in York.

Synod member Paul Eddy, who tabled the motion, said that the active recruitment of non-believers and adherents of other faiths had always been a Biblical injunction on Christians, commanded by Christ himself.But he claimed that many bishops were downplaying the missionary role of the Church and official documents often glossed over the requirement to convert Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs or followers of other religions.He warned that the central role of Christianity in Britain was being eroded, and by ‘allowing the rise of another religion in our country, all that Britain stands for is up for grabs’.  

Friday, May 23, 2008

Lovely...

Via the AP:
A man holds a plastic figure depicting Pope Benedict XVI at the 97th German Katholikentag, or Catholic Church assembly, in Osnabrueck, northern Germany, on Friday, May 23, 2008. The figures are meant to be fixed in the car. The traditional gathering of German Catholics that takes place every two years in different cities is expected to attract some 34,000 people.
(AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Kontakion of St Romanus

There are many more here:
Lo, our King, meek and gentle, seated upon an ass
With haste hurries to suffer and to cut suffering --
The Word upon the dumb, willing it that rational beings be redeemed.
And it was possible to behold the One on the back of the ass
Who is on the shoulders of the Cherubim,
The One Who once translated Elijah in a fiery chariot,
The One Who is poor of His own will, but rich in His nature,
The One Who is voluntarily weak, yet granting power
To all of those who cry out to Him: "Thou art the blessed One Who comes to call up Adam."

I guess I'm not as smart as the Pope...

... in today's Wednesday audience (held indoors due to the unseasonable rain), the Holy Father spoke about St Romanus the Melodist. I must confess, I'd never heard of this guy before.
Anyway, what does Wikipedia have to say about him?
Romanos (or Romanus), also known as Saint Romanos the Melodist or Roman the Hymnographer, was one of the greatest of Greek hymnographers, called "the Pindar of rhythmic poetry". He flourished during the sixth century, which is considered to be the "Golden Age" of Byzantine hymnography.
The main source of information about the life of Romanos comes from the Menaion for October. Beyond this, his name is mentioned by only two other ancient sources. One in the eighth-century poet St. Germanos, and once in the Souda (s. v. anaklomenon), where he is called "Romanos the melodist". From this scanty evidence we learn that he was born to a Jewish family in either Emesa (modern-day Homs) or Damascus in Syria. He was baptized as a young boy (though whether or not his parents also converted is uncertain). Having moved to Berytus (Beirut), he was ordained a deacon in the Church of the Resurrection there.
He later moved to Constantinople during the reign of the emperor Anastasius—on the question whether Anastasius I (491-518) or Anastasius II (713-716) is meant, the renowed byzantinologist, Prof. Karl Krumbacher favours the earlier date.[1] There he served as sacristan in the "Great Church" (Hagia Sophia), residing to the end of his life at the Monastery of Kyros, where he was buried along with his disciple St. Ananias.
There's also the wonderful account of how he started off:
According to legend, Romanus was not at first considered to be either a talented reader or singer. He was, however, loved by the Patriarch of Constantinople because of his great humility. Once, around the year 518, while serving in the Church of the Panagia at Blachernae, during the All-Night Vigil for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, he was assigned to read the kathisma verses from the Psalter. He read so poorly that another reader had to take his place. Some of the lesser clergy ridiculed Romanus for this, and being humilitated he sat down in one of the choir stalls. Overcome by weariness and sorrow, he soon fell asleep. As he slept, the Theotokos (Mother of God) appeared to him with a scroll in her hand. She commanded him to eat the scroll, and as soon as he did so, he awoke. He immediately received a blessing from the Patriarch, mounted the ambo (pulpit), and chanted extemporaneously his famous Kontakion of the Nativity, "Today the Virgin gives birth to Him Who is above all being…." The emperor, the patriarch, the clergy, and the entire congregation were amazed at both the profound theology of the hymn and Romanos' clear, sonorous voice as he sang. According to tradition, this was the very first kontakion ever sung. The Greek word "kontakion" (κοντάκιον) refers to the shaft on which a scroll is wound, hence the significance of the Theotokos' command for him to swallow a scroll, indicating that his compositions were by divine inspiration.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quite...

Via the Telegraph, concerning the abominations made legal in the UK's Embryology Bill:
Mr Leigh grew serious again, contended that "we cannot and should not be spliced together with the animal kingdom", and ended with the pitiful words given by Mary Shelley to Frankenstein's monster: "I the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on."

To our delight, Sir Gerald Kaufman (Lab, Manchester Gorton) joined Mr Leigh in warning the House it was on a slippery slope.

"If you permit the creation of a hybrid embryo now what will you permit next time?" he asked.

But Dawn Primarolo, a health minister, was soon putting the case for "a pragmatic solution" and the vote went the Government's way, in favour of hybrid embryos.

One could not help being reminded of Dean Inge's remark about the Gadarene swine: "No doubt they thought the going was good for the first half of the way."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Brideshead Redisovered?

Via the Telegraph:
The inspiration for Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited is detailed in a new book showing how closely the author based his fictional characters on a family with whom he spent long periods in the 1930s.
It shows how the character of the flamboyant, teddy bear-owning aristocrat Sebastian Flyte was inspired by an Oxford contemporary with whom Waugh was infatuated and who, like his fictional counterpart, was a tortured alcoholic who died young.
Both 1981's acclaimed television adaptation of the novel, and a Hollywood film due out this year use Castle Howard, the extravagant North Yorkshire country pile, as the setting for Brideshead, the stately home of the Flyte family.
But the real inspiration, according to the work by Jane Mulvagh, was provided by Madresfield, a moated house in the Malvern Hills, in Worcestershire.
For almost 1,000 years, the property has been the home of the Lygons, the family of the Earls Beauchamp. In her history of the building and its owners – Madresfield, The Real Brideshead – Mrs Mulvagh has spoken to the family, including some of those who knew Waugh, studied his letters to them and explored the property.
The article goes on to outline some of the similarities between the characters in Brideshead Revisited and the members of the Lygon family.

Trinity Sunday

Andrea del Sarto's Disputation on the Holy Trinity. The saints shown are Sts Augustine, Laurence, Peter Martyr, Francis, Mary Magdalen and Sebastian.

From the conclusion of St Augustine's De Trinitate:
O Lord our God, we believe in You, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. For the Truth would not say, Go, baptize all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, unless You were a Trinity. Nor would you, O Lord God, bid us to be baptized in the name of Him who is not the Lord God. Nor would the divine voice have said, Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one God, unless You were so a Trinity as to be one Lord God. And if You, O God, were Yourself the Father, and were Yourself the Son, Your Word Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit your gift, we should not read in the book of truth, God sent His Son; nor would You, O Only-begotten, say of the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in my name; and, Whom I will send to you from the Father. Directing my purpose by this rule of faith, so far as I have been able, so far as You have made me to be able, I have sought You, and have desired to see with my understanding what I believed; and I have argued and labored much. O Lord my God, my one hope, hearken to me, lest through weariness I be unwilling to seek You, but that I may always ardently seek Your face. Do Thou give strength to seek, who has made me find You, and has given the hope of finding You more and more. My strength and my infirmity are in Your sight: preserve the one, and heal the other. My knowledge and my ignorance are in Your sight; where You have opened to me, receive me as I enter; where You have closed, open to me as I knock. May I remember You, understand You, love You. Increase these things in me, until You renew me wholly. I know it is written, In the multitude of speech, you shall not escape sin. But O that I might speak only in preaching Your word, and in praising You! Not only should I so flee from sin, but I should earn good desert, however much I so spoke. For a man blessed of You would not enjoin a sin upon his own true son in the faith, to whom he wrote, Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season. Are we to say that he has not spoken much, who was not silent about Your word, O Lord, not only in season, but out of season? But therefore it was not much, because it was only what was necessary. Set me free, O God, from that multitude of speech which I suffer inwardly in my soul, wretched as it is in Your sight, and flying for refuge to Your mercy; for I am not silent in thoughts, even when silent in words. And if, indeed, I thought of nothing save what pleased You, certainly I would not ask You to set me free from such multitude of speech. But many are my thoughts, such as You know, thoughts of man, since they are vain. Grant to me not to consent to them; and if ever they delight me, nevertheless to condemn them, and not to dwell in them, as though I slumbered. Nor let them so prevail in me, as that anything in my acts should proceed from them; but at least let my opinions, let my conscience, be safe from them, under Your protection. When the wise man spoke of You in his book, which is now called by the special name of Ecclesiasticus, We speak, he said, much, and yet come short; and in sum of words, He is all. When, therefore, we shall have come to You, these very many things that we speak, and yet come short, will cease; and You, as One, wilt remain all in all. And we shall say one thing without end, in praising You in One, ourselves also made one in You. O Lord the one God, God the Trinity, whatever I have said in these books that is of Yours, may they acknowledge who are Yours; if anything of my own, may it be pardoned both by You and by those who are Yours. Amen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Love it for the filth?

Via the Telegraph:
Claudio Velardi, 53, took the job of luring tourists to Italy's dirtiest and most criminal city at a time when Neapolitans are rioting over the mountains of rubbish lying in the streets.
The crisis, which arose after the city's dumps became full and collections halted, continues to worsen.
Last week, piles of rubbish reappeared on the streets of the city and the European Commission threatened to take court action against Naples for failing to resolve the matter.
The images of burning rubbish, together with the city's crime problems, have led to a steep drop in tourism, with some hotels reporting a 30 per cent fall in bookings.
Mr Velardi, a public relations expert, has outlined a strategy to sell the city without gloss.
"Naples has never been a clean city," he said. "It has always been a hotbed of viral diseases, of hepatitis. I am better off than many Neapolitans, but even I have a bad liver because I had hepatitis as a child."
Mr Velardi said tourists should love Naples for the unexpected pleasure of finding beauty and filth crammed together.

He added: "If I go to Rio de Janeiro, I know there are favelas (slums). This city is also chaotic, but is beautiful and characterful.
"We have no intention of turning Naples into Frankfurt. What is more, the hoteliers say that no one complains about Naples when they come to leave the city. It provides happy memories.
The unexpected pleasure of finding beauty and filth crammed together?

Women - Know Your Limits!

Seraphic offers advice for women who wonder why they are still single.
Seems as though the Brits figured the answer to that one decades ago:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Oxymoron?

Section heading from a theology book that I'm consulting:
The Doctrine of Divine Simplicity: Details
Eh? ;)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pentecost at the Pantheon

Fr Z has a better camera than I do, so I'll link to his shots of Pentecost at the Pantheon rather than post my own.

Interestingly, Mass this morning was celebrated by a Syriac Catholic Bishop who works at the Vatican. He wore his own rite's (pretty nifty looking) vestments despite celebrating according to the Roman Rite.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pentecost Icon and a Question...

This is the traditional Eastern Icon of Pentecost. A theologian of my acquaintance gets annoyed by depictions which show the Mother of God in this context. Why? Not because he doubts her presence, but rather because he sees it as a duplication of symbols. Our Lady represents the whole Church, as do the Apostles gathered together. Thus, showing the Apostles with Our Lady would present two different and distinct symbols of the Church.
The guy at the bottom of the icon represents the whole world which is about to receive the teaching of the Twelve Apostles.

A Question
The second verse of the Pentecost Sequence goes as follows:
Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum
veni, lumen cordium.
I've never quite understood why the Holy Spirit is called the Father of the Poor. That would seem to be a more fitting title for God the Father. Anyone got any ideas?

I note that in some very early Christian texts, Jesus Christ is sometimes referred to in paternal terms. For obvious reasons, that particular usage didn't persevere for long.
(For example, see the Epistle to Diognetes which says of Christ: Having then in the former time demonstrated the inability of our nature to obtain life, and having now revealed a Saviour able to save even creatures which have no ability, He willed that for both reasons we should believe in His goodness and should regard Him as nurse, father, teacher, counsellor, physician, mind, light, honour, glory, strength and life without concerning ourselves about clothes and food. )

Friday, May 09, 2008

On the nature of the Gospels and Christian Art...

This just popped into my head, and I'm wondering whether there's any value in the insight that Christian art should take its cues from the manner in which Christ is remembered in the Church.

The fullness of Divine Revelation is a concrete individual man - Jesus of Nazareth. He is the concrete universal, true God and true man, disclosing the truth about about God and about man.

Therefore:

Since God's revelation to us literally 'took flesh', Christian art should not, as a rule, tend towards the abstract.

How is Christ's life made known to us?

Through the Scriptures, and in particular the Gospels, which we understand through the lens of tradition.
Despite being historically truthful, the Gospels are not footnoted biographies which meet the standards of modern historiography. Christ did not appear in a time and place which permitted him to be captured on film. Consequently, there are many details concerning 'how things actually happened' which we are not told. We do not even know what Christ looked like, what his voice sounded like, etc, etc...

Therefore, the Gospel accounts of the doings of Christ do not impose historical details on the mind of the believer. Listening to an account of the Last Supper, for example, the details of how the Jews of the 1st Century decorated their rooms and arranged their tables are not imposed on the mind's eye of the believer. Whilst our understanding of the Gospel is certainly deepened by historical research, the true meaning of the Gospel accounts can just as easily be grasped by the ordinary believer who has no idea what the blind man of Jerico might have historically worn. His imagining a beggar of his own time, or some vaguely undefined time in the past does not fundamentally compromise his grasp of the meaning of the miraculous healing.

Consequently, Christian art should not feel bound by hyper-realism or an obsession with historical accuracy.

Eh?

I've heard of little kids who like to dress up and play at being a priest. However, I've never seen anything like this before. What mom doesn't want her son looking like the Supreme Pontiff on his baptism day?

HV 40

The 40th Anniversary of Humane Vitae is coming up and I've been asked to put up a link to this conference in Oakland CA. It will be preceded by a banquet at which the distinguished Catholic philosopher and novelist Prof Ralph McInery will be speaking. The speakers at the conference itself will include Archbishop Raymond Burke and Professor Janet Smith. Sounds good!

Clerics and seminarians will also be interested in the website of Humane Vitae priests and might want to sign up for their mailing list.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Interesting... Pentecost Indoors...

From the Bolletino:
L’11 maggio 2008, Domenica di Pentecoste, alle ore 10, il Santo Padre Benedetto XVI celebrerà nella Basilica Vaticana la Santa Messa della Solennità.
Alla Celebrazione sono invitati i fedeli della diocesi di Roma e i pellegrini presenti in città.
It seems as though this year's Pentecost Sunday Mass will be celebrated by the Holy Father inside St Peter's rather than in the Square as has been done in previous years.
I'm not one of those people who think that the Holy Father should never celebrate Mass in St Peter's Square, but I do think that it is fitting that St Peter's itself be used more often for Papal Masses.

FSSP Parish in Rome

Via The New Liturgical Movement:
It is with great joy that the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter announces the opening of a personal parish in the Diocese of Rome. The decree of erection of the parish, which is dated Easter day of 2008, states that in conformity with art. 10 of Summorum Pontificum, “and after having received the proposal of the Cardinal Vicar, the Holy Father has established that in the central sector of the Diocese of Rome, in the 1st District, and in a fitting place of worship, namely, the Church of Ss. Trinità dei Pellegrini . . . should be erected a personal parish, in order to guarantee proper pastoral care for the entire community of Traditionalist faithful residing in the same Diocese.

The Fraternity of St. Peter is deeply grateful to the Holy Father and his Vicar, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, to be entrusted with this parish in the See of Peter. Of the many dioceses where it serves, this is the tenth apostolate which has been erected as a full personal parish, and the first in Europe. It is hoped that this particular parish will serve not only the local parishioners, but that it will also provide a fine example of the beauty and solemnity of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite to the many pilgrims and students in Rome. Rev. Joseph Kramer, FSSP, has been appointed as the first pastor of the parish Ss. Trinità dei Pellegrini, Rector of the venerable Archconfraternity of the same name, and Rector of the church.

The installation of Fr. Kramer as pastor, and official opening Mass of the parish will take place on June 8, 2008. The Fraternity of St. Peter asks for your prayers in carrying out these new duties towards the faithful, and the Diocese of Rome.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Sanity, blessed sanity...

Amy Welborn has an excellent and thought-provoking post based on her stumbling across a 1960 book written by one of the leading members of the American Liturgical Movement. She does a nice job of identifying the aims of the movement, as well as picking out the strengths and weaknesses of their approach.
My favourite bit (it made me laugh out loud):
So you’ve got two factors working here - connect the laity more consciously to Christ in the Eucharist - and take a look at the structure of the Mass from various perspectives.

Notice the absence of Freemasons.
Needless to say, with hindsight about the less desirable fruits of the liturgical reform Amy can ask the obvious question:
The book ultimately left me with a feeling of “What were they thinking?” Easy for me to say, again, with the convenience of hindsight.

I mean…think of it this way. How could anyone think that taking an ancient form of the Mass and totally reforming it in a matter of less than a decade would not turn out to be problematic? Reinhold refers to it as a “thorough reconstruction.” How could they not see that taking what Catholics had been taught was the “Mass of the Ages” and that in some way represented truths about their faith, not just in the content, but in the fact of its antiquity and universality and what those qualities expressed about the antiquity, solidity and universality of the faith itself…and then saying, “Oh, here’s a new one..” - how could they not see that as disruptive and a recipe for confusion?
Read the whole thing, and you'll find it shot through with Amy's characteristic sanity.

Personally, I think the Church needs to engage with a number of issues. The question of a liturgical spirituality amongst the priests and the faithful needs to be tacked - the best way of avoiding the excesses (coming from both ends of the left/right spectrum) of archeologist, activism, hyper-traditionalism (Angry-Trad Syndrome), rubricism, anti-rubrisicm, etc... etc... is the nurturing of an authentic liturgical spirituality. Such a spirituality respects the liturgy and is formed by the liturgy, but is not blind to the social aspect of worship and the reciprocal relationship between the liturgy and the broader life of the Church.

Secondly, we have Marini's account of how Bugnini et al 'won' the post-conciliar battle concerning the liturgical reform. We also have a number of strong critiques of the resultant liturgy. The missing part of the equation is an analysis of how the 'traditionalists' (for want of a better word) lost the battle against Bugnini. Objectively speaking, because they lost, we know that there was some political or intellectual or spiritual flaw in the case which they advanced or in the manner in which they pressed their case. An appreciation of the weaknesses and tactical failures which helped determine the course of events is essential if a New Liturgical Movement is to be built on a solid foundation.

Concluding Postscript
Some of the Comment Box 'discussion' in some of the liturgy websites is driving me freaking crazy. Even sympathetic readers grow tired when certain points are raised again and again and again, often on only the slimmest of pretexts. Additionally, some of the intemperate language used about the Second Vatican Council, various Popes and bishops rarely does little more than alienate people. Even legitimate criticism loses its weight when it's clothed in the garments of hysteria, outrage or just plain grumpiness.

1 Cor 1:23

Some trouble at the Wailing Wall:
The leaders of Ireland's four main Christian Churches have accepted an apology from the Israeli government after a Jewish settler prevented them from praying for peace at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Holocaust Memorial Day.
The enraged settler blocked the way to Judaism's holy place because three of the men, including Cardinal Sean Brady, were wearing crucifixes which he took exception to as a symbol of Christ's death by Jews.
One wonders whether that last sentence is an accurate reflection of the settler's views, or journalistic speculation.
This incident took place after an Israeli security guard agreed that the Irish church leaders, who are on a five-day peace mission to the Holy Land, could wear their crosses going through the checkpoint.
The local Lutheran Bishop, Munib Younan, who was accompanying Cardinal Brady; the Church of Ireland Primate, Alan Harper; the Presbyterian Moderator, John Findlay and Methodist President Roy Cooper, said that an angry settler threatened to stop them.
To avoid a confrontation that would have had serious diplomatic repercussions, the churchmen did not proceed with their visit.
It should be noted that the officials at the Wailing Wall seemingly weren't the ones causing hassle - however, given the general atmosphere in Jerusalem, it's understandable the things would get quite tense when this settler raised his objection.
After seven or eight minutes of consultations in Hebrew between the Israeli guard and Bishop Younan, Cardinal Brady decided that the Irish delegation would have to move on to keep an appointment at the Israeli ministry for foreign affairs.
Last night a spokesman for the Irish church leaders was at pains to explain that they had not been turned away, and that the incident was "a storm in a tea-cup".
Cardinal Brady revealed that after visiting the famous Al-Aqsa mosque they had decided to pay an unscheduled visit to the Western Wall and had not had the opportunity to coordinate the visit with the Israeli authorities.
"We encountered some difficulty in gaining access to the wall and the difficulty arose over our wearing crosses.
A security guard promised to bring some senior officers to resolve the matter," the Cardinal said. "But we were under constraints of time to be at another meeting scheduled in the ministry for foreign affairs."
The Cardinal said that later on during a visit to the ministry for social affairs, minister Isaac Hertzog, whose grandfather, Yitzhak Hertzog, was the first Grand Chief Rabbi of Ireland graciously conveyed an apology, which was accepted.