Friday, August 29, 2008
> This shows the strength of the prolife constituency; so often people "in the know" will claim that the prolife constituency is overstated, or will "have no place to go" and be good soldiers. I think McCain would gladly have picked a pro-abortion running mate (and prolifers need to keep that in mind), but ended up picking someone who is being billed as "strongly prolife." A caveat: Gov. Sarah Palin's actual record on the subject is what counts most, not the PR; but the PR by McCain does tell us what kind of message they feel a need to send, and thus what was received by McCain: namely, that they know how much they need prolifers.
> This is hardly reason for prolifers to relax about the GOP ticket. Taking nothing away from Gov. Palin, but she isn't going to have any great role in these matters. If McCain doesn't want a prolife bill to advance in Congress, that's what'll count with GOP members of Congress, and Palin won't be able to overcome that; whoever McCain picks as judges, and what decisions he makes on executive policies affecting prolife, will be his decisions--no way he's going to "outsource" these decisions to her. So, while she looks good--and obviously, a pro-abortion pick would have been bad news--this does not, in my judgment, solve McCain's problems with prolifers or any other constituency that has been concerned with him.
> Remember, while Obama has taken a complete, pro-abortion stance, McCain has been uncertain on Roe v. Wade, at one point, a few years ago, saying he did not favor overturning it. Maybe he's had a change of heart; or a change to more careful rhetoric. Remember that McCain supports stem-cell research that destroys unborn children; he confirmed that in his Saddleback interview with Rev. Rick Warren--and for all those who pointed to the verbiage on McCain's website that really sounds like he was against this research...now you see confirmed what I've been telling you: politicians are masters of seeming to say something without actually saying it.
> Inasmuch as Obama's stance on abortion and baby-destroying "research" disqualifies him, then McCain's same stance on the same, so-called "research" equally disqualifies him. Am I saying you cannot vote, in good conscience, for McCain? No; but I am saying that McCain's problems make it very difficult for anyone to argue that the moral calculus here is crystal-clear. People who vote for Obama and say, "but I am not voting for him because of his pro-abortion stance, but despite it," are engaging in precisely the same reasoning on his pro-abortion stance, as voters for McCain are, regarding his stance on embryo-killing "research."
> How much does Palin being a woman help McCain? Hard to say; hard to see someone who voted for Hilary Clinton because of her liberal stances, now switching to McCain because of a woman veep who is a conservative.
> What about her lack of experience? I think it takes a lot of brass for the Obama-Biden ticket to raise that issue: she's actually run something (a city, and now the geographically largest state in the union); what have Biden and Obama actually been in charge of? She's been governor about as long as Obama has been a Senator; and if memory servers, didn't Sen. Obama advocate attacking our unsteady ally Pakistan, over Osama bin Laden, with nuclear weapons?
"But she's a heartbeat away from the presidency!" Yep, and Obama actually would be president.
> No, I think the Democrats would be foolish to focus on that; instead, to the extent they even go after her, they will label both of them "extreme" and look for some dirt or some mistake she made, or wait for it to happen. If people think McCain is the guy, it's hard to see them backing off because of her, assuming she's not some whacko; if people don't like McCain, hard to see Palin making them swoon. Same for the other ticket, although I do think Biden helps Obama some on the "experience" issue; but I think Biden's Catholicism may prove to be a negative given his pro-abortion stance and Speaker Pelosi rousing the ire of the bishops by treading directly on their territory. (If Palin were a Catholic, that would only have made the McCain folks happier; as it is, they're painting her as ardently prolife and the sort of person conservative Evangelicals will love--five children!)
Anyway, that's all I have for the moment...
I'm also interested in knowing if anyone else has the same problem, and if you have a suggestion.
The problem is the radio. I noticed it failing a couple of years ago; for awhile, I thought it was because I'm further away from a big city than I used to be; but then I'd drive through a big city and not be able to get good reception on a local station. Just today, I drove through Dayton and could barely pick up a Dayton AM station!
When the problem first arose, I called the local dealership, and suggested this should be addressed at no charge to me--the radio ought to perform better. The dealership said no, so I wrote Hyundai USA, and eventually spoke with someone on the phone. The rep convinced the dealership at least to consider repairing it, but, in the end, the local dealership (35 miles south in Centerville) said no--the radio was performing as well as the radios do for that model. The service guy admitted the radios were weak; "but they're better in the newer models!"
Tell me what you think of this. I've been saying, to Hyundai, that what the black-and-white of the warranty says is irrelevant, for two reasons. First: Hyundai makes a major thing of its 10-year warranty, i.e., being way better than anyone elses. Second, it's just smart business, because really, does it behoove one of the less well known automakers selling in this country to have a reputation for shoddy materials? Far better to be known as the guys who go the extra mile.
Anyway, Hyundai won't replace my radio, which because it's unreliable, isn't very helpful to me.
I do live 30-plus miles outside a big city--Dayton--so already I'm at a disadvantage. So what suggestions does anyone have for a new radio? If I'm going to buy something new, I'd really like to resolve this problem--what ideas does anyone have?
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Now there is talk of some who seem to find that the world began without dependence on any God-power. Such theories are put forward on the basis of various discoveries, but none of these face the contradiction of how energy force can be at work in world-wide vacuum where nothing is in existence.
In our individual world we have the two levels. Human pride and other such forces like to edge themselves into the God-level space and assert its own force and make its own rules of control of right and wrong. The humility of religious faith and right reason give us assurance that we live in a world that contains both the human level and that which belongs to the level of God. The forces of self-pride stand ready for everyone to use it. In regard to things of human level, we can gain the knowledge and understanding to make ones own choice. But even at this earthly level, we are at a loss to choose every control over ourselves, as for example in the matter of sickness and accidental injury.
Yet human pride edges forward seeking to gain a say-so. How much more imbalance can be present in matters of the God-level in our lives?
How often in a closed car, moving at 55 miles an hour, we see a fly. Inside the closed car, the fly can move comfortably and land where it chooses. It is in two worlds, so to say: the one inside the car, and the larger world outside, in which the car speeds along. If a car speeds along, and the car window is opened, the fly cannot deal with the strong wind coming in.
We are like the fly in the closed car. How often we human beings make efforts to “open the windows,” to loosen safety restrictions that keep life moral and good in virtues. What happens to rules keeping marriages to be lasting and virtuous? Is it God who wants schools closed because of low count of students?
It seems quite definite that the Prophet Isaias tells us, in the first reading, that God bestows his own authority on persons amongst us: “On that day I will summon my servant…and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants and to the house…. I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder…. I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family.”
This text indicates that our families will have someone God will depend on “to be a place of honor for his family” as a way to heaven.
The second reading tells us that our minds and souls need to be kept busy with God’s place in our lives, dealing with the mystery of his close presence in our daily lives. “Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and unsearchable his ways!” We must grow in our efforts to grow in knowing God’s real reason for our lives. “For from him and through him and for him are all things.”
In the Gospel Jesus asks the disciples: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They reply with several names. Then he said, “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter was the first to reply, “You are Christ the Son of the living God.” In reply, Jesus said, “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my Church.” Jesus goes on to explain, “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” The keys of the kingdom of heaven will be given to him and whatever he binds or looses on earth will be bound and loosed in heaven. Here then the Lord Jesus Christ bestows divine powers upon Peter and the Church of which he was to be the head at the founding of the one true Church of Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church.
Thanks be to God that we are truly bound up in it!
Homily by Rev. Anselm Boeke
Celebration of his 90th Birthday, & 65th year of priesthood
Saint Mary Parish
August 24, 2008
U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic, was asked on “Meet the Press” when life begins. In her answer she claimed to convey studious knowledge of Catholic teaching; in fact, she got it very wrong. When the highest-ranking Catholic elected official in this country presents such a false view of Catholic teaching, it needs to be corrected.
She claimed the Church does not have a clear position on when life begins, implying that the Church’s stance on abortion is also not clear. Not true. From the beginning, Christians have abhorred abortion. We have abundant evidence from the first century forward.
We know what Scripture says: when Mary visited Elizabeth, Elizabeth felt the unborn John leap in her womb at the coming of Mary, bearing the newly conceived Jesus.
As far as when life begins, this is not a theological matter, but a question of science; scientists agree: at conception. Technology allows us to know better than ever just what happens when mother and father make their contribution, and at a specific moment, a unique, new life begins. We also have an immortal soul, but science says nothing about that, neither does the law. The moral question—which laws must address—is the dignity and rights of human beings, including the unborn. Federal law protects unborn eagles, without knowing what sort of souls they have.
I cannot know Rep. Pelosi’s heart, but she is adamant for the Roe v. Wade decision that mandated abortion on demand. She wants to square that with being a practicing Catholic. But that is a problem. In 1995, in his Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II formally declared, “direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being (paragraph 62).”
Every first Tuesday of the month, starting September 2, our new prolife group will be studying Church teaching on this matter. Prayer at 7 pm in chapel, then meet afterward for study and discussion, including action steps.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
> He's a Catholic.
> He's pro-abortion.*
> So, we'll have a similar discussion about this to what happened with Sen. John Kerry four years ago. Some Catholics will use this as a reason to be for the Obama-Biden ticket, because some sort of Catholic, even a bad one, is on the ticket; other Catholics (such as me) will be irritated, precisely because we're expected to be happy about a Catholic who rejects the mind of the Church on the salient human rights issue of our time?
> No, he shouldn't go to communion; yes, his bishop should deal with it, and perhaps has; have compassion on his bishop, who I believe was just lately named. This sort of thing should be dealt with apart from a campaign. It can be tiresome, but on balance, I think it will serve more to emphasize the Church's teaching on the dignity of life, and this as the salient moral issue, than to do the opposite.
> Spare me the talk of "agonizing decisions" and "being thoughtful." We're supposed to be awed that these guys are smart, and that they avoid "simple answers." Remember how Obama, in answering a legal question about what rights a human baby has, and when, replied it was "above my pay grade"? And that was supposed to be a "thoughtful" answer to a "difficult" question? As if Obama did not, until the Saddleback Church interview, have occasion to reflect on this subject? Say what you want about the man, but please don't cite that occasion as proof of how "thoughtful" and "smart" he is.
> Meanwhile, Biden--like other pro-abortion Catholics in public office--about how "agonizing" it is to take the stand he does. No, Senator, here is "agonizing" for a politician: be a boldly prolife Democrat. Stand up to the pro-abortion lobby that is so powerful in the Democratic Party. Say that if Democrats are for the downtrodden, powerless and forgotten, then no one fits that description better than an unborn child; and the baby-vs.-woman, false-choice reasoning is better suited to Republicans, while Democrats refuse to sacrifice one human right for the sake of another; but instead, will find a way to make room for both.
> I'm wondering if the Obama-Biden campaign will play up Biden's Catholic faith, or will they avoid that? Given that they are actually trying to be a little less offensive to prolifers and religious folks, they may be smart enough to see that in this case, Biden's Catholicism is not something to highlight. (See update below...) My sense is that wasn't a significant factor anyway; indeed, they may even have figured, after 2004, that it would be a negative. Instead, I'm assuming Biden was chosen because he addresses Obama's principal weakness, which is experience and seasoning.
> In that regard, Biden is a good choice. Biden can also be pretty hawkish for a Democrat, and pro-business at times, reflecting his state.
> Would you really want Obama to have picked the most prolife Democrat he could? Would you really feel good about a pro-life Democrat giving full support to Obama's platform? You're not going to get a Democratic veep nominee who does anything else.
P.S. For those who see this post as proof that I tilt toward McCain, welcome visitor! If you browse my blog--or search for "McCain" or "Republican," you'll see, if anything, I've been harder on McCain.
* and pro abortion is the term--not "pro-choice"; everyone, including the pope, is "pro-choice"; we all like choices and no one is against being free to choose; the issue is what one chooses. Just like an abortion facility is anything but a "clinic." Can we prolifers please stop helping to ruin these good words?
Update: now that U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has waded into the field of theology, claiming to be a well informed interpreter of Catholic tradition and teaching (see discoursed on "Meet the Press" about her "ardent" Catholicism and her "study" of Catholic teaching on when human life begins, and then proceeded to make a hash of the subject, in service of Roe v. Wade)--prompting rebukes from several bishops already, and then come back for another round...I think Biden's Catholicism is going to become an issue; and in that event, that will be a negative for Obama, although not so much as it was for Kerry, as he's not the top of the ticket.
My tentative conclusion is that Pelosi is a nitwit; on the other hand, recalling my first rule of politics ("No matter how cynical you are, you aren't cynical enough."), it occurs to me that "dumb like a fox" might apply here; perhaps if I knew enough about her situation in the home district, I might see how this was actually a smart play for her. But it's not a good play for the national ticket. But then...Pelosi doesn't necessarily gain all that much from Obama's election; that means a demotion for the currently highest-ranked Democratic politician in the nation, and the leader of the opposition if McCain wins. She might well recall what happened to the last Democratic Speaker under a newly elected Democratic president (hint: 1994), and figure, Obama and Biden are on their own...
Saturday, August 23, 2008
and he is awed by the thought—
that God’s Plan for saving the human race will come to pass,
despite all that seems to stand in the way.
Consider: in this year of our Lord 2008,
Christians are spread throughout the world;
Over one billion Catholics,
another billion other Christians.
The Church is growing rapidly in Asia and Africa.
While Christians continue to be persecuted to this day,
we have parishes and schools,
universities, and hospitals, endowments,
seminaries and religious orders.
In many ways, the Church has never been stronger.
By way of contrast, when Paul wrote this,
the number of Christians, everywhere,
was in the thousands—
spread thin from Rome to Jerusalem.
They had very little; they met in secret;
they were despised and hunted.
How often, we fear and wring our hands;
Paul, in his time, said: to God be glory forever!
It’s all about perspective.
Sometimes I visit people in jail.
As I was about to give an inmate the Eucharist, I said,
this is a dark place, you have lost so much;
but I’m about to give you the Body and Blood of the Lord.
His flesh and blood, united to yours.
You will be Christ in this place!
And no one can take that away from you!
We believe in and experience Christ’s presence here…
In jail, you really feel His Power there!
To witness such moments
make me so grateful I am a priest.
Here’s the challenge for us:
Do we have to be behind bars before we experience this?
Shall we wait till we lose our jobs, our health, our homes…
before we can know this gratitude and peace in the Lord?
While hard times often “force” us
out of the shallows, and into the depth,
even so, the opportunity to enter the Deep
is always available for all of us.
It’s not a matter of what we know;
how many great saints were simple folk.
It doesn’t have to wait for us to finish school
or raise our family, or retire from our jobs:
saints are made at all ages,
in family life, on the factory floor and in prisons.
In the Gospel, the Lord asks all the Apostles;
but only one dared respond, “You are the Christ!”
May I submit that for many of us
the greatest challenge we face as Christians
is not opposition; not health or money issues.
Threatening as these are,
beyond all this is a far greater danger:
that most of us, most of the time,
won’t be forced into the Deep;
we can happily live our lives in the shallows.
Right at this moment, we realize,
His question for Peter is for us, too:
Who do you say that I am?
It’s not an intellectual challenge; it’s not a test.
It is simply a choice:
Who am I…to you?
What will you do with Me?
Will you follow me?
And, of course, this is why its so important that we develop technology to secure a steady supply of such embryonic human beings (none dare call it "cloning")--after all, we'll produce these embryos but they'll never become "fully human" so that makes it all perfectly moral, doesn't it?
Really, it's impossible to understand why anyone would be so cramped and cruel as to consider such an enlightened project "immoral." What's wrong with some people?
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
The last two weeks, our parish offices had problems with our computer server. For those unfamiliar with such things, a "server" is a computer to which all other computers are linked, allowing for sharing of information between computers and the people who use them. I am not sure, but it may be heresy to ask, "do we need a server," so I don't ask; but it may be that we certainly do. In any case, we do have one, and it stopped operating a couple of weeks ago.
Well, all manner of adventures ensued. We called on a parishioner who has been helping us; he said, I can't fix this, call this person; we did. Between the consultant and the volunteer, and some friends they called on, we were able to patch together temporary fixes. You see, with the server down, people lacked access to email, to files they were working on, etc. We got email up, then we got access to files, via a temporary server, and last night we brought back the original server.
All this creates big headaches and makes people less productive, and people wonder what's going on; I have to make sure everyone gets up to date information, such as I may have it.
What was wrong with it? Well, the hard-drive was completely full; of junk emails, it turns out. At one point, we thought it was a virus, but our consultant found no evidence of that. She and I will be talking soon about a remedy. Yes, we do have anti-virus protection, but we're going to talk about some improvements as well.
So, question number one for my readers: Norton or McAfee? McAfee appears to be about half the price. We're going to install it on the server, and have the server "upload" it to each client computer, and keep each one up to date.
Meanwhile, one of the issues we are dealing with is: we have several versions of Microsoft Office software in use on various computers, and I just got off the phone with Microsoft about purchasing the latest Office software, and have it uploaded from the server to client computers. To get Word, Publisher, Excel and Outlook will cost $410 per computer--for eight, that's a cool, $3,280! Money the parish simply does not have.
So, question number two for my readers: any advice on a cheaper solution? It has to be legal and ethical; the fact that Microsoft is a big, wealthy company does not justify failing to pay for the use of its products.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Why does our Lord Jesus act this way?
It’s not what you may think. Let’s dig deeper.
In our Bible Study every Wednesday night,
we just finished looking at Matthew, line-by-line.
Matthew’s Gospel begins with a genealogy—
a family tree—from Abraham, to David,
down to Joseph, whose wife was Mary.
Matthew calls attention to particular people
in the family tree; he makes sure you know about
the outsiders and non-Jews in Messiah’s lineage.
Even the “insiders” were really outsiders:
King David; freed slaves; even Father Abraham.
Even Jesus was an “outsider.”
Remember, St. Joseph was not his natural father;
our Lord had to be adopted by Joseph,
to be part of his lineage.
Matthew highlights the Magi from the East:
the first people to worship Jesus are…outsiders.
And after the Sermon on the Mount,
the first people Jesus heals are outsiders:
a leper, and a Roman soldier’s servant.
So, back to this passage:
it is not Jesus, but his disciples,
who has a problem with this outsider woman.
After all, Jesus brought his Apostles
to this foreign place—outside Israel;
in other words, he created a “teaching moment.”
The Lord says out loud what
the disciples harbor in their hearts.
Notice, the Lord praises her for “great faith”—
and only last Sunday, recall what he said to Peter:
“oh you of little faith,” even though Peter’s faith
was the greatest of the Twelve.
Yes, the Lord was sent for “the lost sheep of Israel”—
but he knows what he inspired Isaiah,
in our first reading, to say so long before:
God wanted his Israel to draw all nations to himself.
Now Jesus has come to carry that forward.
But the Lord is concerned not only
to change this woman’s life,
but to change the hearts of his disciples—to widen them.
And, in the end, he succeeds:
at the end of Matthew’s Gospel
he sends them to baptize…“all nations.”
By the way, if you’re interested,
our Wednesday night Bible Study
has just started the Acts of the Apostles;
come see how they carry out that command.
There are many lessons here.
One is obvious: who are we to call anyone “outsiders”?
We worship a Savior who the outcast of all outcasts—
the Cross reminds us of that every Mass.
We might reflect on whether there’s anyone
in our lives or our community,
of whom we say, “send her away.”
From Saint Paul, we are reminded that God continues
to have a special mission for the Jewish People,
even though it breaks his heart
when some resist his invitation to faith in Jesus Christ.
Still, Saint Paul cannot be happy that over the centuries,
Christians have been cruel to the Jewish people.
Just as the Apostles had bigoted hearts toward Gentiles,
many Christians have treated God’s People the same way.
Saint Paul holds out hope that, in the end,
God’s first Chosen People will recognize
Jesus as their Lord in their midst.
That is our hope as well.
Paul prays for his fellow Jews
to embrace Jesus the Messiah—and so do we.
Through Jesus, we are adopted
into the same Family Tree.
God’s Jewish People gave us Jesus—
how can we feel anything but gratitude?
When we receive the Eucharist,
you and I are literally being “grafted in”
through our sharing his flesh and blood.
How powerful are the words we all say right before—
the words of the centurion, an outsider:
“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you…
only say the word and I shall be healed.”
What a privilege! What a Gift our Faith is!
This privilege is not our private possession;
Jesus send us to share Him with all the world.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Of course this gets everyone talking, and it gets me wondering where this is coming from and why. Some possibilities:
1. People not actually connected with the McCain campaign are doing this, for their own purposes. Examples would be: someone promoting these fellows in particular, or someone else who would be a more acceptable alternative, or someone trying to keep McCain from picking someone "too prolife" by setting things up so that it would seem McCain had "caved in to the wingers" if he goes that way. I couldn't help noticing Giuliani on TV the other night saying how wonderful these guys would be; political consultant Dick Morris keeps pumping up Lieberman; if he isn't picked, and McCain goes down, Morris can always say (and I predict he will say), if only he'd followed my advice.
2. McCain's own people are doing this to test the waters for these folks--meaning he really would like Ridge or Lieberman. Given what we know about McCain, this seems very plausible, but not certain.
3. McCain's own people are doing this to make who they do pick seem so much better by comparison, as a way to make prolifers and conservatives, who don't much like or trust McCain, feel they won something; that would validate the outreach McCain and his advocates are making, when they say, really, he's your guy, trust him.
4. McCain's own people are doing this to serve their own interests, not necessarily the candidate--i.e., back to #1 or #2 -- or they are just feeding stuff to the media to build themselves up. If its bogus, this might not seem a smart play--because you'd think the reporter would, once the veep candidate is named, note any disparity--and, indeed, it may not be particularly smart, but it may do the job.
Ever notice how all these folks show up on TV as "strategists"? Why do they do it? Because they may get more business, it may help them get a column or a successful website, it may help them get a paid gig on TV as a talking head, or maybe they find it gratifying, or they think they are helping the cause. But notice, its not very important to the networks that what you say really is sensible or true, only that it sound plausible, be controversial or seem newsy, and be presented in an engaging way, so that it fills the "news hole." I'd love to see the interviewers put up graphics showing accurate and insightful these predicters and insiders prove to be--but they will never do it; why bite the hand that feeds you?
Note that the explanations above are not mutually exclusive: there may be several sources for this, both actually inside (someone who really does know), seemingly inside but really outside (someone who doesn't know, but folks in the media can't know that). After all, this sort of thing needed be very credible, it's simply fodder, just as it is for yours truly!
Okay, I've chummed the waters...
Here's what our fine Promoter of Vocations, Father Kyle Schnippel wrote on his site:
If you are looking for something proactive to do in support of the priesthood and vocations, be at the Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center on Sunday, September 21, 7:00 in the evening for our inaugural Call of the King Conference. The conference is free and open to all; see you there!
If you are looking for something proactive to do in support of the priesthood and vocations, be at the Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center on Sunday, September 21, 7:00 in the evening for our inaugural Call of the King Conference. The conference is free and open to all; see you there!
Alas, I will be on vacation at that time, so I am unable to be there. But I am grateful for what Father Schnippel is doing--he'll be here in Piqua in November--to promote vocations, not only with his various initiatives, but by his own example.
But as the second paragraph quoted above indicates, this is an effort for all the faithful, really, the laity will do most of what it takes to bring about more vocations. Priests can (and should) promote vocations in their words and actions, Catholic schools and parishes doing the same; but it is in the domestic church, the home, where the heavy lifting is done.
What's more, 99% of the conversations in which the subject is broached, take place without a priest anywhere around--so who will be there to give the encouragement needed?
Finally, it's so essential we approach this with the virtue of hope: negativity does not cause the virtues of faith, hope and love to flourish. If young men hear priests being bashed, or priests emphasizing the negative, or folks being fatalistic, it does not seem to me that will help.
Thankfully, our promoter of vocations, Father Schnippel, and his office, radiate joy and hope. You can read all about this event by clicking on the headline above; and please visit his web site Called by Name. I hear, but cannot confirm, that he sits by the computer, waiting for at least someone to visit each day!
“the Immaculate Mother of God… having completed the course of her earthly life,
was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
Why do we believe this? Why is it important to us?
Mary received early what all of us are promised at the end of time:
enjoying God’s presence, body and soul,
with our bodies—like Jesus and Mary—never to die again.
Why is this important to us?
It means God agrees with us about the glories of Mary!
From the beginning, Christians have showered love on Mary;
you see it in the Scriptures.
No figure in Scripture, other than Jesus himself,
is portrayed more lovingly.
When I was a seminarian, I would often visit the school.
One day, I was going to explain to 1st-graders what we believe about Mary.
So I arranged a skit:
one child would be the Angel Gabriel; one child would be Mary;
and to one child, I said, “you’re Jesus in heaven;
watch as Gabriel asks Mary to have you as a baby.
Listen for Mary’s answer—and without words, show your reaction.
When Gabriel asked, and Mary said, “yes,”
“Jesus” was leaping for joy!
There it is, why Christians ache with love for Mary;
even a child gets it: She gave us Jesus!
Consider this: if God had not showered such gifts on Mary—
then the unthinkable would be true:
that we sinners had outdone God in gratitude!
In the Old Testament, they had an “ark”—
a gold box that held the tablets
on which God himself wrote the words of his Covenant.
God demanded his people treat that ark with great reverence.
The ‘Word’ of the New Covenant isn’t written on stone—
In Christ, the Word became flesh.
That means the ark of the new covenant is Mary!
If God would honor a golden box,
how much more must he honor the woman
who not only guarded the Word in her womb for nine months,
but who honored him in her heart always?
So we agree with Saint John Damascene who said,
“It was necessary that she who had preserved her virginity inviolate in childbirth
should also have her body kept free from all corruption after death;
“It was necessary that she who had carried the Creator
as a child on her breast should dwell in the tabernacles of God.
“It was necessary that the bride espoused by the Father
should make her home in the bridal chambers of heaven.
“It was necessary that she who had gazed on her crucified Son
and been pierced in the heart by the sword of sorrow
which she had escaped in giving him birth,
should contemplate him seated with the Father.
“It was necessary that the Mother of God
should share the possessions of her Son,
and be venerated by every creature
as the Mother and handmaid of God.”
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Tradition tells us Luke is the author of the Gospel and Acts—the Sacred Text itself does not say this—and there is no reason to question Luke as the author. If it weren’t true, there seems no reason for anyone to come up with someone who was otherwise obscure.
Again, Tradition tells us he was from Antioch, in Syria; Scripture itself tells us he was a physician and a companion of Paul at various times.
No one seriously disputes that Luke and Acts were written by the same author.
Scholars debate over when Luke and Acts were composed.
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary argues that the Gospel of Luke must have been written after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, but before the bitter persecution of Christians toward the end of the reign of Emperor Domitian (AD 81-96), and that it “does not reflect the severe controversy that existed between the church and synagogue after the Pharisaic reconstruction of Judaism at Jamnia (AD 85-90).” So the NJBC proposes a date of AD 80-85 for Luke and Acts.
On the other hand, the Navarre Bible argues for an earlier date, because Acts makes no actual mention of the destruction of Jerusalem, and because Acts ends with Paul a prisoner in Rome, and does not explain what comes next.
While I can’t resolve these questions, it’s worth noting the presuppositions lying behind these theories:
The NJBC presupposes Luke’s Gospel was written after the destruction of Jerusalem—why? The Gospel itself doesn’t say that; in fact, the NJBC makes this argument from the section of Luke where our Lord foretells the city’s destruction. So why do scholars hold that this foretelling must have been written afterward? Because they see evidence in the text that suggests an awareness of the issues that arose afterward.
Navarre argues from silence—i.e., Acts says nothing about the destruction of Jerusalem—and that is a tricky argument to make. There might be other reasons for the silence. But note the NJBC does as well: Luke doesn’t reflect awareness of either the Domitian persecution or the controversies with Pharisaic Jerusalem.
Related to this debate is an even more interesting question: Luke’s relationship with Paul.
Was Luke a constant companion of Paul, and is that what is reflected in the latter part of Acts? Or, was he only an intermittent associate, and he writes the narrative from some distance. If the former, than an earlier date for Luke to compose Acts seems warranted, since it ends so abruptly with events we have to date around AD 63-65; but if the latter, then we can date the composition of Luke and Acts to AD 80-85 as NJBC holds.
Why would anyone question Luke’s companionship with Paul throughout? Well, to many scholars, it seems Luke has only a passing acquaintance with Paul’s theology; he seems unaware of Paul’s letters (there’s that argument from silence again). Yet Paul’s own letters refer to Luke as a companion, so, the reasoning is that he was intermittent, or only closely associated with Paul early on.
What we know is what Luke himself tells us, first at the beginning of his Gospel, and then when he begins Acts: he is aware of many others preparing Gospels, and he—after carefully investigating the matter, chose to give his own account. We know that his Gospel alone tells us a number of things, including most of what we know about the birth of the Savior, and many parables are included only in Luke, such as that of the Prodigal Son. I.e., it sure seems that Luke really did what he said, and investigated and shared what he found.
So again, why question what Luke presents us with? Maybe it’s not so much Luke is unfamiliar with Paul’s theology, as he chooses to present only those parts that suit his narrative—leaving it to Paul to do the rest? Perhaps it’s not that he is “unaware” of Paul’s letters, but does not see why they need to be mentioned in Acts.
We know this—Luke composed these two works, and in doing so, he worked hard to gather and compile his narrative. It shows great craftsmanship: so I wonder: regardless of dates, over how long did he do so?
Here’s another thought—when scholars say, Luke seems not to reflect Paul’s theology, maybe all that reveals is that the scholars know less of Paul’s theology than they thought!
One annoying feature of much of this sort of scholarship is to create oppositions and separations where none need exist: so they argue, for example, that because certain terms or styles of speech occur infrequently or not at all in certain letters traditionally attributed to Paul, this calls into question whether he actually authored them—as opposed to alternate conclusions, such as, Paul may be capable of more stylistic variety and change than they can suppose (or perhaps that reflects the involvement of a secretary or helper). Likewise, maybe Luke and Acts are full of Pauline theology, only its theological reflection the scholars never conceived Paul was capable of. Or; perhaps this is how Paul’s influence “looks” when it is strained, as it were, through Luke.
Of course, all these scholars are very smart people, and I don’t want to claim to be smarter than they are; if I can think of these things, so can they; and they can, no doubt, show why my qualms are all wrong and their scholarship is most likely right.
I would be far more reluctant to raise the questions at all, if it weren’t for the fact that so often, this same school of thought tends to offer “explanations” that don’t seem very explanatory. The best example I can offer is the whole multiple-source theory, which is applied to so many books of the Bible: the first five books of the Bible “must” have multiple sources, because of the unevenness in the text we have; what we see are the “seams” where an editor or (“redactor”) stitched together multiple sources.
But then I wonder, why—in stitching various accounts together, didn’t the editor make it seamless? It can’t be because the redactor was unwilling to alter the accounts he knits together; on the contrary, this same scholarship will readily point out where it seems that did happen. In the end, it seems we “explain” a “sloppy” single author with recourse to a sloppy editor of multiple sources: an explanation that fails to explain the original problem, the seeming “sloppiness” or unevenness, or so-called “contradictions.”
In the end, I think I owe it to you to present these various schools of thought, with various pros and cons, at least as I see them, and be candid about my own views—but in the end, but not prevent you from reaching your own conclusions.
Because this prevailing view about Luke and Acts, having to do with the date of composition and how closely Luke was associated with Paul, stands in the way of a very interesting—but, perhaps totally wrong—reconstruction:
If Luke was a close companion, and if he did compose Acts in the 60s (that explains the silences about Paul’s death and the fate of Jerusalem), then we might wonder, was Luke composing Luke and Acts while he journeyed with Paul? If so, maybe it was while visiting Ephesus, he met Our Lady; although Scripture is silent about that, Tradition not only holds he did so, but that he painted an image of her.
Some would scoff at that, but so be it. Scholars don’t scoff, but they try to be rigorous, and constrained in what they can firmly say, and I respect that—they are right about that. Scripture scholars will say, they only have so much data to go on, and they can’t go much farther than that. Maybe the problem in some cases is too narrow a view.
In any case, we’ll look at Acts, and see what we can see from the text itself. We have that. And it will raise some very interesting questions.
For example: why is it called “The Acts of the Apostles”? The text itself does not give an account of what all the Apostles did, and it gives only a little on most of them. But it does give us quite a lot about some of them—two in particular: Peter…and Paul.
Why those two? What do they have in common? Many things, but I have one idea in particular. There is one community that would be likely to refer to these two as “the Apostles”—and that would be the Church of Rome—because of the role each Apostle clearly had in Rome. Does that mean that Acts—which curiously ends abruptly in Rome?—is particularly associated with that Church? It’s a interesting question, and I hope to investigate it more and see if it bears fruit, and share with you.
Saturday, August 09, 2008
to the Roman Church raises a question—
why is Saint Paul so filled with “sorrow and anguish”
concerning his Jewish brothers and sisters?
What is so urgent?
Paul is afraid they will go to hell.
This is a difficult topic, this question of who is saved,
and what about people who aren’t Catholic or Christian.
To explain what we believe, let me offer an illustration.
Picture yourself standing at the door of a room.
On the other side of the room is another door;
and getting to that door is “salvation.”
The room is pitch-black—
and it’s full of stuff you can trip over.
Now: is it possible you can there safely? (Update: see note below)*
Yes, it is possible—but very hazardous.
Some light would help, wouldn’t it?
Well, God does give everyone some light.
But even then, you can still trip and fall.
Clearly, the more light you have, the better off you are.
Well, that’s what it means to be a Christian:
Christ is the Light of the world.
As Catholics, we have the fullness of that Light.
So: yes, you can be saved without being a Christian,
but more light is better than less;
what we believe matters.
Also, just because you’re a Catholic—
the lights are all on—does that mean you will make it?
No—you can still rebel, make wrong choices,
or simply not bother to cross the room.
One more thing: when we share our faith,
we’re giving others the light we were given.
This is what Paul did so urgently—
And what we are likewise sent to do.
This is why we have RCIA for people to become Catholic;
We baptize our children; we have Piqua Catholic
and Lehman schools to shape their lives;
we have religious education and Life Teen
for the same purpose to reach those our schools don’t,
to support what parents take the lead on.
Is it urgent for us to do these things?
Our Catholic schools provide a quality education—
but that is not their primary purpose;
Their reason for existence is to share the Faith.
Do we even need religious education and Life Teen?
Well, some of our parents do it themselves.
That’s the ideal and it’s great when it happens.
But many more parents do want the parishes’ help;
and some kids would fall through the cracks.
Let me say a word about our youth program.
Three years ago, we had almost nothing;
We’ve put resources into it, Life Teen is growing,
it teaches the Faith, it is centered on the Eucharist.
Do you know we have teens making holy hours?
We had teens getting up for 8 am Mass this summer!
We’re growing; kids are coming from other parishes…
And yet, we’re held back; we’re stalled.
For one, we still have many more teens to reach.
Our teens are incredibly busy. It’s hard for them.
Many of our teens have no free nights—none.
Some do sports all weekend—no Mass—
with their parents’ encouragement.
On the other hand, we are held back because
we don’t have enough adults to help as leaders.
Last week we had to cancel a scheduled event,
because we couldn’t get enough adult chaperones.
We desperately need adults
to take leadership for Sunday evening sessions.
These are when the kids can come to learn their Faith,
to be able to stand when the storms come,
and not sink as even Peter did.
We need more adults to be present as mentors;
your unique experiences and wisdom can mean so much!
You’ve been given Light—will you share it?
* Update: I corrected the flaw in this part of the analogy, which an eagle-eye would catch: in fact, if the "room" is "pitch-black," then no one can make it to salvation--i.e., it is not, in fact, possible to be saved purely on ones own (that would be Pelagianism); everyone and anyone who is saved, must have the assistance of divine grace. I reworded this the second time I preached it, to something like this:
Now, what do you think? How can you make it?
You'd like some light, wouldn't you? Even a little light would help.
And in fact, God does give everyone some light...
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
You may have read, here or elsewhere, that our bishops, working with the Holy Father, are revising our translation of the Mass.
Recently, a major part of was approved by Rome and published—the “ordinary” parts of Mass that never change. You may wonder why the change, what is different, and when we’ll start using them. Since Vatican II gave the option (not a mandate) using our own language for Mass, we may forget the Mass itself remains in Latin; the translation of such an important prayer must be done well and faithfully. The existing translation was rushed, right after the Council, and everyone concedes it is inadequate. The bishops have been working a long time on this.
The new translation aims to express better the Biblical imagery of the prayers; it tries to convey better the action of God in and through our prayer, and to better express transcendence and awe. Our current translation is often flat and bland. Once we get past the discomfort of change, we’ll gain the spiritual benefit of richer, fuller prayers, in our own native tongue—which was what Vatican II hoped would happen.
When will we start using it? Not until the bishops finish their work, probably over a year from now or even longer. They have other parts of the Mass still to complete. In the meantime, the texts were published so we can study them and get ready. At some point down the road, we’ll find ways to examine these texts more closely.
I don't know what to do, perhaps someone else can post a solution in the comments.
Friday, August 01, 2008
There are many who disapprove of this; however, this practice is so widespread, from retreat houses, to seminaries, to monasteries and religious houses, to the basilicae of Rome, that those who deem it illicit have quite a case to make. Canon Law says a priest may do so for a "just cause," and doing so on my day off seems to me a legitimate reason, as well as to provide for my own spiritual well being (see below). Also, we currently have three priests active in my two parishes, so there are some days I am not scheduled for Mass; on those occasions, sometimes I concelebrate, as I did today; other days, I offer a private Mass. (By private I mean not pubished; it may involve one or two people, or just the Holy Trinity and myself--but even that is not a "private" Mass, insofar as every Mass involves the entire Church in heaven, purgatory and on earth.)
Some might say, why not concelebrate every time? Well, several reasons--the main celebrant may prefer not to have a concelebrant, so I don't force myself on him; but the main reason is that when I offer a private Mass, I can exercise options that are not courteous to the faithful: I can offer Mass entirely in Latin privately, and I can refine my skills as a celebrant, and practice singing the prayers, without that being distracting to the prayer of God's people.
And, honestly, a priest has both a right and a need to ensure that his own encounter with the Sacrifice of the Mass is fully prayerful, and there are times when as celebrant at a Mass for the people, this is very hard. This is something perhaps not many priests admit, and perhaps not many of God's people understand or realize: but it can be a challenge for a priest to offer Mass prayerfully. I'm not complaining, but: with the servers often needing guidance, or there's something special happening at Mass, such as a blessing, or announcements, or such that the priest needs to remember...the point is, a lot of us find it very helpful to be able to offer Mass in a very quiet setting.
(Yes, I know what some will say; the laity want and need to be able to participate in Mass in a quiet setting--and I agree. All I can say is it will take time and effort to recover that, and I am doing what I can. Laity need to influence one another on this point. I recall one Holy Thursday, when near the end of the liturgy, I said quietly, "this liturgy ends in silence, and I ask that everyone observe total silence after liturgy for the sake of those trying to pray." We concluded the liturgy, the servers and I departed to the sacristy, and...the noise level began rising in church. I strictly instructed the servers to remain silent, and they did as well as they could; I was just about to walk out again and say something when, as I opened the door, I heard someone yell: "didn't you hear what father said--be quiet!" I retreated without saying a word--what could I add? P.S.: it helped--some.)
So, I do offer Mass privately. When I do, I usually do so all or mostly in Latin. Why do I do that? Well, the option of the vernacular was for the benefit of the people; the liturgy itself is originally in Latin, and I believe it's appropriate, and I would say further, pretty important, for a priest to be at home with the liturgy in Latin. I am blessed to have a little facility with Latin, but really, not that much. I become comfortable with it by using it, and this is the best way to use it. (And for those who say it's hard to pronounce: Latin is far easier to pronounce than English, once you get the hang of it; English is full of exceptions and tricks that follow no rules.) I believe that if someone asks me to use Latin in Mass, I ought to be as ready as I can be to grant that request; this is the best way to do that.
Also, I am planning next month to attend a workshop in the extraordinary form of the Mass--the so-called Tridentine Mass. As you recall, last summer the pope issued new norms greatly liberalizing its celebration and the faithful's access to it, and called for priests to "willingly accede" to requests for it. So, I believe I ought to be ready to do so; I had a parishioner ask me to use the old form for his funeral, whenever that comes.
So in addition to offering the Mass in Latin privately, I also do something else: I offer Mass ad orientem (literally, "toward the east," meaning spiritual east, i.e., toward the Lord who has risen and will return). That means I face the altar from the "outside," facing the crucifix, rather than facing the nave of the church which, on such occasions, is empty (when one or two assist me, they do so from the sanctuary). In the older form of the Mass, ad orientem is the norm, and as a celebrant, it's something I need to become accustomed to.
Now, this is controversial, but--as far as I can see in the norms for the current form of the Mass, there is nothing preventing the so-called "Novus Ordo" Mass being offered ad orientem--despite the fact that doing so facing the people has become all but universal. This seems clear from the very rubrics of the current form of the Mass, which you can see for yourself in any sacramentary--at four points, it tells the priest to "face the people" -- which would make no sense if it presupposes he's facing the people throughout; but it does make sense if it presupposes he is not facing the people at that point, or at least assumes he might be facing toward the Lord.
The Holy Father, before being elected pope, wrote repeatedly about the importance of this question, and the subject is much talked about by those with expertise in this area: perhaps the Church needs to reconsider the decision to have the priest face the people across the altar. Most believe this was called for by Vatican II; on the contrary, Vatican II said not a word about it, but rather, this originated in a subsequent document attempting to carry it out; and even then, as I say, the norms do not seem to preclude ad orientem, even if it has become all but universal for Roman Catholics.
Some will ask, "Father, why don't you celebrate Mass publicly ad orientem?"
My answer is that I believe a lot more discussion and catechesis is needed on this subject, and as it is, I've raised many other liturgical issues for my two parishes--as are the bishops and the pope -- and it's only fair to let people reflect and absorb those. Even the smallest changes in a parish Mass or church are noticed and need explaining; something like this would be a significant shift, and the people are entitled to know why the priest is doing it, and to have something like that happen in a positive and not a negative way. It's neither courteous nor practical to force it or pulls surprises. I would point out that even the Holy Father has not chosen to do so in his public liturgies, with one exception I know of; and he seems very deliberate in taking a different tack on the liturgy, and I am following his lead closely. In any case, I see no problem doing so privately, indeed, it's practical as I said.
Some of my own reactions to all this:
> The more I offer Mass in Latin, the more natural it feels. This is no surprise; it's the same with any language. And while Latin has a privileged place in the Roman Rite, it's not magical; but for me, connecting with the liturgy in Latin feels a lot more intimate, since the liturgy has been in Latin since very early in the Church. Of course I prefer English for many reasons: I speak and think in English! But by repeatedly offering Mass in Latin, that is less and less a barrier.
> The Latin prayers have unique cadence and beauty that cannot but be lost in translation. Again, this is the same for any language.
> In offering Mass "by myself"--and facing the Lord--I am far less concerned with being heard, whether I enunciate the words for clarity, and any need to give emphasis to words or phrases--all of which is important when proclaiming a text. The result is that I am, well...simply praying! (This may seem odd, but--I really think a lot of the faithful need to reflect on this question: how important is it to you that your priest prays the Mass? Because they may assume it always happens or is easy; and they have a right to know it is often harder than they may assume.)
> In offering the Mass "by myself," I never feel a need to rush. Inevitably, I am mindful of the clock at a public liturgy, and that induces a certain amount of haste, which becomes habitual. When alone, I can reinforce better habits of unhurried prayer. That doesn't mean Mass has to take significantly longer. But when the priest lacks calm in his leadership, it can't be good for anyone else. I find, on these occasions, I can reflect as much as I want to on the actions I'm performing, down to every detail, without self-consciousness or concern that others are distracted in their prayers--and in so doing, I gain small insights about the meaning of what I'm doing.
> In offering Mass toward the Lord, there is a greater intimacy with the Lord. I am looking up at the same crucifix you are; were you present with me, our eyes would focus on the crucifix at the same moment. When offering Mass facing the people, I am unable to do that--which is why I've placed a small crucifix on the altar, facing the priest, at both parishes. If having the crucifix as a focal point during Mass is important to the laity, why any less so the priest? When I lift up the Body and Blood, I see the host and the cup, held before the crucifix--perfect linkage! The laity see that at every Mass; is it reasonable to hold that the priest has no need of such reinforcement?
It is such a shame that there are battle lines over so many of these issues; and people "on both sides" as it were are guilty of contributing to this. Frequently these liturgical controversies are treated as "liberal/progressive v. traditional/conservative," and that's true in many cases, but not always. People who object to incense, or Latin, or "too much" attention to the ritual are often not doing so for any adherence to "liberal" thinking: I can tell you it is equally likely for a "conservative" to say, "Father, Mass takes too long (so cut out that "extra stuff")" as a "liberal."
The ad orientem posture, if we get past this usual dichotomy, and past personal preferences, invites reflections that don't fit the usual categories--i.e., doesn't the priest facing the same way as the people express well the Vatican II notion of a "pilgrim people"? Doesn't it emphasize what the priest and people have in common--i.e., doesn't it support and even, if you reflect on it, enhance, the Vatican II emphasis on the priesthood of the entire faithful, united with the unique, ordained priesthood of the celebrant? On the other hand, doesn't the facing the people mode call for more of an emphasis on the priest as alter Christus--which isn't a bad thing, of course, but isn't that a...er, "pre Vatican II" idea?
Others said it before me, but--I really think the next decade or two will see a waning of some of this dichotomy, because many of those who form sides do so because they remember the "old ways" either with great affection or negativity, or they feel that the changes that came after the Council belong especially to their experience, and they take any shift away ("backward") rather personally. And guess what? As someone born in 1962, I came of age in the Church after all that--I have no strong feelings about the old form of the Mass, and rethinking or reworking how we implement Vatican II doesn't shake me up, because I didn't "live" it (I was making my first communion when the "new Mass" came into force--it's all I knew).
In a Gospel reading recently, we heard the Lord refer to the wise scribe of the kingdom who brings forth "both old and new." That's a good way to approach these issues, don't you think?