Friday, October 30, 2009
For a little informative fun this Halloween and All Saints' Day weekend, check out this clip from Busted Halo, featuring Jesuit Father James Martin, author of My Life With the Saints. Father Martin not only covers the connection between Halloween and All Saints, but also how saints are made and why praying to the saints is not idolatry. If you stay to the very end, even after the book promo, you'll get a side of silly with your saints.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York takes a scathing look at anti-Catholicism in this country, specifically in the pages of The New York Times, in a post on his new blog The Gospel in the Digital Age. The column was originally submitted to and rejected by the Times.
Read his column HERE.
Ask any Catholic couple for the secret to their marital success and they're likely to focus on two key things: communication and faith. Without those crucial elements, marriage can quickly become a business partnership rather than the sacramental relationship it is meant to be. The Church tries to ensure, through Pre-Cana programs, that young couples are aware of that reality before they say walk down the aisle to say, "I do."
Now the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., is offering a DVD, "When Two Become One: An Introduction to Sacramental Marriage," to give engaged couples a first-hand look at what it means to make a sacred vow to another person. Four couples -- engaged, newlywed, married with children, and one celebrating their 51st wedding anniversary -- talk directly to the camera, sharing their stories, their joys, their struggles and their wisdom. The couples, as well as Msgr. Jim Lisante, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle parish in West Hempstead, N.Y., and a regular contributor to various TV news shows, talk about what must be present in a marriage to make it sacramental -- and happy.
Discussions of sexuality, NFP, marriage as vocation, grace through challenges, domestic church, and public witness of faith through marriage are all part of the mix in this well-produced program. My favorite couple had to be the husband and wife married for more than half a century. They talked about how they continue to "date" and how they relish their time together. The husband reminds viewers that marriage is "a lifelong love affair...Every day I renew the commitment."
The diocese's Office of Faith Formation also offers a DVD on NFP called "Plan Your Family Naturally: An Introduction to Natural Family Planning." The DVD covers the basics: What is NFP? How does it work? How does it improve a relationship? What are the challenges? Why is NFP acceptable for Catholics? Is it effective?
The program features conversations with couples who use NFP and one couple trained as NFP educators. There is heavy emphasis on the fact that fertility is not a disease to be treated but a gift to be celebrated and that rather than leading to problems in marriage the periods of abstinence required in this method actually improve communication and bring couples closer together.
For more information on the DVDs or to place an order, click HERE.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
When I was writing The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Catholic Catechism a couple of years ago, one of the most powerful and beautiful parts of the writing experience came during the many chapters dedicated to the creed. I sat with the creed for days, even weeks, on end. During that time, my faith was reinvigorated by the beautiful words of the prayer we say each Sunday. I found myself caught up in the poetry of the prayer, the powerful way in which our beliefs are expressed through the written word. Even now, with that book far behind me, I find myself mesmerized week after week by our Profession of Faith.
But now, as part of the new translation of the Roman Missal that is awaiting final approval by the bishops, that prayer along with many others familiar to Mass-goers will be changed in order to be more faithful to the original Latin. The result, unfortunately, is that in many places the vocabulary and sentence structure will be awkward and confusing.
Things like "one in Being with the Father" will be changed to "consubstantial with the Father," a change that will probably not make the prayer more clear or more meaningful to pray-ers. That line will go from being poetic and powerful to a line that is probably glossed over because its meaning is lost, especially on young Catholics.
Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pa., former chairman of the U.S. bishops’ liturgy committee, has criticized the new translation, calling it "slavishly literal" and saying that the changes are "elite and remote" from what we consider to be everyday speech.
“The vast majority of God’s people in the assembly are not familiar with words of the new missal like ‘ineffable,’ ‘consubstantial,’ ‘incarnate,’ ‘inviolate,’ ‘oblation,’ ‘ignominy,’ ‘precursor,’ ‘suffused’ and ‘unvanquished.’ The vocabulary is not readily understandable by the average Catholic,” Bishop Trautman said at an Oct. 22 lecture at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., as reported by CNS. “The (Second Vatican Council’s) Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy stipulated vernacular language, not sacred language,” he added. “Did Jesus ever speak to the people of his day in words beyond their comprehension? Did Jesus ever use terms or expressions beyond his hearer’s understanding?”
Other changes will affect everything from the Greeting and Penitential Rite to the Gloria and Eucharistic prayers. Bishop Trautman gave several examples during his lecture, but one in particular stood out as a perfect example:
"The bishop complained about the lack of 'pastoral style' in the new translation. The current wording in Eucharistic Prayer 3 asks God to 'welcome into your kingdom our departed brothers and sisters,' which he considered 'inspiring, hope-filled, consoling, memorable.'
"The new translation asks God to 'give kind admittance to your kingdom,' which Bishop Trautman called 'a dull lackluster expression which reminds one of a ticket-taker at the door. ... The first text reflects a pleading, passionate heart and the latter text a formality – cold and insipid.'"
Now, I'm not saying every change is a bad change. There are some that will be considered welcome, or at least reasonable. For instance, with in the new translation, instead of saying, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed," we will say, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." That seems like a fitting and proper change because it brings the prayer back to the scriptural reference, reminding us where this prayer came from to start with. (Matthew 8:8, centurion asking Jesus to heal his servant.)
It's a tough call. At a time when we are trying to hang onto the people who are going to Mass and to woo back those who only stop in now and then, bringing in changes that will make people feel like strangers in their own Church might not help the Mass attendance situation.
Read the full CNS story HERE. To read examples of changes from the USCCB's Committee on Divine Worship, click HERE. Then tell us how you feel about the coming changes in the comment section.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I am not one to watch TV shows about law firms or crime scene investigations. Not my thing. But today, when I came across a clip of an episode of the NBC series Law & Order entitled "Dignity," I watched and was stunned. Not by the words or the facts written into the dialog, but by the fact that network TV would air a powerful scene condemning late-term abortion and calling into question whether anyone has the right to rob another being of his or her dignity.
Now, it's not all as cut and dry as it sounds. I almost didn't blog about this today because I was worried that praising this scene might be viewed as brushing off the murder of an abortion doctor. And that is absolutely not the case. The clip you're about to see, if you choose to view it, is from a "ripped from the headlines" episode based on the murder of Dr. George Tiller, the late-term abortionist who was killed last May in Wichita. In the scene, the defense calls to the stand a nurse who has witnessed the show's fictional doctor killing a baby after an abortion procedure goes wrong. (As if one can ever go right.) The testimony sets up a moral dilemma for the assistant district attorney, who tells her colleague that she cannot leave her soul in the umbrella stand when she gets to work.
Regardless of all the complicated issues surrounding the real story on which this episode is based, this clip is so powerful, so true, that I simply couldn't keep from sharing it with you. To me it is a sign and a reminder that though the media and the pro-abortion lobbyists would like this country to believe otherwise, there is still a large segment of the population that views abortion as the abhorrent evil that it is.
Here it is:
Monday, October 26, 2009
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York ponders the Church's steadfast and ongoing commitment to the pro-life movement and pre-born children in his Oct. 22 Catholic New York column "Lord, To Whom Shall We Go?"
Comparing the Church's silence during slavery to the Church's outspoken condemnation of abortion, he writes that Catholics can "thank God that the Church has indeed been prophetic, courageous and counter cultural in the right to life movement."
Archbishop Dolan continues:
"Many issues and concerns in addition to protecting the baby in the womb fall under the rubric of the right to life—child care, poverty, racism, war and peace, capital punishment, health care, the environment, euthanasia—in what has come to be called the consistent ethic of life. All those issues, and even more, demand our careful attention and promotion.
"But the most pressing life issue today is abortion. If we're wrong on that one, we're just plain wrong.
"When our critics—and their name is legion—criticize us for being passionate, stubborn, almost obsessed with protecting the human rights of the baby in the womb, they intend it as an insult. I take it as a compliment.
"I'd give anything if I could claim that Catholics in America prior to the Civil War were "passionate, stubborn, almost obsessed" with protecting the human rights of the slave. To claim such would be a fib. But, decades from now, at least our children and grandchildren can look back with pride and gratitude for the conviction of those who courageously defend the life of the pre-born baby."
Read the full column HERE.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Go to NCHLA's site HERE now and make your voice heard before it's too late.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
When I was pregnant with my last baby, I was 42 years old and would be right on the cusp of 43 by the time she arrived. In the medical world, everything related to my pregnancy was marked with one important flag: AMA -- Advanced Maternal Age. Those three little letters carry some hefty baggage. They remind every doctor or technician that the mother-to-be in question is somewhat out of bounds and needs someone to scare some sense into her by telling her again and again that she is at very high risk of having a baby with problems, specifically a baby with Down syndrome.
No matter what your age, chances are that a pregnancy is going to spark a litany of prenatal testing options, unless you put a stop to it. Blood screenings with an incredibly high rate of false positives, risky amniocentesis, genetic counseling and more. My doctor and midwife quickly learned that telling me about my risks was a non-starter. I had refused any testing and made it clear that nothing they said would change that. Enter the ultrasound technician. I had to have an ultrasound because of a previous problem pregnancy (and because I loved seeing my little one moving around inside, flashing out a heartbeat to me from the screen).
Throughout the ultrasound, the technician reminded me that I had a 1 in 33 chance of having a baby with Down syndrome. And I just continued to adamantly refuse to be scared or influenced by it. Not that I didn't wonder if I would be up to the task should I have a child with Down syndrome, but I kept trying to trust that I would rise to the occasion if needed. I have met people who have been profoundly moved and inspired by their own children with Down syndrome, most specifically at Down Home Ranch in Austin, Texas, so I knew the reality behind the scare tactics. Unfortunately, many parents-to-be don't, and they easily fall prey to the statistics and scenarios presented to them.
A recent article on children with Down syndrome by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver stirred up all of these memories for me. In the article, the archbishop addresses the prevalence and persuasiveness of prenatal testing, the responsibility of Catholics in the medical profession and the mistaken notion that children with Down syndrome cannot grow into adults with happy and satisfying lives.
Archbishop Chaput writes:
"Parents of children with special needs, special education teachers and therapists, and pediatricians who have treated children with disabilities often have a hugely life-affirming perspective. Unlike prenatal caregivers, these professionals have direct knowledge of persons with special needs. They know their potential. They've seen their accomplishments. They can testify to the benefits -- often miraculous -- of parental love and faith. Expectant parents deserve to know that a child with Down syndrome can love, laugh, learn, work, feel hope and excitement, make friends, and create joy for others. These things are beautiful precisely because they transcend what we expect. They witness to the truth that every child with special needs has a value that matters eternally.At the end of the article Archbishop Chaput reminds Catholics working in the medical professions that they must put their Catholic beliefs first:
"Raising a child with Down syndrome can be hard. Parents grow up very fast. None of my friends who has a daughter or son with a serious disability is melodramatic, or self-conscious, or even especially pious about it. They speak about their special child with an unsentimental realism. It's a realism flowing out of love -- real love, the kind that courses its way through fear and suffering to a decision, finally, to surround the child with their heart and trust in the goodness of God. And that decision to trust, of course, demands not just real love, but also real courage.
"The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is never between some imaginary perfection or imperfection. None of us is perfect. No child is perfect. The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is between love and unlove; between courage and cowardice; between trust and fear. That's the choice we face when it happens in our personal experience. And that's the choice we face as a society in deciding which human lives we will treat as valuable, and which we will not."
"Pour your love for Jesus Christ into the healing you do for every person you serve. By your words and by your actions, be a witness to your colleagues. Speak up for what you believe. Love the Church. Defend her teaching. Trust in God. Believe in the Gospel. And don't be afraid. Fear is beneath your dignity as sons and daughters of the God of life.Read the full article by clicking HERE.
"Changing the course of American culture seems like such a huge task. But St. Paul felt exactly the same way. Redeeming and converting a civilization has already been done once. It can be done again. But we need to understand that God is calling you and me to do it. He chose us. He calls us. He's waiting, and now we need to answer him."
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Most parishes have already issued guidelines to help parishioners navigate the liturgy when they are coughing and sneezing. Refraining from the Sign of Peace is one suggestion, as is opting not to receive from the cup. In my family we abide by those rules. Sometimes we receive suspicious stares when we do not extend a hand at peace, but I try in hurried and hushed tones to let people know that we're not unfriendly, we're just unhealthy. A couple of years ago I started squirting hand sanitizer on the kids' hands before Communion just to be sure that we hadn't picked up any viruses from overly zealous hand-shakers, but that deteriorated into a situation where the Lamb of God was punctuated not with "have mercy on us," but "have you got any Purell in your purse?"
This week, in his regular column, "Put Out Into the Deep," in The Tablet, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn elaborated on possible health precautions that should be observed during this especially tense flu season. In "Healthy Distribution of Communion" in the Oct. 17 issue, the bishop suggests that parishes refrain from offering Communion under both species during flu season and also recommends that parishioners receive properly in the hand and not on the tongue, which he says "presents hygienic problems."
Bishop DiMarzio writes:
"There are other recommendations made for those who administer Holy Communion in that they should be advised to disinfect their hands immediately after the conclusion of the Mass with the use of hand sanitizing materials. Pastors have been asked to remind their parishioners that the sign of peace should not be exchanged by anyone who is suffering from cold symptoms or is experiencing any symptoms related to the flu. Again, it would make good sense that if one is not feeling well to stay at home and not come to Mass given the considerations for others during this flu season.
"Any change regarding a liturgical practice, especially the Eucharist, is bound to cause disruption and misunderstanding. For the sake of the common good of the Church, however, we must make these temporary regulations.
"Every time something new occurs; new regulations, new forms, we put out into the deep and recognize that there will be those who misunderstand and misinterpret these regulations. Hopefully, prayerfully we will come to understand our theology of the Eucharist and the practices that surround it, which are wholesome and healthful." (Full column HERE.)
So what do you think about mixing health precautions and Eucharistic celebrations? Do we need to change our ways until flu season is over or proceed with liturgy as usual? Tell us in the comment section.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The Vatican announced today that it will create a structure that will allow large groups of Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, providing "a reasonable and even necessary response to a world-wide phenomenon," said Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Catholic News Agency reports:
"The new canonical structure will allow former Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Church while 'preserving elements of distinctive Anglican spiritual patrimony,' said Cardinal Levada. He added that it will allow married former Anglican clergy to be ordained however, in common with Catholic and Orthodox Churches, married clergy will not be allowed to be ordained bishops."The Traditional Anglican Communion, a breakaway group that has publicly made known its wishes to unite with Rome, claims to have some 400,000 members. Although the move to open the door to Anglicans seems aimed at the TAC movement, it is not limited to the group.
Click HERE to read the full statement from the CDF. Click HERE to read the CNS story on the announcement. Click HERE to read the L.A. Times story. Stay tuned for more news on this.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Warning: strong language.
My 12-year-old son had to choose a saint to study for a school project in anticipation of All Saints Day. When I first heard about the assignment, I immediately wanted to suggest St. Isaac Jogues, but I held back and waited to see what Noah came up with on his own. When he came home from school, I asked him which saint he had selected: St. Isaac Jogues. Now, that syncronicity might be remarkable in many circumstances, but Noah has spent two camping retreat weekends on the grounds where St. Isaac Jogues was martyred, so the choice made perfect sense to him, and to me.
When you are a Catholic in upstate New York, only 45 minutes as we are from the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs, Jesuit missionaries St. Isaac Jogues and St. Rene Goupil are part of the landscape. We hear their stories, we walk the ground they walked, we marvel at their courage. Today we celebrate the Feast of the North American Martyrs, remembering those missionaries who died brutal deaths because of their commitment to the Good News.
When you go to the national shrine in Auriesville, which is also the birthplace of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, you can walk the ravine and read St. Isaac Jogues' own words explaining the prolonged torture and terrifying death St. Rene Goupil suffered at the hands of the Iroquois. It was a hatchet blow to the head while Rene Goupil was teaching the Sign of the Cross to children that finally sealed his fate in 1642. Isaac Jogues didn't fare any better, having survived years of torture and enslavement and having his fingers chewed or burned off. He was killed and decapitated in 1646.
The other Jesuits martyred in North America are Antony Daniel, Charles Garnier, Noel Chabanel, John Lalande, John de Brebeuf, and Gabriel Lalemant.
If you walk the grounds of Auriesville (which I posted about HERE), you can feel a holy presence, a sense that something awful but awesome happened in that place. It is sacred, to be sure. And beautiful.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
By Russell Shaw
European secular liberals and certain people at the Vatican may not have many things in common, but there’s one thing they unquestionably do share: high hopes for the presidency of Barack Obama. The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama was a reminder of that, as was an American archbishop’s published complaint around the same time regarding the pro-Obama slant of some elements at the Holy See.
I have no intention of rehashing the furor over the Nobel committee’s selection of Obama. Since this is the kind of simple, one-dimensional issue that media love to go on about, journalists have had great fun with it, pro and con. For my money, The Washington Post, a certified Obama supporter, got it right in calling the Peace Prize “odd” and remarking: “It is no criticism of Mr. Obama to note that, barely nine months into his presidency, his goals are still goals.” Enough said.
For people who’ve been confused by things happening at the Vatican since early this year, the Nobel committee’s action seemed eerily familiar in some respects. Vatican voices have hailed the American president for months, and it hasn’t always been easy to say just why.
First it was L’Osservatore Romano, the semi-official Vatican newspaper, then more recently Cardinal Georges Cottier, an elderly Swiss churchman who was official papal theologian under Pope John Paul II. The newspaper and the cardinal publicly pinned high hopes on Obama in the absence of much real achievement and despite his well-publicized support for legalized abortion.
Inevitably, this has had the look of policy. But if it’s that, the roots of such a policy on the part of the Holy See are not immediately clear. What exactly does the Vatican expect to get from Obama? An Israeli-Palestinian settlement? Meaningful steps toward nuclear disarmament? These surely are worthy goals, but other American presidents before now have pursued them, with limited success so far.
Note, though, that L’Osservatore Romano was critical of the Nobel to Obama. Perhaps earlier criticism has sunk in at its editorial offices.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver recently had the courage to stand up and say: Enough. In an article published in an Italian magazine, he took polite but strong exception to Cardinal Cottier’s dismissive view of Catholics who criticized Notre Dame University’s decision to give President Obama an honorary degree last spring. The critics included 80 bishops and some 300,000 American Catholics who signed petitions of protest.
Remarking that “the pastoral realities of any country are best known by the local bishops,” Archbishop Chaput said Catholic frustration with the university’s action in honoring Obama had nothing to do with “whether he is a good or bad man” and everything to do with his “deeply troubling views on abortion law and related social issues.”
Meanwhile, things are rapidly coming to a head in Congress over health care reform in general and the issue of abortion coverage in particular.
President Obama has promised that there will be no government funding of abortion and any reform program will include a conscience clause allowing abortion opponents to opt out. But the key legislative proposals in play at present provide for abortion funding and have no conscience clause.
Will Obama deliver on his promises or will he not? Time is running out. Maybe those Catholics who are eager to pay homage to our pro-abortion president — including those at the Vatican — should wait to see what actually happens. Unless, like the Nobel committee, they think promises without performance are good enough.
Russell Shaw is an OSV contributing editor.
OSV: You have said that you cannot write any more vampire books but that you could never renounce your earlier works because they were so much a part of you. Can you talk about that?
Rice: I really don't have any more stories to tell from the point of view of the vampires, because faith did come back to me and I felt that I found what those characters were always searching for. When faith came back, I wanted to write a new kind of fiction, a different kind of fiction, a fiction that I could dedicate directly to God. I would not go back to writing from the point of view of the vampires because the metaphors don't work for me anymore. I feel I live now in a universe in which salvation is a possibility for everyone. The promise is there for everyone. So the dark fictional world of the vampire doesn't have any validity for me now. But I certainly don't want to renounce my earlier work, because I think it's a perfect reflection of the struggle I was engaged in. I was searching for God and not willing to make the leap. To turn on those books, to decide they weren't important now, would be completely dishonest because I think those books do mirror the search for God. I have no more stories to tell about Lestat. I love him. He is still part of me. He was my hero throughout the writing of the "Chronicles." I still think of him all the time and picture him all the time, but I have no more stories to tell. I'd like to think wherever he is, he's finding what I found.
Click HERE to read the full interview. And, if you're interested in the pop culture fascination with vampires, from Dracula to Edward Cullen, click HERE to read what the experts have to say in "Drawn to the Undead."
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Pray the Devil Back to Hell is an award-winning documentary about the absolute courage and determination of the Liberian women -- both Christian and Muslim -- who together prayed and silently protested the tragic civil war that was tearing their country apart. Dressed in white and armed only with their voices and their unity, they helped bring about a peace agreement that eventually led to democratic elections in 2006. These women are a living testament to the power of prayer, the power of sacrifice, and the power of ultimate faith in humanity.
Check out the trailer and look for a screening in your region.
h/t to my friends on the Catholic writers listserv for spreading the word on this.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Time magazine also takes a stab at this subject in a feature this week. Here's a snippet from the article by Gilbert Cruz:
"Many Catholic schools, however, are following in the steps of their public brethren and trying to survive by changing the way they do business. Mandating that students work to pay off tuition, forging partnerships with philanthropists and foundations, converting to charter schools, and taking control away from pastors and putting it in the hands of lay experts — these are just some of the ways dioceses (essentially a church district) are hoping to stem the school-closure tide, which has reached worrisome proportions in America's urban areas, where close to half of all parochial schools are located.You can read Time's full take on Catholic schools by clicking HERE.
"'We have no choice,' says the Rev. Timothy Scully, CSC, founder of the University of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education, a sort of Catholic version of Teach for America, which trains college grads to work in underserved parochial schools. 'We either reinvent ourselves or I don't see how we don't ultimately disappear from America's inner cities. The model upon which we were founded was so different, both from a cost and supply side.'"
Monday, October 12, 2009
The dresses are micro-minis. The tights have been transformed into thigh-high fishnets. Usually the midriffs are bare and the necklines are plunging. And we wonder why our kids are so sexually advanced. Gee, I can't imagine where they'd get an overly sexualized view of themselves.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Today's announcement that President Barack Obama had been chosen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize created quite a buzz on both sides of the proverbial aisle. Questions about what it means to win this award and what is required to secure the honor erupted on FaceBook and Twitter and across breakfast tables and office cubicles. Even the president himself seemed surprised by the announcement.
"To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize, men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace," he said in remarks today.
Of the "transformative figures" who have received the award in the past, Blessed Mother Teresa was perhaps one of the most inspiring choices. The selection of the holy woman of Calcutta was controversial in its own right but for wholly different reasons than today's announcement. When Mother Teresa went on to accept the award in Oslo -- forgoing the traditional banquet and asking that her award money be given to the poor of India -- she lived up to the controversy, offering an address that was stunning in its boldness.
"The greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing - direct murder by the mother herself. And we read in the Scripture, for God says very clearly: Even if a mother could forget her child - I will not forget you - I have carved you in the palm of my hand. We are carved in the palm of His hand, so close to Him that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God. And that is what strikes me most, the beginning of that sentence, that even if a mother could forget something impossible - but even if she could forget - I will not forget you. And today the greatest means - the greatest destroyer of peace is abortion. And we who are standing here - our parents wanted us. We would not be here if our parents would do that to us. Our children, we want them, we love them, but what of the millions. Many people are very, very concerned with the children in India, with the children in Africa where quite a number die, maybe of malnutrition, of hunger and so on, but millions are dying deliberately by the will of the mother. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today. Because if a mother can kill her own child - what is left for me to kill you and you kill me - there is nothing between," she said.
Her message of total and unconditional love of neighbor, for a peace that must begin in the home and move ever outward, was Gospel preaching at its best. There, before all the world, the tiny but powerful Missionary of Charity proclaimed the message of Jesus Christ as the modern world had never seen or heard it before.
"And we read that in the Gospel very clearly - love as I have loved you - as I love you - as the Father has loved me, I love you - and the harder the Father loved him, he gave him to us, and how much we love one another, we, too, must give each other until it hurts. It is not enough for us to say: I love God, but I do not love my neighbor. St. John says you are a liar if you say you love God and you don't love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live. And so this is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. It hurt Jesus to love us, it hurt him. And to make sure we remember his great love he made himself the bread of life to satisfy our hunger for his love. Our hunger for God, because we have been created for that love. We have been created in his image. We have been created to love and be loved, and then he has become man to make it possible for us to love as he loved us. He makes himself the hungry one - the naked one - the homeless one - the sick one - the one in prison - the lonely one - the unwanted one - and he says: You did it to me. Hungry for our love, and this is the hunger of our poor people. This is the hunger that you and I must find, it may be in our own home."
I had the honor and privilege of meeting Mother Teresa once, ever so briefly, at St. Patrick's Cathedral years ago when I was a reporter for Catholic New York. I visited her mission in the South Bronx, too, witnessing for an afternoon the life-saving ministries her sisters provide. Her life's work was one continuous mission of peace. On a day like today, it's good to remember that, with or without international recognition, there are courageous and faith-filled people who are doing the real work of peace on behalf of the rest of us.
To read Mother Teresa's full address, click HERE.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Slipped ever so casually into a New York Times profile on Dr. Francis Collins, the new director of the National Institutes of Health, is this stunning and not-so-objective example of reporting:
"First, there is the God issue. Dr. Collins believes in him. Passionately. And he preaches about his belief in churches and a best-selling book. For some presidential appointees, that might not be a problem, but many scientists view such outspoken religious commitment as a sign of mild dementia."Excuse me. Rewind the tape, please. Did the New York Times just say that people who believe in God and talk about it have dementia?
In an otherwise unremarkable profile, this offhand remark, which is never backed up by anything that could even remotely be considered "evidence," is included as part of a discussion on whether Dr. Collins, who happens to be Christian, could possibly handle the reins of NIH and believe in God at the same time. Quoted in the article is another doctor who says that Dr. Collins' two-year search for God after being questioned by a patient about his beliefs and his conclusion that yes, there is a God, is "enough to cause concern."
Dr. Collins, unfortunately, supports "therapeutic cloning," which is probably the only reason the Times didn't complete discredit him and his beliefs. Well, that and the fact that he drives a Harley and plays guitar with rock stars. In other words: He may be crazy but at least he's cool. Glad the Times reporter knows what's important. Read the full profile HERE.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Pilgrimage is something that appeals to me more and more these days. I am taken with the idea of making a physical pilgrimage to some beautiful, far-away place, something I have not yet had an opportunity to do. But I am also very much aware of the ongoing interior pilgrimage that is meant to be part of our faith journey whether we ever get to Assisi or the Holy Land or wherever it is we long to go.
For now, I am making a vicarious pilgrimage through the words of friend and fellow author Michael Scaperlanda, the Edwards Family Chair in Law and professor of law at the University of Oklahoma, who is right now walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (The Way of St. James). Pilgrims have been walking the Camino for more than 1,000 years. Reading bits and pieces from Michael's journal posted on his blog HERE gives me glimpses of the joys and challenges -- both physical and spiritual -- that he faces as he covers 500 miles in 33 days.
In a post called "A typical day on the Camino," Michael writes:
"In the morning there are those who get up before the lights come on and attempt to pack their packs by flashlight. We leave just before or just after daybreak and eat breakfast at a bar/cafe or food purchased the night before or in one case so far the albergue provided us breakfast. After a day and a half of walking with others, I have walked alone with limited conversation during the day except to exchange pleasantries or to be checked on by others or to check on them. By now, most of us have some ailment - blisters, bad knees, hurting shoulders, chafing.
"I would guess that over half the people doing the Camino came alone and walk alone. Some walking groups have been formed here (like the one I had the first day and a half), there are some couples, some parents and adult children, cousins and friends. Some have come just for a week or two and will complete the journey in future years. Others, as I mentioned, have walked from their houses in Germany and France. During the day, I´ll see people I know several times a day as I pass them or they pass me as we take different breaks. Sometimes there will be a communal picnic of a small group or a small group will gather for coffee or lunch on they way.Michael is no stranger to pilgrimage. He and his wife, Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda, wrote a book about the pilgrim experience, The Journey: A Guide for the Modern Pilgrim, which is a joy to read even if you have no plans to pack a knapsack and head for the long and winding pilgrimage road.
"...An hour or two after I start walking, I usually stop to take off my boots and pray morning prayer. Yesterday, I sat beside a Roman road just up from the Roman bridge we crossed, reminding me as I prayed that the pilgrims over the last 1000 years were traveling roads created by the Romans long before. In the afternoon - usually when I am tired in the last 5K, I pray the rosary and offer a decade for each of my four children and for my wife. I have also started offering the day for a different people. Yesterday it was my family of origin, today it was for a group of men and woman who suffer the terrible affliction of addiction. I don´t know who or what will be pressed upon my heart tomorrow."
Check out Michael's ongoing journal from the Camino, by clicking HERE. And then think about the pilgrimages you may be able to make today or tomorrow or next year. Maybe not to Spain or Italy or Jerusalem, but to pilgrim places within your own community or diocese, or maybe even just within your own heart. If there is one thing I'm beginning to learn from my own interior pilgrimage and from friends like Maria and Michael who have shared their pilgrim wisdom, it's that we don't have to travel around the world to find the paths that will lead us -- step by step -- closer to God, closer to home.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Someone I know pretty well, a doctoral candidate in philosophy, has lately been doing editorial work for an encyclopedia in order to to earn money on the side. When she’s engaged in that activity, she keeps at hand a stout dictionary published in 1911.
Someone I know pretty well, a doctoral candidate in philosophy, has lately been doing editorial work for an encyclopedia in order to to earn money on the side. When she’s engaged in that activity, she keeps at hand a stout dictionary published in 1911.
That’s no surprise to me. When doing editing of my own, I fairly often refer to a large, comprehensive dictionary — a volume so heavy you can hardly lift it — that came out in 1919. For routine checking I use the same dictionary I used in college.
But I hear someone clearing his throat and getting ready to say, “You and the doctoral candidate should get new dictionaries. Don’t you know the language changes? How can you make do with dictionaries published fifty or a hundred years ago?”
Yes, I know the language changes. Many new words — that ugly neologism “blogosphere” for instance — have entered into English in just the last few years. But the continuity of our language is vastly more important than its constant flux. That’s why dictionaries, whether old or new, that shed light on the state of the language in the past are so important. Really to know what a word means now, you need to know what it meant long ago. Often that old meaning will tell you something useful, even necessary, about the new.
Lately I’ve been working on a modern English version of an early work by St. Thomas More. Not surprisingly, the pre-Elizabethan senses of words that More uses — “virtue” for example — time and again provide information essential to someone attempting to capture his meaning in today’s English.
Words are multi-layered links to the tradition and should be pondered and cultivated as such. Presently I’m puzzling over More’s repeated use of the word “cunning.” Today that means something like cleverness or slyness. But when I consult my big 1919 dictionary, I learn that in More’s day “cunning” suggested the esoteric knowledge of magic and alchemy. That tells me something crucial about the point he’s making in the volume I’m working on. Now all I have to do is find an acceptable modern equivalent.
Or, moving from present to past, consider the word “blog” as in blogosphere. Blog is a contraction of web log. And “log,” according to a mini-essay in the big dictionary, is the name of a primitive navigational device used a millennium or more ago by Danish and Swedish sailors. Later, by extension, it came to signify the record of a voyage. I don’t know about you, but I find it stirring to learn that one of our Internet terms was first used by Scandinavian seafarers in the Middle Ages.
So much of the contemporary ethos expresses a born yesterday mindset. If something isn’t brand-new, it must be valueless. But that is a stunted, and sometimes dangerous, way of thinking. If we don’t learn from the past, what we do learn lacks a vital dimension. Our culture desperately needs to understand that.
So does our Church. The Second Vatican Council, as Pope Benedict keeps pointing out, was not a repudiation of the Christian past but a link in a chain that joins the past, present and future of Christianity. And although I’m not a great Latin Mass enthusiast myself, I can understand the fundamental point being made by those who are: Language has an essential role in keeping us in living contact with the tradition. When we begin to lose sight of that, we’re in serious trouble. Would anybody care to borrow my dictionary?
Sunday, October 4, 2009
I was recently drafted onto my parish's Vocations Committee and decided to join the group for its monthly holy hour for vocations. As we prayed the Rosary in our parish chapel, with various people leading each decade as in the norm, something far outside the norm occurred. I have to admit that I was taken aback by it and still find myself replaying it in my head trying to figure it out.
As we got around to the fifth decade, an older woman a few rows ahead took the lead. I found myself silently startled as she prayed the Hail Mary using the wrong words. I shook it off, attributing it to some sort of brain freeze on her part, and figured we'd resume the normal praying with the next Hail Mary. Wrong. If this was a brain freeze, it was a decade-long freeze. Either that or it was a conscious decision to rewrite this beloved prayer and force the rest of us to come along for the ride.
Here's how her version of the Hail Mary went:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with US.
Blessed is the fruit of your woman, Jesus.
Is it my imagination or did she just demote Mary? In her version of the prayer, Mary no longer has the Lord with her and she is no longer blessed among women.
Now, I have a hard enough time praying the Rosary without this kind of distraction. I found myself trying to race through the correct version of the prayer in my head in time to join the group at the half. Out of the corner of my eye I could see several other women in the back rows looking around for a ref to call a foul. It really was one of the strangest prayer experiences I've had in recent memory. It amazes me when someone decides to use a moment of public prayer to make a personal statement, causing an entire chapel full of people to lose sight of what they were doing -- praying the Rosary for vocations -- and focus instead on the actions of a single person.
So what do you think? Have you heard someone mangle the Hail Mary repeatedly in this fashion before? Is it a slip of the tongue or a not-so-hidden agenda?
Friday, October 2, 2009
If your weekend plans include taking in a movie, be sure to read the fine print. Perhaps you've already seen the commercials and trailers for The Invention of Lying, a Warner Bros. film written by and starring avowed atheist Ricky Gervais. What you probably haven't seen is any sign of the film's real message, which, according to a USCCB review, is a blasphemous attack on God and an insult to people of faith.
"Though its trailer gives no clue as to its true agenda, this venomous supposed comedy is set in a world where lying is unknown and every word spoken is accepted as truth and where -- not accidentally, the screenplay implies -- God does not exist. Until, that is, failed documentary screenwriter and all-around loser Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) spontaneously discovers the ability to deceive," writes John Mulderig of the USCCB's Office of Film & Broadcasting.Mulderig gave the film an O rating -- morally offensive -- due to "pervasive blasphemy, some sexual humor and references, and a few rough and crude terms." Read his full review by clicking HERE.
"...Gervais, who co-wrote and co-directed with Matthew Robinson, launches an all-out, sneering assault on the foundations of religious faith such as has seldom if ever been seen in a mainstream film, despicably belittling core Judeo-Christian beliefs. Not only Catholics but believers of every stripe and, indeed, people of good will generally will be well-advised to shun this calculated cinematic insult."
Thursday, October 1, 2009
1. Preparations begin for a new Roman Missal
2. Catholic leaders optimistic about Obama plan
3. Exploring the roots of marital infidelity
4. ‘Grunt padre’ Capodanno brought holiness to the battlefield
5. Torn asunder Are you a Catholic uniter or divider?
6. A lion’s lessons Kennedy was a man of lost opportunity.
7. U.S. bishops, fact-checkers contradict Obama's health reform claims on abortion This news analysis was cited in a front-page story of The New York Times.
8. What’s behind the revival of indulgences
9. (un)Common good Why are the U.S. bishops pushing health care for illegal immigrants?
10. Top 10 reasons you should become a catechist