Thursday, December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas!

O magnum mysterium et admirabile sacramentum
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum
iacentem in praesepio.
Natum vidimus et chorus angelorum
collaudantes Dominum. Alleluia

O great mystery and wonderful sacrament,
that beasts should see the newborn Lord
lying in a manger.
The newborn we have seen and a chorus of angels
praising the Lord. Alleluia

Quem vidistis pastores?
Dicite, annunciate nobis quis apparuit?
Natum vidimus et chorus angelorum
collaudantes Dominum. Alleluia

Whom have you seen, shepherds?
Speak, tell us who has appeared?
The newborn we have seen and a chorus of angels
praising the Lord. Alleluia
Let us enter into the mystery and allow our whole selves to be transformed by its wonder and message.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Reflecting on Christmas

O admirabile commercium:
creator generis humani,
animatum corpus sumens
de virgine nasci dignatus est;
et, precedens homo sine semine,
largitus est nobis suam Deitatem.

O wonderful gift:
the creator of the human race,
taking our flesh upon him,
deigns to be born of a virgin;
and, coming forth without seed of man,
bestows his Divinity upon us.
Growing up, I loved Christmas primarily because of the gifts that I received. But what is the spiritual significance of Christmas? What is the real gift? Well, I knew Christmas to be Christ's birthday - but is that all it is? A birthday? Absolutely not. Some mock the Catholic disposition toward the baby Jesus. They ask,
On your birthday, do you get out all of your baby pictures? Of course not. You're an adult now! So why do you Catholics still have Jesus in the crib on His birthday?
Yes, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. But celebrating the birth of Christ is no mere birthday. Rather, it is the celebration of an event, and that event is God taking on human flesh and becoming a human child, being born of a Virgin. This is the Son of God in full humility. Christmas is therefore a recalling to mind of the awesome beauty and mystery of the Incarnation. This is what the baby Jesus represents - the fruit of the most extraordinary event in human history. The true gift. O admirabile commercium!
For me life is Christ

If you have met Christ, live Christ, live with Christ! Proclaim it in the first person, as genuine testimony: "For me life is Christ." That is true liberation: to proclaim Jesus free of ties, present in men and women, transformed, made new creatures. Why instead at times does our testimony seem to be in vain? Because we present Jesus without the full seductive power of his person, without revealing the treasures of the sublime ideal inherent in following him; and because we are not always successful in demonstrating conviction, translated into living terms, regarding the extaordinary value of the gift of ourselves to the ecclesial cause we serve.

Brothers and sisters: it is important that men see in us dispensers of the mysteries of God, credible witnesses of his presence in the world. We frequently remember that God, when he calls us, asks for not only one part of our person but all our person and all our vital energies, so that we may announce to men the joy and peace of a new life in Christ, and guide them to a meeting with him. So let it be our first concern to seek the Lord, and, once we have met him, to observe where and how he lives, by being with him all day. Being with him, in a special way, in the Eucharist, where Christ gives himself to us; and in prayer, through which we give ourselves to him. The Eucharist must be performed and extended into our daily actions as a "sacrifice of praise." In prayer, in the trusting contact with God our Father, we can discern better where our strengths and weaknesses are, because the Spirit comes to our aid. The same Spirit speaks to us and slowly immerses us in the divine mysteries, in God's design of love for humanity, which he realizes through our willingness to serve him.

Pope John Paul II, January 26, 1979
In peace, this Christmas, let us each rise to the challenge of these words.

Monday, December 22, 2003


The earthquake rattled us quite a bit here in Santa Barbara, but there does not appear to be any substantial damage here or injuries as are reported in Paso Robles. This was a pretty long earthquake. It had to have lasted about 30 seconds, definitely the longest quake I remember.
Drop down dew, ye heavens

I had a pretty busy week last week! Work deadlines have been approaching quickly, and on top of it all, I came down with a nasty cold last Tuesday. Thankfully, it's just about run its course. One of the big projects that I've been working on is my presentation for the Texas Instruments Developer's Conference in Houston this coming February. I am a speaker this year along with a coworker. I'm really excited - I've decided to turn it into a mini-vacation and take a weekend to visit a few of the sites in Houston, particularly Our Lady of Walsingham as well as the NASA Johnson Space Center. But now is the precipice of celebration, for behold, the Lord comes quickly:
Sound the trumpet in Sion,
for the day of the Lord is nigh:
behold, He cometh for our salvation.
The crooked shall be made straight:
and the rough places plain:
come, O Lord, and be not tardy. Alleluia.

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above
and let the clouds pour down righteousness:
let the earth open and bring forth the saviour.
Show us Thy mercy, O Lord,
and grant us Thy salvation:
come, O Lord, and be not tardy. Alleluia.
I'll be taking the one-hour drive north to the quaint and holy village of Santa Maria to spend Christmas with my parents and see some old friends.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Catch Big Fish

It's no Lord of the Rings, but another Tim Burton film is coming out soon. It's called Big Fish. This one intrigues me because portions of it are filmed in my birth city, Montgomery, Alabama, as well as the small rural Alabama town of Tallassee, just outside of Montgomery, where my mother and most of her family are from. I learned about it last March when I was visiting Tallassee, but at the time, I didn't figure the film would be anything spectacular. Alabama is beautiful, and Tallassee is the quintessential backwoods, Alabama town. And when I learned that it was going to be directed by Tim Burton, I thought to myself, Edward Scissorhands in Tallassee? Hmm... That's a bit like Battlestar Gallactica docking in Mayberry, USA - in front of Floyd's Barber Shop, no less.

View the trailer.

Friday, December 12, 2003

So Often My Muse

Scientific assistant, Victim

Ah, poor, misunderstood Beaker... say it like it is...
And for Advent...

Be a Sower of God's Peace during this Advent and Christmas season with resources from USCCB Publishing. Calendars, blessings, prayers, and of course, gifts.

Luke 1, 46-55

Magnificat anima mea Dominum,
et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salvatore meo,
quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae.
Ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes,
quia fecit mihi magna, qui potens est, et sanctum nomen eius,
et misericordia eius in progenies et progenies timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo,
dispersit superbos mente cordi sui;
deposuit potentes de sede et exaltavit humiles;
esurientes implevit bonis et divites dimisit inanes.
Suscepit Israel puerum suum,
recordatus misericordiae,
sicut locutus est ad patres nostros,
Abraham et semini eius in saecula.

My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden:
for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strength with his arm;
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
The timeless prayer of the Blessed Virgin.

Monday, December 08, 2003

In Conceptione Immaculata Beatae Mariae Virginis

A Blessed Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary!
Ad Introitum

Isaiah 61:10
Gaudens gaudebo in Domino, et exsultabit anima mea in Deo meo:
quia induit me vestimentis salutis: et indumento iustitiae circumdedit me,
quasi sponsam ornatam monilibus suis.

Psalm 29, 2
Exaltabo te, Domine, quoniam suscepisti me:
nec delectasti inimicos meos super me.

Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum.

Benedicta es tu, Virgo Maria, a Domino Deo excelso, prae omnibus mulieribus super terram.
A celebration of a dogma that I have always found most interesting. The dogmatic declaration includes:
We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.
A beautiful explanation of the workings of grace by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ. It is an understanding that had been developing for centuries based on the full and complete revelation given in Jesus Christ and directly related to the development of the notion of original sin. Of course, the Western expression of original sin is what has always made this declaration, superficially, a tough pill for the Christians of the Eastern churches to swallow. But it has not been an insurmountable obstacle for those who are willing to dig into the meaning of the theological language used in both the West and the East and, in a sense, translate it. I'm thankful for the exposure I have had in recent years to Eastern Catholics who have helped me understand the Catholic Faith as it is expressed in the East, the same faith that comes to us from Christ and the Apostles.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

By grace enliven us in our realm

That we may serve Thee readily, O Lord.
Versa est in luctum cithara mea, et organum in vocem flentium.
Parce mihi Domine nihil enim sunt dies mei.

My harp is turned to mourning and my music into the voice of those that weep.
Spare me, O Lord, for my days are as nothing.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Ancient Inclusive Language?

I'm a fool for rare liturgical books from our church's past. A year ago, I got my hands on a copy of the second edition of William Maskell's The Ancient Liturgy of the Church of England According to the Uses of Sarum, Bangor, York, and Hereford and the Modern Roman Liturgy, published 1846. Basically it's a comparison between the ancient liturgical uses in England prior to the Council of Trent together with the codified Tridentine liturgy, all in parallel columns. The use of Sarum (ancient Salisbury) being the most well known in England at the time. These English uses were also unique in that they often employed inclusive language. When, in the Tridentine liturgy, the priest would implore the prayers of those present that the sacrifice be acceptable to God, he would say:
Orate fratres ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile fiat apud Deum Patrem omnipotentem.
My Translation: Pray, brothers, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Almighty Father.
but in the uses of Sarum and Bangor, the priest would say:
Orate fratres et sorores pro me ut meum pariterque vestrum acceptum sit Domino Deo sacrificium.
My Translation: Pray, brothers and sisters, for me that my sacrifice and, at the same time (in the same way), yours may be acceptable to the Lord God.
The use at York renders it:
Orate fratres et sorores pro me peccatore ut meum pariterque vestrum...
The custom of saying et sorores (and sisters) does not seem to have ever been a part of the Roman Rite liturgy in Latin, though in English, at least in the United States, the General Instruction has permitted the priest to say brothers and sisters to convey the inclusive sense of fratres.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope you all had a good holiday with family and friends. I had a good time - pretty low key. Next year, however, I'm going to try to get free-range turkey without added hormones. I've been having some extreme reactions! Aside from being put into a coma-like sleep after every meal, I wake up with problems that last through the day. It makes me thankful that I do have a meal and a choice in what I eat, but so many people don't that choice. The Catholic Charities in Santa Maria, like every year, spends the day giving out free turkeys and meals to the poor. I think next year I may spend some time helping them.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

An Unjust Law

Church asks courts to be absolved of contraceptive law

Bill notes:
... the ACLU says it must defend the rights of individuals who choose to work for the Catholic Church, and not the rights of Catholic institutions. Catholic institutions have no rights. The state is almighty.
The ACLU should not be able to coerce Catholic organizations into acting against their conscience, against the principles of their mission, and employees who disagree with these beliefs certainly aren't forced to work for the Church to serve the poor if they have problems with particular policies they disagree with. Furthermore, the ACLU should not attempt to discredit Catholics by painting us as being anti-woman just because we don't agree that artificial contraception and abortion are pro-woman. Can the Catholic Church and organizations such as Catholic Charities, one of the largest charitable organizations in the country, no longer serve the poor unless they compromise what they believe?

But if the state has the power here, then what can the Church do? The state can protect confidentiality between a doctor and patient, between an attorney and client, but confidentiality within the confessional between priest and penitent is under attack. A similar issue is whether the state can force Catholic hospitals into offering abortion services. This issue is catching fire, particularly here in California. The Catholic Church has always been counter-cultural, and it has never been too afraid to stand up for its principles - to defend the poor, the unborn, the oppressed - even in spite of its failings. Yet Catholics have always been a part of this world - challenging it, engaging it, transforming it through Christ's commission. What did Christ say?
You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

The Gospel of Matthew 5:13-16
Such is the grace of God given in Christ that empowers us and enables us to perform deeds that serve the least among us and glorify God.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Turkey and Gravy

... flavored soda.

For when you can't get a real turkey this Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Viva Cristo Rey

Have a blessed feast of the Lord Jesus Christ, the King.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

All Language, Inclusive and Exclusive

Tom over at Disputations has an interesting point:
"I don't care who does the distinguishing," said famed Sixteenth Century nominalist Tweedius Magnus, "as long as I get to do the defining."

"Inclusive language" advocates have the advantage that they invented the debate, and so got to invent the terminology in which the debate is framed.

Thus: "Exclusive language" gets to mean "speech that uses certain words in an inclusive sense." "Inclusive language" means "speech that uses those words only in an exclusive sense."

"Exclusive language" refers to inclusive language. "Inclusive language" refers to exclusive language. It's just one of those things.
My question is: Can humans actively control linguistic evolution themselves or is it something that happens passively, meaning that there is no act of force or strong encouragement? If I declare that wizziput means the act of driving to work and I strongly encourage others to use that term, and let's say others do start using it and encourage others to do it, will wizziput be a commonly accepted term in 100 years? Rather, let's say I simply make up wizziput as my own word and others begin using it just by being around my usage with no active encouragement on my part, and so on and so forth, will wizziput be a commonly accepted term in 100 years any better or worse than if I were to have strongly encouraged or even coerced people to use it?
Good Latin poetry

If only English were Latin :)
Amore Aeger
a Jeff Chambers

Clemente, clemente, Carissima mea,
Responde mihi quam clementissime possis.
Manu grave amor me opprimit,
Me contundit; quam diu ferre possum?

Tacui nimis diu, ut ne fregeres cor meum;
Quoniam nos scivi impossibiles fuisse.
Sed nunc in pectore meo tumet mea confessionis,
Rumpendum est cor illud.

Atque per dentes compressos Atlas grunniebat,
Atque ego aveo ut expirem,
Utinam denuo spirarem,
Confessione dimissa, sine angore.

Nolo praeterire spem reliquam,
Amare et amari,
Videlicet, pono Cupidum benignus esse,
Satis benignus ut iceret utrasque personas ipissime.

Quamvis cor meum ita velit,
Timeo ne dolorem quem exhalem,
Sit minus quam dolorem,
Quem inspirem quando respondes.

Quare, quicquid in tibi animo est,
Affectus germanos dice,
Sed clemente, clemente, Carissima mea,
Responde mihi quam clementissime possis.
Or, the English translation.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Richard McBrien at VOTF

He's way over the top here.
Is there a double standard at work here? Organizations that have a largely moderate or progressive membership --- no more "moderate" and "progressive" than Vatican II itself, however --- are circumscribed, while organizations whose views are closer to the defeated minority's at the council, but which currently enjoy Vatican favor, are given a free pass.
Not quite so.
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has also entered the fray. According to Brophy, the cardinal is concerned that "any change" in the church would, "unless carefully thought out, change the faith."

But no specific examples are provided. Are we talking here about obligatory celibacy for priests, which has absolutely nothing to do with "the faith"? Or perhaps about changing the process by which bishops are selected? Again, "the faith" is not touched.
I think VOTF would do well to give specific examples itself. I've seen a couple specific solutions in the local VOTF group here, but I have also seen an awful lot of ambiguity in its direction and mission, couched language, and general disdain for certain doctrinal issues and how they pertain to their mission. That is largely what turned me off to the group.
Purgatory Revisted

Fr. Ron Rolheiser has written about his understanding of Purgatory a few times, and he revisits the topic here. He rightly describes Purgatory as a process of grace, and basically describes it as the painful experience of being in Heaven while still having the draw of our earthly attachment and Heaven, by its nature, having the purgative effect of grace, enabling the dead to truly enter it. He suggests an interesting point that our prayer for the dead should reflect their embracing of Heaven and our desire to see them there:
Purgatory is the pain of letting go of this life in order to live in the next. That's not an abstract concept... More immediately after their deaths, [the dead] still want and need our former contact. Slowly, though, as time passes, our prayers must more and more invite the ascension and must work at freeing both them and us from how we once had each other ("Do not cling! Let the old ascend!").

Eventually our prayers must give our loved ones permission to be free from how things used to be with us and the world, so that they can enter fully into that final ecstasy of love which, though dimly glimpsed in faith, is beyond our imaginings and which we too will one day enter, though only after having --- through purgative pain --- ourselves let go of the marvels of earthly, natural life, with all its wonderful tangible solidity.
This is an interesting concept. So often, when I pray for my loved ones who have died, or when I ask the saints to pray for me, I have trouble relating to them beyond mere human, mere earthly ways. If the saints are in heaven, and their relationship with God is perfect, then our relationship with them is also transformed beyond what we would have experienced on earth. My prayer should reflect this - instead of holding them down to me (how I once knew them), I should let the holiness and grace of Christ they now manifest humble me and draw me toward Heaven (how I am to know them now).
The Council of Trent

The 25 Sessions with Bulls and Oration

For our education and edification!

Monday, November 17, 2003

Our Lady of Walsingham

Bill notes that the new church building of Houston's only Roman Catholic parish of the Anglican Use, Our Lady of Walsingham, is complete. A couple of pictures have been posted on their website. I already love it. I wish it were out here in Santa Barbara. :)

Fr. James Moore, the pastor, issued a corresponding pastoral letter to the parish:
I know that you agree with me when I say how truly blessed we are to have the new church. We heartily welcome all who come to offer Holy Mass with us both now and in the future in this holy place which we offer to the glory of Jesus Christ our Lord and God, and to the honor of His Blessed Mother, Mary of Walsingham.

As we begin to worship in the new church we of course want to remember that the main purpose of a Catholic church building is to enshrine God's holy altar and the tabernacle which contains his Divine Presence under the form of the Bread which is His Body. Therefore, we will always want to keep the new church a reverent, quiet, and prayerful place.
Of course it is also the place where the faithful come together to worship at God's holy altar. I only wish that the pastor of the university parish I attended for seven years, St. Mark's, had said similar things when the renovation of the church building was completed! But of course, these two communites are noticeably worlds apart from each other. I respect that St. Mark's offers something to people, primarily students and young adults, that is, for many of them, their first, real experience of a cohesive community of faith. I appreciated it myself immediately after I entered the church because, let's face it, the Roman Catholic Church is large, and when you're away from home, it's easy to feel lost. But I noticed that as my spiritual life developed, I began to see a lot of things lacking - things that St. Mark's could not provide. Now, I feel a lot more confident approaching the larger church in its global context than I used to before.

But I love what little I have learned about the Anglican Use. Such parishes would not exist were it not for the Second Vatican Council.
Talks by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Listen to a good selection of talks in RealPlayer format by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, one of my favorite Catholic speakers.

Thanks to Notes to Myself...!

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Separation of Church and State?

My regional bishop, Bishop Thomas Curry, always has very good and interesting things to say regarding this issue. The Tidings just published his latest article:

Church and State: The separationists' coup
The First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting of the free exercise thereof?." The Constitution contains no mention of separation of Church and State.

Nevertheless, in one of the greatest coups in American history, "separationists" have managed to interpret that to mean that government has power to create a "wall of separation between Church and State," thus transforming the government of limited and specified powers guaranteed by the Founders into an all-powerful system that includes ultimate authority over both Church and State...

There can be no establishment of religion if the government has no power or jurisdiction over religious issues. If the government confines itself to its own limited secular sphere, people will enjoy the free exercise of their natural right to religious liberty, i.e., free from government interference. To claim that government is empowered to separate Church and State is to argue for an absolute State and to pose a dire threat to the liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Bishop Curry has spoken at length about this issue in the past, and I think he is always right on.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Online Videos from Catholic Communication Campaign

FYI: At the website for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, there are a number of brief streaming videos available from the Catholic Communication Campaign on various topics of interest to the Church, both nationally and internationally, such as ministry, seminary, ecumenism, Pope John Paul II, Steubenville Youth Conferences, and a bunch of other stuff...

... like this MediaPlayer clip about World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto (or in RealPlayer fmt) along with comments from the pope, from pilgrims there, and various scenes.

... and also, this MediaPlayer clip of the Easter Liturgy from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (or in Real Player fmt) that seems fairly well done. Whatever your opinion of the Cathedral's architecture, it is my opinion that one has to see the Cathedral in person to make a final judgement, because in my view, pictures have not been able to do it justice. Admittedly, the modern architecture isn't what I personally would have preferred, but after making a point to visit the Cathedral myself, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised, particularly at the attention to detail. I particularly liked the Crypt Chapel for St. Vibiana. Additionally, the mass I attended there, with my Archbishop, Roger Cardinal Mahony, as celebrant, was very reverent and very well done. But again, if you are ever in the area, I encourage you go to and see all of this for yourself and form your opinion accordingly.
New Bishops' Statements

Popular Devotional Practices: Questions and Answers - Interesting Q&A on the differences between liturgy and devotional practices, and their proper role in the life of Catholics in light of culture and other elements. Also includes an appendix articulating the use of indulgences attached to various devotional practices.

Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same-Sex Unions - An articulation of the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church with regard to marriage.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Reflections on the Dead

I often think of St. Perpetua's account of praying for her dead brother, Dinocrates, when I reflect on how God can at times give sudden impulses to pray for the dead. St. Perpetua was had been a catechumen in early 3rd century Rome. She was martyred in the Roman circus with St. Felicity and others. Interestingly, her brother, Dinocrates, died a pagan at the young age of seven. In The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity, written in approximately 202 AD, we find the account of Perpetua's martyrdom, along with visions she is alledged to have had. The story of these particular visions begins in Chapter 2, paragraph 3 with the first vision, a sad vision of suffering after death. The accounts are better understood in the context of the whole Martyrdom, but for brevity I will only examine the accounts themselves.
After a few days, whilst we were all praying, on a sudden, in the middle of our prayer, there came to me a word, and I named Dinocrates; and I was amazed that that name had never come into my mind until then, and I was grieved as I remembered his misfortune. And I felt myself immediately to be worthy, and to be called on to ask on his behalf. And for him I began earnestly to make supplication, and to cry with groaning to the Lord. Without delay, on that very night, this was shown to me in a vision. I saw Dinocrates going out from a gloomy place, where also there were several others, and he was parched and very thirsty, with a filthy countenance and pallid colour, and the wound on his face which he had when he died. This Dinocrates had been my brother after the flesh, seven years of age who died miserably with disease-his face being so eaten out with cancer, that his death caused repugnance to all men. For him I had made my prayer, and between him and me there was a large interval, so that neither of us could approach to the other. And moreover, in the same place where Dinocrates was, there was a pool full of water, having its brink higher than was the stature of the boy; and Dinocrates raised himself up as if to drink. And I was grieved that, although that pool held water, still, on account of the height to its brink, he could not drink. And I was aroused, and knew that my brother was in suffering. But I trusted that my prayer would bring help to his suffering; and I prayed for him every day until we passed over into the prison of the camp, for we were to fight in the camp-show. ... I made my prayer for my brother day and night...
Perpetua's story continues in paragraph 4 with a second vision, a happy vision of hope and of faithful answer to prayer:
Then, on the day on which we remained in fetters, this was shown to me. I saw that that place which I had formerly observed to be in gloom was now bright; and Dinocrates, with a clean body well clad, was finding refreshment. And where there had been a wound, I saw a scar; and that pool which I had before seen, I saw now with its margin lowered even to the boy's navel. And one drew water from the pool incessantly, and upon its brink was a goblet filled with water; and Dinocrates drew near and began to drink from it, and the goblet did not fail. And when he was satisfied, he went away from the water to play joyously, after the manner of children, and I awoke. Then I understood that he was translated from his suffering.
Now, as with all mystical visions, I don't interpret this story as being part of the fullness of revelation given in Christ, but I refer to it only because it has inspired christians not to forsake the connection between the living and the dead - a familial love that transcends physical life - in spite of the chasm or interval between the two states. This story also represents a little bit of the early church's developing understanding of purification after death. Perhaps it is implied that Dinocrates' suffering is due to the fact that he died a pagan and not a christian, though he was seven years of age, and had not had the opportunity to be baptized. The experience links with Perpetua's own understanding of her impending demise and the suffering that she regularly endured from endless persecution.

I also don't necessarily read this piece as an exact physical description of a place called Purgatory. Though the early christians regularly prayed for their dead and, as I said above, had an understanding of purification after death, at that time, the articulation of the state of translation that later came to be defined as Purgatory was only in its initial stages of development. Rather, as with any vision, I read it as an idea articulated through the use of various images that each contain various meanings. Even if Perpetua saw exactly what she described and believed it, it doesn't necessarily preclude the use of imagery, even in her own personal interpretation of the vision, which is often characteristic of the visions alledged by other saints concerning this and other subjects.

Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, pray for us.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Reflections on Abortion and Women's rights

On Sunday, Christina and I joined our friends down in front of Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara to pray the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy and the Rosary at 3pm, the hour of divine mercy. We prayed for an end to abortion, for all victims of abortion, including the women who are driven to them, the men who cooperate with them, and the children who die. We also prayed for Terri Schiavo. It was Sunday, of course, so the clinic was closed. I was also reflecting just on when, how, and why abortion became so intertwined with the women's movement, particularly in the United States, and I've often asked myself how it is in other countries.

Many of you know, and I've stated this many times on this blog, that, contrary to what we understand as the modern feminist movement within the United States, classical american feminism has always been consistently pro-life, viewing abortion as the ultimate form of oppression of women and children. Activists such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton successfully argued for the illegalization of abortion and abortifacient methods that were, at the time, very prevalent and fairly easily obtainable.

So what happened? As I understand it, building on a foundation influenced largely by eugenic and even Nazi philosophy, characters such as Margaret Sanger and her Birth Control Federation of America sought to introduce abortion into American society as a means of controlling birth rates among poor and disabled persons. It didn't have anything to do with empowering women or women not wanting their children. At least, not until the mid-20th-century. To cloud its ties to eugenics and nazi philosophy, the Birth Control Federation of America changed their name to Planned Parenthood. In the 1960's and early 1970's, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, cofounder of NARAL, helped to convince the media and the women's movement that abortion was somehow their issue, as he wrote in his Confession of an Ex-Abortionist:
We persuaded the media that the cause of permissive abortion was a liberal enlightened, sophisticated one. Knowing that if a true poll were taken, we would be soundly defeated, we simply fabricated the results of fictional polls. We announced to the media that we had taken polls and that 60% of Americans were in favour of permissive abortion. This is the tactic of the self-fulfilling lie. Few people care to be in the minority. We aroused enough sympathy to sell our program of permissive abortion by fabricating the number of illegal abortions done annually in the U.S. The actual figure was approaching 100,000 but the figure we gave to the media repeatedly was 1,000,000. Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public. The number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200-250 annually. The figure we constantly fed to the media was 10,000. These false figures took root in the consciousness of Americans convincing many that we needed to crack the abortion law. Another myth we fed to the public through the media was that legalising abortion would only mean that the abortions taking place illegally would then be done legally. In fact, of course, abortion is now being used as a primary method of birth control in the U.S. and the annual number of abortions has increased by 1500% since legalisation.

We systematically vilified the Catholic Church and its "socially backward ideas" and picked on the Catholic hierarchy as the villain in opposing abortion. This theme was played endlessly. We fed the media such lies as "we all know that opposition to abortion comes from the hierarchy and not from most Catholics" and "Polls prove time and again that most Catholics want abortion law reform". And the media drum-fired all this into the American people, persuading them that anyone opposing permissive abortion must be under the influence of the Catholic hierarchy and that Catholics in favour of abortion are enlightened and forward-looking. An inference of this tactic was that there were no non- Catholic groups opposing abortion. The fact that other Christian as well as non-Christian religions were {and still are) monolithically opposed to abortion was constantly suppressed, along with pro-life atheists' opinions.

A favourite pro-abortion tactic is to insist that the definition of when life begins is impossible; that the question is a theological or moral or philosophical one, anything but a scientific one. Foetology makes it undeniably evident that life begins at conception and requires all the protection and safeguards that any of us enjoy. Why, you may well ask, do some American doctors who are privy to the findings of foetology, discredit themselves by carrying out abortions? Simple arithmetic at $300 a time, 1.55 million abortions means an industry generating $500,000,000 annually, of which most goes into the pocket of the physician doing the abortion. It is clear that permissive abortion is purposeful destruction of what is undeniably human life. It is an impermissible act of deadly violence. One must concede that unplanned pregnancy is a wrenchingly difficult dilemma, but to look for its solution in a deliberate act of destruction is to trash the vast resourcefulness of human ingenuity, and to surrender the public weal to the classic utilitarian answer to social problems.
Dr. Nathanson admitted to having performed as many as 75,000 abortions, including the killing his own child. Soon, Planned Parenthood began to setup clinics, not in well-to-do areas, but in extremely poor areas of cities, areas with large minority populations. In many circles, abortion was and is seen as inseparable from the women's rights movement and, very frequently, an attack upon abortion is seen as an attack on women themselves. Susan B. Anthony has to be rolling in her grave.

Dr. Nathanson changed his mind on the issue of abortion and went on to become one of the leading pro-life activists in the United States, producing such famous films as The Silent Scream. He has also written a few insightful books detailing his testimony:
Aborting America
The Hand of God: A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind
Later, he was even baptized into the Roman Catholic Church.

We were duped in this nation. How have we become so blind? Why can there be no honest reflection and discussion? A little education can be a dangerous thing. Even when Norma McCorvey and Dr. Bernard Nathanson raise their voice, they are discredited by the women's movement as being kooks, against women, and out of step with America. Is this true? The pro-life movement within America has been gaining steam, though at times it seems like an uphill battle. Yet there is a lot of discouragement, particularly when individuals, particularly church leaders, shy away from confronting this issue. And we have Howard Dean who, as a physician, is proud to have sat on the board of Planned Parenthood in Vermont.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

An end to Partial Birth Abortion?

I've been praying many years to finally see this. But this comes with a firm warning. The battle has only just begun. It will be a vigorous fight in the courts to ensure that the dignity of women and children are respected.

There's too much rhetoric holding up the supporters of abortion. I think it's high time that there be a national discussion about abortion using scientific data. Is it not possible that when Roe Vs. Wade went through 30 years ago that perhaps, just perhaps, they didn't know enough how dangerous and oppressive abortion was to women? Let's examine the effects. Lay it all out on the table. And whatever doubts they may have had as to the start of human life, let's examine that question in light of today's medical science and fetology. There are some terrible inconsistencies. In one place, where a fetus is by all definitions a patient and a human being, a doctor can remove a child from the womb, successfully operate on him, and place him back into the womb. In another place, however, a child of the same stage of development is not a human being and can be torn from the womb and thrown away. I wonder, who is truly living in the past? Who isn't getting with the times? A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

And yet on CSPAN today, I see the usual suspects using the same rhetoric, accusing us of being against women's rights and against the constitution. My goodness - nobody should have the right to kill an innocent human being.

I confess that I am a little cynical that we in the United States of America have the moral fiber to see this through. We will have to pray unceasingly.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us sinners. Holy Innocents, pray for us.
TO THOSE WHO WERE ROBBED OF LIFE: the unborn, the weak,
the sick, the old, during the dark ages of madness,
selfishness, lust and greed for which the last decades
of the twentieth century are remembered....
     -C. Everett Koop, MD

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Reflections of Halloween in Isla Vista

Halloween in Isla Vista is a religious experience, for some. On every Halloween over the last couple of decades, Isla Vista, CA, the small college town next to UC Santa Barbara, where I was a student from 1996 through 2001, transforms itself into a pilgrimage site, drawing pilgrims from miles around. It turns into a truly magical scene, where alcohol flows down the streets as in the land of flowing milk and honey. Every year, thousands upon thousands flock to this little town and turn it upside down. Ten years ago, it got so bad that the local law enforcement decided that enough was enough. They implemented a 5-year plan to overrun Isla Vista with a massive police presence every Halloween in order to discourage pilgrims from venturing there in an attempt to reduce crime and chaos. It had been mildly effective, and after 5 years had passed, they extended it for another few years. Last Friday, however, around 50,000 people descended on the lowly streets of Isla Vista. 50,000 people.

To give you an idea as to some of the rediculousness that can occur when thousands of people congregate to party in the streets, check out the recent police blotter reported in UCSB's campus newspaper, the Daily Nexus. Note: The blotter does quote some four-letter words, so be fore-warned. I am not saying this was the way it was for everyone who came, but I think it illustrates the general scene fairly well. I haven't had a lot of reasons to venture into Isla Vista anymore since graduate school, though I have tried to be fairly vocal that something needs to be done. The town is full of crime, including burglary and rape, the streets are falling apart and poorly lit, and the air always seems saturated with stale beer. I feel bad, because in addition to the large young adult population in Isla Vista, it is also home to many hispanic families who cannot afford to live anywhere else in Santa Barbara, where the cost of living is quite high. To top that off, would you believe that there is a full retirement home in Isla Vista, surrounded by fraternities. All these different communites trying to live together.

Monday, November 03, 2003

All Souls Day

Bill Cork blogs about hearing a homily at his parish concerning Purgatory - the first homily he's ever heard on the subject in 11 years. I'd have to say that I have also never heard a homily preached about the beautiful and interesting subject of Purgatory. In explaining the concept to his son, Bill quotes Cardinal Ratzinger's book Eschatology which I also find to be a very good explanation:
Purgatory is not, as Tertullian thought, some kind of supra-worldly concentration camp where one is forced to undergo punishments in a more or less arbitrary fashion. Rather it is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God, and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints. Simply to look at people with any degree of realism at all is to grasp the necessity of such a process. It does not replace grace by works, but allows the former to achieve its full victory precisely as grace. What actually saves is the full assent of faith. But in most of us, that basic option is buried under a great deal of wood, hay and straw. Only with difficulty can it peer out from behind the latticework of an egoism we are powerless to pull down with our own hands. Man is the recipient of the divine mercy, yet this does not exonerate him from the need to be transformed. Encounter with the Lord is this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and re-forms us to be vessels of eternal joy.
Why is the topic approached with trepidation? What is there to be afraid of or embarrassed about?

Purgatory has often received a very negative rap. While I was a student at UC Santa Barbara, I was a member (and later convener for two years) of the UCSB Interfaith Council. It was a most awesome group, and we put together some very good discussions concerning topics of faith. One such topic concerned Heaven, Hell, and the Afterlife, as explored from Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, and Islam. I was pegged along with a friend to present the Catholic understanding of the subject, which in my mind, necessitates a discussion on Purgatory.

A few days prior to the event, I was approached by the assistant pastor of my university parish, who was actually the convener at that time, who asked me not to mention Purgatory at all, or at the very least, not give it much importance. I immediately responded that excluding a discussion of Purgatory would be a major disservice to those who came to hear the Catholic understanding of Heaven, Hell, and the Afterlife, because Purgatory has everything to do with our understanding of salvation, answering the call to holiness, and the goodness of God's grace. I explained that before I was a Catholic, I had many questions about Purgatory and, when I finally grasped it intellectually and spiritually, I found it to be something very beautiful, something that made sense. How could I deemphasize something so intrinsically Catholic? He reluctantly agreed. Afterward, I was approached by a Jewish friend of mine who thanked me for articulating something that she had never understood. She said she was glad she came.

Purgatory, of course, is a theological articulation applied to the workings of God's grace after death - something that is quite mysterious. But by bringing an emphasis to it, we remind ourselves not only of the goodness of God's grace for us in life as well as death, but also just how connected we are to all who have died in Christ. It is therefore always a very pious and holy thought to pray for the dead. Over the last six years that I have been Catholic, I have become very conscious of the dead. I remember them daily and offer prayer for them frequently. Today, I remembered expecially my grandfather who died in 1998, and my grandmother who died last May. I also remembered several dear friends of mine who have died. Lastly, I remembered a young woman, who died in 2001 shortly after the birth of her stillborn daughter, whom I never knew in life but over the passed year have felt inspired to offer prayer for. I'll speak more about that another time.
Eternal Father, I offer You the Most Precious Blood of Your Divine Son Jesus, in union with all the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Amen.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

All Saints, Great and Small

You will notice that I've added some images and links for St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Thomas More, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic in the right hand frame of my blog. While I have a great friendship with many saints, these are the ones with which I feel I have a special connection. I look to them for inspiriation and for prayer. I study their lives and their virtues. And I struggle to emulate their integrity, their humility, and their desire to serve God through their own talents. I added their images to my blog to serve as a constant reminder of their witness. Yes I know that two are Dominicans. :) That must mean something...
In Festo Omnium Sanctorum

Antiphona ad Introitum
Gaudeamus omnes in Domino, diem festum celebrantes
sub honore Sanctorum omnium: de quorum solemnitate
gaudent Angeli, et collaudant Filium Dei.

Ps. 32, 1
Exsultate, iusti, in Domino: rectos decet collaudatio.

Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum.

From the Office of Readings:
Christ, most kindly dweller
in the heavens above,
life of your saints, way to the Father,
hope that is ours, salvation of all:
in your great mercy,
accept the offering of praise
which we humbly bring in full sacrifice to you.

The choir of all the angels
blesses you endlessly
in high heaven above;
in harmony with them,
all of your saints together
heap high praise upon you.

Through the merits of Mary, Virgin blest
and of all the holy ones as well,
revoke the punishment,
O Faithful One,
which we have earned;
grant us your gracious healing instead.

Grant that we may proclaim
your praise here below,
so that, in full faithfulness to you,
we may continue it in the heavens,
endlessly singing songs of glory
to the Trinity on high.

Friday, October 31, 2003

On the darker side of things... Happy All Hallow's Even

Clan Ventrue
Old-fashioned and tradition-bound, the Ventrue are
sophisticated and genteel. They believe in good
taste above all else and work hard to make
their lives comfortable.

Vampires want you... which ones hunt you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Monday, October 27, 2003

Harrius Potter

Did you know that the Latin edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis, is available at It doesn't look like the latin is horribly complicated either, but don't quote me on that.
Caput Primum: Puer Qui Vixit

Dominus et Domina Dursley, qui vivebant in aedibus Gestationis Ligustrorum numero quattuor signatis, non sine superbia dicebant se ratione ordinaria vivendi uti neque se paenitere illius rationis. In toto orbe terrarum vix credas quemquam esse minus deditum rebus novis et arcanis, quod ineptias tale omnino spernebant.
Optimum est! This edition is most certainly for young students of Latin. Well, if your child can read Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis for fun, then concerns about your child's fascinations with wizardry should probably be the last thing on your mind. Give that child the Summa. Harry Potter controversialists aside, this is probably a fun read if you have reasonably good Latin proficiency!

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Where there's smoke, there's fire

I'm sure you readers have been reading about all of the wildfires out here in California. Because of the high winds, Santa Barbara has been filled with smoke from the fires in northern Ventura County for the last couple of days. It's a little difficult to breathe, and the air is very dry and hot. The smoke, being blown offshore toward the West, has made for some pretty amazing sunsets, though. This is nothing, however, like it is down in Los Angeles where the air is saturated with smoke from the San Bernadino region. Having lived in California for 15 years, I have seen some extraordinary fires - but these recent fires have affected me more closely. And they say the cause is most likely arson.

Friday, October 24, 2003

The Freedom of the English Church

Canterbury Cathedral

Being of English descent, I will forever find the study of English church history to be fascinating. Just studying about the life of one of my great friends, St. Thomas More, has introduced me to the richness and beauty of English Christianity.

When Henry VIII took upon himself the title Supreme Head of the Church in England, More refused to accept this title and later referred to both the Magna Carta of 1215 as well as Henry's coronation oath in 1509 to prove that, under English law, the immunity of the English Church was guaranteed.

The Magna Carta promised the following:
In the first place we have granted to God, and by this our present charter confirmed for us and our heirs forever that the English Church shall be free, and shall have her rights entire, and her liberties inviolate; and we will that it be thus observed; which is apparent from this that the freedom of elections, which is reckoned most important and very essential to the English Church, we, of our pure and unconstrained will, did grant, and did by our charter confirm and did obtain the ratification of the same from our lord, Pope Innocent III, before the quarrel arose between us and our barons: and this we will observe, and our will is that it be observed in good faith by our heirs forever. We have also granted to all freemen of our kingdom, for us and our heirs forever, all the underwritten liberties, to be had and held by them and their heirs, of us and our heirs forever.
And in his coronation oath, Henry VIII swore to the following:
Sire, will you grant and keep by your oath confirm to the people of England the laws and customs given to them by the previous just and god-fearing kings, your ancestors, and especially the laws, customs, and liberties granted to the clergy and people by the glorious king, the sainted Edward, your predecessor?
   I grant and promise them.

Sire, will you in all your judgments, so far as in you lies, preserve to God and Holy Church, and to the people and clergy, entire peace and concord before God?
   I will preserve them.

Sire will you so far as in you lies, cause justice to be rendered rightly, impartially, and wisely, in compassion and in truth?
   I will do so.

Sire, do you grant to be held and observed the just laws and customs that he community of your realm shall determine, and will you, so far as in you lies, defend and strengthen them to the honour of God?
   I grant and promise them.
Now, after reading all of this, compare it with the Act of Supremacy of 1534, passed through parliament, which stated:
Be it enacted by authority of this present Parliament that the King, our sovereign lord, his heirs and successors, kings of this realm, shall be taken, accepted and reputed the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England, called Anglicana Ecclesia...
So what became of the freedom enjoyed by the English Church from temporal authority? Does the American Church enjoy such freedom within the United States? So long as we have a government that does not have the ability to pass legislation favoring or opposing an establishment of religion. I posit that this freedom has been and can be threatened when government attempts to take upon itself authority to regulate religious affairs. Christians are often accused of violating the supposed separation of church and state, though the original intent of Jefferson's statement was to ensure that the government could not interfere with the affairs of religion. Do you think there are those who wouldn't mind interfering from time to time?

St. Thomas More lost his head because he stood on his principles regarding the freedom of the English Church, not merely in English law, but in obedience to the authority of Christ as guaranteed by union with the See of Rome. He recognized that there was an authority given by God that no temporal, political power may revoke or take upon itself.

For an interesting discussion on the final resting place of his severed head, check out this article: Opening the Roper Vault by Hugh Albin.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

A Prayer by St. Thomas More

Written while imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Give me the grace, Good Lord

To set the world at naught. To set the mind firmly on You and not to hang upon the words of men's mouths.

To be content to be solitary. Not to long for worldly pleasures. Little by little utterly to cast off the world and rid my mind of all its business.

Not to long to hear of earthly things, but that the hearing of worldly fancies may be displeasing to me.

Gladly to be thinking of God, piteously to call for His help. To lean into the comfort of God. Busily to labor to love Him.

To know my own vileness and wretchedness. To humble myself under the mighty hand of God. To bewail my sins and, for the purging of them, patiently to suffer adversity.

Gladly to bear my purgatory here. To be joyful in tribulations. To walk the narrow way that leads to life.

To have the last thing in remembrance. To have ever before my eyes my death that is ever at hand. To make death no stranger to me. To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of Hell. To pray for pardon before the judge comes.

To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me. For His benefits unceasingly to give Him thanks.

To buy the time again that I have lost. To abstain from vain conversations. To shun foolish mirth and gladness. To cut off unnecessary recreations.

Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss at naught, for the winning of Christ.

To think my worst enemies my best friends, for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.

These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasures of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it gathered and laid together all in one heap.

More WYD Pictures

I found another young adult blogger who was also at World Youth Day.

Check out his own pictures by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Pop vs. Soda

Finally, some research has been done. In Alabama, where I'm originally from, all sodas are called generally called Coke, even Pepsi. When I lived in Nebraska for two years, everything was Pop, and it made no sense! And in California, I hear soda much more, which makes more sense to me!

Monday, October 20, 2003

Going to Confession...
Thou shalt confess thy transgressions in the Church, and shalt not come unto prayer with an evil conscience.
This is the path of life.
The Didache, Ch. 4:14. [AD 70]
Fr. Rob Johansen has some very powerful and candid things to say about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I also have some things to say about going to confession. Perhaps it was because I didn't yet fully understand its spiritual aspects, even though I understood the sacrament intellectually, but for nearly four years after being baptized and confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church, I went to confession only a handful of times - maybe two or three times at the most. Over the last two years, thanks be to God, I have been successful in my attempts to embrace the sacrament of reconciliation approximately once a month, and it has changed my spiritual life in more ways than I ever anticipated it would. I think a lot of my initial hesitation, or perhaps my initial naivete, regarding the sacrament was because it was not emphasized or even particularly encouraged at the university parish I attended.

Don't get me wrong - the parish did offer private confession, but it only advertised it as being for 30 minutes a week, or by appointment. Suffice it to say, many members of the congregation with whom I spoke about this had never taken the opportunity to go, some not for several decades. I had a very good relationship with the former pastor, and so those times that I did visit the sacrament, I had no problem doing face-to-face confession with him. However, there was never an option for anonymity should the penitant desire it, and I felt as though I easily gave in to the laissez-faire culture of the parish and let laziness and pride take control.

There was always something that ran contrary to my laziness. The longer I went without going to confession, even though I wasn't in a state of mortal sin, the more I felt like I should go, not out of an overwhelming sense of guilt, but of a desire to keep myself in check and embrace the grace of forgiveness freely given through the merits of Christ. But my pride fought that all the way as I began to convince myself that I was no great sinner, that I didn't need reconciliation to develop a healthy communal and spiritual life.

What motivated me to start going again was when I heard a priest friend say that the measure of your pride is the measure of your shame, and the measure of your shame is the measure of how much you need to embrace the sacrament. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the only place where you can come before Christ, in the ministry of the priest in persona Christi and say I'm 100% guilty and get off scott-free. Before eventually leaving that parish, I began going to regular confession at churches in the surrounding area, and the more frequently I went, the easier it became to conquer pride. I don't consider myself to be an overscrupulous person, but the grace from the sacrament has helped me pin-point the areas of my life that I need to give to God; to allow Him to transform those areas with grace so that I might be more conformed to the image of Christ and reflect that in my relationships with others. It seems perfectly regular, and I couldn't imagine a healthy Christian life without it. Reconciliation is also intimately linked with the Eucharistic Liturgy. Frequent confession and frequent reception of Holy Communion, along with a desire to allow Christ's grace to transform us from the inside out, is a sure way to bring about true holiness and true freedom. Our lives then become ones of service. This is true reformation.
Moreover, how much are they both greater in faith and better in their fear, who, although bound by no crime of sacrifice to idols or of certificate, yet, since they have even thought of such things, with grief and simplicity confess this very thing to God's priests, and make the conscientious avowal, put off from them the load of their minds, and seek out the salutary medicine even for slight and moderate wounds, knowing that it is written, "God is not mocked." God cannot be mocked, nor deceived, nor deluded by any deceptive cunning.
-St. Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise On The Lapsed, Ch. 28 [AD 251]

Saturday, October 18, 2003


Saw Luther last night. It finally came to Santa Barbara. I have to say, I was impressed with how they handled it. Yes, there was a lot of oversimplication, but that is what one expects with movies that attempt to deal with historical events. I didn't expect a thorough treatise on indulgences, but I did expect to see how prevalent abuses were and why something had to be done about them. I expected a movie that sought to fairly present the Lutheran understanding of particular events and the internal struggles of the man, Luther, and it did just that. I don't necessarily agree with how a lot of Catholics have reviewed this film. The film did not shy away from presenting authentically Catholic characters who stood solidly on their faith. The film presented the dichotomy between those Christians who sought authentic Catholic reform without leaving the Church, and those who went to the other extreme to reform the Church by attempting to destroy it. It showed Luther's struggle with finding a median between the two.

Would I have loved to see a more balanced handling on the theology of indulgences and purgatory? Or perhaps what led into the Council of Trent? Sure, but then they probably wouldn't have called the film Luther.
The Legend Beautiful

Fr. Benedict Groeschel, of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, describes this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as being an inspiration for him joining the Franciscans in his vocation.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Many things...

Many things going on this week. A woman was legally murdered in Florida. Our beloved Pope celebrates 25 years. Quite a contrast. Read his apostolic exhortation Pastores Gregis.

Thank God for the Holy Father. He is the only pope I have ever known. Well, I was born in June, 1978, and he walked into my life in October, so as far as I can remember, it's true. Most of my memory of him comes from well before I entered the Church, and I find that funny. I remember the young, energetic pope on television when I was a young child. I remembered him most of all because of his big hat. In all of those early years, I don't remember ever hearing him speak. Interesting what sticks with you. I now observe a different energy and enthusiasm in him. One that gives life to his speech, and in contrast to my early years, that is one thing that I will never forget.

We have a new governor-elect out here in California. Work has been busy and stable. We must keep praying...

Friday, October 10, 2003

Suum Cuique
The rain has spoiled the farmer's day;
Shall sorrow put my books away?
Thereby are two days lost:
Nature shall mind her own affairs,
I will attend my proper cares,
In rain, or sun, or frost.
     -Ralph Waldo Emerson
On being a faithful witness...
You live in the service of love. You are servants of love for love of Christ. In this way you achieve the maturity of human beings who offer God their own freedom and use it in his service. Therefore, every day meditate on and renew the reasons of faith that motivate and sustain your life, your devotion, and your faithfulness, which is joyous and fruitful, though offered in sacrifice. And when you confirm in the silence of prayer - which is indispensable for you - the full validity of your life, thank the Lord for his marvels. Proclaim by your holiness that his name is holy.

Christ calls you to be his faithful witness, to be the channel of his saving love in today's world, to spread his mercy, which extends from generation to generation among those who fear him. Hence the shared concrete task of your service is to fulfill the divine plan of salvation: to make present the Kingdom of God, which is the Church; to make it present in your life and your environment, in the school, in the family, among the young, in service to the sick and abandoned, in charitable institutions, in works of social benefit, and, above all, in parish and catechetical initiatives, in order to bring to all the love of Christ and through him love for mankind.

And do not forget the influential world of culture, which is vital for evangelization and the creation of a just social system. Thus the Gospel will be incarnate in the life and culture of your people, affecting the various social classes and promoting true human and Christian values.

     -Pope John Paul II, message to Venezuela, January 28th, 1985

Thursday, October 09, 2003

If you're going to San Francisco...

... toss the car and bring a good pair of walking shoes.

I just returned from a very spontaneous three day excursion to downtown San Francisco for a UC Berkeley Extension course on Embedded and Real-Time Linux. The course itself was a lot of fun and very interesting, but I also got to see a lot of the city while I was there. I had been to San Francisco probably three times prior to this without a lot of opportunity to get in the trenches and experience the San Francisco city life myself, but this time proved different. The last time I was in San Francisco, I didn't like it much. Without a map, my friends and I got so lost and were eternally frustrated at the high parking rates that we vowed never to return. I was more used to Los Angeles where a car is often necessary because the city is so spread out. This time I now know - when in San Francisco, toss the car.

Flew in Sunday night and took a cab to the hotel. Class began early monday morning and went until about 5pm. Even though my coworker had rented a car, we agreed it was best to leave the car and walk from the hotel on Cyril Magnin St. (near Market and 5th) down to the UC Berkeley Extensions center on the corner of Market and Fremont. That night, I met an old friend and ventured into Chinatown and later to North Beach, the Italian district (Little Italy), for dinner at Steps of Rome.

Tuesday, again we had class early in the morning until around 5. After I got back to the hotel, I set out on foot for my own walking adventure to see Union Square and the surrounding area. Finding Bush street, I decided to walk down the street to St. Dominic's Catholic Church, renowned for its High Mass Schola Cantorum. They had actually planned a Choral Music concert that evening, but I didn't intend on staying since I had to walk back to the hotel. However, when I finally got to the church, I could not pull myself away, especially when I found out what the content of the music concert would be. So I convinced myself to stay. No regrets. The choir was positively magnificent.

Some pictures of St. Dominic's:

The concert began with Leon Boellmann's composition of the Prière à Notre Dame and also included several compositions of the Ave Maria by Tomas Luis de Victoria, Robert Parsons, Igor Stravinsky, Anton Bruckner, and Franz Biebl in addition to other motets, such as Bogoroditze Dievo by Sergi Rachmaninov and the Totus Tuus by Henryk Gorecki. The concert ended with Leon Boellmann's composition of Menuet Gothique. It is a little known fact that de Victoria's Ave Maria is one of my favorites. After the concert, I made my way back to the hotel to enter back into what was going on in the world around me.

On Wednesday, my last day, we checked out of our hotel and again went to class until 5pm. Afterward, my coworker and I cruised the streets of SF in our rented mustang convertable, top down of course. An unusually beautiful and clear day in SF allowed us to see the fully city and bay with remarkable ease. Our driving excursion ended with me at the airport ready to fly back in to Santa Barbara.

A lot more walking than I was prepared for, and lots of hills no less, so needless to say, I am perfectly exhausted today. I wish I would've had more time to explore the city and visit with all of my friends up there!
Mel Gibson and Opus Dei

Over the last several months, I have received dozens of visitors who were referred to this site from search engines using the keywords Mel Gibson and Opus Dei.

Puzzled, I ran into another fellow at St. Blog's, Matthew Collins, who also happens to be a member of Opus Dei and has composed this little Opus Dei FAQ. He has also received these visits. He even went so far as to ask what these folks were looking for, and their question appeared to be that because Mel Gibson is said to be a radical traditionalist, and Opus Dei is also considered by some to be radically traditionalist, is Mel Gibson a member of Opus Dei? Matt's FAQ answers the question.

For those folks, let me set the record straight. Mel Gibson is not a member of Opus Dei. Secondly, in my opinion, Opus Dei is far from being radically traditionalist. Though it probably isn't for everyone, I would consider it orthodox and pretty mainstream, actually. As I understand it, the primary message of Opus Dei and its founder, St. Josemaría Escrivá, is the idea of the universal call to holiness, including that of the laity of our church. As ecclesiastical movements go, this is a popular idea. The whole idea of the universal call to holiness is the emphasis behind such Vatican II documents as Lumen Gentium. I also understand there are a number of myths associated with Opus Dei that I won't get in to here, primarily because I have had very limited exposure to them and am not a member myself. But Matt can answer these questions, and I'm sure there are many out there who can explain them.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

The Pope and Theology of the Body

The Online Resource for John Paul II's Theology of the Body. This website contains documents and materials concerning this important subject!
The theology of the body is Pope John Paul II's integrated vision of the human person, body, soul and spirit. He tells us how the physical human body has a specific meaning and how it shows us the answers to basic questions of life such as: Is there a real purpose to life and if so, what is it? Why were we created male and female - and does it really matter if you're one sex or another? Why were man and woman called to communion from the beginning and what does the marital union of a man and woman say to us about God and his plan for our lives? What is the purpose of the married and celibate vocations?

This website is dedicated to helping explain and promote the Pope's revolutionary and life-transforming message of hope in a society where the body is often seen as no more as an object to be used or as a machine to be handled. John Paul II, both in his 'Theology of the Body' and his earlier work 'Love and Responsibility', as well as the encyclicals of his papacy, debunks the myth that the Catholic Church is "down on sex" and promotes a true reverence for the gift of our sexuality.
Also check out this page for tons of information about the extraordinary actor, athlete, poet, philosopher, and pastor who is Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Holy Bloodline?

If you've ever read the infamous book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, you'd be familiar with the story of the Church of Rennes-le-Château and its alledged association with the assertion that Mary Magdalen came to the south of France and supposedly gave birth to Jesus' offspring who went on to rule Europe before being violently suppressed by the Roman Catholic Church. I was flipping through and saw a program on television just the other day that tried to point out all of the "weird clues" found in this little church of Rennes-le-Château to supposedly back of the claims of Jesus' Holy Bloodline - only now, what I heard made me laugh. What some of these folks call clues might seem mysterious to those who aren't aware of a few facts.

The story, as far as I understand it from the conspiracy theorists, is that a priest at this little church, Fr. Berenger Saunière (1852-1917), found mysterious documents hidden in this church that spoke of a mysterious bloodline that traced back to Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Supposely, the contents of these documents inspired him to renounce his faith and participate in the occult. Furthermore, these folks say that he decided to renovate this church and left clues of his plight to communicate his message without fear of being silence by the Church.

Here is what they said.
Fr. Saunière inscribed 'Terribilis est locus iste' (This place is terrible) above the door to the church! Why would he write such a thing? This must represent his real contempt for the Church!
No - the words are actually taken from the book of Genesis, 28:17 and were used in the Common of the Dedication of a Church. Furthermore 'terribilis' doesn't mean terrible as we might understand it in English, but would mean more like impressive, terrifying, or awe-inspiring. View the faded inscription immediately above the door frame here. Note the other latin inscriptions, such as Domus mea domus orationis vocabitur (My house will be called a house of prayer), all from the Common of Dedication.

They also say:
Fr. Saunière installed a statue of a devil, or what some believe is the demon Asmodeus, near the inscription! Why would he do this, unless it were to insinuate that the devil had entered God's house and further evidence of his occultic practices!
No, the devil is being crushed by a holy water stoup, surmounted by four angels making the sign of the cross with the French inscription, Par ce signe tu le vaincrais (By this sign, you shall conquer). It's called imagery! View the statue here and the angels above it here.

One other amazing thing they have asserted:
There is a statue inside the church, next to the altar, of Jesus holding a little boy! This must represent the fact that Jesus had children - Fr. Saunière is trying to communicate something to his successors!
Actually, the statue is holding a child, but it's a statue of St. Joseph holding the child Jesus in his left hand, flowers in his right. This is opposite to a statue of the Blessed Virgin located on the other side of the altar. View it here.
But why did Fr. Saunière go mad and join the occult unless what he read shook the foundations of his faith?
Is this so novel? If he really did do these things, and that's a big if, so what? We're sinners after all. For some folk, it doesn't take a lot fo shake the foundations of their faith. I understand that. But do we have to put speculative circumstances around one man's struggles? But I must say, the only thing I can extract from his renovation is that he likes imagery and loves his church!

I could not help but watch and laugh as I listened to these assertions. As conspiracy theories go, I think this is more of an attack on the Church than an attack by the Church. But this one has a pretty stable following.

For those couples who chart their fertility cycles and symptoms of ovulation, you may find Ovusoft to be a big help as it allows you to maintain your charts easily on your computer. Of course, you could always use an Excel spreadsheet or something too. However, Ovusoft does a lot of the work for you. It's makes it much easier for couples practicing Natural Family Planning.

Thanks to Saintly Salmagundi for this reference.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Rest in Peace, Msgr. Leuer

I just read in The Tidings, our archdiocesan newspaper, that Msgr. Anthony Leuer, who had been a good friend of mine from Los Angeles, died on September 18th at the age of 66. During the summer of 1998, I interned for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, working in the Chancery for the Office of Information Services. Since I was relocating from Santa Barbara, I had to find living arrangements in Los Angeles on very short notice, and Msgr. Leuer was gracious enough to rent a room to me in the former convent attached to his church, Holy Spirit Parish on Pico Blvd, for a mere $200 per month. This included secure parking, full kitchen, and all utilities. It was relatively close to the Archdiocesan Catholic Center on Wilshire and a pretty central location to be in Los Angeles. Plus, I could visit the Blessed Sacrament in the Convent Chapel anytime I wished. A handful of evenings, I was invited to dine with Msgr. Leuer and Msgr. Michael Meyers, who at that time worked in the Missions office. They shared with me their many life adventures living in Los Angeles and bringing the Gospel around the world.

Suffice it to say, working for the Archdiocese while living in Los Angeles for that brief time was one of the best experiences I have ever had. It contributed an immense depth to the development of my spiritual life and my desire to serve the Church. It helped me develop an appreciation for our Church's history and missionary efforts. It also gave me a much more personal insight into the ministry operations of our archdiocese. I keep in touch with friends there and try to visit about every year or so when I can.

Unfortunately, after I left Los Angeles to return to school, I corresponded briefly with Msgr. Leuer before losing touch after about a year. He eventually left Holy Spirit parish and so I was not able to visit him, though I later learned that he had become chaplain at Marymount College. Msgr. Leuer was a holy and compassionate priest who cared deeply for the people to whom he ministered. If only I had made an effort to connect with him again. Thankfully, we profess a Communion of Saints, so it is my hope that I will one day see him again. Please join me in praying for him.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may your perpetual light shine upon him. Rest in peace, my friend.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael

Angelum nobis medicum salutis
mitte de caelis Raphael, ut omnes
sanet aegrotos pariterque nostros
dirigat actus.
Tomorrow is the glorious feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. But today, my parish celebrated the feast day of its patron, St. Raphael the Archangel. All of God's holy angels are special, but I have been particularly close to St. Raphael, who, as told in the Book of Tobit, is sent by God in answer to the prayers of Tobiah and Sarah in order to assist them. The Book of Tobit is absolutely one of my favorite books of the Old Testament. As you know, Tobit is one of the deuterocanonical books and is regarded as apocrypha by Protestant churches. I discovered Tobit after I was given my first Catholic bible when I entered the RCIA. Here is my favorite part of the story of Tobit when Raphael, the angel, who had previously disguised himself, finally reveals himself to Tobit and his son Tobiah - Tobit 12:11-22:
[Raphael said to them], "I will now tell you the whole truth; I will conceal nothing at all from you. I have already said to you, 'A king's secret it is prudent to keep, but the works of God are to be made known with due honor.' I can now tell you that when you, Tobit, and Sarah prayed, it was I who presented and read the record of your prayer before the Glory of the Lord; and I did the same thing when you used to bury the dead. When you did not hesitate to get up and leave your dinner in order to go and bury the dead, I was sent to put you to the test. At the same time, however, God commissioned me to heal you and your daughter-in-law Sarah. I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord."

Stricken with fear, the two men fell to the ground.

But Raphael said to them: "No need to fear; you are safe. Thank God now and forever. As for me, when I came to you it was not out of any favor on my part, but because it was God's will. So continue to thank him every day; praise him with song. Even though you watched me eat and drink. I did not really do so; what you were seeing was a vision. So now get up from the ground and praise God. Behold, I am about to ascend to him who sent me; write down all these things that have happened to you."

When Raphael ascended they rose to their feet and could no longer see him. They kept thanking God and singing his praises; and they continued to acknowledge these marvelous deeds which he had done when the angel of God appeared to them.
St. Raphael, medicine of God, protect us and heal us!
Nobis adesto, Raphael,
ad patriam petentibus
morbos repelle corporum,
affer salutem mentium.
The Enigma of the Germans

While at the university, I studied a little bit about cryptography where I learned about the Enigma machine in pretty good detail. The Enigma machine was an easy functional encryption device used heavily by the Germans during World War II to communicate - from bases, ships, and submarines. This website covers everything you ever wanted to know about the Enigma machine, particularly things the Germans did incorrectly that enabled the British to crack the code more easily.
Entry points for encrypting the messages.

A) message keys
The operator has to select 3 letters randomly But sometimes they use "AAA", "BBB" or the diagonals of the keyboard (QFL), any abbreviations, his own initials or any dirty words.

A German operator in southern Italy has used frequently his girlfriend initials CILLI and the British called such bad and easy to guess keys CILLIES (sometimes also called Sillies = Dummheiten)
B) A letter never enciphers to itself.
If you type a "A" you will get any letter from B-Z, but never an ``A''. The sequence : AAAAAAA may be XUVGFXY without any ``A''.

A tired German operator has been told to send out dummy messages and he typed only the last letter of the keyboard : ``L''. The British code breaking expert immediately recognized the missing ``L'' in the enciphered message and they got a very big crib (see below).

C) CRIBS (=Eselsbrücke)
A crib is a part of the plain text which is known to correspond with a part of the code.

Knowing the source of the message (army, navy) you can guess the meaning.

For instance most of the messages start with AN (e.g AN GENERAL...) . This was coded as ANXGENERAL

Another possibility was : AN DIE GRUPPE (to the group) The code breakers tested the first 3 letters for ANX.

KEINEBESONDERENEREIGNISSE (no special occurrences, nothing to report) could be a part of the message This crib was placed above the enciphered text and moved left and right until no letter enciphers to itself.
A kiss is a message that has been sent previously on a lower level radio net, which has already been enciphered. This means, the same message was send twice, but with different systems.

The British forced such messages by doing any military activity and then they waited for the messages...
E) Capturing codebooks and secret material
Found codebooks of sunken submarines or captured weather ships and military bases were also very helpful and provided the British with Enigma ground settings for some months and abbreviations for weather reports, which could be used as cribs. Some of these keys has also been used by the U-Boots.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Liberal Prophets of Gloom

While various bloggers at St. Blog's have been addressing the issue of Prophets of Gloom, primarily those who consider themselves to be orthodox, who scream about bishops and the Vatican, I must say that being a prophet of gloom isn't limited to that one particular side of the church. Last night, I challenged myself to go and give an ear to Fr. Michael Crosby, OFM Cap. I know, I know - what was I thinking? Well, I confess I did walk in with certain expectations, but I sincerely wanted to hear his words with my own ears so that I could draw some of my own conclusions about this man. My simple conclusion today is that I would Michael Crosby is a prophet of gloom just as those who would consider themselves orthodox.

A Kairos Moment?

The theme of the talk was A Kairos Moment for the Catholic Church. Crosby started by saying that we need to reclaim the Church for Jesus Christ. He began his arguments by equating the religious environment within the Roman Catholic Church today with the Jewish environment at the time in which Jesus lived and died. In the same way that Christ challenged the oppressive, religious power structures of Judaism in his day by giving them a kairos moment, or a moment of choice, Crosby argued that Christ does the same today to the Roman Catholic Church in the aftermath of this sexual abuse crisis. While he made many points, most of which I took issue with, I only want to expound on a couple that I found to be particularly egregious.

Abusive, violent oppressor?

The point he kept pounding home was that the institutional church, by demanding that there be no discussion about women priests or, at this point, clerical celibacy, is an abusive oppressor, a purveyor of violence against women and society. Further, he claimed the arguments used by the Vatican against the ordination of women are not scripturally sound nor in communion with a trinitarian theology. For him, the teaching of the Church, that she does not have the power or authority to ordain women, is gravely sinful and not worthy of belief. Very often, Crosby would talk of fear and intimidation in speaking one's mind. Truly, he said, he speaks today with the same fear and intimidation from the Church hierarchy.

The Gnostic Christ?

He then went into his scriptural argument for women priests by attacking the scriptural argument often used against them. He stated that the common scriptural argument given - that Christ only chose male apostles - was not sound because the culture discounted women. He argued that it was illogical to regard Jesus' choice within the culture at that time as His intention for the future successors to the apostles because the argument was applying the Christ of history to the Christ of faith. Furthermore, he concluded, in persona Christi has to refer to the Christ of faith, because Christ rose from His maleness.

Hmm. I am not a scripture scholar, but relying on what I have read and know about this teaching, what he is saying reveals some flaws. While the culture did not regard women well, Crosby's whole premise is that Christ came to challenge the established, religious environment. Would not Christ's challenge have been consistent with regard to those whom He chose as apostles if He had intended for women to have this particular role within the Church? Furthermore, I dispute his delineation between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of faith. To assert that the real Jesus is some sort of sexless being that is no longer human is troubling. Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, is male. To extract a vague concept or principle that is called Jesus who was not the same Jesus who was born, lived, established His Church, appointed Apostles, died, and then rose from the dead is a Gnostic idea. It's to extract the divine Jesus from the human Jesus. You simply cannot do that.

Crosby confirmed this also when he reassured everyone that he believes that the Roman Catholic Church is the true faith in its mystical expression but not in its institutional expression. Same problem as above. He's extracting the divine Church from the human Church, which is the same thing as asserting that the divine Jesus, or the Jesus of faith, is not the same as the human Jesus. In reality, Jesus is both divine and human, and the Church is both divine and human. The Church is made up of human beings who are also sinners.

No role for women?

Crosby finally said that when we hold clericalism above Jesus Christ, we have idolatry. This is true, but I dispute his assertion that clericalism is the substance of ecclesiology today. His conclusion was that the institutional church is nothing but a sinful, patriarchal, oppressively political machine, and it has always been so ever since the early church merged with the imperial culture. It was then from the imperial cultural that it got its notions of power, sexual roles, and religious control of behavior. He warned that the Church will once again begin teaching that women are unclean and shouldn't be near the altar, and he used the recent draft from the Vatican concerning the use of altar girls as evidence.

Widespread Fundamentalism in the Curia?

He spoke quite a bit about how the institutional Church was fundamentalist with regard to its understanding of papal infallibility, even though he said he believed in papal infallibility - points which I will not address here due to length. You may email me if you wish to hear or discuss this further. But I have to say that much of what he used as evidence from the Scriptures and even from Tradition, when he did refer to Tradition, was taken out of context and sounded much like the fundamentalism he was attacking.

Breath of Fresh Air?

Toward the end, an older woman leaned over to me and ask, Wow. Isn't this a breath of fresh air? I honestly didn't know how to respond to that. If you walked out of that meeting believing everything that Crosby said, you had to have felt extreme despair, distrust, and lonliness. In other words, gloom. Furthermore, I counted maybe three young adults, including myself, which contradicted some of the assumptions many people make about the youth wanting to embrace people like Crosby. Some of you might believe that I would've found problems in whatever he said anyway. Perhaps, but I have to say that in reflecting on what he actually said further, I cannot understand how anyone could walk out of there, having believed every word he said, and not have been willing to listen and study for themselves what the Church actually taught with regard to many of these difficult issues. I am personally thankful that I have had some good teachers in my life who have helped me study Scripture and Tradition and have helped me better understand difficult issues such as this as they relate to both sources.

Concerning the reservation of priestly ordination to men, here are some educational references:

Ordinatio Sacerdotalis - Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II
Ten Questions About the Reservation of Priestly Ordination to Men - the USCCB Committee on Doctrine

These are longer, but well worth the time:

Inter Insigniores: Declaration on the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood - Pope Paul VI and CDF
Mulieris Dignitatem: Apostolic Letter on the the Dignity and Vocation of Women - by Pope John Paul II


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