Saturday, May 31, 2003

Pictures from World Youth Day 2002 - Toronto

I finally scanned some of the pictures I took at World Youth Day! They came out better than expected but they may still be a little dark in some areas - you be the judge!

Click here to check them out!

Friday, May 30, 2003

Neo and the Architect

Some others asked about this, where here it is. The conversation between Neo and the Architect from Matrix: Reloaded. If you haven't yet seen the film, you may not want to read this! But in rereading it, I caught a lot of points that I missed in the film.
Unintended Call of Silence

I don't mean to bewilder you, but this is a warning to all cell phone owners. Please make sure that you turn on the auto-lock mechanism of your phone. This prevents the phone from reacting when random buttons are pressed when it's in your backpack, bag, or purse, . More specifically, it is a deterrent from what I have termed the Unintended Call of Silence, when the buttons on your cell phone are pressed in a certain way so as to dial a random person on your phone list. I have been the unfortunate recipient of several calls like this, I think because my name begins with the letter A and so I am at the top of most people's phone lists. I have overheard amazing things - beware! So this warning to all those who fail to use auto-lock, always beware that the walls really do have ears!
Godly conceptions and their meanings

I was reflecting tonight on a discussion I recall having several years ago with an agnostic aquaintance of mine concerning this question:
If God is infinite, then how is it possible for any human being, finite in nature, to know anything about this concept? Would not any attempt at discovering the infinite be doomed to failure?
My memory is faint, so I will reconstruct the conversation as cleanly as I can remember. My response was a resounding Of course it would be doomed to failure!. Satisfied yet confused, my friend could not accept my easy concession without concluding that he had been trapped. What is then the point? At best, one could live an agnostic existence, never being certain of God's existence or never having a satisfactory conception of the infinite that would have any effect over the tangible routine of daily life. Behold, I am no skilled manipulator of language, so I simply explained my response.

Left to ourselves, it is impossible for us to know about God. But this ignores the idea of divine revelation - the idea that God would reveal to us whatever He would want us to know about Him and how to live in His presence. This revelation was given in the old law and testified to by all Creation, and is brought to its fulfillment by God in the person of Jesus Christ who then established a Church to hand on this His teaching in the form of oral and written Tradition, which is thereby found in Apostolic Tradition and in the Scriptures, respectively. So, by human reason alone, we can come to a knowledge of the Infinite God in observance of His creation, yet God also revealed Himself explicitly for our benefit, as Dei Verbum expresses:
As a sacred synod has affirmed, God, the beginning and end of all things, can be known with certainty from created reality by the light of human reason (see Rom. 1:20); but teaches that it is through His revelation that those religious truths which are by their nature accessible to human reason can be known by all men with ease, with solid certitude and with no trace of error, even in this present state of the human race.
Doing it all ourselves also ignores the idea of willful creation - the idea that God would create us with an orientation toward the infinite, manifested by an ever present desire to know more than what we perceive plainly. This concept is much more elusive, but certainly real. Another thing I believe it ignores is divine grace or assistance. That God would not only willfully create us, reveal Himself to us in a way that we can conceive, but would also provide us with grace that further enables us to live according to that revelation and achieve that which He has willed for us - unity with Him. This is the difference between knowing about Him and actually having a relationship with Him.

My friend, somewhat satisfied with the response, further pressed me on the point of revelation.
How can we trust this revelation as coming from God, the Infinite, which is transmitted to us through a book written by human authors and a tradition transmitted by human teachers - human teachers who are sinful and often times perform less than godly acts?
Very good! Ay, there's the rub, I responded. My friend was attempting to catch me. How do we know without relying on ourselves? And we can't rely on ourselves alone. The final issue is then one of authority and faith. Again, left to ourselves, we are caught - but we remember that that is why we are given grace. We need grace to believe because faith is a grace. Again, Dei Verbum expresses this best:
"The obedience of faith" (Rom. 13:26; see 1:5; 2 Cor 10:5-6) "is to be given to God who reveals, an obedience by which man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals," (4) and freely assenting to the truth revealed by Him. To make this act of faith, the grace of God and the interior help of the Holy Spirit must precede and assist, moving the heart and turning it to God, opening the eyes of the mind and giving "joy and ease to everyone in assenting to the truth and believing it." (5) To bring about an ever deeper understanding of revelation the same Holy Spirit constantly brings faith to completion by His gifts.
Faith enables us to cooperate with God's grace and to understand God's revelation and the authority under which it was given and entrusted to the Church, the authority given by Christ to the Apostles, which is thus communicated to their successors and handed down to us today. That such a teaching authority, entrusted to human sinners, is free of corruption is ensured by the merits of Christ's death and resurrection, and Christ does this because He desires that all the world know of Him.

My friend responded,
I think I understand what you are saying. The agnostic assumes that the initiative belongs to human beings to know the Infinite, which they really cannot do, whereas you are saying that the initiative belongs to God. It starts with God and ends with God, not the other way around. The Infinite God chose to create us, He revealed Himself to us, and He gives us, finite as we are, what we need to know Him infinitely in time.
I explained that it is important to remember that faith is not only the passive reception of a gift from God, but the active free response to God. Some people spend their whole lives fighting against it. But alas, it is a great mystery. Do you desire faith?, I asked. He responded,
The desire to have it is already a sign of its work, and the continuing cooperation with grace is itself a work of grace. As the Catechism articulates,
"The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity."
As we cooperate with grace through faith, we are sanctified by grace and created anew to perform acts of charity which nourish faith. Without grace, it is impossible to please God. And that, said I, is only the beginning of an incredible journey into the Great Mystery, the heights and depths of glorious Truth.

With a deep breath, our conversation drifted on to other wondrous ideas.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Newspeak for a future taken to extremes

This article at CNN predicts a pretty gloomy future!
She says a lot of people are having fun finding new titles for Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea" which presents problems with every word except "and" and "the." [Dianne] Ravitch said old is ageist, man is sexist and sea can't be used in case a student lives inland and doesn't grasp the concept of a large body of water.
Granted - some words are explicitly offensive and have no place. But this is ridiculous. It seems to me that the cure for this has more to do with educating rather than erasing every words that is, could possibly be, or might remotely be offensive.
The New York Times recently reported that National Institute of Health researchers on AIDS are not only avoiding using words like gay and homosexuals in e-mails so as not to offend conservatives in the Bush administration, they are also inventing code words. Times journalist Erica Goode reported that one researcher was told to "cleanse" the abstract of his grant proposal of words like gay, homosexual and transgender even though his research was on HIV in gay men.
Hmm. How is education helped by a standard taken to extremes? And just who is responsible for drawing the line?
"Everyone gets their pet causes incorporated in textbooks. The history texts are reluctant to criticize any dictator unless they are long dead. And even then, there are exceptions like Mao is praised in one text for modernizing China but his totalitarian rule is not mentioned," [Ravitch] said.
Voice of the Faithful

I followed the group from their beginnings. I read about them in the media. I even decided that I would see what they were about for myself, when a chapter began here in Santa Barbara, by attending a couple meetings. The question was always asked with surprise, Shouldn't there be more young adults in VOTF?. The implication here is that young adults should want to share their cause because we're young, right? We want to change the old Church, right? No - perhaps for the same reasons why there are not more young adults in groups like Call To Action which I will briefly address here.

After observing comments and presentations by a few of the members, I got a sense that for many VOTF members, the old Church was not just the Church that fostered an environment where sexual abuse could occur and be covered up, but it was also the Church that persists in antiquated modes of operating and thinking, particularly in the realm of sexuality, authority, women, and the involvement of the laity in doctrinal (not just disciplinary) matters. Certainly, this definition isn't explicity evident in the vague language often seen on the charter and the VOTF web page, but it is how I perceived many members interpret it. It is this attitude that I feel perpetuates an us versus them mentality. In misunderstanding doctrine and authority, it denies doctrinal truth, and in a spirit of rebellion, attempts to change whatever it can in the name of all lay Catholics. This, in spite of its longterm goals, is neither constructive nor healing for the Church as a whole.

It is wrong to assume that young adults will want to be part of a group such as this simply because we're young and are often judged to be anti-establishment or anti-hierarchy. We are not the hippies of the 21st century. While many of us do not oppose ensuring a lay voice in matters of Church governance, I think we have different ideas about what that means - that not only does it involve collaboration, but it also involves obedience. I have no problem with supporting pastoral and finance councils that include lay Catholics.

Generally speaking, I grow weary of those who like to think they're more catholic than the pope, and this is why the us versus them attitude really made me sick to my stomach. And just who them is often varies depending on who you are talking with. I'm not even fully convinced the individual members of VOTF are united in how to define the type of reform they seek. But such is the language of ambiguity. To one, a statement could appear perfectly orthodox, and to another, it could appear anything but orthodox. The goal for structural change is one that I find particularly vague. First, they state this:
VOTF does not seek any change in church doctrine. The problems which have come to light in the present crisis are more truly cultural than structural in nature.
They do not seek to change doctrine, but this statement is flimsy given how each person chooses to define what doctrine is and what it isn't. And how is it cultural? And not truly structural in nature? Then why the emphasis on structural change?They then go on to state this:
We respect the teaching authority of the Church and recognize the role that the hierarchy should exercise in discernment. It is essential, however, that all the people of God be involved in this process of discernment. We will, therefore, devote ourselves to advancing meaningful and active engagement of the laity in the life of the Church.
What does this mean? How does this relate to what they previously stated? Discernment in what? They also state this:
In order to move toward the vision of the Second Vatican Council, we believe it is vitally important that the faithful of each parish engage in, and enthusiastically support, the formation and actions of Pastoral and Finance Councils and Safety Committees. We must empower the laity to protect our children and all the people of God.
I do not agree that we have ignored the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. But what is this vision that they refer to? They never really explicitly define this. This is significant. Also, does this statement imply that lay Catholics will be more capable of protecting children? Last time I checked, we were all sinners, clergy and laity both. And sexual abuse is pretty widespread amongst non-ordained clergy - Approx. 90% occurs within families. No, this goal misses the point of reform.

There are other things, like in their FAQ:
Q. What does Voice of the Faithful feel will be the effect of bringing laity into the governance structure of the Church?

A. The Church hierarchy can learn much from the Catholic laity. We have intellectual, emotional and spiritual contributions to make and knowledge to impart on myriad real-life issues. These include, but are not limited to: human sexuality, women's rights, democratic processes, and the contextual roles of science and history in the healthy life of the Church.
This is just crying out for elaboration.

I feel I speak for many young adults in saying that we don't want a group that is divisive - us versus them - and has an underlying agenda that presumes to be more catholic than the local diocesan bishop or the pope. And even if it isn't said explicitly, I perceive it as an agenda which would, given the opportunity, certainly include doctrinal change. We want to be a part of something that celebrates the Catholic Faith and has a more realistic and positive message about what true reform really is. A message that addresses the spiritual roots of reform. True reform comes in the person of Jesus Christ, and this is what the Church should be preaching, and is what our Holy Father is preaching right now.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Respect the Needs of Catholics!

Global Catholic News - Russian Orthodox Urged to Respect Catholics' Spiritual Needs
The Vatican appealed to the Russian Orthodox Church to recognize the spiritual needs of the country's 500,000 Catholics, who numerically pose no threat to Orthodoxy.

Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states, made this appeal public in an interview Sunday with the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera. He was commenting on the charges of "proselytism" leveled against Rome by the Moscow Orthodox Patriarchate.

...Archbishop Tauran believes, in part, that the present situation is due to the fact that Russian Orthodox Church leaders regard the Catholic Church as a "church of foreigners."

...Catholics in Russia "are Russian citizens -- not foreigners -- and, therefore, have a right to pastoral care, like all Catholics spread throughout the world and like all Orthodox Christians in Russia and in any other place," he explained.

"This would also help to overcome that psychological attitude of 'besieged fortress' that impedes the Orthodox Church, which suffered so much during the years of Communism, to offer Europe and the world the contribution of its great spiritual riches," Archbishop Tauran concluded.
In memoriam...

Being born and raised in a solid military family, I learned early on the remarkable role that our armed forces have played in our nation's history. So this memorial day I remembered those soldiers who have willingly sacrificed their lives in every war to defend our freedom so that we can, today, celebrate that freedom that we often take for granted. I flew the flag proudly and got to spend some time with a very good friend. Thanks Joe!

Monday, May 26, 2003

Busy Sunday

Spent the day in the cozy little town of San Luis Obispo with Christina. Started it off with the Divine Liturgy at St. Anne's Byzantine (Ruthenian) Catholic Church. Occasionally when I visit family in Santa Maria, I take a short trip up to St. Anne's, though it isn't often, and it had been several months since I had last been there. But I love the ancient Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom! And being able to participate in the divine liturgy has really given me an appreciation for the Eastern heritage of our Church.

Main Altar at St. Anne's

After mass at St. Anne's, we went to lunch at the infamous Tortilla Flats in SLO followed by bookstore ransacking! We then finally went to see X-Men 2 which I did enjoy. I thought it was clever, and I really liked what they did with the character of Nightcrawler. Got home in the evening to rest! SLO is a cozy college town nestled within the foothills of the central coast of california. I applied and was strongly considering attending nearby Cal Poly, but I chose UC Santa Barbara at literally the last minute. I do not regret choosing to go to school in Santa Barbara!

Enjoy your memorial day holiday!


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