Thursday, December 28, 2006

Traffic Waves

An interesting research article by Electrical Engineer William Beaty. Beaty spent a lot of time evaluating traffic flow in terms of fluid dynamics and came up with some interesting ideas concerning how just one car can dislodge a traffic jam. Be sure to check out the FAQ as well. Some if his observations are pretty obvious, while others are pretty insightful. If you spent a lot of time in traffic (hello, Houston!), check it out.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

This year marks our first Christmas in Texas away from our respective families. We're making the best of it by cooking a plump goose this year.

Since becoming Catholic, Midnight Mass has been somewhat of an annual tradition for me, and my wife has joined me in me in this. We went last night and experienced an incredible midnight liturgy. My wife sings in our parish choir, and so last night I experienced the fruit of their many weeks of practice as they sang, as a choral prelude to the mass, Antonio Vivaldi's setting for the Magnificat, complete with chamber orchestra. The new, most dignified and awesome tabernacle in our newly renovated sanctuary was flanked by flowers, with the blessed sacrament now reserved there for the first time. The Christmas liturgy was magnificent. It's good to be home here in Texas.

I could go on and on, but let me just say that I was also pleased that, at the very beginning of the liturgy, our pastor chose to read from a sermon given by 5th century Pope St. Leo the Great on the meaning of Christmas, a reading also taken from today's Office of Readings, which I had only just read privately before the mass! Here is the text, and this is all I will say today:
Sermo 1 in Nativitate Domini, by Pope St. Leo the Great

Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.

No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.

In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God's wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.

And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: "Glory to God in the highest", and they proclaim, "peace to his people on earth" as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvelous work of God's goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?

Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, "and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ", so that in him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.

Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God's own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God's kingdom.

Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.
Merry Christmas to all.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

It's the small realities...

From The Richness of Ordinary Life, a homily by St. Josemaría Escrivá.
... Certainly our goal is both lofty and difficult to attain. But please do not forget that people are not born holy. Holiness is forged through a constant interplay of God's grace and the correspondence of man. As one of the early Christian writers [St. Mark the Hermit] says, referring to union with God, "Everything that grows begins small. It is by constant and progressive feeding that it gradually grows big." So I say to you, if you want to become a thorough-going Christian -- and I know you are willing, even though you often find it difficult to conquer yourself or to keep climbing upwards with this poor body of ours -- then you will have to be very attentive to the minutest of details, for the holiness that our Lord demands of you is to be achieved by carrying out with love of God your work and your daily duties, and these will almost always consist of small realities.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Hayrides, Carols, and Lights

Every year about this time (as we are told), various folks in our neighborhood put together elaborate trailers and structures for their trucks for the sole purpose of hauling boatloads of screaming kids around the neighborhood at night, singing carols and looking at Christmas lights. Our neighborhood is pretty big, so each trip could last about an hour.

Some friends on our street built a pretty impressive little ride... complete with two generators mounted on the front of the truck, a blasting stereo system with speakers attached to the top of the cab, and a six foot long trailer filled with hay in tow -- all covered, and I mean covered, with Christmas lights. It was 80 degrees outside today, and the night air was cool and breezy - how could we not go along for a ride? It's not my usual gig, but it was spontaneous and fun. Frequently during our little journey around the neighborhood, we would pass other trucks with trailers, filled with kids.
California vs. Texas
Honor the Texas flag;
I pledge allegiance to thee,
Texas, one and indivisible.
That is the pledge of allegiance to the flag of Texas, and I am told that children are even taught this pledge in elementary school here along with the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States. And did you know that the lone star featured on the flag of California refers to Texas, which, like California, did once exist as an independent republic before it eventually became part of the United States.

On that note, I would like to draw your attention to a post written by my beautiful wife concerning some of our observations: California vs. Texas.
Most people wouldn't put Texas and California in the same sentence, unless noting how opposite they are supposed to be. I've lived in both states, and find that they have a few things in common:

1. Both were once part of Mexico
2. Both were independent republics before joining the US.
3. Both have fabulous historical sites reflecting items 1 & 2.
4. Both states are huge, geographically speaking.
5. Residents of each state think they live in the best of all possible places, not just on this planet, but possibly in the known universe. Ask them. Neither can fathom why anyone would want to live in the other state.

Texas, however takes its state pride to a slightly different level than California. Furniture stores in Texas often feature pieces with the Lone Star emblazoned proudly upon them. You don't see many Californians looking for furniture with the Bear on them. Texas even has its own pledge of allegiance... I did a Google search, to see if California has its own equivalent. All I got was references to news articles and court cases about people in California trying to ban the national Pledge of Allegiance because of the words "under God". A similar Google search for the Texas pledge got notably different results.
Ah, California... Ah, Texas.
Parish Mission with Scott and Kimberly Hahn

We just got back from an advent parish mission at our parish, which included mass this morning followed by speakers Dr. Scott and Kimberly Hahn... Very enriching... and standing room only. I'm sure that folks benefited very well from having such articulate speakers come to visit us and talk about the beautiful truths of our Catholic Faith.

I was pleased when Kimberly Hahn referred to the conciliar document Gaudium et Spes, from the Second Vatican Council, to underscore her point about the life giving nature of the marital union as being a union with the life creating power of God Himself; this God who is Love and pours out love (as Love can only do) in the creation of new life. Also the important fact that just as children benefit from the love and education given by their parents, parents also benefit from the love and education given to them every day by their children. Gaudium et Spes (paragraph 50) says it this way:
Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents. The God Himself Who said, "it is not good for man to be alone" (Gen. 2:18) and "Who made man from the beginning male and female" (Matt. 19:4), wishing to share with man a certain special participation in His own creative work, blessed male and female, saying: "Increase and multiply" (Gen. 1:28). Hence, while not making the other purposes of matrimony of less account, the true practice of conjugal love, and the whole meaning of the family life which results from it, have this aim: that the couple be ready with stout hearts to cooperate with the love of the Creator and the Savior. Who through them will enlarge and enrich His own family day by day.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Made in Santa Barbara

From the SB Independent, courtesy of Goleta pastor Billy Calderwood. All of these items (and there are many more) started in Santa Barbara, California:

-Earth Day
-Balance Bar
-Motel 6
-Sex Wax
-Big Dogs (clothing)
-Kinko's (in Isla Vista)
-Ranch Dressing
-Egg McMuffin

Although I dispute the assertion that Tri-Tip is a Santa Barbara invention. Santa Maria has held claim to that for lo these many years.
Maria, Gratia Plena

The Magnificent Event of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Through a singular grace of God, in view of the merits of her Son, Jesus Christ, Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin from the first moment of her presence in her mother's womb. This was to prepare her as a sinless vessel, the immaculate ark of the new and everlasting covenant, through which God would take human flesh upon Himself and be born as a human being, human like us in all things but sin.

It does not refer, as many Catholics have been erroneously taught, to the conception of Christ in Mary's womb, although it does anticipate that reality. And whatever special grace Mary has that others do not have is there because of God. Mary's sinlessness can only be a work of grace, of being perfected and made whole. For Mary, God did this at the moment of her conception, though she still had the freedom to cooperate with that grace. For the rest of us, however, God does this throughout our ordinary human lives, so that all who enter Heaven are perfect as God is perfect.
In mense autem sexto missus est angelus Gabriel a Deo in civitatem Galilaeae, cui nomen Nazareth, ad virginem desponsatam viro, cui nomen erat Ioseph de domo David, et nomen virginis Maria. Et ingressus ad eam dixit: "Ave, gratia plena, Dominus tecum". Ipsa autem turbata est in sermone eius et cogitabat qualis esset ista salutatio. Et ait angelus ei: "Ne timeas, Maria; invenisti enim gratiam apud Deum. Et ecce concipies in utero et paries filium et vocabis nomen eius Iesum. Hic erit magnus et Filius Altissimi vocabitur, et dabit illi Dominus Deus sedem David patris eius, et regnabit super domum Iacob in aeternum, et regni eius non erit finis". Luke 1:26-33
The angel Gabriel came down to her and said to her, "Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with you.... Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bare a son, and you will call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the seat of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His Kingdom will have no end."

Through this we know that 1.) Mary was "full of grace", 2.) God chose her out of all the women of the world, and 3.) because she was to carry the Son of the Most High in her womb, God in the flesh.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Giving thanks and Richard Dawson

We've been pretty busy lately; we spent much of last week preparing for family visits during the Thanksgiving holiday, which we were very blessed to have so soon after moving out here to Texas. We spent a lot of time eating all the food we prepared and touring the city and surrounding areas.

Sometimes when I relax, I like to tune in to reruns of old Match Game episodes on Game Show Network. This show epitomizes all that was nutty about the 1970's, complete with groovy music, polyester fashions, historical trivia, and tacky attempts at humor. Gene Rayburn, my muse. But, if I see Richard Dawson kiss one more woman on the lips, I'll...
Two brothers...

Last week while in Turkey, Pope Benedict XVI spent a good amount of time with Patriarch Bartholomew I (Eastern Orthodox) of the very ancient and venerable city of Constantinople (Istanbul). It is certainly refreshing to see them together, like the two brothers Peter and Andrew. While it's clear that Benedict and Bartholomew aren't quite ready to join hands and sing Kum Ba Ya, one hopes that this visit will further dialog and strenghten the hope for future reconciliation between much of the Eastern Orthodox world and the Roman Catholic church... after 1000 years of schism. Ut unum sint...

Here they are giving a common blessing, courtesy of Benedict pronounces the blessing in our cherished Latin, while Bartholomew pronounces the blessing in Greek.

This was only one of many memorable moments that occurred during this visit. Go here for more videos of the visit between Benedict and Bartholomew.

UPDATE: Joshua Treviño posts a very moving piece about his experience of the Patriarchal liturgy with Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Benedict. Read it!
On the twofold coming of Christ

Taken from today's office of readings, by St. Cyril of Jerusalem.
We do not preach only one coming of Christ, but a second as well, much more glorious than the first. The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom.

In general, what relates to our Lord Jesus Christ has two aspects. There is a birth from God before all ages, and a birth from a virgin at the fullness of time. There is a hidden coming, like that of rain on fleece, and a coming before all eyes, still in the future. At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming he endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels. We look then beyond the first coming and await the second. At the first coming we said: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." At the second we hall say it again; we shall go out with the angels to meet the Lord and cry out in adoration: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."

The Savior will not come to be judged again, but to judge those by whom he was judged. At his own judgment he was silent; then he will address those who committed the outrages against him when they crucified him and will remind them: "You did these things, and I was silent." His first coming was to fulfill his plan of love, to teach men by gentle persuasion. This time, whether men like it or not, they will be subjects of his kingdom by necessity. Malachi the prophet speaks of the two comings. "And the Lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple": that is one coming. Again he says of another coming: "Look, the Lord almighty will come, and who will endure the day of his entry, or who will sand in his sight? Because he comes like a refiner's fire, a fuller's herb, and he will sit refining and cleansing."

These two comings are also referred to by Paul in writing to Titus: "The grace of God the Savior has appeared to all men, instructing us to put aside impiety and worldly desires and live temperately, uprightly, and religiously in this present age, waiting for the joyful hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." Notice how he speaks of a first coming for which he gives thanks, and a second, the one we still await.

That is why the faith we profess has been handed on to you in these words: "He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end."

Our Lord Jesus Christ will therefore come from heaven. He will come at the end of the world, in glory, at the last day. For there will be an end to this world, and the created world will be made new.
Christ came first to be judged; When He comes again, He will come to judge us. As St. Cyril connects to the prophet Malachi, quoting him, he comes like a refiner's fire, a fuller's herb, and he will sit refining and cleansing... Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on us.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Let Them Say, "I Regret My Child!"

Janet A. Morana, associate director for Priests for Life and co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, makes a very good point in her article, When Pro-Aborts Say, "I Do Not Regret My Abortion."
More and more women, as part of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, hold signs at public events saying "I regret my abortion." The pro-abortion side, in response to this effort, is trying to give visibility to women who say, "I had an abortion and I don't regret it at all." ... Here's the point. We are saying abortion is hurtful, and they are saying childbirth is hurtful... The alternative experience to killing an unborn child is giving birth to that child -- not killing the child and then saying it was OK. The point of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign is that what the other side defends and promotes (that is, abortion) has a negative side that is being hidden and denied. To round up a group of women to continue denying it only proves our point, not theirs. The denial, in other words, continues, and most of the women who now hold "I Regret my Abortion" signs once said that their abortion caused them no problem at all.

If the other side really wants to try to mount a counter-campaign, they need to do what we have done, namely, take what we promote and show the negative side of it. We promote childbirth. The true reverse of our campaign would be to have women publicly come out and say, "I regret my child."
These groups that put forth abortion as the emancipation of women simply do not have a good response to these women who have found each other and are coming out to tell other women that their abortions have hurt them profoundly. Planned Parenthood, NOW, and NARAL have been trying to ignore them, passing them off as simply anti-woman... yeah, right...

Please check out Silent No More.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Marie Antoinette: La Reine Martyr

Just wanted to point out, which is the blog of Elena Maria Vidal (aka Mary Eileen Russell), author of Trianon, a historical fiction novel about the life of Queen Marie Antoinette of France, and Madame Royale, the sequel concerning the life of the Queen's daughter after the French Revolution.

Russell also reviews Sofia Coppola's recent film about Marie Antoinette. Christina and I went to see this film a few weeks ago. While I loved the film's use of scenary and costume, I agree with Russell's review for the most part, particularly this:
The Coppola film ends when the Revolution begins, at the moment when as Marie-Antoinette came into her own as the daughter of a great empress and as a queen who would not forsake her husband or her duty, even when to do so cost her her life. The new generation of movie goers will be deprived of such an inspiration that would be so powerful on screen. Antoinette's Christian fortitude is ignored and her personal tragedy is trivialized amid a movie of froth. Without the spiritual depths, the depiction is shallow and incomplete. I do not begrudge people their enjoyment of an art film about decadent adolescents romping at Versailles, surrounded by pastries and champagne, but the real Marie-Antoinette seems to be missing.
I guess the bloody details of revolution, courage, and martyrdom are too much real history for today's adolescents to appreciate...
Dogma is a Progressive Good!

As an addendum to my previous blogpost on the necessity of dogma, I submit this additional quotation from G.K. Chesterton, offered by Dr. Thursday of the American Chesterton Society blog:
People talk nowadays of getting rid of dogmas and all agreeing like brethren. But upon what can they all agree except upon a common dogma? If you agree, you must agree on some statement, if it is only that a cat has four legs. If the dogmas in front of you are false, get rid of them; but do not say that you are getting rid of dogmas. Say that you are getting rid of lies. If the dogmas are true, what can you do but try to get men to agree with them? Nevertheless there is something deeper behind the rather vague attack on dogma which is widespread in our world. I think what the honest anti-dogmatists really mean about dogma is something like this: it is quite true that when one is talking to simple people such as children or the very poor, one does not repeat theoretic dogmas in their very theoretic form. One does not use frigid and philosophical language. One does not, in short, define the dogma. But let no one suppose that one is any the less dogmatic. For the simple truth is that, instead of defining the dogma, we simply assume the dogma. A mother does not say to her child, "There is a personal God, the moral and intelligent Governor of the universe". She says, "God will be pleased if you are good". She is quite as dogmatic as a college of theologians. Nay, she is more dogmatic, for it is more dogmatic to assume that a dogma is true than to declare that a dogma is true. But she is certainly simpler and better adapted to looking after babies than a college of theologians would be. And from this fact flows a singular consequence. It does often happen that the more good or innocent a man is, the more he imagines that he is undogmatic. The truth is that, so far from being undogmatic, he believes his dogmas so implicitly that he thinks that they are truisms.

[GKC Daily News Feb 13 1906 quoted in Maycock, The Man Who Was Orthodox]

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Remembrance Vespers, this week in Sugar Land

If you live in the Houston area, check this out. The Sugar Land choirs of St. Laurence Catholic Church and St. Theresa Catholic Church will be presenting an evening concert for Remembrance Vespers, featuring:

The Mass in G by Franz Schubert
with organ, orchestra, and soloists
conducted by Kevin Klotz

Thursday, November 9th, 7:30pm
at St. Theresa Catholic Church
115 Seventh St. in Sugar Land, TX

Admission is free, with free-will offering.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Don Giovanni, a cenar teco m'invitasti e son venuto!

Christina and I went downtown last night to experience Mozart's Don Giovanni, a production of the Houston Grand Opera at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts. We had a great time, and we of course loved the opera. Not bad for our first time! We had seats up in the loge section, which afforded us with a really great view of the stage as well as the orchestra below. And surely, the cultural and historical significance of this opera was not to be missed. So much fun!!

If you're interested, here is a Playbill Arts article about this production, with some photos of the performance.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

St. Catherine of Genoa, Treatise on Purgatory

... from the Treatise on Purgatory, by St. Catherine of Genoa, a most beautiful devotional read concerning purgatory and the holy souls embraced in God's perfect, divine love.
I perceive there to be so much conformity between God and the soul that when He sees it in the purity in which His Divine Majesty created it He gives it a burning love, which draws it to Himself, which is strong enough to destroy it, immortal though it be, and which causes it to be so transformed in God that it sees itself as though it were none other than God. Unceasingly He draws it to Himself and breathes fire into it, never letting it go until He has led it to the state whence it came forth, that is to the pure cleanliness in which it was created.

When with its inner sight the soul sees itself drawn by God with such loving fire, then it is melted by the heat of the glowing love for God, its most dear Lord, which it feels overflowing it. And it sees by the divine light that God does not cease from drawing it, nor from leading it, lovingly and with much care and unfailing foresight, to its full perfection, doing this of His pure love. But the soul, being hindered by sin, cannot go whither God draws it; it cannot follow the uniting look with which He would draw it to Himself. Again the soul perceives the grievousness of being held back from seeing the divine light; the soul's instinct too, being drawn by that uniting look, craves to be unhindered. I say that it is the sight of these things which begets in the souls the pain they feel in Purgatory. Not that they make account of their pain; most great though it be, they deem it a far less evil than to find themselves going against the will of God, whom they clearly see to be on fire with extreme and pure love for them.
God is merciful. His grace brings about our sanctification and salvation in Him, and it proceeds to complete the job even after death, so long as we desire, moved as it were by Him, to live in that grace and love here on earth.
Feast of All Saints, Feast of All Souls

These two great feast days have grown to be immensely important to my general spiritual life. Ever since becoming a Catholic in 1997, my appreciation and understanding concerning the mystical reality of the Communion of Saints and, indeed, the communion of all the baptized in the grace of Christ has grown in leaps and bounds. The realization that has most fostered my devotion to the holy souls in Purgatory is the realization that the connection we share with them and with the saints in heaven is not unlike that connection that all the baptized share, particularly those of us living here on the earth. We are all baptized into the same Christ, into His death and resurrection.

Sometimes it's easy to take our connection with the saints for granted. Our divine patrons and protectors, unceasingly offering prayer for us before God's throne. They behold the beatific vision, truly. And also those at God's doorstep, being purged of whatever remains of their sinful, selfish, and earthly inclinations after death before being able to completely behold the fullness of God's beauty and embrace. We have a connection with these souls that transcends the flesh. And our connection with each other really is no different. Yes, we interact with each other in the flesh, and though we do not yet behold the beatific vision, we should live with an appreciation of the profound spiritual unity we share in Christ. And so, knowing this connection, what is there to fear when one of us dies in God's grace? Yes, we can no longer behold one another in the flesh, but the spiritual reality is not destroyed since we know and believe that Christ conquered death.

So let us always and unceasingly offer prayer for both the living and the dead... and let us ask the dead, those who have new life in Christ, to offer prayer for us.
UCSB Daily Nexus & California Elections

Some interesting things...

My opinion of the UCSB Daily Nexus is not very high... and this is largely due to many, many reasons, not the least of which is their recent embrace of obscene and pornographic writing over the past couple of years. But I want to comment on a couple of their reflections of some of the California issues in next week's election.

First, it's interesting that they are endorsing Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. That's the first time I've seen them support a Republican of any stripe... not that it's saying much.

But here's what they say about Proposition 85, which will require parental notification for minors seeking abortions in the state:
This proposition puts unnecessary pressure on young pregnant girls and could lead these individuals to seek illegal abortions. While it would be nice if all parents could be involved in their children?s lives, certain exceptions prove parental notification to be dangerous. Prop 85 does not account for abusive parents who would kick their daughters out of their homes or for victims of incest.
Well, that's just it, isn't it. If a girl lives in an abusive situation at home, what is the alternative? Why it would be the status quo. Give the girl the (dangerous, unsafe, medically unregulated, yet legal) abortion she seeks, and then return her back into that abusive living environment... no questions asked. Not a chance - that solution is not sufficient. If a young woman is in an abusive situation, then she needs to be removed from that harmful environment. I believe Prop. 85 actually facilitates this rather than protecting the status quo. Yes, it involves the law. But protecting children often does -- that's why we have the law and child protection.

(Of course many of us already believe, as the early American feminists believed, that abortion, even when it's legal, is the ultimate form of oppression of women).

The Nexus then endorses Diane Feinstein (no surprise there), saying this:
Feinstein has, for the most part, championed everything that Californians believe in. She is for education, the environment, a woman?s right to choose and embryonic stem cell research. Meanwhile, Mountjoy does not embody California?s generally liberal attitude.
Is California really that liberal? It may surprise you to know that Kerry won California by only 55%. Would you call that a landslide victory? It is true that California's largest cities generally come out in favor of abortion. But it isn't generally true for California as a whole. Of course, if you oppose abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, you must oppose education and the environment as well, right? ;p Of course, those of us who endorse medically proven stem-cell research that doesn't involve the destruction of human embryos are told to "Shut up! There's no room for discussion, here!" Bleh...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Count Dracula goes to Washington

Last week we were flipping channels on the television and landed on some show about vampirism... Apparently folks in Transylvania are upset with Bram Stoker for ruining the reputation of their national hero, Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. And they don't like the whole vampire-lore popular culture surrounding Dracula that Americans seem to perpetuate. "How would you like it", they say, "if we made George Washington into an evil vampire?" Well, I'd have to say, that'd be totally awesome! Of course, can you really compare George Washington to a man known for impaling vast enemy armies on a pike? Either way...

Have a happy and fun Eve of All Hallows! In whatever you do, don't forget that this day means nothing without the Feast of All Saints, Nov. 1st.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Pope Benedict wants "for many"

According to Fr. John Zuhlsdorf at the WDTPRS blog:
Three different well-placed sources I trust in Congregations here in Rome confirmed for me that the Holy Father made the determination that the words "pro multis" in the consecration of the Precious Blood will be properly translated, "for many", in the upcoming English text now in preparation.
So if we use one of the original drafts of the upcoming new English translation of the mass, I guess the words will fit into Eucharistic Prayer I something like this:
Who on the day before he was to suffer took bread into his holy and venerable hands, and with eyes raised to heaven, to you, God, his almighty Father, giving you thanks, he blessed, broke, and gave it to his disciples, saying:
Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you.
In the same way, when supper was ended, taking also this noble cup into his holy and venerable hands, once more giving thanks, he blessed and gave it to his disciples, saying:
Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the cup of my blood of the new and everlasting covenant; it will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.
I don't object to the change; but I had heard good arguments that "for all" was a fairly accurate translation of the inclusive sense of the original language, transliterated into Latin as "pro multis". But nonetheless, "for many" more closely reflects the literal Latin, and doesn't necessarily destroy the sense of the text (in a way not unlike how our English bibles translate the phrase). Certainly, if this report is true, the Holy Father believes it is significant.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Please pray more...

The mother of a close friend of mine from childhood, of whom I spoke back in 2004, was diagnosed with cancer of the intestine back in 2004 and has managed to fight its spread relatively well only until recently. Now, things have taken a turn for the worse, and other organs are now affected. She is being placed in hospice care, and her situation is quite dire. Please take a moment to pray for her and for her family, for healing or holy death, if it be God's will, and for physical and spiritual consolation. Her name is Carolina. I only wish I was back in California if only to be present with them during this time. Like the families of many of my good friends, they have been so good to me. They included me in everything they did as a family, in spite of the culture gap.

UPDATE: Carolina died late Saturday night just after 11pm PST. Please pray for the respose of her soul and for the consolation of her family.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Trouble With Converts...

Jeff Tucker writes about his feelings in his article, I Hate Converts on Beliefnet. A little bit of generalizing, but he has some good points. Jeff is himself a former Southern Baptist, like myself.
The life of a new Catholic begins with confession and then reception of the Holy Eucharist at the Easter Vigil, when many converts receive the first communion they have ever received in their lives. They are the center of the entire congregation's attention, and the grandeur of the Easter liturgy seems designed for them alone. They are the toast of the Catholic town.

That's also when the trouble starts. Gone is the humility of the confessional, as the pride of having grabbed the brass ring takes over. Many new converts make the mistake of believing that there is nothing else to learn, no more questions to ask, no issues in dispute. Since all seems settled and done with, it is time take on the world?the Catholic world especially. They become know-it-alls who appoint themselves as the fixer-uppers of the whole faith

... Converts should remember that after the Easter of baptism comes the Second Sunday of Easter. In past times, that day was sometimes called Quasimodo Sunday because the traditional Latin entrance hymn of the Mass says: Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabiles, sine dolo lac concupiscite. That means that converts should be like newborn infants guilelessly drinking sweet milk from God.

Newborn infants. That?s the message. Remember the old adage that children should speak only when spoken to? You don't have to take it literally, but it's good cautionary advice. I suggest that converts first live the real day-to-to-day lives of Catholics for a while--and it's not always easy?before they dictate to the rest of us how to live.
This is why I have some problems with certain converts being hired as official Catholic apologists or Master Catechists in their parishes during their first year of being Catholic... I know there is a temptation to want to tell the world about the beauty of the Catholic faith, and that is something we shoudn't suppress at all! But we should be humble about it. In living the faith out, we come to a much more solid and realistic appreciation for it... and speaking from personal experience (as a convert know-it-all), I recommend that some converts seek spiritual direction after their reception into the Church. In fact, I would almost say it should be required that each convert be assigned a spiritual director. I would recommend the same for any Catholic who is serious about developing his/her spiritual life.

It's really sad to see some converts resort to being bitter and critical of the Church and its leaders within only one month after their reception of the sacraments. What does that really say?

Friday, October 13, 2006

All Saints Day Meme

Alas, I was tagged for this meme by Custos Fidei...

1. If you were invited to a Halloween/All Saints Day Costume Party, which saint would you dress up as and why? (The Blessed Virgin Mary,the Mother of God, is not an option.)
St. Thomas Aquinas, if only for the Dominican habit alone! being married will make it a little awkward... but, I don't think the wife'll mind too much!
2. Which saint or other person would accompany you to the party?
Meister Eckhart, St. Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, and a beer or two. There's your party right there.
3. What famous quote would help others identify you?
Sciences are differentiated according to the various means through which knowledge is obtained. For the astronomer and the physicist both may prove the same conclusion: that the earth, for instance, is round: the astronomer by means of mathematics (i.e. abstracting from matter), but the physicist by means of matter itself. Hence there is no reason why those things which may be learned from philosophical science, so far as they can be known by natural reason, may not also be taught us by another science so far as they fall within revelation. Hence theology included in sacred doctrine differs in kind from that theology which is part of philosophy.

They'll never forget who I am.
4. Describe your costume.
the Dominican habit... or some likeness... that's all I need.
5. Which movie or film best depicts the life of this saint?
I don't believe there is a movie or film... hmm...
6. What is your favorite book written about this saint or that he or she has written?
The Summa Theologica...

Friday, September 29, 2006

Jesus in Cowboy Boots, Part 2

This is in reference to my earlier post on the subject of the Jesus in Cowboy Boots statue found in Evergreen cemetery in Paris, Texas. Here is a better picture of the statue... with the boots, of course. After carrying your cross, enjoy a night of dancing with these fashionable boots. They look comfortable, even in cement form. (Actually, as I mentioned in the previous post, this may not actually be meant to represent Jesus, but it's something only found in Texas!)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

An Evening with the Opus Dei Prelate

Just got back from an evening with the Prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarria. He's a very personable and humble man, a joy to interact with. I'm going to reflect on the experience a bit more before I post in depth, but suffice it to say that there did appear to be well over 2000 people in attendance, from Houston and other areas. Overall, a good evening.
Cardinal Mahony on CA's Prop 85

Message from the news archive... and a transcript of a recorded message:
As you may know, under current California law a minor girl under the age of 18 cannot leave school to go on a field trip, she cannot get a flu shot, a tooth pulled, or even an aspirin from the school nurse without one of her parents being notified.

Yet that same child -- a girl as young as 12 years old -- can be taken by a complete stranger to an abortion center, put under general anesthesia, and undergo a surgical or chemical abortion without her parents' knowledge or consent.

This is why I urge you to support, work for and vote YES on Proposition 85, the Parents' Right to Know and Child Protection Initiative, on Election Day, Tuesday, November 7th.

Proposition 85 requires a physician to notify at least one parent 48 hours before performing an abortion on a girl under 18 years old.

Parents have a duty to protect their own children. Engaged in the raising of their daughter, parents have insight into what is best for their children; they know her personal and medical history. Parents are the best ones to help a minor daughter understand all her options if she becomes pregnant. Without parental involvement, other influences can dominate.

Parental notification laws are desperately needed to protect young girls.

Here is another vital reason you and I should vote YES on Proposition 85 on November 7th: secret abortions on minors allow the exploitation of tens of thousands of vulnerable girls, leaving them physically and emotionally devastated.

More than thirty states now have parental notification or consent laws, and these states have seen a dramatic drop in teen abortions AND teen pregnancies as a result of this change in the law. Here in California, the Office of the Legislative Analyst estimates that parental notification would reduce the number of abortions in our state by 25% per year.

So please vote YES on Proposition 85 on November 7th. And please do all you can to promote this crucial measure, and urge your family, friends and neighbors to do the same.

I hope you will join with me in praying daily, from now until the November elections, that voters will strongly support Proposition 85.
This same initiative was very narrowly defeated last year.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

George Weigel: The Pope was Right

From the LATimes.

Good article also engaging the whole subject at hand... the pope's use of the quotation was not meaningless...
By quoting from a robust exchange between a medieval Byzantine emperor and a learned Islamic scholar, Benedict XVI was not making a cheap rhetorical point; he was trying to illustrate the possibility of a tough-minded but rational dialogue between Christians and Muslims. That dialogue can only take place, however, on the basis of a shared commitment to reason and a mutual rejection of irrational violence in the name of God.
And the reaction to the quotation also demonstrates this point. It is the confrontation, if you will, of dialogue between those who treat faith and reason as complimentary, and those who do not. Somewhere from that, dialogue must proceed. Reducing the lecture down to a quotation soundbite, as the press has done, does not even touch on the point of the lecture. I firmly believe that the primary cause of this violence has been because the press has so actively aimed to distort the lecture's point, first and foremost by deliberately taking this quotation out of context and waving it for the world to see.
Cardinal Mahony meets with Muslims

...from the News Archive.

It looks like it was more an opportunity to affirm interfaith commitments rather than a chance to discuss the substance of the pope's lecture (or at least the article doesn't discuss that part of the meeting with us), but I was still glad to at least see this:
The Muslim leaders recalled the hurt that many Muslims felt when Pope Benedict quoted a 14th Century Byzantine emperor who stated that Islam was spread by the sword. The Muslim leaders also said that they welcomed the pope's subsequent statements clarifying his position on Muslim-Catholic relations. The delegation also condemned the violent acts that targeted Christian churches and people in the wake of the pope's initial speech.

Dr. Muzzamil Siddiqi, Chairman of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, recalled "Nostra Aetate," the Second Vatican Council's document on the Church's relations with non-Christians, in urging Muslims and Catholics to re-double their efforts to work more closely together on moral, social and civil rights issues. Muslim and Catholic leaders have collaborated on issues of health care, education, immigration and the alleviation of poverty. Over the years, Catholic-Muslim dialogue in Los Angeles has resulted in the publication of two joint documents: "Religion and the U.S. Constitution," and a document on interfaith marriage.
This proves that many Muslims are willing to speak up and condemn the violent actions of the radical fringe. What also pleases me is the urgency on their part to recommit themselves with Catholics to interfaith dialogue, including collaboration on important social problems.
Sunday Homily: Faith, Reason, and Regensburg

I meant to post this excellent homily given by my pastor, Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds, last Sunday at St. Theresa's in Sugar Land. It is posted on our parish website here. The MP3 is about 17 minutes long, but it is a thorough treating of the whole affair.

Effectively, the homily treats the true subject of the Holy Father's lecture and notes how well the reaction from both some Muslims and secularists fit into it, all resulting from those who have tried to separate reason from faith (or faith from reason). I understand a hard copy will be available soon. The Catholic Church treats faith and reason as being perfectly complimentary, as Fr. Reynolds notes at the end and as I have quoted before on this blog, the opening line from Pope John Paul II's encyclical Fides et Ratio:
Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth -- in a word, to know himself -- so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.
We believe God is reasonable, that is, he can be known by way of His creation, His revelation, and also because we know that God always acts in accord with His very nature -- He is not capricious. The pope's point concerning Islam involves their belief in the utter transcendence of God -- that He cannot be known by reason, and any revelation on his part or assertion of rationality diminishes, in their view, His transcendence. This allows for God to act in a way that contradicts His own word -- it doesn't have to make sense to human beings because His ways cannot be known.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pastoral Visit of Bishop Javier Echevarria

The Prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarria, is currently visiting North America, stopping to gather with folks in various locations, including New York, Canada, San Francisco, and (next week) Houston. Here are some pictures of Bishop Echevarria's visit in New York. Christina and I are planning to see him when he visits Houston next week. It promises to be fun!
Opus Dei

Bill reflects on his experience with Opus Dei. I also attended last night's evening of recollection in Houston and, as always, I enjoyed it immensely. I have been greatly impressed by the caliber of the men involved with the Work, and most especially the priests. I also find a great appeal in the teachings of St. Josemaria Escriva -- though these teachings are nothing new! They are the teachings of the Church, especially as underscored recently by the Second Vatican Council (e.g. Lumen Gentium), but I believe St. Josemaria's message is one that our modern world desperately needs to hear and hear again.

We are ordinary folk, and yet every one of us is called to be a saint. God wants all of us! But how is this accomplished in us? Be a saint in your work! Our daily work, in our jobs and in our families, should be a fit offering of God; if it's something we can offer to Him, then our work is holy. I always try to focus on my individual relationships and conversations of the day. How simple they are, yet God is present even in that connection if you only look and are aware. Everything we do in our day is carried out in the presence of God. He is never far from us, so we should never lose hope! God is always making His presence known to us... And yet we must talk about being realistic in our spiritual growth. It's not easy, and we have many things that distract us... many failings... but God, in His grace, gives us what we need to turn things around and to live with Him.
Do not become alarmed or discouraged to discover that you have failings - and such failings! Struggle to uproot them. And as you do so, be convinced that it is even a good thing to be aware of all those weaknesses, for otherwise you would be proud. And pride separates us from God.

-St. Josemaria Escriva, from The Forge #181
I have also found great inspiration in the spirituality of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), which I will write more about another time.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Yes, yes, exactly!
...She values especially the Greek and Latin languages in which wisdom itself is cloaked, as it were, in a vesture of gold...
from Veterum Sapientia by Pope John XXIII.

This is why I always prefer the original language, even when it is a challenge to process. Things carefully articulated and expressed in Latin just don't have the same effect in translation.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

10 Programming Languages

From eWeek: 10 Programming Languages You Should Learn Right Now.
1. PHP
2. C#
3. AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML)
4. JavaScript
5. Perl
6. C
7. Ruby and Ruby on Rails
8. Java
9. Python
10. VB.Net (Visual Basic .Net)
Garabandal: A Word to the Wise

So apparently a woman named Wendy Benedick had been organizing a charter trip for pilgrims to fly to Garabandal to be present for the alleged Miracle of Our Lady. Aside from the fact that the claims of Garabandal are highly questionable, there is absolutely no date given for the Miracle (and apparently it is only known by one of the supposed visionaries of Garabandal) other than that it would occur eight days after the preceding Warning. The information for the trip is noted on Sadie Jaramillo's website (emphasis mine):
Contact: Wendy Benedict(sic)-Pilgrimage Tours
Mail payments to Wendy Benedict (sic)...

Means of travel: A 470-seat 747-charter plane. Departure: JFK Airport, New York City, New York Arrival: Victoria or Bilboa, Spain. Date: (to be announced) In March, April or May based on the announcement by Conchita [one of the visionaries]. Cost: The price is $1,500.00 ($200.00 is non-refundable) per person from JFK to Spain (round trip). Cashier's check or money orders only (no personal checks). Other Necessities: It is recommended that you bring a sleeping bag, tent, and preserved food items as we will be camping at the foot of The Pines. Check back with this site at a later date for a recommended list of equipment. Also do not forget to have a current passport.

Please note!! - only Conchita knows the exact date of the Miracle. The Miracle will occur 8 days following Conchita's announcement. If people wait until the Warning occurs, they might not have enough time to make a booking on Wendy's flight or make any other travel arrangements. This is why those who are serious about being on this trip must call Wendy as soon as possible.
Well, it seems that some folks had enough faith in the claims of Garabandal to send their $1500 to Wendy Benedick in the hope of securing a place on this trip, without any real foreknowledge of when it was to occur. The plans turned sour when Wendy Benedick died in April of this year, and now a lot of these folks are in a dilly of a pickle trying to get their money back. Apparently she left absolutely no information concerning the charter trip she was organizing, and now all of the money is tied up in her estate, with all of the legal complications, struggles with creditors, and all the rest. There is a lesson to be learned here... but I can't quite put my finger on it!!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows (Sept. 15)

From yesterday's Office of Readings; From a sermon by St. Bernard, abbot:
The martyrdom of the Virgin is set forth both in the prophecy of Simeon and in the actual story of our Lord's passion. The holy old man said of the infant Jesus: "He has been established as a sign which will be contradicted." He went on to say to Mary: "And your own heart will be pierced by a sword."

Truly, O blessed Mother, a sword has pierced your heart. For only by passing through your heart could the sword enter the flesh of your Son. Indeed, after your Jesus -- who belongs to everyone, but is especially yours -- gave up his life, the cruel spear, which was not withheld from his lifeless body, tore open his side. Clearly it did not touch his soul and could not harm him, but it did pierce your heart. For surely his soul was no longer there, but yours could not be torn away. Thus the violence of sorrow has cut through your heart, and we rightly call you more than martyr, since the effect of compassion in you has gone beyond the endurance of physical suffering.

Or were those words: "Woman, behold your Son," not more than a sword to you, truly piercing your heart, cutting through to the division between soul and spirit? What an exchange! John is given to you in place of Jesus, the servant in place of the Lord, the disciple in place of the master; the son of Zebedee replaces the Son of God, a mere man replaces God himself. How could these words not pierce your most loving heart, when the mere remembrance of them breaks ours, hearts of stone and iron though they are!

Do not be surprised, brothers, that Mary is said to be a martyr in spirit. Let him be surprised who does not remember the words of Paul, that one of the greatest crimes of the Gentiles was that they were without love. That was far from the heart of Mary; let it be far from her servants.

Perhaps someone will say: "Had she not known before that he would die?" Undoubtedly. "Did she not expect him to rise again at once?" Surely. "And still she grieved over her crucified Son?" Intensely. Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary that at the passion of Mary's Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.
Stabat Mater dolorósa juxta Crucem lacrimósa, dum pendébat Filius. Cujus ánimam geméntem, contristátam et doléntem, pertransivit gladius. O quam tristis et afflicta fuit illa benedicta Mater Unigéniti!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Benedict XVI: Faith, Reason and the University... and Islam?

Read what the pope actually said at Regensburg concerning Faith, Reason and the University. It is, of course, very good when read from beginning to end! Is a statement, a quotation, taken out of context, really a sound reason to start riots and burn him in effigy?

And it bothers me that it seems that the news media is the primary cause of this pain, provoking anger in the Muslim world by latching on to this quotation and reporting things like, "POPE SLAMS ISLAM", when in fact, the lecture has nothing to do with Islam itself, and only uses the quotation to develop its key points, including the condemnation of religious violence. One hopes that this lecture is translated into Arabic and other languages to allow people to understand it. The media involvement underscores the reality that, by and large, the media is no friend of ours if they encourage things like this.

Knowing that people are dear to our pope's mind and heart, I have no doubt that he is grieved by this, and so I expect him to address it further -- even if its cause was frivolous -- because the events underscore deeper realities. He won't ignore them. The Vatican is assuring people that the pope's feelings echo those expressed by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council in Nostra Aetate:
The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I once had a talent...

... for creating names, just because...

Anyway, Matt, you can't worry yourself so much about the policies of the University...
I like to anyway...
Alan (me):
C'mon, Match, you have to look on the bright side...
Did you just call me Match?
Hm. Yes, I certainly did.
That's what happened to me; My name used to be Pat. Just accept it, Match.
Okay.... Alatch.
Hmm. No.
And it was so. You had to be there. Though of course, this was certainly no Tu es Petrus moment, because I could never arrogate myself to that level... but just so...
And then there was Musical Taste

Your Taste in Music:

80's Alternative: High Influence
90's Alternative: High Influence
Progressive Rock: High Influence
80's Pop: Medium Influence
80's Rock: Medium Influence

I don't know... it's true enough, I suppose, but what about Mozart, Lassus, Victoria, Byrd, Tallis, DuFay, and Palestrina?! These guys could give Pink Floyd a solid trouncing any day of the week...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Blessed Virgin Compared To The Air We Breathe

by Gerald Manley Hopkins, S.J.
WILD air, world-mothering air,
Nestling me everywhere,
That each eyelash or hair
Girdles; goes home betwixt
The fleeciest, frailest-flixed
Snowflake; that 's fairly mixed
With, riddles, and is rife
In every least thing's life;
This needful, never spent,
And nursing element;
My more than meat and drink,
My meal at every wink;
This air, which, by life's law,
My lung must draw and draw
Now but to breathe its praise,
Minds me in many ways
Of her who not only
Gave God's infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk, and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race --
Mary Immaculate,
Merely a woman, yet
Whose presence, power is
Great as no goddess's
Was deemèd, dreamèd; who
This one work has to do --
Let all God's glory through,
God's glory which would go
Through her and from her flow
Off, and no way but so.
I say that we are wound
With mercy round and round
As if with air: the same
Is Mary, more by name.
She, wild web, wondrous robe,
Mantles the guilty globe,
Since God has let dispense
Her prayers his providence:
Nay, more than almoner,
The sweet alms' self is her
And men are meant to share
Her life as life does air.
If I have understood,
She holds high motherhood
Towards all our ghostly good
And plays in grace her part
About man's beating heart,
Laying, like air's fine flood,
The deathdance in his blood;
Yet no part but what will
Be Christ our Saviour still.
Of her flesh he took flesh:
He does take fresh and fresh,
Though much the mystery how,
Not flesh but spirit now
And makes, O marvellous!
New Nazareths in us,
Where she shall yet conceive
Him, morning, noon, and eve;
New Bethlems, and he born
There, evening, noon, and morn --
Bethlem or Nazareth,
Men here may draw like breath
More Christ and baffle death;
Who, born so, comes to be
New self and nobler me
In each one and each one
More makes, when all is done,
Both God's and Mary's Son.
Again, look overhead
How air is azurèd;
O how! nay do but stand
Where you can lift your hand
Skywards: rich, rich it laps
Round the four fingergaps.
Yet such a sapphire-shot,
Charged, steepèd sky will not
Stain light. Yea, mark you this:
It does no prejudice.
The glass-blue days are those
When every colour glows,
Each shape and shadow shows.
Blue be it: this blue heaven
The seven or seven times seven
Hued sunbeam will transmit
Perfect, not alter it.
Or if there does some soft,
On things aloof, aloft,
Bloom breathe, that one breath more
Earth is the fairer for.
Whereas did air not make
This bath of blue and slake
His fire, the sun would shake,
A blear and blinding ball
With blackness bound, and all
The thick stars round him roll
Flashing like flecks of coal,
Quartz-fret, or sparks of salt,
In grimy vasty vault.
So God was god of old:
A mother came to mould
Those limbs like ours which are
What must make our daystar
Much dearer to mankind;
Whose glory bare would blind
Or less would win man's mind.
Through her we may see him
Made sweeter, not made dim,
And her hand leaves his light
Sifted to suit our sight.
Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my froward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;
Stir in my ears, speak there
Of God's love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer:
World-mothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.
Cocky Convert Syndrome

After I was received into the Catholic Church in 1997, I was a cocky convert; I must've driven my college roomies nuts. Mea culpa! It took a few years for me to realize that I didn't have to "know everything" all of the time; that it's okay to have to grow-up in the faith a bit more, studying it, and most importantly, humbly living it out. Today, I feel much more grounded and solid in my faith than I did in 1997. I feel I can much more easily articulate sound teaching (at least I hope it's sound!) without getting frustrated with others or bursting an artery in my brain.

I think the cockiness arose from the fact that I felt I had to constantly justify my decision, which was a big one, and when I felt the prompting of the Spirit to accept the sacraments, I was sure I was doing the right thing. There were those who couldn't accept what I did, and I recall how a few months before my reception into the Church, my Baptist youth pastor (who had, up until that point, encouraged my study of the Catholic Faith) sent me a very warm Valentine's card urging me to reconsider my "choice of church" for fear that I had been too influenced by Satan and the Catholic "mystique". It's so easy to throw around the Scriptural and Patristic one-line proof-texts, thinking "Here it is, why can't you see it?! You have to see it!" And then I think, if this is real faith, and if this is truly God's gift, then maybe I have to let them see it in me too... in my life, in my choices. After all, it is the Holy Spirit who touches hearts.

I think another reason for the cockiness is the amount of attention converts get nowadays... from their parishes, friends, and family. Suddenly it seems there's something special to someone who would choose to accept the faith most are born in to. Yes, it may be true that most adult converts may have studied the faith to a level beyond the average cradle catholic, yet when it comes to the lived experience of that faith, converts are just beginners. We need the entire community. We're Catholic, after all, and we're all called to be saints.

And so I get worried when I see the potential for cocky convert syndrome in other converts, who obviously have a good zeal and love for the Church. The ability to articulate the truths of the faith is not automatic and takes more than just an intellectual understanding; Rather, the lived experience of these truths can give substance to the belief.

St. Augustine of Hippo, pray for us!

Monday, September 04, 2006

On the Dignity (and Spirituality) of Work

Mike Aquilina of The Way of the Fathers has an excellent reminder concerning the consistent Christian respect for the dignity of work -- an important thing to remember and think about on this Labor Day.

Our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, wrote in his encyclical on the dignity of Human Work, Laborem Exercens (emphasis mine):
The Church is convinced that work is a fundamental dimension of man's existence on earth. She is confirmed in this conviction by considering the whole heritage of the many sciences devoted to man: anthropology, palaeontology, history, sociology, psychology and so on; they all seem to bear witness to this reality in an irrefutable way. But the source of the Church's conviction is above all the revealed word of God, and therefore what is a conviction of the intellect is also a conviction of faith.
The pope goes on to discuss the formation of a spirituality of work:
At the same time she sees it as her particular duty to form a spirituality of work which will help all people to come closer, through work, to God, the Creator and Redeemer, to participate in his salvific plan for man and the world and to deepen their friendship with Christ in their lives by accepting, through faith, a living participation in his threefold mission as Priest, Prophet and King...
Of course, this notion is nothing new to the Gospel, but it is a message that our present world desperately needs to hear. This is particularly why the Second Vatican Council gave such importance to the subject in its pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, Gaudium et Spes. The pope goes on to echo this document:
Awareness that man's work is a participation in God's activity ought to permeate, as the Council teaches, even "the most ordinary everyday activities. For, while providing the substance of life for themselves and their families, men and women are performing their activities in a way which appropriately benefits society. They can justly consider that by their labour they are unfolding the Creator's work, consulting the advantages of their brothers and sisters, and contributing by their personal industry to the realization in history of the divine plan".

This Christian spirituality of work should be a heritage shared by all. Especially in the modern age, the spirituality of work should show the maturity called for by the tensions and restlessness of mind and heart. "Far from thinking that works produced by man's own talent and energy are in opposition to God's power, and that the rational creature exists as a kind of rival to the Creator, Christians are convinced that the triumphs of the human race are a sign of God's greatness and the flowering of his own mysterious design. For the greater man's power becomes, the farther his individual and community responsibility extends. ... People are not deterred by the Christian message from building up the world, or impelled to neglect the welfare of their fellows. They are, rather, more stringently bound to do these very things".

The knowledge that by means of work man shares in the work of creation constitutes the most profound motive for undertaking it in various sectors.
Do we approach our work in this way? It is a challenge, certainly. This very understanding of the sanctification of work, the ordinary work of life, as a means of encountering God is central to the teachings of Opus Dei, underscored by the Second Vatican Council: Be a saint through your work and further the Work of God. Take a moment today to read the encyclical and meditate on its message concerning the dignity and indeed the spirituality of human work.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

My Wedding Day

Here are a couple of pictures of my wife, Christina, and me on our wedding day.

The entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church. Already Baptism, the entry into the People of God, is a nuptial mystery; it is so to speak the nuptial bath which precedes the wedding feast, the Eucharist. Christian marriage in its turn becomes an efficacious sign, the sacrament of the covenant of Christ and the Church. Since it signifies and communicates grace, marriage between baptized persons is a true sacrament of the New Covenant.
     - Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1617
Thank you to everyone for your prayerful support -- please continue to pray for us and for our married life!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

First Crush

Laetitia Winery in Arroyo Grande, CA, opens its harvest season with the crushing of grapes in its rare basket presses. We visited the winery the day after our wedding, not too long before we left California, and enjoyed a tasting and a visit with these amazing presses. The winery is just one of several wineries that have popped up all up and down the central and south California coast within the last 15 years. Even our class in Natural Family Planning was held at a winery tasting room up in Paso Robles, CA. So cool! :)

Monday, August 28, 2006

St. Augustine, pray for us

Today I celebrate the feast day of my patron, St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. I am certainly no expert of all of his writing, and St. Blog's is filled with Augustine scholars, so I will leave that for now. Augustine's witness was an important part of my becoming a Roman Catholic. He effectively taught me how to put my intellect to proper use in the sincere pursuit of truth. The pursuit of real truth, that is, as opposed to a self-serving pursuit of truth that seeks it when it is good but avoids it when it starts to reveal things about one's self. The pursuit of real truth is, ultimately, the embrace of that Truth that is the person of Jesus Christ. This is what I believe St. Augustine refers to in Ch. 23, Book 10 of his Confessions when he says that Truth by which all things else are true.

So this selection from Augustine's Confessions is my favorite exposition on the nature of truth. Here is what he writes in the original Latin (emphasis mine):
cur autem veritas parit odium et inimicus eis factus est homo tuus verum praedicans, cum ametur beata vita, quae non est nisi gaudium de veritate, nisi quia sic amatur veritas ut, quicumque aliud amant, hoc quod amant velint esse veritatem, et quia falli nollent, nolunt convinci quod falsi sint? itaque propter eam rem oderunt veritatem, quam pro veritate amant. amant eam lucentem, oderunt eam redarguentem. quia enim falli nolunt et fallere volunt, amant eam cum se ipsa indicat, et oderunt eam cum eos ipsos indicat. inde retribuet eis ut, qui se ab ea manifestari nolunt, et eos nolentes manifestet et eis ipsa non sit manifesta.

Sic, sic, etiam sic animus humanus, etiam sic caecus et languidus, turpis atque indecens latere vult, se autem ut lateat aliquid non vult. contra illi redditur, ut ipse non lateat veritatem, ipsum autem veritas lateat. tamen etiam sic, dum miser est, veris mavult gaudere quam falsis. beatus ergo erit, si nulla interpellante molestia de ipsa, per quam vera sunt omnia, sola veritate gaudebit.
I print the Latin here to point out the juxtaposition in his language between noun and verb references to love (amor) vs. hatred (odium), and truth (veritas) vs. that thing [people] love in place of truth (rem quam pro veritate amant). It's interesting to me to see the way Augustine carefully sets and mixes the dueling themes here in opposition: For example, Love vs. Hatred is Truth vs. Hatred, and Truth vs. that other thing is really Love vs. love of that other thing which isn't true. So it is that a false, self-serving love is not real love, just as a false, self-serving pursuit of truth is not a pursuit of real truth.

Next, if you notice, Truth here is not portrayed as something merely sought, but as something that is active. Truth elucidates; it arouses hatred in those who falsely seek it, and joy (inevitably) in those who seek it with sincerity. This is because real Truth sheds light on everything. As I have emphasized in the text, amant eam lucentem, oderunt eam redarguentem -- they love [truth] when it enlightens them, they hate [truth] when it reprehends [accuses, or unveils] them.

This is where Augustine grabs you, sic, sic, etiam sic (thus, thus, even thus!), to make his ultimate point about the human soul. Man finds himself in the balance between wanting to see what Truth elucidates and not wanting to see his own faults unveiled by Truth. Here even the most lazy soul, honestly desiring Truth, will seek it and find true joy in eventually finding it -- that truth, as Augustine writes, per quam vera sunt omnia (by which all things are true). The sincere pursuit of truth is the pursuit of the One who makes things true, the One who is Truth, who brings to light our sins and sanctifies us by His grace so that we might be made holy in our pursuit of Him.

Here is a full English translation (not mine, somebody elses!):
Why does truth call forth hatred? Why is Your servant treated as an enemy by those to whom he preaches the truth, if happiness is loved, which is simply joy in truth? Simply because truth is loved in such a way that those who love some other thing want it to be the truth, and precisely because they do not wish to be deceived, are unwilling to be convinced that they are deceived. Thus they hate the truth for the sake of that other thing which they love because they take it for truth. They love truth when it enlightens them, they hate truth when it accuses them. Because they do not wish to be deceived, and do wish to deceive, they love truth when it reveals itself, and hate it when it reveals them. Thus it shall reward them as they deserve: those who do not wish to be revealed by truth, truth will unmask against their will, but it will not reveal itself to them.

Thus, thus, even thus, does the human mind, blind and inert, vile and ill-behaved, desires to keep itself concealed, yet desire that nothing should be concealed from itself. But the contrary happens to it - it cannot lie hidden from truth, but only truth from it. Even so, for all its worthlessness, the human mind would rather find its joy in truth than falsehood. So that it shall be happy if, with no other thing to distract, it shall one day come to rejoice in that sole Truth by which all things are true.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Theater District Open House

This afternoon after mass, Christina and I went to downtown Houston to check out the annual Theater District Open House. It's basically an afternoon where all of the theaters are open, and you have a chance to see inside the theaters, take tours, walk around backstage, chat with actors and theater workers, as well as check out some free performances. You also get some opportunities for ticket discounts. We got down there later than we anticipated, but we managed to fill up the afternoon!

First, we checked out the Wortham Center, home of the renowned Houston Grand Opera. We went on a tour of some of the place -- what an amazing theater! We then grabbed lunch at the Hard Rock cafe and then checked out some of the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, where the Broadway shows and local theater company productions are done -- a very different building from the Wortham Center. Finally, we caught a free concert of the Houston Symphony at Jones Hall. We're looking forward to seeing some really good shows this season!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Little Way

Check out this website devoted to St. Therese of Lisieux and Carmelite spirituality:, run by a catholic bookstore in Salinas California called Corpus Christi Book+Store (also an associated blog).

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Testament of King St. Louis IX

... From a spiritual testament by King Saint Louis IX to his son, courtesy of Canterbury Tales.
My dearest son, my first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength. Without this there is no salvation. Keep yourself, my son, from everything that you know displeases God, that is to say, from every mortal sin. You should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind of martyrdom before you would allow yourself to commit a mortal sin.

If the Lord has permitted you to have some trial, bear it willingly and with gratitude, considering that it has happened for your good and that perhaps you well deserved it. If the Lord bestows upon you any kind of prosperity, thank him humbly and see that you become no worse for it, either though vain pride or anything else, because you ought not to oppose God or offend him in the matter of his gifts.

Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation oas you can. Thank God for all the benefits he has bestowed upon you, that you may be worthy to receive greater. Always side with the poor rather than with the rich, until you are certain of the truth.

Be devout and obedient to our mother the Church of Rome and the Supreme Pontiff as your spiritual father.

In conclusion, dearest son, I give you every blessing that a loving father can give a sons. May the three Persons of the Holy Trinity and all the saints protect you from every evil. And may the Lord give you the grace to do his will so that he may be served and honored through you, that in the next life we may together come to see him, love him and praise him unceasingly. Amen.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


by Edgar Degas

I don't know what it is about this painting that fascinates me... perhaps its the woman's melancholy expression, or the full glass of cloudy absinthe sitting in front of her.

From Wikipedia:
Painted in 1876, it depicts two figures, a woman and man, who sit in the center and right of this painting, respectively. The man, wearing a hat, looks right, off the canvas, while the woman, dressed formally and also wearing a hat, stares vacantly downward. A glass filled with the titular greenish liquid, absinthe, sits before her. The woman in the painting is the actress Ellen Andrée, the man Marcellin Desboutin, painter, engraver and, at the same time, celebrated Bohemian character. The café where they are taking their refreshment is the Café de la Nouvelle-Athènes in Paris. n its first showing in 1876 it was panned by critics, who called it ugly and disgusting. It was put into storage until an 1892 exhibit where it was booed off the easel.

It was shown again in 1893 in England, this time titled "L'Absinthe" where it sparked controversy. The persons represented in the painting were considered by English critics to be shockingly degraded and uncouth...
Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (belated)

Rerum Supremo in Vertice...
You are given your place,
O Virgin, O Queen,
at creation's highest point;
enriched abundantly are you
with beauty of every kind.

Amidst all the rest of created things
you shine forth
as the finest of God's works,
for it was your destiny to bear a Son:
a Son, but also the very One who created you.

Just as Christ was king,
purpled, blood-stained
on that exalted tree,
so are you, sharer in his suffering,
the mother of all who live.

Adorned with praises so high,
look upon us who rejoice in you;
in your joy, accept the proclaiming song
that we pour forth gladly unto you.

To the Father, and to the Advocate blest,
and to the Son be great glory given;
they have enclothed you
with a garment of grace
most wondrous to behold.
Regina Caeli, ora pro nobis...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I wasn't aborted...

Petitioning for Life, by Julia Gorin. From the WSJ OpinionJournal:
The Web site of Ms. Magazine--yes, it still exists--is calling on readers to sign a petition: "I have had an abortion. I publicly join the millions of women in the United States who have had an abortion in demanding a repeal of laws that restrict women's reproductive freedom."

Well, so much for the right to privacy. If Ms. readers hadn't had so many abortions, there might be more Ms. readers. As for the rest of us, here's a petition we could all sign: "I wasn't aborted."

Having narrowly escaped being aborted, I'd be the first in line.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

On the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Christina and I attended mass this evening at our parish in Sugar Land to celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Lots of chant, song, and incense, and of course, a powerful message concerning the role of Mary in bringing us toward Christ and to the salvation God offers through His grace. The Marian dogmas tell us volumes about Christ. That is where their fundamental foundation lies, but we also have a relationship with her as we do with the whole Church in heaven and on earth. Our pastor underscored the fundamental point: We worship God alone, and we honor Mary precisely because Christ honored Mary, and Christ says to us as he said to John, Behold your mother (John 19:27). I like this meditation by St. Josemaría Escrivá:
The Catholic faith sees Mary as a sign of God's special love. God calls us his friends; his grace acts in us, winning us from sin, enabling us to reflect in some way the features of Christ, even though we are still wretched dirt. We are not stranded people whom God has promised to save. His salvation is already at work in us. In our relationship to God, we are not blind men yearning for light and crying in anguished darkness. We are children who know our Father loves us.

Mary tells us about this warmth and security. That's why her name goes straight to our heart. Our relationship with our own mother may show us how to treat Mary, the Lady of the Sweet Name. We have to love God with the same heart with which we love our parents, our brothers and sisters, the other members of our family, our friends. And we must love Mary with that same heart, too.

- St. Josemaría Escrivá, from Christ is Passing By, 142

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Body Worlds Horror

Neda Ulaby of NPR discusses the controversy over the Body Worlds exhibits in science museums around the country. Note also this story about the pregnant woman display. LifeSite also discusses it. The exhibit is currently "on display" here at the Museum of Natural Science in Houston. ... what Bill said...

I remember my fascination when a close doctor friend of mine took me to the cadaver room of the medical school he was attending at the time -- after the students had finished their dissection of the bodies. Aside from the remains of the corpses, do you know what filled the room? Bouquets of roses and assortments of flowers, thank-you cards, lengthy letters written by the medical students themselves to honor the dignity of the lives of those who had donated their bodies so that they could learn. The remains would then be later deposited in a respectful way, not put on public display for money. Quite different from what I see here -- bodies of questionable origin, put on public display and posed in ridiculous forms, as folks pay thousands of dollars to have a look before they go about their lives. No respect. No honor. It is honorable to show respect to the dead and to the remains of the dead, and it is a corporal work of mercy to bury the dead.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Is Dogma So Constraining?

Not at all! Dogma is progressive.

In its moral relativism, the culture in which we live despises the notion of religious dogma. Those of us who happen to profess dogma are labeled as closed-minded buffoons who are incapable of real thought and honest inquiry. For those who have no desire to learn or strive to believe anything, or develop a real, working understanding of their religious faith, this might be true. But the actual principle of dogma is nothing of the sort!

Dogma is actually a progressive method. It enables progressive thought. If human beings have any hope of growing or evolving in any way in the pursuit of truth, we have to be dogmatic about things - in fact, it's inherent in our brains that this is so. And so one isn't so shocked to find that all real, academic disciplines, including mathematics, philosophy, and all fields of science, are dogmatic by nature. It allows one to build upon the proven conclusions of one's predecessors... to ask, learn, and teach succeeding generations to enable them to go even further.

Dogma is healthy to a thinking brain. It is essential to real education. The great Catholic intellectual G.K. Chesterton summed it up best in Ch.4 of What's Wrong With the World:
It is quaint that people talk of separating dogma from education. Dogma is actually the only thing that cannot be separated from education. It is education. A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching.
And so why shouldn't Christ's Church also employ dogma to teach succeeding generations important truths about God? In paragraph 89, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure. Conversely, if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith.
In our case, the Church's proven conclusions are actually fruits of the Spirit that allow Christians of succeeding generations to better understand the fullness of God's revelation given in the person of Jesus Christ. God does this because left by ourselves, we would merely screw everything up and prevent others from understanding Him. Thus, we can understand things and speak about God today in ways that were very difficult for earlier Christian communities to grasp and articulate -- yet what we know today is organically rooted in what they were given by Christ. This is because real learning builds on itself. If every generation had to start from scratch, where would we be? Dogma therefore elucidates truth.

It may be, as the Catechism implies, that those who say that dogma only obscures truth merely don't like what it is that dogma actually brings to light -- namely that Christianity is more than just a shallow, flighty "I'm okay, you're okay" emotionalism. That we are indeed a sinful people who are called to reject sin, repent, and walk rightly with God and each other in a REAL relationship. But these same dogmas also teach us that God loves us, is merciful with us, and freely gives us everything we need to know Him, love Him, and walk uprightly with Him.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Jesus in Cowboy Boots and Other News

I had to start this off with one of those oddities of life that could only be found in Texas. If you're ever near Paris, TX, stop on over at Evergreen Cemetery to view the very interesting grave statue known to the locals as Jesus in Cowboy Boots. Nice snakeskins! Actually, I don't think anybody knows who is supposed to be depicted in the statue... just a guy in boots leaning on a cross I guess. The melancholy cowboy... but I wonder what the magdalene conspiracy folks are saying about this!

On our way to Houston, we stopped to spend a couple days on San Antonio's famous RiverWalk. A most excellent time! We visited the ancient Cathedral of San Fernando, strolled the city, and saw the Alamo, of course. And we recommend the Hotel Contessa on the RiverWalk and also Las Ramblas, the Spanish restaurant located downstairs. Good eatin'! Also, be sure to check out the riverwalk... especially at night.

Things are settling down here since we moved in. We've almost completed our unpacking, and we've got some new furniture on the way. I went back to work after my timeoff this week, and I love it! I will be working with some really interesting technology (compilers - programming language translation), and I'm on a great team with some great people whom I look forward to getting to know.

And just to know, it wasn't too long ago that our new home town of Sugar Land, TX was named the #3 best place to live in the nation by CNNMoney magazine. We really like living here as one can find just about everything within 15 minutes of our house, including tons of stores and restaurants, and a couple of very large movie theaters. And if you want a lot more culture and the arts, it's only a very swift 30 minutes into the city of Houston where you can find museums as well as the infamous theater district. We're planning on seeing Mozart's Don Giovanni there in the Fall.

We're also happy to be in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. Our new parish of St. Theresa's in Sugar Land is very solid, and we're not TOO far from the Anglican Use parish of Our Lady of Walsingham! About two weeks ago we attended one of the Cafe Catholica young adult events sponsored by the archdiocese. We were quite impressed not only to see more than 300 young adults there, but also to see that their ages were quite spread out. Prior to going, we were a little concerned that we would be the oldest ones there (as happens frequently in California groups). But we saw many young adults with their spouses and even their children there, all coming together to demonstrate their love of the Church and their interest to learn about it and each other. We also met the speaker, auxiliary bishop Joe Vasquez, for the first time.

Just last weekend, we took a little trip down to Galveston Island to visit the beach and to see some sights. It was good to see the ocean again, but it was rather crowded. This time, we have a busy weekend planned... and tonight, Shakespeare in the park!

If you're ever in the area and can stand the heat, drop me a line!


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