Saturday, October 13, 2007

Late Teens to Mid-40's?

When I served in young adult ministry in the Santa Barbara area, we struggled a bit with how to properly define young adult in terms of age. We knew that we weren't in the same boat as 18-24 yr old folks. We knew that, for the most part (there are always exceptions), young adults in college were in a completely different state of life than those who were out in the working and professional world. We also knew that we were different from those young adults of older ages who had already established families and had very different priorities. We decided that our ministry would target young adults between the ages of 25 and 35 and who were largely not married, or at the very least, did not yet have children. As our ministry grew, we (and I, very reluctantly) extended our target age "upper bound" from 35 to 40.

Just the other day, I received an email from another young adult group in California advertising an event. Their target age was given as "late teens to mid-40s". Really? "mid-40s"? I think that's pushing it to the extreme, and I think that this is a little too wide a range for which to operate an effective ministry.

I think Bill Cork said it best when he spoke on Young Adult Ministry at last year's Fullness of Truth conference in Houston: If you call yourself a young adult, and yet you're old enough to have children who are themselves old enough to be young adults in your same group, I've got news for you: You're not a young adult. You're middle-aged.

The horror!
Godzdogz, Reflections on the Filioque

We profess in the Nicene Creed: And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father (and the Son)... The phrase and the Son (Latin: filioque) has been the subject of intense controversy through the centuries between Eastern and Western Christianity.

The Godzdogz blog of the English Dominican Province offers a reflection on the Filioque controversy:
This phrase is misleadingly simple. The controversy it generated – usually referred to by its Latin form, Filioque – occasioned the first great schism in Christianity between the churches of the Latin West, which accepted its inclusion in the creed, and the churches of the (largely) Greek East, which did not. What was disputed concerned who God has revealed Himself to be.

The New Testament texts that speak of the relationship between the Spirit and the Son are concerned with God’s act of revelation in the Word incarnate; even John 15:26:
When comes the Paraclete whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth, which from the Father proceeds, that one will testify about me.
This of course is the reference par excellence in favour of the procession of the Spirit from the Father alone; but the word “alone” is not found in this text; rather what it deals with is the temporal mission of the Paraclete. The Latin Fathers appealed frequently to two other texts in John: 16:14-15:
That one [the Spirit of Truth] me will glorify, because of mine he will receive and will announce [it] to you. All things which has the Father mine are. Therefore I said that of mine he receives and will announce [it] to you
and 20:22:
And this having said he breathed on [them] and says to them receive [the] Holy Spirit.
If we are sons able to call God ‘Father’ that is because we have received the Spirit of his Son. Hilary of Poitiers thought that ‘of mine he will receive’ (Jn 16:14) might have the same meaning as ‘proceeds from the Father’ (De Trin. VIII, 20), while Augustine and Anselm believed that the breathing on the disciples (Jn 20:22) implied the procession of the Spirit from the Son.

The source of Latin reflection on the mystery of the Trinity was largely Augustine who developed his teaching by a rigorous exegesis of scripture. Here he is quoting himself (Tr. In Joh. Evang.99, 8-9):
I had been teaching from the evidence of the holy scriptures that the Holy Spirit proceeds from them both. I then went on to say: So if the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son, why did the Son say He proceeds from the Father (Jn 15:26)? Why indeed, do you suppose, unless it was the way he was accustomed to refer even what was his very own to him from whom he had his very self? For example, that other thing he said, My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me (Jn 7:16). If in this case we can accept that it is his teaching, which he says however is not his but the Father’s, how much more should we accept in our case that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from him, seeing that he said He proceeds from the Father without also saying ‘He does not proceed from me’?
The doctrine that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son began to be proclaimed as official church teaching in the church of Spain. It was regarded as a necessary counter to a kind of Arianism prevalent among the ruling Visigoths, which regarded the Holy Spirit as a creature of the Son just as it regarded the Son as a creature of the Father. The aim of the church there was to safeguard the consubstantiality of the Word incarnate with the Father. The Spanish church’s doctrine was shared by the churches of France and England, where by the late eighth century the term Filioque is found in the creed recited at Mass each Sunday, and where moreover it was assumed that the word had always been part of the creed of Nicaea. Things rapidly became polemical, for political as well as theological reasons. In 1014 the Roman church, under pressure from the Bavarian emperor, introduced the Frankish creed, containing the Filioque, into the Mass. When the definitive break with Constantinople occurred exactly forty years later the difference over the Filioque was one of the central points of dispute.

The fundamental Orthodox objection seems to be that it is a mistake to think of the persons of the Trinity as constituted by the relationships of their origins: their distinctness as hypostases is prior to their relationships; somehow, both the distinctness and the unity of the three hypostases are derived from the first person, the Father, who is the sole beginning and the only cause of divinity, which he communicates wholly to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the inter-personal relationships of the three are richer and more dynamic than just considering their relationship in terms of origin allows – summed up in the Greek term perichoresis – in terms of which modern Orthodox theologians explain statements of the Greek Fathers that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. Aquinas decided that we can also say this, with suitable qualifications: it is a way of stating, he says, what Augustine held, that the Son receives from the Father the power of being joint origin or ‘breather forth’ of the Holy Spirit; further, he saw it as a gesture of goodwill towards the Greek position. The concern in the West is that to omit the Filioque is to play down the fact that to name the Holy Spirit is to name not only the Father but also the Son, for the Spirit is necessarily constituted within their relationship and so related to both. The one God is the Father begetting the Son in the love of the Spirit and the Son loving the Father in the same Spirit in whom he is lovingly begotten. The Son and Spirit are both ‘God of God’ and the point of the doctrine of the Filioque is to remind us of this teaching.
What is also interesting is something John Allen brought to our attention back in 2003:
Fr. Johannes Grohe, an Opus Dei priest who teaches church history at Santa Croce, spoke on the history of church councils. He offered several interesting nuggets, such as the fact that a regional council in Persia in 410 produced one of the earliest insertions of the famed "filioque" clause into the Creed, specifying that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father "and from the Son." This council, as Grohe points out, was an Eastern affair, and its adoption of the filioque came out of the rich theological reflection of early Persian Christianity. Hence the notion that the filioque is solely an imposition of the medieval Western Church upon the East, born of later controversies between Rome and Byzantium, is historically dubious.
Meanwhile, dialog moves forward...
Chesterton in Santa Barbara

Well, close anyway. From the Westmont College Office of Public Affairs:
Influential early 20th century English writer G.K. Chesterton will be the focus of a talk at Westmont Thursday, Oct. 18. Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society, will deliver a free lecture, “An Introduction to G.K. Chesterton,” in Hieronymus Lounge at 7 p.m.

A group of Westmont alumni and friends who began a chapter of The Chesterton Society in Santa Barbara in 2003 are sponsoring the event.

“We were inspired by the Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton to pursue a modest goal of reading great literature and contemplating the human condition,” says Rich Dixon, a founding member of the group and 1992 Westmont alumnus. “His more than 100 books remain timeless in their humor, wonder, and use of paradox and cover a range of genres, including poetry, history, literary criticism, economics, philosophy and politics.”

Chesterton’s most well-known works include “Orthodoxy,” “Heretics” and “Everlasting Man.”

Ahlquist is the creator and host of the “Apostle of Common Sense” television series on EWTN, Eternal Word Television Network. He has spoken at Yale, Columbia, New York, Pennsylvania and Villanova Universities and many others venues around the world. His books “G.K. Chesterton - The Apostle of Common Sense” and “Common Sense 101: Lessons from G.K. Chesterton” will be available for purchase.
This is especially interesting since Westmont is a private college of the evangelical Protestant tradition. And I had no idea that there was an ACS chapter at Westmont.

I also understand that Dale Ahlquist will be speaking at UC Berkeley on Sunday, October 21, 2007 at 7:00 P.M. in Room 166 of Barrows Hall. He will be speaking about, "The Art of Thinking: G.K. Chesterton on How to Use Your Brain for Its Intended Purpose."

Friday, October 12, 2007

No beer and no TV make Homer go crazy!

"Hmm, that's odd. Usually, the blood gets off at the second floor."
Fun with Uncle Gilbert

We recently subscribed to Gilbert Magazine, published by the American Chesterton Society. We received the first issue a few weeks ago, and so far, we love it! The magazine is jammed packed with solid Catholic thought, literature, and a love of good beer! And we're still making our way through this issue...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Christ, the answer

Today, I saw some good observations from Chris Burgwald:
A fellow blogger used the occasion of San Francisco's archbishop giving Holy Communion to two transvesite men dressed as nuns to state the following:
Wake up, folks! This is the reality of the Church of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Conservative Catholics longed for change, thought that these men would bring it, and what have they received? This.
Said blogger (a former Catholic) proceeded to quote Revelation 18:1-5, implying none too subtly that the Catholic Church is the Babylon of St. John's vision.

Here was my comment in response, which (for reasons inscrutable to me) didn't make the moderation cut:
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

I stopped fretting about the sins and failings (real & perceived) of popes and bishops a long time ago... it's not my billet. I am confident that the Catholic Church is the fullness of the Body of Christ, despite the faults of her members, and there is no where else for me to flee to, no utopian ecclesial community that will be without fault, if for no other reason then as soon as I joined it, it would cease to be such.

The teachings of the Catholic Church are the teachings of Jesus Christ, and I know that I receive Him and His grace & life when I dwell in her... that's good enough for me.
Thanks, Chris...

There is a cure for anger and resentment... do you know what, or rather whom, it is? It is Christ, whom St. Paul says came and preached peace to [those] who were far off and peace to those who were near. Only He can set us free. What a gift we have in Him! He comes to us and desires the darkest part of our being, the deepest reaches of our soul, offering His very self in its place. I hope that this former Catholic understands that we are right there with him. We love him and miss him, and we will be there to welcome him and his family home. May the peace of Christ be with him.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Beauty, part 2

I believe that Bill Cork misses the point entirely. (what is more ironic, several months ago I believe he would have known better!) It might seem, based upon what he has written here, that his interpretation of beauty seems more in line with how our culture interprets beauty. He says, "Jesus, however, had no beauty to attract us..." No, Jesus did not appeal expressly to what is pleasing to the eye, and yes, superficiality constitutes a form of beauty, but in a narrow sense, certainly not the sense in which I understand the pope sees it.

Is superficiality all there is to beauty? Is beauty merely what is "pleasant to the eyes" or merely "outward adornment"? Absolutely not. Otherwise one could not behold the paradox that is the profound beauty of Christ's suffering and death, and the struggle of artists to convey that beauty. Superficiality can be deceptive. The contemplation of beauty is more than a fleeting, emotional response to what looks nice. Satan himself can appear alluring and seductive, giving the appearance of beauty. Furthermore, beauty is in itself not a thing to be worshiped. And, as a human creation, artistic beauty is limited, even if inspired.

One needs to understand how to appreciate authentic beauty. I struggled with this. I believe our culture has a problem with beauty, between superficiality and profundity. Authentic beauty stirs something up upon which faith acts. Even the Scriptures themselves are beautiful and, as art, communicate an eternal reality not readily perceivable to the eye.

The pope writes in his letter to artists:
Every genuine artistic intuition goes beyond what the senses perceive and, reaching beneath reality's surface, strives to interpret its hidden mystery... True artists above all are ready to acknowledge their limits and to make their own the words of the Apostle Paul, according to whom “God does not dwell in shrines made by human hands” so that “we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold or silver or stone, a representation by human art and imagination” (Acts 17:24, 29). If the intimate reality of things is always “beyond” the powers of human perception, how much more so is God in the depths of his unfathomable mystery!

The knowledge conferred by faith is of a different kind: it presupposes a personal encounter with God in Jesus Christ. Yet this knowledge too can be enriched by artistic intuition... Saint Bonaventure comments: “In things of beauty, he contemplated the One who is supremely beautiful, and, led by the footprints he found in creatures, he followed the Beloved everywhere”.
I suspect that non-Catholics intuitively struggle with this notion more than Catholics, but that's not universally true. Possibly because of beauty's relation to this notion of mystery.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The world will be saved by beauty...

From the Letter of Pope John Paul II to Artists, those who "are passionately dedicated to the search for new epiphanies of beauty":
A noted Polish poet, Cyprian Norwid, wrote that “beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up”.

The theme of beauty is decisive for a discourse on art. It was already present when I stressed God's delighted gaze upon creation. In perceiving that all he had created was good, God saw that it was beautiful as well. The link between good and beautiful stirs fruitful reflection. In a certain sense, beauty is the visible form of the good, just as the good is the metaphysical condition of beauty. This was well understood by the Greeks who, by fusing the two concepts, coined a term which embraces both: kalokagathía, or beauty-goodness. On this point Plato writes: “The power of the Good has taken refuge in the nature of the Beautiful”.

It is in living and acting that man establishes his relationship with being, with the truth and with the good. The artist has a special relationship to beauty. In a very true sense it can be said that beauty is the vocation bestowed on him by the Creator in the gift of “artistic talent”. And, certainly, this too is a talent which ought to be made to bear fruit, in keeping with the sense of the Gospel parable of the talents (cf. Mt 25:14-30).

Here we touch on an essential point. Those who perceive in themselves this kind of divine spark which is the artistic vocation—as poet, writer, sculptor, architect, musician, actor and so on—feel at the same time the obligation not to waste this talent but to develop it, in order to put it at the service of their neighbour and of humanity as a whole.
The pope elaborates on this essential point by specifically encouraging artists to respond to their powerful vocation:
Dear artists, you well know that there are many impulses which, either from within or from without, can inspire your talent. Every genuine inspiration, however, contains some tremor of that “breath” with which the Creator Spirit suffused the work of creation from the very beginning. Overseeing the mysterious laws governing the universe, the divine breath of the Creator Spirit reaches out to human genius and stirs its creative power. He touches it with a kind of inner illumination which brings together the sense of the good and the beautiful, and he awakens energies of mind and heart which enable it to conceive an idea and give it form in a work of art. It is right then to speak, even if only analogically, of “moments of grace”, because the human being is able to experience in some way the Absolute who is utterly beyond.

On the threshold of the Third Millennium, my hope for all of you who are artists is that you will have an especially intense experience of creative inspiration. May the beauty which you pass on to generations still to come be such that it will stir them to wonder! Faced with the sacredness of life and of the human person, and before the marvels of the universe, wonder is the only appropriate attitude.

From this wonder there can come that enthusiasm of which Norwid spoke in the poem to which I referred earlier. People of today and tomorrow need this enthusiasm if they are to meet and master the crucial challenges which stand before us. Thanks to this enthusiasm, humanity, every time it loses its way, will be able to lift itself up and set out again on the right path. In this sense it has been said with profound insight that “beauty will save the world”.

Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence. It is an invitation to savour life and to dream of the future. That is why the beauty of created things can never fully satisfy. It stirs that hidden nostalgia for God which a lover of beauty like Saint Augustine could express in incomparable terms: “Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you!”.
And, of course, just as artists must respond to and cultivate such a vocation, we must leverage the beauty in art and train ourselves to truly and authentically appreciate the beauty in art.

I never understood how to appreciate the beauty revealed by art of any form until I became a Catholic. It's not that I couldn't perceive beauty. Somewhere in my soul, I recognized that beauty stood in the context of an eternal reality. It revealed something intrinsic about the nature of the universe and the transcendent, but what was that to someone as I was, whose world was merely temporal, moving from one moment to the next? In the end, I only really appreciated the superficiality of beauty.

The Catholic Church taught me how to frame beauty and comprehend it because she taught me how to be patient with beauty. She did this then and does this now through a variety of ways, not the least of which is liturgy. The pope also describes beauty as a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence, that it should stir that hidden nostalgia for God. So beauty should certainly captivate us and inspire us toward wonder, yet it must also disturb us toward humility. It must destroy the ego while at the same time communicate its redemption and care with relation to God, who is the ultimate source of all that is really beautiful.

When the Church does this well, she truly reflects that inner illumination of which Pope John Paul II speaks, that divine breath of the Creator Spirit that has reached out to human genius and has stirred its creative power. Of course, this inner illumination doesn't always represent itself in things that are specifically Catholic, and we should recognize that. Nonetheless, it reflects something very Catholic, very universal, in nature. It should perhaps be of no surprise to anyone why history has called the Church the true Patron of the Arts, even though she hasn't always lived up to that title.

Continue reading in Beauty, Part 2.
Future of the Traditional Latin Mass at St. Theresa's

The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite will be celebrated at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land on every first Sunday of the month at 2:30pm, starting today. I also understand that a low mass will be celebrated on All Souls Day (Fri, Nov. 2nd) at 12:10pm.

I want to say a few things about seeing the TLM come to St. Theresa's. I've been to many TLMs over my last 10 years as a Catholic. I am a more Reform of the Reform minded person, but what I found in this experience of the TLM at my parish is something very interesting, and dare I say, in the face of the awesome mystery that is the mass, that it is also a lot of fun -- in the most vague sense of the word.

First of all, nothing is being imposed ex alto here. As far as I know, the diocese never asked my pastor to do this. The TLM came about basically because of the interest of my pastor and parishioners in the wake of the Holy Father's motu proprio. It was truly a home-grown, parish-rooted happening.

Secondly, unlike at many of the indult locations I have been, it's exhilarating to attend a TLM that isn't inundated by bunker Catholics, those Catholics with a major chip on their shoulders and an axe to grind. This is due in part to the sheer genius of the motu proprio and the Church's desire to move away from an indult mentality that might also breed rebellion and disobedience in some groups. While I know there are those who are there because they love the TLM and prefer it to the novus ordo missae, many in attendance at our mass have never assisted at a TLM before this time. It's something any Catholic can appreciate.

Thirdly, many of the folks in attendance are quite prepared. In addition to understanding the importance of participating in the mass by joining in prayer with the actions at the altar, folks also participate thoroughly in the chants and take part in many of the responses. When I am there, I know that I am with fellow parishioners in the company of honored guests worshiping God in our own parish space, just as we do in any other mass.

Those are just a handful of observations I will note for the time being.

Perhaps I can convince my pastor to write about his experience in preparing to offer the TLM for the very first time...


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