Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Nativity

Merry Christmas!

I hope that all of you have been enjoying the holidays with your family and friends. Remember the importance of Christmas. God, the Creator of the Universe, born as a babe in a manger. Amazing.

As for me, I've been fighting off another cold this year that I came down with sometime after Christmas day. And in spite of all the pain and suffering in the world (pounding table), I'm still brimming with Christmas joy! Pax vobiscum.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ad Orientem in Oceanside, CA

Fr. Cávana Wallace, pastor of St. Margaret's in Oceanside, CA (just north of San Diego), has apparently begun offering mass ad orientem (Ordinary Form) during Advent. Occasionally when my wife and I would visit family in Vista, CA, we would attend mass at St. Margaret's, so we are familiar with the parish and with the pastor. Fr. Cávana had also begun offering a weekly TLM about a year ago. I am happy to hear the news. Here is what Fr. Cávana said during his homily for the First Sunday of Advent:
This watching and waiting, anticipating the Lord’s return, has historically been articulated throughout the Christian centuries in the language of sacred architecture. Since the fourth century which initiated Christian building projects all across the Roman Empire, churches were built so that, when Christians assembled in prayer, both priest and people prayed together facing the common direction of east. The priest and people did not look towards each other (except during a sermon or homily), but when they prayed, they did so with the priest, like a shepherd, leading his flock in the direction of the rising sun, turning around to assure his flock that they were on the right path and the Lord was with them.

The connection between the light of the rising sun and the glory of the returning Lord are themes which run through the whole season of Advent as well as instinctively during our early morning prayers throughout the whole year.

And even though our local geography does not allow us literarily to face east together in prayer, we use the Cross as our compass, restoring this ancient practice of the priest, like a shepherd, leading his people in the direction of the glory of heaven – which is, of course our common goal, our prayers directed to God.
Of course, this must be translated into our lives every day in order that we might be compatible with Christ so that we can see him, when he returns, face to face. When will that day come? We do not know. Will it come? Yes – for Christ has said he will return. “We watch in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ”.

When we entered through the doors of this church, the narthex pointed us through the darkness, in the direction of where we first encountered Christ, in baptism. Before this Altar we will turn to face the Lord together, and through Holy Communion we will literally “put on Christ”. At the end of Mass, with the dismissal, we will journey onward from here and pass under the “gallery”, depicting above us on the way out, the Lord’s Second Coming and the Final Judgment. And this we should not be afraid of. Our Advent journey does not take us into the night, but towards the morning. As St. Paul has reminded us in the Epistle, “The night is far gone; the day is drawing near. Let us cast aside deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light”. Ven Senor Jesus!
Good stuff.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dominican Freedom

There is one particular characteristic of Dominic's Order of Preachers that, at the time, scandalized members of other religious orders. Dominic's order, of course, was not confined to a monastery, leaving the friars free to travel and move about from one place to another for the purpose of preaching. By contrast, members of the monastic communities followed very strict rules that legislated even the smallest details. Some are still called to that way of life, while others are not. It nonetheless caused a little bit of trouble for Dominic.

Stephen Salagnac (d. 13th century) writes:
[Dominic] used to travel round and send out his first brethren, even though he had only a few and they were indifferently educated and mostly young. Some religious of the Cistercian Order were amazed at this, and particularly at the confident way he sent such young friars out to preach. They set themselves to watch these young men, to see if they could find fault with anything they did or said. [Dominic] put up with this for some time, but one day, filled with a holy boldness, he asked them, "Why do you spy on my disciples, you disciples of the Pharisees? I know, I know for certain, that my young men will go out and come back, will be sent out and will return; but your young men will be kept locked up and will still go out."
In fact, later Masters of the Order tell us of Cistercians who ended up becoming Dominicans. Bl. Jordan of Saxony (d. 1237) mentions Albertinus Dertonensis, a former Cistercian who joined the Order in 1228. Bl. Humbert of Romans (d. 1277) tells of another Cistercian turned Dominican:
Someone once said, who transferred from the Cistercians to the Order of Preachers, that he had endured more discomfort during his few days on the road than he had ever had to put up with in his previous Order. So the exercise of preaching is to be preferred to fasting and other ways of mortifying the flesh, because it too involves heavy mortification but also benefits other people greatly.
In many ways, this also presents a model for lay members of the Order. I may have a career and family that root me to a particular location, but I am able to go places even the friars are unable to go. The words I speak and the way in which I live my life affects where I work, where I shop, and the places I visit.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Score one for conscience

Lest we forget, in spite of war, torture, etc, the Bush Administration has actually accomplished quite a bit on the anti-abortion front. I think it is important to call attention to this.

From the New York Times: Medical ‘Conscience Rule’ Is Issued
The Bush administration, as expected, announced new protections on Thursday for health care providers who oppose abortion and other medical procedures on religious or moral grounds.

“Doctors and other health care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience,” Michael O. Leavitt, the secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a statement on his department’s Web site.

The rule prohibits recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and health care aides who refuse to take part in procedures because of their convictions, and it bars hospitals, clinics, doctors’ office and pharmacies from forcing their employees to assist in programs and activities financed by the department.

“This rule protects the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience,” Mr. Leavitt said.

The Bush administration had signaled its intention to issue the measures, which are part of a flurry of regulations it is announcing before President-elect Barack Obama takes office. The new president will be able to undo the regulations, and is virtually certain to, given his previous comments on the issue. But undoing them will be a time-consuming process...
Ban on partial-birth abortion, elimination of funds spent on abortions abroad, protection of conscience for doctors, limiting of federal funding on human embryonic stem-cell research: these are things for which I am exceedingly grateful. If one were to speak of hope without sounding too cliché, I hope that Obama will work to protect all human life.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Preaching to Young Adults Today

Clearing Away the Barriers: Preaching to Young Adults Today

The Carl J. Peter Lecture, given by Fr. J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P, at the Pontifical North American College 7 December 2008.

Fr. Di Noia identifies three primary barriers that must be overcome in preaching to young adults:

1.) Why we need the Savior who is not just any savior
The first barrier concerns Jesus Christ himself. The most fundamental and prevalent misunderstanding of the Catholic faith that we face, whether in young adults or in their elders, is the notion that it is arrogant to claim that Jesus Christ is the unique mediator of salvation. To ascribe a uniquely salvific role to Jesus Christ seems to constitute a denial of the salvific role of other religious founders and thus could be an affront to their communities.
2.) Why we need Christ to become authentically human
A second barrier concerns what it means to be human. Here the fundamental misunderstanding that blocks the path of many young people is shaped by what has been called the culture of authenticity. This is the idea that somehow being a Christian involves giving up or suppressing what is uniquely human in each one of us and accepting an external criterion or measure which is alien to one’s true self.
3.) Why the moral law is good for us
The third barrier I want to consider concerns the moral life. It is the idea that the moral law is a more or less arbitrary constraint in which certain things are permitted and certain things are forbidden, irrespective of the bearing of these injunctions on human goodness and flourishing.
Some good observations.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Stravinskas on Ad Orientem

The NLM blog recently posted a homily sent to them by Fr. Peter Stravinskas from a recent retreat he gave in Ohio. The homily concerned the subject of worship ad orientem.
The Season of Advent has a two-fold emphasis which many, many people do not seem to either remember or ever have known. And it’s on two comings of Christ: the first on His coming into time as the Judge of the world; His second, which most people associate with Advent exclusively, is His coming in history as the Babe of Bethlehem. But actually, until December 17, it is His final or second coming that the Church would have us focus all our attention on. And, the themes that the Church brings to our attention during this time period are those to do with light - the Light that is coming into the world. You see that in all of today’s readings as a matter of fact.

The early Christians believed that Jesus would come again during the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, and that He would come to them out of the east. And so, whenever possible churches were constructed so that they faced east.

When you came into the Chapel this morning, if you were somewhat awake, you may have noticed that there is a slightly different arrangement of the sanctuary. The different arrangement is to suggest a different focus.

In theological or liturgical language, we call this liturgical orientation, the liturgy celebrated facing east; which cannot always be a geographical east. But it does mean that priest and people face Christ, the coming Dawn, together, who’s coming to them out of the east.

And there are some very practical implications to all of this: there is much less attention on the priest and much more attention on Christ. John the Baptist, the particular voice and figure par excellence for the Advent Season, said, “He [Christ] must increase, I must decrease.” And so, there is less of a personality cult centered on the priest, there is less distraction for the priest who ought to be looking at God not the congregation and less distraction for people - who are not diverted by some of the idiosyncrasies of priests.

And let me then offer a few clarifications.

First, there is nothing in the Second Vatican Council that ever once called for the turning around of altars, just as nothing in Vatican II called for getting rid of Latin in the Liturgy, nor did they ever envision things like communion in the hand, or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion or female servers. All of that is something that happened many, many years after the Council, and that the Council Fathers themselves would have been quite shocked to discover ever happened.

Secondly, the current or reformed Roman Missal, even in English as a matter of fact, presumes that the priest is not facing the congregation, and, therefore, the rubrics (the directives for the celebration of the Liturgy) consistently say things to the priest like, “The priest now turns faces the people and says, ‘The Lord be with you.’”

Thirdly, for the parts of the Mass that are directed to the people, the priest continues to face the people, and so, the Liturgy of the Word. It makes no sense for me to read the Gospel facing the wall or to preach in that direction. (Although, sometimes you get the impression you might get as much of a reaction.)

Fourth, for years, Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, wrote repeatedly about the importance of returning the former practice of facing east. Why? To restore a healthy sense of the sacred, the transcendent. So that this is not perceived as a social hour or “Entertainment Tonight”, but the Church’s worship of the triune God.

Fifthly, many priests (especially younger ones interestingly enough) are taking the former Cardinal’s, now present Pope’s, admonition to heart. Last week, I was in Greenville, South Carolina, and all the Masses in that parish have been celebrated ad orientem, as we say, facing east for a full year now. Just Wednesday, I visited Holy Family Church in Columbus, where since the beginning of Advent, three of the four Sunday Masses are now celebrated facing east.

As I indicated the other day, Advent is a time of new beginnings. And so, this is a good time for us to make this act of restoration here at the Monastery and, appropriately, also during the nuns’ annual retreat. Now, this may take a bit of readjustment for some of you, but I think you’ll find great spiritual benefit in reasonably short order.

You may not realize it, but all religions have used geography as a theological reference point. You know, I’m sure, that Muslims turn to face Mecca, no matter where they are. When they go to pray, they turn to face Mecca. Orthodox Jews, to this very day, turn to face Jerusalem. Each day in the celebration of Lauds (or Morning Prayer) the Church prays the Benedictus, the Canticle of Zechariah, which he recited as he reacted to the birth of his newborn son, John the Baptist. In that canticle Zechariah prophesies, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that the Dawn from on high shall break upon us. We know that the dawn breaks in the east; that Dawn, that rising Sun shall appear on this altar in but a few minutes. And so, let us, you and I, priest and people, face east together, prepared to meet the One who is coming into the world as the Light of the world.
As I have mentioned on this blog several times, I hope to see the mass celebrated ad orientem more often in the future. I very much long for the Church to return to this liturgical orientation. I think that this will go a long way to help bring about the liturgical reform actually called for by the Second Vatican Council.

It seems it is beginning to catch on. Of course, it has to be paired with good liturgical catechesis, as Fr. Stravinskas is doing here and as Pope Benedict XVI has suggested before.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Being Catholic Now"

Fr. Robert Barron reviews Kerry Kennedy's new book, "Being Catholic Now".

I haven't yet read the book, but I agree Fr. Barron's points in general.
Meditation Notes on the O Antiphons

From Fr. Roger Landry
The “O Antiphons” refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, Dec. 17-23, with Dec. 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil.

On the evening of December 17 the final phase of preparation for Christmas begins with the first of the great "O Antiphons" of Advent. These prayers are seven jewels of liturgical song, one for each day until Christmas Eve. They seem to sum up all our Advent longing for the Savior.

The "O Antiphons" are intoned with special solemnity in monasteries at Vespers, before and after the Magnificat, Mary's prayer of praise and thanksgiving from the Gospel of Luke (2:42-55), which is sung every evening as the climax of this Hour of the Divine Office.
Read the whole thing.
Snow in Houston

Got some snow this afternoon and evening. It started with flurries and eventually got a little more substantial. First time we've seen snow since we've been in Texas.
R.I.P. Erica Murray

I recently found out that someone I once knew from my high school died last week after a lengthy battle with Leukemia. Erica's sister Jaci has posted a goodbye note at Erica's blog. Please join me in praying for the peaceful repose of Erica's soul and for consolation for her family and friends.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Mary, Mother of the re-created world

From a sermon by St. Anselm, bishop of Canterbury (d. 1109 AD), from the Office of Readings for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
Blessed Lady, sky and stars, earth and rivers, day and night – everything that is subject to the power or use of man – rejoice that through you they are in some sense restored to their lost beauty and are endowed with inexpressible new grace. All creatures were dead, as it were, useless for men or for the praise of God, who made them. The world, contrary to its true destiny, was corrupted and tainted by the acts of men who served idols. Now all creation has been restored to life and rejoices that it is controlled and given splendor by men who believe in God.

The universe rejoices with new and indefinable loveliness. Not only does it feel the unseen presence of God himself, its Creator, it sees him openly, working and making it holy. These great blessings spring from the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb.

Through the fullness of the grace that was given you, dead things rejoice in their freedom, and those in heaven are glad to be made new. Through the Son who was the glorious fruit of your virgin womb, just souls who died before his life-giving death rejoice as they are freed from captivity, and the angels are glad at the restoration of their shattered domain.

Lady, full and overflowing with grace, all creation receives new life from your abundance. Virgin, blessed above all creatures, through your blessing all creation is blessed, not only creation from its Creator, but the Creator himself has been blessed by creation.

To Mary God gave his only-begotten Son, whom he loved as himself. Through Mary God made himself a Son, not different but the same, by nature Son of God and Son of Mary. The whole universe was created by God, and God was born of Mary. God created all things, and Mary gave birth to God. The God who made all things gave himself form through Mary, and thus he made his own creation. He who could create all things from nothing would not remake his ruined creation without Mary.

God, then, is the Father of the created world and Mary the mother of the re-created world. God is the Father by whom all things were given life, and Mary the mother through whom all things were given new life. For God begot the Son, through whom all things were made, and Mary gave birth to him as the Savior of the world. Without God’s Son, nothing could exist; without Mary’s Son, nothing could be redeemed.

Truly the Lord is with you, to whom the Lord granted that all nature should owe as much to you as to himself.
Father, the image of the Virgin is found in the Church. Mary had a faith that your Spirit prepared and a love that never knew sin, for you kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception. Trace in our actions the lines of her love, in our hearts her readiness of faith. Prepare once again a world for your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Obama is not the messiah, people

Why does this still need to be said? From the Obama Messiah blog:
EAST POINT, Ga.—The day after Barack Obama was elected president, Larry Younginer knelt in front of the congregants at his suburban Atlanta church and offered a prayer of thanks.

"Lord, we have again come to you in prayer, and you have heard our cries from heaven, and you have sent us again from the state called Illinois, a man called Barack to heal our land," said Younginer, a 62-year-old retired information systems worker at Coca Cola in Atlanta. "We pray that you will build a hedge around him that will protect him from those who would do him harm."

Younginer, like many others, is convinced that Obama was destined to be president. The mere fact that he won the presidency against the odds has caused some Christians, particularly African-Americans, to see the hand of God in his victory after so many years of struggle.

[Lawrence Carter, dean of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel] said many people look for a sign from God when times are turbulent. And, he said, there are many elements to Obama's win in which Christians can find spiritual significance.

"It is powerful and significant on a spiritual level that there is the emergence of Barack Obama 40 years after the passing of Dr. King," said Carter. "No one saw him coming, and Christians believe God comes at us from strange angles and places we don't expect, like Jesus being born in a manger."
Historic win? Sure. Bush Administration over? Sure. But Obama is just a politician, people! I've been watching this type of thing for over a year now (see IOTM blog), and it has me scared, really scared, about the future of this country. A country so completely blown over by the promises of a smooth politician with a silver tongue. Sure, I want things to get better. But even if Obama had a hand in it, he's only one part of the government and cannot possibly live up to all of his promises. One friend told me not too long ago that he has an unshakable faith in Obama. Unshakable faith! I warned this friend, who ordinarily condemns religion and religious folks as ignorant and sheep-like, about the folly of putting your faith in a mere man and politician, only to be rebuffed. "Obama!" he cried, maniacally.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Fr. Robert Barron on the "YouTube Heresies"

Courtesy of the Creative Minority Report blog.

I suspect that many of you, my readers, have encountered these particular heresies and misunderstandings in your engagement with the secular world -- particularly at universities. I know I have.
Pope Benedict on Faith and Works

In this year of St. Paul, Pope Benedict recently used the opportunity of his General Audience to explaining the connection between faith and works.
Dear brothers and sisters,

In last Wednesday’s catechesis, I spoke of the question of how man is justified before God. Following St. Paul, we have seen that man is not capable of making himself “just” with his own actions, but rather that he can truly become “just” before God only because God confers on him his “justice,” uniting him to Christ, his Son. And man obtains this union with Christ through faith.

In this sense, St. Paul tells us: It is not our works, but our faith that makes us “just.” This faith, nevertheless, is not a thought, opinion or idea. This faith is communion with Christ, which the Lord entrusts to us and that because of this, becomes life in conformity with him. Or in other words, faith, if it is true and real, becomes love, charity — is expressed in charity. Faith without charity, without this fruit, would not be true faith. It would be a dead faith.

We have therefore discovered two levels in the last catechesis: that of the insufficiency of our works for achieving salvation, and that of “justification” through faith that produces the fruit of the Spirit. The confusion between these two levels down through the centuries has caused not a few misunderstandings in Christianity.

In this context it is important that St. Paul, in the Letter to the Galatians, puts emphasis on one hand, and in a radical way, on the gratuitousness of justification not by our efforts, and, at the same time, he emphasizes as well the relationship between faith and charity, between faith and works. “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). Consequently, there are on one hand the “works of the flesh,” which are fornication, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, etc. (Galatians 5:19-21), all of which are contrary to the faith. On the other hand is the action of the Holy Spirit, which nourishes Christian life stirring up “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22): These are the fruits of the Spirit that arise from faith.

At the beginning of this list of virtues is cited ágape, love, and at the end, self-control. In reality, the Spirit, who is the Love of the Father and the Son, infuses his first gift, ágape, into our hearts (cf. Romans 5:5); and ágape, love, to be fully expressed, demands self-control. Regarding the love of the Father and the Son, which comes to us and profoundly transforms our existence, I dedicated my first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est.” Believers know that in mutual love the love of God and of Christ is incarnated by means of the Spirit.

Let us return to the Letter of the Galatians. Here, St. Paul says that believers complete the command of love by bearing each other’s burdens (cf. Galatians 6:2). Justified by the gift of faith in Christ, we are called to live in the love of Christ toward others, because it is by this criterion that we will be judged at the end of our existence. In reality, Paul does nothing more than repeat what Jesus himself had said, and which we recalled in the Gospel of last Sunday, in the parable of the Final Judgment.

In the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul becomes expansive with his famous praise of love. It is the so-called hymn to charity: “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. … Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests …” (1 Corinthians 13:1,4-5).

Christian love is so demanding because it springs from the total love of Christ for us: this love that demands from us, welcomes us, embraces us, sustains us, even torments us, because it obliges us to live no longer for ourselves, closed in on our egotism, but for “him who has died and risen for us” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:15). The love of Christ makes us be in him this new creature (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17), who enters to form part of his mystical body that is the Church.

From this perspective, the centrality of justification without works, primary object of Paul’s preaching, is not in contradiction with the faith that operates in love. On the contrary, it demands that our very faith is expressed in a life according to the Spirit. Often, an unfounded contraposition has been seen between the theology of Paul and James, who says in his letter: “For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (2:26).

In reality, while Paul concerns himself above all with demonstrating that faith in Christ is necessary and sufficient, James highlights the consequent relationship between faith and works (cf. James 2:2-4). Therefore, for Paul and for James, faith operative in love witnesses to the gratuitous gift of justification in Christ. Salvation, received in Christ, needs to be protected and witnessed “with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. Do everything without grumbling or questioning … as you hold on to the word of life,” even St. Paul would say to the Christians of Philippi (cf. Philippians 2:12-14,16).

Often we tend to fall into the same misunderstandings that have characterized the community of Corinth: Those Christians thought that, having been gratuitously justified in Christ by faith, “everything was licit.” And they thought, and often it seems that the Christians of today think, that it is licit to create divisions in the Church, the body of Christ, to celebrate the Eucharist without concerning oneself with the brothers who are most needy, to aspire to the best charisms without realizing that they are members of each other, etc.

The consequences of a faith that is not incarnated in love are disastrous, because it is reduced to a most dangerous abuse and subjectivism for us and for our brothers. On the contrary, following St. Paul, we should renew our awareness of the fact that, precisely because we have been justified in Christ, we don’t belong to ourselves, but have been made into the temple of the Spirit and are called, therefore, to glorify God in our bodies and with the whole of our existence (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19). It would be to scorn the inestimable value of justification if, having been bought at the high price of the blood of Christ, we didn’t glorify him with our body. In reality, this is precisely our “reasonable” and at the same time “spiritual” worship, for which Paul exhorts us to “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1).

To what would be reduced a liturgy directed only to the Lord but that doesn’t become, at the same time, service of the brethren, a faith that is not expressed in charity? And the Apostle often puts his communities before the Final Judgment, on which occasion “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10; and cf. Romans 2:16).

If the ethics that St. Paul proposes to believers does not lapse into forms of moralism, and if it shows itself to be current for us, it is because, each time, it always recommences from the personal and communitarian relationship with Christ, to verify itself in life according to the Spirit. This is essential: Christian ethics is not born from a system of commandments, but rather is the consequence of our friendship with Christ. This friendship influences life: If it is true, it incarnates and fulfills itself in love for neighbor. Hence, any ethical decline is not limited to the individual sphere, but at the same time, devalues personal and communitarian faith: From this it is derived and on this, it has a determinant effect.

Let us, therefore, be overtaken by the reconciliation that God has given us in Christ, by God’s “crazy” love for us: No one and nothing could ever separate us from his love (cf. Romans 8:39). With this certainty we live. And this certainty gives us the strength to live concretely the faith that works in love.
Fr. Aquinas' comments at the CSVF blog are apropos:
By showing how the Church’s teaching regarding faith, justification, and salvation emerges from her deep reading of St. Paul, Pope Benedict is demonstrating that traditional Protestantism does not hold a monopoly on Pauline interpretation. In fact, it never has. The Church was reading St. Paul long before Luther, and unlike the Reformer she has always done so within the context provided by the other apostles, including Peter (and his successors!). If during the Reformation Luther and Calvin separated Paul from Peter, Pope Benedict sees the need to finally reunite them as the two “Princes of the Apostles.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What a good meme...

From the Shrine. Zadok likes it too:
Just click each link and put the results together:
1. Band Name: Random Wikipeda Link
2. Album Title: Random quote generator (take the last four words from the first quote on the page)
3. Album Art: Flickr Interesting Photo (pick one)
Here goes...

Band Name: IL-13
Album Title: To feed your sickness
Album Art: Here...

Let's try it again...

Band Name: Inside Boston
Album Title: you stopped telling them
Album Art: Here...
Dominican Altar Cards

When Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P. discussed the Dominican Rite Missa Cantata he celebrated at the beautiful chapel of St. Albert the Great Priory in Oakland on the occasion of his receiving the distinction of Master of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.), I was quite captured by the beautiful Dominican Altar Cards placed on the altar. Fr. Thompson writes that "the cards were calligraphed and the miniatures painted by two cloistered nuns of the Dominican Monastery in Menlo Park California for the dedication Mass of the chapel in 1948."

To my delight, Fr. Thompson has a nice post today at the Dominican Liturgy blog (mirrored at the New Liturgical Movement blog) reflecting on the cards:

For the main card, Fr. Thompson writes:
Two Fra Angelico angels grace the sides; in the bottom center is the old Coat of Arms of the Province of the Holy Name, the Western Province. In the top roundels, from left to right, we see St. Albert the Great, patron of the House and of natural philosophy; an angel; St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of theology; St. John and Our Lord at the Last Supper; St. Raymond of Penafort, the patron of Canon law, contemplating the Cross; another angel; and, finally, and St. John of Gorkam, who was martyred by the Calvinists in the Low Countries for bringing the Eucharist to Catholics in prison for their faith. The selection is very suitable for the House of Studies as it includes the patrons of theology, philosophy, and canon law, the major disciplines studied there. The other images are chosen because of their links to the Eucharist.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Modern Physics and Ancient Faith

Dr. Stephen Barr, professor of physics at the University of Delaware, delivers the 2008 St. Albert’s Day Lecture at the Dominican Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, New York City. His talk is entitled “Modern Physics and Ancient Faith.” (delivered November 13)

Check it out!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Catholic Teaching, Homosexuality, and American Life

Eric Brown has written a fine essay about this difficult issue over at the American Catholic blog, from the perspective of one who struggles with same-sex attraction yet desires, as we all should, to live a life of virtue and grace:
Many facets of American secular culture is contrary to basic Christian ethics, which as a consequence, requires a response on the part of the faithful. One of these issues is “tolerance” and homosexuality. The Christian committment to protecting marital dignity and the family is absolute. The profound temptation in politics, given the “us” versus “them” mentality, is to lose a sense charity that is due to our neighbor, even those with whom we disagree. It happens all the time...

The fundamental question I’m concerned about is this: how can Catholics be faithful to the constant and clear teaching of the Church on the issue of human sexuality and still be inclusive and sensitive to the plight of homosexuals, both in the Church and American life? Let’s move past the basics. No, homosexuals cannot marry. No, homosexuals should not adopt children. No, same-sex sexual activity is not equal or comparable to marital love. Despite these moral truths, most Americans have a profoundly different view of human sexuality than the Catholic Church. There must be dialogue with those who disagree with us and we have to educate our Catholic brothers and sisters, as well as everyone else with the authentic Catholic view.
Read the whole thing. I appreciate Eric's thoughtful and challenging insights. Most of us have absolutely no idea what it is like to walk in his shoes.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thank you, Cardinal George

From the Plenary Session Address of Cardinal George
In working for the common good of our society, racial justice is one pillar of our social doctrine. Economic justice, especially for the poor both here and abroad, is another. But the Church comes also and always and everywhere with the memory, the conviction, that the Eternal Word of God became man, took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, nine months before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This truth is celebrated in our liturgy because it is branded into our spirit. The common good can never be adequately incarnated in any society when those waiting to be born can be legally killed at choice. If the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision that African Americans were other people’s property and somehow less than persons were still settled constitutional law, Mr. Obama would not be president of the United States. Today, as was the case a hundred and fifty years ago, common ground cannot be found by destroying the common good.
I pray that our new President-Elect takes some note.
A Little Timeless Satire, Apropos of the Times

Lemuel Gulliver in Lilliput, and the Diversions of the Court of Lilliput described. A.D. 1727
The Emperor had a mind one day to entertain me with several of the Country Shows, wherein they exceeded all Nations I have known, both for Dexterity and Magnificence. I was diverted with none so much as that of the Rope-Dancers, performed upon a slender white Thread, extended about two Foot and twelve Inches from the Ground. Upon which I shall desire liberty, with the Reader's Patience, to enlarge a little.

This Diversion is only practiced by those Persons who are Candidates for great Employments, and high Favour, at Court. They are trained in this Art from their Youth, and are not always of noble Birth, or liberal Education. When a great Office is vacant either by Death or disgrace (which often happens) five or six of those Candidates petition the Emperor to entertain his Majesty and the Court with a Dance on the Rope, and whoever jumps the highest without falling, succeeds in the Office. Very often the Chief Ministers themselves are commanded to show their Skill, and to convince the Emperor that they have not lost their Faculty. Flimnap, the Treasurer, is allowed to cut a Caper on the strait Rope, at least an Inch higher than any other Lord in the whole Empire. I have seen him do the Summerset several times together upon a Trencher fixed on the Rope, which is no thicker than a common packthread in England. My friend Reldresal, principal Secretary for private Affairs, is, in my Opinion, if I am not partial, the second after the Treasurer; the rest of the great Officers are much upon a par.

These Diversions are often attended with fatal Accidents, whereof great Numbers are on Record. I my self have seen two or three Candidates break a Limb. But the Danger is much greater when the Ministers themselves are commanded to shew their Dexterity; for by contending to excel themselves and their Fellows, they strain so far, that there is hardly one of them who has not received a Fall, and some of them two or three. I was assured that a Year or two before my Arrival, Flimnap would have infallibly broken his Neck, if one of the King's Cushions, that accidentally lay on the Ground, had not weakened the Force of his Fall.

There is likewise another Diversion, which is only shewn before the Emperor and Empress, and first Minister, upon particular Occasions. The Emperor lays on the Table three fine silken Threads of six Inches long. One is Blue, the other Red, and the third Green. These Threads are proposed as Prizes for those Persons whom the Emperor has a mind to distinguish by a peculiar Mark of his Favor. The Ceremony is performed in his Majesty's great Chamber of State, where the Candidates are to undergo a Trial of Dexterity very different from the former, and such as I have not observed the least Resemblance of in any other Country of the old or the new World. The Emperor holds a Stick in his Hands, both ends parallel to the Horizon, while the Candidates, advancing one by one, sometimes leap over the Stick, sometimes creep under it backwards and forwards several times, according as the Stick is advanced or depressed. Sometimes the Emperor holds one end of the Stick, and his first Minister the other; sometimes the Minister has it entirely to himself. Whoever performs his Part with most Agility, and holds out the longest in leaping and creeping, is rewarded with the Blue-colored Silk; the Red is given to the next, and the Green to the third, which they all wear girt twice round about the middle; and you see few great Persons about this Court who are not adorned with one of these Girdles.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Resurrection and Early Christian Apologetics

From Minucius Felix, “Letter to Octavius”, Ch. 34:
Notice how all nature hints at a future resurrection for our consolation.

The sun sets and rises again;

the stars sink below the horizon and return;

the flowers die and come to life again;

the shrubs spend themselves and then put forth buds;

seeds must decompose in order to sprout forth new life.

The body in the grave is thus like the tree in the winter, which conceals its live sap under an apparent dryness.

Why do you, then, urge that in the depths of winter it should revive and return to life?

We must also wait for the spring-time of the body.
Courtesy of Josh Miller.
Lay Dominican: Notes on the Rule

In two and a half months, I will be admitted to the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) as a lay candidate (aka novice), and I am anticipating this very much! This period of candidacy precedes temporary profession and lasts approximately one year. At the heart of this undertaking is the fact that I am discerning a vocation, which means, of course, that if I am called to profession as a Lay Dominican, I am called to be lay, to be Dominican, and to exist in today's world -- first and foremost within my family, and then my community, my career, my country, etc. It is a vocation that concerns itself with engaging the culture with that thing we call veritas or truth, being attentive to the scientia signorum temporum or signs of the times, and understanding the world's parameters through the study of current issues, witnessing to it through preaching by word and deed.

From Tom over at Disputations:
This point is key to understanding Lay Dominicans: We are both lay and Dominican. If we fail to be both, then we fail to live according to our Rule.

There are many ways we can fail. We can fail to be lay by thinking of ourselves as mini-monks, as members of a quasi-secret religious sect whose ways are not those of mere mortal laity. We can fail to be lay by believing that paying our dues and attending our meetings meets our duties as lay members of Christ's Church.

We can also fail to be Dominican by getting hopped up on the externals -- the culture and history and customs of the Order -- and never quite get around to sanctifying ourselves or preaching to others. We can fail to be Dominican by neglecting to form ourselves according to the vivifying spirit of St. Dominic.

We can, I bet, fail in many different ways all at once.

But there are also many different ways to succeed. If you've met one Dominican, you've met one Dominican, and the lay state doesn't impose much in the way of uniformity either. The key to success, written into the very structure of the Fundamental Constitution, is to maintain both aspects, to simply be what you say you are: a Lay Dominican.
Fundamentally, are we in this merely for ourselves and the warm fuzzies of being a part of the greatest religious order in the world? Or are we interested in being sanctified, made holy, and tasked to confront the world with the Gospel?
On Dominican Study

Courtesy of Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP, PhD's Faith + Science blog, suppl(e)mental:
I offer these portions of the Dominican Book of Constitutions and Ordinations (LCO) on the ministry of study as a way to come to some understanding of how a faithful Christian might approach the study of the complementary interactions of philosophy, science, and theology. The following paragraphs show that it is possible for a faithful Christian, without subordinating one field to another, to be both scientifically astute and philosophically coherent. This uniquely Dominican element presents study (along with prayer, ministry, and community) as a means to the end of preaching and teaching the gospel. In other words, for OP's, study, our intellectual life today as a ministry, can never be separated from the fundamental charge and goal of our founder to preach Christ Jesus and him alone.
Study of God's self-revelation:
78. The light and source of our study is God, who spoke in former times and in different ways, and last of all speaks in Christ, through whom the mystery of the Father's will, after the sending of the Spirit, is fully revealed in the Church and enlightens the minds of all people. [If God is the "light and source of our study," then it follows that everything we study will be illuminated by God's light and found originating from God; therefore, biology, physics, math, music, literature, etc. are all limited manifestations of God's Self-revelation to His creation.]
Study as asceticism:
83. Continuous study nourishes contemplation, encourages fulfillment of the counsels with shining fidelity, constitutes a form of asceticism by its own perseverance and difficulty, and, as an essential element of our whole life, it is an excellent religious observance. [Understanding study as a form of asceticism--"virtue in daily practice"--OP's pray when they study; that is, contemplative study in the service of preaching and teaching the gospel with the Church is prayer.]

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Free-thought can never be progressive

One of my favorite bits from G.K. Chesterton (and which I've blogged about many times). From Ch. 8 of his work, The Ball and the Cross:

In the book, MacIan continues:
Christianity is always out of fashion because it is always sane; and all fashions are mild insanities. When Italy is mad on art the Church seems too Puritanical; when England is mad on Puritanism the Church seems too artistic. When you quarrel with us now you class us with kingship and despotism; but when you quarrelled with us first it was because we would not accept the divine despotism of Henry VIII. The Church always seems to be behind the times, when it is really beyond the times; it is waiting till the last fad shall have seen its last summer. It keeps the key of a permanent virtue.
What does it take to pass the most common sense proposition in CA?

As of right now, Proposition 4, the parental notification law for minors seeking abortions, is failing with 47%, with 92% precincts in. This is the 2nd or 3rd time a parental notification law was struck down in California. It is by far the most common sense law you could have; most states voted in this restriction years ago. Minors need permission to be given aspirin at school, but an abortion, sure, why not. And Prop4 wasn't even asking for parental consent, just notification. Amazing. With all due respect for my California friends and family (especially those called to remain in the state to fight for life issues), for all the problems Texas has (e.g. a rabid death penalty), I have no regrets about leaving California. I look forward to raising my children anywhere but there.

In an awkward twist, it looks like California is approving Proposition 8, which will amend the state constitution to define and recognize marriage as between a man and a woman. But it boggles my mind how 8 could pass and yet 4 could fail.

In other news, Texans in my congressional district have given Tom Delay's former seat back to the Republicans after 2 years of occupation by a Democrat.
President Obama

Well, congratulations to President-Elect Obama on his historic win. The disaster left in the wake of the Bush Administration taught us a few lessons. And the McCain campaign certainly made some serious missteps during its campaign. I personally don't believe that choosing Sarah Palin was one of those missteps, but the campaign certainly mishandled her. I suspect we'll be seeing more of her. Nonetheless, while Obama may have taken a large swath of the electoral college, the popular vote reveals that the country is still very divided (52% vs 48%). And so he is faced with governing this divided nation, and he won't be able to do it with smooth rhetoric, messianic language, and radically liberal policies.

That said, my hope is in Christ, not in politicians. It is Christ who is the Lord of history, and He is the Victor. As JPII loved to remind us, "Be not afraid!" So let us pray for President Obama; Pray that he will have the strength to govern and to lead us abroad. Pray that he will have a change of heart when it comes to justice for the unborn; in particular, that he will abandon support for the hideous Freedom of Choice Act. And pray that he really can unite the country as he says he can. Lastly, pray that the Church in America be strengthened and emboldened to stand up for important issues, including life and marriage.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Mmmm... Mulled Claret

John Farrell posts this scene from Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), one of my favorite flicks, in his series, "Great Scenes from Otherwise Appalling Films". It is indeed a great scene:

But I disagree with John about the movie. It isn't appalling! Together with Horror of Dracula and Brides of Dracula, this is the best of Hammer Horror! The priest is here portrayed as a strong man and hunter, sure in his convictions; and the characters are educated and yet adventurous (okay so they were stupid for being led into Dracula's Castle in the most improbable fashion, but still).
All Souls Day in Texas

At my parish, we had a very fine liturgy for All Souls Day, commemorated on a Sunday this year, complete with black and gold vestments (including the maniple)! Here are a couple photos (posted with permission):

The homily was also a very good exposition on the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory and the importance of praying for the dead, a practice that is both apostolic and ancient. One of my favorite articulations of the teaching is from Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI), book nine of the series on Dogmatic Theology. In it, our present pope describes purgatory as a process of purification that is fundamentally Christological:
Purgatory is not, as Tertullian thought, some kind of supra-worldly concentration camp where one is forced to undergo punishments in a more or less arbitrary fashion. Rather it is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God, and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints. Simply to look at people with any degree of realism at all is to grasp the necessity of such a process. It does not replace grace by works, but allows the former to achieve its full victory precisely as grace. What actually saves is the full assent of faith. But in most of us, that basic option is buried under a great deal of wood, hay and straw. Only with difficulty can it peer out from behind the latticework of an egoism we are powerless to pull down with our own hands. Man is the recipient of the divine mercy, yet this does not exonerate him from the need to be transformed. Encounter with the Lord is this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and re-forms us to be vessels of eternal joy.
And, of course, one of the best medieval and highly devotional articulations of purgatory, and my personal favorite, is St. Catherine of Genoa's Treatise on Purgatory. Here is an excerpt:
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.
The point, of course, is that God is both just and merciful. As with our works, our purification is first and foremost a work of God's grace in us. I struggled with this intensely before I entered the Catechumenate. And then, as I reflected on all I had been taught about the Church as Christ's Body, and our unity in Him through baptism, and His conquering of death, it hit me. We exist in a spiritual communion with those who have preceded us in death into new life, which includes not only those who now adore God in Heaven, but those who, having died in God's grace, are being prepared in God's Holy Fire for that awesome experience.

It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead... (2 Maccabees 12:46)
The Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences

Pope Benedict XVI traces the sign of the cross onto Stephen Hawking’s forehead last Friday (10/31/2008) at the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. He also addressed its members gathered there. I am very grateful for our pope and for his brilliant expositions on the interplay between faith and science. Here is his address:
I am happy to greet you, the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, on the occasion of your Plenary Assembly, and I thank Professor Nicola Cabibbo for the words he has kindly addressed to me on your behalf.

In choosing the topic Scientific Insight into the Evolution of the Universe and of Life, you seek to focus on an area of enquiry which elicits much interest. In fact, many of our contemporaries today wish to reflect upon the ultimate origin of beings, their cause and their end, and the meaning of human history and the universe.

In this context, questions concerning the relationship between science’s reading of the world and the reading offered by Christian Revelation naturally arise. My predecessors Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II noted that there is no opposition between faith’s understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences. Philosophy in its early stages had proposed images to explain the origin of the cosmos on the basis of one or more elements of the material world. This genesis was not seen as a creation, but rather a mutation or transformation; it involved a somewhat horizontal interpretation of the origin of the world. A decisive advance in understanding the origin of the cosmos was the consideration of being qua being and the concern of metaphysics with the most basic question of the first or transcendent origin of participated being. In order to develop and evolve, the world must first be, and thus have come from nothing into being. It must be created, in other words, by the first Being who is such by essence.

To state that the foundation of the cosmos and its developments is the provident wisdom of the Creator is not to say that creation has only to do with the beginning of the history of the world and of life. It implies, rather, that the Creator founds these developments and supports them, underpins them and sustains them continuously. Thomas Aquinas taught that the notion of creation must transcend the horizontal origin of the unfolding of events, which is history, and consequently all our purely naturalistic ways of thinking and speaking about the evolution of the world. Thomas observed that creation is neither a movement nor a mutation. It is instead the foundational and continuing relationship that links the creature to the Creator, for he is the cause of every being and all becoming (cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q.45, a. 3).

To “evolve” literally means “to unroll a scroll”, that is, to read a book. The imagery of nature as a book has its roots in Christianity and has been held dear by many scientists. Galileo saw nature as a book whose author is God in the same way that Scripture has God as its author. It is a book whose history, whose evolution, whose “writing” and meaning, we “read” according to the different approaches of the sciences, while all the time presupposing the foundational presence of the author who has wished to reveal himself therein. This image also helps us to understand that the world, far from originating out of chaos, resembles an ordered book; it is a cosmos. Notwithstanding elements of the irrational, chaotic and the destructive in the long processes of change in the cosmos, matter as such is “legible”. It has an inbuilt “mathematics”. The human mind therefore can engage not only in a “cosmography” studying measurable phenomena but also in a “cosmology” discerning the visible inner logic of the cosmos. We may not at first be able to see the harmony both of the whole and of the relations of the individual parts, or their relationship to the whole. Yet, there always remains a broad range of intelligible events, and the process is rational in that it reveals an order of evident correspondences and undeniable finalities: in the inorganic world, between microstructure and macrostructure; in the organic and animal world, between structure and function; and in the spiritual world, between knowledge of the truth and the aspiration to freedom. Experimental and philosophical inquiry gradually discovers these orders; it perceives them working to maintain themselves in being, defending themselves against imbalances, and overcoming obstacles. And thanks to the natural sciences we have greatly increased our understanding of the uniqueness of humanity’s place in the cosmos.

The distinction between a simple living being and a spiritual being that is capax Dei, points to the existence of the intellective soul of a free transcendent subject. Thus the Magisterium of the Church has constantly affirmed that “every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not ‘produced’ by the parents – and also that it is immortal” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 366). This points to the distinctiveness of anthropology, and invites exploration of it by modern thought.

Distinguished Academicians, I wish to conclude by recalling the words addressed to you by my predecessor Pope John Paul II in November 2003: “scientific truth, which is itself a participation in divine Truth, can help philosophy and theology to understand ever more fully the human person and God’s Revelation about man, a Revelation that is completed and perfected in Jesus Christ. For this important mutual enrichment in the search for the truth and the benefit of mankind, I am, with the whole Church, profoundly grateful”.
Laudetur Iesus Christus!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Saturday, the Solemnity of All Saints TLM

Note to all who are interested:

My pastor will be celebrating Holy Mass according to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (aka Traditional Latin Mass) for the Solemnity of All Saints this Saturday, November 1st, at 10:00am at St. Theresa's in Sugar Land.

Mass will be celebrated in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite at 8:30am.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thought this was good, from MSNBC of all places

Some studies suggest that more than 90% of all babies diagnosed with Down's Syndrome are aborted.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Swift-Boating of Joe the Plumber

Watching what the media has done to Joe Wurzelbacher is sickening. From Mark Shea:
So poor old Joe the Plumber is minding his own business when Obama walks past and they end up having a too-candid-for-the-candidate moment. As is only possible in our media-soaked culture of insta-fame, the guy suddenly become The Face of the Common Man, McCain's Last Best Hope and the Fear of the Dems.

So, overnight you get:

- Andrew Sullivan at the "Atlantic Monthly" insisting he's not really a plumber, because he doesn't have a license, followed by post after post aiming to destroy the guy (sandwich in between post after post demanding to know who Trig Palin's mother *really* is).

- A news report from Bloomberg saying Joe has a $1,200 tax lien against him.

- KOS searching the tax records to find the tax lien, and going a step further by publishing Joe's home address.

- "Democratic Underground" publishing any rumor they can get and soliciting more: "Feel free to post your own JOE THE PLUMBER facts, links and trivia. I have a good nose for bull shit and man my bull shit detector is off the dial right now with this guy."

This is the punishment meted out to a guy for speaking his mind to the Son of God. Coming soon to an Obama critic near you.
I am surprised that the mainstream media felt so threatened by this guy -- a guy who is not running for President! So, you have to have all of your finances in perfect order before you can ask a candidate a "real" question? Or perhaps the lesson is you can't ask a question for which you think the candidate might shoot himself in the foot on camera. Maybe the lesson is that it is wrong to question Dear Leader period.

*throwing hands up in air*

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Precious Venus

Homer has it right:

... because aside from the Glorious Feast of All Saints (Nov. 1), Halloween is really just about the candy.
Theology of the Body with Brian Mullady, O.P.

Seminar on "Theology of the Body"
... in the thought of Pope John Paul II.
with Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P.

Saturday, October 25th
9:30 A.M.—3:00 P.M.

St. Theresa Catholic Church
115 Seventh Street
Sugar Land, TX
The Adult Education Committee presents a seminar on "The Theology of the Body," reflections based on the teachings of Pope John Paul II on the human person. Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P., a renowned professor and preacher will clarify the teaching of Pope John Paul II and help us to apply it in our own lives. There will be three presentations during the course of the day:

• The Original Unity of Man and Woman
• Blessed are the Pure of Heart
• Marriage and Celibacy for the Kingdom

Fr. Brian Thomas Becket Mullady is the son of an Air Force officer and was raised throughout the United States. He entered the Dominican Order in 1966 and was ordained in Oakland, California in 1972. He has been a parish priest, high school teacher, retreat master, mission preacher and university professor. He received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology (STD) from the Angelicum University in Rome, Italy and was professor there for six years. He has taught at several colleges and seminaries in the United States. He is an academician of the Catholic Academy of Science. He most recently was a Professor of Theology at Campion College in San Francisco and now preaches parish missions and retreats. He has had five series on Mother Angelica's EWTN television network. He is the author of two books and numerous articles. He is the author of the Question and Answer column in Homiletic and Pastoral Review. He is the Theological Consultant to the Institute on Religious Life.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Did you miss the 2008 Federal Election...

... in Canada?

Last month, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked that the former Canadian Parliament be dissolved, and a new election was scheduled for October 14th, which was last Tuesday. In this election, Harper was able to pick up 19 more seats in the Canadian House of Commons for his Conservative Party (up from 124 seats), but it was still shy of a full majority (155 out of 308 seats). Harper's Conservative Party was brought into power in 2006 after twelve years of government by the Liberal Party of Canada.

Prior to the election, the "top" federal party leaders got together in debates in both English and French. The party leaders include current Prime Minister Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party, Stéphane Dion of the Liberal Party, Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Québécois, Jack Layton of the New Democratic Party, and Elizabeth May of the Green Party.

Here is a clip from the English-language debate. Sound familiar?

Here is a clip from the French-language debate. Can you tell who isn't a native speaker in the group?

Honestly, I followed the Canadian election more out of sheer curiosity, a welcome distraction from American politics. And about the debates - I prefer this debate format. Sit the party leaders around the table. Video cameras, no audience. Of course, they all went after Harper. But notice how real things were discussed. It makes our system of debates seem primitive by comparison.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Melissa Ohden, Abortion Survivor

Courtesy of Feminists for Life:

Melissa Ohden speaks about being aborted at five months gestation. Melissa survived a saline abortion and was placed in a neonatal unit, where her parents found her and adopted her. Today Melissa works in a social welfare agency in the Midwest.

This spring Melissa gave birth to a baby girl in the same hospital, the same maternity ward, where she had been aborted

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mike Wallace and Margaret Sanger

Carl Olson points us to this 1957 Mike Wallace interview with racist eugenicist Margaret Sanger, who founded the American Birth Control League, which, of course, was later renamed to Planned Parenthood. In the interview, she takes on a number of things, including the Catholic Church, who opposed her efforts for government legislation for birth control in a big way (and still does). Back then, she claimed that increased birth control would eliminate the need for abortion. Of course, because of the effect birth control had on the overall value of sex (and sex within marriage), and because people like Bernard Nathanson and Larry Lader managed to convince the feminist movement that abortion was an issue of women's rights, the opposite became true.

Sanger was a proponent of negative eugenics, outbreeding of ethnic minorities, the poor, and those with disabilities. I don't know if you've noticed, but most Planned Parenthood clinics are in the poorer areas of most communities, and it isn't because the real estate is better in those places.
Prayers for America and Her Leaders

Lay Dominican The Practicing Catholic takes the right approach.
I prayed this [prayer] especially on behalf of our civil leaders and those running for office:

Wisdom 9:1-6,9-11

God of my fathers, Lord of Mercy,
You who have made all things by Your word
and in Your wisdom have established man
to rule the creatures produced by You,
to govern the world in holiness and justice,
and to render judgment in integrity of heart:

Give me Wisdom, the attendant at Your throne,
and reject me not from among Your children;
for I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid,
a man weak and short-lived
and lacking in comprehension of judgment and of laws.

Indeed, though one be perfect among the sons of men,
if Wisdom, who comes from You, be not with him,
he shall be held in no esteem.

Now with You is Wisdom, who knows Your works
and was present when You made the world;
who understands what is pleasing in Your eyes
and what is conformable with Your commands.

Send her forth from Your holy heavens
and from Your glorious throne dispatch her
that she may be with me and work with me,
that I may know what is Your pleasure.

For she knows and understands all things,
and will guide me discreetly in my affairs
and safeguard me by her glory.
No matter who becomes president, he will need wisdom from above… I just hope he is open to receiving it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

No Way, No How, Nobama!

I posted on this back in March.

Barack Obama spoke to Planned Parenthood on 7/17/07.

"broader struggle for women's equality"?

During the Q&A session, which is not shown in this video, Obama declares:

"The first thing I'd do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act."

Support the work of Democrats for Life to fight the suppression of the pro-life voice in the Democratic party. Promote viable Democratic candidates to provide Americans with solid options!

To use a well worn cliche, it's time to turn the page on Barack Obama.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Rule of the Dominican Laity

I had been contemplating all week about writing about my reflections on the Rule employed by the Dominican Laity (Latin: Regula Fraternitatum Laicalium Sancti Dominici), but Tom beat me to it! So I'll just refer to him, at least for now:
The current Rule of the Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic was definitively approved by the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes on January 15, 1987. This is the fifth Rule for Lay Dominicans, with the others being approved in 1972 (on an experimental basis), 1964 (in response to Vatican II), 1923 (in response to the 1917 Code of Canon Law), and 1405 (the year formal papal approval was first obtained). The 1405 Rule is essentially the one by Munio de Zamora, OP, written in 1285 to supersede the many Rules written by and for the individual fraternities that sprang up around Dominican houses in different cities.

The official Rule is, of course, written in Latin. The story of translating this Rule into English is long and dull -- unlike the Rule itself, which is short and (in its way) surprising. The Latin text, along with some introductory material and an English translation made by "a team of Latinists of the English Province of Dominican friars," can be found here.

Since my Lay Dominican Chapter is reviewing the Rule according to a new translation (not yet on-line) -- more accurate than the one I'd promised to live according to for life several years back, less Latinate than the one the English friars produced -- I thought I'd post some comments on the Rule on my blog.

As mentioned above, the Rule itself is short, less than five pages leisurely formatted. This is consistent with the let's-get-on-with-it spirit of St. Dominic, who adopted the relatively brief Rule of St. Augustine for his new Order of Friars Preachers. In fact, without the animating spirit of St. Dominic, the Rule of his Lay Fraternities has no real life of its own. Those who promise to live according to this Rule, then, must take care that they don't substitute some other spirit -- or worse, inform their accord with no spirit at all and let it remain a dead thing.
I'm glad he brought up the issue regarding the translation of the Rule. The Dominican Laity Inter-Provincial Council met recently to review a uniform English translation of the Rule. Up until this point, the translation we had been referring to in the Southern Province was actually slightly different than the one used by the Eastern Province, and so on. The more I study the Rule, the more I appreciate its spirit. Tom is fundamentally correct: The Rule is short, flexible, and to-the-point, animated by Dominic's own spirit.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Cardinal DiNardo in Galveston

Rocco reports on this article from the Houston Chronicle on Cardinal DiNardo's mass in Galveston this past Sunday. I was downtown in Houston on Saturday morning for our work with the homeless community; while things appear to be coming back to life (power restored to much of the city, high-rise windows very obviously boarded up, a few streets blocked off), there is still much work to be done. But Galveston obviously fared much worse.

The archdiocese has set up a recovery fund for donations, but there are still many avenues to help.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Understanding Verner's Law

Prof. Richard Nokes of Troy University takes us on an odyssey that is Verner's Law, revealing, of course, that language change is more regular than chaotic. Prof. Nokes links to three simple videos that explain it for us:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A 269 tie - Electoral College Doomsday?

Or so reports Joseph Curl of the Washington Times.
President Obama, with Vice President Palin? President Biden? President Pelosi? Call them the "Doomsday" scenarios -- On Nov. 5, the presidential election winds up in a electoral-college tie, 269-269, the Democrat-controlled House picks Sen. Barack Obama as president, but the Senate, with former Democrat Joe Lieberman voting with Republicans, deadlocks at 50-50, so Vice President Dick Cheney steps in to break the tie to make Republican Sarah Palin his successor.
It seems like every election season, someone brings up all the wild scenarios. Even though the results are sure to be close this time, chances are they won't be too extraordinarily surprising.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hurricane Ike: Physical vs. Moral Evil

From my pastor in this week's parish bulletin:
The last week has been a vivid reminder of the fragility of human life and of our dependence upon the human technology that has made our lives easier and richer. As hurricane Ike plowed through our area, most of us lost power, the ability to communicate through telephone and internet, and wreaked havoc on our property and lives. At the same time, we are conscious of the fact that so many people have suffered far worse than we, losing their homes, livelihoods, and even their lives. We should be grateful that we were spared the brunt of the storm, and we do well to continue to pray for those who still have many months of hardship ahead of them.

We wonder about suffering because we know that God provides for us. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages us to trust in the providential care of God: "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?'... Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well" (Mt. 6:31-33).

Our trust in God, however, does not allay the tension that evil introduces into our understanding of the divine. Catholic theology understands evil in two ways. There is physical evil and there is moral evil. Physical evil refers to the incompleteness of the physical world. In this sense, evil is regarded as a privation or imperfection. The world that God created is not perfect in the sense of being complete.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this imperfection by saying, "with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world 'in a state of journeying' toward its ultimate perfection. In God's plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, [and] both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection" (CCC, no. 310).

In addition to physical evil, there is also moral evil. This category is usually what we refer to when we speak about evil. Moral evil is rooted in the decisions made by free creatures, angels and men.

As creatures made in the image and likeness of God, we have been endowed with an intellect and a will. The intellect is one's capacity to know the good. The will is one's capacity to choose the good. Of course, the opposite is also possible. One can pursue and embrace what is evil.

If the created world is "in a state of journeying," so is the human race. This is expressed in the Catechism: "Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil (emphasis added). He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it" (CCC, no. 311).

Could God have created a world without the possibility of moral evil? Yes, but it would be a creation without angels or humanity. Without free will, man would be nothing more than an animal, or worse, like a robot or machine. Without free will, we would also be incapable of good, and would act purely on instinct, as the lower creatures do.

How should we respond to the existence of evil in the world? St. Paul has a remedy. In the Letter to the Romans, the Apostle encourages us: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom 12:21). The existence of evil in the physical world and in the human heart forces us to consider that we cannot be morally neutral. The antidote to evil is our resolve to become saints and to increase the weight of good in the world.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Purity of God's Word

From the Holy Father's message at Vespers to young seminarians and religious at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris (Friday, Sept. 12th, 2008):
In a particular way, men and women religious and all consecrated persons draw life from the Wisdom of God expressed in his word. The profession of the evangelical counsels has configured you, dear consecrated persons, to Christ, who for our sakes became poor, obedient and chaste. Your only treasure – which, to tell the truth, will alone survive the passage of time and the curtain of death – is the word of the Lord. It is he who said: “Heaven and earth will pass away; my words will not pass away” (Mt 24:35). Your obedience is, etymologically, a “hearing”, for the word obey comes from the Latin obaudire, meaning to turn one’s ear to someone or something. In obeying, you turn your soul towards the one who is the Way, and the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6), and who says to you, as Saint Benedict taught his monks: “Hear, my child, the teaching of the Master, and hearken to it with all your heart” (Prologue to the Rule of Saint Benedict). Finally, let yourselves be purified daily by him who said: “Every branch that bears fruit my Father prunes, to make it bear more fruit” (Jn 15:2). The purity of God’s word is the model for your own chastity, ensuring its spiritual fruitfulness.
Lehman's Non-Electric Catalog

Lehman's is known for its non-electric items, both vintage as well as modern. In light of recent events, their catalog might be a good thing to own if you are looking to get through a power outage, camping trip, or anything else. Coffee maker, goat cart, grass scythe, hoof trimmer, man-powered lawn mower. It's all there. Their catalog even has a special chapter, "How to Live without Electricity - And Like It."
Irish Dominicans

The Dominican History blog presents the reception of the Dominican habit in Limerick, Ireland, 2008.
Civil War Schooner uncovered by Hurricane Ike?

The AP reports:
When the waves from Hurricane Ike receded, they left behind a mystery: a ragged shipwreck that archeologists say could be a two-masted Civil War schooner that ran aground in 1862 or another ship from 70 years later.

The wreck, about 6 miles from Fort Morgan, had been partially uncovered when Hurricane Camille cleared away sand in 1969.

Researchers at the time identified it as the Monticello, a battleship that partially burned when it crashed trying to get past the U.S. Navy and into Mobile Bay during the Civil War.

After examining photos of the wreck post-Ike, Museum of Mobile marine archaeologist Shea McLean agreed that it is probably the Monticello, which ran aground in 1862 after sailing from Havana, Cuba, according to Navy records.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Our Lady and the Jewish Author

So the pope was recently in Lourdes, France, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions at Lourdes and the message delivered through St. Bernadette Soubirous. I thought I would recall the "personal preface" to the best-selling historical novel, The Song of Bernadette, written by Jewish author Franz Werfel:
In the last days of June 1940, in flight from our mortal enemies after the collapse of France, we reached the city of Lourdes. The two of us, my wife and I, had hoped to be able to elude them in time to cross the Spanish frontier to Portugal. But since the consuls unanimously refused the requisite visas, we had no alternative but to flee back with great difficulty to the interior of France on the very night on which the National Socialist troops occupied the border town of Hendaye. The Pyrenean départements had turned into a phantasmagoria -- a very camp of chaos. The millions of this strange migration of peoples wandered about on the roads and obstructed the towns and villages: Frenchmen, Belgians, Dutchmen, Poles, Czechs, Austrians, exiled Germans, and, mingled with these, soldiers of the defeated armies. There was barely food enough to still the extreme pangs of hunger. There was no shelter to be had at all. Anyone who had obtained possession of an upholstered chair for his night's rest was an object of envy. In endless lines stood the cars of the fugitives, piled mountain-high with household gear, with mattresses and beds; there was no gasoline to be had. In Pau a family settled there told us that Lourdes was the one place where, if luck were kind, one might still find a roof. Since the famous city was but thirty kilometres distant, we were advised to make the attempt and knock at its gates. We followed this advice and were sheltered at last.

It was in this manner that Providence brought me to Lourdes, of the miraculous history of which I had hitherto had but the most superficial knowledge. We hid for several weeks in the Pyrenean city. It was a time of great dread. The British radio announced that I had been murdered by the National Socialists. Nor did I doubt that such would be my fate were I to fall into the hands of the enemy. An article of the Armistice provided that France turn over certain civilians to the National Socialists. Who could these civilians be but those who had fought the modern pestilence in the days of its modest beginnings? In my friends' eyes I read the same conviction, although their words sought to calm me. A few of the initiated pretended to know the number of those who were to be turned over and the very order of their documented names. At such moments the boundary between rumour and fact is obliterated. The most sublime stubborn reports predicted again and again the conqueror's occupation of the Pyrenees on the following day. Each morning when I woke up it was in ignorance as to whether I was still a free man or a prisoner condemned to death.

It was, I repeat, a time of great dread. But it was also a time of great significance for me, for I became acquainted with the wondrous history of the girl Bernadette Soubirous and also with the wondrous facts concerning the healings of Lourdes. One day in my great distress I made a vow. I vowed that if I escaped from this desperate situation and reached the saving shores of America, I would put off all other tasks and sing, as best I could, the song of Bernadette.

This book is the fulfilment of my vow...

I have dared to sing the song of Bernadette, although I am not a Catholic but a Jew; and I drew courage from this undertaking from a far older and far more unconscious vow of mine. Even in the days when I wrote my first verses I vowed that I would evermore and everywhere in all I wrote magnify the divine mystery and the holiness of man -- careless of a period which has turned away with scorn and rage and indifference from these ultimate values of our mortal lot.

Franz Werfel, Los Angeles, May 1941


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