Friday, February 13, 2009

Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare

The Dominican motto Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare (to praise, to bless, to preach) actually derives from the Preface of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Dominican Missal, as shown for the Feast of the Assumption below:
Vere dignum et justum est, aequum salutare: Nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere, Domine, sancte, Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus. Et te in Assumptione beatae Maria semper Virginis exultantibus animis *** laudare, benedicere, et praedicare ***. Quae et unigenitum tuum Sancti Spiritus obumbratione concepit, et virginitatis gloria permanente, mundo lumen aeternum effudit, Iesum Christum Dominum nostrum. Per quem maiestatem tuam laudant angeli, adorant dominationes, tremunt potestates: caeli caelorumque virtutes ac beata seraphim socia exultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces ut admitti iubeas, deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, etc...
Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P., a Dominican Rite scholar, notes on Lauren's blog that the Dominican preface is a medieval, northern French variation on the Roman, which uses collaudare.

The same phrase can also be found in the Preface for the Prophet Elias in the Carmelite Missal:
Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere: Domine sancte Pater omnipotens aeterne Deus: Et te in Solemnitate (Veneratione) beati Eliae, Prophetae tui et Patris nostri, exsultantibus animis *** laudare, benedicere et praedicare ***...
Most likely from a similar variant of the Roman missal. Anyone know the history behind the Carmelite preface?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Conference on Biological Evolution

This is a couple of days old, but from VIS:
In the Holy See Press Office this morning, the presentation took place of an international conference entitled: "Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories. A critical appraisal 150 years after 'The Origin of Species'". The event is due to take place in Rome from 3 to 7 March.
A more detailed description of the event:
Archbishop Ravasi pointed out that the forthcoming congress responds to the need "to re-establish dialogue between science and faith, because neither of them can fully resolve the mystery of human beings and the universe".

For his part Fr. Leclerc explained that the congress will be divided into nine sessions, focusing on "the essential facts upon which the theory of evolution rests, facts associated with palaeontology and molecular biology; ... the scientific study of the mechanisms of evolution, ... and what science has to say about the origin of human beings". Attention will also be given to "the great anthropological questions concerning evolution, ... and the rational implications of the theory for the epistemological and metaphysical fields and for the philosophy of nature". Finally, he said, "there will be two theological sessions to study evolution from the point of view of Christian faith, on the basis of a correct exegesis of the biblical texts that mention the creation, and of the reception of the theory of evolution by the Church".

Saverio Forastiero observed that "the relative fluidity of contemporary evolutionary theory is largely due to a series of discoveries made in the last quarter of a century, discoveries which require the synthetic theory to be reconfigured and could lead to a theory of evolution of the third generation".

"It is my view", he went on, "that this congress represents an opportunity, neither propagandistic nor apologetic, for scientists, philosophers and theologians to meet and discuss the fundamental questions raised by biological evolution - which is assumed and discussed as a fact beyond all reasonable doubt - in order to examine its manifestations and causal mechanisms, and to analyse the impact and quality of the explanatory theories thus far proposed".
How awesome!! The contemporary debate illustrates quite well the tension as well as the synergy of faith and reason in the public sphere. Atheism, which would deny faith, would have us misapply important, scientific theories in a way that would attempt to exclude God (an unscientific claim). Meanwhile, a dangerous fundamentalism, which would deny the applicability of reason, would seek to jerk it in the other direction in a way that would attempt to reject the plausibility of simple, scientific observations and theories about what they indicate. Both positions are extremely dangerous. The Catholic christian would instead look at the evidence and what it tells us (and, what it doesn't tell us) and still ask: What is this based on? How can what we know and don't know about biological evolution be subject to what we understand about God, the Creator of the universe? For the Christian, the foundation is still the same.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Greek Orthodox in Santa Barbara

Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, Santa Barbara, California

Saint Barbara's is one of my all-time favorite churches in Santa Barbara. For some reason, I was reflecting on the place tonight. The photo above was taken at (Orthodox) Easter, 2003. I visited this church for the first time back in November 1997 with Bill for an Environmental Symposium the church hosted for the visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. I was a greenhorn Catholic back then, and at the time, I'm not sure that I was able to fully appreciate the significance of the event, but I was glad I went. One unique feature of the church is that they have available for veneration a holy relic of St. Barbara given to them as a gift from Pope John Paul II back in 1987.

The value of a Catholic Education...

... is not a matter of being taught math and history by priests and nuns, as some mistakenly think it is. It's really about forming the mind simultaneously with the soul, at least in principle.

I've been meaning to post about this for a few months. The following is from the principal's column in my high school's October newsletter concerning Catholic schools:
Catholic schools have traditionally provided excellent college preparatory training, and routinely produce some of the top students in the country each year...

Catholic schools, because they are usually smaller and can better individualize the educational experience for their students, are sometimes viewed (especially in urban areas) as safer environments in which to receive an education. If you have chosen St. Joseph High School for any of these reasons, I am sorry to say you have chosen it for the wrong reason.
Get that? And now it gets interesting:
The mission of Catholic education is unique, and the call to ministry in Catholic schools sets teachers and staff members apart from those who work in other places. Catholic Bishops regard Catholic schools as “an essential ministry of the Catholic Church”, so when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles decided to start a Catholic high school in the Santa Maria Valley, it did so to enhance the spiritual enlightenment of our students through the teaching of Catholic doctrine and not for any other reasons. Fr. Ed often reminds our students that “it doesn’t matter if you get in to Harvard if you don’t get in to heaven.” Similarly, it doesn’t matter if you get a full ride football scholarship to USC, if you don’t know right from wrong. If you are content in languishing in the safety and security of a school like St. Joseph, but you haven’t opened your heart enough to concern yourself with the health and well-being of the rest of humankind, then your education has failed you.

When it comes to helping students to develop their spirituality and to building closer faith relationships with God, certainly not all of our students “get it” right away. But we as Catholic educators are about the business of planting spiritual seeds, seeds that may take a long time to germinate, but seeds that will grow and flower sometimes long after we are gone. It is that potential to develop young people who will become better human beings sooner or maybe later, that is the reason that Catholic schools exist. This is what Archbishop Oscar Romero was saying when he wrote,
“We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work... We plant seeds that will one day grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise… We may never see the end results… We are prophets of a future not our own.”
I am hoping this is the reason that you chose St. Joseph High School for your child. We know that St. Joseph provides its students with a great education in a fun-filled and safe environment, but we also know that is not the reason we exist, and it is our collective job to remind others what is the real reason.
I was very happy to see this. My experience at St. Joseph was instrumental in my embrace of the Catholic Faith. It had its share of problems, but I constantly thank God for my time there. The extent of what I received there is still being realized even today.

After I graduated, the school went downhill fast with severe administration problems and, I'm sorry to say, really bad hiring decisions. However, over the last few years, they have made a decent comeback and have really attempted to assert their Christian identity in the community. The current principal's attitude is further proof of that renewed attitude.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Is there still room for God?

In my days at the university, and also in my current profession, I have often encountered ridicule of Christian assertions or beliefs about the role of Faith and its pertinence to Science. Typically, this was done by the false assertion that the role of faith was only useful to explain what could not presently be explained by science. The "God of the gaps" argument. Wikipedia has a nice summary:
The God of the gaps refers to a view of God deriving from a theistic position in which anything that can be explained by human knowledge is not in the domain of God, so the role of God is therefore confined to the 'gaps' in scientific explanations of nature. The concept involves an interaction of religious explanations of nature with those derived from science. Within the traditional theistic view of God as existing in a realm "beyond nature," as science progresses to explain more and more, the perceived scope of the role of God tends to shrink as a result.
I have known a lot of Christians who felt painted into a corner over this. Yet, science, per se, is not an enemy to faith.

I argue that an authentically Catholic approach must reject such a "God of the gaps" argument. Why? Because it isn't Catholic. God is not a God beyond nature. God is a God of nature, of Creation. After all, it was the very Catholic articulation of the balance between faith and reason that inspired some of the greatest scientific contributions in western civilization, many made by Catholic priests. Mendel and genetics, Clavius and the calendar, Grimaldi and optics, LeMaître and the Big Bang, Copernicus and heliocentrism, and yes, even Galileo. We love science - honest science - and the scientific method.

Contrary to the notion of a stop-gap God, for whom there remains little or no room, the Catholic holds up the exact opposite: the Creator who upholds the universe. For the believer, our comprehension of science only further demonstrates His existence because creation is imbued with intelligibility. The universe is rational. It is reasonable, spoken into existence by the very Word of our Creator. And reason, balanced with faith, is a gift that has been given to us.

Pope Benedict XVI recently said of Galileo:
The great Galileo said that God wrote the book of nature in the form of the language of mathematics. He was convinced that God has given us two books: the book of Sacred Scripture and the book of nature. And the language of nature – this was his conviction – is mathematics, so it is a language of God, a language of the Creator.
In his book, Chance or Purpose: Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, O.P. summarizes it thusly in the chapter titled, He upholds the universe by his word of power (Heb. 1:3):
A great deal that was previously incomprehensible in natural processes, because we did not know how to explain it, can be explained today through scientific research and has thereby become comprehensible... The more that is explained, the less there remains that is inexplicable. Is the "room" for God becoming steadily "smaller"? It is no wonder that Der Spiegel closes the article ["God versus Darwin: a religious war over evolution"] with the words, "It's becoming cramped for the creator."

Yet belief in the Creator does not begin at the point where we do not yet know something, but precisely where we do know very well. The proper approach is to look at what we already know today. That, thank God, is a great deal. We are not looking where there is still something unexplained to see if there is still room for God, but looking at what we know and asking, "What is this based on?"
Indeed, that is the question we should be asking. And this is why it is false to assert that only science and reason alone are enough or sufficient for man or for civilization. After all, science can also be used to justify extraordinary horrors and offenses against the dignity of the human person.

I held not a broom...

Today, we observed the World Day of Consecrated Life. I found myself this morning back at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in downtown Houston for Sunday mass celebrated by Cardinal DiNardo. The mass also served to honor those who have given themselves to God in consecrated life. I was there primarily under an invitation given to our group of Dominican Laity to support our religious promoter, who had been invited to preach the homily. Later in the afternoon, I met with my Lay Dominican group for an extraordinary and very necessary meeting.

The homily started and ended around the humble example of St. Martin de Porres, as particularly exhibited by a statue in the courtyard of Holy Rosary parish in Houston. In the statue, Martin clutches, with one hand, the crucifix of Our Lord close to his heart, and in his other hand, he holds a broom -- the broom of his service as keeper of the priory. For Martin, all work was sacred, however menial. Martin's embrace of poverty and his embrace of the dignity of work (both seemingly counter cultural today) were essential to his vocation and his witness, not only as a religious cooperator brother for those in consecrated life, but to all who witness in the world today. It is in this dignity of holy work, offered to God in humility and transformed by Him, that we witness the extraordinary grace at work within ordinary life. Martin held a broom in one hand and preached Christ and Him Crucified from his heart. Martin's work, and indeed his very life, preached Christ.

Some of us are called to professions that may not include a broom, but let us still strive to cling to that Cross, holding it always to our hearts, as we go about our work and our daily activities -- living out that grace in the good works God has prepared for us to live. If we do that, our work, our very lives, will indeed preach, just as Martin's did.


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