Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Nature and Design

One of many great observations given by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn from his excellent book, "Chance or Purpose: Creation, Evolution and a Rational Faith (p.98)"
The never ending debate, as to whether there is something like a "design" in creation, thus goes round in circles, perhaps because nowadays, whenever people talk about "design" and a "designer", they automatically think of a "divine engineer", a kind of omniscient technician, who -- because he must be perfect -- can, equally, only produce perfect machines. Here, in my view, lies the most profound cause of many misunderstandings -- even on the part of the "intelligent design" school in the U.S.A. God is not clockmaker; he is not a constructor of machines, but a Creator of natures. The world is not a mechanical clock, not some vast machine, nor even a mega-computer, but rather, as Jacques Maritain said, "une republique des natures", "a republic of natures."

In order to talk meaningfully about the Creator having a "design", we have to retrieve the concept of "nature", an understanding of which we have largely lost today, and which has been replaced by a technical and mechanistic understanding of living things.

The Renaissance Priest

Great story from the Catholic News Agency on the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.
The Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio has been undergoing a renaissance of its own in the past few years, with enrollment increasing significantly and seven dioceses sending seminarians there for the first time. They are learning how to be what the Josephinum’s rector, Father James Wehner, STD, describes as a priestly, 21st-century version of a Renaissance man.

As Fr. Wehner defines it, “The Renaissance priest is both a man of culture and a man of faith, propagating the mission of the Church in a language, method, and ministry accessible to the people of God.”

That vision has attracted an increasing number of young men to the Josephinum since Fr. Wehner was appointed rector in 2009 after being pastor of a large church in suburban Pittsburgh and spending six years as rector of the Pittsburgh diocesan seminary.

Enrollment at the Josephinum has increased 53 percent since his arrival, growing from 118 to this year’s total of 185, the seminary’s highest total since the 1970s. Students range in age from 17 to their early 50s. Since the Josephinum is a national seminary, they come from nearly 30 dioceses in the U.S.
Who are these men?
Several, such as first-year student Nathaniel Glenn of Phoenix, had their pick of schools from throughout the nation. They chose the Josephinum because they felt a possible calling to be a priest and believed it was the best place to discern God’s will.

“A lot of my friends said to me, ‘You’re too smart and too talented to be going to a seminary,’” said Glenn, a National Merit Scholarship finalist who turned down nearly $450,000 in scholarship offers from schools such as Texas Tech, Alabama, Arizona, and Arizona State “I told them they had the wrong idea of what a seminary is. It’s somewhere we should be sending our best men. We need smart priests.”
Yes! But what about formation and the true vocation of a priest?
Fr. Wehner said the Josephinum’s mission is defined by three main concepts: Renaissance priesthood as described above, spiritual fatherhood, and the new evangelization as proclaimed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

He explained spiritual fatherhood by saying “priests don’t surrender the natural vocation all men have to provide nuptial, generative, spousal love. Priestly celibacy consecrates the natural order of man to the supernatural love of God. It does not deny the masculinity that is part of a man’s nature, but places it in a special context. This is important in today’s culture, where sexuality is defined in a perverse way.”

Fr. Wehner said that a Renaissance priest, “as the initial new evangelizer, exercises pastoral ministry in culture, with an understanding of what the Church is asking from him and of what the faithful expect from their priest. He can’t be afraid of meeting people wherever they can be found, but has to go beyond the world of the parish and into areas like the marketplace, prisons, or the places where addicts are. The 21st-century priest needs to be man enough to bring the Gospel everywhere people need to hear it.”

Students at all levels of the Josephinum go into the secular world every Thursday afternoon during the school year, teaching at Columbus-area Catholic schools, taking part in activities such as the Special Olympics, and paying visits to the sick in hospitals and nursing homes and to prisoners at the Marion Correctional Institution.
And what about the daily prayer life and spiritual formation?
Besides classroom time, the weekly apostolic works program, and daily meals, the weekday schedule includes practice sessions for those involved in the Josephinum choir and schola or other musical organizations, one-hour weekly formation conferences one night a week with Father Wehner or faculty members speaking in depth on a particular topic, Evening Prayer at 5:45 p.m., and Night Prayer (optional on most evenings but required on some) at 9.

A Holy Hour is offered seven days a week and also is optional most days and required occasionally, In addition, there are ample opportunities to receive the Sacrament of Penance or to meditate in any of the institution’s four chapels, dedicated to St. Turibius, St. Rose of Lima, St. Joseph, and St. Pius X.

The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (the “Latin Mass”) is celebrated twice a month, and there is a weekly Mass in Spanish that’s part of a larger Hispanic formation program. An English-immersion program is offered for international students.

Seminarians also are exposed to a wide range of devotions including Eucharistic processions and weekly recitation of the Rosary, and they can join fraternities such as the Knights of Columbus, which recently began a campus chapter.
Please pray for these men and for vocations.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Faith and the Scientific Imagination

Interesting article by science fiction writer John C. Wright.
Science fiction is not science. Science fiction is the imaginative attempt to investigate (and, yes, to play with) the ideas suggested by the modern, scientific, Darwinian world-view. Science fiction is a game of the imagination: it asks us to extrapolate the wonders of a naturalistic universe. There are no gods and no magic in a science fiction story properly so-called. Adding these elements makes it a fantasy, or, at least, a space opera or some other “soft” form of science fiction. Hard science fiction, the core of the genre, is naturalistic, and based on the Darwinian view of an evolving universe, ruled by chance, but explicable through reason.

... Now, it is no condemnation of science fiction to say it is naturalistic. For that matter, detective stories and Westerns are naturalistic, or, at least, I can think of no whodunit solved through prayer and miracle, and I never read a Western where ghosts were banished by an exorcist armed with bell, book, and candle. What makes science fiction an oddity in naturalistic fiction is this frequent tendency to seek out supernatural themes.
Read the whole article.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Save the Liturgy, Save the World

How we celebrate the liturgy in our parish communities is of utmost importance. With the disintegration of the liturgy comes a disintegration of Catholic identity, and with that, a community that tears itself apart. Fortunately, proper celebration of the liturgy was and is something very close to the pope's heart. From Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), from "Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977":
I am convinced that the crisis in the [Roman] Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has even come to be conceived of "etsi Deus non daretur": in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not He speaks to us and hears us. But when the community of faith, the world-wide unity of the Church and her history, and the mystery of the living Christ are no longer visible in the liturgy, where else, then, is the Church to become visible in her spiritual essence? Then the community is celebrating only itself, an activity that is utterly fruitless. And, because the ecclesial community cannot have its origin from itself but emerges as a unity only from the Lord, through faith, such circumstances will inexorably result in a disintegration into sectarian parties of all kinds - partisan opposition within a Church tearing herself apart. This is why we need a new Liturgical Movement, which will call to life the real heritage of the Second Vatican Council.
Have I been a witness to this? Absolutely, yes. I am utterly humbled that I am now a witness to this liturgical renewal and new Liturgical Movement about which the pope speaks - to see the real heritage of the Second Vatican Council blossom.

What is the Church?

Paragraph 760 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Christians of the first centuries said, "The world was created for the sake of the Church." God created the world for the sake of communion with his divine life, a communion brought about by the "convocation" of men in Christ, and this "convocation" is the Church.
And the Church is the primary means through which Christ gives us, by grace, the supreme gift of Himself, making us partakers of His own Divine Life. The Catechism here references the The Shepherd of Hermas (Vision 2, Ch. 4), a document of the early church written sometime in the 1st or 2nd century:
Now a revelation was given to me, my brethren, while I slept, by a young man of comely appearance, who said to me, "Who do you think that old woman is from whom you received the book?" And I said, "The Sibyl." "You are in a mistake," says he; "it is not the Sibyl." "Who is it then?" say I. And he said, "It is the Church." And I said to him, "Why then is she an old woman?" "Because," said he, "she was created first of all. On this account is she old. And for her sake was the world made."


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