Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Phipps was not persuaded.

It appears that I am cited in the 2006 book Faith in America: Changes, Challenges, New Directions, Volume 1 for some comments I made some years ago in opposition to the phenomenon of "online Eucharistic Adoration":
Not all Internet Catholics agree, however, and some have taken's Webmaster to task for, among other things, encouraging an incipient idolatry among devout Catholics.  Objecting to the site on both theological and ecclesiastical grounds, Alan Phipps wrote to an online discussion forum that "online adoration is not at all the same as being physically present with Christ."  Also, he pointed out, "there is no mention at the site of any Bishop's approval."  Later, he added that he thought the site was "misleading," that "Christ's presence is not transmitted via electronic media."  A few days later, Sam Damico, the Webmaster for responded, comparing online adoration with using the telephone--not the same as being there, but infinitely better than no communication at all.  Not surprisingly, he cited the many testimonials he has received about the Web site.  Phipps was not persuaded.  "Certainly," he admitted, "Christ's power is not limited to being in His physical presence, and He can work in any way He sees fit, but I am merely suggesting that an electronic image of the Blessed Sacrament, in whatever format, is not suitable for adoration in any way whatsoever."  Rather than demonstrate the worth of a service like, Phipps argued that testimonials on the site highlighted the theological confusion surrounding the issue.
Incidentally, the website is still up.  Around the time I made these comments, I had an offline chat with the webmaster, and he agreed to add some clarifying language on the website, but I still found the overall language confusing.

I have been waiting for more theologians to chime in on the question of "online adoration". I am not a theologian, but I think this phenomenon, while certainly sincere, is surrounded with theological concerns. The technology of video streaming is straightforward: what you are looking at is a series of reconstructed images.  And in case you weren't aware of this, the website does state that the "image is being broadcast from a webcam to our servers at a frequency of 12 frames per minute".

Personally, I've long believed in the power of Eucharistic Adoration and have actively promoted it for almost 20 years.  Presently I keep a weekly Holy Hour at our local perpetual adoration chapel, and I am grateful for the opportunity.  I'll be the first to admit that there is spiritual value to the use of images in prayer -- one need only look to the rich theology of icons to see that, but I think it's careful to draw careful distinctions.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Layers of History

You don't have to dig too far to find history in some of the world's ancient cities.  I wish we in the United States would do better to remember this (with the exception of some US cities like New Orleans). Examples below (click on the images to enlarge).  Note that these examples only go back 200-300 years.  Obviously, for cities like Rome and Paris, you can find things much older.  How many people just walk (or drive) through areas that have seen history unfold without giving it a second thought?

Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere (Late 17th Century Engraving by G.B. Falda), Rome, Italy
Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere (Today)
My wife and I have been here a number of times. Very little has changed since the 17th century.

Place de la Révolution, Execution of Louis XVI (Jan. 21, 1793 - Engraving by Isidore Stanislas Helman), Paris France.
Place de la Révolution, aka Place de la Concorde (Today)
Compare the buildings in the background to the engraving above to put it in perspective.
Place de la Concorde, 2 (Today)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will. His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature."

God, who "dwells in unapproachable light", wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons in his only-begotten Son. By revealing himself God wishes to make them capable of responding to him, and of knowing him and of loving him far beyond their own natural capacity.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (51-52)

Figured I'd try to get at least one post in this year! For your meditation as Christmas approaches...

Monday, March 30, 2015

Accepting the possibility that God could love us

Here below is an excerpt from the novel, "The Exorcist", by William Peter Blatty (emphasis mine). Blatty is a devout Catholic and has been interviewed quite frequently on EWTN. In this excerpt, the old and wise exorcist, Fr. Merrin, attempts to explain to the young Fr. Karras the reason or point for why a demon would possess a young and innocent girl. Fr. Karras asks, pointedly, "What's the point?" Indeed. This leads to a brilliant reflection by Fr. Merrin on the intrinsic goodness of human beings and God's unwavering love for them; for us. This awareness is what the devil wants to destroy. Therefore, the target of this possession was not the innocent girl but rather the observers -- those living in the house -- who have to watch this unfold.
The two priests stepped into the warmth and the dimness of the hall and leaned wearily against the wall.

Karras listened to the eerie, muffled singing from within. After some moments, he spoke softly to Merrin. “You said—you said earlier there was only… one entity.”


The hushed tones, the lowered heads, were confessional.

“All the others are but forms of attack,” continued Merrin. “There is one… only one. It is a demon.” There was a silence. Then Merrin stated simply, “I know you doubt this. But you see, this demon… I have met once before. And he is powerful… powerful….”

A silence. Karras spoke again. “We say the demon… cannot touch the victim’s will.”

“Yes, that is so… that is so… There is no sin.”

“Then what would be the purpose of possession?” Karras said, frowning. “What’s the point?”

“Who can know?” answered Merrin. “Who can really hope to know?” He thought for a moment. And then probingly continued: “Yet I think the demon’s target is not the possessed; it is us… the observers… every person in this house. And I think—I think the point is to make us despair; to reject our own humanity, Damien: to see ourselves as ultimately bestial; as ultimately vile and putrescent; without dignity; ugly; unworthy. And there lies the heart of it, perhaps: in unworthiness. For I think belief in God is not a matter of reason at all; I think it finally is matter of love; of accepting the possibility that God could love us…”

Again Merrin paused. He continued more slowly and with a hush of introspection: ‘He knows… the demon knows where to strike….” He was nodding. “Long ago I despaired of ever loving my neighbor. Certain people… repelled me. How could I love them? I thought. It tormented me, Damien; it led me to despair of myself… and from that, very soon, to despair of my God. My faith was shattered….”

Karras looked up at Merrin with interest. “And what happened?” he asked.

“Ah, well… at last I realized that God would never ask of me that which I know to be psychologically impossible; that the love which He asked was in my will and not meant to be felt as emotion at all. Not at all. He was asking that I act with love; that I do unto others; and that I should do it unto those who repelled me, I believe, was a greater act of love than any other.” He shook his head. “I know that all of this must seem very obvious, Damien. I know. But at the time I could not see It. Strange blindness. How many husbands and wives,” he uttered sadly, “must believe they have fallen out of love because their hearts no longer race at the sight of their beloveds! Ah, dear God!” He shook his head; and then nodded. “There it lies, I think, Damien… possession; not in wars, as some tend to believe; not so much; and very seldom in extraordinary interventions such as here… this girl… this poor child. No, I see it most often in the little things, Damien: in the senseless, petty spites; the misunderstandings; the cruel and cutting word that leaps unbidden to the tongue between friends. Between lovers. Enough of these,” Merrin whispered, “and we have no need of Satan to manage our wars; these we manage for ourselves… for ourselves….”

The lilting singing could still be heard in the bedroom. Merrin looked up at the door and listened for a moment. “And yet even from this—from evil—will come good. In some way. In some way that we may never understand or ever see.” Merrin paused. “Perhaps evil is the crucible of goodness,” he brooded. “And perhaps even Satan—Satan, in spite of himself—somehow serves to work out the will of God.

He said no more, and for a time they stood in silence while Karras reflected. Another objection came to mind. “Once the demon’s driven out,” he probed, “what’s to keep it from coming back in?”

“I don’t know,” Merrin answered. “I don’t know. And yet it never seems to happen. Never. Never.”

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The blood of Christ is dripping from his fingers...

Holy Week 2015 already! A meditation from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: The Precious Blood of the God-Man, from Through the Year with Fulton Sheen.
Life had to be forteited for our sins, and no life is more precious than that of God who became man. His blood was the blood of the God-man, and therefore he paid the infinite price. We were not bought with gold and silver, but with the precious blood of Christ. That is how our sins are forgiven, and that is why our Blessed Lord prayed for our forgiveness at the moment that he poured out his blood for us sinners. If you have faith in Jesus' sacrifice, now is the time to go to confession, to get rid of your sins. When the priest raises his hands in absolution over you, the blood of Christ is dripping from his fingers. We priests are hardly conscious of this great power. I think we would almost be shocked to death if we ever really realized it. But that is how the sin is absolved, by this blood of Christ.
How long has it been? If you haven't done so already during this season of Lent, use this time to make a good and holy confession. Enter into the deep mystery of the God-Man's suffering, death, and resurrection.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Catherine of Siena to Pope Gregory: Be a man or resign!

Today is the glorious feast day of the prolific St. Catherine of Siena. Catherine was a 14th century philosopher, theologian, Third Order Dominican, and one of four women proclaimed Doctor of the Church. I had the profound privilege to visit and pray at Catherine's tomb last November while in Rome for the close of the Year of Faith with Pope Francis. Catherine's remains (well, everything except for her head, which is in Siena) are kept at the gorgeous basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome.

Lately, we've been studying Catherine's profound spiritual letters in my Lay Dominican community. There are many quotations attributed to her, but this one in particular, or some variation of it, is one of the more ubiquitous ones:
If you are who you were meant to be, you will set the world on fire...
The quotation is slightly modified from the original text which is taken from a series of letters from Catherine to Stefano di Corrado Maconi, a noble of Siena, Italy. The original Italian is actually this:
Se sarete quello che devete essere, metterete fuoco in tutta L'Italia, non tanto costi
... roughly translated:
If you are what you ought to be, you will set fire to all Italy, and not only yonder.
As with Catherine's other letters, this letter is illustrative of Catherine's careful attention for the spiritual well-being of others. Just look at how she opens this particular letter to Maconi:
Dearest son in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, write to thee in His precious Blood: with desire to see thee arise from the lukewarmness of thy heart, lest thou be spewed from the mouth of God, hearing this rebuke, "Cursed are ye, the lukewarm! Would you had at least been ice-cold!" This lukewarmness proceeds from ingratitude, which comes from a faint light that does not let us see the agonizing and utter love of Christ crucified, and the infinite benefits received from Him. For in truth, did we see them, our heart would burn with the flame of love, and we should be famished for time, using it with great zeal for the honour of God and the salvation of souls. To this zeal I summon thee, dearest son, that now we begin to work anew.
Her spiritual writings were extremely effective, as was her correspondence with the Pope Gregory XI in Avignon (emphasis mine):
Most holy and sweet father, your poor unworthy daughter Catherine in Christ sweet Jesus, commends herself to you in His precious Blood: with desire to see you a manly man, free from any fear or fleshly love toward yourself, or toward any creature related to you in the flesh; ... [God's] will, father, is this, and thus demands of you. It demands that you execute justice on the abundance of many iniquities committed by those who are fed and pastured in the garden of Holy Church; declaring that brutes should not be fed with the food of men. Since [Christ] has given you authority and you have assumed it, you should use your virtue and power: and if you are not willing to use it, it would be better for you to resign what you have assumed; more honour to God and health to your soul would it be.
Wow! See that? Catherine to Pope Gregory: "Step up and be a man! ... or resign!"

St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Chelengk

Most folks don't know what a chelengk (or çelenk) is. I didn't either until a few years ago. But according to Prof. Wikipedia, it's this:
A chelengk was a decoration of the Ottoman Empire... It was a jewelled aigrette consisting of a central flower with leaves and buds, and upward-facing rays. In modern Turkish, a çelenk is a wreath or garland, a circular decoration made from flowers and leaves, usually arranged as an ornament.

Lord Nelson sporting his chelengk
A specially-made chelengk was awarded to Horatio Nelson by Sultan Selim III in honour of the Battle of the Nile in 1798. This was the first time that a chelengk was conferred on a non-Ottoman. The usual seven rays were augmented to thirteen, as described in a contemporary letter:

The Aigrette is a kind of feather; it represents a hand with thirteen fingers, which are of diamonds, and allusive to the thirteen ships taken and destroyed at Alexandria, the size that of a child's hand about six years old when opened;

In Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey–Maturin series of novels, Captain Jack Aubrey is awarded a chelengk by the Sultan after capturing two rebel ships. His chelengk was worn, like Nelson's, on his dress uniform hat and contained hidden clockwork, so that the diamond strands shimmered in the sun.
I'm fascinated by the bit about 'hidden clockwork' that caused the strands to move about the center. You can be sure that if I had a chelengk, I would be wearing it on a regular basis.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Why does all nature smile

Why does all nature smile mysteriously on feast days? Why is the heart filled at these times with a wonderful lightness that is incomparable to anything on earth; how is it that the very air at the altar and in the Church become light bearing? This is the breath of Your grace, the glow of the light of Tabor; the sky and the earth are singing at these times in praise: Alleluia!

Kontakion 9, Akathist of Thanksgiving
Forgive me for "going East" today, particularly in breaking the Western "No-Alleluias-During-Lent" Rule. Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation, and I haven't blogged since last June. Wow!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Dorothy Day on Going to Confession

From Dorothy Day's autobiography, The Long Loneliness, published in 1952.
WHEN you go to confession on a Saturday night, you go into a warm, dimly lit vastness, with the smell of wax and incense in the air, the smell of burning candles, and if it is a hot summer night there is the sound of a great electric fan, and the noise of the streets coming in to emphasize the stillness. There is another sound too, besides that of the quiet movements of the people from pew to confession to altar rail; there is the sliding of the shutters of the little window between you and the priest in his "box."

Some confessionals are large and roomy-plenty of space for the knees, and breathing space in the thick darkness that seems to pulse with your own heart. In some poor churches, many of the ledges are narrow and worn, so your knees almost slip off the kneeling bench, and your feet protrude outside the curtain which shields you from the others who are waiting. Some churches have netting, or screens, between you and priest and you can see the outline of his face inclined toward you, quiet, impersonal, patient. Some have a piece of material covering the screen, so you can see nothing. Some priests leave their lights on in their boxes so they can read their breviaries between confessions. The light does not bother you if that piece of material is there so you cannot see or be seen, but if it is only a grating so that he can see your face, it is embarrassing and you do not go back to that priest again.

Going to confession is hard--hard when you have sins to confess and hard when you haven't, and you rack your brain for even the beginnings of sins against charity, chastity, sins of detraction, sloth or gluttony. You do not want to make too much of your constant imperfections and venial sins, but you want to drag them out to the light of day as the first step in getting rid of them. The just man falls seven times daily.

"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned," is the way you begin. "I made my last confession a week ago, and since then. . ." Properly, one should say the Confiteor, but the priest has no time for that, what with the long lines of penitents on a Saturday night, so you are supposed to say it outside the confessional as you kneel in a pew, or as you stand in line with others.

"I have sinned. These are my sins." That is all you are sup­posed to tell; not the sins of others, or your own virtues, but only your ugly, gray, drab, monotonous sins.
The sacraments and the deep spirituality that flows from them are made up of the simple stuff of the earth. It is organic. This is grace.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Two Popes in Rome

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI arrived back in Rome the other day. So now we have the historically significant scenario of two popes living in Vatican City at the same time.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Rediscovering the Classic Shave

This is very important for you gentlemen!
Proper shaving has become a lost art. Today’s average male has no clue about the fine art of the traditional wet shave that their grandfathers and some of their fathers used to take part in. Instead, they’re only accustomed to the cheap and disposable shaving products that companies market. I’m not sure when or why it happened, but the tradition of passing down the secrets of a clean shave abruptly stopped. Thankfully, this glorious male ritual is making a comeback.

What are the benefits?
Reduce costs, reduce environmental impact, get better, more consistent shaves, and feel like a bad ass (for lack of a better term).
And if you're feeling really old-school manly, learn to shave with a straight razor, like your great-grandpa did.

Hat tip to the Art of Manliness blog, a blog that should be on every gentleman's daily reading list.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Science and Faith with Br. Guy Consolmagno

Following up from my earlier post on the TEDx Conference hosted by the Vatican, several of the talks are being posted on YouTube. Here is the talk given by Br. Guy Consolmagno; Br. Consolmagno is an American planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Aquinas Lecture 2013: Fr. Augustine Thompson, OP

There is a video from the annual Aquinas Lecture at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology at Berkeley, CA. Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P., speaks on, "Baptismal Theology and Practice in the Age of St. Thomas Aquinas"

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Thank you, Publix. Thank you.

Publix Mother's Day Commercial

For something so normal, this shouldn't be so controversial. Defend human life. Always.

Is Chant Like Folk Music?

Great article in Crisis Magazine from Jeffrey Tucker (of the Church Music Association of America). Our parish in Sugar Land (a large suburban parish with more than 5000 families) is one of many across the country that has put together a great program of Gregorian Chant that is used at most liturgies on Sunday -- in full conformity with the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Some points from the article (emphasis mine):
If you look back at the roots of chant, and even just take time to understand what it means from a musical and historical point of view, you quickly find that it has nothing to do with music conservatories, stuffy performance venues, and rule-bound authoritarians. And, moreover, it has nothing to do with social class, taste, and educational level. The issue of the chanted Mass is really about whether the liturgy is going to be permitted to be what it is or whether we are going to replace its authentic voice with something else.

Maybe people forget that Gregorian chant is premodern in its origin. It was not somehow invented in the age of winged collars, top hats, and mutton chops. It arose from the world of the first millennium—before there were universities, conservatories, cathedrals, or individually owned books. Chant arose among people poorer than is even imaginable to us today. The singers were from the lowest class. The composers too were monks drawn from every strata of society. They did not write their music down because no one had figured out how to write music. That only began to happen in a coherent way about the 11th century. The work of the chant composers continued for many centuries and the results have been handed on to us today.

This is why chant is what it is today. And if you look closely, you can discover that first-millennium sense about it. The more you sing it, the more you discover its humane qualities—written and sung by people just like us.

At the same time, it is a window into a world we do not know. The sensibility of chant is spontaneous. It tells stories in the folk vein. It emerged out of a culture of sharing. It wasn’t about musical theory and technique. In those days, people couldn’t write music. Mostly, the people who heard it couldn’t read either. There was no point because books were exceptionally rare and only available to a tiny group. Chant came about within this world to be the most compelling way to express the faith in a worship context.
Read the whole article.

Hat tip to Tea at Trianon.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Vatican sponsored TEDx Conference in Rome

The Vatican is sponsoring a TEDx conference in a few days to explore questions related to religious freedom. Vatican Radio has the scoop:
Does religion still matter in contemporary society? Are freedom and religion opposites? What gives real meaning to life? A Vatican sponsored TEDx conference later this month will attempt to answer some of those existential questions from the points of view of an unusual mix of people. 18 speakers, from artists and NBA basketball players to a pop singer and a Cardinal will be examining the impact of religious freedom in their own lives and from a global perspective at the TEDxViaDellaConciliazione conference April 19th...

Sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture and inspired by its President Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi’s Courtyard of the Gentiles, an international forum for dialogue between believers and non believers, TEDxViaDella Conciliazione has been organized by a group of lay people in Roman academia. The day-long conference will be held in an auditorium in Via della Conciliazione, just down the street from St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Ravasi will be among those inaugurating the talks.

TEDxViaDellaConciliazione will be asking where’s the common ground between people of different faiths and backgrounds? Is there room for mutual understanding and religious freedom as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948?
The list of speakers is very interesting. Take a look at a few of them:
Speakers will include architect Daniel Libeskind whose Freedom Tower is rising out of the 911 ashes at Ground Zero, Cuban American singer Gloria Estefan, Astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno (from the Vatican Observatory), Hussah Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah (Kuwait), Chief Rabbi David Rosen (Jerusalem), Sumaya Slim (Mexico), Architect Fernando Romero (Mexico), educator Wenzong Wang (China), Comboni Nurse Alicia Vacas (Jerusalem, Gaza), NBA star Vlade Divac (Serbia), scientist Pilar Mateo, (Spain), graffiti writer Mohammed Ali, (UK). IT guru Hisham El-Sherif (Egypt), Shroud of Turin investigator Barrie Schwortz (USA), global researcher Brian Grim (USA), art historian Elizabeth Lev (Italy), a cleric from strife-ridden Nigeria and students from war-torn countries living in communion at Rondine Cittadella della Pace (Italy).
Looks very promising. More at

Europe in the Belle Époque

A rare view into life in Paris and Berlin 1900-1910:

Hat tip to blog ad-orientem.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

New Papal Coat of Arms

The Coat of Arms of Pope Francis is now available:

Personally, I like it. However, that's probably because blue is my favorite color! Here is a little bit of explanation:
The new pontiff's papal coat of arms and motto are the same that he used as bishop. The shield has a bright blue background, at the centre top of which is a yellow radiant sun with the IHS christogram on it representing Jesus (it is also the Jesuit logo). The IHS monogram, as well as a cross that pierces the H, are in red with three black nails directly under them. Under that, to the left, is a star representing Mary, Mother of Christ and the Church. To the right of the star is a nard flower representing Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. With these symbols the Pope demonstrates his love for the Holy Family.

... His motto—“miserando atque eligendo” (because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him)—is taken from the Venerable Bede's homily on the Gospel account of the call of Matthew. It holds special meaning for the Pope because—when he was only 17-years-old, after going to confession on the Feast of St. Matthew in 1953—he perceived God's mercy in his life and felt the call to the priesthood, following the example of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
The Jesuit logo is a nice touch, considering it was a previous pope, Pope Clement XIV (a Franciscan!) who suppressed the Jesuit order in 1773.

When the coat of arms was announced, I couldn't help but notice a handful of Catholic traditionalists (who just can't be happy, darn it!), on a blog I don't care to name, seize the opportunity to mock the simplicity of the design, implying that it must mean Pope Francis does not take the papal office seriously. Yet, it is absurd to draw such a conclusion; there have been some pretty significant popes who have also had relatively simple coats of arms. For example, here is the Coat of Arms for master reformer Pope St. Pius V:

Pretty simple, eh? Or how about Pope Urban VIII, who famously tried Galileo:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Social Media and the Pope

Tweets about the papal election reached 15 billion views — more than twice the world’s total population, according to a story by the National Catholic Register. In addition, it was the first papal announcement spread via social media. Some interesting tidbits:
When Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran announced the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis, the Twittersphere burst into a frenzy. Twitter reports that the March 13 announcement generated 130,000 tweets per minute and that it recorded at least 7 million tweets that day on the papal election — a record topped only by 20 million tweets generated over news of President Barack Obama’s re-election in November.

... According to Topsy, the United States and Argentina generated 22% and 19% percent of Twitter traffic over the Pope’s election. South-American countries (including Argentina) generated at least 41% of all related Twitter traffic.

Mentions of “Pope” on Facebook increased 10,000% in user statuses after the announcement of Francis’ election, according to Facebook. It reported the top two mentions worldwide that day were “Pope” and “Jorge Bergoglio,” followed by “Vatican,” “White smoke,” “Cardinal” and “Catholic.”
In addition, the papal twitter account @Pontifex has been brought back to life:
At 3:33 ET, the Pope made the announcement “HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCUM” — a message that in all caps reflected the excitement of the digital and real worlds following the election. The message has been retweeted more than 82,000 times.
Read the whole article.

It was interesting see Anderson Cooper and reporters from every major news source in St. Peter's Square together with hundreds of thousands of people standing in the rain with their eyes glued to a small chimney waiting for smoke. And even today, approx. 150,000 people showed up in the cold for the weekly Angelus prayer with the new pope, Pope Francis.

Capturing the moment

Update: The 2005 photo isn't from the papal announcement, as is implied, but from the funeral procession of Blessed John Paul II. Still, the 2013 image is striking...

Ran across this image from NBC news. Papal announcement at St. Peter's square in 2005 vs. 2013. Notice anything different?

What a different 8 years makes! (although the folks in the 2005 image look like they may be a lot farther away from the basilica than those in the 2013 image. Difficult to tell. Nevertheless...)

Pope Francis the Chestertonian

Mark Shea reports that according to Sean Dailey, Editor-in-Chief of Gilbert Magazine, “The new pope is an honorary board member of the Argentinean Chesterton Society.”

Here is the proof.

Pretty cool :)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pope Francis and the Eastern Orthodox

In a monumentally historic gesture, it has been announced that Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople will be attending the installation liturgy of Pope Francis this Tuesday. Here is the story:
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I will attend Pope Francis's inaugural Mass. The Ecumenical Patriarchate Press Office informed AsiaNews about the decision, noting that this is the first time such an event occurs since the Catholic-Orthodox split in 1054, an important sign for Christian unity.

The ecumenical patriarch will be accompanied by Ioannis Zizioulas, metropolitan of Pergamon and co-president of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church, as well as Tarassios, Orthodox Metropolitan of Argentina, and Gennadios, Orthodox Metropolitan of Italy.
Naturally, there is much work to be done regarding the reconciliation of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, but this is HUGE and most likely would not have been possible without the efforts of Pope Benedict XVI. May you live in interesting times, indeed.

Pope Francis Myths Debunked

Mark Shea calls out a hoax which has Pope Francis, as Cardinal Bergoglio, saying something about women that he didn't actually say. Mark also calls out some atheists (who love to crow about evidence-based conclusions) who apparently have been pushing this myth without any regard to researching the story and providing actual, you know, evidence.

Mark links to the someone who actually did research this apparently bogus story:
Here is the latest Urban Legend making its way through the internet like wildfire and being attributed to Pope Francis in 2007 when Cristina Kirchner was running for President of Argentina. The quote is:
“Buenos Aires, 4 de junio (Télam) - El arzobispo de Buenos Aires, cardenal Jorge Bergoglio, afirmó que “las mujeres son naturalmente ineptas para ejercer cargos políticos”, refiriéndose a la candidatura presidencial de la Senadora Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. “El orden natural y los hechos nos enseñan que el hombre es el ser político por excelencia; las Escrituras nos demuestran que la mujer siempre es el apoyo del hombre pensador y hacedor, pero nada más que eso”.
The quote above begins with: “Women are naturally inept to exercise political office..the order of nature and human activity teach us that a man is superior in the realm of politics…”

“Télam” is the “AP” or major press organization of Argentina. When people research all of the Télam articles of June 4, 2007, they come up empty for this quote. The reason is because the quote was invented out of thin air and posted in a “Yahoo Answers” by an Argentinian who went by the name “Bumper Crop” and who at the time did not cite a link because the entire phrase was posted to smear Cardinal Bergoglio and make him look like he was attacking Cristina Kirchner.

In addition, the phrase completely contradicts Bergoglio known friendship and admiration for various Argentine women who have held political office and who were congratulated by him upon election.

A man who is usually very critical of the Catholic Church, but honest about Urban Legends, has published a very good exposé of this fraud

Texas Hill Country and the Pope

My wife and I spent the last week touring the Texas Hill Country exploring the contributions of German and Czech immigrants to Texas history. We stayed at a couple of B&Bs, explored wineries, caverns, and a couple of historic painted churches. When we got the SMS alert from that white smoke had been spotted, we had just finished a tour of Garrison Brothers Distillery in Hye, TX, which produces fine Texas bourbon. Needless to say, we were out in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, we were able to watch the papal announcement of Pope Francis as I had just enough of a cell signal to stream the live video on my iPhone while sitting in the parking lot of the distillery. Technology is great when it works with you :)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Habemus Papam! Papa Francisco!

I'm still taking in this extraordinary event. Thanks be to God for Pope Francis! Thanks to CatholicVote for this video. I also came across this photo of him, Cardinal Bergoglio, in 2008 casually riding the subway in Buenos Aires.

Ignore the inane secular media who essentially want a non-Catholic pope. Pope Francis, like popes before him, reaffirms a commitment to social justice that is rooted in the church's consistent social teaching on the innate dignity of the every human person from conception to natural death. The secular world insists on aligning people into ideological categories, and it frustrates them that the Catholic faith transcends those categories internationally. It isn't always easy for Catholics to accept it either, but it isn't supposed to be easy. It's never supposed to be easy. To be a true follower of Christ means to take up the Cross, and the Cross makes hypocrites of us all.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

There's a Saint for that!

Cool apostolate: There's a saint for that! Ask our brothers and sisters of the faith to pray for your specific intentions.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Hacking the Conclave

In this interesting article, Security expert Bruce Schneier gives a fairly comprehensive security analysis of the process used to elect a new pope. How difficult would it be to hack?
What are the lessons here?

First, open systems conducted within a known group make voting fraud much harder. Every step of the election process is observed by everyone, and everyone knows everyone, which makes it harder for someone to get away with anything.

Second, small and simple elections are easier to secure. This kind of process works to elect a pope or a club president, but quickly becomes unwieldy for a large-scale election. The only way manual systems could work for a larger group would be through a pyramid-like mechanism, with small groups reporting their manually obtained results up the chain to more central tabulating authorities.

And third: When an election process is left to develop over the course of a couple of thousand years, you end up with something surprisingly good.
Read the whole thing!

Friday, March 01, 2013

Sede Vacante 2013 Stamps!

As is traditionally done during periods of sede vacante, the Vatican prints stamps and mints special euro coins to commemorate the occasion. In 2005, a friend of mine from Rome sent me a postcard with a stamp commemorating the 2005 sede vacante after the death of Bl. John Paul II. The stamp above was just released today.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sede Vacante 2013

As of 1pm CST (8PM Rome), Pope Benedict XVI is no longer pope, and we have entered the period of sede vacante.

I would personally like to thank Pope Benedict XVI for his leadership, fidelity, and joyful stewardship. I would especially like to thank him for his teaching and dedication to the themes of liturgy and beauty, as well as the complementarity of faith and reason.  These themes have inspired me in my apostolate.

From Fr. George Rutler:
In many glorious ways, Benedict XVI has done just that. With unerring fidelity he has explained the sacred deposit of the Faith to its opponents, both cultured and uncultured, with patient eloquence and stunning insight. Many reforms in the Church’s structure and the purification of abuses were his intense initiatives. Rather like St. Francis of Assisi going to meet with the caliph of Egypt clad only in simplicity, Benedict XVI refused to wear a bullet-proof vest when he went to Turkey, turning the anger of many to respect. A new reverence and beauty in worship has been his gift to the Church through his renewal of the sacred rites, and the provision of an ordinariate for whole groups seeking full communion with the Church “amazed and astonished” many.
(Read entire post. Hat tip to Tea at Trianon)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Waugh on Ash Wednesday in New Orleans

There is witchcraft in New Orleans! Evidently British author Evelyn Waugh noted some observations in his characteristic wit while on a tour of the United States.  His thoughts were published in the September 19th, 1949 issue of LIFE magazine. Before giving his observations of New Orleans, Waugh spends some time analyzing something quintessential to the history of New Orleans and Southern Louisiana: Catholicism. He notes some trends he found troublesome. I wonder what he would think today. Take a look:
Only three states can be said to have a strong, continuous Catholic tradition -- Louisiana, Maryland and New Mexico. In the first of these the Church has never known persecution or even discouragement and over a length of time that is not an entirely healthy condition. Catholics need to be reminded every few generations that theirs is a challenging creed. In no European country have the faithful been subject to so enervating a toleration as have the inhabitants of New Orleans. It is therefore not surprising that they take their faith easily and sentimentally, with some skepticism among the rich and some superstition among the poor, of the kind that was found in France before the Revolution. It is one of the Devil's devices to persuade people that their religion is so much "in their bones" that they do not have to bother; that it is rather poor taste to talk too much about it...
He then spends some time describing his experience in New Orleans on Ash Wednesday:
There is witchcraft in New Orleans, as there was at the court of Mme. de Montespan. Yet it was there that I saw one of the most moving sights of my tour. Ash Wednesday; warm rain falling in streets unsightly with the draggled survivals of carnival. The Roosevelt Hotel overflowing with crapulous tourists planning their return journeys. How many of them knew anything about Lent? But across the way the Jesuit Church was teeming with life all day long; a continuous, dense crowd of all colors and conditions moving up to the altar rails and returning with their foreheads signed with ash. And the old grim message was being repeated over each penitent: ‘Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.’ One grows parched for that straight style of speech in the desert of modern euphemisms...
The Catholic ethos is sewn into the complicated fabric of Southern Louisiana. It is tangible and very difficult to ignore. It's actually one of the things I love about the region. However, Waugh is right to be concerned about a trivialization of the faith that can take hold once people grow complacent. Interesting. (Oh, and vocab. word for the day: crapulous)

On Beauty

Fr. Robert Barron gives here an excellent elucidation on the power of beauty to speak to the human heart and lead it toward the good and the true.  Fr. Barron ties his discussion to Evelyn Waugh's magnificent novel, Brideshead Revisited.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Can politics solve everything?

In his Wednesday audience address on February 13th, I was excited to see that Pope Benedict XVI cited Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, to illustrate how even in the midst of rampant secularization and a myriad of ideological enticements, God can still be found:
The ability to oppose the ideological enticements of her time in order to choose the search for truth and to open herself to the discovery of faith was witnessed by another woman of our time, the American Dorothy Day. She confessed openly in her autobiography to having succumbed to the temptation to solve everything with politics, adhering to the Marxist proposal: “I wanted to be with the protesters, go to jail, write, influence others and leave my dreams to the world. How much ambition and how much searching for myself in all this!”. The journey towards faith in such a secularized environment was particularly difficult, but Grace acts nevertheless, as she pointed out: “It is certain that I felt the need to go to church more often, to kneel, to bow my head in prayer. A blind instinct, one might say, because I was not conscious of praying. But I went, I slipped into the atmosphere of prayer...”. God guided her to a conscious adherence to the Church, in a life dedicated to the underprivileged.
It frustrates me that there are reasonable people, even Catholics, who cannot avoid seeing everything (including their faith) through the lens of their political ideology.  Thou fool.  As Teofilo points out, it is folly to think "that man's fallenness is a myth, and that Utopia is just around the corner if humanity would only will it."

Before he mentioned Day, Benedict referred to diaries of Etty Hillesum to illustrate how God can be found even in the midst of utter horror... in Hillesum's case, the Holocaust:
I am also thinking of Etty Hillesum, a young Dutch girl of Jewish origin who died in Auschwitz. At first far from God, she discovered him looking deep within her and she wrote: “There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there, too. But more often stones and grit block the well, and God is buried beneath. Then he must be dug out again” (Diaries, 97). In her disrupted, restless life she found God in the very midst of the great tragedy of the 20th century: the Shoah. This frail and dissatisfied young woman, transfigured by faith, became a woman full of love and inner peace who was able to declare: “I live in constant intimacy with God”.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Legacy of Benedict XVI

Fr. Robert Barron gives here an excellent summary of what he believes the legacy of Benedict XVI will be.

As Fr. Barron says, the purpose of the Second Vatican Council was not to modernize the church. Its purpose was to equip the church with the tools necessary to christify the modern world. I'm going to miss Pope Benedict. As a principled scholar and theologian, the man possessed one of the keenest theological intellects many of us had ever seen. Interestingly, this appears to be the last time that we will have as pope someone who had been intimately involved in the Second Vatican Council. Benedict is largely responsible for presenting us a consistent and balanced interpretation of the council, and we will see it continue to blossom in the years to come. Thank you, Papa Bene.


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