Thursday, February 27, 2003

special prayer requests

Please, all, keep me and mine in your prayers. My dad, in Ohio, is having an angioplasty done on his leg tomorrow; they hope to improve the circulation so that a wound he's had for a few months will finally heal. And, while he's in surgery, I'll be in my appointment with my doctor, trying to get a referral to wound care for _my_ chronic skin wound, that's been around for several years already...... God bless the HMO.
A Lenten Invitation

Ash Wednesday is only a few days away. If you click on the headline, you can see what our Archbishop suggests we do for Lent.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

About sin

We must continue to be aware of our sinfulness, our weakness as human persons, but also of our specific sins and failings. To be sensitive of conscience is not to wallow in guilt, but to be a free, responsible person. If we wish to remain free persons, then we must admit to wrong motives and wrongdoing. Knowing God is good means that we nexer despair but freely turn to him for forgiveness.

Yes, sin is still around --- and in abundance. It will be with us forever, as long as we have free will. The battle between light and darkness is far from over and the struggle continues within us. Our entrance into Christ's death and resurrection at baptism gives us the assurance, however, that sin will not prevail. Christianity is realistic about sin, but also optimistic. God continues to love us --- even in our sinfulness. "But if we acknowledge our sins, he who is just can be trusted to forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrong. If we say, 'We have never sinned,' we make him a liar and his word finds no place in us. ....My little ones, I am writing this to keep you from sin. But if anyone should sin, we have, in the presence of the Father, Jesus Christ, an intercessor for those of the whole world" (1 Jn 1:9-10; 2:1-2)

[Rembert G. Weakland, O.S.B., All God's People, Paulist Press, 1985, p. 65]
Will they let me stay in St. Therese's Guild?

A couple of weeks ago, Dylan accused me of being a perfect progressive, and I told him he had to be wrong, that if I became a progressive I'd join the select society of Catholic women bloggers refused by St. Therese's Guild webring .... and I had no desire for that.

But since then, I've taken the Political Compass quiz. [I saw it months ago via the FreeCath or OpenCath listserv, and reintroduced by the blog of Katherine who loves Suscipe.....] And it looks like Dylan may be right, and my days may be numbered. My results:

Economic Left/Right -5.38
Authoritarian/Libertarian -4.00

Is there any hope for me? :-)

Monday, February 24, 2003

Keep your eyes upon Jesus: St Gregory of Nyssa from today's Office of Readings

We shall be blessed with clear vision if we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, for he, as Paul teaches, is our head, and there is in him no shadow of evil. Saint Paul himself and all who have reached the same heights of sanctity had their eyes fixed on Christ, and so have all who live and move and have their being in him.

As no darkness can be seen by anyone surrounded by light, so no trivialities can capture the attention of anyone who has his eyes on Christ. The man who keeps his eyes upon the head and origin of the whole universe has them on virtue in all its perfection; he has them on truth, on justice, on immortality and on everything else that is good, for Christ is goodness itself.

The wise man, then, turns his eyes toward the One who is his head, but the fool gropes in darkness. No one who puts his lamp under a bed instead of on a lamp-stand will receive any light from it. People are often considered blind and useless when they make the supreme Good their aim and give themselves up to the contemplation of God, but Paul made a boast of this and proclaimed himself a fool for Christ’s sake. The reason he said, We are fools for Christ’s sake was that his mind was free from all earthly preoccupations. It was as though he said, “We are blind to the life here below because our eyes are raised toward the One who is our head”.

And so, without board or lodging, he travelled from place to place, destitute, naked, exhausted by hunger and thirst. When men saw him in captivity, flogged, shipwrecked, led about in chains, they could scarcely help thinking him a pitiable sight. Nevertheless, even while he suffered all this at the hands of men, he always looked toward the One who is his head and he asked: What can separate us from the love of Christ, which is in Jesus? Can affliction or distress? Can persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger or death? In other words, “What can force me to take my eyes from him who is my head and to turn them toward things that are contemptible?”

He bids us follow his example: Seek the things that are above, he says, which is only another way of saying: “Keep your eyes on Christ”.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

One of those days

The head is pounding, the ears hurt, the sinuses keep draining, I'm wheezy, and jittery from the albuterol that stops the wheezing, and even the spot with no skin is acting up, hurting and leaking copiously. The Lord can take the pain away whenever He'd like, I'll make no objection. Till then, I'll offer it up and dump it all in His lap anyhow. He's already been told a zillion times how much I utterly hate pain..... Not having a cross is not one of the options. Survive, and thereby confound your enemies.


Friday, February 21, 2003

The details of our confessed sins should be the business only of God!
St. John of Nepamuk, pray for us!

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington DC has published a bold and spirited defence of the Seal of the Confessional, which is being threatened by actions of the Maryland Legislature. [In about a week the link will change and you'll need to go to "previous columns" --- the title is "Some Things One Cannot Do"]

Thursday, February 20, 2003

We must keep on praying for peace

These prayers are from the Community of St. Egidio in Rome, who have been known not only to pray (though they never stop doing that) but also to do bold and effective things to make and keep peace.

--- O Lord, we pray you, may the wounds of war, hunger, and abandonment which so many people suffer from be healed. We pray you for peace, the salvation of every people, may it come soon.

--- O Lord, bestow your peace upon us, upon our brothers in the world and upon all countries at war. Disarm the hands and the minds of the violent, bend all hearts to the commandments of peace. May peace-building men and women arise in the world.

--- O Lord, you hear the cry of the weak, the orphans and the widows, of the foreigners, help us to show your same compassion and go towards the poor with a generous heart.

--- O Lord, disarm the plans of the violent, make the whole world rise again so that death, terrorism, violence, and revenge may no longer rule over the heart of man and peace may reign everywhere. We pray you to protect all countries ravaged by war.


Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Another lesson from my dear Desert Christians

An old man said, "There are monks who do many goods works, and the evil one sends them scruples about quite little things, to cause them to lose the fruit of the good they have done. When I happened to be living in Oxyrhynchus near a priest who gave alms to many, a widow came to ask him for some wheat. He said to her, "Bring a sack and I will measure some out for you." She brought it, and measuring the sack with his hand, he said, "It is a big sack." Now this filled the widow with shame. I said to him, "Abba, have you sold the wheat?" He said, "No, I gave it to her in charity." I said to him, "If you gavie it all to her in alms, why did you cavail at the amount and fill her with shame?"

Tuesday, February 18, 2003


Our patience is rewarded, the comments are back!

Monday, February 17, 2003

I have a little list.....

Even with Haloscan down [they say they'll be back on Tuesday; those new servers had better be great!] I noticed that some bloggers around have, indeed, picked up my challenge.

Here's the beginning of my little list. I'm deliberately avoiding including anyone who's already a Venerable or Blessed, though a lot of them could use some good remembering for a couple of nice provable miracles. Also, my list is not in any particular order.

(1) Dorothy Day She's a convert to the Church from secular bohemianism, the co-founder (with Peter Maurin) of the Catholic Worker newspaper and communities.

(2) Franz Jagerstatter [there are supposed to be umlauts on both a's in that last name] Franz was a farmer from St. Radegund, Austria. After an extremely rowdy youth, he came to conversion of life while on his honeymoon in Rome. He then set out to live a thoroughgoing Catholic life, with the full consent and support of his wife. Although the neighbors considered him "too Catholic," they also uniformly testified that his wife and daughters were in no way neglected, that his duties to them were always well fulfilled. After the Germans took over Austria, he continued to greet people with the traditional "Bless God" rather than with "Heil Hitler," and he declined to contribute to any of the ubiquitous Nazi collections (except the one for the police pension fund, since, he said, he'd worked them too hard in his youth.). Eventually, the draft into the German army came even for married men with children, and he had to say that, heavens no, he couldn't go. He was executed for this refusal, 9 August 1943.

(3) Fr. Solanus Casey Bernie Casey, mono-lingual Irish-American farm kid, wants to be a priest. Oh, he wants to be a priest. So, after working his way through high school with a series of odd jobs, he leaves the farm and goes to the Big City (=Milwaukee) to go to the seminary to be a priest. But, he's got one Really Big Problem --- Milwaukee, unlike his farm town, is a German-speaking city with a German-speaking Catholic Church, German-speaking bishop, and German-speaking seminary! And our Bernie knows absolutely no German and has absolutely no talent for languages. As could have been predicted from day one, in a year or so he flunked out of St. Francis Seminary. And he still couldn't speak German. But, he's still hooked on serving God and being a priest. So he joins the Capuchin Franciscans. They're the ones who named him Solanus. But, these are upper-midwest Capuchins, and most of them don't speak English either. And their seminary, just like the diocesan seminary in Milwaukee, taught in German. However, the Capuchins had more bilingual people, and more patience, so, with the help of lots of tutoring, Solanus managed, just barely, not to flunk out this time. Yet, because his grades were so poor, he was ordained as a "simplex priest," meaning that he had no faculties and could not preach or teach or hear confessions. So he lived his priestly life as a doorkeeper in various friaries in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and in New York City; and he became known for his wisdom and also as a wonderworker.

(4) Mary Harris Jones She was an Irish immigrant to the United States, and lived a conventional and pious life as a Catholic wife and mother, until she lost her husband and all of her children in an epidemic. After the epidemic stopped, she dedicated the rest of her life to the safety and well-being of children who worked in factories and mines. She became an itinerant wanderer, going wherever she was needed to defend or to organize the factory children and the mine workers, becoming known in her time as "the most dangerous woman in America" since it was very difficult to abuse and exploit child laborers when she was around.

(5) Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez, Archbishop of San Salvador
(6) Fr. Rutilio Grande SJ; Manuel Solorzano; Nelson Rutilio Lemus All three were natives of the towns of Aguilares and El Paisnal in El Salvador. Fr. Grande, after going away to become a Jesuit priest, had returned home to be the pastor of the two parishes. Manuel Solorzano was a catechist in his 80's. Nelson R. Lemus, who was Fr. Grande's godchild, was an altar server in his early teens. While traveling from Aguilares to El Paisnal one evening to celebrate Liturgy, they were assasinated by Salvadoran military forces who were upset that they had taught Catholicism to the farmworkers of the vicinity. Getting serious about their faith had encouraged the farmworkers to respect themselves and to give mutual support to each other, which was inconvenient for the landowners they worked for. Within the month, in an apparent attempt to prevent the 30th day memorial for the dead, the same military forces occupied the churches at Aguilares and at El Paisnal, desecrating them and using the tabernacles for target practice. The Archbishop came to rescue the Eucharist from the desecrated parish churches, and this was the first act to bring him to the negative attentions of the Salvadoran government and military, who would eventually assasinate him also.

(7) Catherine de Hueck Doherty She founded the Friendship House movement, and then later the Madonna House Communities with her husband Fr. Eddie Doherty.

(8) Jean Donovan She was a volunteer accountant who gave up a lucrative position with Arthur Anderson to straighten out the books at the Cleveland Diocese Mission in El Salvador. She was murdered during the Salvadoran persecutions along with three religious sisters companions: Sr Dorothy Kazel, an Ursuline Sister also of the Cleveland Diocese Mission; and Srs. Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, Maryknoll Sisters from the next parish up the road.

I'd also include the "White Rose" martyrs fron Munich, Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl, Christoph Probst, and companions, but that was a mixed Catholic and Lutheran group, and I can't remember right now which were which. I don't think we've come so far that the Church would canonize even martyrs who were not Catholic in this life. The Ugandan martyrs were also a mixed group of martyr-companions, twenty-some Catholics and another twenty or so Anglicans.
Oh, drat!

I post something explicitly asking for feedback, and Haloscan's "posting temporarily disabled."

Patient endurance attains to all things. Guess we all get a day to think about our not-yet-canonized heroes before typing.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

If you could canonize anyone....

Lots of folk around St. Blog's are posting on their 5 (or 10) favorite saints. There are so many that I don't know how I could shrink a list of the already-canonized to so few, unless the list changed hour to hour, day to day.

But, I'd like to propose another similar question that may not be so overwhelming.

If you were the Pope (or a Patriarch of an Eastern Church, or a leader of the Lambeth Conference, etc, I don't want to eliminate my non-Catholic commentators!), and you could canonize/glorify/add a remembrance to the "Lesser Feasts"/whatever any heroically virtuous people you wanted, who would you raise up? A little info on why also appreciated.

I've got a little list, but I'll wait a day or two to give it. Until then, be welcome to fill up the comments box. Also, let me know in the box if you post on this one on your own blog, I'd love to see.

Thanks to Gerard Serafin, who, about five years ago, asked this same question on one of the listservs.

Friday, February 14, 2003

from the desert: Alexander the Patriarch of Antioch

Alexander the Patriarch of Antioch was notorious for his compassion and mercy. One of his secretaries once stole some gold from him, fled in fear and came to the Thebaid in Egypt. He was found wandering around by the bloodthirsty barbarians of Egypt and of the Thebaid; they took him as a slave to the remotest corner of their land. When the godly Alexander heard about this, he ransomed him from captivity at a cost of eighty-five pieces of gold. When the captive returned, the bishop was so loving and gentle with him that one of the inhabitants of the city once said, "There is nothing more profitable or advantageous than to sin against Alexander." On another occasion, one of the deacons slandered Alexander before all the clergy. But the godly Alexander prostrated himself before the man saying, "Brother, forgive me."

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

"Full, Active, and Conscious Participation": our privilege as children of God in support of and response to Fr. Jeff the New Gasparian, who has a wonderful meditation posted this day.

I wrote in a comments box somewhere some time ago,
"We accept and embrace our crosses
and offer up our sufferings as a gift,
as a sacrificial offering.
Elsewise we are bound to them
resisting and unwilling,
and we are crushed and broken by them.
Not having a cross is not one of the options."

In holy baptism we are anointed,
as Christ was anointed,
prophet, and king, and priest.

In the same way that the sons of Aaron were priests,
offering the sacrifices in the Lord's Temple;
yet the people Israel
(all of them, not only Aaron's sons)
were a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart;

there are the presbyters and the bishops,
priests forever,
at their hands offering our Eucharist;
yet all the baptized are truly priests,
offering gifts in sacrifice to God.

Set beside that one great Offering
that the Eucharist makes always present for us,
our offerings are so small, so imperfect;
but they are ours to give, nonetheless.

The Lord Jesus, when He took up His cross,
was totally and perfectly innocent.
We are not.
In fact, our crosses are in part constructed
from our own sins and stupidities and rotten choices.
And yet,
our Lord permits us to bear our burdens beside Him.
Actually, He commands us to do so.
"Take up your cross, and follow me."

We are allowed, actually invited,
to join our offering with His own:
it is what we are baptized to do,
to make our offering to God
along with that of His Son.

St. Paul said in one of his letters
that our own offerings
would make up what was lacking in the suffering of Christ.
How can the suffering of Christ be lacking?
Yet, we are invited; Christ knows Christ's business.

We embrace our crosses every day
and make of our suffering and our dying
(that's what crosses are for: for dying on)
a sacrificial offering to God,
and we become more and more conformed to Jesus,
and more and more empty of the trivia we collect,
then we can be filled with the Lord, Himself;
the One we claim for our prize, our pearl.
Remember Bishop Paphnutius? [He brought St. Thais back to the faith....] Well, here's another story about him

It was said of Abba Paphnutius that he did not readily drink wine. One day he found himself on the road facing a band of robbers who were drinking wine. The captain of the band was acquainted with him and knew that he did not drink wine. Seeing how weary he was, he filled him a cup of wine and holding his sword in his hand he said to him, "If you do not drink this, I will kill you." So the old man, knowing that he was fulfilling the commandment of God in order to win the confidence of the robber, took the cup and drank it. Then the captain asked his forgiveness, saying, "Forgive me, abba, for I have made you unhappy." But the old man said, "I believe that, thanks to his cup, God will have mercy on you now and in the age to come." Then the robber captain said, "Have confidence in God that from now on I shall not harm anyone." So the old man converted the whole band by giving up his own will for the Lord's sake.

Monday, February 10, 2003

An examination of conscience based of the Beatitudes

Click on the headline to find a helpful guide to examining one's conscience. [Real Audio required; 18:39]
Deacon Tom Cornell's Report from Iraq

I found this by the good old CINJustAnn listserv group, but their archives are busted, so the link is to the archives at the CatholicWorker Yahoo group.
St. Isaac of Nineveh on prayer

You should not wait until you are cleansed of wandering thoughts before you desire to pray; such distraction is not banished from the mind except by assiduous prayer requiring much labor. If you only begin to pray when you see that your mind has become perfect and exalted above all recollection of the world, then you will never pray.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Treasures in Heaven?

This morning when I woke up the bedside radio was playing a song with a repetitive antiphon, "Store up treasures in heaven...."

And all I could think of right away is how St. Therese would rewrite it: Give away your treasures in heaven. When you are Called, throw yourself into the arms of your Lord and Beloved.

But then, I recalled when I was in grade school reading the prayers in the prayer books, and, for a while, thought that learning the ones that said "500 days" was better than learning the ones that only said "300 days" or "50 days." Maybe we all have to go through the stage of learning to care about heavenly treasures more than earthly ones before we can even conceive of giving up even the heavenly ones.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Another story from the desert: How to have a fight

Two old men had lived together in the desert for many years and had never quarreled. The first said to the other, "Let us also have a fight like other men do." The other replied, "I do not know how to fight." The first said to him, "Look, I will put a brick between us, and I will say it is mine, and you say, `No, it is mine,' and so the fight will begin." So they put a brick between them and the first said, "This brick is mine," and the other said, "No, it is mine," and the first responded, "If it is yours, take it and go" --- so they gave it up without being able to find an occasion for an argument.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

from the CINJustAnn listserv:
The Prospect of a New Middle East War, by Cardinal J. Francis Stafford

From the past several years two contrasting memories of young people constantly surface in my thoughts. Both involve the use of power. The first memory is the moral uneasiness expressed by a young American soldier after the 1991 Desert Storm War. What haunted him was his massive guilt over an action following an order to bury living Iraqi soldiers. Since they were surrendering in such large and unexpected numbers while still in their trenches, the Iraqis seemed to constitute no threat to the security of the allied forces. The young American soldier obeyed his military superior and used his bull-dozer to bury alive hundreds, possibly thousands (he was unsure of the number) Iraqis in the desert sand.

This horrific memory recalls the words of the Holy Father: war is always a defeat for man. One cannot be doing the work of peace while radically violating the human rights of others. A memory of a second use of power stems from the World Youth Day 2000 in Rome. The silent lines of young people from nearly every nation are etched forever in my memory. Hundreds of thousands passed through the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica during the Jubilee Year 2000 and prepared to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation later at the Circus Maximus. Here the Church was using her God-given power on behalf of forgiveness and reconciliation, thereby educating the young on the meaning of peace. The question frequently arises concerning the two powers: which will achieve a hegemony in the new millennium? My daily prayer is that the second will prevail. But with the wars in the former Yugoslavia in 1999, in the Middle East, in New York and Washington in 2001, in Afghanistan in 2002 and elsewhere the use of violent power seems on the ascendancy. These wars carry strong echoes from the opening line of Virgil's Aeneid, "I sing of arms and of the hero..." The song is becoming familiar and unsettling. A new version is being sung in 2003 with a fearful melody and an uncertain content about the logic of power. The political leaders on all sides are afraid. International politics is gripped by fear. Statesmen have lost their way. They are fearful even of addressing questions to one another. Thomas Hobbes's understanding of the origin of the sovereign state ---- it is the consequence of the overwhelming fear of death haunting men ---- comes to mind.

Such fear drowns out the constant call of the Holy Father to young people, "Do not be afraid!" Fear dominates the discussions dealing with the morality of a preemptive war and fear justifies the appeal to the "just war" tradition. Contrary to past experience, the American government has not offered conclusive evidence of imminent danger to its national security. Its case rests on the alleged imminent threat of mass destruction by the Iraqi government of urban centers in America and elsewhere. Thus far the case has not been convincing to many citizens in most countries. Moreover, in the just war tradition there is a strong moral presumption against initiating a preemptive war. This is clear from the teachings of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas and the Church's magisterium. The Catechism of the Catholic Church accurately summarize this tradition: "[G]overnments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed" (GS 79'4). The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to several conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
---the damages inflicted by the aggressor on the nation of community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
---all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
---there must be serious prospects of success;
---the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition." (2308-2309). The Catechism uses three significant phrases in its teaching on a preemptive war: "lawful self-defense", "legitimate defense", and "damages inflicted by an aggressor." These phrases indicate that legitimate public authority cannot decide for war unless the nation or community of nations has undergone prior damages from an aggressor or is actually under a very imminent threat. In the "just war" tradition resort to violence can be justified only if there is an aggression in actu. Furthermore, the concept of a "preventive" war is ambiguous. "Prevention" does not have a limit; it is a relative term and is subject to self-serving interpretations. Objective criteria must be applied with intellectual rigor. The threat must be clear, active and present, not future.

Nor has the American administration shown that all other options before going to war have proven "impractical or ineffective." Several other incongruities about the present situation are striking. They have surfaced in the exercise of my role as President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity which has responsibility for the International World Youth Day. In these early years of the new millennium American, British, Iraqi and other political leaders have been calling their young people to war. Pope John Paul II has been doing the opposite. At the World Youth Day in Rome 2000 and in Toronto 2002 he educated them in the principles of peace. His constant vision at the various World Youth Days has been a call to the establishment of a new culture of reconciliation, forgiveness and selfless love in the third millennium. During the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver while talking with young people in the presence of the President of the United States, the Holy Father was more specific, "In the face of tensions and conflicts that too many peoples have endured for too long...., the international community ought to establish more effective structures for maintaining and promoting justice and peace. This implies that a concept of strategic interest should evolve which is based on the full development ---- out of poverty and towards a more dignified existence, out of injustice and exploitation towards fuller respect for the human person and the defense of universal human rights. If the United Nations and other international agencies, through the wise and honest cooperation of their member nations, succeed in effectively defending stricken populations, whether victims of underdevelopment or conflicts or the massive violation of human rights, then there is indeed hope for the future."

The syntax of the pope for WYD is filed with the future tense. He calls the young people to give reason for their hope. Hope gives life a transcendent reference. The government of the USA has recently threatened to use nuclear weapons against Iraq. This is unworthy of the oldest representative democracy in the world founded on the universal rights of peoples to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Moreover, since August, 1945, the young people of each generation have been haunted by the shadow of the nuclear mushroom. It is the modern equivalent of Keat's "shadow of a magnitude." Nuclear threats cause a collective shudder; they carry young people closer to the edge of despair. Furthermore, the government of the United States has compromised its own basic principles by implicitly endorsing the use of torture since September 11, 2001. On the other side, President Saddam Hussein is one of the few heads of government who has not condemned the suicide-terrorism of September 11, 2001. This is inexplicable. The question arises, "Where does the government of Iraq stand on the organized terrorism engulfing the world?" I will comment on only one aspect of the horrific incongruity of urban terrorism: the employment of young Moslem-suicides as instruments of terror. The youthful suicides are offering a live, three-dimensional hermeneutic text to accompany Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis. His novel is turning out to be the key-fable for understanding the postmodern world. It is generally perceived that sometime in the future young Muslim-suicides could be the carriers of nuclear and biological weapons used to destroy urban centers in America and else where. Thermonuclear and bacterial weapons could in fact lead to the end of man and his environment. Kafka's fable prophetically pointed to the possible reversal of evolution, to the systematic turn towards bestialization. Moreover, the human-bombs which are the core-instrument of Muslim terrorism today makes real the pessimism of Albert Camus, "The only serious philosophical question is that of suicide." Tragedy and irony are apparent in the juxtaposition of Islam and Camus. Islam is rooted in the belief of the hundreds of millions of eastern peoples in the God of Abraham. It wishes to carry the mystery of the living God into the twenty-first century. Yet Islam is the first world-wide community to embody the vision of a western agnostic whose works belong to the supreme literary canons of the "Chaotic Age." Islam is making its own Camus's nihilism --- "The only serious philosophical question is that of suicide." Islam recruits these suicides mostly from among the young. Such practice marks a return to pre-Abrahamic days in which the sacrifice of one's son or daughter was de rigueur if done in the name of religion. Islam has succumbed to the worst possible nemesis of monotheistic religion, that of syncretism. By sanctioning such suicides Muslim leaders are making their own the worst of western existentialism. How long will the world's Muslim leaders condone such parricide? The Koran has an important chapter on Abraham's dream of sacrificing Isaac. Abraham is reported to address Isaac in these words, "My son, I dreamt that I was
sacrificing you. Tell me what you think." An interfaith dialogue on this theme in "The Ranks" and in the Book of Genesis would be useful.

The peacemaking efforts of many Catholic laity is relevant to the discussions. This lay phenomenon is one of the most significant developments in the Catholic Church. It has its roots in the burgeoning of the new lay movements since 1968. As is generally known, at the invitation of national governments some lay Catholics from these movements have exercised their skills of peacemaking successfully in some very conflicted situations. They enter these discussions with the conviction that the natural human inclination to friendship is factually the basis of every society and transcends all cultures. With this conviction they are solidly within teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas and the whole Catholic tradition. Cultural, economic and historical realities have created huge obstacles to dialogue between western and eastern peoples. Consequently, some form of skilled mediation may help the recovery of the natural bond of friendship among peoples of diverse cultures and religions. In a world dominated by the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, one may be skeptical that the political leaders of the United States, Britain, Iraq, France, Russia, China and other nations have enough trust in this natural human inclination to friendship to be open to further mediation. Of course, such mediating efforts would have to be founded upon the 1991 UN Security Council Resolution 687 requiring that Iraq accept, "the destruction, removal or rendering harmless under international supervision" of all weapons of mass destruction.

Likewise, in such a scenario, the relation between national energy policies, the priority of oil production and reserves, the need for cheap oil and the rivalry among oil com! panies on the one hand and the pursuit of human rights and democracy on the other require frank, open and comprehensive discussions. The former cannot trump the latter. My daily prayer has been that the universal vision shared by Pope John Paul II with the young people of all the nations of the world --- Arab, Asian, American, European, African --- will prevail and not the nightmares envisioned for Iraq by many political leaders. The open Jubilee Door of St. Peter's Basilica during the Millennial Year 2000 expresses best the vision of Pope John Paul II. He opened that door on December 25, 1999. Over the next years it became a welcoming door through which hundreds of thousands of young peoples from all the nations of the earth passed as a living stream of hope and of reconciliation. International openness among political leaders will require the exercise of enlightened statesmanship on the part of President Hussein of Iraq, President Bush of the USA, Prime Minister Blair of Great Britain and the leaders of other concerned countries. It is sobering to recall again a founding political epic of the West. The Aeneid which begins with a song about military arms ends ominously when a young warrior slain by Aeneas descends in anger into the shadow of another magnitude, that of infernal darkness.

----J. Francis Cardinal Stafford, from the Vatican, February 1, 2003

Monday, February 03, 2003

Oh, how good, how wonderful it is....

from today's Office of Readings, St. Hilary of Poitiers on the glories of living as one.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity! It is good and pleasant for brothers to dwell in unity, because when they do so their association creates the assembly of the Church. The term “brothers” describes the bond of affection arising from their singleness of purpose.

We read that when the apostles first preached, the chief instruction they gave lay in this saying: The hearts and minds of all believers were one. So it is fitting for the people of God to be brothers under one Father, to be united under one Spirit, to live in harmony under one roof, to be limbs of one body.

It is pleasant and good for brothers to dwell in unity. The prophet suggested a comparison for this good and pleasant activity when he said: It is like the ointment on the head which ran down over the beard of Aaron, down upon the collar of his garment. Aaron’s oil was made of the perfumes used to anoint a priest. It was God’s decision that his priest should have his consecration first, and that our Lord should be so anointed, but not visibly, by those who are joined with him. Aaron’s anointing did not belong to this world; it was not done with the horn used for kings, but with the oil of gladness. So afterward Aaron was called the anointed one as the Law proscribed.

When this oil is poured out upon men of unclean heart, it snuffs out their lives, but when it is received as an anointing of love, it exudes the sweet odour of harmony with God. As Paul says, we are the goodly fragrance of Christ. So just as it was pleasing to God when Aaron was anointed priest with this oil, so it is good and pleasant for brothers to dwell in unity.

Now the oil ran down from his head to his beard. A beard adorns a man of mature years. We must not be children before Christ except in the restricted scriptural sense of being children in wickedness but not in our way of thinking. Now Paul calls all who lack faith, children, because they are too weak to take solid food and still need milk. As he says: I fed you with milk rather than the solid food for which you were not yet ready; and you are still not ready.


Sunday, February 02, 2003

Finding one's facts, checking them twice

I bumped into another foul strange attitude over this weekend.

Friday's big news was that three "trespassers and disturbers of the peace" at a D.C. hotel during the USCCB conference got extremely blessed in their draw of judge, getting a Catholic who actually comprehended the awfulness of their entire situation. She dispensed with sentence after conviction (meaning, in fact, time served, $50 each fee for having showed up in court, and the conviction record....) and told them to go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

All the usual suspects were blogging all the usual things, mostly about how or why a Catholic judge would behave that way ---
but some of them, including Rod Dreher, who blogs at The Corner and is a friend of St. Blog's, had their facts calumniously wrong. When Mr. Dreher's comments at The Corner with the calumny were linked at Mark Shea's and at Amy's, I piped up in the comments boxes that Mr. Dreher's argument would be stronger if he'd had his facts straight, and I corrected his incorrect statement about supposed, non-existent, sacriligious activity.

The reactions in the boxes [from others, _not_ from Mr. Dreher] can be summed up thus: "Karen, why does that matter? These are the bad guys. Look at their website. What does it matter that it's not true? After all, these are the bad guys."

So what if they're the bad guys! Making absolutely sure that the negative things about somebody else are true before publishing them actually is doubly important when the somebody else is the "enemy", and one might be tempted to skimp on the fact-checking, it being so easy to believe anything about the people one doesn't agree with.

The outline version of the story:
Three Catholic believers go to Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine. They are going to assist there along with the rest of the crowds, worshipping and praying and receiving the precious Body and Blood of the Lord.

But, there is a rumor among the Basilica staff that an Australian-based church disruption group known as the Rainbow Sash might show up to make trouble. The Basilica staff are looking all over, trying to find the Rainbow Sash people.

Instead, they find our three Catholics, who have nothing to do with the Rainbow Sash, although they all, if asked, would admit that they are not heterosexual.

When our three Catholics went up for Communion, properly disposed and comported like any Catholic does, they were publicly refused. All parties, including the Archdiocese of Washington and the USCCB, admit they were refused wrongfully.

They quietly returned to their place in the pews, went home after the final blessing, had a good cry, then figured they had to find out why this happened to them and make sure it didn't happen again to anybody else.

So the next morning, they went to a hotel where a lot of the bishops were staying, begging any bishops who passed for some answers. Eventually they were literally begging, on their knees with their hands out. The press people who were hanging out in that same public lobby got to noticing.... and hotel security came and told them to go away. They didn't, the police came, end of story.

Yes, this story is bad enough, and unique enough, to be interesting for the pundits and newsbloggers to blog about. Especially on Friday, after our three Catholics won the lottery with a Catholic judge who knew just how bad it is for a Catholic to be publicly refused Communion.

But, to turn the story from "disobeyed a hotel lobby rent-a-cop" [which is true] to the [blatantly false] "sacriligiously disrupted the Holy Eucharist at the Basilica" is unconscionable. Even if our three Catholics _are_ non-heterosexual people who belong to SoulForce.

After all, would the story had gotten turned around this way if it had been three long-skirted doily-wearing Catholics from Wanderer Forum mistaken for a rad-trad or sedevacantist disruption group? Think about it.