Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A quiz

Heard on the radio this morning. "Ladies and gentlemen, THERE. IS. YOUR. DAGGER!"

1) Who said it?
2) What radio station?
3) What is the significance?

My kids are excluded from this contest.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Home school scripture class

This fall and spring I will be teaching two online high school scripture classes for Homeschool Connections. In the fall I will be teaching Introduction to the Old Testament. In the spring I will continue with Introduction to the New Testament. Here is a link to a description and registration information.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Family, Marriage, Religion, social problems stats

Here is a link to the Marriage and Religion Research Institute page called Mapping America. It contains statistics about the relationship between marriage, religion, education, charity, psychological health, and just about every social problem you could think of, including drinking, drugs, abortion, and being paid or paying for sex. For instance, here is the chart about "Divorce or Separation: Religious Attendance and Family Structure in Adolescence."
According to the General Social Surveys (GSS), 17 percent of adults who attended religious services at least monthly and lived in an intact family through adolescence have ever been divorced or separated, compared to 27 percent of those who attended religious services less than monthly and lived in a non-intact family as adolescents. In between were those who attended religious services at least monthly but lived in a non-intact family (25 percent) and those who lived in an intact family but worshiped less than monthly (20 percent).
Here's one about "Religious Attendance and Shoplifting."

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Doubting Thomas?

It is a common belief that in the scene in John 20 in which Jesus shows his wounds to Thomas, Jesus is chiding Thomas when he says, "Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe." I've come to the conclusion that this is false. Thomas is an apostle, that is, an eyewitness. He has to see in order to be an Apostle. Our faith is based on the witness of the Apostles, so if they aren't witnesses, then how can we base our belief on their witness?

This passage is, in fact, establishing the bona fide of the apostolic witness by highlighting that Thomas and the other Apostles did see. Even Paul is an eyewitness of the resurrected Jesus, and hence an Apostle, though not one of the Twelve. And, of course, Matthias was selected because he was an eyewitness.

I wonder if anyone has done a study exploring why St. Thomas is so important in the Gospel of John.  He appears several times.  In the scene when Jesus starts towards Bethany to heal Lazarus, he says, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."  At the Last Supper he asks, "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" To which Jesus says "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him."  And, of course, Thomas is the one who calls Jesus "My Lord and my God" directly. Finally, he appears on the shore of the sea with Peter, Nathaniel, the Sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples in the "coda" in Chapter 21.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Personal devotion to the Blessed Mother

We are meant to have a personal relationship with the Blessed Mother beyond the rich liturgical life of the Church, which includes the many feasts and solemnities, not to mention the various mentions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Mass and other liturgies. This principle applies to the images of the Blessed Mother that invoke our spiritual affection. That which moves me may not move another. It has to do with what image Providence has made the medium of a more personal relationship.

Our family is heavily involved in the Schoenstatt movement, which is very Marian. Their preferred image of Our Lady is the Mother Thrice Admirable to the left. Even Schoenstatt people admit it isn't great art, but it is the image that was given to them by Providence to put in the original Schoenstatt Shrine in German.  Now all the dozens and dozens of shrines in the world have them, not to mention every Schoenstatt home. We have several scattered throughout the house.

I have never developed a warm affection for the MTA. The Schoenstatt image that moves me more is called the Unity Cross, which was designed in Chile. It features Our Lady at the foot of the Cross holding a chalice to receive the blood and water that flows from the side of Christ. The idea of the blood and water flowing from the side of Christ is significant for my spirituality because of its connection to the Sacred Heart, which is the title of Jesus that has the longest and deepest history in my life. When I pray at home I either look to the image of the Sacred Heart that you see to the left of my posts at the top of the blog page or to the Unity Cross. They are both in our living room, as is the Mother Thrice Admirable picture above.

When I was teaching theology at Sacred Heart School of Theology, I dedicated one Lent to increasing my personal devotion to Our Lady. At that point I began the practice of never approaching the altar of our Lord unless "accompanied" by the Blessed Mother. This idea came from the Unity Cross, but in practice before going to my pew I would venerate an image of the Flight Into Egypt that was in the back of the chapel at SHST. I have nothing to say about the artistic value of the terra cotta bas relief, but the image itself reminded my of my own role as father--protector of the Mother and Child. I don't have a photo of that one that I can find. Left, though, is another picture that is in the Immaculate Heart of Mary chapel at SHST. I've always liked this one artistically.

The image that has come to mean the most to me, however, is a statue in the St. Joseph chapel at St. Martin of Tours parish in Franklin, WI. We attend daily Mass there most days. Not great art, perhaps, but I have come to have a warm affection for her when kneeling before this image, or lighting a candle in her honor. It has become THE Blessed Mother for me--the focus of my personal relationship. My wife says it is Our Lady of Fatima.  I don't know. I have no particular devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, although one of my favorite saints, John Paul II, did. This is where I go to find a place of rest for my weary soul.

Then, of course, there is this, which does mean a lot to me.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Queen and the Dragon

Our kids have developed an enthusiasm for new group called SHEL. They are four sisters (Sarah, Hannah, Eva, Liza, get it?) from Fort Collins, CO who play violin, piano, mandolin, and drums. Their music is hauntingly beautiful. I like just about everything on their first album.

One of their songs is called "When the Dragon Came Down." The lyrics are the kind that tear your heart apart. It is the story of a king who lost his queen and his kingdom to a dragon that attacked while he wasn't paying the kind of attention he should have. Here are the lyrics, as far as I can distinguish them.  I may have one or two phrases wrong, but you get the point:

Lay your head down
Close your eyes
Sleeping on a golden bed
Cold as ice.

Oh is she really gone
I lost my queen along with my crown
when the dragon came down
Oh deep within my sleep
awakened by the sound of her scream.
The dragon came down like a dream.

The news gets worse every day.
I read my paper, pull my weight.
Head buried in the sand.
The truth can free you [common man?]
Wisdom take me by the hand
Help me understand.
The Dragon came down.
[end of chorus]

See the sun rise in the east
Evil wakes when the king sleeps.

Oh is she really gone….[chorus]

You a man with a broken soul
You’re a king who is alone
You’re a cripple without a home
You’re a bird struck by a stone

Better cut my tongue out now
Before I speak the truth too loud
For the hope we’ve lost is found
For the world is awakened by this sound.

By this sound.

When the dragon came down.

Oh, is she really gone. 
I lost my queen along with my crown

When the dragon came down.

I've rarely heard a sense of loss and guilt so well expressed.

Compare another "poem" about a Queen and a dragon--one that features a dragon coming down to destroy a Queen.

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;
she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery.
And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads.
His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth;
she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,
and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,
but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world -- he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!"
And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child.
But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.
The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood.
But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon had poured from his mouth.
Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. 
We've discussed whether SHEL is Christian.  I think not. Perhaps this song is their longing for Rev. 12. "The truth can free you..., Wisdom take me by the hand, Help me understand."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The lives of two child stars

I incidentally had the opportunity recently to compare the lives of two child stars, Ricky Nelson and Donny Osmond. Apparently Ozzie Nelson was very strict, authoritarian and controlling. This seems to have resulted in Ricky becoming quite libertine when it came to sex and drugs."Nelson had a tremendous sexual appetite and a casual attitude toward sex, once estimating he had had sex with thousands of women."

Contrast Donny Osmond, who is quoted as saying:
Donny: “I married as a virgin. I really did [laughing]. And, I’m proud of it. It was difficult. Boy! let me tell you it was difficult! The hormones were raging…”
 Piers: “Do you wish you’d just piled in back then, Donny?”
 Donny: “I’m glad I withheld. I really am.”
Hilary White says in the same article,
I think Donny Osmond, with his whole family, represented something more than just silly teeny-bopper pop songs. They were sold as the “clean” pop act of their time, happy, innocent and cheerful. They made their name not only as a talented family act, but as one dedicated to the old fashioned religious-based virtues that had been hugely popular since the end of World War II. They were, in fact, the living embodiment of an innocent enjoyment of youth and, yes, I’ll say it, romantic love, that itself turned to “industry poison” at exactly that historical moment.
I think it is intriguing to think about why morality "takes" for some children, and not for others.  I have no wisdom on the matter at all.