Friday, February 07, 2003

Spare us, O Lord!
In keeping with the penitantial nature of the day, I will not be blogging. My specific intention is that Saddam Hussein will step down and that his successors will cooperate with the UN disarmament efforts, thus avoiding a terrible war. See Kevin's post on praying for peace.

Oh, and pray for the Gotcher krankhaus; we all seem to have succumbed to a debilitating upper- and lower respiratory virus.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Fides et Ratio in Arabic
By the way, here's FR in Arabic, courtesy of the Vatican. It is also available in Latin, unlike, surprisingly, the documents of the Second Vatican Council!
What is the value of theology?
Sometimes the endless stream of words about God in speculative theology seem to perpetuate the distance between ourselves and the Living God. While it is true that mystical wisdom has a certain priority in the life of a Christian, the Church has resolutely affirmed the value of the theological enterprise. Much wisdom on this topic can be gained from looking at John Paul II's 1998 encyclical, Fides et Ratio. Strictly speaking it, is about philosophy, but it says enough about theology along the way, that you can get a clear picture of his attitude (and that of the Church) toward the speculative theological enterprise.

John Paul II reminds us of what St. Thomas thought about this,
Yet the priority accorded this wisdom does not lead the Angelic Doctor to overlook the presence of two other complementary forms of wisdom—philosophical wisdom, which is based upon the capacity of the intellect, for all its natural limitations, to explore reality, and theological wisdom, which is based upon Revelation and which explores the contents of faith, entering the very mystery of God. (FR 44)
John Paul points out the example of St. Anselm,
For the saintly Archbishop of Canterbury the priority of faith is not in competition with the search which is proper to reason. Reason in fact is not asked to pass judgement on the contents of faith, something of which it would be incapable, since this is not its function. Its function is rather to find meaning, to discover explanations which might allow everyone to come to a certain understanding of the contents of faith. Saint Anselm underscores the fact that the intellect must seek that which it loves: the more it loves, the more it desires to know. (FR 42)
The pope warns against a resurgence of a fideism,
which fails to recognize the importance of rational knowledge and philosophical discourse for the understanding of faith, indeed for the very possibility of belief in God. (FR 55)
And the error is not just an intellectual one, but the Pope is concern with our attitude:
Other modes of latent fideism appear in the scant consideration accorded to speculative theology, and in disdain for the classical philosophy from which the terms of both the understanding of faith and the actual formulation of dogma have been drawn. My revered Predecessor Pope Pius XII warned against such neglect of the philosophical tradition and against abandonment of the traditional terminology.
Pope John Paul II strongly affirms that essential value of speculative theology, even in the form of argumentation:
For its part, dogmatic theology must be able to articulate the universal meaning of the mystery of the One and Triune God and of the economy of salvation, both as a narrative and, above all, in the form of argument. It must do so, in other words, through concepts formulated in a critical and universally communicable way. Without philosophy's contribution, it would in fact be impossible to discuss theological issues such as, for example, the use of language to speak about God, the personal relations within the Trinity, God's creative activity in the world, the relationship between God and man, or Christ's identity as true God and true man. This is no less true of the different themes of moral theology, which employ concepts such as the moral law, conscience, freedom, personal responsibility and guilt, which are in part defined by philosophical ethics. (FR 66)
One of the most important affirmations of Fides et Ratio is to absolutely affirm the truth value of human speech and intellectual inquiry. The denial of this is at the heart of the sickness of contemporary societies. To assume an attitude of chronic antagonism toward the speculative theological enterprise is to unwittingly ally oneself with the nihilistic forces in our day that seek to destroy truth itself.
The word of God refers constantly to things which transcend human experience and even human thought; but this “mystery” could not be revealed, nor could theology render it in some way intelligible, (102) were human knowledge limited strictly to the world of sense experience. Metaphysics thus plays an essential role of mediation in theological research. A theology without a metaphysical horizon could not move beyond an analysis of religious experience, nor would it allow the intellectus fidei to give a coherent account of the universal and transcendent value of revealed truth. (FR 83)
It is certain that theological speculation should not be our ultimate act in regard to God: adoration should. But it is also certain that the Church enthusiastically confirms the value of speculative theology as a preparation for a proper act of worship.
Book of the moment: Christian Prayer
In Sacrosanctum Concilium, The Second Vatican Council commended the liturgy of the hours for the lay faithful.
100. Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually.
I would really recommend becoming familiar with this, the Church's prayer. When you pray the office, whether alone or in common, you are joining with thousands and thousands of Christians around the world in the act of sanctifying time. I especially like to think of the cloistered monks and nuns whose primary business it is to do this "work of God," (opus dei) to use the Benedictine word for it. They get the privilege of chanting the whole things. There are resources that would allow even the lay person at home to chant at least some of it.

The liturgy of the hours is by far my most favorite way to pray. I try to pray at least one office (usually Morning Prayer) every day. The psalms, as you can tell by some of my previous posts (e.g. here and here), are for me the true meaning of Christian prayer.

The complexity of the liturgy of the hours can seem a little daunting at first, but read carefully, be patient, and ask for help. Also, I get tired of prayer Ps. 63, the Canticle of the Three Young Men, and Ps.149 so often (Sunday of Week I, every feast and solemnity), but then again we pray the Benedictus and the Magnificat (and the Nunc Dimittis) every day, and I don't get tired of them.

By far the most popular version of the Liturgy of the Hours is the one published by Catholic Book Publishing Company, featuring the entire text for Morning and Evening Prayer, the daytime and night office, and (minimal) selections from the office of readings, plus selected hymns and chants. The Grail version of the psalms used in this and other editions is very good (Oh, I'm sure you could find things to nitpick about: Go ahead, that is what the comments box is for).

There are also other editions by other publishers. And, there is a shorter version that includes only the four week psalter for morning and evening prayer (I have one of these as well). And, if you really have a lot of time to pray, you can get the complete four-volume set with all of the office of readings in it. I was fortunate to inherit a complete Latin edition, which is what I use to pray.

Classically, and according to the rule of St. Benedict, all 150 psalms were recited in a week, pretty much in order. Now they have been arranged in a four-week psalter ("So that it may really be possible in practice to observe the course of the hours proposed in Art. 89, the psalms are no longer to be distributed throughout one week, but through some longer period of time." SC 91) Although the psalms are still very roughly in order, there is an attempt to be somewhat thematic, by putting evening songs in the evening, morning psalms in the morning, and psalms like 118 on Sunday. Some monastic communities, such as the Christ in the Desert and the Cistercians in Sparta, WI, still use the old 150 psalm/week psalter, I presume with permission.
Round churches
I've already posted months ago (but I'm too lazy to go in search of the exact post: if one of you finds it, put it in a comment.) that I, on the whole, like round churches so long as the sanctuary is clearly distinguished from the nave and so long as the choir is not on the altar. Our chapel here at Sacred Heart is one of them and it is quite beautiful, if underdecorated.

What made me think of this again, however, is a passage I read in a Latin missal called The New Marian Missal that my son has. It is a reprint of an old missal from before the Vatican II liturgical reforms. At the beginning there is a wonderful essay that I wish I could reprint and comment upon in full if for no other reason that it wonderfully belies the notion that the liturgy before the Council was completely closed to the "new" insights of Sacrosanctum Concilium. In fact, many of the principles from SC are quite evident in this essay, including the emphasis on active participation.

At any rate, one of the points the essay makes is that the shape of the Church is to remind us of Christ with the sanctuary and altar as the head and the nave as the body. And so, the sanctuary (or presbyterium) is the proper place for the ministers, and the nave the proper place for the laity. I hope to write an entry soon with a detailed explanation as to why this distinction is important and therefore why I wish they would reinstall altar rails. This will be related to the other post I'm composing (in my head) about the distinctive liturgical office of the laity.

So, then I start thinking about applying this idea of head/body to round Churches and the images that spontaneously pops into my head is that Christ is like Jabba the Hutt! Oh, well.
It is always amazing to me that the birds start coming back again already early in February. Two days ago I heard a phoebe for the first time in months while walking through the woods on the way to work. This morning there were two of them staking out their territory, even though it is still way below zero.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Aziz II
Actually I hope and pray that it helps. I'm not excited about a war.
Aziz and the Pope
So, Tarik Aziz is meeting with the pope on February 14. I presume this is will be a discussion of ecumenism between this highest ranking Chaldean Christian in the Iraqi government and the head of the Roman Catholic Church, esp. appropriate on this Feast of Ss. Cyril and Methodius (who weren't Chaldeans, but I'm trying to make a joke, so humor me, okay?).
My favorite psalm
A recent homilist I heard said "beware of favorite scripture passages!" I'd have to agree; one probably doesn't like the passages one most needs to hear. At any rate, my favorite psalm has to be Psalm 103. This has got to be the most consoling passage of scripture I've ever read.
Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger, abounding in kindness.
God does not always rebuke, nurses no lasting anger,
Has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our deeds deserve.
As the heavens tower over the earth, so God's love towers over the faithful.
As far as the east is from the west, so far have our sins been removed from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on the faithful.
In a nutshell
Here is Powell's argument:
  • Even in small quantities, these weapons are an immanent threat to the international order if they are in the wrong hands
  • They are in the wrong hands in large quantities
Frankly, I was convinced on both points by his argumentation, but I'm STILL not ready to jump on the war wagon.

Here is the argument in detail:
  • We should go to war a) if there is an immanent threat to American interests or the international order and b) all other avenues have failed
  • These weapons are highly destructive even in small quantities
  • If they are in the wrong hands, they are a threat to the international order
  • Saddam Hussein a) has used them before, b) has ties to terrorists, c) has links to the intifada and d) has not cooperated with the international community.
  • Saddam Hussein is, therefore "the wrong hands."
  • He has these weapons in large quantities
  • Therefore, he poses a threat the American interests and the international order
  • All other efforts at getting those weapons out of his hands have failed
  • Therefore, we should go to war
I continue to pray for peace, especially considering my belief that he does have them and that he will use them if we attack. This is, after all, one of the reason why we aren't going to war against North Korea, nicht wahr?
Well, that was quick
David Reuter, of the Center for Peace in the Family, wins in seconds with
Your guitar, it sounds so sweet and clear,
but you're not really here.
It's just the radio.
David says,
I cannot tell a lie...I cheated. Like I said in my email to you yesterday, I'm no good at lyrics. But, a little research made it easy! You may want to spell out a rule that calls for responses by "memory only".
To which I respond, it would be difficult to enforce such a rule. David won fair and square. If you really want to be an ueberwinner, just use your memory! But if you don't, no one will know!"

The song, "Superstar," by the Carpenters, is another of the unusually large number of sad songs that Karen Carpenter sang, especially in light of how sad and loveless her tragic life apparently was.

New lyric for The Contest
"Long ago, and, oh, so far away
I fell in love with you before the second show."

Remember, entries must be by e-mail. You don't have to name the song or artist, just give the next line. Hint: this has got to be one of the saddest songs I've ever heard.
Where does the use of the ejaculation "woohoo!" to mean mild elation come from? I've only begun to hear it in the past few years. Was it in a movie? My daughter uses it sarcastically.
Speaking of virtues
Check out this cool essay about the natural means of character development. I'm going to read this with my fifteen year old son.
The classic Roman virtue of pietas, as in "pius Aeneas," meant "devotion to duty," especially in regards to the gods, country and family. The related virtues, then, were religion, patriotism, and devotion to family. In Antigone it is precisely a perceived tension between the three duties that is at the heart of the drama. Antigone's choice hinges on an attempt to hierarchize the virtues. In fact, the tension was false, since Creon's decree was unjust. In later medieval Latin it came to mean "loving devotion," as in "O clemens! o pia! o dulcis virgo Maria!" and "pie Jesu." In English "piety" came to mean a tendency to displays of external religious devotion. In the term "pietist" it meant a preference for emotions over thought in religious practice.

It would be nice to see a resurrection of this Roman virtue. First of all, it points to a connection between the three component virtues. One cannot have one without the other. It is especially true that devotion to family duties is essential to a ordered society. As is, I'd argue, devotion to God.

Also, one can see a connection between pietas and the Hebrew concept of shalom. Inasmuch as shalom is the condition of right relationships between God, men and nature, and inasmuch as pietas contributes to that condition by the strengthening of family and the state, pietas is an essential virtue for the establishment of shalom.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Strength and gentleness
I'm really glad Kevin blogged on this today. I've been working on some ideas for a similar post, but have just not had the time to get around to it.

One of the points about manly virtues, especially the virtue of strength, is that it must be at the service of gentleness and compassion. Strength without the self-control necessary for gentleness and without empathy for the weak is not strength, but violence. Christians specifically have a mandate to take special care of the weak. This is the famous preferential option for the poor. One of the ways to do that (but not the only or even most important way) is to develop strength and self-control.

Nor is such a concern for the poor simply philanthropy, but rather a solidarity with the poor and the weak that means we identify with them and their suffering and are able to say "we," with them, not simply refer to them as "they." Hence, empathy is a Christian virtue which ought to condition our efforts at promoting justice and working for the common good. The sufferings of the weak should be an important motivator for our public policy and we should always consider the impact of any policy we advocate especially on the poor, the weak and the vulnerable. We really should "feel their pain." In order to do that is is quite helpful to get to know the poor as human beings, to spend time with them. People who work for public policy from within the isolated protection of their gated communities do not inspire me. I especially like the fact that someone like Fr. Richard John Neuhaus actually lived in the South Bronx for decades. It makes his positions ("conservative" as they may be) more credible.

This is why I am not completely sympathetic with the snide dismissal on the part of some political conservatives of "bleeding heart liberals." The problem with liberals is not that they are too empathetic, but that their analysis of the cause of the suffering is off-base and therefore their proposed solutions sometimes cause more harm than good. Hence, my previous post about victimhood.
Here is one of my favoritesPSALMUS 131 (130)
1 Canticum ascensionum. David.
Domine, non est exaltatum cor meum,
neque elati sunt oculi mei,
neque ambulavi in magnis
neque in mirabilibus super me.
2 Vere pacatam et quietam
feci animam meam;
sicut ablactatus in sinu matris suae,
sicut ablactatus, ita in me est anima mea.
3 Speret Israel in Domino
ex hoc nunc et usque in saeculum.
Which is rendered in English thus.

I especially like the line "sicut ablactatus in sinu matris suae." The image of a weaned child in his mother's arms is very evocative.
Resistance from sinners
From today's reading from Hebrews (12:4):
Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners,
in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin
you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.
The difference between us and Christ, of course, is that the sinner who opposed him was someone else, for us the first and most important sinner that opposes us and that we must endure is ourself.

I think it is easy to point to others as the obstacles of our holiness, when in fact we struggle within ourselves against the flesh, the world and the devil. We must resist the pull of sin in ourselves even to the point of shedding blood. I'm usually not willing to do that. I'm kinda squimish about this blood stuff.

This is related to, although not the exact same things as, those, for instance, who have a victim mentality for whom all the woes that afflict them are the result of the injustice committed by others, yet if one were to look closely one would realize that their predicament results as often as not from their own avoidable choices.

I'm not "blaming the victim" here, or trying to belittle the reality of oppression and injustice, but only pointing out that we are sometimes the victim of ourselves when we want to put the blame on someone else and that we need to clearly distinguish the two as the source of our own suffering.
And the winner is....
Therese of Hoppybird fame. She rightly identifies the next line in the song as "No more falsehoods or derisions, golden living dreams and visions, mystical crystal revelations, and the mind's true liberation." The song is "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine," from the nude musical Hair (hence the Cowsills reference), by the Fifth Dimension, the New Age group of the late 60s. I haven't read the Vatican document yet, but look forward to it since I teach about the New Age in both of my classes.

Monday, February 03, 2003

By popular demand...
Okay, only two of you responded, but I really wanted to do it. Comments, anyone?
But I never get tired of the 60s for some reason
The lyric for my contest this time is,"Harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding." E-mail me with the next line of the song and you'll win a notice and a link on my wildly popular blog. Note: you don't have to know the name of the song or who sang it. I'll give you a very obscure hint, though: No, it's not by the Cowsills.
I'm tired of the present
One of the things that blogging (and listening to talk radio) does is make me focus way too much on the present. I'm tired of the present, to tell you the truth. I'm about ready to read some stuff from and about the past for a while. For instance, maybe I should read a little about Charles Martel. Or the Song of Roland. Or, hey, what about the Bible?
Baby talk
My 20 month old son is sure entertaining us as he learns to talk. For instance, recently my family went to a Mass celebrated by the Archbishop. Afterwards he shook hands or gave hugs to everyone. Since then Thaddeus has been talking about how the bishop hugged him. It sounds like this: "Be-bop...hug!" I wonder if the bishop likes being know as "be-bop?"

Then, the other day when Kathy was leaving a store with Thaddeus, they passed a manager. Thaddeus said to him, "Seeya...wuhkuh ('worker')!" We have no idea where he learned the word "worker."

Everyone should have a 20 month old who is learning language. I'm reminded of Walker Percy's discussion in The Message In the Bottle about the amazing thing that happens when children finally "get" language at around the age of two. Read the book, if you haven't. It is a masterpiece.
On sacrifice, disaster and tragedy
At first I was a little turned off about all the talk about "sacrifice" on the coverage on Saturday, especially when compared, for instance, with today's reading from Hebrews. Yet, upon reflection, and with the help of the Kevin Miller's comments, the term sacrifice really does make sense when we are talking about people who engage in highly dangerous activities form the sake of their country and for the benefit of humanity. One thinks, for instance, of all those men landing on the shore at Normandy, knowing full well that they are likely as not going to lose their lives. I'm also thinking, for instance, of those soldiers recently who have dies in training accidents while preparing for a possible war with Iraq. Their sacrifice is every bit as real, if not as glamorous as the sacrifice of these seven men and women.

One point I do often make on these occasions is that, while the loss of the Columbia is certainly a disaster, it is not a tragedy. For me a tragedy is the result of human malice or at least culpable human malfeasance. So far, I've seen no evidence the either in this case. I think, for instance, that the death of three iron workers in the construction of Miller Park in Milwaukee was a tragedy because it was due to easily avoidable decision on the part of the contractors to go ahead with a heavy lift on a day of high winds. I cringe when I here people say that these men "sacrificed their lives" for the ball park. While iron is a dangerous profession, and anyone engaged in it may sacrifice their lives for the sake of the betterment of humanity, I don't think these men should have had to die to provide a ball park for Milwaukee.

Maybe we've come to use the word "tragedy" as a synonym for "sad event." Well, if that is where our language is headed, I'm not happy, but in the mean time I'm going to resist the trend.
In Memorium
For the seven astronauts who lost their lives and for their families, a silent prayer. To me the most moving image of the coverage on Saturday was the close-up of the charred helmet that was found.