Saturday, February 22, 2003

The Rosary and the family
The family: parents...

41. As a prayer for peace, the Rosary is also, and always has been, a prayer of and for the family. At one time this prayer was particularly dear to Christian families, and it certainly brought them closer together. It is important not to lose this precious inheritance. We need to return to the practice of family prayer and prayer for families, continuing to use the Rosary.

In my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte I encouraged the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours by the lay faithful in the ordinary life of parish communities and Christian groups;(39) I now wish to do the same for the Rosary. These two paths of Christian contemplation are not mutually exclusive; they complement one another. I would therefore ask those who devote themselves to the pastoral care of families to recommend heartily the recitation of the Rosary.

The family that prays together stays together. The Holy Rosary, by age-old tradition, has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer which brings the family together. Individual family members, in turning their eyes towards Jesus, also regain the ability to look one another in the eye, to communicate, to show solidarity, to forgive one another and to see their covenant of love renewed in the Spirit of God.

Many of the problems facing contemporary families, especially in economically developed societies, result from their increasing difficulty in communicating. Families seldom manage to come together, and the rare occasions when they do are often taken up with watching television. To return to the recitation of the family Rosary means filling daily life with very different images, images of the mystery of salvation: the image of the Redeemer, the image of his most Blessed Mother. The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth: its members place Jesus at the centre, they share his joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in his hands, they draw from him the hope and the strength to go on.

... and children

42. It is also beautiful and fruitful to entrust to this prayer the growth and development of children. Does the Rosary not follow the life of Christ, from his conception to his death, and then to his Resurrection and his glory? Parents are finding it ever more difficult to follow the lives of their children as they grow to maturity. In a society of advanced technology, of mass communications and globalization, everything has become hurried, and the cultural distance between generations is growing ever greater. The most diverse messages and the most unpredictable experiences rapidly make their way into the lives of children and adolescents, and parents can become quite anxious about the dangers their children face. At times parents suffer acute disappointment at the failure of their children to resist the seductions of the drug culture, the lure of an unbridled hedonism, the temptation to violence, and the manifold expressions of meaninglessness and despair.

To pray the Rosary for children, and even more, with children, training them from their earliest years to experience this daily “pause for prayer” with the family, is admittedly not the solution to every problem, but it is a spiritual aid which should not be underestimated. It could be objected that the Rosary seems hardly suited to the taste of children and young people of today. But perhaps the objection is directed to an impoverished method of praying it. Furthermore, without prejudice to the Rosary's basic structure, there is nothing to stop children and young people from praying it – either within the family or in groups – with appropriate symbolic and practical aids to understanding and appreciation. Why not try it? With God's help, a pastoral approach to youth which is positive, impassioned and creative – as shown by the World Youth Days! – is capable of achieving quite remarkable results. If the Rosary is well presented, I am sure that young people will once more surprise adults by the way they make this prayer their own and recite it with the enthusiasm typical of their age group.
( 41-2)
The Rosary and peace
40. The grave challenges confronting the world at the start of this new Millennium lead us to think that only an intervention from on high, capable of guiding the hearts of those living in situations of conflict and those governing the destinies of nations, can give reason to hope for a brighter future.

The Rosary is by its nature a prayer for peace, since it consists in the contemplation of Christ, the Prince of Peace, the one who is “our peace” (Eph 2:14). Anyone who assimilates the mystery of Christ – and this is clearly the goal of the Rosary – learns the secret of peace and makes it his life's project. Moreover, by virtue of its meditative character, with the tranquil succession of Hail Marys, the Rosary has a peaceful effect on those who pray it, disposing them to receive and experience in their innermost depths, and to spread around them, that true peace which is the special gift of the Risen Lord (cf. Jn 14:27; 20.21).

The Rosary is also a prayer for peace because of the fruits of charity which it produces. When prayed well in a truly meditative way, the Rosary leads to an encounter with Christ in his mysteries and so cannot fail to draw attention to the face of Christ in others, especially in the most afflicted. How could one possibly contemplate the mystery of the Child of Bethlehem, in the joyful mysteries, without experiencing the desire to welcome, defend and promote life, and to shoulder the burdens of suffering children all over the world? How could one possibly follow in the footsteps of Christ the Revealer, in the mysteries of light, without resolving to bear witness to his “Beatitudes” in daily life? And how could one contemplate Christ carrying the Cross and Christ Crucified, without feeling the need to act as a “Simon of Cyrene” for our brothers and sisters weighed down by grief or crushed by despair? Finally, how could one possibly gaze upon the glory of the Risen Christ or of Mary Queen of Heaven, without yearning to make this world more beautiful, more just, more closely conformed to God's plan?

In a word, by focusing our eyes on Christ, the Rosary also makes us peacemakers in the world. By its nature as an insistent choral petition in harmony with Christ's invitation to “pray ceaselessly” (Lk 18:1), the Rosary allows us to hope that, even today, the difficult “battle” for peace can be won. Far from offering an escape from the problems of the world, the Rosary obliges us to see them with responsible and generous eyes, and obtains for us the strength to face them with the certainty of God's help and the firm intention of bearing witness in every situation to “love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14).
(Rosarium Virginis Mariae 40)

Friday, February 21, 2003

I listened to him on Lehrer last night. People who think he's a bloodthirsty cowboy are idiots. Just as those that think Bush is are. I loved the way Rumsfeld developed a tone of paternal impatience with Lehrer's hints that Rumsfeld will feel compelled to go to war just because he's got the troops on the ground over there. You could just hear him "tsk, tsk"ing under his breath, wagging his head and saying, "Jim, Jim, Jim...."
A suggesion for peace
On this day in which so many are praying for peace, I would suggest reading Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, in which the connection between praying the Rosary and peace is made, especially in #6.
Would a war increase terrorism?
What do you think of this kind of statement?
"It is my great fear that unilateral action against Iraq by the U.S. and allies like us will greatly swell the ranks of Islamic fundamentalists and unleash forces of evil that it will be extremely difficult to contain."
GS 78 (cont.)
Note, I am not trying to be profound in my analysis. I am hoping that the text will speak for itself. To the extent that I have what seems to me to be real insight I'll try to share it, but otherwise I may just make a side comment that won't, to you, be very profound. We are still in the introductory material, so the question of war won't be treated until next week.
But this [a constant mastering of passions and the vigilance of lawful authority] is not enough. This peace on earth cannot be obtained unless personal well-being is safeguarded and men freely and trustingly share with one another the riches of their inner spirits and their talents. A firm determination to respect other men and peoples and their dignity, as well as the studied practice of brotherhood are absolutely necessary for the establishment of peace. Hence peace is likewise the fruit of love, which goes beyond what justice can provide.
I am far from one of those who would put the blame for 9/11 and the Islamist's hate of the United States on our own moral and social deficiencies, but I do sometimes wonder whether the people of the United States live up to the injunction of this paragraph. We have just gone through two decades of unprecedented prosperity, and to what use have we put that newfound wealth? Have we used the riches of our inner spirits and our talents for a studies practice of brotherhood with all people? Or have we used it for our own luxuries? For condos, jacuzzies, golf and SUVs ? I am in no way suggesting that we needed or need more Federal social programs or anything of that nature. I am suggesting, though, that we Catholics ought to have been conspicuous in the past two decades in putting the wealth of this nation at the service of the common good in this nation and for the upbuilding of the international community, with a preferential option for the poor.
Importantly, however, and rightly, the energy of American Catholics has been directed at the struggle for life in our own country. Yet, I do believe that the local and international generosity of the Catholic community ought to be so conspicuous that even a biased media couldn't ignore it. This has been a Catholic Moment in our nation. Have we taken advantage of it?
That earthly peace which arises from love of neighbor symbolizes and results from the peace of Christ which radiates from God the Father. For by the cross the incarnate Son, the prince of peace reconciled all men with God. By thus restoring all men to the unity of one people and one body, He slew hatred in His own flesh; and, after being lifted on high by His resurrection, He poured forth the spirit of love into the hearts of men.
We are talking about the source and meaning of earthly peace. The unity of the human race that flows from the saving power of the cross will manifest itself in real reconciliation in this life. Thus, we have the long tradition of saints as peacemakers, such as when St. Clare stopped an invading army by lifting up a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament. This is why our prayers for peace are not simply wishful thinking, but rather part of the providential means of achieving that real earthly peace that is possible because of the effects of the Cross.
For this reason, all Christians are urgently summoned to do in love what the truth requires, and to join with all true peacemakers in pleading for peace and bringing it about.
So, those among us, such as pope and bishops, who are pleading for peace are doing exactly what they ought. The question, then, is how to bring it about? Is a war necessary at this point to bring about peace (keeping in mind what #77 said about what peace is).
Motivated by this same spirit, we cannot fail to praise those who renounce the use of violence in the vindication of their rights and who resort to methods of defense which are otherwise available to weaker parties too, provided this can be done without injury to the rights and duties of others or of the community itself.
The "spirit" is a spirit of charity beyond simply a desire for justice. There does seem to be here a kind of presumption against war even in a situation where a war might be justified. But we cannot refuse a just war if if will result in " injury to the rights and duties of others or of the community itself."
Insofar as men are sinful, the threat of war hangs over them, and hang over them it will until the return of Christ.
No utopianism here and no thought that we will ever be free of the plague of war.
But insofar as men vanquish sin by a union of love, they will vanquish violence as well and make these words come true: "They shall turn their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into sickles. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isaias 2:4).
But, progress is possible. We can become more peaceful and less violent by promoting something called "a union of love." I hope they explain that later.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

GS 78, 1
Peace is not merely the absence of war; nor can it be reduced solely to the maintenance of a balance of power between enemies; nor is it brought about by dictatorship.
So, the Cold War was really a war, not peace. I lived most of my life in a time of war, not what was called peace time. It took a saintly pope and a courageous president to bring us to a time of peace, which lasted, I suppose, until September 11, with interruptions for the Gulf War and Yugoslavia, although one also has to admit that the terrorists were already attacking us way back in 1993.
Saddam doesn't get off the hook, either. As long as he is in power, it appears that he is not a positive influence for peace. Is that an understatement, or what?
Instead, it is rightly and appropriately called an enterprise of justice. Peace results from that order structured into human society by its divine Founder, and actualized by men as they thirst after ever greater justice. The common good of humanity finds its ultimate meaning in the eternal law.
The connection between peace and justice is Biblical (shalom) and was an important part of the message of the prophets. The question becomes, what is the eternal law in which the good of humanity finds its ultimate meaning? Some would suggest, and maybe this will become clearer later, that charity is at the heart of the eternal law, and that our working for justice and peace needs to be not only tempered with charity, but grounded in it.
But since the concrete demands of this common good are constantly changing as time goes on, peace is never attained once and for all, but must be built up ceaselessly. Moreover, since the human will is unsteady and wounded by sin, the achievement of peace requires a constant mastering of passions and the vigilance of lawful authority.
Actively working for peace between and among people, including the working for justice, is a permanent and prominent feature of the public life of any nation and of all nations. It involves personal vigilance on the part of citizens and leaders as well as political vigilance. We can never cease to play an active role in the decision-making process of our nation, nor can we cease actively applying the principles known to us and revealed to us in the eternal law to our concrete situation. Yeah, blogs!

So far we haven't gotten to anything that addresses our current situation directly, but be patient! We are laying the groundwork of peace necessary for understanding war.

Bishop watching
Emily Stimpson's seemingly off-the-cuff comment may be more insightful that it seems at first. Should we not have our eyes on Christ? I'm not suggesting that we ought not make a reasonable effort to hold our bishops accountable, but if scrutinizing our bishops' every action becomes our primary spiritual activity, there is something imbalanced there.

I would even go further (and become the recipient of all kinds of rancid vegetarian projectiles) by saying that even focusing too much on what the pope says and does (as much benefit as we are all receiving from the witness to hope that we have been providentially blessed with) is not what Lumen Gentium had in mind. Christ is the Lumen Gentium. It is His light that we ought to be first of all focused on. Admittedly, that is supposed to shine forth from the Church, but where in the Church? The Word taught and preached with integrity and authority (and that is done quite a bit, even if not as much as we'd like), the sacraments and the saints mostly, especially the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I think we should be sad and, to the degree justified, angry when our bishops act like weasels. I think we should express our displeasure in appropriate forum and manner. Beyond that, we should keep our eyes on Christ crucified and witness to the good things that God has done for us and for the human race.
Book of the Moment: Healing the Culture
I take ever opportunity I can to promote the Life Principles Institute, founded by Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J. (currently President of Gonzaga University) and currently directed by the wonderful Miss Camille de Blasi. I had the pleasure of making Miss de Blasi’s acquaintance several years ago when she gave a presentation in Milwaukee. I have been enthusiastic ever siince, even applying for a job with them once (which I decided not to take so I could finish my dissertation—a good decision).

Fr. Spitzer has written a book with Robin A. Hernhoft and de Blasi called Healing he Culture: A Commonsense Philosophy of Happiness, Freedom and the Life Issues. Healing the Culture provides a rational basis for a pro-life position in the American context. Fr. Spitzer first develops a description of the human person based on his spiritual faculties, especially the capacity to question and seek self-transcendence. Then, using the principle of the right to the pursuit of happiness, and using classical philosophical ideas, Fr. Spitzer develops, a hierarchy of human goods with a priority of the person over things. These he calls the four levels of happiness. Finally, he looks at the consequences of such a definition of person and hierarchy of human goods on ten categories of cultural discourse in the American context, including happiness, success, self-worth, love, suffering, ethics, freedom, personhood, rights, and the common good. The book closes by applying the life principles to specific life issues of abortion and euthanasia.

Life Principles is a wonderful tool for the efforts of clergy and lay in the Church to promote the culture of life in the broad, pluralistic American context. It can be adapted to a variety of contexts and levels, from high school to adult ed to university instruction. It has a philosophical version, appropriate for dialogue with the broader culture, and a theological version, useful in an ecclesial context. Miss de Blasi has given Life Priinciple presentations to public schools, legislative bodies,, the judiciary, youth rallies, and many other settings, many of them wildly secular in the way that only the great Northwest can be secular.

For more information on Life Principles, click here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

I'm sad, sad, sad about all the deaths of combatants–Iraqis, Americans, Israelis, others, about all the destruction and displacement that will certainly result from U.S. military action. Not that such sadness should determine whether we should go to war, but, as people concerned about the human dignity of every single person we should always keep this death and destruction before our eyes. I agree with those, even a Joan Chittister, for heaven's sake, who say we need to continually attempt to get to know the people under the thumb of our enemy as human beings, who experience the same joys and hopes, grief and anguish that we do. This is one of the meanings of the virtue of solidarity. Is this level of death and destruction necessary at this time to prevent even greater death and destruction now or later?

If we go to war, if we deem it just, if we deem it necessary, I will experience a profound and sustained sadness—not the joy of battle, and perhaps not even the thrill of victory. I will primarily experience the agony of defeat that those who sustain loss will experience. This is what the pope means by saying "war is always a defeat." It is always a defeat for those who suffer because of the intransigence of the enemies of goodness, and it should always be experienced as a defeat to those of us who live in solidarity with them.
More on virtues
I've been thinking some more about the purpose of our virtues, or the proper use of them. Here, by the way, I mean virtues in the broader, classical sense of the Latin virtus, which is connected with manliness (vir) and means, ore is related to strength (vis), or the Greek arête, which means "excellence" as much as what we mean by "virtue." These are strengths or abilities or character traits that we develop that could be used for either good or ill, in the same way, I suppose the Force could be used for either.

Sometimes the virtues we need to develop are determined as much by our circumstances abs by our native aptitude or inclination. A father and mother must develop the skills to run a household, whether they learned them growing up or not. A good citizen in a participatory democracy, whether he likes it or not, needs to keep abreast of events and develop the intellectual and moral virtues necessary to contribute intelligently and courageously to the decision making and actions of the nation. Older children in a family will need to take care of younger children, so they need to develop and be taught the gentleness, tenderness and care one needs when dealing with little ones. It does little good to complain about the fairness of being in a particular state in life.

Which brings me to the real point: strength means nothing (is morally neutral) unless it is used for a moral end. More specifically strength ought to be at the service of weakness. We are given strengths in order to be of service to others who may not have the strength we have. Great size should be used to help the small, skills, the unskilled, talents the untalented. This is the preferential option for the poor which is a prominent theme in Catholic social teachings.

The moral for the United States is twofold. We are by virtue of our natural endowments, our human resources and our historical cultivation of technology the greatest military power in the history of the world. At this point it does no good to complain about our status as a superpower (nor does it do anyone else to complain). What we do need to do is make dang sure we are putting that strength at the service not only of our own interests, not only of the common good, but especially of the weak, the innocent, the least powerful. Including Iraq citizens. And our own unborn.

I just have this nagging feeling that a country that cannot protect its own most vulnerable will be unable to wage a war with sufficient discrimination to reasonably protect the innocent Iraqis.
If Kevin can quote de Lubac at length….
In answer to Joe's inquiries about the relationship between human progress and our supernatural destiny in the comments boxes I have the following reflections taken, in part, from my dissertation. One of the authors that has helped me understand GS is Henri de Lubac. De Lubac’s vision, like that of GS, was based on three distinct, but necessarily interrelated orders, the cosmic, the human and the supernatural.

The word “order” is quite important when discussing the issues involved in de Lubac’s theology and GS. An order is a nexus of stable, mutual relationships which work toward a common end. The interactions between the various distinct elements in the nexus are predictable, conforming to norms. This leads, in natural sciences, to the possibility of accurate predictions. Precise predictions, however, cannot be made in an order in which free, rational beings are one of the elements because the nature of freedom is precisely a certain amount of freedom vis à vis the determinisms of any order.

Orders are not necessarily self-sufficient or independent. One order can be related to another. For instance, one order can exist wholly within another, as Newtonian mechanics functions within Einsteinian physics.

In de Lubac’s understanding, each of the first two of the three orders, the cosmic, the human and the supernatural, by their own perfection, prepares for and grounds, but does not cause, the perfection of the next higher.
The order of charity elevates and transfigures all that is human: it is incommensurable to it; but it draws on it, so to say, for its material. (Atheisme., 123.)
The goal of technical progress was, he thought, to ground not only improvement in material conditions, but even more growth in human consciousness and unity, which is the true progress on which grace builds. Material progress had importance inasmuch as it is a prerequisite for a growth in the unity of man which is a foundation, though not sole cause, of the unity which grace affords. This human progress, however, requires transformation and completion by the sovereign action of God. De Lubac affirmed with GS that
we know neither the time of this completion nor the mode of this transformation. (Atheisme, p. 126)

The unity in distinction between the various orders led to two interrelated affirmations in de Lubac's 1938 book, Catholicism, both the necessity and the insufficiency of human efforts to improve the temporal order. De Lubac adamantly affirmed both the insufficiency of man’s temporal efforts to achieve salvation or redemption and the necessity of the Church and her distinct activities to achieve the ultimate unity of the human race. (Catholicism, 110ff) He especially highlighted the unifying effect of the Eucharist. (ibid., 49)

In Catholicisme de Lubac maintained that only in Christ does man find his real meaning.
By revealing the Father and by being revealed by him, Christ completes the revelation of man to himself. (Catholicism, 185)
For de Lubac the meaning of creation was found in Christ. The order of nature was not parallel to the order of grace, but found within it. The world, in man, was intrinsically open to the supernatural. The circle of the cosmos was not closed, nor is its meaning completely accountable for by principles of its own order, within the time-space continuum. Nor, above all, is the meaning of man completely accounted for in terms of his relation to the cosmos or the temporal human order. The cosmos ceased to be a circle, but in fact had its terminus in a direction transcending all that is in this world.
The infernal circle [of the cosmos] is disrupted. (ibid., 70.)
There was no fulfillment for man in the world without Christ. The Christian mysteries, especially the Church, were absolutely necessary for man to understand and achieve the purpose for which he was created.
The rest of the world is bound up with us, and it cannot be saved without us. (ibid., 122)
The cosmos was created for and in Christ and therefore can only be completed or fulfilled in Christ, the new Adam.

On the other hand, in a historical-theological perspective, De Lubac affirmed the positive relationship between the temporal and the eschatological end of the cosmos. The Resurrection created a new order, but it
neither transformed the social nature of man nor cancelled out the temporal conditions of his existence. (Splendour of the Church, 119.)
Specifically, the development of the temporal order was a basis for the reception of the word of God and redemption. That was a form of human cooperation with God. He observed that,
God did not desire to save mankind as a wreck is salvaged; he meant to raise up within it a life, his own life. The law of redemption is here a reproduction of the law of creation: man’s co-operation was always necessary if his exalted destiny was to be reached, and his co-operation is necessary now for his redemption.(Catholicism, 113)
This cooperation, moreover, was social and corporate. One has only to remember that de Lubac conceived of “man” as a corporate as well as individual reality to see how the efforts at social unity in the world can be a prelude to the unification of man in Christ in the Church. In fact, chapter 9 of Catholicism was a sustained meditation on this very point. Grace transformed nature from within, not destructively from without.
Christianity transformed the old world by absorbing it. (Ibid., 146.)
This “elevation of culture” as described by de Lubac became influential at Vatican II, especially in GS, and is appealed to, quite legitimately, in support of postconciliar Christian efforts to improve the temporal order and inculturate the faith.

It also led de Lubac to be sympathetic with and to defend the theology of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., in the 1960s and 1970s. This, of course, will send all kinds of people into fits of apoplexy, but it can't be helped, I suppose. The best thing is to actually read what de Lubac said, rather than prejudge him based on notions of Teilhard acquired from his fierce critics. And pu-LEEZE, Joe, don't accuse de Lubac or GS of being Hegelian, except in a more general sense that they both take history seriously.

GS Part II, Chapter V, #77
The text will be in regular type, my comments in italics and indented

77. In our generation when men continue to be afflicted by acute hardships and anxieties arising from the ravages of war or the threat of it, the whole human family faces an hour of supreme crisis in its advance toward maturity. Moving gradually together and everywhere more conscious already of its unity, this family cannot accomplish its task of constructing for all men everywhere a world more genuinely human unless each person devotes himself to the cause of peace with renewed vigor. Thus it happens that the Gospel message, which is in harmony with the loftier strivings and aspirations of the human race, takes on a new luster in our day as it declares that the artisans of peace are blessed "because they will be called the sons of God" (Matt. 5:9).
The authors of the document believe we are not in a "condition normal" regarding war, but in a time of crisis, of decision, of more careful reflection on peace and on war. The human race is advancing toward maturity, which is interpreted as meaning a realized sense of our unity as a human race. This is the reason why the whole just war theory cannot simply be left as it is, but is in need of development keeping not only the increasingly terrible effects of war, but the increasing desire for and consciousness of–and desirability of–the unity of human race. The Church is not neutral on the question of world unity, nor is it neutral on the desirability of a comprehensive peace among nations.

Consequently, as it points out the authentic and noble meaning of peace and condemns the frightfulness of war, the Council wishes passionately to summon Christians to cooperate, under the help of Christ the author of peace, with all men in securing among themselves a peace based on justice and love and in setting up the instruments of peace.
Note, that the council fathers stop short of condemning war, just the "frightfulness" of war. But war is much more frightful now than it ever has been.

And note that the definition of the peace that we are called to promote is not simply the minimal tranquility of order that some commentators have suggested is the goal of engaging in a just war. We are to work for a peace based on justice
and love, in which case the question of proportionality takes on an even greater weight than it might have in the past. I believe that the pope's objections are really on the basis of proportionality, as well as on the explicitly stated basis of last resort.

As Kevin Miller has pointed out repeatedly, commentators such as Novak, Weigel, Schall and Noonan don't seem to be looking at this war from the perspective of
GS. The pope and the bishops seem to be. I have to admit, that my default attitude is closer to Novak, etc., than the pope's, which initially indicates to me a need for personal conversion. I'll have to keep reading for more clarity

If anyone is under the illusion that the Iraqi people will be eternally grateful if we liberate them from Saddam, he should recall that we liberated France in 1944 and Germany in 1945.
Speaking of Vatican II...
I'm considering doing a line by line reading of Gaudium et spes, Part II, Chapter V on international relations as a way to better inform my own thinking. Anyone want me to do it on the blog so people can comment? I'm thinking that part of my paralysis is simply not sufficiently thinking with the mind of the Church. What better way to think with the mind of the Church than to read the documents of Vatican II?
I am just plain too wound up inside right now about the war and other things to think of any profound thoughts. There is so much that wants to get out, but there is a kind of logjam that leads to mental paralysis. Let it be know, though, that when this logjam breaks, this blog (or some other blog) will be swamped with amazingly erudite posts!

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

The documents of Vatican II
Every spring I read the four Constitutions of the Second Vatican Council with first year seminarians. Every year I get the same general response: “Why have we never heard this stuff before?” These are guys who have lived forty years in the post-Vatican II Church and they still don’t know what these documents say, nor does their experience of life in the Church appear to correspond to what they read.

You priests (and bishops) that are reading this, I’d certainly put a large part of the blame on you. When was the last time you studied these documents? And I don’t think the distorted quotes in Dick McBrien’s columns count! Do you organize your pastoral plan around chapters 2-4 of Lumen Gentium?

And you lay people, get off your duffs (or get on them, actually), and read them, so you can begin to put them in practice. Don’t depend on the message your pastor is giving you. Even if they were faithful to Vatican II (and many more priests try to be than are given credit for it), they could not communicate to you the fullness of the richness of these documents.

We’ve got a lot of work to do to implement these documents. Let’s start by reading all sixteen of them. Starting today. Start here.
Sage advice from an African in times of trial
[W]hen good and bad men suffer alike, they are not, for that reason indistinguishable because what they suffer is similar. The sufferers are different even though the sufferings are the same trials; though what they endur is the same, their virtue and vice are different.

For, in the same fire, gold gleams and straw smokes; under the same flail the stalk is crushed and the grain threshed; the lees are not mistaken for oil because they have issued from the same press. So, too, the tide of trouble will test, purify, and improve the good, but beat, crush, and wash away the wicked So ti si that, under the weight of the same affliction, the wicked deny and blaspheme God, and the good pray to Him and praise Him. The difference is not in what people suffer but in the way they suffer. The same shaking that makes fetid water stink makes perfume issue a more pleasant odor.
--St. Augustine, City of God, book 1, chapter 8.
That is to say, we respond to adversity according to the habits (virtues) we have previously acquired. That is, for instance, one of the the purposes of mortifying oneself even of legitimate pleasure (I’m speaking here, of course, theoretically, not from personal experience)—to build virtues that will allow us to act appropriately in times of necessity. Thus, the early christians practiced extreme asceticism so that when they were confronted with martyrdom, they would have the courage to stand firm We are simply too flappy, too soft (which also, I believe, means that we are unable to genuinely gentle and compassionate).
Book of the moment
I am studying part IV of the CCC with some high school students. This is such a rich, inspiring treatment on prayer. If you are having trouble with praying, you should take this text and read it a few paragraphs a day over the next few weeks. And be sure to look up the scripture passages. They give us awesome images of man at prayer. My favorite is the scene of Abraham making a covenant with God in Gen. 15. But the section on the prayer of Jesus is especially awesome. It is divided into Jesus at prayer, Jesus teaches about prayer, and Jesus hears our prayer. Then it closes with a discussion of Mary and prayer. And this is before it even begins to explore the vast wealth of the Church’s tradition of prayer.

It is easy for those of us who are intellectuals and writers, as well as those of us who love and get all worked up over liturgy, that a personal relationship with the Triune God is the goal of all that we do. The first three parts of the CCC, on the Creed, the Sacraments, and on Morality, are oriented toward the fourth and most important part on prayer. All these three realities, creed, cult and code, are established by God to assist us to become and experience ourselves as adopted children of God. Which is most manifest in our loving activity in the world and ultimately in prayer.
Music Man
My first comment is why does Disney have to broadcast those ads during a supposed family show? I mean, should a six year old be exposed to the word “cross-dress?” Not to mention undulating, barely bikini clad women. And Michael Jackson umpteen times. But I hate having to send my kids out of the room every commercial break. Although it did get the dishes done. Fortunately there was a documentary on turtles on public television.

Second, if Robert Preston’s Professor Hill was a tad too cynical and hardened to undergo the kind of transformation that he’s supposed to in this movie, Matthew Broderick’s is just too dogone innocent from the git-go. Preston was a believable con-man. Broderick seems like he should still be sniffling while he is accidently breaking into DoD computer networks.

Finally, do Iowan’s like this musical? The way Iowans are treated make me think of my own reaction to the musical Oklahoma! As an Oklahoman, I’d sure hate people to think that that is the way we act and treat each other. I suppose there is a tradition of light musical in which no noblity is ever displayed, only a rising slightly above the swamp that characterizes everyday life (or, with Grease, not even that). Give me Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, or West Side Story any day.
Liberal Radio Network?
I heard on Weber and Dolan yesterday morning that a group of political liberals (in Chicago, I believe) is raising money to start a liberal radio network. It will eventually air fourteen hours of political satire and commentary a day. The first headliner will be Al Franken.

Weber and Dolan wondered whether Franken was going to be on fourteen hours a day at first, since they haven’t announced any other shows. My answer to that is to recall the old skit on Saturday Night Live which aired at the end of 1979 where Franken declaired that since the 1970’s was the “Me Decade,” then the 1980s would henceforce be known as the “Al Franken Decade.” He asked for donations to be sent to “me, Al Franken, care of NBC.” Perhaps Franken wouldn’t mind, then, if he were the only one on.

My question is, why bother starting a liberal radio network when the government, corporate sponsors and donors already provide NPR and PRI?
Speaking of oldies
From a friend:
When the moon hits your eye
Like a big pizza pie
That's amore.

When an eel bites your hand
And that's not what you planned
That's a moray.

When our habits are strange
And our customs deranged
That's our mores.

When your horse munches straw
And the bales total four
That's some more hay.

When a Japanese knight
Waves his sword in a fight
That's Samurai.

When Othello's poor wife
She gets strangled in strife
That's a Moor, eh?

When your sheep go to graze
In a damp marshy place,
That's a moor, eh?

When your boat comes home fine
And you tied up her line
That's a moor, eh?

When you ace your last test
Like you did all the rest
That's some more A's!

When on Mt. Cook you see
A tall aborigine,
That's a Maori.

A comedian ham
With the name Amsterdam
That's a Morey.

When your chocolate graham
Is so full and so crammed
That's a s'more.

When you've had quite enough
Of this dumb rhyming stuff
That's No more! eh?
Another friend adds
When "Twistin' the Night Away," you find,
Sounds like "Georgia on My Mind,"
That's Sam or Ray.