Friday, January 29, 2010

Norah Jones

I just found out that she is the daughter of Ravi Shankar!

Wow! Who would have thought?

Ralph McInerny: R.I.P.

I just learned through Frank Beckwith's blog that Ralph McInerny, the great Notre Dame philosophy professor, died. I haven't read enough of his scholarly work to know what I think about it. I do know he was pretty critical of the Nouvelle Theologie. I admire him greatly and respect him as a gentleman, a Christian, and for his encyclopedic humanism (if those two terms aren't contradictory). He certainly has been influential on a lot of people I know. Notre Dame certainly could use a few hundred more like him.

I remember being at a Fellowship of Catholic Scholars convention with him a few years ago. I had just come from my hotel room. Notre Dame was ahead, I believe. He was sauntering down the hall. I stopped him and told him what was going on. His eyes lit up, and he suddenly got very animated and rushed off to watch it himself. He loved Notre Dame.

Chewing the host

Popular piety can be the bugaboo of academic theologians. We can always find some kind of doctrinal fault behind a common popular devotional practice, and therefore discourage or condemn. I think a better tack is to ask the question, what is motivating this person to engage in this devotion? Could it be an acute sense of a particular doctrine that leads to what we might consider "exaggeration" or "distortion."

A case in point is the pious practice of not chewing the Host at communion. Some theologians would argue that this is a sign that the communicant does not understand that the presence of the Son of God is sacramental, rather than biological. The communicant must be skittish because he considers it crude to "chomp" on the very flesh of the Son of God. They must not understand that chewing does not affect the "flesh" of the Son of God, which is the resurrected, spiritual flesh of Jesus made present sacramentally in the Consecrated host.

The theology of the critiques is all fine and good, but what is missing is a sensitivity to the other possible motives for this practice. Might not a communicant be skittish about "chomping" on the Host because he has a heightened sense of reality of the Incarnation, the real presence of the humanity of Christ in the Eucharist, and a real veneration for the God presence in the Eucharist? Might not these strongly felt sentiments be commendable, rather than condemnable, even if not strictly necessary for the theological reasons stated above?

I don't practice this particular pious reception of communion. I try not to crunch noticeably, however, which I find a distraction in others.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The problem with happiness

Here is a sign my wife saw the other day while driving down the highway.

"The problem with happiness is it can't buy money."

I wish this were only a joke in this country.

Tragedy vs. Catastrophe

Ya know, it has bothered me for a long time how loosely people use the word "tragedy" these days. I saw a magazine cover yesterday in Walgreens that said something about the "tragedy" in Haiti. Now, perhaps they meant that the disaster was exacerbated by the long history of corrupt and ineffective politics and economic policies in Haiti. On the other hand, people seem to think that disasters are tout court tragedies. We actually already have a word for severe disaster--catastrophe. Maybe it is too long for headlines.

This reminds me of the seemingly ubiquitous replacement of the word "custom" with "tradition," as in, "Let's start a tradition this year!"

Contraception and the empty gun

Here is a great quote from Jennifer Fulwiler in her recent InsideCatholic article called "The Two Lists":
In fact, I started to see the catastrophic mistake our society had made when we started believing that the life-giving potential of the sexual act could be safely forgotten about as long as people use contraception. It would be like saying that guns could be used as toys as long as long as there are blanks in the chamber.

Mark Johnson Blog

I just found out that Mark Johnson, theology professor at Marquette and all-around great guy has a blog. I rely heavily on his work on immediate hominization and twinning when I teach medical ethics. I also like to chat with him when I'm on campus. I also hold him up as an example of careful and principled scholarship, as this post about the double standard among some social justice advocates regarding the law, abortion, and capital punishment demonstrates.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Firmly I Believe and Truly -- Nashotah House

The beautiful choir at St. Anthony's Church at Ninth and Mitchell in Milwaukee, directed by the incomparable Lee Erickson (also director of the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus), sings many beautiful hymns and pieces. One of my favorites is "Firmly I Believe and Truly."

The music they use at St. Anthony's was written at and for Nashotah House, the nearby Anglican seminary. Cool Seminary! The architecture is beautiful, especially the chapel(, Nate). I spent a weekend there in the fall writing an article about a wonderful Anglican/Orthodox ecumenical event that was happening there. This is their seminary hymn.

The words, I just found out, are from the Dream of Gerontius, by Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman! I was ever happy to find that out. Makes me want to read it.

Here it is sung at Nashotah House.

Here are the words. They are as good read as sung, but wow! are they impressive when sung! Especially by the choir and entire congregation at St. Anthony's.

1. Firmly I believe and truly
God is three, and God is One;
And I next acknowledge duly
Manhood taken by the Son.

Refrain:Sanctus fortis, Sanctus Deus,
de profundis oro te,
Miserere, judex meus,
parce mihi Domine.

2. And I trust and hope most fully
In that Manhood crucified;
And each thought and deed unruly
Do to death, as He has died.

3. Simply to His grace and wholly
Light and life and strength belong,
And I love, supremely, solely,
Him the holy, Him the strong.

4. And I hold in veneration,
For the love of Him alone,
Holy Church, as His creation,
And her teachings as His own.

5. Adoration ay be given,
With and through the angelic host,
To the God of earth and heaven,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

I want this sung and printed in the program at my funeral.