Sunday, April 23, 2006

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: habeo neptia!

Tonight, around the 11 o'clock hour, my first niece was born. She will be named Catherine Rose. Prayers are appreciated.

* * *

And tomorrow, I return to the seminary. Prayers are appreciated.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Prayer Reminder

A reminder to all: as I noted down below, tomorrow would be the final day to begin a novena in preparation for the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker. A perfectly P.O.D. one can be found here.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Kerry/Edwards '04

I usually chuckle when I pass cars on the highway (usually Volkswagon Passats or Toyota Corolas) that still have a Kerry/Edwards sticker on the bumper.

But, with the first anniversary of Pope Benedict's election just passed, it occurs to me that we rarely stop to think on "Pope Day" what the Church was spared by the Holy Spirit. The recent evidence of Cardinal Martini's having imbibed one too many of his namesakes and holding a media jamboree should be a strong reminder of how very lucky the Church has been. For more on his troubling comments, click here.

My only comment: Long live the Pope! I think a singing of the Te Deum is in order...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Something I'm Not Glad About

Tonight I was flicking through the stations - my first mistake, because MythBusters was on, and I should have just stuck with it. Anyway, I turned on VH1 and came accross the 17th Annual GLAAD Media Awards. What is GLAAD, you ask? Well, here's their mission statement:
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
That's who GLAAD is.

Now, the existence of such an organization is not what I am upset about. What I am upset about is this awards show.

When I turned on the channel, they were doing a "Weekend Update" routine from SNL, with two female cast-members (lesbians, maybe, I don't know) giving commentary on all sorts of gay news with the traditional risque humor. At the time, I wasn't sure what I was watching, and was perplexed by the overabundance of gay jokes. For example, they announced Elton John's "engagement" and said that the couple was registered at Liberace's yard-sale. The closing joke of the sequence, though, was directed at Pope Benedict XVI. It made reference to his first encyclical having been written on the topic of love, but pointed out that he held with the traditional Catholic view against homosexuality and the homosexual lifestyle. Then, the ancor quipped about him putting on his red Prada shoes and traipsing about Rome with his cardinals. In other words... they insinuated that the Holy Father was a homosexual.

Now, leaving aside the joke itself for the time being, I'd like to look closely at the premise, which was a false portrayal of Catholic teaching. That is, the lead-in essentially asserted that Catholic teaching on homosexuality was a double-standard of the Gospel law of love. That, despite his encyclical being about love and social justice, Pope Benedict's view on gays implies hypocrisy. This is balderdash. In fact, the opposite is true. Love is truth, and Benedict witnesses to both simultaniously in upholding the Divine and natural law on this matter.

But actually, what ticks me off most is the joke itself. The Pope is the successor to Peter, and he deserves respect. And I don't like when a room of liberal stars takes a crack at him. For that matter, I think Hollywood is generally plagued by a lack of decorum. Look at the movies coming out in the theatres: two of them parody the President of the United States quite closely. Now, yes, I'm for free speech, blah, blah, blah. But where is the decorum, anymore? Where is the "with all due respect" caveat to criticism that used to be a defining characteristic of civility? But even worse than insulting the President, this is the Vicar of Christ. Let arguments about there having "been bad popes" abound, they still don't justify foolish ad hominem attacks, even against those bad popes themselves. And besides, this isn't one of those bad popes!

And here's what I really don't get: How are these type of jokes in keeping with the GLAAD mission statement? How is making gay jokes going to stop defamation? In fact, how is insinuating that a religious leader is a homosexual - with knowledge that homosexuality is offensive to that person's creed - how is that not itself defamation? Where's the practice of plurality that you preach? Where's the "cultural sensitivity" you raised hell about during the Passion of the Christ? Weren't you the ones asking us to learn something from the whole Mohommedan cartoon nonsense? It's a great irony that this tasteless joke was premised by an accusation of double-standard; for, in fact, GLAAD seems to have the double standard. I guess I should expect as much from a room half-full of Hollywood transvestites.

I sometimes wish that Opus Dei really were the crazy group of merciless gendarmes the liberal leftist media makes them out to be, because maybe they could knock Moloch from his perch upon the "Hollywood" sign. Anti-Catholicism, the last popularly accepted prejudice in American society... Lady Liberty weeps with the women of Jerusalem for her generations of children.

A Brief Sallying

I have no intention of getting into the whole Notre Dame/Ex Corde Ecclesia thing... however, I will venture out enough to suggest that this open letter by the theology chair of the University is one of the sanest things that's been said since the nonsense began. Check it out.

And now, in the words of King Arthur: RUN AWAY!

Fulfillment of a Promise...

Down below, a commenter asks me to make good on my promise to explain my application of the terms "good guy" and "bad guy" to Father Neuhaus and Sister Joan Chittister respectively.

So, here goes...

Imprimis. As I stated in my first post regarding the Easter Sunday edition of "Meet the Press" (transcript available here), my use of these broad terms was with tongue in cheek. So, before I start parsing individual aspects of the interview, let me just make it clear that I do not subscribe to the tendency to demonize dissenting theologians and hagiograph good ones. The fact is, a fairly orthodox theologian can be a bad person, and a great heretic might have a great moral code. The issues that I will take up, therefore, are not reflections of my opinion of the character either of Father Neuhaus or Sister Joan, but on the opinions that they shared in the public forum with regard to Church teaching. Generally speaking, in this interview each person's response was in keeping with the opinions that they generally express in their everyday work; that is, Sister Joan tended away from traditional teaching and Father RJH remained pretty firmly entrenched in sound doctrine. [As to the discrepancy pointed out by the aforementioned commenter: disagreement with USCCB opinion on how to bring about an end to abortion in a country's legal system is a different thing entirely than disagreement with Magisterial definitions about the intrinsic moral evil of abortion as opposed to the extrinsically evil applications of capital punishment and defense policies.] Politically speaking, Father Neuhaus' comments were relatively conservative; Sister Joan's were more liberal. Again, I just point out that I do not think this is fair grounds for calling one "good" and the other "bad," as many on both sides of the debate see fit to do; and my application of the terms liberal and conservative is in reference to national politics, not theology.

And now for my scansion of the interview.

In his first reply, Father Neuhaus made a great point that religious matters have always been linked to civil questions about how to order a society: that this is intrinsic to humanity, and that we cannot separate politics from morality.

Sister Joan seemed to pick up the same theme when Russert asked her what she meant when she warned against the emergence of a new Puritanism. As my commenter observed, both Father Neuhaus and Sister Joan's replies are refreshing in this regard, and the general spirits of their arguments seem to be kindred. But there is something worrysome lurking behind certain of Sister Joan's words:
We have to choose now... whether or not we want religion, that is this thing that binds us together, that is somehow or other genetically wired in us, that, that Aristotle talks about, that all the churches talk about. Or do we want denominationalism. What, what church, what religion do we want? Do we want the religion of the Crusades and the Inquisition and the witch burnings and segregation and slavery and the oppression of women and Puritanism that led to Prohibition, that didn't last because it was somebody's creed imposed on everybody else's creed? Or do we want the religion of the peace movement that Jesus talked about, and the, the labor movement and the civil rights movement.
Woah. Slow down there, Sister.

The religion of the Crusades and the Inquisition is the Catholic religion, plain and simple. You'd be hard pressed to prove to me that these weren't essentially good things. The evil that came about in certain quarters of these movements was not tied to the Faith of the Church, but in opposition to it; and in some cases, the perpetrators of these evils weren't even connected to the Church authorities. Now, I'm not wholly defending the Crusades - but my point is that you can't wholly condemn them. In just the same way, one might be able to selectively condemn aspects of the civil rights movement (e.g., the Black Panthers), but should not condemn the whole. Sweeping generalizations are dangerous, Sister. I'm not so ready to baptize the civil rights and labor movements. And, on the other hand, I'm not ready to condemn movements which, in a manner of speaking, have been "baptized" (by echumenical councils of the Church), such as the Crusades.

Is there a new Puritanism arising on the religious right? Absolutely. But be careful how you identify it. And stop to think what aspects of it - and of the Old Puritanism, for that matter - might now be laudable preferences over the wholesale slaughter of the unborn and legally promoted sodomy.

I'll mention in passing, here, that I entirely disagree with the opinion of my commenter as to the quality of Rabbi Lerner's comments. The man is a liberal nutcase. Gays and lesbians being deprived of marriage is not at all the same as the enslavement of blacks or the persecution of natives americans. Being black or browned skinned is not a crime against the natural law and an insidious influence on society. A nuclear family centered around homosexual partnership is, however, a vicious influence and a detrement to the common good. And we have an obligation to pass laws that protect the common good. This is not bigotry. It's justice. Period.

Moving on...

On Father Neuhaus' comments on the openness of the Catholic Church to all peoples, I would simply say this: it was a bit rambling, but sound. The question had apparently been posed in order to draw some distinction in contrast to the Protestant minister who had just spoken and revealed that personal conduct was not a stipulation for membership in his congregation. Father Neuhaus seemed to miss the point of this contrast, but did touch on the fact that we are called to be saints and must move as members of this pilgrim Church toward perfection and holiness.

MR. RUSSERT: Sister Joan... Are you concerned that some Catholics do not feel welcome in their church because they have disagreements on issues like stem cell research or on gay rights or AIDS and condoms, or abortion or death penalty?

SISTER CHITTISTER: I, I’m simply asking that all of us realize that the answers we have right now in those arenas may well not be final answers. That we’re all struggling to find the best answers... [Some] of us, out of a completely and equally sincere concern for life, answer those questions differently.

MR. RUSSERT: Abortion?

SISTER CHITTISTER: Anything. Stem cell research, abortion, any of those.
Now, for the sake of space, I cut alot of fluff out of these comments. Sister Joan's gist is, again, pretty sound. She means that we should not only be concerned with issues like abortion and euthanasia, but also the loss of life that comes of war and poverty. However, her exact answers here are very shaky. Either she was skirting the issue or not choosing her words carefully. Later in the dialogue, we see that she is confused over essential teachings of the Church as to the moral value of abortion compared with something, like, say, the death penalty. This confusion is evident in these comments as well.

Yes, Sister, everyone's welcome in the Church. But not everyone's ideas are. See, when we're baptized into the Body of Christ, we become one with the person of Christ and are called to grow in that relationship. In Him, there is no confusion, no ambiguity, about the answers to these questions. And His answers are the answers that matter. We are called to be of the Mind of Christ on these issues, not of our own minds. This might take discipline and sacrifice, until we adopt the views of Christ. But that's what we're called to do.

And as for how we know what these answers are: we stand firmly upon the three-legged stool of Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium. Abortion is evil. It is murder, cut and dry. War, however, may be just. Struggle and contrive as to how you answer questions about the individual circumstances of the second case, until your heart's content. But in the case of the former issue: Roma locuta est; causa finita est.

Right on, though, as far as politicians are concerned. We need to engender a culture of life, and that means charity in all things. Being anti-abortion does not cut it. But, again, to emphasize: there is no room for floundering on the abortion issue. And if it comes down to it, no amount of peaceful tree hugging and social program excuses the freelance murder of the most innocent among us.

The next issue is the meatiest part of the debate.

Sister Joan makes a comment at some point about a double standard in Catholic policy makers: we hold Senators accountable for their votes on life issues, but not Supreme Court Justices for their decision. What gives? I regard Father Neuhaus' answer as pretty solid in this case, as well: a Justice is bound to interpret and not to push his own opinion over valid precedent, argument, and evidence. They evaluate; they do not create. Representative Senators, on the other hand, do just the opposite. They make laws using their own values and opinions, for which they have presumably been elected by their constituents. Unless they lied in the elections, then their voters knew what they were choosing. And there are checks and balances. Senators should not feel constrained to vote against their consciences by the law. And, hence, when they vote opposite the teaching of the Church, then this indicates that their consciences are formed in contradiction to Doctrine. The same inference cannot be drawn in the case of a Justice, who, in good conscience, must decide based upon what is presented to the court, not by his own belief in a particular matter.

And finally... I would like to comment upon the following exchange:
REV. NEUHAUS: But, you know, Sister, capital punishment and abortion are not at the same level of teaching weight.

SISTER CHITTISTER: Well, I don’t know that, see. I think that...

REV. NEUHAUS: Oh, really?

SISTER CHITTISTER: Yeah. I think they are at this...

REV. NEUHAUS: Oh I, I—consult the catechism.

SISTER CHITTISTER: I think they, I think that they are not at the same level of teaching weight. I’m saying I’m not sure why.


SISTER CHITTISTER: I’m not sure why they’re not at the same level of teaching weight.


SISTER CHITTISTER: Because either, either life is of value or it’s not of value.
Wow... what a doosie.

First of all, an epistemological quickie: verbs of knowledge and of opinion. In normal parlance, the verb "think" is used to express a matter of opinion. The verb "know" is usually used to make an assertion of ascertained factual knowledge. And I'm not quite sure I know what the hell Sister Joan is trying to say here.

She either knows (fact) or thinks (opinion) that the Church teaches that abortion and capital punishment are on two different levels. She first says she doesn't know that, but thinks it is the case. Well, I'll help her out and say that that is the case - I did consult my catechism. I think she *knows* this, as well. But she disagrees. She thinks (opinion) that they should be on the same level.

So, I'll treat this as a difference in opinion. Because I *think* the teachings are pretty solid. Why? Because a state has a valid right to execute criminals if it is necessary to do so for the protection and good of society. It is the abuse of this legitimate right that makes for a sinful circumstance. In other words, the determining elements are extrinsic to the act. To bring up a dark specter spoken about earlier: the Church had people executed in the Inquisition. And the Church was operating within her rights. And most of these executions were probably goods.

Elective abortion, on the other hand (unless influenced by a mitigating circumstance which would really make the abortion a bi-product of a certain good) is intrinsically evil. There is no legitimate right to abort, per se. If it helps to illustrate: when a woman has an tubal pregnancy that cannot come to term (i.e., is not viable to live) and will only kill her if allowed to perpetuate, she may choose to terminate the pregnancy. But here the act is different. The act is the preservation of the woman's life, and the abortion is almost like a side-effect. It helps in these cases to not even speak of the act as being "abortion" in the common understanding. And this is not mere semantics. It represents a fundamental difference and the application of a very well-thought-out principal: call it a "necessary evil." But the key is that the evil of abortion is not the thing chosen. It is the thing "allowed," so to speak.

* * *

And that is my take on Easter's edition of "Meet the Press." Is Sister Joan a "bad guy?" Well, her ideologies are flawed, and are a mouthpiece for a movement of relativism and false logic in our society. On the chessboard of intellectual warfare and Catholic evangelism, I would say that she frequently plays for the opposing team. She might very well be a nice lady in her own right. She did, after all, argue for the preservation of traditions and traditional values... although the philosophy hasn't seemed to cross the threshold of her wardrobe.

My promise fulfilled, I await the barrage of hate-mail with zeal.

UPDATE: Father Neuhaus has posted his own reaction over at his blog. I loved this part in particular:
"Many... thought I was unspeakably arrogant. Me, arrogant? My chief offense, it seems, was beating up on that sweet little nun. Sister Joan Chittister is no sweet little nun."
Awesome. Please note the addition of FirstThings: On The Square to my blogroll.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Ite ad Joseph

I'm more inclined to say "ad Josephum." Can a latinist out there explain to me why this is always the traditional way of doing it? Proper names always confuse me.

And now the point. Beginning either the 22nd or the 23rd (depending on whether you do novenas as a vigil, or end of the feast-day), you may want to say a Novena to Saint Joseph. His second feast is coming up, and I'm continuing my crusade to garner more devotion for my awesome patron. Also, it's fitting to pray to Saint Joseph the worker, who is also a patron of travellers and immigrants, during this whole immigration debate.

I found a pretty cool site from TAN books with some prayers that may be helpful. Like most of TAN's publications, it's great content in a really bland and crappy format. Check it out.

Also, beginning on the feast day, I (hopefully) will be posting a series of reflections that I've been working on, regarding devotion to Saint Joseph. So stay tuned for that.

And... this summer, a few friends and I (hopefully) will be taking a few days of pilgrimage to visit some Saint Joseph shrines. The focal point will be the Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal, which is Canadian for Oratory of Saint Joseph, Montreal. Following a couple days up thereabouts (where I hear there are some other religious attractions), we're going to drive down through New England. I plan to stop at the Saint Joseph the Worker Shrine in Lowell, MA. We'll eat seafood, too. These, however, are the extent of our plans so far. If anyone knows of any other Saint Joseph related attractions in the Northeast, please let me know.

Words, Words... God or the Girl? Take Two

I begin this second post on A&E's new docu-drama with a shout-out to the Bard for two reasons. First, the show isn't Shakespeare, and I think people need to have their expectations set realistically before approaching it. Second, I've been parusing the online discussions of the show throughout the day, and find the debate to be tedious and overblown. I want to avoid the same kind of empty speculation and stick to discussing the actual, portrayed content of the show's third and fourth hours.

In my last post, I cut the show up into categorical topics and approached each uniquely. My assessment stands in pretty much the same spot on the editing and formatting issues. The editors have done their best to make this a real drama, with hack-jobs of certain quotes to make it more intense (like the scene last night between Dan and the Fundy Prot) and the arbitrary deadline that they flash in front of the cloud scheme. One editorial thing I love is the chant vocals they keep using, particularly the high-voice one of what sounds like an Agnus Dei, of which I would like to identify the source.

Anyhow. The last two episodes definately strengthened the show over the opening night. Steve's story remains the strongest, most compelling, and most comforting. I think he's an awesome candidate and could make a great priest one day. He seems like an earnest guy: his emotions didn't seem forced. And no one else online has pointed it out, so I will - he is never seen without his Breviary. That says something, to me. He seems the most attached to the Church. I identify more with Steve over Joe, who can't handle magisterial thought on celibacy, and Dan, who seems a little too charismatically feeling-based for my liking. I admire his fervor, but if I had to pick between a "nice guy" and a solidly theologically grounded guy with a miserable attitude, I'd choose the latter any day of the week. We know where goes the road paved with good intentions...

But I digress. The story of Steve was phenomenal, and I commented to my mother during the fourth episode that if all the show had portrayed was the mission of Father Jorge in Guatemala, it would have been a great publicity event for Mother Church. What an awesome witness his priesthood is!

Dan's carrying the cross was beat for me by halfway through the third episode, but the kid has spirit, and I give him that. I didn't feel satisfied with his explanation to the Protestant he met on the way of why he was carrying the cross. But I won't make cheap shots about his spiritual director's intentions, as other critics on St. Blog's have seen fit to do. Dan's encounter with the Fundamentalist was embarrassingly painful to watch, and I pray at least that he was humbled by it. I would have liked to see and learn more about his reaction, but I give him the benefit of the doubt that he will grow by the experience. A lot of commenters that I read today said that we should "give him a break" because who of us wuold have been able to engage such a discussion at the age of 21. Well... at the risk of sounding arrogant, I could. And my hope is that most of us could, although I know enough of the state of Catholic catechesis to fear otherwise. But Dan lives in a house with other Catholic guys who center their whole lives around their faith. And they were handing out pamphlets for a BIBLE STUDY when they met the fundamentalist, to begin with. Well, from the conversation, neither of the Catholic boys seemed well-studied in the Bible. So, what gives? Luckily, this seems to be Dan's biggest shortcoming: that he doesn't know quite enough about what he obviously loves in Christ and the Church. And that problem is a great problem to work out in a seminary, so I hope he makes his way into one some day.

As for Joe... my mind is quick to run down the road of speculation with this fellow, I must say. In a partial interview on last night's shows, he said that an emotional encounter with a Catholic laywoman made he realize that "People put priests on a pedestal. This shows a lot of respect for the Church. And that's appealing to me." The editors later cut out the second sentence, making it sound like what really appealed to him was being put on a pedestal. But, certain other comments and actions make me wonder if the editors didn't capture the spirit of his vocational pursuits with their little hack-job.

However, that having been said... so what? This might sound strange. But a lot of people on the net are talking about how Joe seems to be into this pursuit for himself. That his issues with celibacy are very "me-centered," that he seems to be seeking his happiness above all things. I think that might be a fair assessment. And my question still stands: so what? Can a seminary not form such a man in the virtues of sacrifice and humility to be a wonderful priest? Is seeking personal fulfillment not very often a way that God calls people to his service? Didn't Saint Augustine's heart, too, come to God due to restlessness felt elsewhere?

I've read all the comments about Joe, and have the some musings as to his character, his motives, and yes, maybe even his sexual security. But I'm not going to be more Catholic than the Pope in setting standards for seminary candidates. Jesus chose twelve of the least likely guys to carry the torch in the first leg of the race: why should we be so much pickier? I don't mean we shouldn't demand great quality from the men entering the priesthood. But let's not look for perfect products entering the seminary. Formation is the whole purpose of seminary anyway.

And... Joe studied with the Jesuits, so cut him some slack.

DANGER: SPOILERS (conclusion below - scroll past red text)

And Mike... made the right choice. Hah. Based on the comments made on-screen, and nothing else, I can say that his spiritual director doesn't have the best perspective. But I'm sure the momentousness of the decision was a bit imposed by the format of the show. I highly doubt that Mike, in choosing a teaching job right now, really thought he was saying no to the priesthood forever. At least, I hope he didn't feel that way. God leads along crooked paths. For right now, based on what we were able to see, I think Mike made the right choice.

Now scroll down for my conclusion...


In conclusion: I like the show. I'm psyched about the finale. I hope all three remaning guys make it into a program somewhere. I hope a lot of people tune in and are touched by this program, esp. the portrayal of Catholic missionary work in the life of a priest. Sure, it has it's shortcomings. But it's worth praying for, and all in all can be a valuable weapon in engaging the culture war.

"New" Math

Gerald at Closed Cafeteria posts a great commentary on the evolution of Math in schools during the last few decades. Check it out. Good for a laugh. And keenly insightful...

Monday, April 17, 2006

God or the Girl - Episodes 1 & 2

Here's my take on the first two hours of the A&E show that is causing a bit of a buzz around Saint Blog's this morning.

- Title - So much has been said about this that I feel I'm beating a dead horse. So I'll be brief. It's a bad title. Most Catholics recognize this. But I don't think we Catholics realize that some non-Catholics might only hear of this show, and never actually watch it (in which case, I think, the confusion of the title would be cleared up). For these people, the title represents a dangerous catechetical mischaracterization. After all, the choice for a man discerning married life is certainly not "The Girl... or GOD?!" All told, though, the bad title is a minor flaw, and probably designed to spark the bit of controversy that seems necessary these days to draw a crowd. As I said, from the first two episodes, the show itself seems to clear up the false dichotomy implied.

- Premise - The premise is one of the show's weaknesses. People are already speculating about the relevance of Dan's carrying the cross and Mike's dating situation to a discernment process: I've read comments on other websites that suggest Dan's "stunt" is for show, and that Mike isn't "really discerning" if he's still dating. I think this confusion stems from the faulty premise. The decision these guys are making is not really to be priests: it's to enter a seminary. Now, of course, implicit is the sense of calling to the priesthood. But, there's no need to be 100% sure before making the step into a formation and discernment program. Pre-seminary discernment is about personal human development and spiritual growth: to these two matters, Dan's carrying a cross at the suggestion of a spritual director and Mike's dating at the suggestiong of his horomones/feelings are perfectly relevent. Just something to keep in mind...

- Format - A little cheesy. Par for the course of "reality TV." Of course, Catholic programming tends to be cheesier than most, so this is actually an improvement from the norm in a sense.

- Editing Over at Amy Welborn's there's quite a discussion taking place about the show. The comment boxes reveal homophobia run rampant and hasty judgements on nearly every front, though a few level-headed people have sounded off. What's amusing to me is that people are falling into the number one trap of "reality TV" - thinking it's reality. The fact is, we're seeing a chewed up and digested, edited copy of the real proceedings. Speculations about whether Mike's priest is presumptuous or "out to get him" are absurd. They're a stretch from what we have seen; and, given that A&E owns the cutting room, we can probably infer that what we haven't seen would provide substantial balance. This priest has known this Mike guy his entire life. We've seen less than an hour of his life. How can we judge the priest as being presumptuous, who has been advising this kid through the confessional screen for so many years? My point: there has been substantial editing, and while we might not need to take that into account to judge the show, me must take it into account before making assumptions about the guys that the show is portraying. There's a whole lot happening behind the scenes. It's a shame that so many people are already trying to ascribe alterior motives to these four guys.

- The Guys -
Joe The oldest of the four, he seems to have the most growing up to do. Now, I hope I don't seem to be making the same error as I have accused others of commiting in my above comment. But, hell, what girl would not be irritated if you were visiting her halfway accross the globe and didn't contact her until your third day in her country? And, as we know from the show, Joe is a former seminarian. And as a current seminarian, I can testify that some formation programs don't provide the best "human" formation possible. Perhaps he has fallen victim to such a program. I think he's sincere, though, and having seen situations where guys face objections and pressures from family, I can sympathize with his plight.

Dan This kid seems pretty cool. I know guys just like him. He seems really genuine and earnest, if a little bit naive. I think his spiritual director and housemates are great thumbnail images of the youth of the Church. I hope he makes it.

Steve Between Arlington and Lincoln dioceses, I don't know how this guy will manage to slip through the cracks. I have to admit, I enjoyed most in last night's show the part where he had a bit of a flop at his fundraising event. Humility is sometimes embarrassing just to watch in action. But seeing him handle it, for me, was the most "human" part of the whole show.

Mike I think many seminarians would benefit from watching this guy's story. Many guys have never quite had the experience that he is enduring, and it is a good opportunity for reflection and consideration. He seems like a decent character himself, and I don't read anything into his spiritual director's advice apart from a genuine, pastoral care. I would like to give the priest the benefit of the doubt, that his insistance is founded upon a knowledge of Mike's character and call to which viewers may not be privy.

My final assessment is that this show is a good thing for the Church, esp. right now with the DaVinci Code about to storm the nation again. The good that will come from it, united with our prayer, will far outweigh any negative publicity or misconceptions that it causes (that is, if the first two episodes are anything to go by). As it unfolds, you'll hear more from me. That's it for now.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Blogroll updates...

... in progress.

Clearing Out the Old Yeast

At Passover time, many traditional Jews celebrate not only with a seder meal of unleavened bread, but also by clearing from their homes any item used in leavening. Sodas, baking powders, yeasts: all these materials are cleared from the kitchen. In a practical sense, the tradition is an effective way of spring cleaning. Fresh products are then obtained after Passover, and in this way the pantry is "refreshed" and "renewed" - an apt symbol for Israel's deliverance into a promised land of milk and honey, fed along the way with the bread of angels.

This symbolism is chosen by Paul in his exhortation to the Corinthians, one of the options for this morning's second reading:
Clear out the old yeast,
so that you may become a fresh batch of dough,
inasmuch as you are unleavened.
For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.

Therefore, let us celebrate the feast,
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
1 Corinthians 5
The spiritual benefit of our Lenten practice of self-denial is highlighted by this analogy. We have, in a sense, cleared out the pantry of our hearts to make room for the heavenly food of Christ's sacrifice. Our worldly desires and delights are like leavened bread: full of airy gaps which, consumed along with the substance, give merely an illusion of real satisfaction. The fullness is of air, and in a single hiccup dissipated.

By fasting, we see the ethereal and spurious quality of earthly goods. Those who gave up sweets might find the sugar of Easter candy painful to their teeth; the first sips of caffien might cause a bit of a headache. This is a keen irony. As it turns out, our body, all our life, has hungered for food of real substance and true sustinence. Somehow, we have mistakenly thought artificially leavened and sweetened things our natural desires, while imagining healthy and wholesome foods an "acquired taste." In fact, the opposite is true. It is in bondage and slavery to wordly wants and sin that we have been trained to hunger for the flesh-pots and onions of Egypt. It is a fluke of our fallen nature that we need to discipline ourselves in order to appreciate the sublime food given to us by God.

As with our diet, so with our actions. In this sense, we are truly what we eat. It might seem difficult to be kind to the annoying office-mate instead of simply avoding him or her; to spend extra time in prayer instead of watching our favorite shows; to give money to charity rather than spend it accross the poker table. Yet, these former activities, which we may have called for the past forty days "disciplines," are far more natural to us than the alternatives. The satisfaction we might get from telling off our coworkers or numbing our minds for an hour in front of the television is an illusory sort, inflated by the old yeast which Paul tells us to cast out. This is also why we find it easier to overindulge in such things. Only afterwards, when everything settles, do we feel the discomfort of our gaseous intake.

Easter is a time to celebrate. But hopefully we have learned from our Lenten fast that there are better and worse things on which to feast. The bread of sincerity and truth has corollaries in what we eat, drink, say, and do. As we have kept our fast, so let us keep our feast; as we have felt true hunger, let us now seek true nourishment. Open your mouth, says the Lord, and I will fill it. The food He gives is true and good. The pantry is clean. With what shall we replenish it?

Good Advice

... was given to Sister Joan Chittister this morning on NBC's Meet the Press, by Father Richard John Neuhaus. (For those keeping score, she's one of the bad guys, he's one of the good guys.)

The advice? I quote: "Consult your catechism!"

Good advice, considering she'd just encouraged "open-mindedness" about the "answers" to the abortion "question."

I'll have more to say about this crazy religious roundtable later on, esp. after I'm able to consult a transcript just to make sure I wasn't hallucinating.

And for those of you who care, some reflections on this glorious transition of season will be forthcoming. For the time being, though, I'll be enjoying the holiday with family and friends.

God bless and happy Easter!

Christus resurrexit! Alleluia!

Disclaimer: It is, of course, with tongue in cheek that I above applied the labels "bad guy" and "good guy" to a dissenting and an orthodox theologian respectively. I'll have more to say about this notion of equivalence, too, in my later post...