Friday, July 04, 2008

The Long and Winding Road

It's been a while. I don't mean since I've posted; although, that also. But I mean, rather, it's been a while that I've been around here, doing this thing.

A while back I posted a sort of mission statement - or, restatement. It was meant to breathe life into this affair. But it was not to be.

Truth is, my heart was not in it. It has not been in it for some time. I set out here, some time ago, to sound my ideas into the space of cybercommunications and see who was listening, and who might have something to say in return. It's been an enjoyable jaunt. I've been informed. Occasionally, I've been corrected. Once, maybe even reprimanded.

Now, I'm moving on.

Those who know me well will sometimes accuse me of an "artistic" temperament or disposition. I don't know about that. Perhaps I'll concede somewhat, but I refuse to have this current change misconstrued as some sort of self-reinvention a la Prince, or even Picasso. Besides, I'm no Picasso. And I'm certainly no prince.

I'm setting out in a new direction. Whence or wherefore exactly, well... it's hard to describe. At midnight tonight, in another little corner of the web, some unlucky passersby will find out just how hard it is to describe. But I'll try nevertheless.

So, this is the end. As of midnight tonight, Veritatis Visio will be archives only. It's closing down. (I just have to figure out exactly how to do that.)

I thank my readership over the years. At one time, there really were a substantial few. I wonder how many still swing by, wondering whether I'm up to anything.

I hope you'll join me at my new place. It's a bit edgier. As the title suggests, it's not the same overt optimism with which I first forayed into this field. The mission is changed, although an essential part remains the same: I'm determined to grow deeper in the knowledge of God's truth, assist others in doing the same, and continue down the paths of spiritual and intellectual growth along which I know God to be leading me.

I've been truly blessed. I was raised by awesome parents who encouraged me to think and to imagine. I attended good, Catholic schools. I have been called to study as a Seminarian with an awesome house of formation and faculty to help me along my path. I live in a somewhat leisured society where I can spend time writing and reading in print and in cyberspace, and it is harder to let a day go by without growing in knowledge than to squander such opportunity.

We are blessed. We live in an age of great import. The more I think and pray about it, the more convinced I become that ours is a crucial time for our society, for the Church. The basic institutions of man - his very nature, being a social creature - are being challenged from all fronts and the Catholic Church is increasingly returning to the fore as the defender of right and reason.

Deep in my soul, I've felt a burning desire to be part of that defense. Deep in my mind, I've perceived the shadows of an oncoming storm. As Chesterton allegedly said before he died: "The issue is quite clear now. It is between light and darkness and every one must choose his side."

I'm choosing my side. The rain is coming. But I hope to weather the storm. I hope you'll help me.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Breviary Brief

It's that liturgically confusing time of year again. This year, I decided to get ahead of things little bit and make sure I was on the same page (pun intended) as Rome regarding the plan of the Hours in the Breviary surrounding the Epiphany.

If you're wondering what the heck I'm talking about, then go here and read my stream-of-consciousness narrative from last year when I worked through this problem ad nauseam. For some reason, though, it didn't occur to me last year that this problem would pertain annually to the liturgical celebrations of this season.

Sure enough, the Ordo for this year (which I have no copy of yet, but had a friend look up for me), contains the same note about the adjustment of the days following January 1. I'm permanently fixing my breviary to match the Latin one (and you can too!) by crossing out "Monday from January 1 to Epiphany" and writing "January 2." For "Tuesday &c.," the change is to "January 3"... and so on.

Trust me - it's not a sin to write in your breviary. And you'll have the sure confidence of praying what is put forth to be prayed by Mother Church.

Well, there's your public service announcement. Now back into obscurity. I may yet blog again before the end of break... we'll see.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Loss of Innocence

I don't remember what content filled my coloring-books as a child, but I'm pretty sure it was bunnies and stuff. Whatever the case, it didn't seem to be matter too formative or instructional to begin with: and it certainly wasn't about seedy scandal. The depth to which the child sexual abuse scandal has injured the Body of Christ can be seen in the fact that, in legally coping with the issues it has caused, hands have been tied on all sides by matters of accountability, and the resulting obsession with "safe environments" now threatens to steal any matter of blissful innocence and ignorance from our children forever. Since it is legally unfeasible to say nothing at all, when priests have illegitimately stolen children's innocence in the past, the Church must now corrupt that innocence in the name of "education": to wit, this new initiative from the Archdiocese of New York.

What a sad day. And Cardinal Dulles' warnings from the Dallas Conference come back to mind with haunting prophetic implications: for now, priests are not only robbed of the presumption of innocence in legal process and the media, but in the means with which we educate our children...


Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Road to Meribah

[Joe's left brain: "Meribah" (at least maybe) refers to the place in the desert near Kadesh where the Israelites complain of being led to die of thirst and Moses, showing the same impatience - and in violation of the Lord's command - strikes the rock twice to obtain from it the miraculous water. My use of it here is simply because that's what I wrote in my journal, where I had no regard for the scholarly debate over the conflation of Meribas and Massas.]

It is a practice of mine to review the past year's entries in my spiritual journal at the beginning of a new liturgical year. As I was engaged in this activity today, I came across a passage where I was frustrated about daftness. The title (yes, I entitle journal entries...) which I gave the section was "All Roads Lead to Meribah."

I was complaining that we take too much for granted that every moment of every day, and every human interaction which graces each day, are instances in which the Lord communicates to us. If we truly "walk in the ways of the Lord," our path will be seen to be strewn everywhere with landmarks reminding us of our destination and our destiny. Christ, the true Way, shines in those whom we meet and those whose words we hear. Inasmuch as we fail to appreciate this, though, we are on the path to Meribah. We are on our way to hard-heartedness, and stubborn refusal to hear and respond to God’s word.

"Would you but listen to his voice to-day!" Other versions translate Psalm 95:8 in various other ways. This is from Knox’s rendering. All the other versions I remember are some semblance to this, showing preference either to the subjunctive or to the imperative sense. I like the way Knox’s translation combines both; and, insofar as I have no knowledge of Hebrew, I’m content to trust the Servant of God’s rendering as authentic.

As we begin the season of Advent, this text from the primary form of the Liturgy's "invitiatory," with which countless faithful begin each day, is a good theme I think. To stay awake, to watch for the Lord’s coming: this is to remain authentic, to remain attentive to the voice of the Lord speaking through the other people whom we encounter in our daily lives. To take the road to Bethlehem means to turn our backs on Meribah (though, strictly, I know this is only geographically true about 25% of the time – bear with me here). To watch for the coming of the Lord into our daily lives implies humility and a surrender of our preferences for how we would like to meet him. The lowliness of the manger at Bethlehem may be a scandal to our expectations of the glory of the One who is to come – so may His using as a mouthpiece our inadequate and imperfect fellow-travelers along the road. Yet, He does not disdain to speak thus: he has exalted the lowly and raised the humble from their ignominy.

As we go through Advent, we must remember that we are not merely looking forward to an encounter with Emmanuel – God with us. He has come. He is in our midst. Part of the spirit of Advent is the recognition of this immanence. Part of the virtue of hope, which we develop through our reflection on this season, is to appreciate the real presence among us of that to which we look forward for fulfillment.

This is also the theme of Pope Benedict’s new encyclical letter on Hope. "Faith draws the future into the present, so that it is no longer simply a 'not yet'. The fact that this future exists changes the present; the present is touched by the future reality, and thus the things of the future spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those of the future" (Spe salvi, 7). Today, we will hear the voice of the Lord. It is a manifestation of faith in hope to encounter that voice with an unhardened heart. If we truly look forward to the fulfillment of Christ’s promise at Christmas, then we cannot fail to discern each day His Divine Word in the multifarious words which fall upon our (too often deaf) ears. To have a destination is to be firmly set upon a way and attentive to each step of the journey; otherwise, we may grow lax and wander and wake to find ourselves walking blindly and deafly into Meribah.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Trying To Say Something

It was a cold, long winter that year. It felt colder still to me, having recently returned home from an undesired holiday excursion to the southwestern part of the continent of Asia. The previous year had been a busy one. I had spent a large part of it abroad - if Texas may be considered "abroad." Anyhow, it ought to be: for what impressed me most about Texas was it's breadth. The sky there was huge. My favorite moments had been in the early mornings, before marching (literally) to class. I would arrive some time early out in the parking lot where we formed our Squadron, lie down on a curb with my bag as a pillow and just look at the early morning stars. Before sun-up, the stars were much brighter; I'd even see one or two "shooting" stars every so often. At that early hour approaching dawn, the line of the horizon was clear and crisp, with the corresponding effect being that the sky appeared very much broader than I had ever noticed in the more mountainous terrain of the Northeast. The saying goes that "everything's bigger in Texas." Well, I don't know about every thing; but the sky certainly seemed bigger. Anyway, it was under those stars, I think, that my heart first began really to grapple with the idea that God was calling me to the priesthood.

Now, in the cold of March, all that seemed distant past history. I had returned from Texas and entered college. I had subsequently dropped abruptly out of college. Leaping at the desire to cope with previously made commitments in light of my new soul-felt urgings, I put in some active duty service time, and even spent a little stint overseas. And now I was in full application to the seminary.

All sorts of disparate pieces seemed to be falling together into place. Crooked and erratic lines along unlikely paths seemed to have met their mark after all, and a convergence was showing itself before my mind with an unlooked for clarity. But the clarity was like the light of those March mornings: bright and cold. The earth appeared to be waking from its winter's slumber all around as the days grew longer and the nights began to lose their sway. But the temptation inhale very deeply in expectation of an early spring fragrance would be cruelly disappointed by the biting cold of winter, which still hung on the air. The sun had brought light to scatter the darkness, but not yet enough warmth as to cheer men's hearts.

Setting out on my new course brought an overwhelming sense of peace, and not nearly as much anxiety as I might have anticipated. The routine of my daily life struggled on continuously. There were long work days and visits to friends in college. I was reading Augustine's Confessions and picking through old Dostoyevsky novels.

I remember almost everything about that time with startling clarity and precision. But I can't remember starting this blog.

I remember reading a friend's weblog and thinking it would be fun. I recall picking the title Veritatis Visio from a line of a prayer by Saint Thomas Aquinas that I liked particularly. I remember thinking it terribly unlikely that anyone would much care what I had to say. And I know that it was around March 2003 that I started blogging really in earnest (for the first time).

But why? I can remember the interior motives and dispositions attached with nearly every development that my life took at that time. be they significant or mundane. But I can't recall what inspired me to start emptying my mind onto a public webpage on a regular basis. Really, it's a rash thing to do, now that I consider it. Once you "publish" across this medium, there's a very real sense of commitment and inexorability.

Now, I know what you (if there are any of "you" left who check this page with any regularity after my long hiatus) are thinking: this is a swan song. He's retiring.

Honestly, I've thought about it. I don't think it would be any great disservice to anyone. And like I said, I can't remember what firm purpose I had for this page to begin with. "To gain a vision of truth," surely; but I'm in my fifth year of the Seminary and have plenty with which to occupy my time pursuant of that same goal. However, no, this is not my swan song. It is a reexamination of purpose; an apologia for this blog's existence; and, tangentially, an apology also for its occasional long periods of silence.

Perhaps my purpose at first was unclear. But I think I know now what it was I was trying to do. I was trying to say something. "Come, let us reason together" (Is. 1:18). Actually, the Lord invites us to accuse him, to argue or refute him, if we can. Back in the early days of my discernment, there was a lot unsettled in my mind and heart. And the world's common response to what it unsettled unsettled me even further. That response is fideism. "Have trust, and everything will be OK," said the sages of the world. Trust science, or the market, or the President, or the UN, or genetics, or the human spirit - some of them even had the dim enough wits to tell me to trust myself! And against all of this I railed. Yes, even against trust in God I railed. And so I blogged.

I always felt the urge to "figure things out." Sometimes this has been to a fault; sometimes my trust in God had not settled me when it should have done, and I have fallen into somewhat rationalist tendencies. But at its heart, this urge is a wholesome one. I saw so many providential lines converging in my own life and recognized a profound ordering in the way that God had arranged my life, my vocation, and even the world around me. And I know behind all of these mysterious shapes and signs was a puzzle, cleverly designed: not a puzzle that could be ultimately "solved" and this "dissolved", but a puzzle nevertheless that could (as any puzzle) be figured out. And the wonderful part was that in each figuring out of one component, the searcher after truth stumbled onto ten more facets of more intricate design to test his mind against. That was my quest. The fideists of the world and of the cultures I had encountered (political, religious, ethnic) for either brief or extended times had all reacted against this tendency of mine, and I knew that somehow I had to carry it with me into my vocational discernment. So here I am, obeying the Lord's invitation to Isaiah, with the spirit of Jacob, arguing and wrestling and throwing ideas out to be controverted or ridiculed or celebrated or dismissed. All I ask as I continue is that no one ever "take my word for it."

Yes, all along, I've been trying to say something. And hopefully it doesn't confuse the matter to observe that I don't know what that thing is which I have been trying to say. In fact, the very reason I think I have stumbled into this hobby is because it afford me an opportunity - at my own leisure - to work out what it is that I might be trying to say. Hence, the sporadic timing of my posting when my mind is being otherwise bent and bounced by academic strains. Hence, the vicissitudes of topic matter and thought processes and opinions which I have shared on this page these few years.

It's hard to say something, nowadays. I read a lot because the men and women who I read all have tried saying something. Sometimes, those who said a lot were really only saying one thing; those who said little were actually saying many things; those who said the most - sometimes - turn out to have been saying nothing. But they all tried to say something. And I think it is an essential truth about humanity that they all had something to say. Those who said nothing simply failed to say what it was they had to say. That's what my "vision of the truth" is all about, I suppose. It's about glimpsing the truth that I think I have to share (since I think we all have something to share) and in the process learning a lot through failed essays and attempts (pun intended).

Thanks to whatever readers I still have for your patience. With your permission, I'm going to keep at this. I feel certain that I have something to say. I won't promise that I'll end up saying anything. But I'm going to keep on trying.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Latin Antiphons and Closing Prayer for the Twenty-First Sunday of the Year (Cycle C)

Ad I Vesperas - Ad Magnificat, ant.

Contendite intrare per angustam portam, quia multi, dico vobis, quaerent intrare et non poterunt.

Ad Laudes matutinas - Ad Benedictus, ant.

Multi ab oriente et occidente venient et recumbent cum Abraham et Isaac et Iacob in regno caelorum.

Ad II Vesperas - Ad Magnificat, ant.

Ecce sunt novissimi, qui erunt primi, et sunt primi, qui erunt novissimi, dicit Dominus.


Deus, qui fidelium mentes unius efficis voluntatis, da populis tuis id amare quod praecipis, id desiderare quod promittis, ut, inter mundanas varietates, ibi nostra fixa sint corda, ubi vera sunt gaudia. Per Dominum...

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ite ad Ioseph

"Ite ad Ioseph et, quidquid vobis dixerit, facite." (Genesis 41:55)

I took for my patron and lord the glorious St. Joseph, and recommended myself earnestly to him.... I cannot call to mind that I have ever asked him at any time for anything which he has not granted; and I am filled with amazement when I consider the great favours which God hath given me through this blessed Saint; the dangers from which he hath delivered me, both of body and of soul. To other Saints, our Lord seems to have given grace to succour men in some special necessity; but to this glorious Saint, I know by experience, to help us in all: and our Lord would have us understand that as He was Himself subject to him upon earth — for St. Joseph having the title of father, and being His guardian, could command Him — so now in heaven He performs all his petitions. I have asked others to recommend themselves to St. Joseph, and they too know this by experience; and there are many who are now of late devout to him, having had experience of this truth.
From The Life of Saint Theresa of Avila, VI
Once upon a time, I gave voice to some personal reflections on why the figure of Joseph is important in my spirituality. These previous posts were somewhat affected with a certain style of rhetoric in order that they not seem too "preachy," since I have no office or mandate to preach about anything. Or, so was my thinking at the time. Two years later, I'm a little more secure in my understanding of my baptismal mandate to spread the Gospel, and even more determined than ever to spread devotion to Saint Joseph. I think that Saint Joseph's patronage is sadly neglected and undersold to those who need it most, and I think that the Church in the modern day would benefit particularly from his example and intercession - it was not for nothing that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council named Joseph the patron of that Holy Synod, the implementation of which is by no means complete.

I'm currently reading a little booklet called Saint Joseph, Fatima and Fatherhood: Reflections on the Miracle of the Sun, by a Msgr. Cirrincione. The booklet draws attention to the figure of Joseph at that momentous apparition which astounded tens of thousands of witnesses. Along with Our Lady of Fatima, there appeared in the sky next to the sun before it did its miraculous dance, the figure of Saint Joseph holding the Child Jesus in his arms. At least one of the visionaries saw Saint Joseph and the Child blessing the world.

Now, being a seminarian, I'll anticipate here a question which could only occur to the mind of a seminarian long used to splitting straws in discussion ad nauseam, to wit: What right or office had Saint Joseph to bless, and is it not superfluous to the blessing of the Great High Priest being given simultaniously?

Now the answer to this is obvious, but the reason I pose the question is that it serves as a starting point for reflection and, I think, helps reveal to us the great role which Joseph plays in intercession for our Church.

To handle the first part of my question: Saint Joseph is a patriarch. In the Old Testament, both priests and patriarchs blessed the people. In fact, the office of blessing and bestowing gifts was more the role of the latter, while the former were primarily intercessors between men and God in sacrifice. This is one of the reasons that a reader is shocked to find Abraham receiving blessing from the mysterious Melchizedek in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis, left only to conclude that great indeed was the priesthood of that fatherless and ageless king.

Of course, the greatest blessing which could be bestowed by a Patriarch is the blessing of inheritance and prosperity, and this is context in which we find sons kneeling at their fathers' feet throughout the Old Testament. This point may be significant in light of the apparition, as I will point out later.

On to the second point of the question: it is important here that in the apparition, we see the Child Jesus in his father's arms. There are many lessons to be gleaned from this particular image, but I think that there is one which explains why both father and Son were giving blessing. Think of normal earthly relationships of fathers and children. Children imitate their fathers' examples; they are obedient to their fathers' demands. I believe that Saint Joseph is blessing the world and commending the act to His Son, who, as Saint Theresa teaches us, responds to Joseph's demands now in Heaven as He did on earth. I believe that one might interpret from the vision that Jesus is blessing the world at his foster-father's behest. (I think, further, that one might say both are responding to the will of Mary, but that is for another discussion.)

There is nothing untoward about this observation. I am not saying that Christ is compelled in any way by the desires either of Joseph or Mary. Christ's will is entirely the will of His Father in Heaven, and that is completely sovereign. Rather, one might say that it is perfectly Christ's own will that He continue to be obedient to his earthly parents: it is part of the mystery of His infinite humbling in the incarnation. And since those two souls are perfected in grace, there is no disparity to be feared.

So, I think that the vision at Fatima implies Joseph's powerful intercessory role as he "instructs" his foster-Son to bless the world. But what is this blessing that Joseph wills? Well, the blessing most fitting to a Patriarch: the blessing of inheritance and prosperity. Here, I think, we discover a rationale for why we must honor Saint Joseph second only to Mary in the communion of saints. We know from our catechism that we are God's adopted sons and daughters by grace of our Baptism. But there is an intimacy to this reality that I think we fail to appreciate: we have truly been adopted into the household of the Holy Family! Our adopted inheritance is as incarnational as the other mysteries of our faith. We are truly members of the earthly family of which Saint Joseph is the head by his auspicious vocation, with Mary as our true earthly mother and Joseph as our patriarch and guide. This is not some ephemeral relationship that must wait for the life beyond: it is as real and legal as the family relationships into which we were born. Hence, I venture to conclude that devotion to Mary and Joseph is not merely a supplemental exercise to our life in faith, but a heavenly mandate. We must honor our father and mother.

This obligation is to our benefit ultimately. The intercessory power of Saint Joseph is, I believe, typified in the story of the Old Testament patriarch Joseph. Joseph of Israel was a steward of the King (Pharaoh) who had the right to bestow the King's graces as he deemed fit. It is significant that the primary distribution of which Joseph was in charge was the allotment of grain during the famine. Further, it is through Joseph's intercession that the family of Israel was welcomed into the King's rhealm and given a land of prosperity. And we must not forget the compelling command which Pharoah gives to his starving subjects: "Go to Joseph; whatsoever he says to you, do."

Surely, Saint Joseph holds sway over the treasure houses of Heaven in like manner to his Old Testament type. In humble service to Jesus through Mary, Saint Joseph has a unique power of governance and protection over the Church which we do well to invoke as often as we approach the altar (this was truly the sentiment of Blessed Pope John XXIII when he added Joseph's name to the Roman Canon, which was then the only Eucharistic Prayer in usage in the Latin Rite).

I would encourage all of my readers to read the final chapters of Genesis with prayerful consideration, and to take to heart the advice of Saint Theresa with which I opened this post. Many are the benefits to be gained from contemplating our place as adopted members of the Holy Family. How ought we to act, if we have truly been raised in that household? And to whom should we run in time of need, fear, excitement, or joy? It is often said that an essential Catholic motto is, "You can choose your friends: but you're stuck with your family." Indeed. Deo gratias!

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph: bless and assist us.

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Latin Antiphons and Closing Prayer for the Twentieth Sunday of the Year (Cycle C)

Ad I Vesperas - Ad Magnificat, ant.

Ignem veni mittere in terram, et quid volo nisi ut accendatur?

Ad Laudes matutinas - Ad Benedictus, ant.

Baptismo habeo baptizari, et quomodo coarctor usque dum perficiatur!

Ad II Vesperas - Ad Magnificat, ant.

Putatis quia pacem veni dare in terram? Non, dico vobis, sed separationem.


Deus, qui diligentibus te bona invisibilia praeparasti, infunde cordibus nostris tui amoris affectum, ut, te in omnibus et super omnia diligentes, promissiones tuas, quae omne desiderium superant, consequamur. Per Dominum...

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