Apr 302015
 

Sometime I am reading a book and so enjoy the story that a sense of wonder comes over me. This can cause me to step back from the story itself and admire the skill of the author. How the world and characters created have developed a life of their own that you can become caught up in. There is wonder at the creative imagination that can pull this off. Despite the meta-nature of such analysis while reading a story it does cause you to depart from the story. Just come to appreciate it more at a deeper level. There is a sense of gratitudes for the skills of the author.

The last time I was caught up in such a feeling I stepped back further in my mind and reflected on a related subject. Why is it that I am so seldom caught up in the same sense of wonder regarding creation and grateful for all God has given us? Talk about world-building, God pretty much nailed that. Universe-building, creation-building, if you see something he made it. Contractors complain about substandard building materials and yet God used nothing to create everything.

I have been trying to develop a sense of wonder and gratitude towards God and his creation. Too much of my life has been like the man who walks into an art gallery admiring all the paintings and walks right past the artist who painted them, not even seeing him. Admiring creation, but not the creator. You can’t really artificially create this wonder and gratitude. You have to actually notice the world around you and contemplate the reality. To stop and smell the roses and notice the scent, the actuality of roses, the ground they are planted in, the medium of the air, the light we can see them by, and so on and so forth.

Whenever I read G.K. Chesterton I observe the sense of wonder and gratitude that I desire to emulate. That I see this truth I strive for lived out and expressed.

“When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?”

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace bef>ore the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

So I admire this in a intellectual sense. Actually living this sense out is another matter. Intellectualizing and not living out my faith is a constant struggle. Still I am thankful for the grace to see my many flaws and can have gratitudes towards even that.

Apr 292015
 

As a convert to the faith I have become quite interested in the history of the Church during the whole lifetime of the Church. Pretty much every age of the Church is quite fascinating. The ups ands downs, the saints and sinners, all the ecclesiastical conflicts. These tensions in Church history are chronicled from the New Testament on.

After reading a new book I reflected on the fact that one aspect of Church history I have read a good deal on is primarily the last fifty years and the aftermath of Vatican II. Or more particularly the Spirit of Vatican II aftermath synergistic combined with cultural upheavals. This period really intrigues me as I try to understand the culture of dissent that has risen. I also noticed that the number of books regarding this period were mostly about the Church in America.

Having this interest I was happy to receive a copy of The Coup at Catholic University: The 1968 Revolution in American Catholic Education by Father Peter Mitchell published by Ignatius Press. I was somewhat aware of Fr. Charles Curran, professor of Theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, and the controversy that rose up around him. This was an important event and was a sign of things to come. A case that became an unfortunate model at other Catholic universities to emulate.

This is a very well researched book and goes into great detail of what happened when first Fr. Curran’s contract was not renewed by the Board of Trustees of CUA (all bishops). What happened next was a revolt by the faculty in Fr. Curran’s favor and the Board of Trustees reversing themselves. There are plenty of sources used in this book which includes personal papers of those involved, published documents, Fr. Curran’s autobiography. The author of the book also personally interviewed Fr. Curran.

What engaged me in this book was the wealth of detailed information delivered in a non-polemical fashion. Certainly the title of this book let’s you know how the author thinks about this history, but still this is presented rather straight-forward. Although like most history regarding dissent it is as frustrating as reading the daily paper. As this is still rather recent historically you wonder about how things could have been handled differently.

The bishops involved acted correctly in their concern regarding Fr. Curran’s orthodoxy. Yet as usual instead of addressing the problem more head-on, tried to side-step it in a rather ham-fisted way. Instead of actually addressing the theological concerns they attempted to just not renew his contract and have the whole problem go away. Very Pollyannish considering that the theology faculty had approved his remaining and that he should be promoted. Obviously there were deeper problems going on with the faculty. This really emboldened dissent regarding contraception after the release of Humanae Vitae.

What I found interesting was the template developed that we see so often now. The media-savvy dissident theologian who knows how to garner support and to get the mainstream media involved. To present themselves as rather humble and the only reason they got the media involved was to right an injustice and that the action was for others, not about them at all. That the hierarchy was totally out of touch with theological concerns of society and thus were holding the poor theologian down and preventing their growth. Women theologians have taken the page out of Curran’s dissenting cookbook and added to it by blaming everything on the maleness of the hierarchy. Basically all reciting the line from Monty Python’s “Holy Grain” – ‘Help! Help! I’m Being Suppressed!’”

Of course the banner Academic freedom was flown every which way by those involved. Phrases like Academic freedom are what I would call bunker phrases. They aren’t meant for any serious intellectual engagement, but are something to hide behind. Anybody could come up with examples of proper limits for Academic freedom and edge cases where it would not aptly apply. Still bunker phrases are meant to be invoked like magical spells freezing their opponent from being able to say something back. You can’t mean you really are against Academic freedom and research into science?

One thing I am reminded off when reading about the state of Catholic education is the Israelites desire to have a king like the other nations around them. It was not enough that in a special sense God was their King. They were warned about the consequences of having a king and the problems they bring. No mostly they were upset that they didn’t have the same form of government as the nations around them. They wanted to be like everybody else. So faculty in Catholic universities also looked around and saw what they perceived as greater liberty in other institutions. As Israel cast of the Judges, these faculties cast off the Magisterium. Embracing an understanding of the Church that reduced it to any teaching authority. Dissidents did not really believe in a parallel magisterium, but that they were the magisterium.

I think of Hillary Clinton’s “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism”, until of course the dissenters are in power. The same is true in this case if you attempt to dissent from a dissenter. This book provides one case where this was especially true and all the talk of Academic freedom and conscience meant nothing in their treatment of a priest faithful to the Church.

If you are interested, as I am, in books of this type than this is well-worth your attention. This book is very well written and the appendixes include many of the documents sourced.

Apr 282015
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 11 April 2015 to 28 April 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Letters

Regina Caeli

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “In the Sacraments we discover the strength to think and to act according to the Gospel.” @Pontifex 23 April 2015
  • “We Christians are called to go out of ourselves to bring the mercy and tenderness of God to all.” @Pontifex 25 April 2015
  • “Every Christian community must be a welcoming home for those searching for God,for those searching for a brother or sister to listen to them” @Pontifex 28 April 2015
Apr 272015
 

I have been going through the whole Doctor Who series. I am a bit of completionist and so this was an appealing idea for me. Although considering how many of th early episodes for the first two doctors were lost it is rather frustrating.

Like many Americans my first real introduction to Doctor Who was the fourth doctor Tom Baker via PBS. Although in my case I was aware of Doctor Who much earlier. My father was one of the hosts on a weekly show called Sinister Cinema for the local ABC channel in Portland. Each Saturday Night they would play two movies of the horror, SF, or fantasy genre. I ended up doing some research for the show finding trivia and other information regarding the two movies that they could refer to during the show. A rather ideal job for me since I loved these genres and spending time in the library doing research was a bonus. So when Doctor Who and the Daleks was scheduled to be on I had my first look at this series. Unfortunately the movie with Peter Cushing as Doctor Who was not very good at all. Yet I did learn about the series that was such a phenomenon in Britain, but virtually unknown in the United States.

So Tom Baker’s Doctor Who is what I grew to associate with the series and came to greatly enjoy it. So now in my viewing I have watched the first 11 seasons and am finally arrived at the shows for the 4th Doctor. For the most part I have been getting the DVDs from Netflix, although they have some episodes for streaming. It is also not hard to find the same episodes at places like dailymotion.com.

Still looking back at these old shows has been a lot of fun. There was a lot I came to like about the first Doctor William Hartnell. Especially after he had grown into the part. The first episodes were rather rough, but you could tell when he really started to have fun with the part. I also liked the mix of characters. Usually with Doctor Who you have just the Doctor and the “companion”, the young women that accompanies the adventures. Occasionaly another male character would enter into the mix. With the first Doctor you had the “companion” along with another women and man. I thought this worked quite well as you had a steady core of characters that would interact and provide dramatic tension. Considering that the first Doctor was much older than subsequent Doctors, this larger group worked well for the stories. This allowed travel to different planets while having a core group of people. While you expect Doctor Who to be quite campy, the fight scenes involving William Russell who played the young man in the group were quite awful and clumsy. Still the stories were mostly good and there was lots of creativity involving costumes.

The second Doctor, Patrick Troughton was quite fun. But since so many episodes involving him were lost I did not really see him in the full context of the series. The transition from the 1st to 2nd Doctor via regeneration is lost including the first use of the sonic screwdriver. Still you could see from the episodes that survived is that he had lots of fun with the part. So it was nice to see him again in the episodes for “The Three Doctors” where the first three Doctors all appear and Troughton is especially involved. The number of traveling companions is now reduced, but to make up for more continuity of characters we now have UNIT headed by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and other recurring characters as part of UNIT.

The episodes for the third Doctor Jon Pertwee have been preserved and so it was nice to see full seasons involving him and to finally have the regeneration scene along with the transition involved. A quite enjoyable Doctor who made being a bit of a dandy work. His final series of episodes under the title of “Planet of the Spiders” was an excellent send off for him. I just totally enjoyed it and even though the spiders were as fake as can be, there was still something frightening about how they did the effects. Really they were portrayed as Daleks with eight legs since they had similar arrogance and tone in how they spoke. I suspect there was a rather purposeful homage to James Bond since the Doctor’s vehicles and chase scenes were quite reminiscent. In fact in the episode after this with Tom Baker they refer to James Bond. Pertree seems to have also introduced a Doctor much more capable at fighting.

So last night I watched the episodes for “Robot” which introduces Tom Baker as the forth Doctor. So I was happy to find that I was still delighted with his performance as the Doctor and can remember why I had previously so enjoyed his portrayal. There was a lot I liked in each of the preceding Doctors, but there was a wacky enthusiasm to his performance that was just perfect.

Watching him this time around he instantly reminded me of Harpo Marx in his looks and facials gestures. He even did a pocket prop gag like Harpo. A quick Google searched confirmed that a lot of people see this likeness. He has a different form of clownishness than Patrick Troughton. I always liked the sort of self-awareness of the campy style of the show by the actors in the show.

So who is my favorite Doctor Who? Well I kind of like them all, but certainly Tom Baker brings back fond memories. I have also seen the rebooted Doctor Who series when they started back up with the 9th Doctor. Although during the first year of Matt Smith as Doctor Who my DVR rebelled against me and decided not to record any new episodes on BBC America. So I guess I will get back to these shows after I watched all the old episodes and there are still a lot of older episodes to go.

Apr 232015
 

In conservative political circles there is a game called “Name that party”. This is a joke regarding whenever there is some corruption in the Democrat Party the news article will either not mention the party of the individual or mention it at the end of the article.

I propose another game called “Name that religion”. This can be especially invoked whenever the President is forced to mention the latest execution of people by Mohammedans. In these cases those who are targeted for murder because of their faith get transformed into just “Egyptian citizens” or a shooting becomes “random”. That 21 Coptic Christians were killed in the first example and the random event was against Jews at at deli in Paris.

Unfortunately you can multiple the number of examples of this where the President just can’t seem to mention the underlying reason for these murders.

Although at least after the execution of 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya recently, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said:

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the brutal mass murder purportedly of Ethiopian Christians by ISIL-affiliated terrorists in Libya,”

“That these terrorists killed these men solely because of their faith lays bare the terrorists’ vicious, senseless brutality,”

Why exactly can’t the President make a more accurate statement?

In regards to Muslims throwing a dozen Christians overboard on a migrant ship traveling from Libya to Italy there was a press conference with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and President Obama. Kirsten Powers reports:

As Renzi was questioned about the incident, Obama was mute on the killings. He failed to interject any sense of outrage or even tepid concern for the targeting of Christians for their faith. If a Christian mob on a ship bound for Italy threw 12 Muslims to their death for praying to Allah, does anyone think the president would have been so disinterested? When three North Carolina Muslims were gunned down by a virulent atheist, Obama rightly spoke out against the horrifying killings. But he just can’t seem to find any passion for the mass persecution of Middle Eastern Christians or the eradication of Christianity from its birthplace.

This just follows the President’s trend in regards to any visible indicator of him being upset about these acts. Still really he is internally consistent. He says the Islamic state is not Islamic and terrorists who just happen to be Mohammedans are not practicing Islam.

So by his definition there can be no Islamic terrorism, but just people stripped of any possible religious motive. There are not bad Muslims since once they become bad in some way they cease to be Muslims.

In contrast he feels that the same treatment is not to be afforded to Christians. Apparently “people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ”, but people never committed terrible deeds in the name of Mohammad. Over and over again the President has praised Islam and apparently we have a debt to Islam, but not one to Christendom. The contrast between what he says about Islam and Christianity are polar opposites. I do not know of one kind word he has said regarding Christianity, and what he does say is always negatively broached. This long list of statements regarding the two show that this is not just some subjective reading of his statements. He excuses Islam and accuses Christians.

There are of course a slew of caveats regarding whenever a religious believer supposedly acts on their faith and whether it actually reflects that faith. Lots of distinctions to be made, but apparently our President is an Islamic scholar and can instantly weigh in whether and adherent of Islam is reflection Islam. Really Muslims who want to be good Muslims should make a pilgrimage to the White House to find out from the President whether they are indeed good Muslims. No doubt he would be as good at this as he was predicting outcomes in Libya, Yemen, and other countries.

Although when it comes to the “Name that religion” game I admit that really it isn’t a overall worthwhile game. Too easy to score rhetorical points against the president and forget about the tragedies playing over and over again with the increased persecution of Christians, Jews, and others including atheists. The reality of this is what we should focus praying about. Mostly I am lecturing myself in regards to this. Yes it would be a good step if the President actually acknowledged what was going on and wasn’t so slanted in diminishing evil acts. If he actually got upset about not only the multiple murders of Americans, but all who are suffering regarding this. We ourselves should be more angry about these acts than angry about whatever the President left out in a statement.

I certainly wish that there was more that I could do. After the executions of the 21 Coptic Christians I really wished I could join the military again to fight this evil. A ridiculous thought for an overweight 56 year old geek, but I also considered joining the Seals during Bootcamp. I can laugh at myself and think of St. Teresa of Avila as a child when she persuaded her brother in a failed plan to run off with her to Africa to join the Crusades and to become martyrs. Still prayer and fasting I can do.

Apr 212015
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 25 March 2015 to 21 April 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Messages

Regina Caeli

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Mary, Mother of Sorrows, help us to understand God’s will in moments of great suffering.” @Pontifex 17 April 2015
  • “We need to care for the earth so that it may continue, as God willed, to be a source of life for the entire human family.” @Pontifex 21 April 2015
Apr 202015
 

Stephen J. Binz’s book Scripture–God’s Handbook for Evangelizing Catholics is one that in my review stack that I had not prioritized in reading. I had stereotyped it in my mind as another general book on the subject urging Catholics to go deeper into scripture. Besides the title is easily misconstrued. In fact in social media, where my progress through this book was recorded, several people thought that this was a Protestant book based on the title.

What I found in this book was something much deeper than encouragement in reading scripture and how Catholics should read scripture. I don’t really like how often the term holistic is used, but in this case it is what comes to mind. This author who has written on Lectio Divina before builds on this and how we can approach scripture with the senses along with the sense of beauty. How the use of a Catholic informed imagination can bring scripture to us and let us meditate on it.

I also liked his descriptions regarding blocks to reading scripture. For example relativism as blocks to scripture “We cannot witness to God’s word unless we not that it is not subject to changeable opinion or personal whim.” Relativism is also closely tied to individualism where we don’t read with the mind of the Church, setting personal interpretations as the highest arbiter of truth.

I especially enjoyed the chapter regarding the example of six saints and how their contact with scripture changed them. While St. Augustine was not one of the examples given, I was recently thinking about this in regards to him. Having not long ago re-read his “Confession” I was struck by how much Scripture permeated everything he wrote. This was especially true regarding the chapters after he describe this conversion. I saw so many more scriptural allusions this time around in reading it. Of course the only way for us to be also permeated with scripture is to read it, meditate on it, and allow it to change us.

The main theme of this book is evangelization with examples of this throughout Old and New Testament history. Letting the reading of scripture deepen our own conversions to be able to go out and evangelize others. This book contains much to reflect upon and to incorporate. For me it has been helpful in slowing down and not just reading scripture as if involved in a Evelyn Wood speed reading competition.

Apr 162015
 

I have often heard on Catholic radio that the size of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is intimidating for many people. I am not one of those people since a 802 page tome is like a good start for me. Still I can totally understand why this is so for many people. The Church understands this also which is why there is a Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Still having a range of other formats is a good idea such as the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church (YOUCAT). In a Church of over a billion people it is a very good idea to explore multiple ways to deliver the teaching of the Church.

When I received a copy of Tweeting with God #Big Bang, prayer, Bible, sex, Crusades, sin, career I was wondering exactly what this book was. I figured it was filled with short pithy messages 140 characters or less. Besides before the Tweet was invented we had a long history of short prayers called ejaculations or aspirations.

That is not what this book is at all. What the author Fr. Michel Remery has done is taken the idea of Twitter and used it as a thematic format to present information about the faith. This book uses lots of formatting to present information. Graphics, use of colors, textual formatting, along with a Twitter thematic format.

There are lots of ways this thematic metaphor could go wrong, but I found for the most part that the format actually works. Each page presents a numbered Tweet about the topic. These are used like paragraph references throughout the book. Paragraphs are presented with subtitles implying a sort of hash tag. Photos, graphics, info graphics, are also used to present information or illustrate a point. Related information is presented in a orange panel with black text. At the end a summarizing Tweet is used in another panel. You can see an example of the format here.

As a layout it works pretty well to present information and to divide up content. I found I had no problem reading through the content without being distracted by the format. Although I would not be surprised that some will not like the format at all. When ever you have heavily formatted content you will run into subjective tastes.

Reading through the book my main interest was exactly how accurately the faith was portrayed. Being that this is published by Ignatius Press it wasn’t a major concern. Still I wondered if it would be heavy on formatting and light on actual content. Exactly how would so-called hot button topics be presented?

What I found was that the topics were handled very well and accurately. Having only one page with a facing page to present a topic is a difficult task. Especially considering the amount of nuance often required. So I was happy to find that the Church’s teaching were presented quite accurately and not watered down at all. Over and over I was quite impressed with the presentation and that there was no effort to back down from hard teachings. This does not mean that I had absolutely no quibbles with information contained. Some things could have been phrased better. Plus when you try to condense so much history there is going to be information loss.

Another facet of this book is that it is not meant to be a Catechism, but more of a book exploring a range of topics and aspects of the faith. There is an apologetics aspect to this book, although I don’t think that is its main thrust. Mostly I see this book as a tool to help Catholics learn more about their faith. From the theological, to prayer, to living the faith, to just building on knowledge of Church history along with all the various nomenclature we should know. There is a ton of basic knowledge in this book, but probably a lot of what should be basic is not well-known.

This book can be used as a resource in a couple of ways. Since it is divided into topics somebody could use it as a reference to read more about something. There is some repeating of information to be able to make each topic standalone without having necessarily read a related topic. So you could go through this book rather scatter-shot just reading what is of interesting or reading through the whole thing. Plus the numbered Tweet references point to related material.

At over 400 pages this book covers a great deal and easily covers all the topics you would expect. Still there is one topic I wish was addressed. That is the various Rites of the Church. The Roman Rite was mentioned once, but there was no explanation of what a rite was, much less the number of rites in the Church. This is a bit of a hobby horse for me, which is why I noticed it.

Now a book with a social media metaphor you would expect some social media connection with the book. Well there is a Tweeting with God which has links to a iOS or Android app. This app actually includes much of the text from the book, but not all. Each topic tweet has the introduction along with subtitles and their content. Missing are the info panels and graphics other than the header graphic. Still it is certainly a way to consume some of the content along with sharing information on social media. In the book under the header graphic is a scan icon. You can use the app to scan the image in the book to bring up that section in the app. This is interesting integration, but questionable how useful it actually is.

They of course have a Twitter feed, a related hashtag #TwGOD, and Facebook page.

Julie D. at Happy Catholic also was impressed by this book and has her review here which includes links to pages from the book.

Apr 152015
 

My mind is so random that odd things strike me during the Mass. Concentration on what is important is not my strong point. So during Mass while kneeling to receive Communion on the tongue instead of concentrating about the full meaning of receiving the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord in the Eucharist, I started thinking about some more mechanical aspects of this.

Mostly I started thinking about how few Eucharistic Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC) know how to deliver the Eucharist for those who receive on the tongue. Maybe part of it is that they don’t get much practice, at least from my own anecdotal databank of personal observations. For the most part the Ordinary Minister’s of Communion are better at this.

Often the experience is rather awkward. Really thinking back I can describe some of the different forms this takes.

  • Alligator delivery: The Eucharist is given as if they were expecting some kind of trap. That they thought my jaws would clamp down on their fingers. The hand dashes in and quickly withdraws.
  • Swish delivery: In basketball to make a shot where the ball falls through the rim without touching it is called a swish. Some EMHC’s must pride themselves on sailing the host into my mouth in a similar manner.
  • Cooties delivery: They properly place the host on my tongue, but they look as if they wish they were wearing a Hazmat suit when doing so.
  • Dumbfounded delivery: A couple of times I had EMHC’s totally at loss about what to do. In one case they still tried to put it into my hands even though they were held together in prayer. I have some sympathy for the dumbfounded EMHC. If someone who looked like me was kneeling down with their tongue sticking out I too might be dumbfounded.

So certainly in my experience EMHCs could use some training in doing this correctly.

During RCIA I was hoping we were going to get some instruction in receiving Communion. We didn’t and so I was kind of unsure exactly what the mechanics were for receiving on the tongue. Just how wide should you open your mouth and how far should you stick out your tongue? I soon found out that I did not have these mechanics figured out. During a daily Mass the priest instructed me to stick my tongue out farther. There was about a second where I felt totally embarrassed (well maybe more than a second). That is until I realized that this was exactly the feedback I was looking for.

Apr 142015
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 29 March 2015 to 14 April 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Regina Cæli

Speeches

Papal Tweets