Monday, November 16, 2015

Can the Pope Reunite Christians?

Over the weekend Pope Francis visited the Lutheran community in Rome and expressed his enthusiasm for ecumenical dialogue.  This reminded me of 2014's fiftieth anniversary of Unitatis Redintegratio, the Second Vatican Council's decree on ecumenical dialogue.  This time last year, in celebration of that document, I had the opportunity to speak at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota.  Here's my morning convocation for students and members of the Christian Leadership Center.

Unitatis is, believe it or not, an underappreciated work.  It's also, as I detailed in the talk linked above, unapologetically Roman Catholic.  Far from giving away the keys to store, UR makes it clear:  Christian unity, ultimately, involves reunion with Rome.  So it's not "many paths to one center," because ultimately that center is Roman Catholic Christianity.  Furthermore, UR distinguishes between dialoging with Orthodoxy, where the conversation takes place among apostolic equals, and ecumenical dialogue with Protestants, where UR admits significant differences still exist.

That being said, in the intervening fifty years--and something I didn't mention last year in Bismarck, developments like the Episcopal-Roman Catholic Ordinariate indicate that progress is being made while still honoring and recognizing the ecclesial traditions of other Christians.  We all have roles to play in this journey towards unity, a unity that exists now (in and with Rome) and will exist more fully with God's grace.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Can we pleez stahp?

Liberal education:  have the kids take classes in a variety of fields, encouraging them throughout to drink deeply from the traditions in each discipline, push the boundaries of those traditions, and seek their intersections.  Thus the students become learned, truly educated citizens who in addition to training in particular disciplines (Psychology, Education, Business, the arts, etc.) possess broad familiarity in other disciplines (the arts, religion, politics, etc.).

And the telos--the end towards which all this energy and study is directed--is that these learned individuals will go into the world, go their various ways, pursue various careers, meet with various levels of success, and yet maintain an understanding and appreciation of humane learning--that which makes us human.  The arts--visual and performative, politics, contemporary trends, historical awareness, FOOD, for that matter, and yes even religion.

So the first question;  what should the kids read?

The second question stems from this first:  Do they need to read that?

It turns out Duke University required its 2015 freshmen class to read Alison Bechdel's Fun Home:  A Family Tragicomedy.  As expected, some students protested, calling it pornographic.  As also might be expected, others leapt to defend Duke's required reading.  It's not pornographic, the students protesting are just close-minded, precisely the people who needs their minds opened by such reading.  Thus, an impasse.

So what's the hubbub about?  From, the Publishers Weekly review:
This autobiography by the author of the long-running strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, deals with her childhood with a closeted gay father, who was an English teacher and proprietor of the local funeral parlor (the former allowed him access to teen boys).Fun Home refers both to the funeral parlor, where he put makeup on the corpses and arranged the flowers, and the family's meticulously restored gothic revival house, filled with gilt and lace, where he liked to imagine himself a 19th-century aristocrat. The art has greater depth and sophistication that Dykes; Bechdel's talent for intimacy and banter gains gravitas when used to describe a family in which a man's secrets make his wife a tired husk and overshadow his daughter's burgeoning womanhood and homosexuality. His court trial over his dealings with a young boy pushes aside the importance of her early teen years. Her coming out is pushed aside by his death, probably a suicide. The recursively told story, which revisits the sites of tragic desperation again and again, hits notes that resemble Jeanette Winterson at her best. Bechdel presents her childhood as a "still life with children" that her father created, and meditates on how prolonged untruth can become its own reality. She's made a story that's quiet, dignified and not easy to put down. 

Reproduced here without any claim to ownership.

So let's get this "straight" (bad pun, I realize):  Duke University, one of the nation's premier private education institutions, required its entire in-coming first year class (approximately 1600 students) to read a lesbian's memoir of her funeral-parlor-operating, closeted homosexual father.  Quite frankly, instead of decrying "pornography!" the students instead should have questioned the relevance of having to read this at all.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Goal & Path//Charity & Pope Francis

Here's my latest piece at the St. Joseph's College of Maine Theology blog.  Yesterday was the feast of St. Vincent de Paul, a fitting saint for Pope Francis' U.S. visit.  What days in which we live!  So much attention paid to Pope Francis' every move and sentence, and really I bet he himself would tell us to focus ourselves on serving our neighbors.  Today's readings at Mass really underlined the importance of charity, too.  We need these reminders.  Otherwise we become like the rich chided and warned by St. James.  At the end of the Gospel today one of my daughters whispered:  "That's really creepy.  How come they never read that part at school mass?"  Especially since the Gospel yesterday also involves Jesus' injunction to receive children, we often overlook the ways in which we attempt to keep the Good News at a child's, not an adult's, level.  The call to charity, while certainly involving children, focuses on adults because in its the adult world where charity really gains traction.  And challenges us to ever greater charity.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Holiness is Achievable – 3 Day Quote Challenge

It seems that my good friend and blogging guru, Virginia Lieto, has thrown down the gauntlet.  I have been named in a three-day quote challenge.  From Virginia (who was in turned named by Melanie Juneau):

The rules of this challenge:

  1. Post one quotation a day for three days (they can be from other sources or one of your own).
  2. Nominate 3 other bloggers to participate per post.
  3. Thank the blogger who nominated you.

So, to cover all the bases, thanks first to Virginia for her kindness to include in the spirit of friendly competition and the great apostolic work of Catholic blogging.  This is, folks, the era of the New Catholic Renaissance. If you're reading this, were redirected here, and when you follow a link to another Catholic blogger, then, y'all, you are participating in the New Catholic Renaissance. It has many voices, themes, designs, and goals--but they all contribute to uplifting of Christ's Church.  And Virginia contributes remarkably to this.  (And, hey, Bishop Robert Barron has announced as much, on NPR no less, so there you go--the New Catholic Renaissance.)

And my three companions in Catholic blogging quote-dom are:  

*Michael Seagriff, my fellow upstater
*Nathan Barontini, one of my go-to +Google Catholic apologists

First day's quote....from a confessor who recommended this and I found it, while of course quite familiar, remarkably refreshing:  The Magnificat:

The Prayer Of Mary 
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.

(Lk 1:46-55)

Magnificat anima mea Dominum;
Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo,
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae; ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, et sanctum nomen ejus, Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam brachio suo;
Dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis, et divites dimisit inanes.
Sucepit Israel, puerum suum, recordatus misericordiae suae, Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semeni ejus in saecula.

So much good there--to contemplate and remember.  God's ways are not always our own. We do well to remember the power and mystery--and the love!--of God.

And then there's this:

News Hits the Street

Your earnest blogger has made a couple Albany-area appearances regarding Pope Francis' visit to Cuba and the US.

A phone interview with WAMC 90.3 FM, the area's powerful NPR affiliate

And television interviews with:

WNYT channel 13, Albany's NBC affiliate


WRGB CBS 6 (one of the nation's oldest television stations, by the way;  based in Schenectady, NY, one-time home base for General Electric).

And best of all, an interview with The Chronicle, the Saint Rose student newspaper!

Photo from @CollegeofStRose