Tuesday, December 2, 2014

martyrs, seeds of the Church...

Fran Szpylczyn reminds us of the four women killed in El Salvador thirty-four years ago today.  Strong stuff, especially the photo Fran places prominently atop the blog's post.  It's Advent--shouldn't we be celebrating barns and farm animals?  Y'know, good feelings????    Fran writes, "Ultimately, if you can’t stare at the Cross, deeply gazing at the Creche is not possible."

Exactly.  We celebrate the Creche because of the victory celebrated first in the Cross.  The women in El Salvador--whom Fran notes realized full well that staying in country would likely result in their deaths--understood this.  Part of Advent involves that same assessment.  Hence the waiting.

Read it all here.

clear thinking

Marking the season of Advent, Mark Shea and Simcha Fisher take apart "Mary, Did You Know?"  It's about time. One thing I wish Shea and Fisher would've mentioned:  effectively bad Marian theology leads to Nestorianism, a heretical splitting of Jesus' human and divine natures.  This amounts to a sloppy gnosticism wherein the divine exists alongside yet apart and thus unsullied by the human.  No.  "We believe in One Lord, Jesus Christ..."  (And a good ecclesiology student would continue here:  that same one Lord founded _one_ church...)  Our salvation doesn't work with Nestorianism.

Another approach:  "Mary, Did you know?" captures one of Thomas Day's criticisms in his (now two decade old) seminal study Why Catholics Can't Sing:  contemporary Catholic music presumes a divine perspective wherein the singer (cantor, choir leader, or congregation) conveys a perspective only God would know.  Of course, though, there's no way--apart from revelation in Scripture--for us to know anything like that.  Thus Day's point:  apart from the aesthetics (which Day hammers), contemporary Catholic worship music is bad theology.  Mark Shea, having once been an Evangelical, knows the broader point: contemporary Christian music makes bad theology.  Thus his point.  They're both right.

Want to hear/appreciate the fuel for this fire:  Go here (sung by a popular singer, too!)  but do not blame me.  Do not let this meme happen to you.

H/T Mark Shea and Simcha Fisher

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Forthcoming from the the Catholic Apostolate Center!  Great folks doing great work there.  Their webinars include:
The Family as Domestic Church: A Prophetic Witness Against Rugged Individualism
Edward J. Trendowski
Professor of Pastoral Theology, St. Joseph's College of Maine
November 25, 7:00pm EST
The recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family has garnered much attention. As a domestic church, a family can thrive when it is rooted in prayer and communal life, and when the family centers itself on the breaking of the bread (cf. Acts 2:42). The family can be a prophetic witness against the rugged individualism which is present all over the world. This webinar will focus on practical ways that a Catholic family can be a domestic church and also offer ideas for individuals to contemplate which deeply affect family life today.

Missionary Apostles for the 21st Century
Susan M. Timoney, S.T.D.
Assistant Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns, Archdiocese of Washington
December 2, 8:00pm EST
Pope Francis wants a church of missionary disciples. Does that include you? Dr. Timoney will discuss the vocation and mission of the Laity in the work of evangelization as shaped by Evangelii Nuntiandi and Evangnelii Gaudium.

Monday, November 24, 2014

traveling show

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to speak at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota.  A wonderful place with wonderful people led by Monsignor James Shay, a dynamic young university president if there ever was one.

UMary invited me to speak about ecumenical dialogue in recognition of the 50th anniversary of Unitatis Redintegratio, the Second Vatican Council's decree on ecumenical dialogue. Here's a video of my morning convocation for the students.  After a lunch with the members of  the Christian Leadership Conference--an ecumenical group of Protestant clergy from the Bismarck/Mandan area, I then delivered a lecture that night further exploring ecumenical dialogue and the legacy of Pope Paul VI and Pope Francis.

It was an honor to visit UMary and deliver these talks, but it was especially inspiring and challenging to meet so many people committed to their faith and their education and/or ministry.  Recently First Things made mention of an ecumencial conference held at John Brown University in Arkansas.  UMary is another place where this important work--which admittedly sees its share of disagreements--goes on.  Christian unity is, along with works of mercy and evangelism, a primary concern of the Church.  I am grateful to UMary for the invitation to make a contribution!

Monday, November 17, 2014

25 years

Today's the 25th anniversary of the murder of six Jesuits and two of their staff in El Salvador. Here's a great blog tribute by my fellow Capital District Catholic blogger, Fran Szpylczyn.  Well worth the read.

back to the land

Awhile ago I published a book on the Catholic rural life movement.  During the first half of the twentieth century more than a few Catholics found "life on the land" quite attractive.  Much more so than the usual urban, "parish factory" Catholic style dominating cities and larger towns in the American northeast.  A great idea, lots of neat eco-Catholic spirituality generated (and all this in the time PRIOR to Vatican II), but it sort of flopped--which I addressed in the book.

OK, so what?

Well, that call back to the land ain't dead--and it can reach corners presumably impervious to the ascetic call.  Check out this story about former-NFL player Jason Brown.  Obviously his previous occupation helps with certain financial realities, but then that's precisely why he's able to farm differently (something the Catholic rural lifers wanted to do, too):
See, his plan for this farm, which he calls "First Fruits Farm," is to donate the first fruits of every harvest to food pantries. Today it's all five acres--100,000 pounds--of sweet potatoes.
"It's unusual for a grower to grow a crop just to give away," said Rebecca Page, who organizes food collection for the needy. "And that's what Jason has done. And he's planning to do more next year."
Brown has 1,000 acres here, which could go a long way toward eliminating hunger in this neck of North Carolina.
"Love is the most wonderful currency that you can give anyone," said Brown.

Decisions and people like this keep the Gospel's vibrancy and dynamism before our eyes.  When we get too comfortable, well, things get mechanical and unloving.  Quite frankly I have struggled with this myself over the years.  Many of my colleagues--people whose work, scholarship, and sense of humor I have admired--have come to begrudge Catholicism (and really Christianity generally, as G. K. Chesteron observed) for its intrinsic difficulty.  It hurts, basically.  So we seek and prefer the easy--and then metalwork the Gospel to fit our desires.  The consequences bother us NOT because, well, we don't care.  Blogger Kevin O'Brien recounts a version of this here.  Good stuff--read it.

Meanwhile, Mr. Brown plans his next crop--to grow and give away.

Monday, November 10, 2014

resist the temptation

...to abuse the privileges afforded us on the Internet and social media.  Latest installment:  Deacon Greg Kandra notes Father Z's reasons for moderating comments.  Basically, as Kandra puts it, some people really are sick.  And the anonymity of the Internet gives free reign to their sickness.

Father Z:
Conservatives and traditionalists certainly have their wickedly vicious commentators, who, emboldened by anonymity and a lack of immediate consequences, puke their bilious dreck into public view. It is one of the greater concerns I have in my life and work here.
But I have to say that what you see from liberals outstrips the bile of conservatives by orders of magnitude.

Let me remind you of something. When you post something on the internet, there are consequences, both for you and for others.

You may be a matter of scandal to others, weakening their faith. Direct ad hominem attacks are horrid and unfair, especially when lobbed into the arena with cowardly anonymity. You endanger your immortal soul when you do these things. I sincerely fear that many of the commentators in the combox at the Fishwrap are in danger of going to Hell. Anyone who can write some of the things you see over there has to be spiritually sick in dangers ways.