Friday, March 07, 2008

Andrea Bocelli, Hayley Westenra "Ave Maria" Duet


US Army Song - "The Army Goes Rolling Along"

Pop Star Ivy Sued for 'Damaging' Blackmail Scandal

Pop Star Ivy Sued for 'Damaging' Blackmail Scandal

Sgt Barry Sadler, Ballad of the Green Beret

This morning I had a dream about a Franciscan who became an eastern-rite Patriarch and saint. Bizarre. Plus another dream involving friendship--I remember thinking that I should be feeling angry about what was happening, but not caring. Odd.

Today we were supposed to meet up with Sarge's family in order to visit some museums. But Sarge decided to get some breakfast, so we went back to JK's. (Today I ordered a Greek omlette plus some short cakes.) We then had a rendezvous with the family over at the JFK Special Warfare Museum. There was one group of soldiers going through the museum, plus some civilians. We then went to lunch over at Monterrey--Warrior's friend showed up, though she ate lunch already (she had to go have lunch at a local Thai restaurant). We took some pictures, some of which were a bit crazy and therefore funny (at least for me).

After lunch we went over to the Airborne and Special Operations Museum, which was bigger than the JFKSWM and newer. There's plenty of stuff on the 82nd and 101st during WW2, which I appreciated.

We then headed over to Sarge's yimo's, since his family wanted to say goodbye to her. (They're leaving tomorrow morning.) Sarge was fooling around again and talking about Korean women. She asked again, "Why are you interested in Korean women? Chinese women are better, don't you think? Korean women are mean." Later she was giving Sarge advice about finding the right woman: "You need to find a good woman who can bring a unit together. Someone who is honest and straight-foward." Apparently being honest and straightfoward = mean. Then she was interrogating Warrior about his plans for the future, since he is the oldest son in the family. "Mean doesn't necessarily evil." She did offer herself as an example of someone who's mean.

Well, the description of "evil" was being applied to someone in particular, but I won't go into that here...

Her dogs are very friendly and playful. They all had fun with JB and Sarge, and the youngest dog was sitting and watching the nephew after he came into the kitchen. (He had been upstairs watching some penguin cartoon.) While we were all in the kitchen having coffee (and later, chocolate), she told us a story about how the oldest dog alerted to her about her mother passing out. The dog stayed at the hospital with the mother, and started licking her mother's toes, feet, legs, fingers, hands, arms... her mother passed away the next day. His yimo thinks that the dog knew the mother would be gone soon, and that's why she was licking/cleaning her.

I like Sarge's yimo. She's down-to-earth, sensible, and seems fervent. (She married her husband at a Buddhist temple because her aunt was in charge there, but Sarge thinks that she converted to Catholicism after getting married and not before.) I joked that Sarge should marry a Korean woman who will keep him in line. Heh. I don't think I'll be going to the Korean parish on Sunday, but who knows. When Sarge left he asked her to "keep an eye out at Church" (but not for himself, rather for me--not that his requests of his yimo have helped me so far haha).

Didn't see any Southern belles today!

She did make a comment about us being girl-crazy, iirc.

We ended up getting take-out from a local Thai restaurant for dinner. It was ok, but the restaurant was very busy, filled with natives of Fayetteville. Not sure what the attraction is...
and then we eventually played some rounds of dominoes. JB finally won once, and Sarge had a winning streak of 4 or 5.

Zenit: 3rd Lenten Sermon of Father Cantalamessa

3rd Lenten Sermon of Father Cantalamessa

"Be Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 7, 2008 ( Here is a translation of the Lenten meditation delivered today by Capuchin Father Rainero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, to Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia, titled "Welcome the Word: The Word of God As a Way of Personal Sanctification."

This is the second in a series of Lenten meditations titled "The Word of God Is Living and Effective."

* * *

1. "Lectio Divina"

In this meditation we will reflect on the word of God as a way of personal sanctification. In the "lineamenta" that have been prepared for the Synod of Bishops in October 2008, this theme is taken up in Chapter 2, “The Word of God in the Life of the Believer.”

It is a theme that is very dear to the spiritual tradition of the Church. “The word of God,” St. Ambrose said, “is the vital substance of our soul; it nourishes, feeds, and governs the soul; there is nothing else that could give life to man’s soul apart from the word of God.”[1] “[T]he force and power in the word of God,” adds “Dei Verbum,” “is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life.”[2]

“It is especially necessary,” John Paul II wrote in “Novo millennio ineunte,” “that listening to the word of God should become a life-giving encounter, in the ancient and ever valid tradition of ‘lectio divina,’ which draws from the biblical text the living word which questions, directs and shapes our lives.”[3] The Holy Father Benedict XVI has also expressed himself on this theme on the occasion of the International Congress Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church: “By assiduous reading, we listen to God who speaks and, in prayer, we respond to him with confident openness of heart.”[4]

With the reflections that follow I insert myself in this rich tradition, beginning with what the Scripture itself says on this point. We read in the letter of Saint James these lines on the word of God:

“He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. Know this, my dear brothers: Everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, [...] Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does” (James 1:18-25).

2. Welcoming the Word

From James’ text we can draw out a schema of “lectio divina” that has three steps or successive actions: Welcoming the word, meditating on the word, putting the word into practice.

Thus the first step is listening to the word: “Welcome the word that has been planted in you.” This first step embraces all the forms and ways in which the Christian comes into contact with the word of God: Listening to the word in the liturgy, now facilitated by the use of the vernacular and by the wise choice of texts distributed throughout the year; then, Bible schools, written aids, and -- something that is irreplaceable -- personal reading of the Bible at home. For those who are called to teach others, to all of this there is added the systematic study of the Bible: exegesis, textual criticism, Biblical theology, study of the original languages.

In this phase it is necessary to beware of two dangers. The first is to stop at this first stage and to transform the personal reading of the word of God into an “impersonal” reading. This danger is quite real today, above all in academic institutions.

St. James compares the reading of the word of God with looking at oneself in the mirror; but for [Soren] Kierkegaard, those who limit themselves to studying the sources, the variants, the literary genres of the Bible, without doing anything else, is like someone who just looks at the mirror -- considering with exactness the form, the material, the style, the epoch -- without looking at oneself in the mirror. For Kierkegaard, the mirror does not perform its function on its own. The word of God has been given so that you put it into practice and not so that you exercise yourself in exegesis over its obscurities. There is a “hermeneutic inflation” and, what is worse, one believes that the most serious thing in regard to the Bible is hermeneutics, not practice.[5]

The critical study of the word of God is indispensible and one is never grateful enough to those who give their lives to smooth the way to an ever better understanding of the sacred text, but it does not by itself exhaust the meaning of the Scriptures; it is necessary but not sufficient.

The other danger is fundamentalism: Taking literally everything that one reads in the Bible, without any hermeneutic mediation. This second risk is much less innocuous than might seem to be the case at first glance and the current debate between creationism and evolutionism is the dramatic confirmation of this.

Those who defend the literal reading of Genesis -- the world was created some several thousand years ago, in six days, just as it is now -- cause immense damage to faith. "Young people brought up in homes and churches that insist on Creationism,” writes the scientist and Christian, Francis Collins, “sooner or later encounter the overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of an ancient universe and the relatedness of all living things through the process of evolution and natural selection. What a terrible and unnecessary choice they face! To adhere to the faith of their childhood, they are required to reject a broad and rigorous body of scientific data, effectively committing intellectual suicide. Presented with no other alternative than Creationism, is it any wonder that many of these young people turn away from faith, concluding that they simply cannot believe in a God who would ask them to reject what science has so compellingly taught us about the natural world?"[6]

The two excesses -- hyper-criticism and fundamentalism -- are only apparently opposed: What they have in common is the fact that both stop at the letter, neglecting the Spirit.

3. Contemplating the Word

The second step suggested by St. James consists in “fixing one’s gaze” on the word, in standing for a long time before the mirror, in sum, in meditating and contemplating the Word. In this connection the Fathers used the images of chewing and ruminating. “Reading,” says the 12th century prior of the Grand Chartreuse, Guigo II, the theorist of the “lectio divina,” “offers substantial food to the mouth, meditation chews on it and breaks it up.”[7] “When one recalls to memory things heard and sweetly thinks on them again in his heart, he becomes like a ruminator,” Augustine says.[8]

The soul that looks into the mirror of the word learns to know “how he is,” he learns to know himself, he sees his deformities in the image of God and in the image of Christ. “I do not seek my own glory,” Jesus says (John 8:50): well, the mirror is in front of you and immediately you see how far you are from Jesus. “Blessed are the poor in spirit”: The mirror is again in front of you and immediately you see that you are full of attachments and full of superfluous things. “Charity is patient”: You realize how impatient, envious and self-interested you are.

More than “searching the Scriptures” (cf. John 5:39), it is a matter of letting oneself be searched by the Scriptures. The word of God, the Letter to the Hebrews says, “penetrates even to the point of division of the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and is able to discern sentiments and thoughts of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12-13). The best prayer for beginning the moment of contemplation is repeating with the Psalmist: “You search me, O God, and you know my hear, you probe me and know my thoughts: You see if I my way is crooked and you guide me along the way of life” (Psalm 139).

But in the mirror of the word, we do not only see ourselves; we see the face of God; better, we see the heart of God. Scripture, St. Gregory the Great says, is “is a letter of Almighty God to his creature; in it one learns to know the heart of God in the words of God.”[9] Jesus’ saying even holds for God: “From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34); God has spoken to us, in Scripture, of that which fills his heart and that which fills his heart is love.

In this way the contemplation of the word procures the two pieces of knowledge that are the most important for advancing along the road of true wisdom: self-knowledge and knowledge of God. “That I might know myself and know you” -- “noverim me, noverim te” -- St. Augustine said to God. “That I might know myself to humble myself and that I might know you to love you.”

An extraordinary example of this twofold knowledge, of self and of God, that is obtained from the word of God is the letter to the Church of Laodicea in the Book of Revelation, which is worth meditating on every now and again, especially in this time of Lent (cf. Revelation 3:14-20). The Risen Christ lays bare the real situation of the typical member of this community: "I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” The contrast between that which this person thinks about himself and that which God thinks of him is striking: “For you say, 'I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,' and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked.”

A passage of unusual toughness, which, however, is immediately overturned by one of the most touching descriptions of the love of God: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” It is an image that reveals its realistic and not only metaphorical significance if it is read, as the text suggests, with the Eucharistic banquet in mind.

Besides serving to verify the personal state of our soul, this passage of Revelation can help us to uncover the spiritual situation of the great part of modern society before God. It is like one of those infrared photographs taken by a satellite that reveals a panorama completely different from the one we are used to, the one observed by natural light.

Even in this world of ours, powerful on account of its scientific and technological conquests -- like the Laodiceans, who were commercially prosperous -- one feels satisfied, rich, without need of anyone, not even God. It is necessary that someone show it the true diagnosis of its state: “You do not know that you are unhappy, miserable, impoverished, blind and naked.” It is necessary that some one cry out to it, like the child in the Andersen fable: “The king is naked!” But through love and with love, like the Risen Christ with the Laodiceans.

To every soul that desires it, the word of God assures fundamental, and in itself infallible, spiritual direction. There is a spiritual direction that is, so to speak, ordinary and everyday, which consists in the discovering what God wants in the situations in which man usually finds himself. Such spiritual direction is assured by meditation on the word of God accompanied by the interior anointing of the Spirit, who translates the word into good “inspirations” and the good inspirations into practical resolutions. This is what is expressed by the verse of the Psalm that is so dear to lovers of the word: “Your word is a lamp for my steps, light on my way” (Psalm 119:105).

I was once preaching a mission in Australia. On the last day a man came to see me, an Italian immigrant who worked there. He said to me: “Father, I have a serious problem: I have a son who is 11 years old and who is not yet baptized. The fact is that my wife became a Jehovah’s Witness and does not want to hear about baptism in the Catholic Church. If I baptize him, there will be a crisis. If I do not baptize him I will not be at ease because when we got married we were both Catholic and we promised to raise our children in the faith.”

The next day the man came to see me and was visibly happier and he said to me: “Father, I found the solution. Last night, after I got home, I prayed a little bit, then I opened the Bible randomly. I read the passage where Abraham takes his son Isaac to sacrifice him and I saw that when Abraham took his son Isaac to be sacrificed it does not say anything about his wife.” It was an exegetically perfect discernment. I baptized the boy myself and it was a moment of great joy for all.

This practice of opening the Bible randomly is a delicate thing, which must be done with discretion, in a climate of faith and not without having prayed for a long time. Nevertheless, it cannot be ignored that, with these conditions, it has often born marvellous fruit and it has been practiced by the saints. One reads of St. Francis of Assisi, from the various stories about his life, that he discovered the type of life to which God was calling him by opening the Book of the Gospels three times at random “after having prayed a long time” and being “disposed to follow the first bit of advice that they offered to him.”[10] Augustine interpreted the words “Tolle lege” (“Take and read”), which he heard coming from a nearby house, as a divine order to open the book of Paul’s letters and to read the verse that presented itself to his glance.”[11]

There have been souls who have become holy with the word of God as their sole spiritual director. “In the Gospel,” wrote St. Thérèse of Lisieux, “I find everything necessary for my poor soul. I always find new light in it, hidden and mysterious meanings. I understand and know from experience that ‘the kingdom of God is within us’ (cf. Luke 17:21). Jesus does not need books or teachers to instruct souls; he is the teacher of teachers, he teaches without the noise of words.”[12] It was through a word of God, reading, one after the other, chapters 12 and 13 of 1 Corinthians that Thérèse discovered her profound vocation and jubilantly exclaimed: “In the mystical body of Christ I will be the heart that loves!”

The Bible offers a concrete image that sums up everything that has been said about meditating on the word: that of the book that is eaten, which we read about in Ezekiel:

“It was then I saw a hand stretched out to me, in which was a written scroll, which he unrolled before me. It was covered with writing front and back, and written on it was: Lamentation and wailing and woe! He said to me: ‘Son of man, eat what is before you; eat this scroll, then go, speak to the house of Israel.’ So I opened my mouth and he gave me the scroll to eat. Son of man, he then said to me, feed your belly and fill your stomach with this scroll I am giving you. I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. He said: ‘Son of man, go now to the house of Israel, and speak my words to them’ (Ezekiel 2:9-3:3; cf. also Revelation 12:10).

There is an enormous difference between the book that is simply read or studied and the book that is swallowed. In the latter case, the word truly becomes, as St. Ambrose said, “the substance of our soul,” that which informs our thoughts, forms language, determines actions, creates the “spiritual” man. The word that is swallowed is a Word that is “assimilated” by man, even if it is a passive assimilation -- as is the case with the Eucharist -- that is of a “being assimilated” by the Word, subjugated and defeated by that which is the most powerful of life principles.

In the contemplation of the word we have the sweetest example in Mary: She stored up all these things -- literally: “these words” -- meditating on them in her heart (Luke 2:19). In her the metaphor of the book that is swallowed has become reality, even a physical reality. The word has literally “filled her stomach.”

4. Doing the Word

We thus arrive at the third step along the way proposed by the Apostle James, the step on which the apostle most insists: “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, [...] for if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, [...] a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does.” This is also what Jesus has most at heart: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice” (Luke 8:21). Without this “doing the word,” everything is but an illusion, something built on sand. One cannot even say to have understood the word because, as St. Gregory the Great writes, the word of God is only truly understood when one begins to practice it.[13]

This third step consists in, in practice, obeying the word. The Greek term that is used in the New Testament to designate obedience -- “hypakouein” -- literally translated means “listening to,” in the sense of carrying out what one has heard. “My people have not listened to my voice, Israel has not obeyed me,” is God’s lament in the Bible (Psalm 81:12).

As soon as one begins to look through the New Testament to see in what the duty of obedience consists, one makes a surprising discovery, and that is, that obedience is almost always seen as obedience to the word of God. St. Paul speaks of obedience to teaching (Romans 6:17), of obedience to the Gospel (Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8), of obedience to truth (Galatians 5:7), of obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). We also find the same language elsewhere: The Acts of the Apostles speaks of the obedience of faith (Acts 6:7), the first letter of Peter speaks of obedience to Christ (1 Peter 1:2) and of obedience to truth (1 Peter 1:22).

The obedience itself of Jesus is exercised above all through obedience to written words. In the episode of the temptations in the desert, Jesus’ obedience consists in recalling the words of God and of abiding by them: “It is written!”

His obedience is exercised, in a special way, to the words that are written of him and for him “in the law, the prophets, and the Psalms” and that he, as man, discovers progressively as he advances in the understanding and fulfilment of his mission.

When they want to prevent his being taken into custody, Jesus says: “But then how would the Scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?" (Matthew 26:54). Jesus’ life is as guided by a luminous wake that the others do not see and which is created by the words that were written for him; he gathers from the Scriptures the “it is necessary” -- “dei” in the Greek -- that governs his whole life.

The words of God, by the present action of the Spirit, become the expression of the living will of God for me in a given moment. A little example will help us to understand this. Once in community I discovered that someone had mistakenly taken something that I use. I was on my way to ask that it be returned when by chance -- or perhaps it was not really by chance -- I came up against the word of Jesus according to which you must “give to whoever asks of you; and whoever takes what is yours, do not ask for it back” (Luke 6:30). I understood that this word did not apply universally in all cases, but that certainly in that moment it did apply to me. It was a matter of obeying the word.

Obedience to the word of God is obedience we can always do. Obeying visible orders and authorities, is something that we do every so often, three or four times in a lifetime, if we are talking about serious obedience; but there can be obedience to God’s word in every moment. It is also the obedience that applies to all of us, inferiors and superiors, clerics and laity. The laity do not have a superior in the Church whom they must obey -- at least not in the sense that religious and clerics have a superior; but they do have, in compensation, a “Lord” to obey! They have his word!

Let us conclude this meditation of ours making our own the prayer that St. Augustine, in his “Confessions,” addresses to God to ask for the understanding of God’s word: “May your Scriptures be my chaste delight; may I not be deceived about them, nor deceive others with them. [...] Turn your gaze to my soul and hear the one who cries out from the depths. [...] Grant me time to meditate on the secrets of your law, do not close to the one who knocks. [...] Indeed, your voice is my joy, your voice is a pleasure superior to all others. Grant me what I love. [...] Do not abandon this parched blade of grass. [...] May the recesses of your word open to the one who knocks. [...] I beseech you through our Lord Jesus Christ, [...] in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). These treasures I seek in your books.”[14]

* * *

[1] St. Ambrose, Exp. Ps. 118, 7,7 (PL 15, 1350).
[2] “Dei Verbum,” 21.
[3] John Paul II, "Novo Millennio Ineunte," 39.

[4] Benedict XVI, in AAS 97, 2005, p. 957.
[5] S. Kierkegaard, “Per l’esame di se stessi.” La Lattera di Giacomo, 1,22, in “Opere,” a cura di C. Fabro, Firenze 1972, pp. 909 ss.
[6] F. Collins, “The Language of God,” Free Press 2006, pp. 177 s.

[7] Guigo II, “Lettera sulla vita contemplativa” (Scala claustralium), 3, in Un itinerario di contemplazione. Antologia di autori certosini, Edizioni Paoline, 1986, p.22.
[8] St. Augustine, Enarr. in Ps. 46, 1 (CCL 38, 529).
[9] St. Gregory the Great, Registr. Epist. IV, 31 (PL 77, 706).

[10] Celano, "Vita Seconda," X, 15
[11] St. Augustine, “Confessions.” 8, 12.
[12] St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Manoscritto A, n. 236.

[13] St. Gregory the Great, Su Ezechiele, I, 10, 31 (CCL 142, p. 159).
[14] St. Augustine, “Confessions.” XI, 2, 3-4.

* * *

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

Zenit: Resurrection of the Heart

Resurrection of the Heart

Gospel Commentary for 5th Sunday of Lent

By Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap

ROME, MARCH 7, 2008 ( The stories in the Gospel were not only written to be read, but also to be relived.

The story of Lazarus was written to tell us: There is a resurrection of the body and there is a resurrection of the heart; if the resurrection of the body will happen "on the last day," that of the heart happens, or can happen, everyday.

This is the meaning of the resurrection of Lazarus that the liturgy wishes to point out to us in the first reading from Ezekiel about the dry bones.

The prophet has a vision: He sees a vast field of dried bones and understands that they represent the low morale of the people. People were saying: "Our hope has vanished, we are lost." God's promise is directed to them: "Behold, I open your tombs, I raise you from your tombs. […] I will fill you with my spirit and you shall live again."

This example is also not dealing with the final resurrection of the body, but the resurrection of the heart to hope. Those cadavers, it is said, came back to life, began walking and were "a great army, exterminated." It was the Israeli people who began hoping again after their exile.

From all of this we can deduce something that we also know from experience: That we can be dead, even before we die, while we are still in this life. And I am not only speaking of the death of the soul caused by sin; I speak also of that state of a total absence of energy, of hope to fight and to live that one can only call: death of the heart.

To all those who for various reasons -- a failed marriage, spousal infidelity, the sickness of a child, financial ruin, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse -- find themselves in this situation, the story of Lazarus should resound like the bells on Easter morning.

Who can give us this resurrection of the heart? For certain afflictions, we know that there exists no human remedy. Words of encouragement often fail to suffice.

Even at the house of Martha and Mary there were "Jews who came to console them," but their presence didn't help. We need to "call for Jesus," as Lazarus' sisters did. To invoke him as people buried under an avalanche or under the ruins of an earthquake who, with their cries, get the attention of the rescuers.

Oftentimes people in these situations are not able to do anything, not even pray. They are like Lazarus in the tomb. They need others to do something for them. Jesus once spoke these words to his disciples: "Heal the sick, raise the dead" (Matthew 10:8).

What did Jesus mean? That we must physically raise the dead? If that were the case, history shows us that the number of saints who put this into practice could be counted on our fingers.

No, Jesus meant, above all, those whose hearts are dead, the spiritually dead. Speaking of the prodigal son, the father said: "He was dead and has come back to life" (Luke 15:32). He could not have been talking about physical death, if he had come back home.

The command to "raise the dead" is addressed to all of Christ's disciples. Even us! Among the works of mercy that we learned as children, there was one that told us "to bury the dead." Now we know that we must also "raise the dead."

[Translation by Mary Shovlain]

* * *

Father Raniero Cantalamessa is the Pontifical Household preacher. The readings for this Sunday are Ezekiel 37: 12-14; Romans 8: 8-11; John 11: 1-45.

Zenit: The Word of God As Infallible Spiritual Director

The Word of God As Infallible Spiritual Director

Father Cantalamessa Reflects on Being Guided by Bible

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 7, 2008 ( The Bible may be the most infallible spiritual director around, commented the preacher of the Pontifical Household.

Capuchin Father Rainero Cantalamessa said this today in the Lenten meditation he delivered to Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace.

The sermon titled "Welcome the Word: The Word of God As a Way of Personal Sanctification" was the second in a series of Lenten meditations the preacher will give this Lent.

The series, titled "The Word of God Is Living and Effective," reflects the theme of the next Synod of Bishops on the word of God, to be held in October.

In today's reflection, the Capuchin outlined three steps for effectively using the word of God as a tool for personal holiness: "Welcoming the word, meditating on the word, putting the word into practice."

Father Cantalamessa said the first step "embraces all the forms and ways in which the Christian comes into contact with the word of God," such as listening to it in the liturgy, reading it and studying it.


The preacher warned of two dangers in the first step: “hermeneutic inflation” and fundamentalism.

He said the first danger occurs most often in an academic environment when "one believes that the most serious thing in regard to the Bible is hermeneutics, not practice."

Father Cantalamessa said the second danger, fundamentalism, occurs when one takes "literally everything that one reads in the Bible, without any hermeneutic mediation."

"The two excesses -- hyper-criticism and fundamentalism -- are only apparently opposed," he said. "What they have in common is the fact that both stop at the letter, neglecting the Spirit."

Mirror, mirror

Father Cantalamessa compared reading Scripture to looking into a mirror, "The soul that looks into the mirror of the word learns to know 'how he is,' he learns to know himself, he sees his deformities in the image of God and in the image of Christ."

When reading the beatitude "blessed are the poor in spirit," the preacher gave as an example, one can see "that you are full of attachments and full of superfluous things." When reading that “charity is patient,” he added, "you realize how impatient, envious and self-interested you are."

But when looking into "the mirror of the word," continued the preacher, "we do not only see ourselves; we see the face of God; better, we see the heart of God."

"God has spoken to us in Scripture," he added, "of that which fills his heart, and that which fills his heart is love."

"In this way," said Father Cantalamessa, "the contemplation of the word procures the two pieces of knowledge that are the most important for advancing along the road of true wisdom: self-knowledge and knowledge of God."

Guiding light

In this context, the preacher offered the Bible as a spiritual guide, "To every soul that desires it, the word of God assures fundamental, and in itself infallible, spiritual direction."

He explained, "There is a spiritual direction that is, so to speak, ordinary and everyday, which consists in the discovering what God wants in the situations in which man usually finds himself.

"Such spiritual direction is assured by meditation on the word of God accompanied by the interior anointing of the Spirit, who translates the word into good 'inspirations' and the good inspirations into practical resolutions."

The preacher warned, however, of abusing the practice of randomly opening the Bible, "which must be done with discretion, in a climate of faith and not without having prayed for a long time."

"Nevertheless," he said, "it cannot be ignored that, with these conditions, it has often born marvellous fruit and it has been practiced by the saints."


"The word of God is only truly understood when one begins to practice it," said Father Cantalamessa, touching on the third step of using the word of God for holiness."

"This third step," he said, "consists in [...] obeying the word."

He explained, "As soon as one begins to look through the New Testament to see in what the duty of obedience consists, one makes a surprising discovery, and that is, that obedience is almost always seen as obedience to the word of God."

"The obedience itself of Jesus is exercised above all through obedience to written words," the preacher added. "In the episode of the temptations in the desert, Jesus’ obedience consists in recalling the words of God and of abiding by them: 'It is written!'"

Also in the life of every believer, "the words of God, by the present action of the Spirit, become the expression of the living will of God [...] in a given moment," said Father Cantalamessa.

"Obedience to the word of God," he said, "is obedience we can always do."

"The laity do not have a superior in the Church whom they must obey -- at least not in the sense that religious and clerics have a superior," concluded the preacher, "but they do have, in compensation, a 'Lord' to obey! They have his word!"

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Another reason to leave California?

John Zmirak: Persecution Creeps up on Christians

I hadn't heard about the Seton Medical Center case until now. Why should Christians continue to live here? I suppose the Church could just abandon all of its charity work, in the hope of providing witness in other ways. But how much longer should it endure this sort of treatment?

Zimmerman, The Nineteenth Century and the Rise of the Atomistic Family (part 2)

The Nineteenth Century and the Rise of the Atomistic Family (part 2)
Carle C. Zimmerman

via the Western Confucian

Also from First Principles:

AR: The Next Agriculture

The Next Agriculture
Recent debates around the future of agriculture on the far side of Hubbert's peak, wrestling with questions of the reversibility of the rise of industrial agriculture, have missed two crucial points. First, systemic change in complex systems rarely follows linear patterns; second, economic trends already in place may well favor the emergence of a viable postpetroleum agriculture.


His response to
Stuart Staniford’s The Fallacy of Reversibility and Sharon Astyk’s Is Localization Doomed?

Ross Douthat on the whinings of the elites

Particularly of the wife of one of the Democratic contenders. Rage of a Privileged Class

CA trying to ban homeschooling?

link at Crunchy Con

This would probably be enough to force me out of the state, if my vocation were to marriage and raising a family.
This morning JB, Sarge's brother Freeman and I went to a diner in Fayetteville for breakfast (JK's?). The food was good there (how hard can it be to make a good breakfast though)--I got eggs + smoked sausage + 3 shortcakes. That filled me up until the afternoon. The graduation ceremony was scheduled for 13:00. Sarge's parents and his other brother and nephew came by to his apartment, where we all met up. (Sarge had left earlier this morning to attend rehearsal, but he forgot his headgear. JB and Freeman tried to drop it off to him, but he couldn't get away from the practice to pick it up.) We then went to McDonald's to get a quick bite (though none of us 3 got anything to eat). The nephew got a happy meal (which included a toy for Spiderwick Chronicles).

Freeman dropped by the gas station to get some gas before going to the auditorium where the graduation ceremony was taking place today. I got a bottle of Sun Drop at the convenience store--a citrus-flavored soda. Not bad. We arrived at the auditorium at about 12:20 or so--the doors weren't opened yet, and there was a line waiting outside. I should have brought a hat. A lot of army wives there with army babies. The ceremony was ok, but the nephew had been hoping for some sort of live (shooting) demo. (I'd like to have seen one of those, too.)
This class had about 160 members? Out of 700 or so who started the qualification course.

Sarge got his certificate and knife... which is a rather impressive piece of work. Better than Rambo's.

One of the high school friends of Sarge's brother Warrior showed up today for the graduation. She is quite a "self-confident" Latina. Sarge would add another adjective to describe her physical appearance, but I don't think I'll write it. Heh. His parents call her "Linda," her nickname since high school. Evidently she was really "decent" in high school, according to Sarge. She's still attractive now, although she's following the Latin aging process. Anyway, both Sarge's friend JB and I didn't know what to make of her when we first met her. But JB admits that he warmed up to her after talking to her a little bit. She is friendly, but maybe a bit too informal in the way she talks to people. Maybe a bit too casual and "aggressive," too. She's also married with 3 kids so JB and I are out of luck. Hahaha. We should be seeing her again tomorrow, for lunch.

Sarge, JB and I dropped off Freeman at the airport, because he had to return to Texas for work. That's too bad--Freeman is a nice guy, and he and JB had a lot of fun talking about Europe and Catholic culture. Sarge hadn't eaten all day, so we went to a nearby Panera Bread. As his mom was cooking dinner, I didn't want to eat anything, so I just had one of the smoothies, which was ok, but I like the ones at Jamba Juice more. His mom made rice and cooked some pork--they also bought some potato salad. The pork loin was pre-marinated, but it was still good. His mother was saying yesterday how JB and I are like her sons. Today I was telling Sarge I was being a better son because I ate her food while he was full because of the panini he got. haha.

His nephew was pretty... energetic this evening. We played dominoes and then stuff like "monster" and "T-Rex." I gave him some horsie rides but tried to pass him off to Sarge, but he said, "No, horsies are fat." Ah well, from the mouths of babes... well his grandmom said playing with him is a good workout, so I guess I should do that more. Haha.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Zenit: Papal Address to Members of Jesuit General Congregation

Papal Address to Members of Jesuit General Congregation

"Rediscover the Fullest Meaning of Your Characteristic '4th Vow' of Obedience"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 4, 2008 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Feb. 21 upon receiving in audience members of the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus.

* * *

Dear Fathers of the General Congregation of the Society of Jesus,

I am pleased to welcome you today as your demanding work is reaching its conclusion. I thank the new Superior General, Fr Adolfo Nicolás, for expressing your sentiments and your commitment to respond to the expectations that the Church has of you. I spoke to you of this in the Message I addressed to Rev. Fr Kolvenbach and -- through him -- to the entire Congregation at the beginning of its work. I once again thank Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach for the valuable service he has rendered to your Order in governing it for almost a quarter of a century. I also greet the members of the new General Council and the Assistants who will help the Superior General in his most delicate task as the religious and apostolic guide of your entire Society.

Your Congregation is being held during a period of great social, economic and political change; of conspicuous ethical, cultural and environmental problems, of conflicts of all kinds; yet also of more intense communication between peoples, of new possibilities for knowledge and dialogue, of profound aspirations for peace. These are situations that deeply challenge the Catholic Church and her capacity for proclaiming to our contemporaries the word of hope and salvation. I therefore ardently hope that thanks to the results of your Congregation the entire Society of Jesus will be able to live out with renewed dynamism and fervour the mission for which the Spirit willed it in the Church and has preserved it for more than four and a half centuries with extraordinary apostolic fruitfulness. Today, in the ecclesial and social context that marks the beginning of this millennium, I would like to encourage you and your confreres to continue on the path of this mission in full fidelity to your original charism. As my Predecessors have said to you on various occasions, the Church needs you, relies on you and continues to turn to you with trust, particularly to reach those physical and spiritual places which others do not reach or have difficulty in reaching. Paul VI's words remain engraved on your hearts: "Wherever in the Church, even in the most difficult and extreme fields, at the crossroads of ideologies, in the social trenches, there has been and there is confrontation between the burning exigencies of man and the perennial message of the Gospel, here also there have been, and there are, Jesuits" (Address to the 32nd General Congregation of the Jesuits, 3 December 1974; ORE, 12 December, n. 2, p. 4.).

As the Formula of your Institute says, the Society of Jesus was founded in the first place "for the defence and propagation of the faith". In an age when new geographical horizons were unfolding, Ignatius' first companions placed themselves at the Pope's disposal so that "he might use them wherever he deemed it would be for the greater glory of God and the benefit of souls" (Autobiography, n. 85). Thus, they were sent to proclaim the Lord to peoples and cultures that did not yet know him. They did so with a courage and zeal that have lived on to our day as an exemplary inspiration. The name of Francis Xavier is the most famous of all, but how many others one could give! The new peoples, who do not know the Lord or who do not know him well so that they cannot recognize him as the Saviour, are distant today not so much from the geographical as rather from the cultural viewpoint. It is not oceans or immense distances that challenge the heralds of the Gospel but the boundaries resulting from an erroneous or superficial vision of God and man that stand between faith and human knowledge, faith and modern science, faith and the commitment to justice.

The Church thus urgently needs people with a deep and sound faith, a well-grounded culture and genuine human and social sensitivity, of Religious and priests who dedicate their lives to being on these very frontiers to bear witness and to help people understand that on the contrary there is profound harmony between faith and reason, between the Gospel spirit, the thirst for justice and initiatives for peace. Only in this way will it be possible to make the Lord's true Face known to the many for whom he is still concealed or unrecognizable. The Society of Jesus should therefore give preferential attention to this. Faithful to its best tradition, it must persevere in taking great pains to form its members in knowledge and virtue and not to be content with mediocrity, since confrontation and dialogue with the very different social and cultural contexts and the diverse mentalities of today's world is one of the most difficult and demanding tasks. This quest for quality and for human, spiritual and cultural validity must also characterize the whole of the Jesuits' many-facetted formative and educative activities as they come into contact with people of every sort wherever they may happen to be.

In its history, the Society of Jesus has lived extraordinary experiences of proclamation and encounter between the Gospel and world cultures -- it suffices to think of Matteo Ricci in China, Roberto De Nobili in India or of the "Reductions" in Latin America. And you are rightly proud of them. I feel it is my duty today to urge you to set out once again in the tracks of your predecessors with the same courage and intelligence, but also with an equally profound motivation of faith and enthusiasm to serve the Lord and his Church. However, while you seek to recognize the signs of God's presence and work in every corner of the world, even beyond the bounds of the visible Church, while you strive to build bridges of understanding and dialogue with those who do not belong to the Church or have difficulty in accepting her outlook or messages, at the same time you must loyally take on the Church's fundamental duty to remain faithful to her mandate and to adhere totally to the Word of God and to the Magisterium's task of preserving the integral truth and unity of Catholic doctrine. This not only applies to the personal commitment of individual Jesuits: since you are working as members of an apostolic body, you must also take care that your work and institutions always maintain a clear and explicit identity, so that the goal of your apostolic activity is neither ambiguous nor obscure and that many others may share in your ideals and join you effectively and enthusiastically, collaborating in your commitment to serve God and man.

As you are well aware, since in the Spiritual Exercises you have often undertaken meditation on "the two flags" under St Ignatius' guidance, our world is the theatre of a battle between good and evil where powerful negative forces are at work. These are what cause the dramatic situations of spiritual and material enslavement of our contemporaries which you have several times declared you wished to combat, committing yourselves to the service of faith and the promotion of justice. These forces are manifest today in many ways but are especially evident in such overriding cultural trends as subjectivism, relativism, hedonism and practical materialism. This is the reason why I asked you for a renewed commitment to promoting and defending Catholic doctrine, "especially... its key points, under severe attack today by the secular culture" (Letter to Fr Kolvenbach, 10 January 2008), of which I gave some examples in my Letter. The themes, continuously discussed and called into question today, of the salvation of all humanity in Christ, of sexual morality, of marriage and the family, must be explored and illumined in the context of contemporary reality but preserving that harmony with the Magisterium which avoids causing confusion and dismay among the People of God.

I know and understand well that this is a particularly sensitive and demanding point for you and for some of your confreres, especially those involved in theological research, interreligious dialogue and dialogue with contemporary cultures. For this very reason I have invited you and also invite you today to reflect in order to rediscover the fullest meaning of your characteristic "fourth vow" of obedience to the Successor of Peter, which does not only involve the readiness to be sent on mission to distant lands but also -- in the most genuine Ignatian spirit of "feeling with the Church and in the Church" -- "to love and serve" the Vicar of Christ on earth with that "effective and affective devotion" which must make you his invaluable and irreplaceable collaborators in his service for the universal Church.

At the same time, I encourage you to continue and to renew your mission among the poor and with the poor. Unfortunately, new causes of poverty and marginalization are not absent in a world marked by grave financial and environmental imbalances, from globalization processes prompted by selfishness rather than solidarity and by devastating and senseless armed conflicts. As I was able to reaffirm to the Latin American Bishops gathered at the Shrine of Aparecida, "the preferential option for the poor is implicit in the Christological faith in the God who became poor for us, so as to enrich us with his poverty (cf. II Cor 8: 9)". It is therefore natural that those who truly want to be a companion of Jesus really share in his love for the poor. For us, the option for the poor is not ideological but is born from the Gospel.

Situations of injustice and poverty in today's world are numerous and tragic, and if it is necessary to seek to understand them and fight their structural causes, it is also necessary to penetrate to the very heart of man, to extirpate the deep roots of evil and sin that cut him off from God, without forgetting to meet people's most urgent needs in the spirit of Christ's charity. Gathering and developing one of Fr Arrupe's last far-sighted intuitions, your Society continues to do praiseworthy work in the service for refugees, who are often the poorest of the poor and in need not only of material aid but also of the deeper spiritual, human and psychological closeness that is very much a part of your service.

Lastly, I ask you to focus special attention on that ministry of Spiritual Exercises which has been a characteristic feature of your Society from the outset. The Exercises are not only the source of your spirituality and the matrix of your Constitutions but also a gift which the Spirit of the Lord has made to the entire Church. It is your task to continue to make them a valuable and effective means for the spiritual growth of souls, for their initiation to prayer, to meditation in this secularized world where God seems to be absent. Only last week I myself benefited from the Spiritual Exercises, together with my closest collaborators of the Roman Curia, under the guidance of a distinguished confrere of yours, Cardinal Albert Vanhoye. In a time like ours when the confusion and multiplicity of messages and the speed of changes and situations makes it particularly difficult for our contemporaries to put order into their lives and respond with determination and joy to the call the Lord addresses to each one of us, the Spiritual Exercises are a particularly precious means and method with which to seek God, within us, around us and in all things, to know his will and to put it into practice.

In this spirit of obedience to God's will, to Jesus Christ, which also becomes humble obedience to the Church, I ask you to continue carrying out your Congregation's work and I join you in the prayer St Ignatius taught us at the end of the Exercises - a prayer which to me always seems too sublime in the sense that I hardly dare to say it, yet we must always be able to return to it: "Lord Jesus Christ, take all my freedom. My memory, my understanding and my will. All that I have and cherish you have given me. I surrender it all to be guided by your will. Your grace and your love are wealth enough for me. Give me these, Lord Jesus, and I ask for nothing more" (n. 234).

© Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[Translation distributed by the Holy See]

Zenit interview with Shroud of Turin expert

Finding Christ's Imprint

Interview With Expert on the Shroud of Turin

By Antonio Gaspari

ROME, MARCH 4, 2008 ( Those who won't admit to seeing Christ in the imprint of the Shroud of Turin are those who are afraid to acknowledge him, according to the vice director of the International Center for Shroud Studies.

Nello Balossino participated Friday in an international congress on the hypotheses and scientific studies regarding the shroud, organized by the master's program in science and faith of the Regina Apostolorum university.

In this interview with ZENIT, Balossino comments on the current status of studies regarding the shroud and what steps need to be taken to prove a connection between the cloth and Christ.

Q: After so many years of studies, in your own opinion, who is the man of the shroud?

Balossino: Interdisciplinary studies have been conducted on the shroud for centuries. Some of them have produced unmistakable and significant results. Others have simply laid the foundations for later research. Regardless, all the studies coincide in truly finding that the shroud is not a counterfeit, but rather, it could well be the cloth that covered the body of a man who was submitted to the martyrdom of crucifixion following the characteristics described in the Gospels.

So it could be Christ. As well, the computer technology research we’ve conducted has added credence to this hypothesis: Digital analysis of the data reveals underlying information. Take for example how thanks to technology some of the details regarding facial wounds were discovered, which are not visible to the naked eye.

Q: How meaningful has carbon dating done on the shroud been with regard to uncovering the truth?

Balossino: If by uncovering the truth you mean finding irrefutable proof that the shroud covered Christ’s body, that’s probably never going to happen. Nevertheless, carbon dating, a controversial analysis in subject matters beyond the Shroud of Turin, doesn’t stand in the way of research conducted over the years because it is a finding that could be once again questioned.

Carbon dating doesn’t detract from what is contained in the image, in other words, the sufferings borne by a man.

As far as the validity of the radioactive dating applied to the shroud, which is well known to have been contaminated a number of ways over the centuries, among them in the Chambery fire, we should be very cautious of extrapolating rash conclusions based on the results.

This is also due to the fact that the protocol followed in [the] 1988 [test] was outside of standard practice, such as the blind selection of sample material, which was not followed. Now we are looking at a probable reexamination of the methodology employed by the very people that studied the shroud.

Q: In your opinion, is it possible to find the exact age of the shroud? What tools and technologies could be used to provide a reasonable framework for research?

Balossino: I think an interdisciplinary group of experts should decide how to choose a methodology for precisely dating the cloth. The purpose would be to avoid recommitting the carbon dating error. For example, a technology that can find the age of cloth is cellulite depolimerization, which is superior because it is not influenced by any type of contaminant.

Q: Is it true that traces of blood of the crucified man have been left on the shroud?

Balossino: There are a number of traces of blood that came from the crucified man on the shroud, as much as when he was alive as after death, such as the prominent wound on the right side.

Q: Is there a scientific explanation that can replicate the image of a man wrapped in cloth in the same manner as has happened in the case of the Shroud of Turin?

Balossino: Many theories have been proposed regarding the origin of the image on the shroud. The most credible ones, because they have produced images similar to the Shroud of Turin, are as follows.

Contact theory: The body of the man in the Shroud of Turin caused the imprint through direct contact with the cloth in the space of less than 40 hours. There are not effective traces of decomposition.

Vapor theory: Vapors given off by the corpse reacted with the aloe and myrrh solution possibly present on the cloth to stop the decomposition process.

Radiating energy theory: Various types of energy acted on the aloe and myrrh solution, for example electromagnetic energy or light or even the transformation of matter into energy, which is only possible in a nuclear explosion.

It should be noted that the experiments have only been done on the facial region and have run into a number of application problems; I can just imagine the problems that will certainly arise in the front and back body regions.

Q: In your opinion, why are so many people afraid of discovering the imprint of Jesus in the mysterious shroud?

Balossino: Maybe because they are afraid of admitting there was a man 2,000 years ago willing to sacrifice himself for humanity. Today there are also many people who, although not to the same extreme degree of Christ, lay themselves out for their neighbor and don’t just think about their own egoism.

Brief summary

So here I am at Sarge's apartment, near Ft. Bragg. I took the Delta red-eye flight from SJC last night, and while I had a row all to myself, the sleep was unfortunately not so good, as the seatbelt prevented me from getting in a comfortable position. (At least Delta gives some complimentary snacks--a choice between cookies, cheese crackers, and peanuts.) After making the connection in Atlanta, I ended up sleeping the rest of the morning at the Raleigh-Durham Airport, as I waited for Sarge's parents and brothers and nephew to arrive. Fortunately I did not bring that much with me, so I was able to bunch everything together and lay my head on top of it while sitting in one of the chairs. I almost overslept, but I woke up in time for their arrival.

I don't think I will be able to see much of the historic South while I am here in North Carolina. And one probably can't say too much about what Southerners are like, based on observations made at an airport or on an airplane. Nonetheless... I am struck by how similar Ft. Bragg looks to parts of Front Royal or Watertown, New York. Just a lot of strip malls... What did the area look like 150 years ago?

This afternoon, at the first formation ceremony, I met Sarge's "uncle" and "yimo"--family friends they had made while they were all stationed in Panama (he's Mexican, she's Korean). There were refreshments and food available after the ceremony, but we headed over to a local Chinese buffet for dinner. (The food at the ceremony wasn't too bad, either--the chicken tenders were quite substantial.)

What's important about the first formation ceremony? The graduates get to change their headgear and officially wear the ----- beret for the first time, as members of the regiment.

After dinner we dropped by Sarge's apartment so he could change out of his ACUs. We then headed over to his uncle and yimo's house. Sarge has been telling them about my appreciation for Korean women. They both warned me about Korean women--she even said that "Korean women are mean." Heh. Too bad I won't be able to find a Catholic Southern belle during this trip.

It's been fun spending time with Sarge's family--it's the first time I've met most of them. I met his older brother one time, when he was in Rhode Island for a parachuting competition. I had communicated with his younger brother by e-mail, and spoken to his mom on the phone when Sarge was on deployment in Iraq and afterwards. His nephew can be a typical boy at times, but is a nice kid.

It's good to see that his mom and dad are doing ok--they were having problems earlier, and were even thinking of separation + divorce, but they seem to have been resolved at this point.

World Made By Hand has a website

This is it.

via the Crunchy Con

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

McClintock running for Congress

LA Times

via LRC blog

I don't see anything on his blog.

Secession, State, and Liberty

Google Books; paperback available through Transaction

Brendan O'Neill on Barack Obama

Make the World Safe for Hope

Can Barack Obama, who campaigns as an icon of peace, actually be more bellicose than Bush? Yes, he can.

by Brendan O’Neill

Light to no posting ahead

I'm flying out Tuesday night to North Carolina to visit Sarge; I won't be back until Sunday. Hrm I need to remember to buy batteries for the camera...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Republic of Lakotah website


Russell Means explains:

via LRC blog

A review of JHK's new novel

the novel: World Made by Hand
review by Frank Kaminski

(Another review @ The Classroom Conservative.)

Ross Douthat's suggestions

in response to the question, "Which 20th century classic of American conservative political thought holds up best?":

As for books and authors that do hold up - well, Cowen says that we can include grumpy European emigres, so I'd have to vote for the collected works of Leo Strauss (you can't pick just one!), who should be required reading whatever you think of his disciples' influence on contemporary politics. Speaking of his disciples, I'd also vote for Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind. (Contrary to what you may have heard, the second half of the book is better than the first: The critique of student life is curmudgeonly; the critique of the academy as a whole is brilliant.) A variety of neoconservative works, from Edward Banfield's The Unheavenly City to Charles Murray's Losing Ground to almost anything by James Q. Wilson, all hold up quite well in hindsight, and so do the classic Catholic-neocon books, Richard John Neuhaus's The Naked Public Square and Michael Novak's The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism. (Novak has been rather too carried away over the years by his enthusiasm for the affinity between Christianity and capitalism, but his early writings on the subject are very good.) And while I know Francis Fukuyama no longer calls himself a neocon, his The End of History and the Last Man remains a brilliant diagnosis of the politics of late modernity, however its prognosis ends up being remembered.
The Philosopher, who is not a Straussian, nonetheless praises Strauss's work, at least on certain points. As for the Straussians, theocons, and neocons on this list... it wasn't what I expected from Mr. Douthat. Then again, I'm not very familiar with his basic worldview.

As I'm still learning from the 19th century Southern political tradition I would hesitate to suggest anything from the 20th century--there's Kirk, Davidson, Weaver, Bradford, and others. At least they address the various political, social, and moral crises facing this country, and are not simply anti-Communist or nationalist, accepting the status quo as the best of all possible worlds.

Scythian Midwinter

Lovell Sisters

official site
Lovell Sisters Band

Lovell Sisters Interview

The Lovell Sisters perform "ALL YOU HAVE TO SAY"

I've Forgotten You

Live @ The Philadelphia Folk Festival - Track 7 of 10

Live @ The Philadelphia Folk Festival - Track 8 of 10

Just A Promise - The Lovell Sisters

More Bluegrass

Claire Lynch, Bluegrass Singer, Songwriter and Musician, Grammy ... : Claire Lynch : Artist Main

Claire Lynch - Little Further In The Hole

Claire Lynch - Wallbash

Clarie Lynch - Be Ready to Sail

Alecia Nugent :: 2008 SPBGMA Female Vocalist, Traditional : Alecia Nugent : Artist Main

Alecia Nugent - Joe Val 2008 Ready for the Time

Alecia Nugent - God Knows What

The Alecia Nugent Band - Too Good To Be True

SPBGMA: Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America
The Bluegrass Blog

Richard Heinberg, Beyond hope and doom: Time for a peak oil pep talk

Beyond hope and doom: Time for a peak oil pep talk

The day China runs dry

The day China runs dry
China's massive but dwindling aquifers would be on track to run virtually dry if over-pumping continued, said Lester Brown, prominent US environmental policy advocate. At that point, grain production would dive, exacerbating food price increases. (Interview with Lester Brown)
published March 2, 2008.

Zenit: B16--On Lent's Baptismal Journey

On Lent's Baptismal Journey

"Let Us Allow Jesus to Heal Us"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 2, 2008 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In these Sundays of Lent, through the texts of the Gospel of John, the liturgy leads us on a true and proper baptismal journey: Last Sunday Jesus promised the Samaritan woman the gift of "living water"; today, healing the blind man, Jesus reveals himself as the "light of the world"; next Sunday, resurrecting his friend Lazarus from the dead, he will present himself as "the resurrection and the light." Water, light, life: these are symbols of baptism, the sacrament that "immerses" believers in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, freeing them from the slavery of sin and granting them eternal life.

Let us pause briefly over the story of the man born blind (John 9:41). The disciples, according to the mentality that was common at that time, take for granted that his blindness is the consequence of his sin or his parents' sin. Jesus, however, rejects this view and affirms: "Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him" (John 9:3).

What comfort these words offer us! They allow us to hear the living voice of God, who is provident and wise Love! Before the man marked by limitation and suffering Jesus does not think about possible faults, but about the will of God that created man for life. And so he solemnly declares: "We must do the works of the one who sent me ... While I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9:5).

And he immediately takes action: With a little bit of earth and saliva he makes some mud and spreads it on the eyes of the blind man. This gesture alludes to the creation of man, which the Bible recounts with the symbol of earth that is formed and animated by the breath of God (cf. Genesis 2:7). "Adam," in fact, means "soil," and the human body is indeed composed of elements of the earth. Healing the man, Jesus brings about a new creation.

But that healing provokes a heated debate because Jesus performed it on the Sabbath, thereby transgressing a precept of the feast. Thus, at the end of the episode, Jesus and the blind man meet up again, both being chased out by the Pharisees: one because he violated the law and the other because, despite the healing, he remains marked as a sinner from birth.

To the blind man whom he healed Jesus reveals that he has come into the world for judgment, to separate the blind who can be healed from those who do not allow themselves to be healed because they presume that they are healthy. The tendency in man to construct an ideological system of security is strong: Even religion itself can become an element in this system, as can atheism, or secularism; but in constructing this system, one becomes blind to his own egoism.

Dear brothers, let us allow Jesus to heal us, Jesus who can and wants to give us the light of God! Let us confess our own blindnesses, our myopias, and above all that which the Bible calls the "great sin" (Psalm 18:14): pride. May Mary Most Holy help us in this, who, giving birth to Christ in the flesh, gave the world the true light.

[After the Angelus the Holy Father said the following in Italian:]

With profound sadness I follow the dramatic event of the kidnapping of Monsignor Paulos Faraj Rahho, Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, in Iraq. I join the call of the patriarch, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, and his co-workers, for the dear prelate -- who is also in very poor health -- to be released immediately. I also elevate my prayer of supplication for the souls of the three young people who were with him and were killed at the time of the kidnapping. I express, moreover, my closeness to the entire Church in Iraq and in particular to the Chaldean Church, who have once again been dealt a serious blow, while I encourage all of the pastors and faithful to be strong and firm in hope. May the efforts of those who control the fate of the Iraqi people be multiplied so that, thanks to the commitment and wisdom of all, this people may again find peace and security, and the future to which it has a right not be destroyed.

Unfortunately, in recent days the tension between Israel and the Gaza Strip has reached very grave levels.

I renew my pressing invitation to Israeli and Palestinian officials, that this spiral of violence be stopped, unilaterally, without conditions: only by showing an absolute respect for human life, even that of the enemy, can one hope to provide a future of peace and coexistence for the young generations of those peoples who both have their roots in the Holy Land. I invite the whole Church to lift up supplications to the Almighty for peace in the land of Jesus and to show attentive and active solidarity with both populations, Israeli and Palestinian.

Over the course of the week the Italian news directed its attention to the sad end of two children, known as Ciccio and Tore. It is an end that has deeply stricken me as it has many families and persons. I would like to take this occasion to launch an appeal on behalf of childhood: let us care for our little ones! We must love them and help them to grow. I say this to parents but also to institutions. In launching this appeal, I think of childhood in every part of the world, above all of that which is defenseless, exploited and abused. I entrust every child to the heart of Christ, who said: "Let the children come unto me!" (Luke 18:16).

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[After the Angelus the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus. In today's Gospel, we encounter Jesus, the light of the world, who cures the man born blind. By opening our eyes to faith, to the light that comes from God, Jesus continues to cure us from the darkness of confusion and sin present in this world. May his light always purify our hearts and renew our Christian love as we journey with him to Eternal Life. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome, and a blessed Sunday!

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Mountain Heart

Mountain Heart : Mountain Heart: Artist Main

Mountain Heart "Road That Never Ends"

Mountain Heart - Sunny Side of the Mountain

Mountain Heart (Josh Shilling) at Dollywood BBQ & Bluegrass

Saturday, March 01, 2008


My new non-stick wok? Scratched already. Bah.

No sign of JP in a couple of days. Where are you now?

I thought I would have gotten over this cold by now, but it seemed to get worse yesterday--maybe because I wasn't drinking enough water. My appetite is back at least... though going to Hometown for lunch today was a mistake. The food or the soda, not sure which. I've been in a foul mood because of the cold--I can sympathize with Saul Tigh in season 3 of BSG. Forget using fire--better to use bombs on those bridges. Usually I'm just resigned to letting friendships fade away... Add on top of that the thought that we're stuck in a system that will end up devouring itself, while people are content to accept the culture they've inherited and to perpetuate it, without critically examining its presuppositions and what makes it possible...

The OD called me this afternoon--he invited me to a dinner over at his friend's. Another church dinner/prayer meeting. (He had called me this morning to see if he could come pick me up to take me to church again.) It really makes me wonder if he's trying to get me to switch or something. He did say that he could introduce me to some of the singles there... but they won't marry anyone except other people in the church. That's understandable, but for now I haven't rejected the virtue of faith, so I'm leery of going back again. Doesn't seem to be much point in doing so, except to visit with his family.

Anyway, he asked me if I wanted to come out to the park and play with the kids, and I decided to do that, even though I was lying down at the time and could have used a nap. But the kids... well one of them at least was excited to see me, so that made it worth it. The OD had bought a stand for hitting soft "baseballs" (safe for kids), and we set that up for them. His daughter is a bit wild. hah. She was hitting the ball off rather well, though she needs to learn how to do it consistently.

He told me that xiao Jimmy's mom finally relented and is giving her "approval" to the relationship. No wedding date set yet, but xiao Jimmy is selling his house over in Stockton in preparation. May his mother not change her mind, or do something to poison the relationship with the in-laws! (She had set up a dinner so that both sets of parents could meet, but she backed out at the last minute, without giving a reason or apologizing.) So I may be helping him move some stuff out of the house in April. I don't know if the sale has been finalized yet--I should give xiao Jimmy a call some time.

My guess is they'll be having some sort of Buddhist wedding ceremony--at the Vietnamese temple? There is this one in San Jose, but I don't know if it is the one his gf regularly attends...

Southern Partisan has a new updated website

or so it seems to me--I hadn't performed a search for it for a long time...


Clyde Wilson: John C. Calhoun: A Statesman for the 21st Century

Nouriel Roubini, 12 steps of a global financial meltdown

NYU professor predicting a whale of a bear market
Legendary bear Nouriel Roubini lays out the case for a global financial meltdown. Pass the Prozac, please.

By Nouriel Roubini

Zenit: 2nd Lenten Sermon of Father Cantalamessa

2nd Lenten Sermon of Father Cantalamessa

"Keep Us From Pronouncing Useless Words When We Speak of You"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 29, 2008 ( Here is a translation of the Lenten meditation delivered today by Capuchin Father Rainero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, to Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia, titled "'For Every Useless Word': Speaking 'as With Words of God.'"

This is the second in a series of Lenten meditations titled "The Word of God Is Living and Effective."

* * *

1. From Jesus Who Preaches to Christ Preached

In the second letter to the Corinthians -- which is, par excellence, the letter dedicated to the office of preaching -- St. Paul writes these programmatic words: "We do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord!" (2 Corinthians 4:5). In a previous letter to these same faithful in Corinth he wrote: "We preach Christ crucified!" (2 Corinthians 4:5). When the Apostle wants to embrace the content of Christian preaching with a single word, this word is always the person of Jesus Christ!

In these statements Jesus is no longer seen -- as in the Gospels -- in his quality as preacher, but as that which is preached. Similarly, we see that "Gospel of Jesus" acquires a new meaning, without, however, losing the old one; from the "glad tidings" in which Jesus is the subject, one passes to the "glad tidings" in which Jesus is the object.

This is the meaning that the word "gospel" acquires in the solemn beginning of the Letter to the Romans: "Paul, servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, chosen beforehand to proclaim the Gospel of God, which he promised in the sacred Scriptures, regarding his Son, born from the line of David according to the flesh, constituted Son of God with power according to the Spirit of sanctification through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ, our Lord" (Romans 1:1-3).

In this second Lenten meditation we will focus on the Word of God in the mission of the Church. This is the theme that the third chapter of the "lineamenta" of next October's Synod of Bishops is concerned with. The following is an outline of the topics of that chapter:

The Church's Mission is to Proclaim Christ, the Word of God Made Man;

The Word of God is to be Accessible to All, in Every Age;

The Word of God: the Grace of Communion Among Christians;

The Word of God: A Light for Interreligious Dialogue:

(a) With the Jewish people

(b) With other religions

The Word of God: The Leaven in Modern Culture

The Word of God and Human History.

I will restrict myself to a particular, very limited point, which however, I believe influences the quality and effectiveness of the proclamation of the Church in all of its expressions.

2. "Useless" Words and "Effective" Words

In Matthew's Gospel, in the context of the sermon on the words that reveal the heart, a saying of Jesus is reported that has made readers of the Gospel tremble throughout history: "But I say to you that men will have to answer for every useless word on the day of judgment" (Matthew 12:36).

It has been difficult to explain what Jesus intended by "useless word." Some light is shed by another passage in Matthew's Gospel (7:15-20) that addresses the theme of the tree that is known by its fruit and where the whole discourse seems to be directed at false prophets: "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but underneath are rapacious wolves. You will know them by their fruit."

If Jesus' saying has some relationship with the saying about false prophets, then perhaps we can discover what the word "useless" means. The Greek term that is translated by "useless" is "argon," which means "without effect" (alpha privative, plus "ergos," which means "work"). Some modern translations, including that of the Italian bishops' conference, render the term with "baseless," and so with a passive value: a word without a basis, in other words, slander. It is an attempt to give a more reassuring sense to Jesus' threat. It is not at all particularly disturbing, in fact, if Jesus says that an answer has to be given to God for every slander!

But, on the contrary, the meaning of "argon" is active and signifies a word that does not establish anything, that produces nothing -- thus, empty, sterile, without effectiveness.[1] In this sense the Vulgate's ancient translation was more accurate: "verbum otiosum," an "otiose" word, useless, which is the understanding adopted today in the majority of translations.

It is not hard to understand what Jesus means if we compare this adjective with that which, in the Bible, always characterizes the word of God: the adjective "energes," effective, that which works, that is always followed by an effect ("ergos"). This is the same adjective from which energetic is derived. St. Paul, for example, writes to the Thessalonians that, having received the divine word of the Apostle's preaching, they had welcomed it not as the word of men, but, as it truly is, as "the word of God that works ("energeitai") in those who believe (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:13). The opposition between the word of God and the word of men is presented here, implicitly, as an opposition between the word "that works" and the word "that does not work," between the effective word and the ineffective and vain word.

We also find this concept of the effectiveness of the divine word in the letter to the Hebrews: "The word of God is living and effective ("energes") (4:12). But it is an ancient concept; in Isaiah, God declares that the word that has gone out from his mouth will never return to him "without effect," without having "done that for which it was sent" (cf. Isaiah 55:11).

The useless word, for which men will have to answer on the Day of Judgment, is not, therefore, every and any useless word; it is rather the useless, empty word pronounced by him who should instead pronounce the "energetic" words of God. It is, in sum, the word of the false prophet, who has not received the word of God, but nevertheless persuades others to believe his merely human words are the word of God. What happens is exactly the reverse of what St. Paul says: Having received a human word, it is not taken for what it is, but for what it is not, that is, a divine word. For every useless word about God, man will have to answer! This, then, is the meaning of Jesus' grave admonishment.

The useless word is the counterfeit of the word of God, it is a parasite of the word of God. It is recognized by the fruits that it does not produce, because, by definition, it is sterile, without effectiveness -- for the good, of course. God "keeps vigil over his word" (cf. Jeremiah 1:12), is jealous for it and cannot allow man to make use of the divine powers that it bears.

The prophet Jeremiah permits us to hear, as through a loudspeaker, what is concealed beneath that word of Jesus. With him it is now clear that it is the false prophets who are the targets: "Thus says the Lord of hosts: Listen not to the words of your prophets, who fill you with emptiness; visions of their own fancy they speak, not from the mouth of the Lord. Let the prophet who has a dream recount his dream; let him who has my word speak my word truthfully! What has straw to do with the wheat? says the Lord. Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, like a hammer shattering rocks? Therefore I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who steal my words from each other. Yes, I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who borrow speeches to pronounce oracles" (Jeremiah 23:16, 26-31).

3. Who Are the False Prophets?

But we are not here to give a disquisition on the false prophets in the Bible. As always, the Bible is speaking about us. That word of Jesus does not judge the world, but the Church; the world will not be judged over useless words -- all of its words are, in the sense described above, useless words! -- but it will be judged, if at all, for not having believed in Jesus (cf. John 16:9). The "men" who must answer for every useless word are the men of the Church; we are the preachers of the word of God.

The "false prophets" are not only those who from time to time disseminate heresies; they are also those who falsify the word of God. Paul is the one who uses this term, drawing it from the contemporary language; literally it means to water down the word, as do the fraudulent hosts when they dilute their wine with water (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:17; 4:2). The false prophets are those who do not present the word of God in its purity, but they dilute and extenuate it with a thousand human words that come from out of their heart.

I too am the false prophet, every time that I do not entrust myself to the "weakness," "foolishness," "poverty" and "nakedness" of the word and I cover it up, and I esteem what I have clothed it in more than the word itself, and the time that I spend covering it up is more than that which I spend with the word, remaining before it in prayer, worshipping it and allowing it to live in me.

Jesus, at Cana in Galilee, transformed water into wine, that is, [transformed] the dead letter into the Spirit that gives life -- this is how the Fathers of the Church interpreted the episode; false prophets are those who do the exact opposite, and change the pure wine of the word of God into water that does not inebriate anyone, into a dead letter, into vain chatter. Deep down, they are ashamed of the Gospel (cf. Romans 1:16) and of Jesus' words, because they are "too hard" for the world, or too poor or naked for the intellectuals, and they then try to season them with what Jeremiah called "visions of their own fancy."

St. Paul wrote to his disciple Timothy: "Be eager to present yourself as acceptable to God […] imparting the word of truth without deviation. Avoid profane, idle talk, for such people will become more and more godless" (2 Timothy 2:15-16). Profane chatter is that talk that is not relevant to God's design, which does not have anything to do with the mission of the Church. Too many human words, too many useless words, too many speeches, too many documents. In the era of mass communication the Church too runs the risk of falling into the "straw" of useless words, speaking just to say something, writing just because there are journals and newspapers to be filled.

In this way we offer to the world an optimal pretext resting content in its unbelief and its sin. When they have heard the authentic word of God, it would not be easy for unbelievers to go off saying -- as they often do after listening to our preaching: "Words, words, words!" St. Paul calls the words of God "the weapons for our battle" and says that they alone "destroy arguments and every pretension raising itself against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive in obedience to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Humanity is sick from noise, the philosopher [Soren] Kierkegaard said; it is necessary to fast, but a fasting from words; someone needs to cry out, as Moses did one day: "Be silent and listen Israel!" (Deuteronomy 27:9). The Holy Father reminded us of the necessity of this fast from words in his Lenten meeting with the pastors of Rome and I believe, as is his wont, his invitation was not first directed to the world but to the Church.

4. Jesus did not Come to Speak to us of Frivolities

These words of Péguy have always struck me:

"Jesus, my child,"

-- it is the Church speaking to her children --

"did not come to speak to us of frivolities

He did not make the trip to descend to the earth,

to come to tell us riddles and jokes.

There is no time for entertaining ourselves.

He did not give his life,

to come to tell us fables."[2]

The concern to keep the word of God distinct from every other word is such that, sending his apostles out on mission, Jesus commands them not to greet anyone on the way (cf. Luke 10:4). I experienced at my own expense that sometimes this commandment must be obeyed to the letter. Stopping to greet people and exchange pleasantries as one is about to begin preaching inevitably disturbs concentration on the word that is to be announced and causes this word to lose its alterity in regard to all human discourse. The same exigency is experienced -- or should be experienced -- when one is vesting to celebrate Mass.

The exigency is even greater when it is a matter of the content itself of preaching. In Mark's Gospel Jesus cites the words of Isaiah: "In vain do they worship me, teaching doctrines that are human precepts" (Isaiah 29:13); then he adds, turning to the Pharisees and scribes: "Neglecting the commandment of God, you follow human traditions ... and in this way you nullify the word of God with traditions that you yourselves have handed down" (Mark 7:7-13).

When one never succeeds in proposing the simple and naked word of God, without making it pass through the filter of a thousand distinctions and precisions and additions and explanations, which in themselves are even right, but extenuating the word of God, one is doing precisely what Jesus reproved the Pharisees and scribes for that day: one "nullifies the word of God"; one dilutes it, causing it to lose the greater part of its power of penetration in the heart of men.

The word of God cannot be used for other ends or to clothe already existing human discourses with the mantle of divine authority. In times that are still near to us, one saw where such a tendency led. The Gospel was used to support every type of human project from class struggle to the death of God.

When a listener is so predetermined by psychological, factional, political or impulsive conditions, to make it impossible, from the outset, not to say what he expects and not to make him completely right about everything; when there is no hope of being able to lead the listeners to that point in which it is possible to say to them: "Convert and believe!" then it is well not to proclaim the word of God so that is not be used for party goals and, therefore, betrayed. It is better, in other words, to renounce a real proclamation, limiting oneself -- if one pursues the matter at all -- to listening, and trying to understand and taking part in the people's anxieties and sufferings, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom rather by presence and charity. Jesus, in the Gospel, shows himself to be very careful about not letting himself be used for the political ends of a party.

Obviously, the reality of experience, and thus the human word, is not excluded from the Church's preaching, but it has to be subordinated to the word of God, to the service of this word. As, in the Eucharist, the body of Christ assimilates those who consume it, and not vice-versa, so also in proclamation the word of God must be the more vital and stronger principle, to subjugate and assimilate the human word, and not the contrary. It is necessary, because of this, to have the courage more often to begin, in treating the doctrinal and disciplinary problems of the Church, from the word of God, especially that of the New Testament, and to remain thus linked to it, bound by it, certain that in this way one will more surely discover, in every question, what the will of God is.

One sees this same need in religious communities. There is a danger that in the formation given to young people and novices, in spiritual exercises and everything else in the community's life, more time is spent on the writings of the founder of the community -- often very poor in content -- than on the word of God.

5. Speak as With Words of God

I realize that a grave objection can be raised to what I am saying. Should the Church's preaching, then, reduce itself to a sequence -- or a barrage -- of biblical citations, with so many indications of chapter and verse, in a manner reminiscent of the Jehovah's Witnesses and other fundamentalist groups? Certainly not. We are the heirs of a different tradition. I will explain what I mean by being bound to the word of God.

We turn again to the second letter to the Corinthians, where St. Paul writes: "For we are not like the many who trade [literally: "water down," "falsify"] on the word of God; but as out of sincerity, indeed as from God and in the presence of God, we speak in Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:17); and Saint Peter, in his first letter exhorts Christians saying: "Whoever preaches, let it be as with the words of God" (1 Peter 4:11). What does it mean to "speak in Christ," or to speak "as with the words of God"? It certainly does not mean to repeat materially and only the words pronounced by Christ and by God in Scripture. It means that the fundamental inspiration, the thought that "informs" and rules everything else, must come from God, not from man. The preacher must be "moved by God" and speak as in his presence.

There are two ways to prepare a sermon or any written or verbal proclamation of faith. I can sit down at the desk and choose for myself which word to proclaim and the theme to develop, basing myself on my knowledge, my preferences, etc., and then, once the discourse is prepared, get on my knees to hastily ask God to bless that which I have written and make my words effective. This is already something good but it is not the prophetic way. The contrary is what should be done. First, get on your knees and ask God what the word is that he wants to speak; then, sit at the desk and use your own knowledge to give a body to that word. This changes everything because it is not God who must make my word his, but it is I who make his word mine.

It is necessary to begin with the certainty of faith that, in every circumstance, the Risen Lord has a word in his heart that he wants to reach his people. It is that which changes things and it is that which must be discovered. And he will not fail to reveal it to his servant, if his servant asks for it humbly and insistently. In the beginning there is an almost imperceptible movement of the heart; a little light that begins to flicker in the mind, a word of the Bible that begins to draw attention to itself and that illuminates a situation.

Truly "the smallest of all seeds," but afterward you will see that everything was inside; there was a single note that felled the cedars of Lebanon. Then go to your desk, open your books, consult your notes, consult the Fathers of the Church, the masters, the poets. But it is already something else. It is no longer the Word of God at the service of your culture but your culture at the service of the Word of God.

Origen describes the process that leads to this discovery well. Before finding nourishment in Scripture, he said, it is necessary to endure a certain poverty of the senses; the soul is surrounded on all sides by darkness, one enters onto ways that have no exit; until, suddenly, after toilsome searching and prayer, the voice of the Word resounds and immediately something is illuminated; he whom the soul sought comes to meet her, "springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills" (Song of Songs 2:8), that is, disposing the mind to receive his powerful and luminous word.[3] Great is the joy that accompanies this moment. It caused Jeremiah to say, "When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart" (Jeremiah 15:16).

Typically God's answer comes in the form of a word of Scripture that, however, in that moment reveals its extraordinary relevance to the situation and the problem that is to be treated, as if it were written precisely for it. Sometimes it is not even necessary to cite or comment explicitly on any biblical word. It is enough that it be present in the mind of the one speaking and inform everything that he says. If this is the case, then de facto he speaks "as with the words of God." This method is always valid: for the great documents of the magisterium as for the lessons that the master gives to his novices, for a refined address as for a humble Sunday homily.

We have all experienced how much one word of God that is deeply believed and lived gives to the someone before he speaks it and sometimes this occurs without his knowing; often it must be recognized that among many words it was that one that touched the heart and led more than one hearer to the confessional.

After having indicated the conditions of Christian proclamation -- speaking of Christ with sincerity as moved by God and under his gaze -- the apostle asks: "And who is up to this task?" (2 Corinthians 2:16). It is plain that no one is up to it. We carry this treasure in earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7). We can, however, pray and say: Lord, have mercy on this poor clay pot that must carry the treasure of your word; keep us from pronouncing useless words when we speak of you; let us once taste your word so that we know how to distinguish it from all others and so that every other word will appear insipid to us. Spread hunger throughout the land, as you promised, "not a hunger for bread, or a thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord" (Amos 8:11).

* * *

[1] Cf. M. Zerwick, Analysis philologica Novi Testamenti Graeci, Romae 1953, ad loc.
[2] Charles Péguy, "The Portal of the Mystery of the Second Virtue," in "Oeuvres poétiques complètes," Gallimard 1975, pp. 587 s.

[3] Cf. Origen, In Mt Ser. 38 (GCS, 1933, p. 7); In Cant. 3 (GCS, 1925, p. 202).

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[Errors found in the English translation of last week's Lenten sermon have been corrected and the revised text can be found here:]