Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss - Whiskey Lullaby (live)
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A God of His Word
Gospel Commentary for 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
ROME, JULY 11, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The readings of this Sunday speak of the word of God with two interlaced images: that of rain and of seed.
In the first reading, Isaiah compares the word of God with rain that falls from heaven and does not return without watering and helping seeds to grow. In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of the word of God as a seed that falls on different terrains and produces fruit. The word of God is seed because it generates life and rain that nourishes life, which allows the seed to grow.
When speaking of the word of God we often take for granted the most moving event of all, namely, that God speaks. The biblical God is a God who speaks!"
"Our God comes and will not be silent," says Psalm 50; God himself often repeats: "Listen, my people, I will speak" (Psalm 50:7). In this the Bible sees the clearest difference from the idols that "have mouths, but do not speak" (Psalm 115).
What meaning should we give such an anthropomorphic expression as "God said to Adam," "thus speaks the Lord," "the Lord says," "oracle of the Lord," and others like them? Obviously it is a way of speaking that is different from the human, a speaking to the ears of the heart.
God speaks the way he writes! "I will place my law within them," says the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:33). He writes on the heart and he also makes his words resonate in the heart. He says so expressly himself through the prophet Hosea, speaking of Israel as an unfaithful bride: "So I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart" (Hosea 2:16).
God does not have a human mouth or breath; the prophet is his mouth, the Holy Spirit is his breath. "You will be my mouth," he himself says to his prophets. He also says "I will put my word on your lips." This is the meaning of the famous phrase "human beings moved by the Holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God" (2 Peter 1:21). The spiritual tradition of the Church has coined the expression "interior locutions" for this way of speaking addressed to the mind and heart.
And yet, it is a speaking in the true sense of the term. The creature receives a message that can be translated into human words. So alive and real is God's speaking, that the prophet recalls with precision the place, day and time that a certain word "came" to him. So concrete is the word of God that it is said it "falls" upon Israel, as if it were a stone (Isaiah 9:7). Or, as if it were bread that is eaten with pleasure: "When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart," (Jeremiah 15:16).
No human voice comes to man with the depth with which the word of God comes to him. "Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart" (Hebrews 4,12). At times God's speaking is a powerful thunder that "splinters the cedars of Lebanon" (Psalm 29), at other times it seems like the "tiny whispering sound" (1 Kings 19:12). It knows all the tones of human speech.
This interior and spiritual nature of God's speaking changes radically the moment that "the word became flesh." With the coming of Christ, God also speaks with a human voice, which can be heard not only with the ears of the soul but also of the body.
As we can see, the Bible attributes immense dignity to the word. Attempts have not been lacking to change the solemn affirmation with which John begins his Gospel: "In the beginning was the word."
Goethe has his Faust say: "In the beginning, there was action," and it is interesting to see how the writer comes to this conclusion.
"I cannot give 'the word' such high value," says Faust. "Perhaps I should understand it as 'hearing,' but can hearing be what acts and creates everything? Hence one should say: 'In the beginning force existed.' But no, a sudden illumination suggested the answer to me: 'In the beginning, action existed.'"
However, these are unjustified attempts at correction. John's word or logos has all the meanings that Goethe assigns to the rest of the terms. As we see in the prologue, it is light, life and creative force.
God created man "in his image" precisely because he created him capable of speaking, of communicating and of establishing relationships. He, who has in himself from eternity one word, has created man and gifted him with the word, in order to be, not only "image" but also "likeness" of God (Genesis 1:26). It is not enough for man to speak, but he must imitate God's speaking. The content and motor of God's speaking is love.
From beginning to end, the Bible is no more than a message of the love of God for his creatures. The tones might change, from the angry to the tender, but the essence is always and only love.
God has used the word to communicate life and truth, to instruct and console. This poses the question: What use do we make of the word? In his play "Closed Doors," Sartre has given us a striking image of what human communication can become when love is lacking.
Three persons are introduced, in brief intervals, in a room. There are no windows. The light is at its brightest and there is no possibility to turn it off. There is suffocating heat, and there is only one seat for each one. The door, of course, is closed. The bell is there but does not ring. Who are these people?
They are three dead persons, a man and two women, and the place they are in is hell. There are no mirrors, and they can only see themselves through the words of the others, which gives them the most horrible image of themselves, without any mercy, on the contrary, with irony and sarcasm.
When, after a while, their souls became naked to one another and the faults of which they were ashamed have come into the light one by one and enjoyed by the others without mercy, one of the individuals says to the other two: "Remember, the brimstone, the flames, the tortures with fire. All are stupidities. There is no need of torments: Hell is the others." Abuse of the word can transform life into a hell.
St. Paul gives Christians this golden rule in regard to words: "No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4, 29). The good word is the one that chooses the positive side of an action and a person and that, even when it corrects, does not offend. A good word is one that gives hope. A bad word is every word said without love, to wound and humiliate one's neighbor. If a bad word comes out of the lips, it will be necessary to retract it.
Not altogether correct are the verses of the Italian poet Metastasio: "Word that comes from within, is no longer worth retracting; The arrow cannot be stopped, when it has left the bow."
A word that issues from the mouth can be retracted, or at least its negative effect can be limited, by asking for forgiveness. Hence, what a gift it can be for our fellow men and what an improvement for the quality of life in the heart of the family and of society!
[Translation by ZENIT]
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Father Raniero Cantalamessa is the Pontifical Household preacher. The readings for this Sunday are Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23.
Even though he was off duty at the time, LAPD demotes veteran cop for quoting scriptural passages against homosexuality [full story]
In fact, the most effective preventive sunscreen is not found in an expensive six-ounce bottle, which generally offers little or no melanoma protection. It is simple avoidance of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., proper clothing and eyewear, wide brimmed hats (four inches or more), and shady structures.Funny, I was thinking yesterday of what would happen if McCain were elected, and were to be called by God not too long into his first term. Would this be better for the country than Obama being elected? I suppose it depends upon whom McCain picks to be the VP.
As I say to some of my friends who don't like to read, "Literacy is wasted on you." They haven't touched a book not related to work since college.
Trailing edge technologies
John Michael Greer, The Archdruid Report
Decades of talk about "cutting edge technologies" have left us poorly prepared for a future that goes in a direction very few people expect. Do trailing edge technologies offer a more viable alternative?
Few aspects of contemporary life are as heavily freighted with mythic significance as the way that technologies change over time. It’s from this, more than anything else, that the modern myth of progress draws its force – and yet there are at least two very different processes lumped under the label of “technological progress.”
The first, progress within a particular technology, follows a predictable course driven by the evolution of the technology itself. The first clumsy, tentative, and unreliable prototypes are replaced by ever more efficient and reliable models, until something like a standard model emerges; thereafter, changes in fashion and a slow improvement in efficiency supply what variations there are. Compare a sewing machine, a clothes dryer, or a turboprop engine from the 1960s with one fresh off the assembly line today, and in the underlying technology, the differences are fairly slight.
The difference lies in the control systems. The sewing machines, clothes dryers, and turboprops of the 1960s used relatively simple mechanical means of control, guided by the skill of human operators. Their equivalents today use complex digital electronics, courtesy of the computer revolution, and require much less human skill to run effectively. On a 1960s sewing machine, for example, buttonholes are sewn using a simple mechanical part and a great deal of knowledge and coordination on the part of the seamstress; on a modern machine, as often as not, the same process is done by tapping a few virtual buttons on a screen and letting the machine do it.
Changes of this sort are generally considered signs of progress. This easy assumption, though, may require a second look. It’s true that the primitive computers available in the 1960s would have had a very hard time sewing a buttonhole, and the idea of fitting one of the warehouse-sized mainframes of the time into a home sewing machine would have seemed preposterous; computer technology has certainly progressed over that time. Yet the change from mechanical controls and operator skills with digital electronics is not a matter of progress in a single technology. It marks the replacement of one technology by another.
It’s at this point that we enter into the second dimension of technological change. Mechanical controls and home economics classes did not gradually evolve into digital sewing machine controls; instead, one technology ousted another. Furthermore, both technologies do an equally good job of making a buttonhole. The factors driving the replacement of one by the other are external to the technologies themselves.
In the case of the sewing machines, as in so many similar technological transformations of the last sixty years or so, the replacement of one technology by another furthered a single process – the replacement of human skill by mechanical complexity. What drove this, in turn, was an economic equation closely parallelling the one that guided the rise of the global economy: the fact that for a certain historical period, all through the industrial world, energy was cheaper than human labor. Anything that could be done with a machine was therefore more profitable to do with a machine, and the only limitation to the replacement of human labor by fossil fuel-derived energy was the sophistication of the control systems needed to replace the knowledge base and nervous system of a skilled laborer.
For most people today, that equation still defines progress. A more advanced technology, by this definition, is one that requires less human skill and effort to operate. The curve of progress thus seems to point to the sort of fully automated fantasy future that used to fill so many comic books and Saturday morning cartoons.
Peak oil and the Olduvai catastrophe: is there a link?
James Leigh, Energy Bulletin
The Olduvai Theory is about the declining total world energy supplies and the catastrophic consequences. Peak Oil is a more confined thesis about oil supply declining due to the looming exhaustion of oil reserves in the ground. So Olduvai addresses all energy sources, but Peak Oil is only about one of the energy sources – oil. In a recent article (Leigh, 2008), I failed to explain the Olduvai and Peak Oil relationship fully and clearly, and I would like to do so in this brief article. So what is the relationship between Olduvai and Peak Oil? Indeed, is there one at all?
archived Jul 10 2008
Bishop Fisher's Homily on Feast of Blessed Frassati
"Ready to Think, to Feel, to Love, to Be Generous"
SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 10, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the homily Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney gave July 4 at St. Benedict's Church on the feast of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati in the presence of his relics. Cardinal George Pell, the archbishop of Sydney, presided at the Mass.
The relics of the blessed, a patron of World Youth Day, were moved from Turin to Sydney for the youth event. They will be available for veneration at St. Mary's Cathedral through July 22.
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Male and female, fat and thin, young and old, clerical and lay, alive or dead at the moment. There are many different kinds Dominicans, of university students, of Vincentians, of Italians, many different kinds of Christians, many different kinds of saints. Each tries to work out with God a path of salvation. Some seem to make more progress than others.
Pier Giorgio was one who in a short time made extraordinary progress in faith, in hope, and in charity. I am delighted, after visiting his family, his home, his tomb, the students and parishioners who treasure his memory, and the chapel where he took as his patron the fiery Dominican reformer Girolamo Savonarola, to now welcome my brother to Sydney. During this World Youth Day period we rely on his heavenly patronage and on the earthly presence of his relics to mediate divine graces we need; but we also hope to make better-known the story of that “Young man driven by his love of God, life and the poor” (Catholic Weekly 30 June 2008).
The Catholic Church, as Chesterton once observed, is the most democratic of organisations, because it has extended its franchise far beyond national borders to all the world -- to men and women, rich and poor; to people of all ages, from infant baptism until the last rites of old age; to people of all cultures and communities, all of whom have their sway. Even more democratic than this: she also gives the dead the vote, she treasures her saints and her traditions and allows ages past to have their say as well. Modern, supposedly-liberal societies restrict the franchise to movers and shakers in the here and now. But as we say at the climax of our Creed: “We believe in the Holy Catholic Church” and that means the Body of Christ stretching throughout the world and through time, proclaiming his Gospel through many channels, including our beloved young people, including Pier Giorgio.
Still, it is a quirky, Catholic thing this, this cult of saints long dead. One radio host asked me recently “What’s this thing with Catholics and bones?” One reason is that the relics of saints are sacramentals: sites where God imparts graces of healing, conversion, strength, though the intercession of some faithful soul who is now with Him forever. This was obvious to our ancient and medieval ancestors, who were so much more sophisticated than us when it comes to death. Yet even we primitives honour our war dead, year by year, with various ceremonies, and retell their stories, as if somehow to conjure up their persons and their courage. Even post-moderns have funerals, graves and monuments; they leave flowers and keep ashes -- not just to honour a memory but in the hope, in some mysterious way, to remain in communion with those who have died. We might have dumbed things down quite a lot in our relations with the dead, yet still we crave for that next phrase of the Creed: “the communion of the saints”.
There is another reason for venerating relics. Especially today perhaps, when so many people think the real me is some ghost or mind-stuff or inner self and that we can do what we please with the body and be unaffected ‘inside’, we need to retrieve a proper sense of the place of the body. Especially today perhaps, after a century when more and more terrible things have been done to human bodies, by way of torture, genocide, abortion, drugs and self-destruction, and through pornography, prostitution and medical mutilation, we need to be recalled to reverence the body. Against any dualism or disrespect for the body, “this Catholic thing with bones” proclaims the importance of the flesh, and of the unity of body and soul, in every human life now and in the world to come. By honouring relics we honour the person who was and look forward in hope to the person who, after being purified of sin, will be restored and glorified. When Pier Giorgio’s mortal remains were transferred from the Pollone cemetery to the Turin Cathedral they were found incorrupt after sixty years. Reverence for relics, then, is not just a quirky Catholic thing: it is a quirky God thing. “We believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.”
“Amen,” says Pier Giorgio Frassati from his grave here tonight. When Pope John Paul II beatified him in 1990, he called him “the man of our century, the modern man, the man who loved much, the man of the beatitudes.” The photographs around our church show a handsome, robust youth with piercing eyes and an infectious smile. Full of fun and energy, full of God and a passion for sharing God with others: on the face of it, his death at the age of 24 was a tragic waste. Yet here we are, at the other side of the world, celebrating him because of what he still says to us. So far he has lived for 107 years and counting!
I first encountered him on posters in university chaplaincies around Australia. Young men were attracted to the way he made an apostolate even of horse-riding and mountain climbing, party-going and playing pool. Young women seemed to be attracted by his dreamy good looks and romantic character. Young Catholics of all sorts liked the thought that you could be a saint while still a young adult, and that you could unite a passion for God and serving others, with an ordinary young person’s desire for fun. I knew I must get to know him better.
He was born into an important Turin family. His father was an agnostic, the founder-publisher of the liberal newspaper, La Stampa, a senator and later ambassador to Germany. His mother, more sensitive and artistic by nature, saw to the boy’s religious upbringing but was not inclined to his level of devotion or charity. It hurt that his parents did not understand his piety and were struggling in their marriage. Like many young people today, he had to find within himself those gifts of the Holy Spirit that would bring his faith to maturity.
“To live without faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for truth -- that is not living, but existing,” he said. As a child he gave his shoes to a beggar. As a university student he devoted his time before and after classes to working in the slums. As a young man he gave his overcoat to a vagrant when the temperature was minus 12 degrees Celsius [10 degrees Fahrenheit] and when his father scolded him he replied automatically: “But Papa, it was cold.” Cold, of course, for the pauper; cold for Christ in that pauper. He gave away his bus fares and even his graduation money to the poor. When asked by friends why he rode third class on the trains he replied with a smile, “Because there is no fourth class.”
It is good to do such things oneself, but even better to do them with others, with “a communion of saints” or saints-in-the-making, and so Pier Giorgio was a great joiner of groups. He loved companionship in a common cause. To promote Catholic social teaching he joined the Catholic Student Federation, the Popular Party and the student newspaper. To serve the poor he joined the St Vincent de Paul Society. To deepen his spirituality he joined the Dominican Laity (‘tertiaries’). Even his practical jokes, sports and social life drew others to God. When Father Gillet -- eventually Master of the Dominican Order -- met him at University, he recorded that the young man deeply impressed him “with his particular charm. He seemed to radiate a force of attraction … everything in him shone with joy, because it grew from his beautiful nature to bloom in the sunshine of God.”
Fr Gillet thought Pier Giorgio rare amongst university students in his “longing for the supernatural and true temperament of an apostle… [ready] to think, to feel, to love, to be generous, with all the impetus and resources of nature and grace.” Perhaps after World Youth Day this will not be so rare amongst our university students. Students were certainly Pier Giorgio’s special love after his family and the poor. Yet shortly before his graduation he contracted polio from one of the sick to whom he ministered. After six days of intense suffering he died on this day, 4 July, 1925.
The church was full of the worthies of the city for his funeral, as you would expect for one from such a prominent family, as well as his student friends and disciples. But to their astonishment, when they came out of the church, the streets were lined not by the élite, but by the poor and needy whom he had served throughout his short life. The crowd of the poor were equally surprised to find out that their beloved “Fra Girolamo” was from a rich family. It was they who petitioned the Archbishop of Turin to begin the process for his canonization.
Now he speaks to a new generation. Now he graces our World Youth Day with his patronage and witness. Pier Giorgio Frassati, witness to justice and charity, “man of the beatitudes,” draw us more deeply into the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen!
Students Immersed in Living Latin at Christendom College
Christendom College held its inaugural Latin Immersion Program for twenty-six high school aged students on its Front Royal, Virginia, campus from June 8-14.
Christendom Classics Professor Mark Clark and Professor David Morgan of Furman University taught students in the intensive Latin course, using the same method that modern language immersion programs use, as well as the Latin teaching traditions of the Church. Students found the program to be very challenging, yet at the close of the one-week program, the students were longing for more, Clark said.
Clark describes the classes as a type of intensive Latin Kindergarten. They used Orberg's Lingua Latina, as well as dialogues from fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth century courses, modifying them to suit the students' needs. The Gospels were also used by mimicking the many conversations Jesus had with others. “It's an easy way to teach youngsters how to begin to think with different thought structures,” Clark said.
Besides studying Latin, students were able to go on a hike on the famous Skyline Drive and take a trip into nearby Washington, D.C.
“It was great to see the students speaking Latin outside the classroom as well,” Clark said.
Clark started the program in response to a serious need in the Church. “The Church has a treasury of Latin literature spanning almost two millennia, which is now sitting like an unnoticed trunk in the attic. Two generations ago, there were priests who knew Latin well enough to work on that tradition—the greatest historians of medieval theology in the twentieth century, for example, were priests and even bishops—but now only a handful survive,” he said.
This, coupled with a failure by modern school systems to teach Latin, has created a dire need in the Church for those who can work fluently with Latin.
“A sign of how bad things have gotten is that even Vatican documents are written in the vernacular and then translated into Latin that isn't really Latin,” Clark said. “We are, in short, in real danger of being cut off from our own tradition. The need, therefore, is crystal clear. And it seems much the best course to teach young people whose ideals are in the process of being formed, so that they may decide to serve the Church in this way.”
Due to the enthusiasm of the students and a high level of interest, two one-week sessions are being planned for next year. Students will have the opportunity to attend one or both sessions. The College only accepted twenty-six students into the program this year, but received applications from close to fifty students and had to place students on a waiting list.
KCD: In a recent article for The New York Times Magazine, you suggest starting our own gardens as a means to combat climate change. How do you see this as making a difference to such a global problem?
MP: I don't know exactly what percentage of greenhouse gas we would reduce if everybody planted a garden, but it would be a percentage and it would be a help. If you go back to the victory garden moment in American history during World War II when the government strongly encouraged us all to plant gardens because we were reserving the output of our agricultural system for the troops and for starving Europeans-- within a year or two, we actually got up to producing forty percent of our produce from home gardens. No food is more local, no food requires less fossil fuel, and no food is more tasty or nutritious than food you grow yourself. So it's not a trivial contribution.
The process of growing your own food also teaches you things that are very, very important to combating this problem. One source of our sense of powerlessness and frustration around climate change is that we are so accustomed to outsourcing so much of our lives to specialists of one kind or another, that the idea that we could reinvent the way we live, change our lifestyles, is absolutely daunting to people.
We don't know how to do it. We've lost the skills to do it. One of the things gardening teaches is that you can actually feed yourself. How amazing, you're not dependent on a huge, global system to feed yourself. I think where climate change is taking us is to a point where many of us will need to take care of ourselves a little better than we do now. We will be less able to depend on distant experts and distant markets. We will need to re-localize economies all over the world because we won't be able to waste fossil fuel, like having our salmon filleted in China before we bring it to the United States from Alaska. These long supply chains are going to have to get shorter.
The writer Wendell Berry was right a long time ago when he said the environmental crisis is a crisis of character. It's really about how we live. The thought that we can swap out the fuel we're putting in our cars to ethanol, and swap out the electricity to nuclear and everything else can stay the same, I think, is really a pipe dream. We're going to have to change, and the beginning of knowing how to change is learning how to provide for yourself a little bit more.
My larger, deeper proposal [in the article] was find one thing in your life that doesn't involve spending money that you could do, one change that would make a contribution both to the fact of global warming and your sense of helplessness about global warming. I think what people are looking for, and why people respond to these kinds of suggestions, is that they do feel powerless. These issues are so big and so daunting and so complex that either you throw up your hands in despair, or you say, "let the experts work it out." I think what people want is a greater sense of their own power to change something now. We're really impatient. We've been waiting for our leaders to do something about this issue for a really long time, and people like the idea that there is something they can do now, and that that something will matter-- both for their own outlook and for the facts on the ground that we face.
I'm not dismissing the need for public action at all. It's important in that individual action is not going to be enough to solve the problem, especially when people in China are going to be happy to emit every bit of carbon I manage not to emit. So we need both, but the two will work hand in hand. Bill McKibben puts it that doing things privately-- changing our light bulbs, putting in gardens-- this is like calisthenics. This is getting ready for the big changes we're all going to have to make. I think that's a healthy way to look at it.
The simple fact is that most people in this nation are not needed in their work, are not performing any particularly useful social functions, and the sooner they found re-employment the better for them and all of us. Keynes long ago pointed out that hiring half the unemployed to dig holes and the other half to fill them up would solve the unemployment problem, and that was dismissed as a clever donnish remark, but he was righter than he knew. For that is really how much of our current economy operates right now: many millions of citizens are doing nothing of value for society, only performing the necessary function of getting a paycheck and redistributing it to the manufacturers, banks, and governments of their choice. The defense worker is almost certainly not necessary, considering that the U.S. has already stockpiled enough weaponry to blow the earth apart several hundred times over; the designers creating biannual fashion changes in clothes and the workers who make and model and sell them are clearly not necessary, their talents wasted in an enterprise remarkable for being without any socially redeeming features whatsoever, nor are advertising executives, casino dealers, pornographers, fast-food purveyors, people who make sleeping pills or Barbie dolls or annual reports or underarm deodorants or celebrity books or plastic flowers . . . but need I go on.(Human Scale, 326-7)
Figure it this way. Only 40 percent of the population is in the labor force. Of that, according to such calculators as Herman Kahn, only 2 percent is necessary for the 'primary' industries that basically keep us going, agriculture and mining. Add to that the workers tha twould be necessary for the manufacture and production of essential goods--approximately 5 percent more of the labor force, according to the calculations of Scott Burns--and we'd arrive at approximately 7 percent of all American workers, or 3 percent of the total population, that is in any sense truly necessary to keep the nation going. I should think it would behoove the other 97 percent of us to find something else to do, and the sooner the better.