Two things stand in the way of the consummation of American dictatorship (in fact if not in name). Certainly not elections, which are predetermined. Certainly not the complicit Republican Party and Big Business and mainstream churches. Certainly not the cowed press and military.
The first barrier to the total state is freedom of speech. Though everywhere threatened, freedom of speech and publication still flourishes in the U.S. to an extent remarkable in today’s world. This makes criticism of government policies and disobedience to rulers possible, as in the recent grassroots defeat of the illegal alien “amnesty.” Second, a large part of the American population is armed, something always frightening to rulers. Our rulers aren’t worried about criminals, jihadists, or Mexican fifth columnists, but armed Americans frighten them. Is there any doubt that the government already has in place arrangements for detention camps for recalcitrants?
Underlying these two factors is a fundamental condition. Freedom of speech and an armed citizenry are still valued by an indeterminate but very large part of the population—generally people who think the country should belong to those who made it rather than to the government and whatever alien population the government chooses to import. That is to say the obstacle is a portion of the population that is still actually American.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
I haven't walked daily since I went into exile (the beginning of which should actually be dated before the time spent in St. Botolph's Town, when I first went to VA.) I didn't walk regularly in the part of Beantown where I was living--the neighborhood wasn't very interesting, and the weather could be more prohibitive. But I should have been exercising nonetheless.
It is better to take a walk in the suburbs than in Brighton -- less auto traffic at night, and it is probably safer. It is also a good way to become familiar with the neighborhood. Surprisingly, there are a lot of public parts in the part of Milpitas where I currently reside--perhaps even more than in Apple Country?
The other thing I need to work on is preparing, and then eating, a reasonable portion size for meals. For me, overeating is less for the sake of sensual delight than it is a compulsion to finish what has been prepared. No more sodas (what a misuse of aluminum!), and juices will also have to be reduced. Although it would be better to get in shape as soon as possible, I will have to take a more gradual approach, until the knee and back seem better.
Perhaps I have some sort of bias against a particular school district, but I reacted negatively to yesterday's job. The kids didn't behave any worse than the worst class I've had in the district I prefer, though there certainly were a lot of energetic boys in this class. The district does not perform as well as the one encompassing Apple Country on exams and such, and it probably isn't as well-off, but my 'preferential option' doesn't extend to that part of the South Bay. The first graders were generally bigger than the first graders at the school I sub at most often. Nutrition? Are they as spoiled as the students in Apple Country?
Maybe I have a bad impression of the city in which the district is located. If I were able to build up more of a rapport with the students, would my opinion of the district would change?
The boys... how can their energy be redirected? Or 'suppressed' some of the time? Or should there be a separation of the sexes even at the primary level, so that a different pedagogy can be applied to boys? It seems that one local private school does separate the sexes even at an early age.
The class is noteworthy since a husband-wife team is teaching it. I don't know what sort of arrangement was made, with regards to salary and such, but I suspect their having a baby had something to do with it. (I doubt they are paid the equivalent of two teachers' salaries.)
It was another occasion for considering teaching in a public school (at the primary or the
secondary level), and whether I would be satisfied with that job. I doubt it, and think eventually I would have to quit and find some other work. The distance between what can be accomplished under the conditions that obtain at California public schools and what should be normative seems to be so great that I would be frustrated and miserable in my dissatisfaction.
It is also the case that I would prefer to teach Catholics. Is this mere favoritism? Or a legitimate expression of the hierarchy of loves? Radical Egalitarians are mistaken in thinking that everyone deserves the same from all; just because bad results have not happened yet does not mean that God favors such an arrangment or culture of 'entitlement'--He does permit things to happen out of His mercy. (Or in some cases, out of His justice--the state of affairs is its own punishment.)
In much of contemporary American society, a public school curriculum has no place for religion, and one wishes that the Catholic students at public schools had more of an opportunity to learn about God and to exercise religion. How can teachers who are not Catholics not also be evangelizers? What greater truth can they pass on? The acquisition and use of the intellectual virtues must be subordinate to charity, and to fail to acknowledge this order can lead to perhaps the worst form of pride.
The MD is in the area for the weekend, so I'll be spending some more time in SF. I should see if there is a public park near KK, but I don't think there is, since they live on a hill.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Father Cantalamessa's 1st Advent Sermon
St. Paul: "Model of True Christian Conversion"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 5, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the Advent homily Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, delivered today in the Vatican in the presence of Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia.
This is the first of three Advent sermons the preacher will deliver on the theme "'When the Fullness of Time Had Come, God Sent his Son, Born of a Woman: Going With St. Paul to Meet the Christ Who Comes."
The next two sermons will be held Dec. 12 and 19.
* * *
"But Whatever Gain I Had, I Counted as a Loss for the Sake of Christ"
The Conversion of St. Paul: Model of True Christian Conversion
The Pauline Year is a great grace for the Church, but it also presents a danger: that of reflecting on Paul, his personality and his doctrine without taking the next step from him to Christ. The Holy Father warned against this risk in the homily with which he proclaimed the Pauline Year in the general audience of last July 2, stating: "This is the purpose of the Pauline Year: to learn from St. Paul, to learn the faith, to learn about Christ."
This danger has occurred so many times in the past, to the point of giving a place to the absurd thesis according to which Paul, not Christ, is the real founder of Christianity. Jesus Christ was for Paul what Socrates was for Plato: a pretext, a name, under which to put his own thought.
The Apostle, as John the Baptist before him, is an index pointing to one "greater than he," of which he does not consider himself worthy to be an Apostle. The former thesis is the most complete distortion and the gravest offense that can be made to the Apostle Paul. If he came back to life, he would react to that thesis with the same vehemence with which he reacted in face of a similar misunderstanding of the Corinthians: "Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Corinthians 1:13).
Another obstacle to overcome, also for us believers, is that of pausing on Paul's doctrine on Christ, without catching his love and fire for him. Paul does not want to be for us only a winter sun that illuminates but does not warm. The obvious intention of his letters is to lead readers not only to the knowledge of but also to love and passion for Christ.
To this end I wish to contribute the three meditations of Advent this year, beginning with this one today, in which we reflect on Paul's conversion, the event that, after the death and resurrection of Christ, has most influenced the future of Christianity.
1. Paul's Conversion Seen From Within
The best explanation of St. Paul's conversion is the one he himself gives when he speaks of Christian baptism as being "baptized into the death of Christ" -- "buried with him" to rise with him and "walk in newness of life" (cf. Romans 6:3-4). He relived in himself the paschal mystery of Christ, around which, in turn, all his thought will revolve. There are also impressive external analogies. Jesus remained three days in the sepulcher; for three days Saul lived as though dead: He could not see, stand, eat, then, at the moment of baptism, his eyes reopened, he was able to eat and gather his strength; he came back to life (cf. Acts 9:18).
Immediately after his baptism, Jesus withdrew to the desert and so did Paul, after being baptized by Ananias, he withdrew to the desert of Arabia, namely, the desert around Damascus. Exegetes estimate that there were some 10 years of silence in Paul's life between the event on the road to Damascus and the start of this public activity in the Church. The Jews sought him to death, the Christians did not yet trust him and feared him. His conversion recalls that of Cardinal Newman, whose former brothers of Anglican faith considered a renegade and Catholics looked upon with suspicion because of his new and ardent ideas.
The Apostle had a long novitiate; his conversion did not last a few minutes. And it is in this his kenosis, in this time of deprivation and silence that he accumulated that bursting energy and light that one day would pour over the world.
We have two descriptions of Paul's conversion: one that describes the event, so to speak, from outside, on a historical note, and another that describes the event from within, on a psychological or autobiographical note. The first type is the one we find in the three relations that we read about in the Acts of the Apostles. To it also belong some references that Paul himself makes of the event, explaining how from being a persecutor he became an apostle of Christ (cf. Galatians 1:13-24).
The second type belongs to Chapter 3 of the Letter to the Philippians, in which the Apostle describes what the encounter with Christ meant to him subjectively, what he was before and what he became afterward; in other words, in what the change in his life consisted existentially and religiously. We will concentrate on his text that, by analogy with the Augustinian work, we can describe as "the confessions of St. Paul."
In every change there is a "terminus a quo" and a "terminus ad quem," a point of departure and a point of arrival. The Apostle describes first of all the point of departure, that which was first:
"If any other man thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the Church, as to righteousness under the law blameless" (Philippians 3:4-6).
We can easily make a mistake in reading this description: These were not negative titles, but the greatest titles of holiness of the time. With them Paul's process of canonization could have been opened immediately, if it had existed at that time. It is as if to say of one today: baptized the eighth day, belonging to the structure par excellence of salvation, the Catholic Church, member of the most austere order of the Church (the Pharisees were this!), most observant of the Rule, etc."
Instead, there is a point at the top of the text that divides in two the page and life of Paul. It is divided by an adverse "but" that creates a total contrast: "But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:7-8).
In this brief text the name of Christ appears three times. The encounter with him has divided his life in two, has created a before and an after. A very personal encounter (it is the only text where the Apostle uses the singular "my," not "our" Lord) and an existential encounter more than a mental one. No one will ever be able to know in-depth what happened in that brief dialogue: "Saul, Saul!" "Who are you, Lord? I am Jesus!" He describes it as a "revelation" (Galatians 1:15-16). It was a sort of fusion of fire, a beam of light that even today, at a distance of 2,000 years, illuminates the world.
2. A Change of Mind
We will attempt to analyze the content of the event. It was first of all a change of mind, of thought, literally a metanoia. Up to now Paul believed he could save himself and be righteous before God through the scrupulous observance of the law and the traditions of the fathers. Now he understood that salvation is obtained in another way. I want to be found, he says, "not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith" (Philippians 3:8-9). Jesus made him experience in himself that which one day he would proclaim to the whole Church: justification by grace through faith (cf. Galatians 2:15-16; Romans 3:21 ff.).
An image comes to mind when reading the third chapter of the Letter to the Philippians: A man is walking at night in a thick wood in the faint light of a candle, being careful that it does not go out; walking, walking as dawn arrives, the sun comes out, the faint light of the candle turns pale, to the point that it is no longer useful and he throws it away. The smoking wick was his own righteousness. One day, in the life of Paul, the sun of righteousness arose, Christ the Lord, and from that moment he did not want any other light than his.
It is not a question of a point along with others, but of the heart of the Christian message. He would describe it as "his Gospel," to the point of declaring anathema whoever dared to preach a different Gospel, whether it be an angel or he himself (cf. Galatians 1:8-9). Why such insistence? Because the Christian novelty consists in this, which distinguishes it from every other religion or religious philosophy. Every religious proposal begins by telling men what they must do to save themselves or to obtain "illumination." Christianity does not begin by telling men what they must do, but what God has done for them in Christ Jesus. Christianity is the religion of grace.
There is a place -- and how great it is -- for the duties and observance of the Commandments, but then, as response to grace, not as its cause or price. We are not saved by good works, though we are not saved without good works. It is a revolution of which, at a distance of 2,000 years, we still try to be aware. The theological debates on justification through faith of the Reformation and onward have often hampered rather than favored it because they have kept the problem at the theoretical level, the texts of opposing schools, rather than helping believers to have the experience in their life.
3. "Repent, and Believe in the Gospel"
However, we must ask ourselves a crucial question: who is the author of this message? If it were the Apostle Paul, then those would be right who say that he, not Jesus, is the founder of Christianity. But he is not the author; he does no more than express in elaborated and universal terms a message that Jesus expressed with his typical language, made of images and parables.
Jesus began his preaching saying: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). With these words he already taught justification through faith. Before him, to be converted meant to "go back" (as indicated by the Hebrew term shub); it meant to return to the broken Covenant, through a renewed observance of the law. "Return to me [...], return from your evil ways," God said through the prophets (Zechariah 1:3-4; Jeremiah 8:4-5).
Consequently, to be converted has a primarily ascetic, moral and penitential meaning and it is affected by changing one's conduct of life. Conversion is seen as a condition for salvation; the meaning is: Repent and you will be saved; repent and salvation will come to you. This is the predominant meaning that the word conversion has on the lips of John the Baptist (cf. Luke 3:4-6). However, on Jesus' lips this moral meaning takes second place (at least at the beginning of his preaching) in regard to a new meaning, unknown until now. Manifested also in this is the epochal leap that is verified between the preaching of John the Baptist and that of Jesus.
To be converted no longer means to return to the ancient Covenant and the observance of the law, but to make a leap forward, entering into the new Covenant, to seize this Kingdom that has appeared, to enter it through faith. "Repent and believe" does not mean two different and successive things, but the same action: repent, that is believe; repent by believing! "Prima conversion fit per fidem," St. Thomas Aquinas would say, the first conversion consists in believing.
God took the initiative of salvation: He has made his Kingdom come; man must only accept, in faith, God's offer and live the demands afterward. It is like a king who opens the door of his palace, where a great banquet is ready, and, being at the door, invites all passersby to enter, saying: "Come, all is ready!" It is the call that resounds in all the so-called parables of the Kingdom: The hour much awaited has struck, take the decision that saves, do not let the occasion slip by!
The Apostle says the same thing with the doctrine of justification through faith. The only difference is due to that which has occurred, in the meantime, between the preaching of Jesus and that of Paul: Christ was rejected and put to death for the sins of men. Faith in the Gospel ("believe in the Gospel"), is now configured as faith "in Jesus Christ," "in his blood" (Romans 3:25).
What the Apostle expresses through the adverb "freely" ("dorean") or "by grace," Jesus said with the image of receiving the Kingdom as a child, namely, as a gift, without putting forward merits, appealing only to the love of God, as children count on the love of their parents.
For some time exegetes have discussed whether or not one must continue to talk about the conversion of St. Paul; some prefer to speak of a "call," rather than conversion. There are those who would like the outright abolition of the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, as conversion indicates a detachment and a giving up of something, and a Jew who converts, as opposed to a pagan, must not give up anything, he must not pass from idols to the worship of the true God.
It seems to me we are before a false problem. In the first place, there is no opposition between conversion and call: a call implies a conversion; it does not replace it, as grace does not replace freedom. However, above all we have seen that evangelical conversion is not about denying something or going back, but a reception of something new, a leap forward. To whom was Jesus speaking when he said: "Repent and believe in the Gospel"? Was he not speaking perhaps of the Jews? The Apostle referred to this same conversion with the words: "But when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed" (2 Corinthians 3:16).
In this light Paul's conversion appears to us as the model of true Christian conversion that consists first of all in accepting Christ, in "turning" to him through faith. It is a finding, not a giving up. Jesus does not say: A man sold all he had and began to look for a hidden treasure; he said: A man found a treasure and because of this sold everything.
4. A Lived Experience
In the document of agreement between the Catholic Church and the World Federation of Lutheran Churches on justification through faith, presented solemnly in St. Peter's Basilica by John Paul II and the archbishop of Uppsala in 1999, there is a final recommendation that seems of vital importance to me. In essence, it says this: The moment has come to make of this great truth a lived experience on the part of believers, and no longer an object of theological disputes between experts, as happened in the past.
The Pauline Year offers us the propitious occasion to live this experience. It could give a shove to our spiritual life, a breath and a new freedom. Charles Peguy recounted, in the third person, the story of the greatest act of faith of his life. A man, he said (and it is known he was speaking of himself) had three sons. On a bad day all three fell ill at the same time. Then he did something audacious. Thinking about it again admiringly, it must be said that it really was a daring act. Just as three children are sometimes gathered together and hoisted, almost jokingly, into the arms of their mother or nurse, who laughs and says to take them away because they are too many and too heavy, so he, daring man that he was, had taken -- one understands with prayer -- his three sick children and had peacefully put them into the arms of him who has charge of all the sorrows of the world. "Look," he said, "I give them to you, I turn and run away, so that you will not give them back to me. I don't want them any more, you see it well! You must be concerned with them." (Apart from the metaphor, he had gone on foot on a pilgrimage from Paris to Chartres to entrust his three sick children to Our Lady). From that day on, everything went well, naturally, because it was the Holy Virgin who was involved. It is also curious that not all Christians do as much. It is so simple, but no one ever thinks of what is simple.
The story is useful to us at this moment because of the idea of the audacious act; because it relates to what is being discussed. The key to everything, it is said, is faith. But there are different types of faith: there is faith-assent of the intellect, faith-trust, faith-stability, as Isaiah calls it (7:9): of what faith does one refer to when speaking of justification "through faith"? It is a question of an all-together special faith: faith-appropriation!
Let us listen to St. Bernard on this point who says, "What I cannot obtain by myself, I appropriate (usurp!) with trust from the pierced side of the Lord, because he is full of mercy. My merit, therefore, is God's mercy. I am certainly not poor in merits, as long as he is rich in mercy. If the mercies of the Lord are many (Psalm 119:156), I too will abound with merits. And what about my justice? O Lord, I will remember only your justice. In fact, it is also mine, because you are for me justice on the part of God." It is written, in fact, that "Christ Jesus ... became for us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30) -- for us, not for himself!
St. Cyril of Jerusalem expressed, with other words, the same idea of the audacious act of faith: "O extraordinary goodness of God toward men! The righteousness of the Old Testament pleased God in the toil of long years; but what they were able to obtain, through a long and heroic service acceptable to God, Jesus gives to you in the brief space of an hour. In fact, if you believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord and that God has resurrected him from the dead, you will be saved and introduced into paradise by the same one who introduced the good thief."
Imagine, writes Cabasilas, when developing an image of St. John Chrysostom, that an epic fight is taking place in the stadium. A courageous man has confronted the cruel tyrant and, with enormous effort and suffering, has beaten him. You have not fought, you have made no effort or suffered wounds. However, if you admire the courageous man, if you rejoice with him over his victory, if you weave a crown for him, stir and shake the assembly for him, if you bow with joy to the winner, if you kiss his head and shake his right hand; in sum, if you are so delirious for him as to consider his victory yours, I tell you that you will certainly have a part of the winner's prize.
But there is more: Suppose the winner had no need of the prize he won, but desires, more than anything else, to see his supporter honored and considers the prize of his fight the crowning of his friend, in such a case, will that man, perhaps, not obtain the crown if he has not toiled or suffered wounds? Of course he will obtain it! Well, it happens in this way between Christ and us. Although not having yet toiled and fought -- although not having yet any merit -- nevertheless, through faith we extol Christ's struggle, admire his victory, honor his trophy which is the cross and valuable for him, we show vehement and ineffable love; we make our own those wounds and that death. Thus it is that salvation is obtained.
The Christmas liturgy will speak to us of the "holy exchange," of the "sacrum commercium," between us and God realized in Christ. The law of every exchange is expressed in the formula: That which is mine is yours and that which is yours is mine. It derives that, that which is mine, namely sin, weakness, becomes Christ's; that which is Christ's, namely holiness, becomes mine. Because we belong to Christ more than to ourselves (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20), it follows, writes Cabasilas, that, inversely, the holiness of Christ belongs to us more than our own holiness. This is the thrust in the spiritual life. Its discovery is not done, usually, at the beginning, but at the end of one's own spiritual journey, when all the others paths have been experienced and one has seen that they do not go very far.
In the Catholic Church we have a privileged means to have a concrete and daily experience of this sacred exchange and of justification by grace through faith: the sacraments. Every time I approach the sacrament of reconciliation I have a concrete experience of being justified by grace, "ex opere operato," as we say in theology. I go out to the temple and say to God: "O God, have mercy on me a sinner" and, like the publican, I return home "justified" (Luke 18:14), forgiven, with a brilliant soul, as at the moment I came out of the baptismal font.
May St. Paul, in this year dedicated to him, obtain for us the grace of making like him this audacious thrust of faith.
* * *
 St. Thomas Aquinas, S. Th., I-IIae, q. 113, a.4.
 Cf. J.M. Everts, "Conversione e Chiamata di Paolo," in "Dizionario di Paolo e delle sue lettere," San Paolo 1999, pp. 285-298 (summary of the positions and bibliography).
 Cf. Ch. Peguy, "Il portico del mistero della seconda virtù."
 In Cant. 61, 4-5: PL 183, 1072.
 Catechesis 5, 10: PG 33, 517.
 Cf. N. Cabasilas, "Life in Christ," I, 5: PG150, 517.
 N. Cabasilas, "Life in Christ," IV, 6 (PG 150, 613).
[Translation by ZENIT]
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Although I had done searches at Catholic Jobs before, I did not notice this one--or maybe it was posted after my last search. The position of principal is available at a certain school in Sacramento. It does require 2 to 5 years of experience, but even if that is the case I would think about making contact to see what sort of candidate they would be willing to consider. But at this point in time, this position would not be my number one choice. Maybe it should be, but I think I'll continue working on the main back-up plan. If my first choice doesn't work out, then I would look at teaching jobs and such... but I won't know that I should be considering the alternatives until it is clear that the first choice isn't right for me...
So tonight... I need to take a walk.
As for the particulars... I would consider moving to Sacramento, but would the pay be sufficient for a layman seeking to provide for a family? Probably, but everyone would have to be willing to do without a lot. There are some Catholic women willing to sacrifice, but there aren't many.
What do we do in response? Avoid watching movies or buying DVDs of actors who not only hold but promote views that are counter to good morals rooted in the natural law? What about directors and producers? And other 'artists'? Giving them money not only supports their way of life but makes their advocacy possible by contributing to their perceived popularity by the studios or record companies, and so on.
It would seem that there are only a few artists we can actually 'patronize' enthusiastically--Jim Caviezel, Eduardo Verastegui... Others may endorse licentiousness (dressed up as 'progressive' morality, or in the name of tolerance), but do not see themselves as spokespersons for such issues and stay quiet. I think that many artists in the classical music world fall under this description, but I could be wrong--I have not really been paying attention to what they say and do in public.
We should avoid supporting the rest, who are vocal about changing our mores, and it isn't so difficult to abstain from watching movies or buying albums, is it? I don't think any sort of compromise is possible. If it is too difficult to look at what sort of positions artists are promoting, then the obvious solution is to avoid supporting any, unless one knows that they are upholding traditional morality in their speech, if not by their personal lives?
(Most Hong Kong artists in their 20s and 30s tend to be promoters of 'liberal' morality, whether in interviews or commercials and so on. It is disappointing to see how low Hong Kong has fallen in such a short time. Western countries, especially the United States, where many of the influential are educated, have played no small role in the moral decline of East Asia.)
The other part of the solution is to learn how to entertain ourselves. Half-way measures such as watching only "family-friendly" movies are not enough to sustain a culture or preserve a community... Which reminds me, on Thanksgiving, the family, the cousins and DR were playing Rock Band--on par with playing Guitar Hero or Dance Dance Revolution, but better than nothing?
Robert George, One Man, One Woman: The case for preserving the definition of marriage.
See also his The Rise of the Old Academy from the ashes of the University?.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Capone: One of the most lasting images I have of you--I don’t remember the interview itself that well--but you were on Charlie Rose’s show with your T-shirt that you said was handmade by you that said "No More Blood for Oil."
Capone: 2002, right. And, that was pre-invasion of Iraq, wasn’t it?
VM: It was a good six months before it.
Capone: So, it was sort of an anticipatory statement.
VM: If you were paying just a little bit of attention, I don’t think it was that hard to come to that conclusion, any more than it was for someone like Dennis Kucinich. Unfortunately, he was pretty much alone in saying, “Wait a minute,” not only about the invasion, but, then, the Patriot Act--the other thing that was jammed down people’s throat. Even Democrats called him a traitor and “What are you doing? How can you vote against the Patriot Act?” And, he goes, “I’ll tell you why, fellas: ’Cause I read it.” And, they all clammed up, ’cause they hadn’t, and they voted ‘yes’.
Does he not know about Ron Paul?
John the Baptizer, the Advent Prophet
Biblical Reflection for 2nd Sunday of Advent
By Father Thomas Rosica, CSB
TORONTO, DEC. 3, 2008 (Zenit.org).- One of the great stars of the Advent and Christmas stories, John the Baptizer, makes his appearance on the biblical stage today. Let us consider some of the details of John's life and see how he is such a good model for us.
John the Baptist didn’t mince words. He got right to the point and said what needed to be said. He would speak with equally straightforward words to us -- words that would zero in on the weak points of our lives. John the Baptist was a credible preacher of repentance because he had first come to love God's word that he heard in the midst of his own desert.
He heard, experienced and lived God's liberating word in the desert and was thus able to preach it to others so effectively because his life and message were one. One of the most discouraging things we must deal with in our lives is duplicity. How often our words, thoughts and actions are not coherent or one. The true prophets of Israel help us in our struggle against all forms of duplicity.
The desert wilderness
Throughout biblical history, leaders and visionaries have gone to the desert to see more clearly, to listen intently for God's voice, to discover new ways to live. The Hebrew word for wilderness midvar is derived from a Semitic root that means, "to lead flocks or herds to pasture." Eremos, the Greek word used to translate midvar, denotes a desolate and thinly populated area and, in a stricter sense, a wasteland or desert.
The term "wilderness" has two different but related meanings, referring to something judged to be wild and bewildering. It is probably the unknown (bewildering) and uncontrolled (wild) character of the place that earned it the name "wilderness." There is also another way of understanding the meaning of desert or wilderness.
A careful look at the root of the word midvar reveals the word davar meaning "word" or "message." The Hebraic notion of "desert" or "wilderness" is that holy place where God's word is unbound and completely free to be heard, experienced and lived. We go to the desert to hear God's Word, unbound and completely free.
The Spirit of God enabled the prophets to feel with God. They were able to share God's attitudes, God's values, God's feelings, God's emotions. This enabled them to see the events of their time as God saw them and to feel the same way about these events as God felt. They shared God's anger, God's compassion, God's sorrow, God's disappointment, God's revulsion, God's sensitivity for people, and God’s seriousness. Nor did they share these things in the abstract; they shared God's feelings about the concrete events of their time.
John the Baptist is the Advent prophet. His image is often portrayed in the finger pointing to the one who was coming: Jesus Christ. If we are to take on John’s role of preparing the way in today’s world, our lives also will become the pointing fingers of living witnesses who demonstrate that Jesus can be found and that he is near. John gave the people of his time an experience of forgiveness and salvation, knowing full well that he himself was not the Messiah, the one who could save. Do we allow others to have experiences of God, of forgiveness and of salvation?
John the Baptist came to teach us that there is a way out of the darkness and sadness of the world and of the human condition, and that way is Jesus himself. The Messiah comes to save us from the powers of darkness and death, and to put us back on the path of peace and reconciliation so that we might find our way back to God.
The late Jesuit theologian, Father Karl Rahner, once wrote: "We have to listen to the voice of the one calling in the wilderness, even when it confesses: I am not he. You cannot choose not to listen to this voice, 'because it is only the voice of a man.' And, likewise, you cannot lay aside the message of the Church, because the Church is 'not worthy to untie the shoelaces of its Lord who goes on before it.' It is, indeed, still Advent."
We may not have the luxury of traveling to the wilderness of Judah, nor the privilege of a week’s retreat in the Sinai desert this Advent. However, we can certainly carve out a little desert wilderness in the midst of our activity and noise this week. Let us go to that sacred place and allow the Word of God to speak to us, to heal us, to reorient us, and to lead us to the heart of Christ, whose coming we await this Advent.
[The readings for this Sunday are Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8]
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Basilian Father Thomas Rosica is the chief executive officer of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network in Canada. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What brought the U.S. to this sorry state of affairs?
WW: The fundamental reason, I believe, is that we are not interested in what works best in combat. Instead, our defense structure in Washington is interested in other things. In Congress they’re interested in jobs and campaign contributions. In the Pentagon they’re interested in various political and bureaucratic agendas. They’re not paying attention to the lessons of combat history. A bloated, declining military structure is the result.
Surely you’re not suggesting that our leaders in uniform, as opposed to those interfering civilians [sound of Wheeler laughing] aren’t interested in producing the most combat-efficient force possible?
WW: I was laughing because that’s the bilgewater that they keep on pumping – and believing, I’m sure – on Capitol Hill. If you look at the record, a lot of our military leadership is very questionable. During the 2003 march to Baghdad the commanders had to pause simply out of panic at the minimal opposition they were facing, coupled with some poor weather and a supply problem. None of the commanders warned the public, or the president, about the problems that we encountered in Iraq. People point to [former army chief of staff] General Eric Shinseki as the great hero who told us that we needed a larger invasion and occupation force and was ignored. That argument simply doesn’t work. The idea that more Christian, white American soldiers occupying an alien country would have prevented an insurgency is ridiculous.
See also CDI's Straus Military Reform Project.
Including Stealing Dorothy by Caleb Stegall, On the Fixing of Our Gaze by James V. Schall, S.J., and Donald Davidson and the South’s Conservatismby Russell Kirk.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Hmmm... but Lee Jung Jae is in it, and the colors of the movie are pretty...
Taking photos has become a form of self-amusement, as cameras are now more ubiquitous, with the development of cameras on cell phones and the availability of relatively inexpensive digital cameras. Still, anyone who thought themselves to be a lady would not have acted in such a vulgar manner, even if the photos were meant to be seen only by themselves and their friends. But this is an age when the lack of self-restraint is praised. (And image without substance prevails.)
Monday, December 01, 2008
Any reform, including university reform, requires we change ourselves first. The academic world must be free from outside pressures; it can only be truly free when scientific and cultural training favour the development of the social and civil community as a whole.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Benedict XVI warns against young people of two dangers new technologies pose, namely a lower capacity to concentrate and isolation inside virtual reality. Fortunately, this problem is not present in universities where a “virtuous balance” has been struck between “individual and group time, research and thought, sharing and open exchange with others, in a horizon that tends towards the universal.”
The Pope, a former university professor himself, took advantage of a meeting with students and faculty at the Università di Parma, to express his thoughts on the academic world.
He told his audience that the university “was for many years my workplace,” adding that even after leaving it I have never stopped following it and feeling spiritually connected to it.”
During the meeting he also discussed the issues of university reform and academic freedom, taking his inspiration from the figure of Saint Peter Damian, a man of letter closely associated with Parma’s university where he taught.
“In our age like in that of Peter Damian’s, the lack of unifying principles explains particularisms and uncertainties. University studies should undoubtedly prepare students for society, not only on the basis of narrowly defined scientific research but also more generally in providing young people an opportunity to mature intellectually, morally and as citizens, tackling the great questions that today challenge the conscience of men and women.”
Reminding his audience that Peter Damian was among the great “reformers” of the Church after the year 1000, the Holy Father asked: “What is the real sense of reform?”
“A fundamental aspect that we can draw from his writings and his personal witness is that every true reform must be spiritual and moral above all, i.e. it must start from our conscience,” he said.
For the Pontiff there is a lesson that applies to university reform, whereby “structural or technical changes are really effective if everyone, scholars, students, technical and administrative staff, examine their conscience,”
“If the human environment is to improve qualitatively and become more efficient, people must change themselves.” They can do so “by correcting what harms the common good or, at least, try to thwart it.”
“With reform comes the notion of freedom. The reforms that Peter Damian and his contemporaries pursued involved making the Church freer, first of all at a spiritual but also historical level.”
“Likewise university reform is based on freedom: freedom to teach, freedom to research but also freedom of the academic world from [the pressures of] economic and political power. This does not mean isolation from society, a self-referential attitude or the pursuit of private interests with public moneys—this is certainly not Christian freedom!” Instead it means that “people, communities or institutions are truly free in accordance with the Gospel and the Church if they fully respond to their nature and purpose.” In this sense “the Academic world’s vocation is to scientifically and culturally prepare people” to contribute to the “development of social and civil community as a whole”.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Father's other admonition? We should avoid shopping for Christmas, and focus instead on the gift of love, and providing it to family and others. Certainly we should try to make time for corporal and spiritual works of mercy--how many Catholics can name them, or have the necessary familiarity with the Faith and the spiritual preparation that is needed?
After Mass, I chatted a bit with KK's prof, SC. I hope it wasn't too frustrating for him--it must have seemed like an excrutiating and painful experience, like having one's teeth pulled. He had to continue asking questions in order to get answers from me. Being evasive--I've had a lot of practice over the years. It's a 'natural reaction,' when one is in a (perceived) hostile environment and wishes to avoid negative consequences. The other thing is that I've developed a distaste for 'shop talk,' especially if I don't think I've been adequately prepared to speak about a particular topic. (There are other reasons which also explain why I am bad at oral exams. Alas, the rhetoric course I took at Cal was for writing, not speaking.)
He asked about my opinions regarding the new natural law theory of Grisez/Finnis/Boyle, and how it differed from the 'neo-Thomists.' Then he asked about the differences between the Laval School/Dominicans and the existential Thomists regarding metaphysics, who I thought were reliable guides and who were not. Since I am not yet a student of metaphysics, I didn't want to give an authoritative answer, preferring to explain my sympathies but without going into a sustained critique of other 'Thomistic' schools.I brought up the question of whether a moral philosophy/natural ethics is possible. (I need to finish that post on Peter Hitchens and atheism.) I do think that even if a natural ethics is possible, it is not sufficient to guide us to happiness--we need Divine Revelation to tell us that our happiness consists of a supernatural union with God, and why there is something wrong with us. (While we know through Divine Revelation about original sin, I think it is possible for us to know by natural reason alone that there is something wrong with us--namely that we are unable to love God in way that is natural and proper to us, and that this is something that we should be able to do if all was right with creation.)
Maybe I should write a paper looking at Maritain's and McInerny's positions, using Fr. Wallace's book on moral demonstration to explain how ethics is a science. Christendom does not require that its students take moral philosophy, as there is a moral theology requirement instead. I tend to agree that at a Catholic liberal arts school, the moral science the students should be learning should be moral theology; if there is a place for moral philosophy it should be as a preparation for moral theology.
SC responded that it would seem that if one is to study [Thomistic] moral theology, one should nonetheless has to deal with the 'philosophical' issues that divide Thomists. But perhaps the alternative would be to study a different sort of moral theology--that of the monastic theologians, for example. It might not be scholastic, or Thomistic/Aristotelian in its understanding of the theology as a science, but perhaps it would just be as effective, if not more so, for your typical undergraduate.
We also touched upon the topic of Catholic education and its reform. (He remarked that St. Mary's and USF are 'failed experiments.') We agreed that what are needed are small Catholic liberal arts schools. We got to the topic of accreditation, but we didn't finish it. I would like his opinion about opening a Catholic college that would accept adolescents and prepare them for a BA by first giving them a liberal arts education, grounded in grammar, rhetoric, logic, and so on. (A two- or three-year program.) In the U.S. they should also be exposed to the different American political traditions, and the authentic republican tradition. (Would such a school be bound by state requirements governing public secondary schools? And can it be adjusted to satisfy UC and CSU demands?)
I look forward to continuing the conversation some time soon... this afternoon was a reminder of why I was drawn to education and philosophy in the first place. There are very few opportunities for such conversations here--it's not really something I could do with my friends from high school. SC seemed concerned that I might avoid talking with him in the future, since I seemed uncomfortable with answering his questions (at first). I hope this impression goes away the next time.
(Christopher Jamison, the Abbot of Worth in West Sussex)
Last week, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, expressed similar concerns about the direction of society when he said that social cohesion has been eradicated due to "rampant consumerism and individualism".Boycott Disney! The abbot's book, Finding Happiness (and Finding Sanctuary).
In 2006, Lord Layard, the Government's "happiness Tsar", urged for a rethink of economic and social policy after concluding that the pursuit of financial success has led to a rise in depression and emotional impoverishment.
However, in Fr Jamison's new book, Finding Happiness, he suggests that many of the answers can be found by people living more simply.
The book, published this week, urges people to reject the superficial temptations offered by contemporary culture.
He criticises the obsession with celebrity, which he blames for creating jealousy and a society in which people are dissatisfied with their life.
Finding Happiness by Abbot Christopher Jamison
BBC 'The Monastery'
Finding Sanctuary - The Monastery BBC TWO
Finding Sanctuary the Book- from BBC TV’s The Monastery
From CNA: Obama administration reveals plans to advance gay agenda
The relevant section of change.gov.
And from Market Watch: Tan Books and Publishers Acquired by Saint Benedict Press
(Tan Books and St. Benedict Press)
The overoptimized society
Kurt Cobb, Resource Insights
The tight coupling and vast size of the globe's major economic actors, once hailed a triumph for economic efficiency, has now become an Achilles' heel.
Survivalism: For peak oilers and ecotopians too?
Jerry Erwin, culturechange.org
It seems that many of the peak oil heavyweights, including Richard Heinberg and Dmitry Orlov, in particular, despite their own ingenious contributions to analyzing our current predicament, seem to blithely dismiss survivalism. They apparently do not understand the basic technical constructs of survivalism...
On God's Gift of His Time
"A Gift That Man Can Appreciate or Squander"
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Today, with the First Sunday of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year. This fact invites us to reflect on the dimension of time, which has always greatly fascinated us. Following the example of what Jesus liked to do, I would like to start from a very concrete experience: We all say "I don't have time" because the rhythm of daily life has become too frenetic for everyone. The Church has "good news" to announce about this too: God gives us his time. We always have little time. Especially in regard to the Lord, we do not know how to find him, or, sometimes, we do not want to find him. And yet God has time for us!
This is the first thing that the beginning of a liturgical year makes us rediscover with an ever new wonder. Yes: God gives us his time, because he has entered into history, with his Word and his works of salvation, to open it to eternity, to make it into a covenant history. From this perspective time is already, in itself, a basic sign of God's love. It is a gift that man can, like everything else, appreciate or, on the contrary, squander; he can grasp its meaning, or neglect it with obtuse superficiality.
There are three great "hinges" of time that span salvation history: At the beginning is creation, at the center the Incarnation-redemption and at the end the "parousia," the final coming that also includes the universal judgment. These three moments, however, are not to be understood simply in chronological succession. In fact, while it is true that creation is at the beginning of everything, it also continues and is realized along the whole arc of cosmic becoming to the very end of time. So also with the Incarnation-redemption, if it occurred at a determinate historical moment -- Jesus' sojourn on the earth -- nevertheless, its effect extends over the time that preceded it and all of the time that follows it. And the Final Coming and the Last Judgment, which precisely on Christ's cross were decisively anticipated, exercise their influence on the conduct of men of every age.
The liturgical season of Advent celebrates God's coming in its two moments: First it invites us to awaken the expectation of Christ's glorious return; then, nearing Christmas, it calls us to welcome the Word made man for our salvation. But the Lord comes constantly into our lives. How opportune, then, is Jesus' call, which is more powerfully proposed than ever this Sunday: "Be vigilant!" (Mark 13:33, 35, 37). It is addressed to the disciples, but also to "everyone," because everyone, at the hour that God alone knows, will be called to give an account of his own life. This entails a proper detachment from worldly goods, a sincere repentance for one's errors, an active charity toward one's neighbor and above all a humble and confident placing of oneself into God's hands, our tender and merciful Father.
The Virgin Mary is the icon of Advent. Let us call upon her to help us to become an extension of humanity for the Lord who comes.
[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father said in Italian:]
November 30 is the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, brother of Simon Peter. Both had been followers of John the Baptist and, after Jesus' baptism in the Jordan, they became his disciples, recognizing him as the Messiah. St. Andrew is the patron of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and so the Church of Rome feels linked to the Church of Constantinople by a special fraternal bond. For this reason, following the tradition, on this felicitous occasion a delegation from the Holy See, led by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has embarked on a visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. With all my heart, I offer my greeting and my best wishes to him and to the faithful of the patriarchate, invoking the abundance of heavenly blessings upon all.
I would like to invite you to join in prayer for the numerous people killed, wounded or in any way harmed in the brutal terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, and the fighting that has broken out in Jos, Nigeria. The causes and the circumstances of these tragic events are different but the horror and the disapproval of the explosion of such cruel and senseless violence must be the same. Let us ask the Lord to touch the hearts of those who falsely believe that this is the way to resolve local or international problems and let us all feel encouraged to offer an example of meekness and love to build a society worthy of God and man.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
[Then, the Pope greeted the crowds in several languages. In English, the Holy Father said:]
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus prayer. I offer a special welcome to the participants in the Youth Meeting at the European University of Rome. Today, the First Sunday of Advent, the Church begins a new liturgical year. The Gospel invites to be prepared as faithful servants for the coming of Christ. May Advent be a time of preparation that leads us to a life centred on our Christian hope. May God bless you all!
© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Papal Advent Homily
"In This Season the Whole Church Is Called to Be Hope"
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's homily at first vespers for the First Sunday of Advent, which he celebrated Saturday in St. Peter's Basilica.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
With these vespers we begin the itinerary of a new liturgical year, entering into the first of the seasons that constitute that year: Advent. In the biblical reading that we just heard, taken from the First Letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul uses precisely this word: "coming," which in Greek is "parousia" and in Latin, "adventus" (1 Thessalonians 5:23). According to the common translation of this text, Paul exhorts the Christians of Thessalonica to keep themselves irreprehensible "for" the coming of the Lord. But in the original text we read "in" the coming ("en te parousia"), as if the coming of the Lord were, more than a future event, a spiritual place in which we already walk in the present, during the wait, and in which we are perfectly vigilant in every personal dimension. In effect, this is exactly what we live in the liturgy: celebrating the liturgical seasons, we actualize the mystery -- in this case the coming of the Lord -- in such a way as to be able, so to speak, to "walk in it" toward its full realization, at the end of time, but already drawing sanctifying virtue from it from the moment that the last times have already begun with the death and resurrection of Christ.
The word that sums up this particular state in which we await something that is supposed to manifest itself but which we also already have a glimpse and foretaste of, is "hope." Advent is the spiritual season of hope par excellence, and in this season the whole Church is called to be hope, for itself and for the world. The whole spiritual organism of the mystical body assumes, as it were, the "color" of hope. The whole people of God begins the journey, drawn by this mystery: that our God is "the God who comes" and who calls us to come to meet him. In what way? Above all in that universal form of hope and expectation that is prayer, which finds its eminent expression in the Psalms, human words by which God himself has placed and continually places the invocation of his coming on the lips and hearts of believers. Let us pause for a moment, then, on the two Psalms that we prayed a short while ago and that follow each other in the biblical text itself: 141 and 142, according to the Hebrew numbering.
"O Lord, I cry to you, hasten to help me; / give ear to my voice when I cry to you. / Let my prayer rise up to you as incense, / the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice" (Psalm 141:1-2). This is how the first Psalm of first vespers of the First Week of the Psalter begins: words that at the beginning of Advent acquire a new "color" because the Holy Spirit always makes them sound in a new way in us, in the Church on its way between the time of God and the time of men. "Lord ... hasten to help me" (141:1). It is the cry of a person who feels himself to be in grave danger, but it is also the cry of the Church in the midst of the many snares that surround her, that threaten her holiness, that irreprehensible integrity of which the Apostle Paul speaks, that must be maintained for the coming of the Lord. And in this invocation there also resounds the cry of all the just, of all those who want to resist evil, the seductions of an iniquitous well-being, of pleasures that are offensive to human dignity and the condition of the poor. At the beginning of Advent the Church's liturgy again cries out with these words and addresses them to God "as incense" (141:2). In the Church material sacrifices are no longer offered as they were in the temple of Jerusalem. Instead the spiritual offering of prayer is lifted up, in union with Christ's, who is both sacrifice and priest of the new and eternal covenant. In the cry of the mystical body we recognize the very voice of the Head: the Son of God who took our trials and temptations upon himself to give us the grace of his victory.
This identification of Christ with the Psalmist is particularly evident in the next Psalm, Psalm 142. Here every word, every invocation makes us think of Jesus in the passion; in particular we think of his prayer to the Father in Gethsemane. In his first coming, in the incarnation, the Son of God wanted fully to share our human condition. Naturally, he did not share in sin, but for our salvation he suffered its consequences. Every time she prays Psalm 142 the Church experiences again the grace of this com-passion, this "coming" of the Son of God into human anguish, his descent into its deepest depths. Advent's cry of hope expresses, then, from the beginning and in the most forceful way, the whole gravity of our condition, our extreme need of salvation. It says: We await the Lord's coming not like a beautiful decoration added to an already saved world but as the only way to freedom from mortal danger. And we know that he himself, the Liberator, had to suffer and die to bring us out of this prison (cf. 142:8).
In sum, these two Psalms protect us against any temptation of evasion and flight from reality; they preserve us from a false hope, one that would like to enter into Advent and set off for Christmas forgetting the dramatic nature of our personal and collective existence. In effect, it is a trustworthy hope, not deceptive, it cannot but be an "Easter" hope, as we are reminded every Saturday evening by the canticle from the Letter to the Philippians, with which we praise Christ incarnate, crucified, risen and universal Lord. We turn our gaze and heart to him, in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Advent. Let us place our hand in hers and enter with joy into this new season of grace that God grants his Church for the good of the whole of humanity. Like Mary and with her maternal assistance, let us make ourselves docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, so that the God of Peace might completely sanctify us, and the Church might become a sign and an instrument of hope for all men.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
Julianne Hough and Cody Linley perform the jitterbug on the finale show - encore
ET with DWTS Julianne Hough will NOT be back next season
Boo! I hope her next album is better than her debut album.
Julianne Hough Behind the scenes video! The making of "Sounds of the Season ...
Julianne Hough - That Song In My Head acoustic
Access Hollywood with DWTS and the Houghs 5-21-08