Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Word from Rome, June 2, 2006 Vol. 5, No. 38

One footnote to Rylko's reference to the movements as an example of what Benedict XVI means by a "creative minority." While Rylko's point is valid, there's a risk in circumscribing Benedict's now-famous invocation of Toynbee a bit too narrowly.

In making this reference, the pope had in mind not so much specific groups such as Communion and Liberation or the Focolare, which meet the classic sociological profile of a minority. He really meant a certain kind of Christian psychology, which doesn't rely on the broader culture or on any of the normal social subgroups (family, school, neighborhood) to foster Christian living. Instead, a "creative minority" Christian sees the faith as an intentional, deeply personal choice that has to be preserved and deepened every day in the midst of a culture either indifferent or hostile to religious belief. Christianity has to be chosen and has to be confirmed every day, on purpose, and support systems (what Benedict calls "islands of spiritual composure") likewise have to be intentionally chosen and constructed.

It is precisely from the passion that such a deeply personal commitment requires, Benedict believes, that this "minority" becomes "creative." Despite the small numbers willing to make such a choice, the pope believes, they will have a disproportionate impact on the culture because people will look on and think, "The future belongs to them."

In this sense, it would be a mistake to think that Benedict believes the movements are the only, or even the primary, way for Christians to function as a "creative minority." Quite the contrary; it's a disposition to which all Christians are called, with the movements as only one, and perhaps not the best, example.

Perhaps to some, 'creative minority' sounds better than a more 'militant' Church, I suppose... Pope John Paul II called for the New Evangezliation, will this become Benedict's catch-phrase? Certainly it is a time for Catholics to reconsider their lives and whether they are taking God 'seriously' enough.

This morning my niece was baptized at St. Joseph's of Cupertino... I took some pics, and will upload them when I get back to Boston. We had the red egg and ginger banquet afterwards, at Dynasty in Vallco. As for the food... it was ok, perhaps not that much better than Emperor's Palace in SF. Pics up in a week or so.

Surprisingly, one of my first sister's classmates remembered my birthday had passed... not sure how she knew that...

I will probably start a separate blog for papal addresses and other texts, so cantate-domino will have personal updates, current events and such. Not sure if I will keep reviews here though.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Mission Impossible 3

Ok, so I went to see the movie this afternoon, even though my sister and her boyfriend thought X-Men 3 would be better. What do I think of the movie? I'll start off by saying that I'm not surprised that the rumor is Paramount wants JJ Abrams to revive the Star Trek movie franchise, after seeing what he has done for this one. Tom Cruise-haters will probably continue to hate him, though his acting is passable. And yes, evidently directors love to see him run.

Of course there is still an emphasis on action; there is barely any time given to the elaborate con game of the TV series (either one--who still remembers the new one that was brought back in the late 80s? or was it early 90s? I don't think the new one survived to the third season... MacGyver lasted longer--anyone see the credit card commercial with Richard Dean Anderson reprising his role?).

The pacing for the movie was ok--if you can accept the plot premise of a super agent who can do everything, plus pull off not-so-covert missions in front of many witnesses without even bothering with a disguise (even though they have a machine to make them), then it's an ok way to pass 2 hours. In many respects it's better than the first movie, and certainly much better than the second.

As for the Vatican mission--it's not clear to me what the villain's cover is that would enable him to be invited to a party there. Then again, it wasn't clear why there was such a party in the first place, though it is implied that it was for rich people. Tom Cruise was wearing a zuchetto--not sure if it was authentic, or designed by someone in Hollywood. Nothing overtly anti-Catholic, unless there is something to the party.

I don't know about the ending credits song by Kanye West--too much Kanye in that song, I wonder if his ego is that big. Do the lyrics even match the movie? Or is it relevant only because the word impossible is repeated over and over again?

More about movie-going in another post...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Stayed up all night because I was catching an 8 A.M. flight out of Boston... I got some sleep here and there, but nothing really prolonged, and my neck has been experiencing some discomfort; I may need a new pillow in Boston. No one else is at home right now, and my mind is wandering... no firm decisions yet, but soon... but first a nice long sleep.

Philip J. Ivanhoe

Yesterday morning I had an appointment to meet with Philip J. Ivanhoe over at BU. It was an interesting meeting; it turns out that Kwong-Loi Shun was one of his tongxue. (Professor Shun is not in an administrative role for the University of Toronto; I had taken a class on ethics with him while I was at Cal.) Professor Ivanhoe studied with David Nivison. He is a strong advocate of the study of various cultural traditions within the university curriculum, commenting that most of the universities in the Boston area (with the exception of Harvard, which has a strong East Asian studies program) are rather eurocentric. While he is not a relativist, he believes that there is more than one good way of living (and this is true to an extent--after all, being a priest is not the same as being a layman and so on), and suggests that the Chinese intellectual tradition has much to offer (like it's technical language) to contemporary discussion in philosophy and ethics.

He has a keen interest in virtue ethics--we even had a discussion about Alasdair MacIntyre. He sees many affinities between early Confucianism and classical Greek ethics, Aristotle and Aquinas--from his comments (for example, he was speculating on what would happen if his son became a priest), it seems that he is Catholic, though he says he doesn't share many of the same beliefs as Fr. Edward Malatesta, S.J. (I'm not sure which teachings he disagrees with.) I didn't come out and ask him if he is Catholic.

It is evident thta he appreciates Chinese culture very much, especially its emphasis on filial piety. He is married a Chinese woman. (After our meeting we met his wife and they proceeded to go get coffee, holding hands. "How sweet." He even speaks in Mandarin with her... this would impress Fujian gal.)

His enthusiasm for the Chinese intellectual tradition is manifest, and makes me wish I could do something more in that area, and in philosophy in general. Still, after the meeting I left wondering if I have a future in philosophy, or if my vocation lies elsewhere.

Faculty webpage

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

There have been three posts recently at Noleftturns on the book The Suit, the first and by the second by Peter Schramm, the other by Julie Ponzi, who refers to George Washington’s "The Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation". (printer-friendly version)

Books on manners and etiquette for wannabe gentlemen go back to the Renaissance and earlier--still, it is interesting to see George Washington's teachings.

"24 Do not laugh too loud or too much at any Public Spectacle."

I am reminded of certain counsels for monks...

28 If any one come to Speak to you while you are Sitting Stand up tho he be your Inferior, and when you Present Seats let it be to every one according to his Degree."

I wonder if this is an American custom or if it was to be found among the British as well.

Anyways, while the modern suit may be the clothing of choice among the elites, I still don't like it, and prefer traditional costumes. The emphasis on change and novelty in clothing design, on 'fashion' is a sign of decadence and decay, even if it is only possible because of a surplus of money. (And then there is the moral question of how that surplus is being spent...) Unfortunately one has to wear the suit because conformity to social standards is still necessary, for the sake of adhering to something that goes beyond one's personal preferences.
Boundless Answers: A Timeline for Marrying
by Candice Z. Watters

An excerpt:
One of the points that stood out in my mind was when the speaker, Scott Croft, said that if you can't see yourself married to the person you're dating within six months to a year, you shouldn't be dating. Similarly, if you're not currently dating, but thinking of starting a dating relationship, you should also be in the place where you can envision yourself getting married in six months to a year.
She recommends the Marriage and Courtship files at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

Archbishop Rylko on New Movements

Code: ZE06052922

Date: 2006-05-29

Archbishop Rylko on New Movements (Part 1)

Pope Is Looking Forward to Their Meeting in Rome

VATICAN CITY, MAY 29, 2006 ( Benedict XVI will soon meet with tens of thousands of members of ecclesial movements and new communities to experience with them a new Pentecost.

Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, to whom the Pope has entrusted the organization of the meeting which will take place this Saturday in St. Peter's Square, says that the movements will invoke with the Holy Father "a renewed effusion of the Spirit."

In this interview with ZENIT, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity reveals some details of what Benedict XVI expects from the meeting. Part 2 of this interview will appear Tuesday.

Q: When were you asked by Benedict XVI to organize this second meeting of new ecclesial realities? What did the Pope say to you?

Archbishop Rylko: The Holy Father, Benedict XVI, expressed the desire to meet with ecclesial movements and new communities during the first official audience that he granted me as president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

It was May 14, 2005, by an extraordinary coincidence, on the eve of Pentecost! The Pope's invitation was received with great joy, enthusiasm and gratitude by all the movements. And immediately, an intense spiritual journey was initiated in preparation for this important event.

Q: What are the Pope's hopes for this Pentecost meeting?

Archbishop Rylko: The Pope has followed closely the event's preparations.

This was confirmed by his words after the Regina Caeli on Sunday, May 21: "I have present in my heart and prayer the important appointment of Saturday, June 2, eve of Pentecost, when I will have the joy of meeting in St. Peter's Square with numerous members of more than one hundred ecclesial movements and new communities, from all over the world. I know well what their formative, educational and missionary wealth -- so appreciated and encouraged by our beloved Pope John Paul II -- means for the Church."

Benedict XVI has been following these new associative realities for years and has done so with the passion of a theologian and pastor.

In the postmodern world, profoundly secularized, which effects in many a worrying erosion of the faith, these new charisms appear as important signs of hope, intense ways of living the faith, places that favor the encounter with Christ which radically transforms people's lives, enkindling in many an impressive evangelizing impulse.

These realities are the fruit of continuous new "eruptions of the Spirit in the life of the Church," interventions that no one would ever be able to plan or project. They are free gifts that the People of God must receive with profound appreciation.

And I think that, in the significant context of the solemnity of Pentecost, the Pope will not fail to launch a strong call to the whole Church to open ever more to these gifts of the Spirit, encouraging the movements to continue serving the mission of the Church with generosity and passion.

Q: What will be the principal moments of the meeting?

Archbishop Rylko: The meeting of movements and new communities with the Holy Father will be a most beautiful epiphany of the Church in the whole variety and diversity of these charismatic gifts that enrich her and, at the same time, are a testimony of profound ecclesial communion.

The meeting will have the liturgical form of the first vespers of the solemnity of Pentecost and, during the celebration, which will begin at 6 p.m., participants will be invited to renew the grace of the sacrament of confirmation.

The central moment obviously will be the Holy Father's address to those present.

While they await the Pope's arrival, beginning at 4 p.m., the participants gathered in St. Peter's Square will recollect themselves in meditation, alternating hymns and prayers. They will hear passages of John Paul II's and Benedict XVI's addresses on the movements, as well as a series of testimonies.

It is expected that a great number of representatives from more than 100 ecclesial movements and new communities will arrive in Rome from all the continents.

To facilitate communication, Vatican Radio will offer a service of simultaneous translation in French, English, Spanish and Italian. The following day, Pentecost Sunday, to crown all that was lived in the vigil, the Pope will celebrate the Eucharist in St. Peter's Square at 9:30 a.m. and he invites all to participate.

A last indication: The day before the meeting, Friday, June 2, beginning at 7 p.m., in several Roman basilicas and churches, prayer vigils will be held, prepared by the various movements to involve the whole Church of Rome in the event.

[Tuesday: Ecclesial maturity]

Code: ZE06053025

Date: 2006-05-30

Archbishop Rylko on New Movements (Part 2)

"A Gift of the Spirit"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2006 ( The upcoming meeting of ecclesial movements and new communities in Rome will provide a chance for them to reflect on the "ecclesial maturity" of the organizations.

So says Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, who has been entrusted with the organization of the meeting on the eve of Pentecost in St. Peter's Square.

In the second part of this interview with ZENIT, the archbishop spoke about how the movements and communities are finding their place in the Church. Part 1 appeared Monday.

Q: Before the Pope's meeting with Movements, there will be another important event related to the latter: the 2nd World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, organized in Rocca di Papa from May 31 to June 2, by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. What will it consist of?

Archbishop Rylko: Three hundred people will take part in the congress, among them the delegates from 100 movements and new communities, several invited personalities and fraternal delegates from other churches and Christian communions.

The theme of the congress, "The Beauty of Being Christians and the Joy of Communicating It," is inspired by the words spoken by Benedict XVI on the day of the inauguration of his pontificate: "There is nothing more beautiful than to have been touched, surprised by the Gospel, by Christ. Nothing more beautiful than to know him and to communicate friendship with him to others."

Well then, in the present secularized world of today, the new aggregative realities generated by the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Church give witness of this beauty in a strong and persuasive way.

Today, as John Paul II reminded us, it is not enough to talk of Christ; he must be made to be seen by others through a Christian life lived with coherence.

In this context, the participants will be invited to reflect together on the "ecclesial maturity" of the movements, a path pointed out to movements and communities by Pope Wojtyla eight years ago, during the unforgettable meeting of May 30, 1998.

It will be a congress of dialogue, witness, profound ecclesial communion and listening to what the Spirit says today to the Church. And it will all be centered on Christ, "the most beautiful of the sons of men."

Q: What are the most frequent difficulties in the insertion of new ecclesial realities in the Church?

Archbishop Rylko: Pope Benedict XV, when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, underlined that when the Spirit intervenes he always leaves us astonished with the unexpected novelty of his gifts.

Therefore, one must not be surprised if the new charisms also at times cause a certain disconcert in the consolidated pastoral praxis of dioceses and parishes. There are pastors and lay people for whom it is difficult to understand the true meaning of these gifts. And still today there is no lack of mistrust and resistance of different kinds.

Moreover, the movements and communities themselves are exposed to risks derived from a condition that Cardinal Ratzinger described, because of certain aspects, as "adolescent," as an exuberance of neophytes, the taking of unilateral positions, the risk of absolutizing their own existence.

To meet these dangers on one hand and the other, John Paul II gave an important rule in the encyclical "Redemptoris Missio" in which he addresses an invitation to the movements to insert themselves with a posture of humble service in the living fabric of the local Churches, and to pastors to accept them with paternal cordiality.

And Cardinal Ratzinger recommended, in turn, to movements and pastors, to always allow themselves to be educated and purified by the Spirit.

What is important is that the movements be truly seen in the Church as a gift of the Spirit and not only as a problem. And the experience of the Pontifical Council for the Laity enables one to say that in the Church of today this awareness of gift has grown much among the pastors.

Q: Is it significant that the date chosen is again Pentecost? Will there be a new Pentecost for the Church in 2006?

Archbishop Rylko: I am certain that the meeting of the movements with Benedict XVI will be, as that of May 30, 1998, with the Servant of God John Paul II, an important milestone in the life of these aggregations and a strong sign of hope for the whole Church.

On June 3, St. Peter's Square will be like an open-air cenacle in which, gathered around the person of the Successor of Peter, the movements will invoke together with him a renewed effusion of the Spirit on the Church of our time, "so that he will fill the hearts of the faithful and proclaim to all the message of the love of Christ, Savior of the world," as Benedict XVI said after the Regina Caeli on Sunday, May 21.

Poster for Apocalypto

Original article

Another year passed

Well, I could launch into a lamentation about time squandered but I won't... I'll do that some other time.

Last night I went out with my housemate Philosophos and Fujian gal to Victoria's for someone's birthday dinner... since I don't plan on being in Boston much longer, it was a special occasion, and I'm glad I could spend it with some of my Boston friends.

Fujian gal from a week ago, at Le's (formerly Pho Pasteur's)...

Fujian gal with Philosophos; Fujian gal has a nice skirt on--si tau po at Victoria's even complimented her on it. (Well she might not be si tau po, but she might as well be... Si tau po was wearing young clothes again tonight... blue jeans plus blouse if my memory is any good... maybe I should have taken a picture of her for Sarge's benefit.)

Philosophos and someone.

Someone with Fujian gal.

We tried the Fu Zhou fried rice--it was ok, but not as good as it could have been, IMO. Too many veggies, it seemed more like the canned veggie mix for cashew or kung pao chicken plus some sea food. Not as 'authentic' as what one might get in one of the more upper scale Hong Kong style restaurants in California.

In front of Victoria's:

Too bad I can't photoshop someone out of the pictures.

(The Lady Downstairs left yesterday morning for Frankfurt--and the New Scot was unable to come. If she reads this she will probably ask why I didn't tell her what day it was. I like to keep things secret.)

Sirach 6:14-17
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter: he that has found one has found a treasure. There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend, and no scales can measure his excellence. A faithful friend is an elixir of life; and those who fear the Lord will find him. Whoever fears the Lord directs his friendship aright, for as he is, so is his neighbor also.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Pope's addresses during his trip to Poland

Available at the Vatican website.

Magister on the Pope at Auschwitz

The Pope at Auschwitz: “They wanted to kill God”

“By destroying Israel, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith.” A startling interpretation of the Holocaust in the words of the German pope

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, May 29, 2006 – The most extensively analyzed and criticized portion of Benedict XVI’s trip to the homeland of his predecessor, Poland, was when he visited Auschwitz and Birkenau, sites of the Holocaust.

It is criticized because of what pope Joseph Ratinger did not say there.

According to his critics’ expectations, Benedict XVI should have asked for forgiveness for the faults of the German nation – to which he belongs – and denounced the anti-Semitism of yesterday and today, especially that of many Christians.

But it didn’t happen. Benedict XVI didn’t talk speak of these two matters.

Nor did he repeat the usual interpretations of the Holocaust.

On the contrary, he made an interpretation of the slaughter of the Jewish people that no pope had ever made before him.

By annihilating that people – Benedict XVI asserted – the architects of the slaughter “wanted to kill God.” The God of Abraham, and of Jesus Christ. The God of the Jews and of the Christians, but also of all humanity, for whose sake “on Sinai he laid down principles to serve as a guide, principles that are eternally valid.” By destroying Israel, the authors of this extermination “ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of man, the rule of the powerful.”

This is the key passage of the address given by Benedict XVI on Sunday, May 28, at Auschwitz and Birkenau.

It is to these words, and not his silences, that the most attention and reflection, including critical reflection, should be dedicated.

But the address delivered by Benedict XVI at Auschwitz and Birkenau contained other passages that are innovative with respect to the canons of political correctness.

For example, pope Ratzinger did not evoke the solidarity of Jews and Christians in terms of the latter asking forgiveness from the former, but as sharing the lot of the victims, as sharing the will to resist evil, as being brought close together through prayer. In doing this, the pope was not afraid to touch upon controversial questions. Among the “lights shining in a dark night,” he recalled the Hebrew Christian Edith Stein, who was also killed in the Holocaust but is disliked by many Jews because she converted and was beatified. He expressed admiration for the Carmelite convent built near Auschwitz, which is criticized by many Jews as an undue appropriation of the place’s memory.

Here follows the address in its entirety.

Further below, there is an anthology of the salient passages from the other speeches and homilies of Benedict XVI during his visit to Poland from May 25-28.

”I had to come. It is a duty before the truth”

To speak in this place of horror, in this place where unprecedented mass crimes were committed against God and man, is almost impossible – and it is particularly difficult and troubling for a Christian, for a Pope from Germany. In a place like this, words fail; in the end, there can only be a dread silence – a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this? In silence, then, we bow our heads before the endless line of those who suffered and were put to death here; yet our silence becomes in turn a plea for forgiveness and reconciliation, a plea to the living God never to let this happen again.

Twenty-seven years ago, on 7 June 1979, Pope John Paul II stood in this place. He said: “I come here today as a pilgrim. As you know, I have been here many times. So many times! And many times I have gone down to Maximilian Kolbe’s death cell, paused before the execution wall, and walked amid the ruins of the Birkenau ovens. It was impossible for me not to come here as Pope.” Pope John Paul came here as a son of that people which, along with the Jewish people, suffered most in this place and, in general, throughout the war. “Six million Poles lost their lives during the Second World War: a fifth of the nation”, he reminded us. Here too he solemnly called for respect for human rights and the rights of nations, as his predecessors John XXIII and Paul VI had done before him, and added: “The one who speaks these words is the son of a nation which in its history has suffered greatly from others. He says this, not to accuse, but to remember. He speaks in the name of all those nations whose rights are being violated and disregarded.”

Pope John Paul II came here as a son of the Polish people. I come here today as a son of the German people. For this very reason, I can and must echo his words: I could not fail to come here. I had to come. It is a duty before the truth and the just due of all who suffered here, a duty before God, for me to come here as the successor of Pope John Paul II and as a son of the German people - a son of that people over which a ring of criminals rose to power by false promises of future greatness and the recovery of the nation’s honour, prominence and prosperity, but also through terror and intimidation, with the result that our people was used and abused as an instrument of their thirst for destruction and power. Yes, I could not fail to come here. On 7 June 1979 I came as the Archbishop of Munich-Freising, along with many other Bishops who accompanied the Pope, listened to his words and joined in his prayer. In 1980 I came back to this dreadful place with a delegation of German Bishops, appalled by its evil, yet grateful for the fact that above its dark clouds the star of reconciliation had emerged. This is the same reason why I have come here today: to implore the grace of reconciliation - first of all from God, who alone can open and purify our hearts, from the men and women who suffered here, and finally the grace of reconciliation for all those who, at this hour of our history, are suffering in new ways from the power of hatred and the violence which hatred spawns.

How many questions arise in this place! Constantly the question comes up: Where was God in those days? Why was he silent? How could he permit this endless slaughter, this triumph of evil? The words of Psalm 44 come to mind, Israel’s lament for its woes: “You have broken us in the haunt of jackals, and covered us with deep darkness because of you we are being killed all day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not cast us off forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For we sink down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up, come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!” (Ps 44:19, 22-26). This cry of anguish, which Israel raised to God in its suffering, at moments of deep distress, is also the cry for help raised by all those who in every age - yesterday, today and tomorrow – suffer for the love of God, for the love of truth and goodness. How many they are, even in our own day!
We cannot peer into God’s mysterious plan – we see only piecemeal, and we would be wrong to set ourselves up as judges of God and history. Then we would not be defending man, but only contributing to his downfall. No – when all is said and done, we must continue to cry out humbly yet insistently to God: Rouse yourself! Do not forget mankind, your creature! And our cry to God must also be a cry that pierces our very heart, a cry that awakens within us God’s hidden presence – so that his power, the power he has planted in our hearts, will not be buried or choked within us by the mire of selfishness, pusillanimity, indifference or opportunism. Let us cry out to God, with all our hearts, at the present hour, when new misfortunes befall us, when all the forces of darkness seem to issue anew from human hearts: whether it is the abuse of God’s name as a means of justifying senseless violence against innocent persons, or the cynicism which refuses to acknowledge God and ridicules faith in him. Let us cry out to God, that he may draw men and women to conversion and help them to see that violence does not bring peace, but only generates more violence - a morass of devastation in which everyone is ultimately the loser. The God in whom we believe is a God of reason - a reason, to be sure, which is not a kind of cold mathematics of the universe, but is one with love and with goodness. We make our prayer to God and we appeal to humanity, that this reason, the logic of love and the recognition of the power of reconciliation and peace, may prevail over the threats arising from irrationalism or from a spurious and godless reason.

The place where we are standing is a place of memory, it is the place of the Shoah. The past is never simply the past. It always has something to say to us; it tells us the paths to take and the paths not to take. Like John Paul II, I have walked alongside the inscriptions in various languages erected in memory of those who died here: inscriptions in Belarusian, Czech, German, French, Greek, Hebrew, Croatian, Italian, Yiddish, Hungarian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Romani, Romanian, Slovak, Serbian, Ukrainian, Judaeo-Spanish and English. All these inscriptions speak of human grief, they give us a glimpse of the cynicism of that regime which treated men and women as material objects, and failed to see them as persons embodying the image of God. Some inscriptions are pointed reminders. There is one in Hebrew. The rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people, to cancel it from the register of the peoples of the earth. Thus the words of the Psalm: “We are being killed, accounted as sheep for the slaughter” were fulfilled in a terrifying way. Deep down, those vicious criminals, by wiping out this people, wanted to kill the God who called Abraham, who spoke on Sinai and laid down principles to serve as a guide for mankind, principles that are eternally valid. If this people, by its very existence, was a witness to the God who spoke to humanity and took us to himself, then that God finally had to die and power had to belong to man alone - to those men, who thought that by force they had made themselves masters of the world. By destroying Israel, by the Shoah, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of man, the rule of the powerful.

Then there is the inscription in Polish. First and foremost they wanted to eliminate the cultural elite, thus erasing the Polish people as an autonomous historical subject and reducing it, to the extent that it continued to exist, to slavery. Another inscription offering a pointed reminder is the one written in the language of the Sinti and Roma people. Here too, the plan was to wipe out a whole people which lives by migrating among other peoples. They were seen as part of the refuse of world history, in an ideology which valued only the empirically useful; everything else, according to this view, was to be written off as lebensunwertes Leben - life unworthy of being lived. There is also the inscription in Russian, which commemorates the tremendous loss of life endured by the Russian soldiers who combated the Nazi reign of terror; but this inscription also reminds us that their mission had a tragic twofold effect: they set the peoples free from one dictatorship, but the same peoples were thereby subjected to a new one, that of Stalin and the Communist system.

The other inscriptions, written in Europe’s many languages, also speak to us of the sufferings of men and women from the whole continent. They would stir our hearts profoundly if we remembered the victims not merely in general, but rather saw the faces of the individual persons who ended up here in this abyss of terror. I felt a deep urge to pause in a particular way before the inscription in German. It evokes the face of Edith Stein, Theresia Benedicta a Cruce: a woman, Jewish and German, who disappeared along with her sister into the black night of the Nazi-German concentration camp; as a Christian and a Jew, she accepted death with her people and for them. The Germans who had been brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau and met their death here were considered as Abschaum der Nation - the refuse of the nation. Today we gratefully hail them as witnesses to the truth and goodness which even among our people were not eclipsed. We are grateful to them, because they did not submit to the power of evil, and now they stand before us like lights shining in a dark night. With profound respect and gratitude, then, let us bow our heads before all those who, like the three young men in Babylon facing death in the fiery furnace, could respond: “Only our God can deliver us. But even if he does not, be it known to you, O King, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up” (cf. Dan 3:17ff.).

Yes, behind these inscriptions is hidden the fate of countless human beings. They jar our memory, they touch our hearts. They have no desire to instil hatred in us: instead, they show us the terrifying effect of hatred. Their desire is to help our reason to see evil as evil and to reject it; their desire is to enkindle in us the courage to do good and to resist evil. They want to make us feel the sentiments expressed in the words that Sophocles placed on the lips of Antigone, as she contemplated the horror all around her: my nature is not to join in hate but to join in love.

By God’s grace, together with the purification of memory demanded by this place of horror, a number of initiatives have sprung up with the aim of imposing a limit upon evil and confirming goodness. Just now I was able to bless the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer. In the immediate neighbourhood the Carmelite nuns carry on their life of hiddenness, knowing that they are united in a special way to the mystery of Christ’s Cross and reminding us of the faith of Christians, which declares that God himself descended into the hell of suffering and suffers with us. In O?wi?cim is the Centre of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, and the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust. There is also the International House for Meetings of Young people. Near one of the old Prayer Houses is the Jewish Centre. Finally the Academy for Human Rights is presently being established. So there is hope that this place of horror will gradually become a place for constructive thinking, and that remembrance will foster resistance to evil and the triumph of love.

At Auschwitz-Birkenau humanity walked through a “valley of darkness”. And so, here in this place, I would like to end with a prayer of trust - with one of the Psalms of Israel which is also a prayer of Christians: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff - they comfort me. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long” (Ps 23:1-4, 6).

Janine Jansen

I was introduced to her through BMG Music, but I have not yet heard her recordings nor have I purchased any... Another "hot babe who can play an instrument"? Exactly whom are the record companies trying to attract by packaging artists such as her? Men who would otherwise not be interested in classical music? Or do they think there are classical music afficianados out there who are also hot-blooded men, usually sticking to favorites but susceptible to the right sort of influence that will lead them to try something new?

Apparently, the marketing ploy has worked, since she has been receiving a lot of attention through iTunes and her photos. Now she may be a first-rate talent, but does her image make her less credible of a figure? Or does it help make classical music more mainstream? As to the last question, I would speculate, "No."


Her official website. Photos from her official website. Dutch website.

A larger pic of her in the black dress. A copy of a signed photo. Some large photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. (Spectrum Concerts press photos.)

Andante article:
A Prodigy? 'The Word Means Nothing to Me' - Violinist Janine Jansen
By Michael Church

Janine Jansen (photo: Mitch Jenkins/Decca Classics) All the world loves a fiddle prodigy, particularly if it's a pretty young female. One thinks of Vanessa-Mae, pioneer of wet T-shirts, and one thinks of Sarah Chang, burdened at nine with Yehudi Menuhin's alarming accolade, 'the most wonderful, the most perfect, the most ideal violinist I have ever heard'. And the buzz about Janine Jansen, who opens the Proms next week, runs true to form. While conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy proclaims that 'this young woman has everything', Decca is marketing the 27-year-old as sophisticated jail-bait.

Jansen brushes away all talk of prodigies — 'that word means nothing to me' — and has no interest in her commercial image. 'The promoters may see it as an image of me, but I do not.'

But when I ask how she's avoided the unsightly scar that most violinists collect under the left side of their jaw, she confesses to having done some touching-up of her own. 'I can laugh about it now, but when I was 10 all the other young violinists around me had huge brown bruises, and I had none. So I got out my mum's makeup and painted on brown eyeshadow to show I was like the others. My mum went mad, but it did look impressive.'

We are talking in the foyer of a smart hotel in Rome, where she is to lead a chamber concert.

Janine Jansen (photo: Mitch Jenkins/Decca Classics) The concert is a select affair in a gorgeous villa for an audience of rich philistines, and the noisy air-conditioning doesn't allow us to savour her characteristically sweet tone. But even watching her is a joy — urging on her colleagues with fiery glances, alternately frowning or swooning in response to the cues in Brahms's passionate score. And the reality has nothing to do with Decca's image. This is no provocative semi-infant — Jansen is a tall and commanding woman with a down-to-earth manner, which she ascribes, with a laugh, to being Dutch.

To begin at the beginning, what is her first musical memory? 'All my first memories are musical; I remember nothing else. My grandfather conducted a church choir, my father was his organist, and they used to give concerts every Saturday afternoon, so I was in church a great deal of the time. I was singing in the choir before I could read, standing next to my mum. She is a soprano who sacrificed her career to look after us, but she sang solos in church. At home we made music all the time.

'My father also plays the harpsichord and piano, and my brother, who is five years older than me, plays the cello. I wanted to play it, too — the cello is still one of my favourite instruments — but they decided it would be nice to have somebody playing a different instrument, so that we could play together.' One day she went to a concert of junior violinists, and from that moment was hooked.

She started lessons at six, and won her first competition at 10, after which, in her first press interview, she casually remarked that she never did more than two-and-a-half hours' practice a day. That was a mistake, as her teacher was cross when she read it — the correct answer should have been four. She played soccer with the boys and led a completely unprodigy-like existence, until she decided at 16 to enter the conservatory and go for broke.

Winning Holland's most prestigious music award, she chose to spend the money on lessons with that great but greatly unassuming chamber pianist, Menachem Pressler. 'He's all ears, pure receptivity,' she comments. 'He is the music. He makes it so direct that you smile inside.' On the other hand, her memories of a masterclass with the great Isaac Stern are shot through with a still unexorcised pain. Why so? 'He was not with me on stage, he was sitting in the audience with a microphone, just shouting from the stalls. He said I was not being serious, that I was just showing off. Well, that hurt me a lot. Music is so much part of me.' For a long time she brooded on that judgment, but finally decided that all she could do was be true to herself.

A born leader, she has set up her own annual Christmas chamber music festival. 'I said either it works, or nobody will show up. But they did, so we went on.'

She's just roped in her father, brother and boyfriend, violinist Julian Rachlin, for a recording of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons which manages to say something new about that hackneyed work. And as we speak, her boyfriend arrives from Brazil. He bustles over, looking smaller and more vulnerable than her.

Janine Jansen (photo: Mitch Jenkins/Decca Classics) Then, after a tender kiss on the lips, she turns to me in triumph. 'You see, it's true — we do fly to hear each other's concerts!'

Are they competitive? 'No. It has never come up.'

So do they practise together in their new home in Vienna? 'Yes. Sometimes we even practise in the same hotel room, though one of us does go into the bathroom.'

How do their styles differ? She thinks hard, then: 'We're both very passionate and direct in our playing, but we play Baroque music differently. He has more vibrato, his playing is more Romantic, and mine is more authentic — though I hate that word.'

That seemingly effortless authenticity is what we shall doubtless get when she opens this year's Proms. At her Royal Albert Hall debut two years ago, she played Vaughan Williams's The Lark Ascending. This time it's Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. 'I love the piece, and I love the place where I shall be playing it.'
A Times review.

Article from The Independent:

Though people didn't realise it at the time, Radio 3's Beethoven week marked a turning point for the record industry: the 1.4 million free downloads of the symphonies made in the ensuing fortnight highlighted a trend that is growing at an exponential rate. And while Russell Watson and Andrea Bocelli are predictably high in the iTunes charts, the most prominent iTunes instrumentalist is a young Dutch fiddler named Janine Jansen. Sales of her new Vivaldi record are, says Decca's vice-president, Jonathan Gruber, a "digital phenomenon".

Why her? "I attribute it to many factors," he says. "It was a brilliant recording, which people have had a chance to experience in an immediate way. Buying it is just two clicks away from the image of the album. An album feature page on the iTunes site offers you the chance to learn a little about her and to listen to 30 seconds of very high-quality playing, and then to download a track for 99 cents. People find the whole package appeals to them - a fresh version of the work, from a fresh talent, presented in a new way."

Three-quarters of this record's sales have been digital, "but those have had a good effect on physical sales, too, as not everyone buys downloads. So the two sales modes are developing together - one doesn't substitute for the other."

The Vivaldi sales clearly depend on a number of hooks, only one of which is the quality of Jansen's playing: those images on iTunes play a big part. In one, she's pictured leaning seductively back in an armchair and tossing her violin over her shoulder, as though she has more exciting things in mind; in another, she poses provocatively on a carpet, her violin again an afterthought. We get the point, and Decca hear the ping of the cash register.

Back in the early Eighties, it was exciting enough to Western punters that a violinist should be a tiny, pretty infant, with talent as a bonus. When the nine-year-old Sarah Chang burst on to the scene, that excitement was offset by Yehudi Menuhin's ecstatic accolade, "the most perfect violinist I have ever heard". When Chang acquired feminine curves, marketing men presented her in an overtly provocative way; luckily, her playing was good enough to transcend that.

Then came the notorious Vanessa-Mae, whose playing had less potency than her looks. And after her was Leila Josefowicz, a first-class fiddler temporarily knocked off course by being made the face of Chanel's Allure perfume. Debate is currently raging over the Scottish prodigy Nicola Benedetti: she may have a £1m recording contract, but the critical jury is still out.

Jansen's sex-kitten marketing is par for the course, but in reality she's a tall, commanding 28-year-old with a down-to-earth manner that she ascribes, with a laugh, to her nationality. And she's a consummate musician. By never forcing her tone, she forces our close attention on every note; she shapes her phrases with infinite subtlety, and her sound can be as sweet, sad or sexy as the occasion demands. In chamber music, she's a natural leader, urging on her colleagues with fiery glances, in response to the cues in the score. She's also a leader in another sense: when she presented her Vivaldi Seasons at the Wigmore Hall last autumn, her father, brother and boyfriend, Julian Rachlin, were all playing in the band.

I ask her about her first musical memory. "All my first memories are musical - I remember nothing else," she replies. "My grandfather conducted a church choir, my father was his organist, and they used to give concerts every Saturday afternoon, so I was in church a great deal of the time. I was singing in the choir before I could read, standing next to my mum."

At home, the family made music all the time, with harpsichords, a piano and an organ filling every available space. "My elder brother played the cello, and as I looked up to him I wanted to play it too - and it's still one of my favourite instruments. But they decided it would be nice to have somebody playing a different instrument, so that we could play together.

"One day I went to a concert of children playing the violin, and became instantly hooked - I knew for certain that it was going to be my instrument. But that didn't stop me doing normal things, like playing soccer with the boys." Her English is impeccable, and her delivery measured.

She brushes away all talk of prodigies - "That word means nothing to me" - and disowns her touched-up commercial photos: "The promoters may see them as an image of me, but I do not." But when I ask how she has avoided the unsightly scar that most violinists collect under the left side of their jaw, she confesses to having once done some touching-up of her own.

"I can laugh about it now, but when I was 10, all the other young violinists around me had huge brown bruises, and I had none. So I got out my mum's make-up, and painted on brown eyeshadow to show I was like the others. My mum went mad - 'Are you squeezing your violin too much with your chin? You must be doing something wrong!' But it did look impressive."

Prodigy or not, her trajectory via the Utrecht conservatory has been uninterruptedly smooth, with honours and prizes raining down. Vladimir Ashkenazy was one of many conductors who were instantly smitten - "In my opinion, this young woman has everything." When one prize brought in some serious cash, she spent it all on lessons with the chamber pianist Menachem Pressler: "That man is pure receptivity - he is the music."

Meanwhile, her own chamber festival in Holland is thriving: "I wanted the freedom to make my own programmes, and to invite my favourite players. We hold it in December, when the concert season is over, and when it's family time. I said, 'Either it works, or nobody will show up.' But they did, so we've gone on."

At this point in our conversation, her face lights up: "Hey, there's Julian, just arrived from Brazil." He bustles over, looking smaller and more vulnerable than her. Then, after a tender kiss on the lips, she turns to me in triumph: "You see, it's true - we do fly to hear each other's concerts!" He goes off to sleep, and she talks on about their life together. When I ask if they are competitive, she firmly says no. But how do they manage not to be? "It never comes up."

How do their styles differ? She thinks hard, then: "We're both very passionate and direct in our playing, but we play Baroque music differently. He has more vibrato: his playing is more Romantic. Mine is more authentic - though I hate that word."

That seemingly effortless authenticity is what we get every time she puts bow to string on her 1727 Strad. Comforting news for Decca, even if their photos are not authentic. And good news for the Proms, where she'll doubtless appear this summer.

Bits and pieces

Janine Jansen faces the music on her first American tour

PICTURE PERFECT Janine Jansen's glamorous image has caught the public's eye.
Photo: Mitch Jenkins

Among the various things a promising young violinist might do to attract attention in the saturated American market, releasing a new recording of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons would seem to be low on the list. Remarkably, however, that's precisely how Dutch musician Janine Jansen, 27, is making a splash. Admittedly, Jansen's effort is unlike any other that came before it. Where a routine performance can turn the piece into quaint audio wallpaper, Jansen renders the work as hyperactive chamber music, with each section of Vivaldi's orchestra represented by a single player.

"A couple of years ago, I did the Bach violin concerti in this very small chamber-music group, and it just felt so much more flexible in everything—in sound, in timing," Jansen explains on the phone from San Francisco, where she'd played the Mendelssohn concerto the previous evening. (When she appears with the New Jersey Symphony on Friday 2 and Saturday 3, she'll be playing Benjamin Britten's concerto, a rare, ravishing piece.) "A piece like the Four Seasons should really have this freedom in timing. And you need to have this transparency, to hear all the voices and just be free."

It's probably no coincidence that Jansen's ensemble sounds tightly knit—the group includes her father on harpsichord and organ, her older brother on cello and her boyfriend, noted violinist Julian Rachlin, on viola. A performer of exacting technique and opulent tone, Jansen isn't afraid to sound rough and dirty as the music dictates. While the players all use modern instruments, their light, lithe and precise reading brings the piece to life in a way seldom heard outside of period- instrument performances.

"I love period instruments, and I've been in contact with that a lot because of my father and my uncle, who is a Baroque singer," Jansen says. Nor is it likely that she could have been trained as a musician in Holland without encountering early-music figureheads Ton Koopman and Frans Brüggen. In fact, she's played Mozart concertos with the latter. "I like very much his idea of sound," Jansen says. "And for me, the most important thing is to get this feeling, this breathing, in the music. That is more important than whether it is on period instruments or modern."

That accounts for the freshness and vivacity in Jansen's recording; more difficult to explain is the phenomenal success the recording has encountered in the digital domain. Not only has Jansen's Four Seasons often been the top seller among classical recordings on iTunes, it has even cracked the overall iTunes charts, landing one week at No. 19 between pop stars Kelly Clarkson and David Gray. To date, 91 percent of Jansen's sales with this title have come via downloading. The violinist herself is at a loss to explain. "I don't even have an iPod!" she says, laughing. "I don't actually know enough about it to have a theory, but it's wonderful to see."

Some of Jansen's online success is surely due to Decca's corporate parent, Universal Classics, a company that has embraced digital downloading more aggressively than virtually any other classical major label. A strategically placed banner on iTunes might lure non-specialists curious about The Four Seasons, leveling the playing field on which a newcomer competes with every other violinist who's ever recorded the piece.

And then there are those photos. The CD booklet is filled with gorgeous shots of the undeniably lovely violinist, lounging demurely in a diaphanous gown. Universal is also using those images in its marketing campaign, which includes its iTunes presence. Where older consumers might assume the emphasis on glamour masks a deficit of talent—which is definitely not the case—younger buyers steeped in pop-culture imagery aren't likely affected by that type of mistrust.

"I put so much of myself into making a beautiful recording," Jansen says, suggesting that it only follows she would want her CD to look attractive, as well. "I enjoyed having those pictures taken—it was a wonderful English photographer, and I had a lot of fun." That the packaging should be subject to scrutiny puzzles her. "When I buy a record, I buy it for what's on it," she firmly asserts, "not what it looks like."

Blog entry from the author of the previous article, "Don't hate her because she's beautiful."

How long will she be on the music scene?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Benedict XVI: "Do Not Be Afraid to Lean on Christ"

Code: ZE06052808

Date: 2006-05-28

Address to Young People in Blonie Park

"Do Not Be Afraid to Lean on Christ"

KRAKOW, Poland, MAY 28, 2006 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday to close to 1 million young people gathered in Blonie Park.

* * *

Dear Young Friends,

I offer all of you my warmest welcome! Your presence makes me happy. I thank the Lord for this cordial meeting. We know that "where two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, he is in their midst" (cf. Matthew 18:20). Today, you are much more numerous! Accordingly, Jesus is here with us. He is present among the young people of Poland, speaking to them of a house that will never collapse because it is built on the rock. This is the Gospel that we have just heard (cf. Matthew 7:24-27).

My friends, in the heart of every man there is the desire for a house. Even more so in the young person's heart there is a great longing for a proper house, a stable house, one to which he cannot only return with joy, but where every guest who arrives can be joyfully welcomed. There is a yearning for a house where the daily bread is love, pardon and understanding.

It is a place where the truth is the source out of which flows peace of heart. There is a longing for a house you can be proud of, where you need not be ashamed and where you never fear its loss. These longings are simply the desire for a full, happy and successful life. Do not be afraid of this desire! Do not run away from this desire! Do not be discouraged at the sight of crumbling houses, frustrated desires and faded longings. God the Creator, who inspires in young hearts an immense yearning for happiness, will not abandon you in the difficult construction of the house called life.

My friends, this brings about a question: "How do we build this house?" Without doubt, this is a question that you have already faced many times and that you will face many times more. Every day you must look into your heart and ask: "How do I build that house called life?" Jesus, whose words we just heard in the passage from the Evangelist Matthew, encourages us to build on the rock. In fact, it is only in this way that the house will not crumble.

But what does it mean to build a house on the rock?

Building on the rock means, first of all, to build on Christ and with Christ. Jesus says: "Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock" (Matthew 7:24). These are not just the empty words of some person or another; these are the words of Jesus. We are not listening to any person: We are listening to Jesus. We are not asked to commit to just anything; we are asked to commit ourselves to the words of Jesus. To build on Christ and with Christ means to build on a foundation that is called "crucified love."

It means to build with Someone who, knowing us better than we know ourselves, says to us: "You are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you" (Isaiah 43:4).

It means to build with Someone, who is always faithful, even when we are lacking in faith, because he cannot deny himself (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13).

It means to build with Someone who constantly looks down on the wounded heart of man and says: "I do not condemn you, go and do not sin again" (cf. John 8:11).

It means to build with Someone who, from the cross, extends his arms and repeats for all eternity: "O man, I give my life for you because I love you."

In short, building on Christ means basing all your desires, aspirations, dreams, ambitions and plans on his will. It means saying to yourself, to your family, to your friends, to the whole world and, above all to Christ: "Lord, in life I wish to do nothing against you, because you know what is best for me. Only you have the words of eternal life" (cf. John 6:68). My friends, do not be afraid to lean on Christ! Long for Christ, as the foundation of your life! Enkindle within you the desire to build your life on him and for him! Because no one who depends on the crucified love of the Incarnate Word can ever lose.

To build on the rock means to build on Christ and with Christ, who is the rock. In the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul, speaking of the journey of the chosen people through the desert, explains that all "drank from the supernatural rock, which followed them, and the rock was Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:4). The fathers of the Chosen People certainly did not know that the rock was Christ. They were not aware of being accompanied by him who in the fullness of time would become incarnate and take on a human body. They did not need to understand that their thirst would be satiated by the very Source of life, capable of offering the living water which quenches every heart.

Nonetheless, they drank from this spiritual rock that is Christ, because they yearned for this living water, and needed it. On the road of life we may sometimes not be aware of Jesus' presence. However, it is really this presence, living and true, in the work of creation, in the Word of God and in the Eucharist, in the community of believers and in every man redeemed by the precious Blood of Christ, which is the inexhaustible source of human strength.

Jesus of Nazareth, God made Man, is beside us during the good times and the bad times and he thirsts for this relationship, which is, in reality, the foundation of authentic humanity. We read in the Book of Revelation these important words: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).

My friends, what does it mean to build on the rock? Building on the rock also means building on Someone who was rejected. St. Peter speaks to the faithful of Christ as a "living stone rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious" (1 Peter 2:4).

The undeniable fact of the election of Jesus by God does not conceal the mystery of evil, whereby man is able to reject him who has loved to the very end. This rejection of Jesus by man, which St. Peter mentions, extends throughout human history, even to our own time.

One does not need great mental acuity to be aware of the many ways of rejecting Christ, even on our own doorstep. Often, Jesus is ignored, he is mocked and he is declared a king of the past who is not for today and certainly not for tomorrow. He is relegated to a storeroom of questions and persons one dare not mention publicly in a loud voice. If in the process of building the house of your life you encounter those who scorn the foundation on which you are building, do not be discouraged! A strong faith must endure tests. A living faith must always grow. Our faith in Jesus Christ, to be such, must frequently face others' lack of faith.

Dear friends, what does it mean to build on the rock?

Building on the rock means being aware that there will be misfortunes. Christ says: "The rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon the house ..." (Matthew 7:25).

These natural phenomena are not only an image of the many misfortunes of the human lot, but they also indicate that such misfortunes are normally to be expected. Christ does not promise that a downpour will never inundate a house under construction, he does not promise that a devastating wave will never sweep away that which is most dear to us, he does not promise that strong winds will never carry away what we have built, sometimes with enormous sacrifice.

Christ not only understands man's desire for a lasting house, but he is also fully aware of all that can wreck man's happiness. Do not be surprised therefore by misfortunes, whatever they may be! Do not be discouraged by them! An edifice built on the rock is not the same as a building removed from the forces of nature, which are inscribed in the mystery of man. To have built on rock means being able to count on the knowledge that at difficult times there is a reliable force upon which you can trust.

My friends, allow me to ask again: What does it mean to build on the rock?

It means to build wisely. It is not without reason that Jesus compares those who hear his words and put them into practice to a wise man who has built his house on the rock. It is foolish, in fact, to build on sand, when you can do so on rock and therefore have a house that is capable of withstanding every storm. It is foolish to build a house on ground that that does not offer the guarantee of support during the most difficult times.

Maybe it is easier to base one's life on the shifting sands of one's own worldview, building a future far from the word of Jesus and sometimes even opposed to it. Be assured that he who builds in this way is not prudent, because he wants to convince himself and others that in his life no storm will rage and no wave will strike his house. To be wise means to know that the solidity of a house depends on the choice of foundation. Do not be afraid to be wise; that is to say, do not be afraid to build on the rock!

My friends, once again: What does it mean to build on the rock?

Building on the rock also means to build on Peter and with Peter. In fact the Lord said to him: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). If Christ, the Rock, the living and precious stone, calls his Apostle "rock," it means that he wants Peter, and together with him the entire Church, to be a visible sign of the one Savior and Lord.

Here, in Krakow, the beloved city of my predecessor John Paul II, no one is astonished by the words "to build with Peter and on Peter." For this reason I say to you: Do not be afraid to build your life on the Church and with the Church. You are all proud of the love you have for Peter and for the Church entrusted to him. Do not be fooled by those who want to play Christ against the Church.

There is one foundation on which it is worthwhile to build a house. This foundation is Christ. There is only one rock on which it is worthwhile to place everything. This rock is the one to whom Christ said: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church" (Matthew 16:18).

Young people, you know well the Rock of our times. Accordingly, do not forget: Neither that Peter who is watching our gathering from the window of God the Father, nor this Peter who is now standing in front of you, nor any successive Peter will ever be opposed to you or the building of a lasting house on the rock. Indeed, he will offer his heart and his hands to help you construct a life on Christ and with Christ.

Dear friends, meditating on Christ's words describing the rock as an adequate foundation for a house, we cannot help but notice that the last word is a hopeful one. Jesus says that, notwithstanding the harshness of the elements, the house is not destroyed, because it was built on the rock.

In his word there is an extraordinary confidence in the strength of the foundation, a faith that does not fear contradictions because it is confirmed by the death and resurrection of Christ. This is the faith that years later was professed by St. Peter in his letter: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame" (1 Peter 2:6).

Certainly "he will not be put to shame."

Dear young friends, the fear of failure can at times frustrate even the most beautiful dreams. It can paralyze the will, making one incapable of believing that it is really possible to build a house on the rock. It can convince one that the yearning for such a house is only a childish aspiration and not a plan for life.

Together with Jesus, say to this fear: "A house founded on the rock cannot collapse!"

Together with St. Peter, say to the temptation to doubt: "He who believes in Christ will not be put to shame!" You are all witnesses to hope, to that hope which is not afraid to build the house of one's own life because it is certain that it can count on the foundation that will never crumble: Jesus Christ our Lord.

[At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father handed young people the "Flame of Mercy," entrusting to them the mission of evangelizing the world. He then returned to the archbishop's residence in Krakow. At 9 p.m. he appeared at the window of the residence and said the following:]

My dear friends,

This evening I met the young people gathered in Blonie Park. It was an unforgettable evening, and it bore witness to their faith and their will to build a future based on the teachings that Christ left for his disciples. I offer heartfelt thanks to the Polish young people for this testimony.

It includes your presence on Franciszkanska Street, which I know is an expression of your great good will toward the Pope, and I thank you for this also. Tomorrow lies ahead of us. In greeting you now, I invite you to the Mass we are to celebrate tomorrow. I bless you from my heart: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Good night!

[Original text in Polish; translation issued by the Holy See]

© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana [adapted]

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Titanic question

Let's say... you are scheduled to travel on the Titanic to New York with your family, and the night before it was revealed to you that the Titanic would sink, and therefore you knew this beforehand with absolute certainty. Also, let's say that you knew that most of the passengers died, but you didn't know if your family and you would survive or not. (If you did know that your family wouldn't survive, I think that might affect one's deliberation, but I'm not sure if it would change the answer.)

So, you try to convince your family to stay, but they don't take you seriously and to your horror proceed to board the Titanic.

Would you: stay on land and save yourself? Or would you join your family and do what you can to save them? (and perhaps even the ship?) If the latter, would you be prepared for the possibility that despite whatever preparations you might make to save your family, you may still die with them? Would you be already resigned to it and be ready for death?

In some ways that is the problem people who believe in Peak Oil have to face. It's amazing though how many of them, self-proclaimed 'liberals' or 'Democrats', show no concern for the well-being of their fellow citizens, even if they truly are guilty of stupidity and other short-comings. Just take a look at the comments for James Howard Kunstler's blog. Some may acknowledge their own complicity for the current problems, but many still blame the 'right-wing,' 'conservatives,' the 'religious right' or 'fundamentalists' for this and that, even though both parties are guilty for neglecting the issue and defending current economic and social practices. It's amazing how the prospect of disaster and death can't mitigate an ideological commitment and partisanship for some. Some even go to the extreme of hating on the human race, saying how we deserve to destroy ourselves, and that we should disappear off the face of the earth because then things would be better. It's rather blasphemous. While they may understand it's a moral problem (because American consumption and consumerism are opposed to temperance), they don't realize the unity of the moral virtues. Rather, if they are libertarians they resort to talk about freedom and the limits of law; if they are relativists, then it's "if it feels good, it's ok" or "sex as I want it is permissible"; and if they are secularists then "the religious are stupid."

Sin leads to blindness.
The past two days have been hot and humid, and energy-sapping; I felt more sluggish than usual. I hope this Summer isn't bad, since I would like to get a lot of work done before the end of July. Today it is a bit cooler, though I have a feeling it may get worse this afternoon.

Yesterday I found out that the CTRC, the Campus Technology Resource Center (formerly known as the SLSC--Student Learning Support Center?) was closed for Memorial Day weekend. Fortunately, O'Neill was open, so I was able to borrow the book I needed. Today and tomorrow I plan on getting a lot of reading done for a paper I am writing on process structuralism in biology and how it can be corrected and supplemented by Aristotelian physics. There is a 12-page limit for submissions for the graduate student award; that should be a benefit since I tend to be wordy in being thorough. If I don't get it done before I leave by Thursday, I will have to finish it at home in California... 12 pages... where's Kerri Strug to tell me I can do it...

Yesterday the New Scot came over since the Lady Downstairs asked him to pick her up from the airport. He had wanted to go to the beach or Cape Cod--I was not inclined much to either, given the crowds for Memorial Day weekend. Also, many local beaches had been closed because of possible contamination due to the flooding from the excessive rain two weeks ago. The New Scot likes the outdoors and considers such excursions 'normal'--that sort of outdoor activity is still a recent development, around the turn of the 18th century, with exemplars such as Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir. Wendell Berry discusses it briefly in The Unsettling of America, how it is tied to the view that nature is to be conserved for that kind of recreational use (and to the corresponding form of environmentalism). Do the Amish have the desire to go hiking or camping in a national park somewhere? Or are their lives sufficiently attuned to and immersed in nature that they don't need to pretend?

I think I've been camping only once, when I went on that 7th grade trip to Lava Beds--we were a naughty bunch, because of the mischief that happened, the teacher in charge, Mr. Gamble, decided never to do it again. (He worked as a volunteer ranger, I believe, at Lava Beds. How unfortunate... that was an interesting science class, probably one of my favorite classes over at Miller, despite the fact that I can't stand the Cupertino Union School District now.) I enjoyed the trip and seeing the lava tubes and such--nature is awesome when one realizes what it can do, especially to living things which seem fragile by comparison. (There was an 6.3 earthquake this weekend in Indonesia--according to the AP report at 1:10 EST this afternoon, the death toll is more than 4300.)

It is said that we will not know when peak oil has taken place until we are looking at it in the rear-view mirror; that is, until the economic consequences become noticeable. Is it too early to take that into consideration when one is planning for the future? I don't think so, although if it really has a huge economic impact, there are very few opportunities for week with guaranteed security. The New Scot says "Why not enjoy it while it lasts?" If gas becomes expensive, we should use it now while it is cheap to get away from the city and go to the beach. Perhaps... though I prefer to err on the side of moderation, and to deeveloping the sort of discipline that will be necessary once we realize how 'restricted' our recreation options will be once the easy and cheap availability of fossil fuel is gone. (On the other hand, we may become more 'free,' returning to purer forms of leisure and recovering our ability to entertain ourselves instead of relying upon the various entertainment 'industries' and services to gratify our sense desires. Buy will there be anyone left who has any acquaintance with our cultural traditions? Even if there is an interest in bringing back traditional dance for example, it would be difficult to do so if there are no musicians to play the music nor teachers of the dance.)

It's partly about discipline and self-mortification... I can understand that some may have the desire to get in touch with nature because their lives are so isolated from it. One must usually travel some distance in order to be able to talk a nice long walk in an area with trees, whether one lives in the city or in the suburbs. But is compartmentalizing the only solution? Or can we seek a more integrated way of life? How many people would be willing to give up their luxuries for a more modest but healthier, both physically and spiritually, lifestyle? Dividing up our pursuits in such an absolute manner, both in respect to how we live and where we go to engage in them, is only possible now because of fossil fuels--the days are numbered.

If I had to 'rough it' because I was in the military, that would be one thing. Not a desirable mode of living, but necessary because of the circumstances. On the other hand, the artificialness of camping becomes apparent as it is becomes more exaggerated--from people who bring all sorts of modern conveniences powered either by gas or electricity to those who travel and camp in RVs. It's quite different from having to sleep in the fields while tending to cattle, like cowboys or the Scots in Rob Roy do, or to wander as hobbits might, travelling on foot from one place to another, with their sustenance carried on their shoulder or back. One should recall in the middle ages that forests and the "wilderness" were not the safe domesticated places they are now in the United States and in Europe (in the form of public parks). One took a walk in the forest at one's own risk, and not unarmed. Even now one reads of attacks by mountain lions in California or by alligators in the Everglades. If one were to throw in large populations of bears and wolves into the mix, what would happen?

My preference would be the country picnic, but that, as with many other activities, was once limited to the elites and nobility, but has been adopted by the bourgeoisie and spread downwards, with all of the modifications in practice and requirements that are necessary to make it possible. Is the picnic another example of the adoption of a custom or activity of the elites or nobility without an elevation of culture and consciousness? After all, before the development of the industrial economy, who but the elites had time, money, and the access to land to go picnicking in the countryside? Though it is easy to accuse the rising merchant class of adopting form without substance in the past, it seems obvious that now that forms may trickle down, but what should vivify such a manner of living, high culture, refinement, etiquette has not. After all, the emphasis on a certain character with excellences and skills that was necessary for those in leadership roles, both in peace and war, was gradually lost as the feudal polity gave way to the modern nation-state.

Now there are good things to popular recreational activities, whether original to or adopted by the other classes, especially preserving bonds of family and friendship; that cannot be denied. But in my own life, a picnic at the park seems lacking when only a few people are involved--but it is difficult to have a more communal activity when one hasn't really taken up one's position in society, when one's friends and family are spread all over the place, and one has been unable to go out into the broader community to create new ties. The sort of delay in maturity, the infantilization, that we now witness because of how our society promotes its views education, development, and 'adulthood' prevents us from naturally developing culture through fellowship, and with males, there is the added danger of emasculation.

The Lady Downstairs commented on the pictures of the military, guns, and such, asking why I post them when ostensibly the only one to share in them would be Sarge. (Although I'm guessing the New Scot likes them as well.) As the New Scot pointed out, it is because this is blog by a male, and the warrior ethos appeals to most males. Despite the attempts to introduce radical gender equality into the military and protective services like policing and firefighting, Army combat roles, especially as infantry, are among the few tasks that manifestly appeal to the masculine virtues. Natural spiritedness is proper to men--we can see it in the rambunctious physical activity of boys. Not suprisingly, some form of courage is to be found in most men, since it is needed by them to overcome difficult evils for the sake of some great good and thus fulfill their roles. (And hence, according to anecdotal evidence, the appeal of "strength and honor" in Gladiator to many women.) Of course, spiritedness and courage must be guided by reason and tempered by justice, and so while it is easier to find many who have the warrior virtues, which are centered on courage, the virtues proper to a good man, qua man, are rare.

Today the Indianapolis 500 is being held. NASCAR nation and all that... James Howard Kunslter has written against the NASCAR phenomenon, so has Mark Judge (coverage at First Things). Do fallen human beings like to watch people go dangerously fast in this or that vehicle? What would St. Augustine, after speaking out against circuses and plays, say about NASCAR? NASCAR and professional wrestling... Do the racers of NASCAR and the entertainers of pro wrestling really serve as role models? Or are they mere idols, like the idols of Hollywood, adored because they have what we want?

The cult of beauty tends towards narcissicism and the cult of self--"What do I deserve? Nothing less than the best! (or in this case, nothing but the most beautiful!) In itself there is nothing wrong with being attracted to beauty; but to be so in a disordered way, to make it a central focus in one's life, either for one's self or to make a ground for determining the worth of others. Women who have no true appreciation for auto racing flock to the racetracks or to the televisions to get a glimpse of today's chariot drivers and Adonises. Are things so bad that when asked why Mr. Darcy is valued, one answers it is because he is good-looking and rich, without any reference to character? Since we are creatures with a body and dependent upon our senses, it is proper for there to be some attraction based on physical appearance, as we find with the young. But to remain in an immature state past 30, where one acts and reacts in ignorance of more important qualities?

So what does the contemporary American male want? A job that is showy and appeals to his vanity, or something that pays for his pursuit of pleasure? Or quiet honest work, or work that appeals to honor and self-sacrifice?

On a lighter note...
I had purchased two boxes of ice cream sandwiches last weekend, since there was a sale; the New Scot liks them--they're delectable, but I realized that the ice cream is very fluffy, full of air... it's almost like mousse or frosting for a cake in density. No more ice cream sandwiches in the future... just sherbert or normal ice cream. I've been able to avoid chips and other forms of junk food, but I still get cravings from time to time. Cleansing the palate and the digestive system have helped to kick the taste for fast food (except for KFC!).

Hrm, OrthodoxyToday has a blog...