Monday, July 22

A terrible discovery underneath a Greek Catholic monastery in the Ukraine:

For two years, the Rev. Volodymyr Dolganyuk lived in the small, spartan room at a monastery here studying the word of God. For two years, he had no idea that just beneath his feet lay the work of unspeakable evil. Then one day someone decided to unseal the basement of the 17th-century building and came across a few bones. And then some more. And still more. By the time all the rubble and sand had been cleared out of the catacombs, the remains of 225 people had been unearthed -- not those of ancient ancestors, but of fathers and mothers and siblings of today's Ukrainians, probably victims of a wave of killing by Soviet secret police after World War II.

Yes, more template games being played. I'm letting you interpret the middle pictures - what my life is all about "in between naps."
Brazilian priest says calm down: Image is cleaning stain -- not Virgin Mary.
Looking for Catholic-related news photos? Click on this link. You'll find all you need, included scads of WYD-related phots. Like this one, which gives you one more hint about the clue-impaired press. It's captioned:

Workers set up giant banners of young Catholic martyrs killed for their beliefs, in preparation for World Youth Day at Exhibition Place in Toronto, July 22, 2002

Ummm...I believe the gal on the right is Therese of Lisieux. Known for many things. Martyrdom not one of them.

Via Holy Weblog:

A very interesting story about two indigenous Mexicans who will be beatified by JPII. The two were martyred because they espied their fellows engaging in traditional tribal worship, told the priests and Spanish soldiers about it and....

The soldiers burst into the ceremony, dispersing the crowd and beating people with their swords. Bautista and de los Angeles took refuge on the church grounds. As dusk settled on the pueblo the following night, angry villagers gathered outside the church. They banged war drums. They whistled. They hacked at the church doors with hatchets. They called for Bautista and de los Angeles to come out. The dozen or so Spanish soldiers protecting the church fired their muskets in the air. But the mob only grew larger and angrier. As the night wore on, the villagers threatened to burn down the church buildings. They threatened to burn down the entire pueblo.

When the soldiers ran out of ammunition, they pressured the priests to hand the two men over to the crowd. Bautista and de los Angeles asked to be given final confession. As they were pushed out into the crowd, they repeated the words of the crucified Jesus: "Father, into your hands we commend our spirits."

In a comment on a post below, Nancy Nall reminds us that Sex in the City is really about gay men, a point to which I alluded a few days ago (I think in my granola conservatives post), and with which I agree...sort of. But I wonder...if that's true, does that mean that "gay men" are nothing but horny bastards with no greater sense of purpose in life? Surely not? Is that an adequate explanation?
See the comments section for a passage from a letter in response to Hannah Rosin's TC article, sent on by Fr. Shawn O'Neal.
I've watched HBO's Sex in the City off and on for a couple of years, as I said a few days ago, mostly with morbid fascination.

Last night's episode - the first of the new season - was noteworthy, in my mind, for a vivid breastfeeding scene, perhaps a little too open for some, but brave and honest in my mind. But I still don't like Miranda's attitude towards her baby, though. "Think of this (the baby carrier she's lugging around - get a stroller, for heaven's sake) as a big purse," she said to her friends when they thought they should begin to watch their language in front of the tot.

Anyway, the big puzzle of this show has always been this, to me: these women (in their mid to late 30's now, still being sluts in the city, still acting like adolescents) shy away from commitment and serious relationships and disparage what they might call domesticity and its supposed contraints.

For what? I've never been able to figure it out. What's at risk for them? None of them are terribly interested in their careers - Miranda's a lawyer, but her interest in it seems primarily financial, the others have little jobs that are useful mainly for plot turns (the Sarah Jessica Parker character is, of course, a writer and her columns frame the episodes, but it's as if all she could do was write pieces about dating because she had nothing else to say) and they have no great passions - art, creativity, devotion to a cause - that would suffer from the time required for marriage and family.

It's unrealistic and dumb. Well, it's supposed to be a dumb show, I know, but that particular illogic has always nagged at me, for it works to make the whole show even more an anti-feminist pseudo-feminist piece of propoganda than it already is, by its nature. Women have sacrificed marriage and family quite often throughout history, but most of the time, there's a purpose for the sacrifice, intentionally or not: they put their art first (Iris Murdoch comes to mind. Her husband John Bayley says that children were never even a possibility for Murdoch, emotionally speaking. She saw them as potentially destructive to her art and thought), they put their professions first, they put their causes first, they put religious profession first. These women are supposed to be free and liberated, but for what? Their lack of a hint of a greater purpose makes the show even more insulting to women than it already is, if that's possible. Perhaps therein lies the ultimate indictment of the whole sorry ideology. It all comes down to this: 3 thirtysomething (and one fortysomething) women looking for nothing but sex and shoes and wondering why they're feeling empty at the end of the day and wondering why all they have is each other. Well, yeah.

Contrast that fantasy with this article from the NYTimes magazine about Mary Jo Copeland, a complicated and sometimes controversial woman from Minnesota who is devoted to the needs of poor, neglected kids and families in crisis. She raised twelve children of her own, then she and her husband gave themselves to this ministry which has helped scores and perhaps, we might assume, even saved some lives.

Contrast a life like that - fertile and life-giving in every respect - with the flashy yet ultimately dreary dried-up lives of the Sex in the City girls, for that is what they ultimately are - girls, not women, in hardly any sense of the word.

Saudi royal who owned Derby winner War Emblem dead of heart attack at age 44.
A reader sent me news of this when it happened, but I neglected to blog it at the time. But in today's WaPo, there's a brief notice of Senator Sam Brownback's conversion to Catholicism (scroll down for that story)

After working closely with Catholics and evangelical Christians to oppose human cloning and restrict stem cell research, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), converted to Roman Catholicism in a quiet ceremony June 27 in Washington.Brownback, a former United Methodist, often has spoken of his Christian faith in connection with issues such as abortion and the civil war in Sudan. But he declined to discuss his reasons for embracing Catholicism. "It's a personal matter," aide Erik Hotmire said. The ceremony was performed at the Catholic Information Center by the Rev. John McCloskey, a priest who belongs to the conservative Catholic organization Opus Dei and who has helped to convert several celebrities, including former abortionist Bernard Nathanson and intellectual Robert Novak.

Brownback's sponsor was Rick Santorum.

A kind of a weird story from Africa about some nuns defending Archbishop Milingo against the evil Maria Sung

THE Catholic nuns in Lusaka have called on government to protect Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo from the 'unblessed' marriage with Maria Sung....And according to a statement released by the Daughters of Redeemers of the Catholic, Maria Sung should have inquired on the implications of marrying a Catholic Bishop. "The said marriage is not even recognised nor registered by the USA law. The Zambian civil nor traditional law, needless to mention the Ngoni tradition to which Archbishop Milingo belongs, does not recognise it," reads part of the statement. The statement further states that Sung has been married twice, the second man being an Italian from Naples.

David Morrison has a blog!
More on visas denied to WYD attendees:

from the CBC:

Many have been refused visas because of concern among immigration officials that some people may not want to return home after the event. Approximately 6,000 visa applicants have been turned down....Immigration officials won't talk specifics, but a spokesperson says in order to get a visa, applicants must prove they'll only be in Canada temporarily, and will return home soon after World Youth Day....Nearly 50 per cent of those who applied in the Dominican Republic have been refused visas. So too, have youth from Guyana, Vietnam, Nigeria and several other countries.

From the Toronto Star

A story focusing on a Pakistani refused a visa

and here, a story about the entire delegation from Sierra Leone denied entry. (scroll down for the story)

Ah yes, the trip:

It was very nice, although conducted under the strain of two more or less constant stress-makers: a strangely acting vehicle and a 15-month old's needs.

I have to say that Joseph did very, very well. He had a couple of crying jags in the car, but they were mostly in protest of the sleep that was overtaking him. He slept fine in the tent with us, loved the beach at Lake Huron and cooperated in our sightseeing.

We began Wednesday night, driving to Port Huron, which Michael figured would be an easier border crossing than Detroit. He was right - it took seconds to cross on Thursday morning, which, I assure you, wouldn't have been the case at the Ambassador Bridge.

On Thursday, we got up and drove through Sarnia and started up the Lake Huron coast, stopping at the village of Bayfield and the small town of Goderich. We liked Bayfield better. After some disputes and failed attempts to find campsites, we ended up at the Sauble Falls Provincial Park.

Now, you must have guessed by now that this was my first time ever camping. I was never in Scouts or Campfire Girls, and camping was not one of my family's pasttimes. We didn't go full out on this trip - we basically slept in a tent, and sat by the fire Michael built in the evenings, drinking Labatts Blue. We didn't cook or anything like that. I was fascinated by all of different set-ups people have for camping. I can see how it could be an addictive pasttime - getting your hands on the newest, jazziest stuff to make the experience more endurable.

Sauble Beach on Lake Huron is a typical mini-beach town (the big beach town on Lake Huron is apparently Wasaga Beach, which my guidebook says attracts 2 million visitors a year. I believe it - they were all there on Saturday morning when we were trying to make our way up to Midland), sort of a Daytona-ette on the Great Lakes. But the beach is long, and we did our beaching at a fairly underpopulated end. This was also the first time I'd been to a Great Lake beach. No, it's not the Atlantic Ocean, but it is similar to the Gulf of Mexico, which hardly has any surf unless a storm is coming. The sand was nice - perfect for grabbing up in fistfuls and flinging at the lake (why do children instinctively do that?) and the water didn't seem too frigid - not as cold as the Atlantic up in Maine where I spent much of my childhood summers. We did hear someone complaining about the "hot" sand, and I still can't believe the guy was serious, although Michael thinks he was perfectly serious. I'd have to say the nice thing about spending some time at a Great Lake beach, as opposed to the ocean, is that you don't come away feeling as if you've had all of the water in your body sucked out of you - that feeling that being surrounded by salt produces.

To tell you how deeply pathetic our Indiana lives have become: we had to go to CANADA to even start to get tanned this summer. Quite a change from the past.

Anyway, on Friday, we headed up to Tobermory, which is at the very tip of the Bruce Peninsula, with Lake Huron on one side and the Georgian Bay on the other. It reminded both of us of a Maine seaside town. We took a boat ride out into the bay to see a couple of "shipwrecks" - actually boats that were purposefully sunk in the harbor in the early 20th century because they were damaged beyond repair, and then out and around Flowerpot Island an uninhabited island that houses a lighthouse and where we could have, if we'd a mind to, disembarked for a little hiking and swimming on the rocks. Joseph said no, so we stayed on the boat for the return trip.

On Saturday, we broke camp (actually Michael did that work. I rode Joseph around the campground in the stroller to keep him clean and out of the way) and headed over to Midland. The drive (except for the Wasaga beach part) was gorgeous - more hills around Owen Sound and so on than there were around the Bruce Peninsula, and the Georgian Bay is beautiful.

Midland is the sight of a shrine dedictated to the Jesuit martyrs of North America. The church, built in 1926, is an interesting structure. It's stone on the outside, but the interior is all panels of darkly stained plywood that are shaped, when the reach ceiling height, to be reminiscent of the shape of a canoe. It was intended to be a rustic-looking church, and it is, in a very striking way. There are relics, of course, including half of Brebeuf's skull. Joseph kissed a reliquary holding, I think, some of Isaac Jogues' relics, and was amazingly well-behaved in the car the rest of the day. Michael remarked that he must have had a conversion experience. There were some WYD pilgrims there (the WYD cross had been there the previous day), as well as scads of Indians (Asian). There are lots of other smaller shrines on the property, mostly dedicated by and for national groups. We climbed up the lookout overlooking Georgian Bay and saw the sights as the Jesuits would have seen it (minus the speedboats in the Bay, I guess). The Pope was there in 1984 and said Mass on the grounds.

On his visit, the pope also visited the recreated mission of Sainte-Marie-Among-The-Hurons, which is an impressive Williamsburg-like recreation, complete with volunteers (college students) acting out roles of soldiers, Jesuits, blacksmiths, and so on. It was, of course, painstakingly "balanced," although, I have to say, in this particular case, I have a difficult time seeing what harm the Jesuits brought to the Wyandot people. They were already under frequent threat from the Iriquois, living through horrible winters, afflicted by disease and so on. I also have to say, though, that the beginning of the tour was pretty nifty - you're in a theater where you watch a film that lays out the history of the settlement (the Jesuits were there from 1639-1649. At the end, under attack, with several martyrs, lots of disease and the Iroquois on the warpath, they burned the place, withdrew to an island in Georgian Bay for the winter, then went back to Quebec with the Christian Wyandot (Hurons). Excavation of the site began in the 1940's), and, of course, dramatizes all perspectives - the Jesuits, the Christian Wyandot and the traditional Wyandot. You are then exhorted to "judge for yourself" who was right and wrong, and *poof* the screen is raised and the reconstructed village is open for your inspection.

The Church of St. Joseph is the spot of Brebeuf's original grave, although it was too bad that the little guy with the big puffy hair who was the Jesuit For The Day had a hard time answering a child's question of what a "martyr" was.

You might be interested to note that Brian Moore spent a lot of time in Midland researching his novel Black Robe, a book well worth reading and a movie well worth seeing (although it has nekkid people in it, folks. But they're I guess that's..okay with you?), the experience of both of which is greatly enhanced by a visit to the area, although it would probably be even more powerful in the winter. Don't think that's going to happen for us, though.

Then it was off, making our way home. We skirted Toronto, saw the big CN tower from afar (We went up it two years ago, when we went to Niagara, Toronto and Montreal on our wedding trip described here), then shot over to London, where we stayed on Saturday night, rose on Sunday morning, went to Mass (where I discovered that I could quiet Joseph for literally minutes at a time by showing him the stored photos in my digital camera. As long as he didn't scream "Da-da!" in joyous discovery in the middle of it), and then came home.

Some random observations:

It was nice to see all the people I used to see down in Florida during the winter up in their summer homes. It all felt vaguely familiar, somehow.

Candians like gravy on their french fries. (chips) Vinegar, too. Even McDonald's offer it (the gravy), along with something called "poutine." What's that?(See comments for a kind reader's explanation.)

Canadian waitresses looked at me in confusion when I asked for "whole wheat" toast. They call it "brown." Whatever they call it, they certainly have better bread up there - thick and substantive.

All teens are the same, everywhere.

The only bad part of the Martyr's Shrine was the gift shop. It was pretty bad, with hardly anything actually related to the Shrine offered. I was also deeply annoyed at the gift shop at Ste. Marie. Not a religious item for sale at all - except for copies of the Jesuit Relations. I was hoping for a native-carved statue or something. Nada.

Native peoples in Canada are called the "First Nations." They've been given patches of Canada here and there.

The first night at the campsite, a child at the neighboring site starting screaming like a banshee in the middle of the night. It was a little startling, as we wondered if the First Nations ghosts were haunting us.

Michael ordered bacon with breakfast one morning and I was surprised that he got "regular" bacon, not Canadian. I ordered a BLT kind of salad at dinner one night and was equally surprised to find that the "B" was, indeed, Candadian bacon.

As usual, I am struck by the extreme sacrifices of those who brought the faith to this land and our present-day indifference to it. I'm also struck by the murky role and questionable long-term impact of culturally and socially-supported religion. To understand, all you have to do is look at Quebec, which has the lowest proportion of church-attending Catholic Canadians of any province. It's 32 percent in the rest of Canada - 20 percent in Quebec.

At Mass on Sunday, a woman got up to explain why their promised WYD pilgrims had never materialized. (part of the plan for the foreign pilgrims was for them to spend a few days scattered throughout Ontario, put up by parishes, getting to know the area, engaging in charitable work, etc.). They could never contact a couple of African groups, their Bangladesh group decided not to come, and just when they thought they might get part of another parish's huge Ecuadorean group, they learned that 180 of them (out of 300+) had been denied visas - so, when you hear about lower numbers for WYD, take into account that many probably ended up in the same boat - unable to attend because the Canadian government wouldn't let 'em in.

All in all, it was a good trip. I'll be glad when Joseph is a bit older and doesn't embrace dirt as his best friend, but then I'm sure I'll have other things to complain about, so I'll just not complain.

You all are probably way ahead of me on the whole VOTF news - be assured that it was not exactly big news up in Canada. In fact, it was no news. After all, they do have the Pope coming and everything that goes with that, including their own reflections on the state of the Church in their own nation.

But in case you hadn't seen them, here are a couple of links to coverage:

From the Boston Globe

and from the Boston Herald.

Also from the Herald, a piece about Mass yesterday in which protesters left their signs at the door and approached Cardinal Law for Communion.

The VOTF stuff is what you might expect. Well-intentioned people grappling with concern, conviction and the fact that they don't have a lot of power. They do see that money is a key player in all of this, but you can see the dangerous direction they're already going in as they

a) charge twenty bucks apiece for people to attend their gathering (What's that about, anyway? A purposeful attempt to actually keep their organization middle class and middle aged?)

b) The group also announced its campaign to raise $500,000 for a half-year's operating expenses as it sets up an office in Newton and hires a professional staff.

I'm sorry, but this just doesn't work for me. I can't imagine what this group will do with a million bucks a year operating expenses except issue reports, papers and send staff to conferences. There was of course, lots of Jesus talk at this gathering. This is a Christlike response to a problem? Raise money for your offices and hire staff? Fight organizational problems with another organization?

Tim Drake sends along word that he'll be trying to blog from WYD from Thursday on.
A reader sends along Bishop Reginald Cawcutt's bitter letter to his former flock
Good article in the Washington Post about homosexuality at the Theological College. It's good to see the mainstream press waking up to this issue a bit.

There is, however, one screamingly funny bit in the piece, evidence of a bit of cluelessness on Hanna Rosin's part and the hazards of reporting:

Some nights after dinner, Krzmarzick and a couple of friends would sit in their rooms and run through the list of men in the house and label them: "Gay. Gay. Gay, but doesn't know it. Gay, knows it, but won't admit it."Anyone who was slightly strange or overly sociable or even too conservative was gay. The "parafaculty," or students who planned alumni days, bishops' visits, cocktail hours -- gay. The DOTS, the guys on the fourth floor named after a very rigid order, the Daughters of Trent, who wore cassocks to class or did the 5 a.m. devotions in chapel -- gay, but "praying to the Virgin to take it away."

Rosin evidently doesn't get the fact that the "Daughters of Trent" is not, uh...a real religious order, but a common way to refer to gay conservative priests who like their cassocks a whole lot.

Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalen
An interview with Fr. John Bertolucci. Alas, despite the subhead, I can't go away from this story without hearing an echo protesting faintly, "It's all about me, you know."


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