Friday, January 31
Not so anymore. There are tons and tons, all of them good, all of them giving some insight into some particular corner of the Catholic world. There are some that I read regularly that aren't over there, and at some point, I'll get around to adding them. But in the meantime you know that you can find your mostly complete list of Catholic blogs here and a list of all Christian-oriented blogs here.
José Javier Aleixandre is the latest winner of the Fernando Rielo International Award for mystical poetry. The prize work is centered on belief in God, the reality of death, and the presence of God in daily life.
Below, Aleixandre discusses the world of mystical poetry, distinguishes it from the religious, and presents it as appropriate language to interrelate spiritual movements.
José Javier Aleixandre Ybargüen, born in 1924, has received some 50 literary awards. He has a licentiate in journalism and is president of the Spanish Association of Authors and Writers (AEAE).
Q: What topics inspired you to write "Not to Die Completely," the work that won the Rielo award?
Aleixandre: The book is divided in three parts. The first and principal part explores, so to speak, the love of God in the Creed, fundamental source of Catholic belief, in the course of 14 chapters.
It is a long poem in which the most important thesis is that I believe in God, that I need God to exist and to believe in him, if I don't want to die completely when I die.
The last part, also long but not as long as the first, is a eucharistic poem in which God calls me incessantly, but I resist until finally I am drawn by the irresistible magnet of his love.
The central part brings together, instead, 13 poems in consonant rhyme -- two sonnets and 11 heptasyllable 10-line stanzas -- that study God's daily presence in the usual moments of life and in relation to the loved ones around me.
But above all, as the prologue of the book, a [...] poem also justifies my enormous need to come close to God, because as it begins by saying, "no matter how much time I have, I do not have much time left, Lord."
From The Church and I by Frank Sheed:
In our excitement over the Intellectual Renewal of the twenties, I was one of those who realized that with all its brilliance it hardly touched the great body of Catholics. I realized it because it had been my function in the Catholic Evidence Guild to meet the incoming members and find out how much the knew about the Faith which they wanted to teach to others, by which they were trying to live, and for which they hoped they would have the courage to die. The finding out was a gloomy experience.
They came at all ages, some fresh from school, some twenty or thirty or forty years after. With the rarest exceptions they were barely literate doctrinally. Catholic schools had a good record in public examinations, but most of them were defective in the one area which was their special reason for existence. I got the impression that doctrine was left to teachers who would not have been allowed to teach any other subject of which they were so ignorant. A regular defense of the catechism used to be that though the children might not understand the formulas, they would come back to them in later life. In discussion with those who I=entered the Guild long after their school days, I had some marvelous examples of what came back to them! I have told how in my first Guild class my own ignorance was mercilessly exposed: but I thought in my innocence that this was because I had not been to a Catholic school!
….As the years went by, the gloom began to lighten, but how slowly! Right up to the explosion of the sixties, and helping to produce it, one still found in too many schools the same repetition of catechism formulas, with no effort made to get inside them and show what effect they might have on life as we have to live it. I remember comparing learning the catechism with eating walnuts without cracking the shells. This swallowing of doctrines unenjoyed was the normal practice at all levels, right up to the teachers. I once had to give a three-day course in doctrine to al the nuns of a particular province of a particular order in a particular country. I explained that heckling – calling on the group to deal with the questions unbelievers ask – was part of my teaching method. I was told that I must heckle only the senior nuns, that sort of treatment might be bad for the faith of the younger. The result was a shambles. After half an hour I had to stop the questioning. The old ladies had spent dedicated lives teaching doctrines on which their minds had never stirred. And it was not only that one group. I could make a horror comic of things taught in our schools.
That the doctrines did not manage to get through alive did not in those days seem to anyone but us a matter of great concern. Theology was for theologians. No, one got nowhere by complaining of the ill-teaching of doctrine. I tried it for forty years or so, but nowhere was where I got, even with bishops. I remember one in particular. I had poured out my heart to him about the shameful teaching of doctrine in his schools. He listened with all politeness. When I had finished, he said, “Yes, indeed.” I felt I could read his mind: theology had never done him any good: it was just an obsession of mine, very creditable in a layman. It was only when some of us began to see and to say that Christ himself, taught as an item in the syllabus, was growing ever less real to teachers and pupils alike that we did at last cause discomfort But not enough, not soon enough, not yet.
It was not as if sermons at Mass were likely to supply for the failure of schools to make either the truths or Our Lord real. We of the street corner had the advantage of knowing when our audiences were bored – the walked away and left us talking to no one. The preacher in Church has to function without this priceless advantage. I don’t see how anyone learns to hold an audience without it.
I have heard good sermons. But from too many I cam away wondering that a teaching Church should give so little thought to teaching its teachers to teach.
Abortion data — like all casualty data — are indeed sensitive. They reveal life-or-death decisions for women and unborn children and for this very reason should be disseminated widely. California needs to be encouraged to provide data on abortion. For policymakers to address the real casualties among blacks would take courage — far beyond the grandstanding on the military draft by Sharpton, Conyers, and Rangel. They might begin by listening to the poignant lyrics of hip-hop artist Nas in his recent mega-hit, "One Mic." Nas knows that his community has been devastated by abortion and in a courageous plea, the rapper simply asks women to stop abortion because "we need more warriors here."
My observation is general, rather than specific.
I am always by puzzled by those who suggest that “good Catholics” shouldn’t criticize decisions made by church authorities, or shouldn’t voice disagreement. Certainly, Catholic life, as one conducted within a hierarchical structure, is a delicate balance. We know that our faith is mediated through human means, that God’s authority supports these means, and also that these human means are…well…human. There is a reason that the doctrine of infallibility is so narrowly defined.
So we are always walking this line – we don’t want to set out on a road to separate ourselves from the Church or presume to be wiser than the Church as a whole, yet we can’t be silent when we see the Gospel violated, especially by those who have a particular role in propagating it. They can mistaken, but so can we, and we know this all too well.
We see the disarray and multiplication of Protestant churches, and we don’t want that for ourselves, and we know, somehow, that the Papacy and the hierarchical structure of our church has protected us from a similar fate. Hate to tell you, but even Garry Wills admits as much.
But when I read these discussions, I can’t help but wonder at their abstract nature and their subsequent lack of engagement with either history or the reality of church. I don’t know if it’s willful or just ignorant, but the result is that the discussions just go round and round, unless, of course, Sandra interjects her usual very useful historical insight.
We like to think that the church works the same way our arguments do – in abstract. Fact is, they don’t. My own observation of these discussions over the past year has led me to the (perhaps faulty) conclusion that those who decry the airing of dirty laundry or those who tell us to just keep having faith and respecting what an apparently negligent bishop is all about are mostly people who have never worked in the Church - I mean who have never worked in chanceries, in rectories and in the bowels of Catholic institutions orwho have observed its workings close up. The impact that this has is profound – and know that while lay people who have engaged in this kind of work have insights that outsiders don’t, they still don’t have what priests have – for priests talk to each other and say things to each other that they do not say to the laity, even lay church employees.
It can be very hard on a person's faith. It's been said elsewhere that the easiest way to lose your faith is to work for the Church - and that applies to any denomination - it's not peculiar to Catholics.
Anyway, when you have worked in close quarters with a pastor or a bishop, you have seen this delicate balance writ large. You have witnessed the interaction of human strengths, weakness and flawed motives with the desire to serve Christ and His Church. And you’ve seen the pressures that go into decisions, and you’ve seen how crushingly prosaic matters like finances, ignorance and pride influence these decisions. You can no longer think of “Church leadership” as an abstract concept. It is as real as the bishop’s close acquaintances pressuring him not to be “too extreme” on that pesky abortion issue for fear of jeopardizing contributions or other aspects of the church’s legislative agenda this session. It is as real as the pastor refusing to give his associate real responsibility because he’s threatened by his popularity.
So, yeah…Wick Allison’s pressure may be extreme and notable because of its public nature – but it’s not unusual at all. Church leaders do not make their decisions in a vacuum. Most are making those decisions in the midst of a web of obligations to friends, concerns about contributions, the advice of whoever has had the savvy to finagle his ear, and, we can hope….attentiveness to the Holy
Can we take a look at history? Can we look at the many church councils convened and controlled by emperors? At the way in which the papacy was, for so many years, the tool of Roman nobility, except for a few decades in which it was the tool of the French crown? At the way in which the evangelizing efforts to the New World were intertwined with the ambitions of secular governments?
My point is not to justify these or present them as the ideal. The ideal, is, of course, for leaders – and for the rest of us – to root our decisions in the call of Jesus. But my point is to remind us all that the ideal is hardly ever met, and modern incidents of the laity – powerful or not – to influence church decisions – are not a novelty.
That said, I have decided that I am not comfortable with Allison’s move here. I can understand his frustration. He probably knows even more than he is saying publicly – that is usually the way it works – and it is clear that the appointment of an auxiliary indicates Rome’s expectation that Grahamm was on his way out.
But Allison’s arguments on his own behalf smack way too much of a sense of his – and the other founding Catholics of Dallas’s power. We made you – we can break you – is what I can’t help hearing.
People outside the church hierarchy can be, and very often are – powerful leaders. People look to outsiders, in fact, far more than they do to insiders for guidance. For every Charles Borromeo, I’ll raise you a Dorothy Day and a Catherine of Siena. But we honor and heed those people, not because of their position or their money, or their role in the founding of the community, but because of their holiness. Even the secular leaders – the kings and queens and lords – who are honored as saints – are honored because of their faith and their humble service to the Gospel.
So sure, while secular leaders and other figures have consistently tried and succeeded in influencing church policy, and we shouldn’t be surprised that they continue, we should be wary of giving them too much honor, as well.
Update: Oh, Fr. Wilson (Comment #7) is probably right. He always is, isn't he?
Gibson says it is crucial that the story look realistic, not, as he puts it, "like a cheesy Hollywood epic." He chose cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, who worked with him on "The Patriot." Deschanel took as his inspiration the dramatically lit works of the Italian Baroque painter Caravaggio.
REMINDING her of Pope John Paul II's declaration that war "is always a defeat for humanity," Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin is urging President Macapagal-Arroyo not to support a US war on Iraq.
"This is now a good opportunity for you to follow the Holy Father rather than be aligned with the superpowers of the world," Sin said in a pastoral letter issued on the day US President George W. Bush delivered his State of the Union address Wednesday.
Bush said the United States was determined to go to war if Iraq did not fully disarm. After Bush's speech, Ms Macapagal said she was supporting the US decision to present evidence against Iraq to the United Nations Security Council.
his pastoral letter, Sin also appealed to Ms Macapagal to remain true to her promise to be "a faithful daughter of the Church" by not supporting "the unjust war efforts being proposed by the United States of America."
"Be a peacemaker! Show the world that we Filipinos are promoters and defenders of peace. That is what Edsa I and II are all about! We are not anti-American. We are anti-war! We are not pro-Iraq. We are pro-peace!" Sin said.
The really challenging thing about many American Catholics’ beliefs about their faith is not that those beliefs are false, though they surely are that, but that they are adolescent. A spirit of juvenile contradiction, self-righteousness, and absolute certainty defines the collective mass of dissenters in the US, just as it defines the outward appearance of large numbers of teenagers in high schools and colleges across the country. (Let us not forget too the obsession with sexuality as the locus of so much grievance.) It is not surprising, really, that we have an adolescent Church, after all. The boomers have bequeathed us an adolescent culture, forever lusting after youth, newness, hipness, sexuality. We are focused on “who’s hot, and who’s not,” like the in crowd in the high school cafeteria.
I'll probably comment later, but anyone who has a mind to might draw some connections between this observation and Robert Bly's The Sibling Society
Thank you all so, so much!
Though Fordham has chosen a priest to head the school (unlike, say, Georgetown), secularization abounds. Only 40% of the students are Catholic, and of those many are concerned that the school not become too Catholic. As one senior told me: "You hear it's a religious school, and you worry it's very strict." Though this student grew up Catholic, she is not especially religious and has been happy to find that the school isn't either, measured by both student conduct and curriculum offerings. Eric Caroll, a theater major from Michigan, echoes the sentiments of most students I met at Fordham: "If you went into my classes you wouldn't know you were in a religious school."
....Legal limits are part of the problem. Along with almost ever other university in New York, Fordham accepts money from the state government and by doing so agrees--under the New York's version of the Blaine Amendment--to refrain from promoting religious doctrine, a restriction that has helped to make the school's religious identity less robust since the 1960s, when the funding began.
The Blaine Amendment plays a role at Yeshiva too. To qualify for state funding, the flagship university of Orthodox Judaism rewrote its charter, splitting the seminary from the rest of the university. This had big effects, in part because, around the same time, the orthodox Jewish community in America began cultivating an outlook that discouraged interaction with the secular world.
Six prominent religious leaders in North Texas are standing behind the Catholic bishop of Dallas days after media reports that the bishop reneged six years ago on an offer to resign.
In a statement to be published in Friday's edition of Texas Catholic , the diocesan newspaper, the leaders defended Bishop Charles Grahmann and attacked press coverage of him.
"We deeply regret and challenge the recent unwarranted attacks on churches and religious leaders based on inaccuracy and bias, particularly those on Bishop Charles V. Grahmann," said the statement, signed by current or former local leaders of Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist and Disciples of Christ denominations.
Bishop Herbener [Evangelical Lutheran Church of America] said the religious leaders drafted their letter as a way to express support for a respected colleague whom they believe is being unfairly tarred by the larger clergy sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church.
"It appears to me that The Dallas Morning News is trying to make a 'Cardinal Law' out of Charlie Grahmann, and that's crazy," he said. "He's done the darned best job he could do."
The activists, Ken Einhaus of Arlington, Mike Perez of Seattle and Kara Speltz of Oakland, Calif., told Edwards in the nonjury trial that they went to the Hyatt Regency on New Jersey Avenue NW on Nov. 12, seeking someone from the clergy to give them Holy Communion. They also wanted an explanation of why they were refused Communion the day before during Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Mass was held during the annual Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington, said a member of the shrine staff misidentified the three as members of the Rainbow Sash movement and told the priest. The priest declined to give them Communion at the Nov. 11 service, Gibbs said, because the Rainbow Sash group had informed the church that members planned to receive Communion as a form of protest.
"The Eucharist is the core of our faith and a sign of our unity," Gibbs said. "It is very rare to deny Communion, but since it was publicly announced it would be a protest and not a sign of faith, the Rainbow Sash group was denied the sacrament.
"But the three were not members of that group," Gibbs said. "This was a case of mistaken identity." The priest, Michael Bugarin, was unavailable for comment, Gibbs said.
But lead defense attorney Mark L. Goldstone said the three believed they were denied Holy Communion either because the church believed they were gay or because officials thought they were going to protest on behalf of gay issues.
Einhaus said withholding Communion was an abuse of power, but Gibbs said canon lawyers have established a right to deny the Eucharist when priests think someone might use it as a political tool. Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton flew in to testify on behalf of the activists.
That's a shock. Anyway.
Get a load of what the judge said:
Judge Mildred M. Edwards, who is Catholic, told the activists that she had to convict them but that she would do something she had not done in 15 years on the bench -- dispense with a sentence.
"Tremendous violence was done to you . . . when the Body of Christ was denied to you," Edwards said, referring to the contention of the three that refusal of Holy Communion had prompted their actions. "As a member of your church, I ask you to forgive the church."
....At the end of sentencing, Edwards offered the activists the words priests use at the end of a Catholic Mass: "Go in peace."
A lot of food for thought here. The bishops' meeting behind a figurative fortress. The question of using reception of communion as a political statement. (For those of you not familiar with it the "Rainbow Sash" movement started in Australia - openly gay folks wear rainbow-colored sashes to receive communion, often from a priest or prelate opposed to their movement.) The amazingly pretentious judge.
Go for it.
Excellent, in fact.
The religious order that runs Salesianum School in Wilmington is opening a tuition-free middle school for low-income city students this fall.
The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales said the new school, which will be called Nativity Preparatory School of Wilmington, initially will serve 15 to 20 boys in the fifth and sixth grades and expand to 60 boys in fifth through eighth grades.
The school is based on a model developed more than 30 years ago by the Nativity Mission Center in New York that includes a disciplined school day lasting more than 12 hours. "This is academic boot camp," said the Rev. Thomas B. Curran, president of Salesianum, a private Catholic high school for boys. Curran also will be executive director of Nativity Prep.
Nativity Prep's day will begin at 8 a.m. Classes will last until 3 p.m., when two hours of team sports begin. After a dinner break, students will study again from 7 to 9 p.m. The students also will attend four-to six-week summer programs outside of the city.
The school will target "students with need" who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford private school, Curran said. ....The Nativity model is in use in more than 50 schools nationwide, said the Rev. Jack Podsiadlo, executive director of the Baltimore-based Nativity Educational Centers Network. He said Wilmington's Nativity Prep would be the only such school established by another Catholic high school.
Several Kramek supporters continued to denounce Kramek’s confession alleging the Polish-speaking priest was not made aware of his rights nor did he understand the seriousness of the accusations.
Kramek, who was assisted by a Polish interpreter in court, admitted to the sexual assault while being interrogated by a Polish-speaking detective who lived in Poland as a youth.
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