Monday, March 17

Jean Bethke Elshtain has a timely new book called Just War Against Terrorism: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World

It's reviewed here.

Another good read:

The Arrogant Empire

In England, they're afraid hot cross buns will offend the kids.

Here, the stores are stocking Easter baskets with toy guns in them.

Terry Mattingly on the tensions between First and Third-world Christians

This kind of angry language is especially shocking since Episcopal bishops and other mainline leaders have long proclaimed the need for racial harmony and dialog with other cultures. But today the politics of sex, money, evangelism and power have created a painful dilemma for First World elites.

"The liberals basically spent the last 40 years saying, 'Let's hear the voice of the Third World,'" said historian Philip Jenkins of Pennsylvania State University, addressing a recent Anglican Mission in America conference. "And now they've heard it and they'd like the Third World to shut up for several decades."

Joseph's Book of the Week

Peek-A-Boo, a charming little board book with terrific rhymes and rich, busy illustrations of life in what appears to be WWII England or thereabouts.

(Offered for the sake of parents, grandparents and friends looking for quality stuff for the little ones.)

Encyclical on Eucharist due in April

Cardinal Ratzinger points out, brilliantly, the value of Eucharist:

The cardinal leaves room for arguments that are sometimes heard nowadays: "I can also pray in the woods, submerged in nature."

"Of course one can," Cardinal Ratzinger replies. "However, if it was only that way, then the initiative of prayer would remain totally within us: Then God would be a postulate of our thought. That fact that he responds or might want to respond, would remain an open question."

"Eucharist means: God has responded," the cardinal continues. "The Eucharist is God as response, as a presence that responds. Now the initiative of the divine-human relation no longer depends on us, but on him, and so it becomes really serious." ...

..."In this prayer we are no longer before a God we have thought about, but before a God who has really given himself to us; before a God who has made himself communion for us, who thus liberates us from our limits through communion and leads us to the Resurrection," Cardinal Ratzinger concludes. "This is the prayer we must seek again."

Still Monday...

Your Catholic school tuition dollars at work:

Worried about your school's test scores? Think there might be room for improvement?

How about a little aromatherapy for the kids?

Prayers are said to soothe the soul, but local Catholic school officials are looking at other ways to ease students' anxiety when taking a test.

Brain-based learning methods from motivational speaker Bruce Boguski could have students lighting a peppermint-scented candle while studying or rubbing the edge of their ear while taking a test - two ways of boosting the memory, Boguski said.

"With (Boguski's) methods, we hope that it increases our ISTEP+ scores," said Jo Ann Roscoe, associate superintendent for the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Though private and parochial school students traditionally score higher than state averages on the ISTEP exam, school officials say there is still room for improvement. Even if that means looking at alternative ways to make sure students are relaxed and focused when taking the test.

Boguski presented stress-reducing tactics to diocese teachers and staff Friday.

He said specific techniques trigger brain responses that can cause a person to relax, focus and study better. For example, he said cinnamon, lemon and peppermint smells help in memory retention. While students are studying, they should light a peppermint candle or, while taking the test, they might suck on a peppermint candy, which Boguski said will help them remember what they studied.

With thanks to Nancy Nall, whose new car I covet.

For three days, I have been trying to settle myself down and think of something to put here besides links. I’ve not failed completely. Some moments, some thoughts have come to mind that seem worth sharing. But only for that moment, after which I am struck by a strange dual sense that whatever it is I am thinking of is at once too trivial and too weighty to inflict on others.

How can one observation be both trivial and weighty? This way: when you are filled with a conviction that the world is about to change, a baby story seems to both shrink and grow in importance in the presence of such a shadow. After all, what is the toddler’s proud achievement of three words strung together – “More pretzels please” – in comparison to a looming war? Who cares? Why bother a worried world with such minutiae? If I’m going to add to the din, shouldn’t it be about something more weighty and worldly?

At the same time, though, at the same time as I am trying to push aside the ordinary for reflections on the extraordinary, I am filled with an overwhelming sense that I must pay attention now to these little things. Someday, I am going to be asked to explain myself – by grandchildren, I hope, to myself as I work to weave a narrative of what I have lived and seen. To witness. What was it like? we will ask, much like we want to know what America was like so very early Sunday morning, December 7 or what Flanders was like in 1913.

So for the past few days, I have watched, because I have been filled with dread. And I have been noting everything – this is what they said, this is what they told us about what had to be done, and this is what they promised would happen. This is where my sons were and this is what they were worried about. This is what the air felt like, this is what the priest said in church, this is what the little girl looked like reading a story to her brother.

Like former prisoners released from confinement, my neighbors and I burst out of the house this weekend, no need for jackets, not even a long sleeved shirt, for even though the snow has not melted completely, the air is warm and the sun is bright. The ground, soaked through with months of melted snow, squishes under our feet and the river rushes, almost over its banks, full of that same winter remnant. Down at the park the Latinos gather under the pavilions, cooking and hanging out, playing volleyball, walking the running path, as they do every weekend, not skipping a beat since November when it got too cold. Katie and Joseph and I got downtown to a children’s arts festival where we watch Polish dancers and singers who end their set, smiling broadly and singing their charmingly accented version of “Back Home Again In Indiana,” waving American flags. On a Monday morning, I take Joseph to Katie’s school where they will be shearing sheep for the city children. The shearer grabs the ram by the horns, throws him on his back and in a few minutes gets the wool off in one beautiful piece, and the ram, exposed, shakes himself in relief.

At the grocery store in Fort Wayne, Indiana, my gray-haired clerk is chided by another for not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day. “It’s not my color,” she says, and then lowers her head and murmurs, “Besides, there’s nothing to celebrate today. We’re going to war.”

Finally, several times a day for the past few days, as I cook, as I write, as I lull the baby to nap, I hear planes. Terribly loud planes whose roars last for minutes it seems. Perhaps they were there before, but I don’t think so. The noise shakes the house and sends the baby to my arms “’cared” he says. Scared.

This is what it was like. Before.

I have a morbid streak, obviously. A sense of foreboding that is sometimes on target, sometimes not. Perhaps there will be great change, perhaps things will never be the same again, but perhaps it will be all for the better, for more people around the world. Or not. I pray this time that my dark intuitions are more off-base than they have ever been, and I will laugh with the loudest of you when events – a quick end, a grateful Middle East – whatever - prove my dread to be silly and unfounded. I will. I hope.

I haven't blogged much about the sexual-abuse scandals recently because,'s the same old story, told too many times, and while there is much to pray about, every single day, there's not much new for me to say about any of it. I trust that those of you who are interested - and I hope all Catholics are, not out of prurience, but because it involves your brothers and sisters in Christ, and your Church's credibility in its fundamental task of sharing the Good News - I hope that you're keeping up with the news through Poynter, which never fails to have fewer than ten stories from around the country. Something's always about to explode somewhere: In New Hampshire where a parish has just stopped sending money to the diocese and the details of the Roland Cote saga have been made public

In California, where the pressure is building on Mahony

In Massachusetts, where, among other things, a family determines to take its abuse complaints right to the pope

And in Alabama where Bishop Lipscomb of Mobile removed a priest from a parish after a fourth allegation of abuse surfaced. There had been three previous allegations, and Lipscomb, an opponent of zero-tolerance and a supporter of Cardinal Law, had trust the priest to psychiatrists. But with this most recent allegation:

Lipscomb said he had known of three victims, which Sherlock had admitted, for some time. "Last week, it came to my attention, as a fourth and credible allegation surfaced, that Father Sherlock had not been truthful in the full disclosure of his abusive activity," he said. "Though this last case was not current, it could not be characterized as long past." .....

In December, after Boston's Cardinal Bernard Francis Law resigned, Lipscomb said Law was guilty of no personal wrongdoings and was a victim of "the media campaign against him." Lipscomb said Law had followed a long-standing church practice of relying on psychologists and psychiatrists, who assured the Catholic hierarchy that priests exhibiting such behavior could be treated and returned to the ministry.

By contrast, Sherlock
[the priest in question] was quoted as saying Law made the right decision. "I'm glad he (Law) resigned... He should have done it months ago," Sherlock told the Montgomery Advertiser. " It's sad on one hand because he (Law) has worked very hard all of his life, but I think that the Archdiocese of Boston served him poorly and the church poorly in the way it handled many of these cases," Sherlock said. "He's a man who worked hard, and he trusted a lot of people under him that he shouldn't have trusted."

In the Advertiser story, Sherlock described the church's crisis as a "dark night of the soul."

Calgary bishop comes down harder on gambling:

"This is not appropriate," said Henry. "We want to gradually disassociate ourselves from any reliance on bingo."He said the new reality of bingo is that its glitz and glamour have taken it away from a recreational and social experience, and moved it into the growing culture of gambling."We're dominated by the spirit of greed. The amount of money spent is secondary to the thrill of gambling and the prospect of winning."This does raise the issue of complicity in something that is unhealthy. As a church we have to distance ourselves from this and protest. . . . It worries us that as a church we're getting involved in what we call complicity with evil."

Just heard an interview on public radion with the author of a new book about Lily Dale, NY, a town founded in the late 19th century by spiritualists.

I've always regretted that during my time in Central Florida, I never made it to Cassadega, Florida, another venerable American spiritualist center.


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