Thursday, June 26

It's been the week of southern political figures passing on: Maynard Jackson, Lester Maddux and Strom Thurmond.

Maybe these things do happen in threes...

Ah...a typical FootWayne Thursday evening. Big trip up north to join the crowds thrilling to our big new Sam's Club, with a stop on the way back by the first night of the Greek Festival at Headwaters Park. For those of you who have not been following this blog since, say, last summer, you might want to know that the horror of winter up here produces a great need to just be outside once the mercury hits 60 or so. This takes many different forms, among them the "festivals" which are held every weekend, it seems, at this big park built over a flood plain downtown. Last week it was barbecue, week before was German, I think, and this weekend it was the Greeks. The most striking sight at these festivals to me is always that of men walking around with their (usually) empty plastic pitchers of beer (pitchers emblazoned with name of the festival of the week) hooked through a beltloop. That, plus this area's favorite fair food - huge, gross pork tenderloin sandwiches with brown breaded patties flopping over the bun - were the most memorable visions that met me my first year in Fort Wayne, and which I'll probably associate with this place the rest of my life.

Anyway, stopped by the festival, listened to Greek music, ate the spinach-feta-phyllo thing, then a cheese-phyllo thing, drank beer, and watched Joseph run his legs off. I also had the great privilege of taking him up one of those big, air-filled puffy slides, (Michael did it last time at...what was it...a Spice Festival. In a different place, but a FootWayne festival, nonetheless) which was a challenge because I was barefoot and the way up to the top was slick as oil from the rain and humidity, and Joseph wouldn't climb up, so he had to be carried, and so I got a bonus exercise session today. Three times.

Nancy, how will you ever be able to tear yourself away from these excitements?

(And in case you're wondering why I've decided to call this place FootWayne, it's because that's the way Joseph pronounces it, and it strikes me as not inaccurate.)

A battle for converts in Chiapas

Evangelicals" have converted almost 40 percent of the population, almost entirely at the expense of Catholicism. Only 61 percent of Chiapas is Catholic, the lowest anywhere in Mexico. Hatred and distrust abound between Protestants and so-called "traditional Catholics," who aren't Catholics at all in the usual sense. They practice a mixture of Maya and Roman Catholic ritual, reject the Bible and hire shamans to ward off evil spirits that cause illness or sin. Nowhere is the mysterious meld of Maya-Christian credo more visible than in San Juan Chamula, in the dreamlike interior of Church of St. John the Baptist, their patron saint. Mounds of pine needles cover the floor as Chamulans flock to the house of worship, then kneel amid candles and incense that cast clouds of blinding smoke. The only sacrament received is baptism. Meanwhile, evangelical Chamulans, living in shantytowns around San Cristobal de Las Casas, eschew alcohol, chant piercing gospel songs, dance to tambourines and clap thunderously in a trance-like state. In the past four decades some 30,000 Protestant converts have been violently expelled from Chamula alone. The forced expulsions continue, and about 170 evangelical children still are banned from public schools for fear of religious "contamination."

And don't skip the part about Islam....whew.

Amid their other business, the Supreme Court today said that states can't retroactively strike down statutes of limitation

Here's the decision

The Dallas drive to get their bishop to resign has been launched.

Barbara Nicolosi saw it.

So I was at a private screening at Icon Productions yesterday, and got to see a rough cut of The Passion. There were about twelve people in the room, including Mel Gibson, his producing partner Steve and four or five other Icon staffers. After the screening, we talked to Mel and friends for about an hour. (As cool as that was, the quality of the film was such that the celebrity stuff was completely gone from the moment. I can't explain it really, except that it would be like standing in the Sistine Chapel next to, well, someone like Mel Gibson. Great art is a great leveler....) The rough cut we saw obviously didn't have the final score or special effects, and there were many more sub-titles than they will have in the finished film.

So, here's my take...

On one of our trips to Chicago, I sat in the car, waiting for Michael to finish paying for gas. We were in a northern suburb, on our way down from Waukegan to Rosemont. In the five minutes I sat there, I probably saw members of five different ethnicities. Caucasian European heritage, an African-American (or maybe Afri-Carribean or Brazilian..didn't hear him speak), a Middle-Eastern man, a carful of teen boys who looked to be Filipino, and a young woman, waiting to cross the street, who was Southeast Asian.

It got me thinking about "diversity" and the constant struggle of the Church, in this country of immigrants, at least, to minister effectively to recent immigrants.

And it struck me, in a way, that the post-Conciliar Church (not really the Council, but the implemenation), was really short-sighted in its vision, and was, in the quick embrace of inculturation and localism, particularly blind to what was really going on the world.

Think of it this way: the emphasis on the importance of the liturgy somehow reflecting local concerns and customs and needs is rooted in a vision of a world made up of static, unchanging communities, a world in which ethnic groups would remain segregated.

Which is not the way the world is anymore, especially in the "First World," and was even the direction in which the world was moving in the early 1960's. The world shrinks, people move, not just from neighborhood to neighborhood, but from country to country, mixing, integrating, dissolving old boundaries, which is happening on a broad social level, as well as on a personal level, as anyone with a life outside their home can see, and as Rod Dreher points out in this Corner post.

So in that context, it might be possible to see the post-conciliar move to "make" liturgy more particular to the local as anything but prophetic. It was not a move that took to heart the realities of modern life, could see that with rapid travel and communication, that the decrease in bigotry and mutual suspicion between ethnicities, that the expansion in human rights would lead to a human family that was becoming, indeed, more like a family. They did not see this, and so worked to create liturgical forms that worked against the reality of the growing unity of humanity rather than along with it.

I am not a Tridentine liturgy devotee at all, but I am an advocate of greater use of Latin in the liturgy. I, like you, have participated in too many multi-lingual liturgies and seen too many church bulletins with long lists of liturgies in various languages not to wonder, "Wouldn't it be easier if we just did (most of it) in Latin in these kinds of communities?"

Certainly, recent immigrant groups will always want - and deserve - their own parish-based communities that can serve their particular needs and give expression to the unique aspects of their religious life that do exist. . The existence of the Latin Mass in the 19th and 20th centuries did not prevent enormous and continual tensions between members of immigrant groups and bishops in regard to their desires for their own ethnic parishes.

But as our society, particularly in the West, becomes far more multicultural and diverse - and in a way that is not segregated, as it was in the past, but is increasingly mixed, it seems to me that it might be time to revisit the issue of liturgy in a way that takes this new situation into account and helps all of us focus on our unity in Christ, a focus we sorely need.

This isn't offered as a practical suggestion, because it's not practical in the least. But it's simply a reflection on the rarely-contradicted truth that even sincere efforts to meet legitimate needs (the greater participation of congregations in the liturgy) can produce unintended consequences (a diminished ability of the Church to present itself as a unifying force in diverse populations.)

Later: Fine. Squabble about whether or not Latin *should* be in the liturgy as is...that wasn't my point. I'm more interested in the deeper issue - was the act of the near total abandonment of Latin (which was not the Council's intention - more of a balance, as was being done in scattered spots throughout the West from the 1920's on) a move that helped or harmed the Church's ability to be a powerful sign of universality and unity? Does language have nothing to do with it?

That hospital windown in MA

And still, they come -- a quiet multitude of Hispanics, Asians, blacks and whites, young and old, a rare confluence of community in this ethnically tribal region. On Monday their cars backed up onto the street as the parking lot overflowed. Peach-colored roses, an angel twisted from gold and silver wire, and a clear plastic jug brimming with dollar bills leaned against the wall below the window. (So far, an estimated $4,000 in donations has been placed in a hospital account for safekeeping, Schepici says.) Some visitors sang "Ave Maria" and prayed the rosary. Others fiddled with video cameras and set up lawn chairs in the parking lot as they waited for the window to be revealed. One woman who has made the hospital a daily ritual claimed her neuropathy had been cured: "It's been a week, and I have no pain." A Russian Orthodox priest with poor eyesight compared the window to an icon, and 19 people who traveled that day by bus from Chinatown in New York, including a woman in her eighties, prayed for world peace.

After visiting his father in the hospital, Steve Perry, 48, looked up, scanned the crowd, shrugged and walked away. "I don't get it," he said, smiling. "I don't see anything except a dirty window."

But Barbara Cesanek, 52, needed no convincing as she peered through sunglasses at the whiteness above. "To me, it's definitely the Blessed Mother. If you follow her arms, you can see she's holding something, and it could be the baby Jesus, and she's standing on clouds," Cesanek said.

Among the believers there are differing opinions as to why here, and why now.Some say she came to warn away Milton Hospital -- which does not perform abortions -- from its recent clinical affiliation with a Boston area hospital that provides the procedure.

Others believe the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese prompted her visit. Others, like Cesanek, say Mary came to warn Boston of an impending terrorist attack. It is not unusual for sightings of Mary, the holy intercessor, to coincide with periods of personal or national distress, such as a poor economy or war with Iraq, says University of Kansas professor Sandra Zimdars-Swarz, author of "Encountering Mary: Visions of Mary From La Salette to Medjugorje."

"In a way, they are crisis apparitions," she says. "The belief is that Mary is responding to some perceived need."

The scientific explanation for some people is pareidolia, or the human ability to see shapes or make pictures out of randomness. Think of the Rorschach inkblot test.

"People all the time see things, like a pattern in the clouds. Does it look like a ship, or a dolphin, or something else?" said Kevin Christopher, a spokesman for the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal in Amherst, N.Y. "It gets a little more attention if they see something of a religious nature."

Whatever the explanation, there is no sign of interest in Milton Hospital abating soon. Word spread this week that someone had spotted a cross in the soot of the hospital chimney.

Reminds me of the Clearwater sightings a few years back.

It's summer. Let's tell jokes.

A Jesuit, a Dominican and a Franciscan were walking along an old road, debating the greatness of their orders. Suddenly, an apparition of the Holy Family appeared in front of them, with Jesus in a manger and Mary and Joseph praying over him. The Franciscan fell on his face, over come with awe at the sight of God born in such poverty. The Dominican fell to his knees, adoring the beautiful reflection of the Trinity and the Holy Family. The Jesuit walked up to Joseph, put his arm around his shoulder, and said, "So, have you thought about where to send him to school?"

Contribute your religious order humor here.

Eve has a great, great list of book suggestions for kids, which got me thinking. I'm currently trying to reorganize our books (the combined holdings of two bibliophiles can easily fill a basement, and they do), and I'm running across a lot of great "Catholic" novels that I'd forgotten I had (in addition to the "Catholic" novels that I knew I had and that fill up two shelves in my study) - the Don Camillo books, the Edge of Sadness, and so on. Leaving aside the well-known figures like O'Connor, Percy, Waugh and so on...what were the works of "Catholic" or even just general "religious" fiction, popular or literary, of the 20th century that you really liked and you'd recommend others to read?

I have to admit, I find it fascinating that I've got 40 comments on altar boys and 4 comments on Iraq right now. Is it because it's an issue we feel we have more control over?

And as far as the altar boys go...someone mentioned what is, on reflection, and obvious, not to speak of sad point. Could it be that some parents are not encouraging their sons to be altar boys because...well...they're afraid of the possibility of sexual abuse?


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