Thursday, October 30, 2008
All Saints: The Joy of the Surrounded
Paul Griffiths recently delivered a lecture on friendship, and it was beautifully done; the speaker’s remarks were clear, and effective, and structured, like a Scholastic disquisition ought to be- definitions and procedures clearly delineated, the relevant distinctions made, categories bounded. He was going on about whom Christians might be friends with, and how.
To his great credit (I think), Griffiths made one of the distinctions that I go nuts over; when prodded by a beautiful question about the depths of the human heart and the paradigm of the outpouring of Jesus, he gestured to the difference between the nature of ontologically functional friendship (we find people who look the same, act the same, and talk the same to be our friends, as though we had been configured for one another) against the more juridical nature of love (it seems to be that we attribute worth freely to the strangers whom we desire for God’s sake, compensating for their defects by bearing their burdens, teaching them to speak our language, calling things that are not as though they were, so that we might find a place to dwell in God, in them).
But when our speaker described reciprocity and symbiotic status- blending as necessary for friendship, I think that he was thinking more about transactive covenants all along; he must have been. He spoke of equity and a kind of calculation in our friendships of a certain kind, but it seems to me that there is something much more spontaneous about Christian friendship. Timid Abraham is called the friend of God long before God endows the little guy with the means to enter into symbolically equitable covenant with the Creator of the universe. The same is true for the ridiculous David. God Incarnate, with the cattle on a thousand hills, calls His friends from the social and economic situations of the illiterate fisherman and the wily tax collector. He, in unapproachable light, is the friend of sinners. Heck, I think God may have called even me to be His friend.
Perhaps it is because Christian friendship is constituted by the one, ever intermediate, and truly free Personal God that Christian friendship cannot be construed in terms of equitable exchange and moderated growth. After all, it’s the gorgeous hint of utterly attractive and unpredictable holiness that the baptized ultimately desire and are drawn to in one another. It’s the wild and crazy Holy Spirit who stirs our hearts to reach out to whomever He likes. It is Him whom in all these we love. If what we believe about the Christian life is true, then each of us has got a Christ-shaped dent within, on which a slow simmering fire is set both to burn and to throw sparks into the slow simmering fires of other hearts, a colloquy not so much of moderated conversation, but of inevitable warmth, and wind, and light. Even in his own measured discussion about the difference between the proper enjoyment of God and the loving use of people, with careful regard as to when, and how, mode and manner, Augustine catches his breath: “moreover, love itself, which binds men together in the bond of unity, (has) means of pouring soul into soul, and, as it were, mingling them one with another.” (De Doctrina Christiana Preface vi.)
…Thus, I’ve always thought that the gist of Jesus’ response to The Relevant Query was that we should not ask “what is the correct method for evaluating who my neighbor is?” but rather, “how fast can I get to him?”
If this is so, Christian friendship is (it sounds trite) pure gift, particularly in its inequitable freedom. I’m thinking of the communion of saints as a model. We are never alone; Scripture says that the members of the church triumphant watch us rather like star-struck fans, (Hebrews somewhere) eagerly waiting for our reunion with everything that they’ve got- how long, Lord? (Revelation somewhere). We may have very little to do with them. And yet they, with the holy angels, are given to us; and it is by them, through Christ our Lord, that we are ever watched and heard and waited for. There is nothing of equity in this arrangement; we are little people mysteriously mucking through a vale of tears, they are heroes and martyrs who can see the face of God; we are delighted with our current loves and losses and perhaps we don’t spare a thought for loving those invisible strangers who have gone before, though they rejoice to attend to us. This too is the love of God- who did not spare His own Son, and, in freely giving us all things, calls us to fellowship in the perfectly inequitable community of His friends.
Happy Feast of All Saints, to all of you.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
All Saints: Post B.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Getting Ready for All Saints: Post A.
10. Don't call it "Satan's Holiday"!
There are many Christians who have written off Halloween as some sort of diabolical black mass. It's the vigil of a Christian holy day: All Hallows' Eve or All Saints Eve. Has it been corrupted by our culture and consumer market? You bet. However, Christmas has also been derailed by the culture. Does that mean that we're going hand over Christmas? No way! Same goes for Halloween. The Church does not surrender what rightfully belongs to her - she wins it back!
9. Don't feel that you have to opt for an "Halloween alternative".
Many groups of Christians (particularly Protestant ones) are now how hosting "Fall Festivals" (or worse, "Reformation Day"). I've been to several and they are particularly good if you have toddlers who otherwise wouldn't enjoying walking around the neighborhood "trick or treating". Unless you have seriously hesitations about your neighborhood, why not join your neighbors? It could be a great opportunity to get to know them and spark up some relationships. I've gotten to know some neighborhood dads as we stand out on the curb and watch our kids go up and the ring the door bells of every house on the street.
8. Be safe.
Check all the candy. Have the kids wear glow sticks. Dress warm. Stick together.
7. Be hospitable - Why not host the neighborhood party?
Christians are supposed to be hospitable, right? Why not host a Trick or Treating after party at your house with hot chocolate and coffee for the adults. Open up your house or back yard for games. Remember bobbing for apples?
6. Don't be turned off by the ghoulish-ness of Halloween.
Every great Catholic cathedral has gargoyles carved into its stone work. Illuminated manuscripts are also full of ghouls in the margins. Catholics are into this kind of stuff. Why? Because Christ has conquered death and the devil. After Christ, death has lost its sting. Also, All Saints day is followed by All Souls day so it's okay to be a little macabre. (By the way the word "macabre" comes from Maccabees - those two books in the Catholic Bible that Protestants through out.) And if you live in an Hispanic area like I do, you've got the whole Dia de Muertos to play up.
5. Have fun, don't force converts.
Look, nobody likes to get a religious tract in their candy sack. Don't pass out religious literature. Give out big handfuls of candy and the extra large candy bars, if you can. In the long run, you will make more converts with your charity. After all, you'll be known as "the house that always gives out good candy".
4. Have a bonfire!
We Catholics used to specialize in bonfires. If you have the land and it's legal, stoke up a blaze. If you're kids are older why not set out a bunch of glowing jack-o-lanterns and roast marshmallows over a blazing-hot fire? If someone can play the fiddle, all the better.
3. Carve some fine looking Jack-O-Lanterns.
This is a no-brainer. Download some fancy cutting patterns from the web. Spend time as a family carving out some pumpkins. Put some candles in them and let them burn outside your house for a week or so before Halloween. My kids always like to see who has jack-o-lanterns in front of their house. Do you want to make friends in the neighborhood? Have a carving party and give a prize to the best jack-o-lantern.
2. Visit the graves of your loved ones
This applies more to All Souls Day (Nov 2) than it does to All Saints Day (Nov 1). Still the point is to remember our loved ones and to pray for those who have died marked with the sign of faith. Death is not the last word. Christ has overcome death by His own sorrowful passion and death through the resurrection. That is is the source of our hope and strength of all the saints.
1. Be holy.
If you persevere in the love and grace of God, you too shall be a saint. The whole point of "All Hallows" is to remind us to be "hallowed" or "sanctified". Most of us won't have our own particular feast day and so All Saints Day will be our feast day. It is the feast day for most of the Church's saints, those who lived peaceably, followed Christ, loved their families, accomplished their duties in life and passed on to the next life. May their prayers be with us.
Have other Halloween ideas?
Monday, October 27, 2008
Saint Robert Bellarmine, 1542-1621
"In this world is not found a greater evil than sin; for not only do evils in this life, and in the life to come spring from it; but also, sin is the cause by which man becomes an enemy to God. And what can be said to be worse, than to be an enemy unto Him, who can do all that He will, and non can resist Him... and contrariwise, in this life a greater good cannot be found than to be in grace; for who can hurt him, whom God defendeth, all things being in His hands?"
- A Relation of the Solemnities, 1601
Friday, October 24, 2008
George Weigel's Latest: Obama a genuine abortion radical
To portray the 2008 Democratic Party presidential ticket as the preferred 'pro-life' option is to subvert what the word 'pro-life' means."
Why? Because the public record amply demonstrates that Senator Obama is not the abortion moderate of our professors' imagination, but a genuine abortion radical. In the third presidential debate, Obama described Roev. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that obliterated the abortion law of all fifty states, as "rightly decided"—a judgment with which Professors Cafardi, Kaveny, and Kmiec have all disagreed in the past. Moreover, Senator Obama's defense of Roe extends far beyond anyone's "elegant theorizing." Support for Roe was Obama's stated reason for opposing Illinois bills aimed at providing legal protection for children who survived an abortion. Support for Roe buttressed Obama's criticism of a Supreme Court decision upholding state partial-birth abortion laws. The full implementation of the most radical interpretation of Roe would seem to be the goal of Obama's support for the federal Freedom of Choice Act [FOCA], which, by stripping Catholic doctors of "conscience clause" protections currently in state laws, would put thousands of Catholic physicians in jeopardy.
Our law professors rightly ask who would best serve women in crisis pregnancies and their unborn children. The answer is obvious: those thousands of crisis pregnancy centers across America, staffed largely by unpaid volunteers and veterans of the pro-life movement, which offer women a real choice, and a better alternative to their dilemma than abortion. How is it possible to square a concern for women in crisis with support of the presidential candidate who favors ending the modest federal funding some of those crisis pregnancy centers now receive? How is it "pro-life" to support a presidential candidate who is publicly committed to requiring any federal legislation in support of pregnant women to include promotion of abortion? At a certain point along this trajectory, I fear, we are through the looking glass and into the White Queen's world of impossible things before breakfast.
...It is very bad theology to suggest that the controversy over the reception of Holy Communion by Catholic politicians who actively support the abortion license is a matter of "using the sacrament as a political tool." On the contrary, it is a question of maintaining the integrity of the church's central act of worship, and of calling Catholics with an ill-formed sense of the moral requirements of both faith and reason to a serious examination of conscience. As for divisiveness, well, there are times when bishops are morally required to be "divisive," as when Catholic bishops deliberately "divided" their flocks on the question of the segregation of Catholics schools by excommunicating segregationists.
...Is John McCain—for whom, I might add, I have never served as an adviser, formally or informally—a perfect pro-life candidate? Of course not. But Barack Obama is a perfect pro-life nightmare. President McCain would not work to repeal the pro-life legislative advances of the past 35 years; knowledgeable and sober-minded Catholic legal and political observers who have worked on these issues for decades are convinced that an Obama administration and an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress would eviscerate those modest advances within a year.
-George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Newsweek Contributor. More here.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Soccer player becomes priest
Culture Pop: Support Guadalupe Radio Network's 2008 'Celebration of St. Paul' Fall Radiothon
Robert Campbell Moberly on the Meaning of the Atonement
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Thomas Aquinas on the Meaning of Schism
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
John Calvin on Infant Baptism
"No sound man, I presume, can now doubt how rashly the Church is disturbed by those who excite quarrels and disturbances because of infant baptism. For it is of importance to observe what Satan means by all this craft, viz., to rob us of the singular blessing of confidence and spiritual joy, which is hence to be derived, and in so far to detract from the glory of the divine goodness. For how sweet is it to pious minds to be assured not only by word, but even by ocular demonstration, that they are so much in favour with their heavenly Father, that he interests himself in their posterity! Here we may see how he acts towards us as a most provident parent, not ceasing to care for us even after our death, but consulting and providing for our children. Ought not our whole heart to be stirred up within us, as David's was, (Ps. 48: 11,) to bless his name for such a manifestation of goodness? Doubtless, the design of Satan in assaulting infant baptism with all his forces is to keep out of view, and gradually efface, that attestation of divine grace which the promise itself presents to our eyes. In this way, not only would men be impiously ungrateful for the mercy of God, but be less careful in training their children to piety. For it is no slight stimulus to us to bring them up in the fear of God, and the observance of his law, when we reflect, that from their birth they have been considered and acknowledged by him as his children. Wherefore, if we would not maliciously obscure the kindness of God, let us present to him our infants, to whom he has assigned a place among his friends and family that is, the members of the Church.
Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4:16.32 on Infant baptism
Monday, October 20, 2008
What I've been up to...
One of my brothers brought a new and beloved sister into our family this weekend.
Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion;
to you our vows will be fulfilled.
2 O you who hear prayer,
to you all men will come.
3 When we were overwhelmed by sins,
you forgave our transgressions.
4 Blessed are those you choose
and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
of your holy temple.
5 You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness,
O God our Savior,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas,
6 who formed the mountains by your power,
having armed yourself with strength,
7 who stilled the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
and the turmoil of the nations.
8 Those living far away fear your wonders;
where morning dawns and evening fades
you call forth songs of joy.
9 You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it.
10 You drench its furrows
and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers
and bless its crops.
11 You crown the year with your bounty,
and your carts overflow with abundance.
12 The grasslands of the desert overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.
13 The meadows are covered with flocks
and the valleys are mantled with grain;
we shout for joy and sing.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Texas Bishops Issue Instructions on Pro- Life Voting
“To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or ‘abortion rights’ when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil – and (is), therefore, morally impermissible.”
This missive from Bishops Farrell and Vann of Dallas and Fort Worth followed last week's instruction by Bishop Martino of Scranton:
“Public officials who are Catholic and who persist in public support for abortion and other intrinsic evils should not partake in or be admitted to the sacrament of Holy Communion. As I have said before, I will be vigilant on this subject.”
While various whiny activists are complaining that “this is clearly an attempt on the part of these bishops to do an end-run around the federal tax law ban on electioneering by churches,” the fact remains that federal tax law and relevant interpretation by the Internal Revenue Service simply holds that “a Catholic organization may not directly or indirectly make any statement, in any medium, to endorse, support, or oppose any candidate for public office, political party, or PAC.”
In as much as our bishops have not endorsed or opposed any particular candidate in their pastoral instruction to their churches, they remain within their tax-exempt purview to act as 1) the authoritative expositors of the Christian faith in matters spiritual and secular and as 2) the holders of religious liberty as citizens and pastors, who are entitled to free speech and protected from any and all government censure. The whiners need to recall that the IRS specifically advises that for an issue advocacy communication to violate the political campaign intervention prohibition, ‘there must be some reasonably overt indication in the communication to the reader, viewer, or listener that the organization supports or opposes a particular candidate (or slate of candidates) in an election, rather than being a message restricted to an issue.”
Catholic bishops honor God's creation of the world and the Incarnation of His Son for the salvation of all men by defending the intrinsic right to life, at each and every stage of its development. In this country, the Church's mission must address a fundamental and fatal law in our country's domestic policy of protecting and promoting the murder of voiceless children who have been prejudiced by a power-hungry culture. As the Church's bishops faithfully carry out their mandate, they thereby risk 1) receiving impotent slaps on the wrist from worried advocacy groups, and 2) the silly threat of revocation of tax-exempt status.
-Please. In the event of the latter, Catholics would rally round their bishops to insure the free exercise of our right to be instructed and led by the representatives of our Lord Jesus Christ, because we can. We are billions strong. And we have martyrs.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
At the 2008 Erasmus Lectures
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Robert Wilken on This Sanguine Narrative: Christianity Face to Face with Islam
"Set against the history of Islam, the career of Christianity is marked as much by retreat, decline, diminution, and extinction as it is by growth, expansion, and triumph. By a selective choice of periods, events, and geographic regions, the conventional account, i.e., one imagined from the perspective of Europe and North America, gives the impression of continuous progress. But seen in global perspective, that may be illusory. To state the obvious: most of the territories that were Chrisian in the year 700 are now Muslim with at best declining and besieged Christian minorities in their midst. Nothing similar has happened to Islam. Christianity seems like a rain shower that soaks the earth then moves on, whereas Islam appears more like a great sea that constantly overflows its banks to inundate new territory.
...Christianity has had an abiding physical presence in Europe... (where) the bonds of affection are attached to places... the demise of Christianity in Europe and the ascendancy of Islam would be a crippling blow to the continuity of Christian memory and the sense that the Church is the carrier of an ancient, unbroken, living tradition that reaches back through time to the apostles and to Jesus. Memory is an integral part of the Christian faith, but unattached to things it is inifinitely malleable and even evanescent, like a story whose veracity is diluted as its particulars are forgotten."
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Notes from the Fiat Mihi Symposium: Reinhard Huetter on a Renewal of Marian Theology
Professor Huetter describes the enterprise of renewing theology in a Marian key as a project of re-discovering an abandoned palace full of particularities relevant to ecclesiology and soteriology, in lieu of contemporary theology's less fecund abstractions.
In particular, Huetter focused on the doctrine of Mary's Assumption as vivifying the eschatalogical hope of the Church; in Mary we find fulfilled - and already actually anchored in Heaven- what God has promised for all humanity. In this way, the Church's hope for salvation and the particular resurrection of the body is sustained because of Mary, in whom the Church can rejoice that the economy of salvation has been completed.
Huetter invoked Louis Bouyer's own renewal of Marian theology in The Seat of Wisdom of the 1960's. Huetter also referred to and the Scriptural significance of Mary's being the only creature ever greeted by an angel as indicative of her excellence above all creatures in grace and consequent familiarity with her Creator, and as indebted above all for the grace which preserves her, unstained, from original sin.
Favorite Anecdote (s)?
1) The suggestive note that the doctrine of Mary's assumption into Heaven reminds the feminist revolt in modern theology that there is indeed already a woman in Heaven, so they need not worry so much about de-gendering God the Father; we see in Mary that there is a fully, integrated, maternal creaturely life enjoying the Beatific Vision and interceding for the rest of the creation already.
2) A Marian reading of Psalm 138:
1 I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart;
before the "gods" I will sing your praise.
2 I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
3 When I called, you answered me;
you made me bold and stouthearted.
4 May all the kings of the earth praise you, O LORD,
when they hear the words of your mouth.
5 May they sing of the ways of the LORD,
for the glory of the LORD is great.
6 Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly,
but the proud he knows from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes,
with your right hand you save me.
8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your love, O LORD, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Paul S. Fiddes on Trinitarian Prayer
Past Event and Present Salvation: The Christian Idea of Atonement
Monday, October 06, 2008
Saint Ignatius Theophorus of Antioch, AD 98-117
St. Ignatius, Epist. ad Rom.
Friday, October 03, 2008
Culture Pop: Friars of the Renewal at World Youth Alliance Africa
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Father Cantalamessa in Dallas
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Notes from the Fiat Mihi Symposium: Paul Griffiths on a Renewal of Marian Theology
Griffith's presentation, entitled "Quickening the Pagans: Mary Visits the Unbaptized" referred to Christ's presence in His mother, quickening the uncircumcised and pre-intellectual infant John in the womb of Elizabeth. This reference to Luke also hearkens to the delight of the pagan chorus who observe the dazzling beauty of the Shulamite Bride (a type of Mary and the Church) in the Song of Songs, and the exulting of King David before the Ark of the Covenant (also a traditional image of Mary, who "contains" and encompasses the God of Israel, Incarnate, in her womb).
From these Scriptural suggestions, Griffiths considered the pagan's relationship to Mary on 1) the order of being and on 2) the order of knowing. With regard to the first aspect, Griffiths explored Mary's basic humanity in being- acted- upon by the Holy Spirit, and receiving His work in a profound act of assent and acceptance, as primordial model of all humanity in receiving the salvation announced by the Gospel. On the order of knowing, Griffiths considered Mary's response of faith to the angellic annunciation as an act of delighted acceptation which embodies the ideal of fides quaerens intellectum.
Interestingly, the conversation concluded with an emphasis not on modern missiology but on the vocation of the academic theologian: to resist grasping and controlling the data of theology, but rather to work in a mode of faith seeking understanding, on the model of Mary's delighted acceptation of what has already been given and accomplished.
...Favorite anecdote from this session? - "The vocation of the theologian is to render conceptually beautiful what is already given in the Church's liturgy and prayer."
More to Come...