Friday, June 04, 2004

"Dear Brother Bishops", begins the message from Pope John Paul II today. And then goes on to say, "The split between the Gospel and culture is the drama of our time. and, to be even more precise,

Over the last forty or so years, while political attention to human subjectivity has focused on individual rights, in the public domain there has been a growing reluctance to acknowledge that all men and women receive their essential and common dignity from God and with it the capacity to move towards truth and goodness (cf. Centesimus Annus, 38). Detached from this vision of the fundamental unity and purpose of the whole human family, rights are at times reduced to self-centred demands: the growth of prostitution and pornography in the name of adult choice, the acceptance of abortion in the name of women’s rights, the approval of same sex unions in the name of homosexual rights.

In the face of such erroneous yet pervasive thinking you must do everything possible to encourage the laity in their "special responsibility" for "evangelizing culture ... and promoting Christian values in society and public life" (Pastores Gregis, 51). False secularistic forms of "humanism" which exalt the individual in such a manner that they become a veritable idolatry.

It sounds like the Pope has a good handle on the times. It was interesting to read the whole thing.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

I did a simple search for "Methodist Blog" and came up with two hits, neither of which appeared to be flowering sites. The same search for "Catholic Blog" revealed hundreds, if not thousands, of sites.

I only mention this because I have been so surprised and pleased by the helpfulness and diversity of Catholic bloggers and blog readers. The other day, one of these helpful Internet acquaintences (a Methodist, in this case) pointed me to the "Becoming Catholic" menu item at the Catholic.com website. In particular, Catholic.com says,

For those who have been instructed in the Christian faith and have lived as Christians, the situation is different. The U.S. Conference of Bishops states, "Those baptized persons who have lived as Christians and need only instruction in the Catholic tradition and a degree of probation within the Catholic community should not be asked to undergo a full program parallel to the catechumenate" (NSC 31). For this reason, they should not share in the same, full RCIA programs that catechumens do.

The timing of their reception into the Church also is different. The U.S. Conference of Bishops states, "It is preferable that reception into full communion not take place at the Easter Vigil lest there be any confusion of such baptized Christians with the candidates for baptism, possible misunderstanding of or even reflection upon the sacrament of baptism celebrated in another church or ecclesial community . . . " (NSC 33).

Rather than being received on Easter Vigil, "the reception of candidates into the communion of the Catholic Church should ordinarily take place at the Sunday Eucharist of the parish community, in such a way that it is understood that they are indeed Christian believers who have already shared in the sacramental life of the Church and are now welcomed into the Catholic Eucharistic community . . ." (NSC 32).

Christians coming into the Catholic Church must discuss with their pastor and/or bishop the amount of instruction needed and the time of their reception.

So, even though I'm rather looking forward to RCIA studies, in particular because it will allow me to forge some new relationships in my new church, it is most likely not a requirement that I go through the entire program or be received at Easter Vigil. At my next opportunity, I'm going to seek a clarification on this because I don't want to give the impression to other active Christians that the Catholic Church would force them back to square one in order to join.

Right now, my next step is the Rite of Acceptance, which will take place near the end of June. The summer RCIA classes are held every other week while in the fall they will be every week. For now, since the Pre-Catechumenate meetings are over and the RCIA classes have not begun, I have a month of un-instructed time that I hope to fill with reading and practice.

Thanks to all who stop by and those who write. If blogs can be, in some ways, compared to vines, isn't it wonderful how many shoots there are off the one true vine.

A Crossroad for the Catholic Church

The link above is to an old article, from Feb 3, but its author points out what he believes the top three issues the next Pope must face. Actually, this Pope is facing them as well.

1. Europe is committing demographic suicide, as no Western European state has a replacement level birth rate. At the same time, Catholic practice in Western Europe is at historical lows. Churchmen believe these two hard facts of European Catholic life are related: Europe is heading for demographic disaster because it is in a severe crisis of cultural morale. That crisis is one result of a radical secularization that dissolves a people's sense of responsibility for the future.

2. There are two culturally assertive religious communities with global reach in the world -- Catholicism and Islam -- and they know that radical Islamism is an implacable enemy of religious freedom, which is the centerpiece of the Catholic Church's approach to world politics.

3. The new genetic knowledge and its capacity to advance the arts of healing. The Catholic Church also teaches that attempts to remanufacture the human condition by manufacturing (or retrofitting) human beings end up dehumanizing us. How to shape the global debate about the new biotechnologies so that humanity gets to the 22nd century without finding itself ensnared in Aldous Huxley's brave new world is a mega-issue.

What a job, to follow John Paul II. Each of the problems above are incredibly difficult. A Catholic Czar for each would be nice.

Update: What is not on the list of "Most important items for the next Pope" is also interesting.

Heaven Dipping Down 

I had a thought about heaven dipping down, collecting the soul John Paul II at the end of his life. Not reaching down like for Enoch or Elijah or Mary, just a little nod, a little dip of God's head in Karol Wojtyla (Woy-Tee-Wa)'s direction. And then I thought of Mary's final breath,

Blessed Mary curled her broken form
Into the arms of her Father, her son.
Her breath was a storm of angels’ wings,
Rising to Heaven when her life was done.

and I wondered, near the end, if she lay alone in bed, remembering the Word of God living inside of her.

Anyway, when John Paul II's life is ended and the inevitable articles and specials begin trying to sum up the effect he's had on the world, they won't be able to touch the depth of his life. I suspect only art can get there.

Update: Perhaps the pronunciation of Wojtyla is "Voy-Tee-Wa" (thanks, David).

Bishop D'Arcy notices difference in Pope's Health.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here,
and see my hands; and put out your hand, and
place it in my side; do not be faithless, but
believing." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and
my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed
because you have seen me? Blessed are those who
have not seen and yet believe."

-- John 20:29

The Shroud of Turin is certainly an enigma. There are as many sites by scientists debunking it as there are by those mystified by it. The newest news, though, The Back of Turin Shroud shows its Face, makes the shroud all the more difficult to fake.

As a biblical aside, don't you think Thomas gets a bad rap in John 20? The other apostles, after all, were told by Mary Magdalene that Jesus had appeared to her... did they believe without seeing? I've been talking about Science and Religion a bit lately, with the help of Alicia at Fructus Ventris and Mark at Vociferous Yawpings. In the end, scientists are finding God in every grain of sand... what need have we to decide whether the Shroud is real or not?

Loved by All

“Loved by all and more so one
Who held her in the cold.
Now she’s sleeping in the sun
And he’s no one to hold.”

I stood on the outskirts of the Williamsport Cemetery yesterday afternoon. My grandparents lived in the house bordering the cemetery and my aunt lives there now. Several large limbs had blown down in the recent storms and we were helping to clean up the mess.

My grandparents have an aboveground tomb in the cemetery. They had the tomb put in many years before they passed away with their birth date etched in, and a dash, and a "19" all ready for them, right next door. We grandkids knew this cemetery well, it was home to late night walks, hide and seek, tag and many other games.

Although the grounds are kept fairly well (the grass is cut and the weeds are trimmed), the cemetery's stones, dating back to 1836, are teetering on their bases. Most of the inscriptions on the old markers are illegible. I remember many of the phrases were very poetic and touching, which is something often missing from today's gravestones.

For some reason, probably grounded in funerals we attended as children, my brothers and sisters and I decided when we were just kids to be cremated when we died. I guess the Catholic Church frowns on this, though the Church has become a little more friendly to the idea. (I would say that the Church is 'warming up' to the idea of cremation, but that would be in bad taste, yes?). As an adult, with some concept of history and fully able to see what happens to a grave 150 or so years after it's filled, I'm still leaning toward cremation, not any time soon.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

There's more on Galileo, Science and Religion over at Vociferous Yawpings. Thanks, Mark.

Sexual Appetite 

I have reached that point in C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity" where he discusses sexual morality. I must say, this is the book the schools should be using for sex-ed.

Lewis compares our sexual appetite with our appetite for food. He wonders what we would think of a society where people treat food the way we treat sex. Can you imagine all the teenagers tuning in to MTV to see juicy pictures of lamb chops or roast beef or self-rising pizza? Through this comparison, Lewis makes it clear how different the human sex drive is from our normal hungers and thirsts. "How many people," Lewis says, "want to eat things that are really not food or do other things with food instead of eating it. But perversions of the sex instinct are numerous and frightful. We have all been told that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires, but the moment you look at the facts, you see that it is not true."

Lewis goes on to say, "When people say that sex is nothing to be ashamed of, they really mean that the state into which the sexual instinct has now got is nothing to be ashamed of. If they mean that, I think they are wrong. I think it is everything to be ashamed of. There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips." And this is from the 1950's!

Well, what happened over the weekend? A group of people wore colored sashes to church in Chicago, sashes that represent just what their mind is focused on, sashes that represent just exactly where they'd like to put different parts of their bodies. They were denied communion. In Minnesota, the sash wearers were allowed communion, but they had to climb over Catholics who were kneeling in the way. How soon until those who are divorced start wearing scarlet sashes and kicking their way to the front?

I struggled with a cough on Sunday morning, trying my best not to interrupt the service. How tightly wound must people be to their desires to disrupt the Mass and display themselves in front of all the unknowing little kids in church? How tightly bound must they be to their desire to have their church change based on their own, personal beliefs. And, of course, if the Church did change, how many of those who seek the change would remain? How many of these people are attracted more to the fight to be accepted and less to acctual acceptance?

I watched a little of the History Channel's special on Attila the Hun last night. They downplayed the meeting between Pope Leo and Attila. I always liked this story about that meeting. Some of the historians cast doubt on whether the Pope and Attila even met at all. Some of them found it more likely that mosquitos, malaria and disease caused Attila to turn away from Rome rather than Pope Leo. Now, I'm not saying God couldn't work through mosquitos, but wouldn't you rather work through St. Peter and St. Paul hovering in the air with swords than mosquitos?

Well, whatever happened then, the Pope is still meeting with leaders of the world. President Bush will be meeting with JPII for the third time in his Presidency on June 4th. I wonder, if John Kerry were President, whether he would be bashed by the media (and non-catholics) for meeting with the Pope three times in three years. It sounds like that exact type of thing people were worried about when John Kennedy was running for President -- that the Pope would set policy. I'm not unbiased, but it seems to me that President Bush is more in agreement with the Catholic Church than Senator Kerry, so I'm a little surprised we're not seeing more articles of concern over separation of church and state and articles about "Why is the United States consulting with a religious body," etc. Where Kerry and the Pope might agree on U.N. policies and Iraq, Kerry is off the map on abortion and somatic stem-cell research. So, who's the Catholic here?

Since Jeb Bush (governor of Florida and the President's bother) converted to Catholicism on Easter of 1995, some do wonder whether President Bush is also leaning in that direction. Perhaps after he's served another four years? And if Kerry should win in November, what vision might he see floating above the head of John Paul II when they first visit?

Monday, May 31, 2004

My oldest son graduated high school (public) on Saturday. My older kids attend(ed) the fourth most diverse public high school in the nation. The school is fairly evenly split between black and white and then again between asian and hispanic. There is also a growing block of Eastern European immigrants. I didn't notice any diversity training classes or the like, the kids study hard and get along well. I think most of them take pride in the diversity of their school, but that isn't the focus of their day.

One place where the clash of cultures does appear is at graduation. The instruction to the crowd is to hold all applause until all have received their diplomas, but, bless their hearts, the African American families give joyful shouts and screams when their child's name is read off. After screaming, the family members stand up as a whole and walk out full of smiles, escorted by the day's rent-a-policemen. Some people, especially those taping the ceremony, get upset by this and consider it selfish behavior; at times it gets the crowd buzzing and it's hard to hear the next name announced and, of course, those families are walking out and not seeing the rest of the class graduate.

This has nothing to do with RCIA. :)

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