Ad Limina Apostolorum (Blog) | St. Augustine's Library
Friday, July 30, 2004

Augustine the Lector, Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

"Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, 'Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me." He replied to him, "Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?' Then he said to the crowd 'Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions.' Then he told them a parable. 'There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, 'What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?' And he said, 'This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, 'Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!'' But God said to him, 'You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?' Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God" (Luke 12:13-21).

Actually, Augustine actually pauses near the end of the parable to deliver this well-placed dagger to his congregation: "But God said to him, 'You fool!" . . . Now, some of you may ask, 'Does God really speak to fools?' O, my brothers, with how many fools does he speak here, every time the Gospel is read!" (Hom. 57.6).

Augustine begins his homily on this Gospel reading by focusing on justice of the case which is brought to Jesus by the man in the crowd. "Ye see then how good a case this appellant had. For he was not seeking to take by violence another's, but was seeking only for his own which had been left him by his parents" (2). He sums up, "just case, short case" (3). Who else than Christ, he asks, is more competent to deliver a just judgment? If the man could not get a fair trial from Christ, from who else? And yet, lo and behold, Christ seems to let him down. Why?
"He asked for half an inheritance, he asked for half an inheritance on earth. The Lord offered him a whole inheritance in heaven. The Lord gave more than he asked for" (2).
For how does Christ address him? "Man" ('Friend' in our translation, but homo in Augustine's). But he was a mere 'man' precisely because of his greed. Christ, however, "wished to make him something more than a man. What more did He wish to make him? . . . I will tell you, 'I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High'" (3).

Augustine shows how Christ raises the standards of our normal assessment of greed: "Thou wouldest call him covetous and greedy, if he were seeking another's goods; but I say, seek not even thine own greedily or covetously." Human standards of justice fail, in fact, when illumined by the light of Christ. For we measure justice in human terms. Augustine asks us to measure them by the rule of the Heavenly city. For there is the fullness of that 'life' which cannot consist of mere possessions.

# posted by Jamie : 4:08 PM



I just noticed in passing an advertisement for a book I didn't know - and wish I still didn't know - existed: The Poems of Rowan Williams.

But infancy and human life is not always shining and noble in these poems. In contrast to 'Twelfth Night' stands 'Penrhys' with its 'cartons and condoms and a few stray sheets of newspaper that the wind sticks across his face' and 'thin teenage mothers by the bus stop'. Ranging from subjects Biblical to this cold council estate in the Rhondda Valley, and from the music of Bach to that of Ann Griffiths, The Poems of Rowan Williams is a unique and profound collection by an eminent thinker, humanist and Welshman.

Ugh. I'll sleep worse at night knowing that people out there are actually reading this. Incidentally, I just discovered this photograph of Prince Rowan enrolling in the order of the druids.

# posted by Jamie : 2:28 PM


Galileo Was Wrong 

Get your T-Shirt or Coffee Mug here.

Robert Sungenis at CAI has been one of the forerunners of the modern Catholic apologetics movement.  He has a stunning resume, and his name pops up in almost all mainstream apologetics material.  His more mainstream and collaborative works, in fact, were influential in my own conversion.  Only more recently did I discover that good ol' Bob is a few sandwiches short of a picnic.  Putting to the side some of his more eccentric views, the bigger problem is this: If Mr. Sungenis is apologist, whose job is to bring non-Catholics into the faith, exactly what kind of faith is he bringing them into?  A faith utterly preoccupied with 'Fatima-mongering,' accusing his fellow apologists of being hereticsweird anti-Jewish rants, and, oddest of all, dogmatic geocentrism.  No wonder that Hahn, Keating, Akin and friends have quickly begun distancing themselves from him.
(From Bill Cork.)

# posted by Jamie : 12:36 PM



Veritas' Lida to Bay Area animal rights activists:

"I have developed a new type of vacuum cleaner and I was thinking of testing it out on a pregnant dog or two. I want to see if it will suck out those little baby puppies without tearing them apart, limb from limb."

# posted by Jamie : 11:03 AM


No, it's not The Onion. 

(Honestly, I had to check the logo to be sure.)  This, sadly enough, is real life.

Kerry saves Hamster
"As the cage sank beneath the waves, Alexandra continued, her father - the future Democratic nominee for president - 'grabbed an oar, fished the cage from the water, hunched over the soggy hamster and began to administer CPR.'"

or rather,
"As the cage sank beneath the waves, Alexandra continued, her resolute and fearless father - the future Democratic nominee for president - , not acting the least bit aloof or distant, but demonstrating the unique combination of compassion and determination that our country needswith a gutteral roar, as if re-enacting his heroic actions of Vietnam, 'grabbed an oar with firm resolve, fished the cage from the water with determined leadership, hunched over the soggy hamster and began to administer CPR, showing that he, unlike his opponent, is ready and willing to fight on behalf of the little guy.'"

Excuse me while I kneel over a toilet for a few minutes.

# posted by Jamie : 8:51 AM


This could be interesting. (or it could be really lame.) 

# posted by Jamie : 8:45 AM


Fr. Pavone levels the playing field 

"If a candidate who supported terrorism asked for your vote, would you say, 'I disagree with you on terrorism, but where do you stand on other issues?'"

"'I stand for adequate and comprehensive health care.' So far, so good. But as soon as you say that a procedure that tears the arms off of little babies is part of 'health care,' then your understanding of the term 'health care' is obviously quite different from the actual meaning of the words."

"'My plan for adequate housing will succeed.' Fine. But what are houses for, if not for people to live in them? If you allow the killing of the children who would otherwise live in those houses, how am I supposed to get excited by your housing project?"

Summary: "It's easy to get confused by all the arguments in an election year. But if you start by asking where candidates stand on abortion, you can eliminate a lot of other questions you needn't even ask."

Nice.  Article hereCool organization here.

# posted by Jamie : 8:20 AM



"I recall hearing about one diocese where the bishop told pastors that they would not receive associate priests for their parishes unless their parishes regularly produced priestly vocations."

Wow.  Perhaps a bit on the impractical side, but intensely cool.  (From Karl Keating via AMDG.)

# posted by Jamie : 8:17 AM


The Root of Liturgical Abuses 

Required reading from Adoremus.  This brief article allows us to 'read between the lines' of Redemptionis Sacramentum, to recognize not only that to what the instruction was responding, but the very origins of the 'culture of liturgical abuse.'  Most of the names are familiar, some are surprising, all are telling.  Adoremus, the 'Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy,' has done a remarkable service here: if you've got some pocket change, it's $25 well-spent. (Courtesy Ad Majorem, etc.)

# posted by Jamie : 8:10 AM


Thursday, July 29, 2004

On Sex and Marriage 

Okay, I know I've been lacking in 'sound byte blogging' as of late.  Witty quips and cynical rantings will be found aplenty later on.  But first I need to do something I've been meaning to do for a while.  Oswald at Catholic Analysis (here and here) and the folks at Sanctificarnos (here) have been commenting on the phenomenon of 'homosexual marriage,' and doing a fine job of it.  There is a need, I think, to move beyond sarcasm and pithy remarks (though these are not without their place!) and deal philosophically with this issue, and I'm appreciative of these two (amongst others) for taking the lead on this in St. Blogs.  And at the encouragement of a friend, I thought I would offer an 'Augustinian take' on the issue.  [I'm sure more than a few wonder, with some annoyance, why I write about St. Augustine so much.  I'll be honest.  Because I read Augustine so much.  I'm a doctoral student and I do it for a living, so to speak.  More than anything, it's a labor-saving device.  If I were to write commentaries on Edith Stein or Gregory the Great, I would double my workload.  And I'm too intellectually lazy for that] 
Thus, following is a rough draft of a brief synopsis of St. Augustine's thoughts on marriage and sexuality, and some thoughts on their relevance for modern society.

"Therefore the first natural bond of human society is man and wife. Nor did God create these each by himself, and join them together as alien by birth: but He created the one out of the other, setting a sign also of the power of the union in the side, whence she was drawn, was formed. For they are joined one to another side by side, who walk together, and look together whither they walk. Then follows the connection of fellowship in children, which is the one alone worthy fruit, not of the union of male and female, but of the sexual intercourse" (On the Good of Marriage 1.1).

Here is summarized St. Augustine's theology of marriage, sexual union, and procreation.  The union of man and wife is the 'first natural bond of human society,' and this union is an exalted form of friendship.  And yet friendship alone cannot suffice to explain the union of husband and wife - for if God had intended marriage to satisfy the demands of friendship alone, he would simply have given Adam a male companion (cf., Literal Commentary on Genesis 9. 5. 9)!  That Adam was granted a woman instead reflects a deeper meaning behind the biological complementarity of the sexes - man's ordination to 'be fruitful and multiply,' which is the preeminent vocation of Eve.

From this friendship, then, flow children, as the natural fruit of this divinely-ordained union.  And sexual union, even in Paradise, was carried out explicitly for the purpose of procreation (Harmony of the Gospels 2,.1. 2).  This is not the only or exclusive purpose of conjugal love: Augustine also points to the loyalty and fidelity of the spouses and the significatory power of the indissolubility of their union (together making up the three 'goods' of marriage).  He also grants that this good is present so long as the birth of children is intended, or even so long as it is not intentionally avoided: sexual union is a good even in situations of menopause or sterility (Contra Julian 5.12.46-48).  Practices which deliberately exclude the possibility of procreation, such as sodomy or contraception, are ipso facto immoral (Against Faustus 22.38). 

Augustine's apparent 'narrowing' of conjugal union to the rigid demarcations of the generation of children strikes us as rather constricting.  Seems as though he's taken all the fun out of it.  But Augustine's vision of earthly life, we must recall, is framed by the devastating effects of the Fall of man 'in Adam.'  The harmonious and integrated conjugal love of our first parents has, in their descendents, become fragmented and disordered, and is ever on the verge of collapsing into compulsive lust.  Not that this tendency is inevitable or all-encompassing, but the danger of it is never far from view.  Sexuality cannot no longer be simply assumed to serve the good of the spouse, family, or society.  All too often it becomes, rather than a means of loving others, a means of self-love.  And here is where the pleasure of sexual intercourse plays a crucial role.  Pleasure, in itself, is a good thing, and is legitimately enjoyed when it accompanies a good act.  Yet acts can never be legitimately carried out simply for the sake of pleasure.  Augustine is keenly aware of the depths of human motivation: If sex is used merely as a means of pleasure, it immediately and necessarily becomes a means of one party's exploitation of the other.  Augustine is aware of this tendency only because he recognized it himself.  In his Confessions, he reflects upon his past relationship with his mistress, and recognizes in hindsight why he longed for her so much.  It was not from a genuine appreciation of her person, her soul, but because her body gave him - at least temporarily - a satiation of the most profound restlessness of his own soul:

"For this cause my soul was sickly and full of sores, it miserably cast itself forth, craving to be excited by contact with objects of sense. To love and to be loved was sweet to me, and all the more when I succeeded in enjoying the person I loved.  I befouled, therefore, the spring of friendship with the filth of concupiscence" (Confessions 3.1.1.).

This is, in my view, what makes St. Augustine's insights on marriage and sexuality so relevant today.  The lacunae in his teaching have been pointed out repeatedly, and beneficially: his theology of marriage was by no means comprehensive or exhaustive, nor does it lack its shortcomings.  But few were as aware as St. Augustine of the degree to which, due to the effects of concupiscence, sexuality could be twisted into a form of self-serving exploitation of another person.  Procreation, for Augustine, served as the only concrete guarantee that sexuality would always be put in the service of a larger community, outside oneself - the family, the civitas, the society as a whole.  And the complementarity of the sexes, along with the observance of the laws of nature, ensured that sexual union would remain - at least incipiently - oriented towards these ends. 

St. Augustine never had the opportunity - nor did any ancient writer - to comment upon the phenomenon of 'gay marriage.'  Although homosexual behavior was hardly unknown in his day, never did it achieve the level of societal recognition and widespread approval as it possesses today.  Yet it is not difficult to imagine his response.  A human relationship in which the sexual faculty - one can hardly call it sexual union - is cut off, intrinsically and deliberately, from the service of procreation, puts it into a scenario where it cannot but turn inward upon itself.  Sexual union, in this context, can only serve as a means, even if subtly and subconsciously, of bodily exploitation of another, and can only create, in the long run, a culture of 'sexual cannibalism.'

# posted by Jamie : 11:32 AM


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Gay Marriage makes it to Springfield 

The saturation of the entertainment industry by homosexual culture over the past two decades has been nothing less than stunning.  Every soap opera, talk show, sitcom, and film has to have at least one gay character (or couple) in it, even if it's just a comic character (which it usually is).  Comic characters, in fact, were the spearhead of the homosexual culture into the entertainment media, since even those disinclined to favor homosexuality could justify it on the pretext that the character was being mocked.  But, as time went on, the 'token homosexual' became a staple in the industry, and now it's hard to imagine a television series without it.  And of course, familiarity and frequent exposure tends to dampen emotional reaction.  Imagine watching the Showtime drama 'Queer as Folk' in the 1960s.  Or even the 1980s, for that matter.  (On a side note, the same tendency is evident in the 'mainstreaming' of abortion - note Planned Parenthood's new gift to us: 'I had an abortion' T-shirts.) 
Whether or not this is an actual 'conspiracy,' in the sense of an organized and premeditated program, I'll leave to the conspiracy theorists.  But it's certainly an undeniable trend. 
Incidentally, Smithers is too obvious a pick.  My money's on either Burns or Nelson.

# posted by Jamie : 12:25 PM


Cool: Dead Theologians Society 

# posted by Jamie : 12:16 PM


I normally hesitate to utter the word 'RadTrad' 

Mostly because it's hard to say.  Rolls of the tongue kinda weird.  But here it's necessary.


Uh, wait, maybe not.  Nix that.

Turns out a couple of Hindus just wanted to pray to our Blessed Mother.  Geez.  Another reason to reserve judgment on far-right conspiracy theories.

# posted by Jamie : 9:27 AM


Where's Jim Caviezel now? 

Just in case you thought playing God Incarnate might have put a dent in his career - well, it might, in Hollywood, but it certainly didn't in Mexico, where people apparently really think he is God Incarnate:
"According to Mexican newspaper Reforma, dozens of residents from villages throughout the state, one of the poorest in the country, asked Caviezel to heal the sick and perform other miracles as he passed through.  The actor, who is himself a strict Catholic, said: 'It was a shock for me to see how they came up to me to ask for my help. I had to explain to them that I was only an actor, and wasn't really the son of God.'"

(News item here, kudos to Crowhill.)

# posted by Jamie : 9:10 AM


Thank Heaven for Little Girls 

Christopher Johnson celebrates the 30th anniversary of the ECUSA's ordination of women.

# posted by Jamie : 9:06 AM


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Augustine the Lector, Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

I know, I know, the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time was last Sunday.  But, since I played hooky last week, and don't want to get things out of order, I'm going to cover last Sunday before I move on to the readings for the coming week. 

This [last] week our Gospel reading comes from the eleventh chapter of Luke's Gospel:

"And he said to them, 'Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,' and he says in reply from within, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.'  I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.  And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.'"

St. Augustine's most direct exposition of this passage, in his 55th Homily on the Gospels, utilizes the allegorical sense, using Jesus' parabolic narrative to suggest a scenario in which the reader is approached by a nonbeliever (the 'visitor') who is 'hungry' for the truths of the faith (the 'three loaves,' in particular, the Trinitarian mystery), and must in turn beg himself from the Lord the benefit of divine wisdom, by means of which he might enlighten the inquiring mind (2). 

But in this same homily, the 'doctor of grace,' almost off-handedly, plucks a more dynamic string, which reverberates with spiritual potency: "Therefore unto the Lord Himself, unto Him with whom the family is at rest, knock by prayer, ask, be instant.  He will not, as that friend in the parable, arise and give thee as overcome by importunity.  He wishes to give; thou for thy knocking hast not yet received; knock on; He wishes to give!"(3). 
If our Lord's parable here is an analogy for prayer, it is, to all appearances, an analogy that limps.  But, of course, theologically speaking, all analogies from human to divine activity 'limp.'  But this one seems to limp more than others: Does God answer prayer only through 'importunity' (the Greek anaideia, is poorly rendered as mere 'persistence'; it is more accurate to translate it as 'impudence,' as it literally derives from 'shamelessness,' anaideuomai), rather than out of friendship?  More to the point, why must we ask repeatedly, or 'persistently,' at all?  Is God so stubborn as to only be moved by our obnoxiousness?

St. Augustine's answer here is piercing: "What He wishes to give, He deferreth, that thou mayest long the more for it when deferred, lest if given quickly it should be lightly esteemed" (3).

St. Augustine picks up on this point and expounds it more thoroughly in an earlier homily, the Eleventh Homily on the Gospels

"When at times He giveth somewhat slowly, it is that He is showing us the value of His good things; not that He refuses them. Things which have been long desired, are obtained with the greater pleasure, whereas those which are given quickly, are held cheap. Ask then, seek, be instant. By the very asking and seeking thou dost grow so as to contain the more.  God is keeping in reserve for thee, what it is not His will to give thee quickly, that thou mayest learn for great things to long with great desire"(6).
And here St. Augustine's theology of prayer joins with his theology on grace.  Grace is here conceived as a massive reorientation of our interior desires, so that that which is truly Good becomes 'pleasant' for us, whereas left to ourselves we would simply have no stomach for it.  But, once the innermost wellsprings of our being are opened up by a Higher Love, that which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, we recognize the lesser, corporeal goods around us for what they are, mere table scraps from the Wedding Feast.  Yet this capacity to enjoy the Good cannot be infused immediately or unreflectively, lest we short-circuit the natural [sic] cycle of awakened desire being satisfied by unexpected pleasure.  Or, put otherwise, unless our hearts 'stretch wide' so as to contain this Beauty, we could never receive it in a personal fashion.  And this 'stretching' is accomplished only by the prolonged and wearied task of repeated prayer and ever-increasing longing.

# posted by Jamie : 2:45 PM


On 'Authentic Christianity' 

 Peter L. Brown, in his definitive and yet vastly overrated work Religion and Society in the Age of Saint Augustine, gives this summary of the Pelagian understanding of Christianity:

"There is only one definition of a Pelagian by Pelagius: he was a Christianus; his followers strove to be integri Christiani - 'authentic Christians'.  The behavior of these integri Christiani was always thought of as being a reaction, an act of self-definition, the establishment of a discontinuity between the 'authentic' Christian and the rank-and-file of Christians in name only" (p. 192).

This struck me because it is characteristic of so many self-defined 'reform movements' within the Church: the return to an 'authentic' Christianity, as defined over and against the shallow piety and half-converted hearts of the masses.  Witness the Donatists and Pelagians, the Fraticelli and the SSPX.  All see the mainstream of the Church Catholic, whether the hierarchy or the faithful, as having somehow abandoned the genuine faith of the Church.  This tendency is much more marked among our Protestant brethren, who have more of a penchant for schism than ourselves, but it is not absent from our Church, this quest for a 'True Christianity' which has been parodied all too often (and sadly, all too accurately). 
Against this tendency St. Augustine would throw up the intimate details of his own rather muddled autobiography in the Confessions, book ten of which inspired a sharp retort from Pelagius himself.  Says Brown, "Augustine, in a scrupulous examination of his abiding weaknesses, in his evocation of the life-long convalescence of the converted Christian, had tacitly denied that it was ever possible for a man to slough off his past: neither baptism nor the experience of conversion could break the monotonous continuity of life that was 'one long temptation'" (p. 200).  His own life, he felt, belied any idealistic pretensions of the Christian's having attained perfect sanctification on earth.  Here, the Church cannot be the lot of the saints; it can only be a school for sinners.

# posted by Jamie : 1:20 PM


Updated Blogroll 

Here's an updated list of some new blogroll links:

Summa Minutiae: Good family man with a taste for patristics and good literature.
Ad Altare Dei: Liturgy, hagiography, and random items from a California Catholic.
Ex Parte Fide: Theological reflections by the guy who runs The Black Republican.
Flos Carmeli: Blog by Steven Riddle in the Carmelite Tradition.
Pontifications:  Warning, at least one Ph.D. required for commenting.
Veritas.  Quid est veritas?: Catholic musings from another Californian.
Summa Mamas: Three Roman Catholic Moms (a little 'pink,' but solid content).
Fructus Ventris: Aptly-titled blog by 'Alica the [Catholic] Midwife.'
Laudator Temporis Acti: Lover of ancient literature and other historical minutae.
Old Oligarch: Highly-recommended, not for the faint of mind.
Papa Familias: Dotings of a proud Catholic father.
My Domestic Church: Journal of a blogging Catholic family.
Tony's Catholic Life: 'The life of a Catholic teenager in blog form.'
Sancta Sanctis: Sensible reflections on literature, art, and film. 
Gleeful Extremist: Very gleeful, very extremist.  Precision bombing in prose.

Basically, I don't get around the blogosphere too much.  Of the five thousand Catholic (or para-Catholic) blogs out there, these are only a handful which I either stumbled across or which stumbled across me.  Some are high-level theology, some are lackadaisical ramblings, all are plain decent folk.  As an aside, I do like the trend of semi-intelligible Latin titles for Catholic blogs.  Makes me look faddish.

# posted by Jamie : 10:29 AM


On Christian Capitalization 

"8.  As a general rule, when in doubt, Capitalize! Writing about God is serious business, and it would be better to capitalize a word that does not refer to God than to miss out on blessings by not capitalizing."

From The Holy Observer's Guide to Christian Capitalization.

In fact, I should rewrite the above sentence: 'It would be better to capitalize a Word that does not refer To God Than to miss out on Blessings by not capitalizing.'  Tricky business.

# posted by Jamie : 8:51 AM


Since it's campaign season... 

And this year's campaign ads interest me about as much as news updates on Cher's dysfunctional family, and besides, I don't even own a working television, I thought I would spend some time looking at some genuinely interesting campaign ads, from the 1950s.  Every campaign ad from 1952 forward is available here.  Some interesting viewing.

# posted by Jamie : 8:37 AM



In case you're wondering, that's supposed to be an animated version of yours truly to the right, created via the Portrait Illustration Maker. Of course, those who know me will recognize no similarity to me whatsoever, but it's about as close as I could get, given the options. Link courtesy of a Saintly Salmagundi who, incidentally, looks much more handsome than me. I'll be happy to post pics of any of my commenters who would wish to send them to me.

Here's our good friend, the 'Polish Prince.' Is it just me or does this program make everyone look seventeen?

And here's 'T-Mac.' That's gotta be my favorite so far.

JPawn in the house...

# posted by Jamie : 7:50 AM


Monday, July 26, 2004

A Curious Kind of Parish 

Bill Cork reports on this story in the Daily Standard about John Kerry's parish in Boston, the Paulist Center.  As Cork quips, this is 'Where those who hate the Church go to church.'  Besides boasting the most nightmarish crucifix known to man (which looks straight out of Edgar Allen Poe), the Paulist Center exists to serve "those persons searching for a spiritual home and those who have been alienated from the Catholic Church."  As the article notes, this sort of liturgical milieu "explains why John Kerry feels so comfortable at the Paulist Center. His fellow parishioners aren't gritting their teeth and looking away while he fights for abortion and defies the Catholic Church. They're cheering him on." 

And lest we lay the culpability for this parish's existence exclusively on the shoulders of the good Archbishop O'Malley, remember that it's not his church.  Although it operates only with his permission, the Paulist Center is run by the Paulist Fathers, who are to blame for more than one bad parish in the U.S. 

Incidentally, the director of the Paulist Center has been - imagine this - invited to give the 'consecration' of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.  Wouldn't want to risk a showdown with the Archbishop of that city, who's on record saying that pro-abortion 'Catholic' politicians 'shouldn't dare to come to communion.'

# posted by Jamie : 11:55 AM


On the Democratization of the Church 

Just a random thought, but I was reading this passage in 1 Samuel 8:
"But [Samuel's] sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.  So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah.  They said to him, 'You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.'"
Bottom line: God established Israel as a priestly theocracy.  The human leadership of this priestly theocracy became corrupt.  All the other nations had monarchies, not priestly theocracies.  The people, tired of the way the priestly theocracy had become corrupt and eager to be like 'all the other nations,' demanded that Israel become a monarchy too.

Translate 'Israel' into 'Catholic Church,' 'priestly theocracy' into 'episcopal hierarchy,' 'monarchy' into 'democracy,' and 'nations' into 'churches,' and you'll get an idea of why this made me chuckle.  I know it's not a perfect analogy, but it's amusing.  And, of course, you know what a disaster Israel's monarchy became. 

# posted by Jamie : 11:05 AM


Liturgical Abuse of Last Week (TM) 

Lest I let a week go by (even in retrospect) without celebrating one of the prevalent abuses of our liturgy (pun intended), I bring to you the 'Con-Celebrating Community.'

"Nor is the Eucharistic Sacrifice to be considered a "concelebration," in the univocal sense, of the Priest along with the people who are present. On the contrary, the Eucharist celebrated by the Priests "is a gift which radically transcends the power of the community. . . . The community that gathers for the celebration of the Eucharist absolutely requires an ordained Priest, who presides over it so that it may truly be a eucharistic convocation. On the other hand, the community is by itself incapable of providing an ordained minister." There is pressing need of a concerted will to avoid all ambiguity in this matter and to remedy the difficulties of recent years. Accordingly, terms such as "celebrating community" or "celebrating assembly" . . . and similar terms should not be used injudiciously" (Redemptionis Sacramentum 42).
The purpose of the above Instruction, of course, is not to scrupulously investigate each and every area in which the liturgy might stay, even the slightest bit, from the rubrics, but rather to identify 'symbolic abuses,' which are symptomatic of larger, cultural misunderstandings of the very nature and purpose of the liturgy.  This linguistic clarification, then, does not simply intend to quibble about terminology, but rather to correct a larger abuse, a fundamental distortion of the role of the gathered community in the celebration of the liturgical mysteries.

On a side note, note that the phrases mentioned above ('celebrating community, etc.) are not wholly banned from theological/liturgical discourse, nor could they be.  The Church herself has used these terms in official documents (e.g., "The celebrating assembly is the community of the baptized who . . .offer spiritual sacrifices [CCC 1141], or the perhaps-unfortunate choice of words in Lumen Gentium 10: "the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist").  Rather, these words must not be 'used injudiciously,' and we might see here, in fact, an attempt to correct or clarify language which has been found to be imprecise or otherwise in need of qualification.

The larger problem is when this language becomes a cloak for an ecclesiological vision which obfuscates the unique significance of the ministerial role of the ordained clergy.  Thus we hear, "We need to acknowledge a greater variety of ministers.  The truth of the matter is this: All people are ministers to one another.  Ministers are not ordained or made so by others; they are born . . . This full, inclusive notion of ministry is the only notion of ministry that will help us to discover and develop the ministry of the celebrating assembly at liturgy" (source).  Or the all-too familiar VOTF mantras, generally related to a misinterpretation of Vatican II: "After the Council, the most significant role is the celebrating assembly. The emphasis was concepts like 'community' and 'celebration'" (source).  Here's a more profound misunderstanding, arising from a misunderstanding of the role of the minister as 'presider' vis-a-vis the congregation, courtesy of NCR:

"'Do this in memory of me.' To fulfill these words of Christ, we need to recall the liturgical principle: The Church makes the Eucharist and Eucharist makes the Church. What do these words mean? As the celebrating assembly, the Church makes the Eucharist. All the baptized participate in the priestly function of Christ and are appointed for the celebration of divine worship. The priest, acting in the person of Christ, the head of the Church, together with the assembly, the people of God, the Body of Christ, makes the Eucharist. By reason of his ordination, the priest, acting as a representative of Christ, with the assembly fulfills the words of Christ: 'Do this in memory of me.' Priests do not do this alone but in union with other members of the Body of Christ."

Here the ministerial function of the priest is viewed as only quantitatively distinct from that of the congregation, as if both were 'shouldering together' the task of the Eucharistic sacrifice, in the same way that a quarterback and an offensive line share the task of moving the football down the field.  What this misses is the ontologically unique character which a priest possesses, entailing his acting in the person of Christ, which is the very fact which enables his sacrificial offering to be acceptable to the Father.  The fact that the faithful 'throw in their lot' with this offering does not make it their offering.  It is no accident that we ask that 'the Lord accept this sacrifice of your hands, for our good and the good of all His Church.'  It is not our sacrifice, simply because we are not Christ, and our sacrifice - apart from His - simply wouldn't do a lot of good, in the grand scheme of things.

Coupled with this abuse is the more concrete problem of the faithful being invited to 'gather around' the altar during the Eucharistic prayer - an abuse which, unfortunately, Redemptionis Sacramentum neglects to directly address, and which does not seem to have been explicitly addressed by any liturgical norms thus far (please correct me if I'm wrong here - I simply can't find it).  The teen organization 'LifeTeen' was notorious for fomenting this abuse among American Catholic youth (that's a LifeTeen mass above left), yet - thankfully - Jimmy Akin posted last week (along with Amy Wellborn) an indication that its leadership has taken positive steps to stop this practice.  Lord willing, this is the beginning of a trend.

# posted by Jamie : 9:29 AM


Exegetical Oversight 

In my Augustinian commentary for last Sunday, on the Gospel reading about Mary and Martha, I made a crucial oversight which crippled my capacity to understand this important passage.  Here I was, talking about the preeminence of contemplation over action, the eschatological framework for understanding moral deliberation, etc., and I missed the most fundamental significance of the narrative: women's equality.  I know, I know, you probably missed it too.  We're just not trained to spot these things. 

Fortunately, Bishop Gumbleton, Auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Detroit and founding member of Pax Christi, is:
In the reading today, Jesus again broke rules and customs by raising up women and giving them their full dignity and rights. In the time of Jesus, the rules prohibited women from being disciples, and scripture commentators tell us that for someone to "sit at the feet of the master" - in this case, Jesus - was to be a disciple.  By showing that women have as much a right as men to be disciples, to follow Jesus, to do his work and minister in his name, Jesus was breaking the customs of the time. That is a very important lesson for us to hear, because we still discriminate against women in our church.

Hmm... Sed Contra: "[The Church] holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God's plan for his Church . . . Christ's way of acting did not proceed from sociological or cultural motives peculiar to his time" (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 1).
"We discriminate in our church. We exclude and separate. And we should not. By welcoming Mary as his disciple, Jesus showed us that those kinds of barriers have to be broken. Everyone is equal in freedom and dignity in Jesus' community of disciples. We have to learn that very important truth from this incident" (NCR's 'Peace Pulpit'.

Can't see how St. Augustine missed that precise observation as to the applicability of this biblical narrative to women's place in ministry.  Plain as day, really.

# posted by Jamie : 8:22 AM


Friday, July 23, 2004

Diocesan Homepage Contest 

While, for work reasons (trust me, I don't do this for fun) I am skimming through various diocesan websites across the country, I decided to perform a self-refereed contest between competing official diocesan webpages.  The competitors thus far, in the following categories, are:

1.  Best Overall Look: (1) Diocese of Metuchen, (2) Diocese of Belleville, (3) Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

2.  Best Use of Technology: (1) Diocese of Brooklyn, (2) Archdiocese of Miami, (3) Archdiocese of San Antonio.

3.  Most Unimpressive: (1) Diocese of St. Thomas, (2) Diocese of Gallup, (3) Diocese of Ogdensburg

4.  Most Non-Existent: (1) Knoxville, (2) Little Rock, (3) Mobile.

5.  Most Cheesy Photograph of Bishop: (1) Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, (2) Diocese of Albany, (3) Diocese of Bismarck

6.  Most Prominent Coverage of Sexual Abuse: Diocese of Pittsburgh, (2) Diocese of Lansing, (3) Archdiocese of Miami.  

7.  Downright Weirdest: (1) Diocese of Davenport, (2) Diocese of Laredo, (3) Diocese of Venice.

8.  Most Cluttered: (1) Diocese of Owensboro, (2) Diocese of Rockville Centre, (3) Diocese of Madison

9.  Lamest / Tackiest: (1) Diocese of Monterey, (2) Diocese of Norwich, (3) Diocese of Las Cruces, (4) Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph

10.  Ugliest / Worst Overall: (Sorry, couldn't get this down to three): (1) Diocese of Kansas City in Kansas, (2) Diocese of Camden, (3) Diocese of Fargo, (4) Diocese of Dallas, (5) Diocese of La Crosse, (6) Diocese of San Bernardino, (7) Diocese of San Jose.

The following categories are, as of yet, undisputed:

11.  Most Clearly Never Done a Website Before: Archdiocese of Dubuque.

12.  Most Self-Conscious: Diocese of Evansville.

13.  Homiest: Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux.

14.  Most Blatantly Political: Diocese of Jefferson City.

15.  Most Self-Deprecating: Diocese of Fairbanks.

I invite votes, additional competitors, or suggestions for further categories.

# posted by Jamie : 3:05 PM


Thursday, July 22, 2004

To keep you busy while I'm scarce . . . 

1.  There are seven suicides in the Bible.  How many can you locate?

2.  Read Genesis 30:25-43 and make some theological sense of it:
"After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, "Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland.  Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I've done for you."  But Laban said to him, "If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the LORD has blessed me because of you." He added, "Name your wages, and I will pay them." Jacob said to him, "You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care. The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?" "What shall I give you?" he asked. "Don't give me anything," Jacob replied. "But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen." "Agreed," said Laban. "Let it be as you have said." That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban's flocks. Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches.  Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink,  they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted.  Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban's animals.  Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches,  but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob.  In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and maidservants and menservants, and camels and donkeys."

3.  How many chromosomes did Christ have?  And where did they come from?

4.  Will there be animals in heaven? (That one's from Shea)

# posted by Jamie : 10:02 AM



To the thousands of readers who hang on my every word - you're going to be hanging a bit for the rest of the week.  I've got a busy week at work, a ton of reading to do, and a lot of hospitality to dish out to guests at the homestead.

The cost, of course, is that now I've devolved into a flappy bird again, which is somewhat depressing.  I'm not changing the picture though.

I'll be sure to get a liturgical abuse and a commentary on the readings before the week's out, but I can't promise much more than that.

# posted by Jamie : 8:26 AM


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

On Schism and Wife Beaters 

Now we're all used to the phenomonon of disgruntled Catholics, frustrated because their 'voices aren't being heard' or because the nasty hierarchy is not being sufficiently sensitive to their concerns, up and setting up their own 'independent Catholic churches' (can you say oxymoron?).  Early May saw the establishment of 'Christ Hope Ecumenical Church' (reported here) in Pittsburgh, and yesterday I mentioned the 'Polish National Catholic Church' in a post.  Just skimming through google today I discovered the 'American Catholic Church,' the 'American Catholic Church in the United States,' the 'National Catholic Church of America,' and the 'American Old Catholic Church.'  (What is it about this being a uniquely 'American' phenomenon?)  As an aside, I think it would be an interesting contest here on St. Blog's to see who can come up with the most extensive list of schismatic Catholic communities.

In any case, I digress.  What got my attention today was this story (from Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam) about the newest such scenario, this time in Milwaukee Archdiocese. 

Now, the interesting thing about this case is the rather unique circumstances surrounding it. Looking at all the above scenarios, what they have in common is the claim to offer something not offered by the [Real] Catholic Church, whether it be the willingness to ordain anyone with a pulse, or the willingness to give a sacerdotal blessing to any and every form of sexual perversity, no matter how creative. But, really, what does this guy have to offer?

I mean, would you attend a 'mass' [sic] celebrated between two weight benches on a rec room floor presided over by a defrocked and overweight homosexual child molester dressed in a wife beater*?

(That's what's known as a rhetorical question, by the way.)
(*'wife beater,' for those woefully unhinged from pop culture, has nothing to do with spousal abuse, but is rather a slang term for what is more properly referred to as an 'athletic shirt' - thanks to my boy 'Fresh P.' for the tip.)

# posted by Jamie : 12:17 PM


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

On Monks, Girth, and Fine Ale 

A front-page news release last week informed the world of the powerful and devastating news that medieval monks were, well, not particularly slim.

Philippa Patrick, from the Institute of Archaeology, at University College, in London said that an analysis of the skeletons of 300 sets of bones found at Tower Hill, Bermondsey, and Merton abbeys showed a great deal of evidence pointing to obesity, including diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis and arthritis in knees, hips and fingertips.

Ms Patrick said: "They were taking in about 6,000 calories a day. Their meals were full of saturated fats."
Now, how do you fit 6,000 calories into a diet associated with the ascetic life of self-denial? Only one way. Ale, and lots of it. In the Medieval world, ale (along with wine, beer, mead, cider, and spirits) was the modern equivalent of bottled water. And there's a purely pragmatic dimension to this: ale was the only drink which could be guaranteed not to kill you (unlike water, which, being unsanitary, often would), its consumption was seen as healthy and conducive to strength and vigor, and was often associated with medicinal value (more info here). As to how much was actually consumed, the most accurate records we have come from monasteries, and these indicate a general allowance of between one and two gallons of ale per day. Hence, the weight problem.

But for monastics, there is, paradoxically, an ascetic value associated with ale. Medieval monks were known for their fasting, i.e. abstention from solid foods, which often lasted up to a month in duration. Given that water was unsanitary, and some form of liquid sustenance was necessary for continued health, the monasteries of Western Europe became responsible for some of the greatest developments in modern brewing (the practice of brewing with hops, e.g., began in these monasteries) (see history of beer here).

Yet monasteries were by no means indulgent or libertine in their consumption. Although ale and wine were necessities of life, and could not, for practical purposes, be avoided, care was taken to avoid drunkenness. Note, e.g., the Rule of St. Benedict:

"Nevertheless, keeping in view the needs of the weak, we believe that a hemina [10 oz.] of wine a day is sufficient for each . . . The superior shall use her judgment in the matter, taking care always that there be no occasion for surfeit or drunkenness. We read it is true, that wine is by no means a drink for monastics; but since the monastics of our day cannot be persuaded of this let us at least agree to drink sparingly and not to satiety, because 'wine makes even the wise fall away'" (Eccles. 19:2).

  This also took place in the context of a generally ascetic diet and lifestyle. Monks ate two meals a day, often in silence, and meat and fish were generally avoided (more). Many monks, especially the Benedictines, also had rules which obliged lengthy periods of hard manual labor, including corporal works of mercy towards the poor and infirm.

Also of note: St. Augustine of Hippo, most likely due to the oft-exaggerated excesses of his youth, has come down to us as the patron saint of brewers.

# posted by Jamie : 8:32 AM


Monday, July 19, 2004

'We had hoped...' 

That this might be the first successful screen adaptation of C. S. Lewis' life and/or work.  I was hoping, anyway. 
This link from Shea, on the upcoming film 'The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe':
"So I've really tried to make the story about a family which is disenfranchised and disempowered in World War II, that on entering Narnia, through their unity as a family become empowered at the end of the story. It's really bringing the humanity of the characters into what is effectively a symbolic story."

Once you've recovered from your momentary nausea, remember that the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy was motivated by similar wackiness on the part of both the directors and actors, and it still turned out pretty darned good, all told.

# posted by Jamie : 2:25 PM


Our 'The Anglican Communion's Eternal Obsession to become a Fad' File is getting full 

File this one under 'Anglican Communion Just Getting Downright Weird.'
"The Chancellor of the Diocese of Lichfield was this week considering his judgement in a case of an over-eager clergyman versus Canon Law specifications for font placements. The rare case was brought before ecclesiastical court after the Rector of Trentham, the Rev Nigel di Castiglione, and two churchwardens landed in the hot water for moving the font without the necessary consent, according to the Lichfield Diocesan spokesman."

So . . . you can ordain a practicing homosexual divorcee to the episcopate, but you can't slide the water font three feet to the left? 
Christopher Johnston at Midwest Conservative Journal, our perennial commentor of Anglican wackiness, has this advice for the vicar in question:
"Idiot.  If you'd just told people that you moved the font to better accomodate gay and lesbian parishioners like you were supposed to, the Diocese wouldn't have had to go to all this trouble."

# posted by Jamie : 1:47 PM


Move to end state-sponsored anti-Catholic discrimination in England 

Article here; selected quote of choice:
[Cardinal Winning] argued: "It is quite ludicrous to suggest that if a dashing young princess from Spain or Belgium or Luxembourg were to sweep Prince William off his feet and the young couple wished to marry, that somehow the British state would be brought to its knees."

UPDATE: Apparently some are seeing this move as critical in the peace process of Northern Ireland.  Always good news.

# posted by Jamie : 9:54 AM


Bishop D'Arcy on Homosexuals in the Priesthood 

Bishop D'Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend made headlines at 'Ad Limina' twice before for dis-inviting pro-aborts from speaking positions in his Diocese.  Now he's being even more [happily] politically incorrect, even for ecclesiastical politics, making these remarks in his former diocese of Boston:
"We don't put these (heterosexual) men in with attractive women," he said, referring to seminarians. "You're putting him in with men. It's not fair to him, it's not fair to them, it's not fair to the church."

"If we ordain men with pathologies and difficulties, they will draw the same kind," he said. "Don't just pray for priests, pray for priests of good quality."

D'Arcy is certainly a minority voice among the bishops - he is apparently calling for an all-out ban on homosexual candidates for the priesthood -, and it's unlikely his position will easily translate into policy in any case.  But it's important, I think, not to dismiss his arguments too speedily.  Rashness in ordaining any and every candidate to the priesthood has gotten the Church in enough trouble.  Some degree of prudence is certainly good medicine. 

# posted by Jamie : 9:21 AM


On Polka and Catholicity 

Back in May we saw a flurry in the news about St. Stanislaus Kostka parish in St. Louis. The story, in sum, was that the parish somehow ended up under the governance of a civil corporation made up of laypersons. When Archbishop Burke pointed out that this situation contradicts canon law, which requires all parishes to be under the governance of the Church hierarchy, a revolt began. Even more disturbing - as our Polish resident of St. Blog's, the Polish Prince, pointed out to me at the time - this scenario echoes almost exactly the historical emergence of the schismatic 'Polish National Church' at the close of the nineteenth century.

Well, the folks at St. Stanislaus popped up in the news again over the weekend. Still defiant, of course, but now the focus is on their liturgy. It turns out that St. Stanislaus is one of the many Polish parishes practicing the 'Polka National Rite,' which is a slight variation on the Novus Ordo, but with an accordion.

The affirmation of nationalistic/ethnic identity has always been characteristic of resistance movements to ecclesiastical authority, and can be seen in most of the schismatic movements in the Church's history -- cf., Gallicanism and Anglicanism (more overtly) and Lutheranism and Donatism (more subtly). Part of being a universal (read 'Catholic') Church means walking the balance between legitimate inculturation and a transcendence of all cultures, both required by the doctrine of universality.  Unfortunately, an over-emphasis on either element leads to a distortion of Catholic teaching, which is all too evident in this case:
"They can take the priest," said parishioner Marek Parafiniuk, 27, of Brentwood. "We won't give up the parish. The people will still be here."
Reminiscent here is a phrase from the first Christian to dub the Church 'Catholic' (at least, in the technical sense, as a title), St. Ignatius of Antioch, at a time when the Church was first beginning to deal seriously with its own increasingly-evident universality:
"Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" (To the Smyrnaeans 8:2)."

# posted by Jamie : 8:43 AM


Friday, July 16, 2004

Augustine the Lector, Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

This Sunday's 's readings from the lectionary include this Gospel passage:
"Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.  She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.' The Lord said to her in reply, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better partand it will not be taken from her'" (Luke 10:38-42)
This passage offends our sensibilities, in a way, because we are more sensitive to the practical needs which the situation demands, the necessary duties of hospitality.  Our response is to praise Mary's piety, because, well, Our Lord does, but to secretly wonder if she isn't being a bit impractical. 
St. Augustine sees the obvious: Martha is a symbol (or rather, a 'type') of the day-to-day duties which this life requires.  Mary, on the other hand, is a 'type' of the duties, or rather the concerns, of the next life.  In his fifty-third homily on the Gospels, he fits the entire scenario into an eschatological setting:
"The words of our Lord Jesus Christ which have just been read out of the Gospel, give us to understand, that there is some one thing for which we must be making, when we toil amid the manifold engagements of this life. Now we make for this as being yet in pilgrimage, and not in our abiding place; as yet in the way, not yet in our country; as yet in longing, not yet in enjoyment. Yet let us make for it, and that without sloth and without intermission, that we may some time be able to reach it."
Recall that for St. Augustine, the bodily needs of this life arise only because of our fallen condition.  They are never evil -- they are divinely ordained to constrain our sinful impulses in our fallen state, signified by the 'fleshly coverings' given to Adam and Eve in their expulsion from the Garden -- yet they are temporal, transitory, ephemeral, and their value can only be relative to man's vocation to eternal blessedness.  Even those tasks which we would refer to as the 'works of charity' -- clothing the naked, feeding the poor, etc. -- which serve as concrete means of loving God and neighbor, even these have only relative value, compared to that 'one thing' which is truly necessary:
"These things are good; yet better is that thing which Mary hath chosen. For the one thing hath manifold trouble from necessity; the other hath sweetness from charity. A man wishes when he is serving, to meet with something; and sometimes he is not able: that which is lacking is sought for, that which is at hand is got ready; and the mind is distracted. . . These things are manifold, are diverse, because they are carnal, because they are temporal; good though they be, they are transitory. But what said theLord to Martha? 'Mary hath chosen that better part." Not thou a bad, but she a better. Hear, how better; "which shall not be taken away from her.'  Some time or other, the burden of these necessary duties shall be taken from thee: the sweetness of truth is everlasting. 'That which she hath chosen shall not be taken away from her.' It is not taken away, but yet it is increased. In this life, that is, is it increased, in the other life it will be perfected, never shall it be taken away"
For all these temporal tasks and duties, we are reminded, will pass away.  They will not characterize the state of blessedness (though they must now serve as a means of attaining this state):
"Yea, Martha . . . When thou shalt have got to that country, . . . wilt thou find the hungry, to whom thou mayest break thy bread? or the thirsty, to whom thou mayest hold out thy cup? . . . None of all these will be there, but what will be there?  What Mary has chosen; there shall we be fed, and shall not feed others."
The only activity of the blessed in the caelestial city, of which we are capable of performing here on earth, is that of the contemplation of God, listening to His Word, dwelling upon His command.  This does not rule out bodily activity, on the other hand it requires it, but neither must it be obscured and overrun by such activities.   This, the 'one thing necessary,' is the part chosen by Mary: "Mary her sister chose rather to be fed by the Lord . . . Martha was troubled, Mary was feating; the one was arranging many things, the other had her eyes upon the One.  Both occupations were good; but yet as to which was the better . . . the Lord gives judgment." 
This theme would be picked up by many of the Medievals as a basis for the distinction between the 'active' and the 'contemplative' life.  It is not yet that, for St. Augustine, although he is aware of the distinction (in his City of God he goes to great pains to emphasize that the good life consists of both an active and a contemplative dimension), much less is it a simple distinction between the monastic and the secular life.  It is, however, a means of offering a supernatural perspective through which to judge and assess human action, from the point of view of the ultimate 'end.'
(See also St. Augustine's similar reading of Jacob's two wives, Rachel and Leah, in Contra Faustus 22.52.)
(Check previous installments in this series here and here.)

# posted by Jamie : 3:02 PM


Liturgical Abuse of the Week (TM) 

For our Liturgical Abuse of this week, we'll examine Redemptionis Sacramentum, paragraph 38: 

"The constant teaching of the Church on the nature of the Eucharist not only as a meal, but also and pre-eminently as a Sacrifice, is therefore rightly understood to be one of the principal keys to the full participation of all the faithful in so great a Sacrament. For when 'stripped of its sacrificial meaning, the mystery is understood as if its meaning and importance were simply that of a fraternal banquet.'"

Relevant also here is a selection from the Catechism:  

"At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet 'in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us" (CCC 1323). 

The twin themes of Paschal banquet and atoning sacrifice come up in Eucharistic theology from the earliest days of the Church.  In St. Paul's day the Eucharistic celebration was closely associated with communal meals (though never was the former reduced to, or collapsed into, the latter), and yet at the same time the early Church regularly used sacrificial imagery, carried over to a large extent from the Hebrew cult, to describe Christian worship.  At the risk of oversimplification, the former theme gives emphasis to the 'horizontal' or 'communal' aspect of worship, and the latter the 'vertical' or 'cultic' aspect.  We frequently think in terms of finding a 'balance' between these two aspects, as if proper worship simply meant settling down someplace towards the middle of a spectrum. 
In fact, that approach has it all wrong.  The solution is not to find a balance, but an integration.  In other words, the 'communal' element must be integrated into the 'cultic,' which is why, incidentally, the 'communal' element always remains secondary.  The congregation, to the extent that it steps outside of the office of the adoration of God, ceases to be meaningful.  If any aspect or portion of the community refuses to be caught up in the adoration of the Trinity, they forfeit their right to be participants in that worshipping community, properly speaking.  On the other hand, neither is the communal element entirely subsumed by the cultic, lest the worship become privatized and lose its subjective dimension (unless appropriated by the individual, the Mass - though it retains its objective value as worship - bears no fruit in the lives of men). 
It is frequently claimed, in historical surveys of the Church's Eucharistic teaching, that the early Church taught that the Eucharist was a communal mean, and that the Medieval Church distorted this understanding by emphasizing its value as a cultic sacrifice.  It is then claimed that Vatican II 'recovered' this patristic understanding, by moving beyond the Tridentine theology of the Mass and focusing on the active participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic banquet.  Interestingly, here is what Vatican II has to say about the participation of the lay faithful:  
"The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God's word and be nourished at the table of the Lord's body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator (38), they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all" (Sacrosanctum Concilium 48). 
Interestingly, the participation of the faithful is not in some free-for-all sacramental potluck, but in the sacrificial 'offering [of] the Immaculate Victim' with and through the cultic office of the priest.  When the legitimate understanding of the Eucharistic meal as a table banquet is separated and cut off from the cultic act of worship, worship itself becomes distorted and twisted into some sort of therapeutic pseudo-spiritual self-help.  Similarly, an over-emphasis on the communal dimension of Eucharistic worship, usually for the purposes of emphasizing the inclusivity (cf. the recent calls for 'open communion,' represents a refusal of this communal element to be integrated and caught up in the cultic dimension, apart from which it can only wither up and die, like a branch severed from its vine.  

# posted by Jamie : 12:45 PM


Since we're arguing about denying communion . . . 

We gonna open up the communion table to these folks too?
Alarm in Italy as growth of Satanism creates "market" for consecrated hosts
"According to Fr. Buonaiuto, 'A true 'market' for consecrated hosts exists. They sell for 80-500 euros, depending on the size of the host, the prominence of the church from which they were stolen, and who consecrated them."
(From Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam)

# posted by Jamie : 11:04 AM


St. Augustine the Berber 

When Elliot Bougis, who is currently standing in for Mark Shea at 'Not Quite Catholic but Still Enjoying It' (formerly 'Catholic and Enjoying it'), off-handedly made a post claiming that Augustine was 'Black and Catholic,' he got a handful of corrections in response - from Sandra Miesel, myself, and others - noting the complexities involved in calling St. Augustine 'black' (for the record, he was half-Berber, half-Roman).  This touched a nerve for Elliot, who posted in reply:

"But it's precisely this reflexive, I dare say smug, sense of incongruity between Augustine and a black Augustine that led me to post the headline I did. As the comment thread for this dust-up revealed, the explicit claim of most (presumably) white Catholics (at least in the vicinity of CAEI/NQCBSEI) is that Augustine was not black. Well and good. What is not so clearly stated, however, is the ingrained corollary: since he certainly wasn't black, Augustine was white."
Now, as Elliot showed, he knows as well as anyone that Augustine is not 'black' in the modern sense of the term.  But his response touched off another storm of responses, including my own, which I re-post here:
"In my study of Church history, one of the problems I frequently come across is the reading of modern academic preoccupations (whether they be Marxist class struggle or racial identity) into ancient modes of thought.  St. Augustine, who spent many years reflecting upon the reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire, would have been very confused to hear about the role of the dislocation and disenfranchisement of the plebian class in this fall, and yet that is exactly the light in which many studies read the City of God.  Not that St. Augustine would have disagreed; it just simply wasn't his interest. T he same with Medieval contemplative female monastics and mystics, who, if told that their real motivations involved a struggle for authority and voice in a male-dominated secular realm, would have looked a little confused and left the room.  Now, I'm not claiming that the same thing is involved in feminist/Marxist revisionist history and African-Americans taking pride in the presumed skin color of St. Augustine.  But I do think we have to be very self-conscious of the lenses through which we view the ancient Christians.  Otherwise, these lenses can end up -- through 'zeal without knowledge' -- distorting the reality.  The feminist historian who is frustrated by the actual LACK of interest among Medieval nuns in gender empowerment is often tempted to pretend that it is there.  In the same way, one preoccupied with the skin color of some of the saints might be tempted to pretend that St. Augustine was black when he wasn't.  I'm not interested in claiming St. Augustine for whites. I'm interested in claiming him for St. Augustine."

Again, the whole dispute is quite silly.  The very fact that this discussion is going on reflects an an anachronistic reading of modern concerns into the past, which is precisely the thing I want to avoid.  Most of us are just too touchy for this sort of thing, and should have just let Elliot's comment be taken for what it was -- a joking, tongue-in-cheek reference.  But again, I get involved in discussions on St. Augustine on principle alone.

# posted by Jamie : 9:22 AM


Thursday, July 15, 2004

Interesting discussion at Pontifications 

Over the role (or lack thereof) of St. Augustine in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. The post includes this article from an Easterner defending St. Augustine.

Most of the Eastern hostility towards St. Augustine, of course, centers on his teachings on human guilt and divine grace. It's been my general observation that the dogmatic Pelagianism against which St. Augustine waged a lifelong assault seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to the soteriological formulations that have held sway in the Eastern Church for centuries. There are differences, of course, both in terminology and in general approach, and I doubt these formulations would technically fall under the papal condemnations of Pelagianism. But it is no accident that the Pelagian controversy, historically speaking, was caught up in the growing tensions - becoming evident to keen observers even in the fifth century - between the late Roman and [proto-]Byzantine cultures. When Pelagius and his deputy, Caelestius, were torpedoed by a pair of African synods, they immediately sought a safehouse among the Eastern bishops residing in Palestine, and were given a signifiant degree of patronage by, if I remember correctly, John of Jerusalem. Of course, even these bishops quickly distanced themselves from Pelagius once they realized that the famed Augustine had him in his sights (St. Augustine's reputation for reconciling the broiling African Church had granted him international respect), but the incident served to increase the growing rift between Rome (which eventually was brought around to echoing the African denunciations) and the East.

Today, however, many Eastern writers cannot even say Augustine's name without a pained grimace. Pity, for a man whose works have a great degree of potential for reuniting East and West (he was one of the first Western thinkers to give Eastern Trinitarian developments their due, and he in fact re-wrote the later chapters of his De Trinitate after reading some of the Cappadocians' work). Besides, recall that St. Augustine's conversion was instigated by a reading of St. Athanasius' Life of St. Anthony, the Desert Father of Egypt, and the monastic community St. Augustine established on the cathedral grounds in Hippo was modelled very closely upon the coenobitic communities he had read of in the East (a development hastened by the transmigration of Cassian and others only a generation later). The similarities which the twin traditions of East and West continued to hold in common, even during the sharp divergences which emerged in the Middle Ages, were due in no small part to the influence of St. Augustine on imparting into the Latin tradition the monastic and spiritual achievements of the East.

# posted by Jamie : 3:18 PM


In Praise of St. Bonaventure 

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio - Archbishop of York, Cardinal of Alba, Presider over the General Council of Lyons, Superior General of the Franciscan Order, Doctor of the University of Paris, Seraphic Doctor of the Universal Church, and one of the most underrated theologians of our tradition.

A few words of praise:

"For he wrote such things concerning divine things, that it seemed the Holy Spirit spoke in him" (Sixtus IV, Superna caelestis, 1482)

"In such great sweetness and fervor of divine love, his spirit was so rapt in God, that already as one introduced into the wine cellar of the Spouse and drunk with the best wine of charity, he seemed to gaze everywhere upon Jesus Christ Crucified and Suffering, and to dwell in His wounds" (Sixtus V, Triumphantis Hierusalem, 1588, 2)

"For there was in St. Bonaventure something preeminent and unique, so that he stood out not only in subtlety of arguing, in facility of teaching, in cleverness of defining, but he excelled in a certain divine strength of thoroughly stirring up souls. For in writing with the greatest erudition he so conjoined an equal ardor of piety, that he would move the reader by teaching and it would sink into the recesses of the soul, and then he would prick the heart with certain seraphic stings and it would pour forth with a wonderful sweetness of devotion" (Ibid., 3).

Though most know of the esteem in which Mother Church holds St. Thomas Aquinas, fewer are aware of the extent to which St. Bonaventure shares in this esteem:

They are "the clearest lights of that age from the two most flourishing Orders," "the two olive trees and two candlesticks lighting the house of God, who . . . entirely illumine the whole Church; these two by the singular providence of God appeared at the same time rising forth as two stars from the brightest families of model Orders, which have always been prepared as things most useful to holy Church in defending the catholic religion, and in undertaking all labors and dangers for the orthodox faith," "these two Saints where thoroughly alike and almost twin brothers in Christ . . . [and] must be adorned with a like prerogative of veneration and honor" (Ibid, 6, 13).

And my favorite line from St. Bonaventure (and one of the most well-known):

"Therefore to the cry of prayer through Christ crucified, by Whose blood
we are purged of the filth of vice, do I first invite the reader, lest
perchance he should believe that it suffices to read without unction,
speculate without devotion, investigate without wonder, examine without
exultation, work without piety, know without love, understand without
humility, be zealous without divine grace, see without wisdom divinely
" (Itinerarium mentis in Deum, Prol., 4).

A good collection of St. Bonaventure's works can be found here.

# posted by Jamie : 2:56 PM


New Zogby Poll on Catholic Voting Trends 

As the saying goes, "There are Lies, there are Damned Lies, and there are Statistics."

A few notes:

"Interestingly, . . . American Catholics seem to judge the merits of stem cell therapy more on the basis of the source of the stem cells, than on the therapy itself."

Isn't this what the Church has been saying all along?

"Although more Catholics are saying they don't want to vote for Bush, Kerry hasn't given them a reason to vote for him," said Susan Behuniak, professor of political science at Le Moyne. "Bush is losing support, but it isn't helping Kerry."

No comment.

"More liberal views are held by younger and more educated Catholics while those who attend mass more frequently and self-identify as Republican hold more traditional views."

I also wonder who they allow to identify as a Catholic. Presumably, it's a self-identification. Which means, of course, that someone who was baptized as a Catholic in 1962 and hasn't darkened the door of a church since could easily be included on this poll. In other words, what we're measuring is the impact of Church teaching on those who aren't listening to it. Which makes more sense of the data.

Like it or not, these polls have an impact on public and ecclesiastical polity which far outweighs their actual significance. If 61% of American Catholics want the Church to become more 'democratic' in its decision-making, we probably need to address the fact that the Church is probably already more democratic than we realize. Take, for example, that most of the organizations which have as their goal the lobbying of the Church hierarchy, both on the left and the right, draw from an armory which consists mostly of statistics and poll results. How effective they are, I think, remains to be seen.

# posted by Jamie : 10:14 AM


Another *sigh* 

Why do I read NCR?

In a July 9 letter to Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, put to rest speculation that his views were misrepresented or that the U.S. bishops acted contrary to Vatican wishes in their recent statement on Catholics in political life. (Washington Notebook, July 7).

Unsaid: 'His [McCarrick's] views,' as represented in his 'Interim Reflections' are neither approved nor even mentioned in Ratzinger's letter.

"The statement is very much in harmony with the general principles [of] 'Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion,' sent as a fraternal service -- to clarify the doctrine of the Church on this specific issue - in order to assist the American bishops in their related discussion and determinations," wrote Ratzinger.

Unsaid: 'The statement' being referred to is not McCarrick's document but that produced by the full body of bishops, i.e. 'Catholics in Political Life.' As I've argued, this document represents not a reflectin of McCarrick's views, but a departure from them.

The U.S. bishops' statement said that it was the responsibility of each bishop to decide in his own diocese how to respond to Catholic pro-choice politicians, including whether or not they should be denied communion. The 183-6 vote in favor of the statement made clear, however, that the vast majority of bishops do not favor withholding communion from pro-choice Catholic politicians.

Unsaid: Since the statement made no such proposal, i.e. to discourage the denial of communion, such a reading is impossible. The most that can be said is that the vast majority of bishops do not favor a general policy of denying communion. Rather, they prefer to leave the decision to the ordinary.

# posted by Jamie : 10:00 AM


Under the Patronage of
St. Augustine of Hippo

Contact me:

Ad Limina Apostolorum: An ecclesiastical term meaning a pilgrimage to the sepulchres of St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome, i.e., to the Basilica of the Prince of the Apostles and to the Basilica of St. Paul "outside the walls".

"Augustine of Hippo Refuting Heretic"
(illuminated manuscript,
13th century)

"Jamie . . .
I could kill you in three seconds.
-Bishop Sheridan

Books Recently Read or Currently Reading

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J. B. Schneewind's Invention of Autonomy: A History of Modern Moral Philosophy (reading)

Paul Hacker's Ego in Faith: Martin Luther and the Origins of Anthopocentric Religion (finished: 3 stars)

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