Ad Limina Apostolorum (Blog) | St. Augustine's Library
Thursday, July 28, 2005

Cardinal George: A Lenin in America, 2005.

# posted by Jamie : 3:54 PM


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

On Stocking Groceries . . . the Catholic way. 

Over at Disputations, Tom is discussing a 'Catholic grocer' (btw, Tom, if you'd let us know where this guy works, I'm sure we could send a lot of customers his way). Some selections:

More strictly, "Catholic grocer" could mean a person who traffics in groceries in a manner consistent with the Catholic faith; in this case, "Catholic" modifies the way in which the traffic in groceries is conducted.

There seems to be plenty of stuff in being a grocer that can't really be modified by being Catholic. A grocer order his goods, stocks his shelves, prices his merchandise, receives payments, keeps his books, and so on. These can be done in accord with the Catholic faith, but they are essentially natural, material acts.

And if it's the case that the content of the ideas of Catholic intellectuals are thoroughly Catholic, then might it even be the case, somehow, that the content of the stores of Catholic grocers are thoroughly Catholic? Does that actually mean anything, and if so, what?

The discussion is meant to clarify the meaning of 'Catholic intellectual', and more broadly, I think, exactly what is the scope of that which can be 'qualified' ('modified'?) by grace. It's an intriguing question, and I think it goes further than whether or not a Catholic grocer's groceries are any different than the pagan grocer's groceries. More importantly, is the way a Catholic grocer goes about his work, say, stocking shelves, distinct in any way from the way a pagan does it? Putting aside the question of supernatural virtues, are his 'natural' actions qualified in any way by the fact that he is a Catholic?

As it is always encumbent upon me to offer the unsolicited Augustinian take on anything and everything . . .

St. Augustine has plenty to say on the moral evaluation of human acts, but I'll restrict myself here to a few comments. Of course, St. Augustine and St. Thomas would agree that man can do 'such good as is natural to him' without the help of superadded grace, though still requiring the 'help of God moving him to act' (the in/famous auxilium dei). So there is no question of the pagan grocer's ability to stock groceries in the absence of superadded grace, nor is there a question of this stocking of groceries being a good, though not without qualification.

What I will now dub, with apologies to the Pontificator, 'Ad Limina's First Rule', is this: 'You can't hide from grace', perhaps rephrased better as 'With regard to grace, there can be no neutrality.' Any element in the Augustinian system which attempts to evade the piercing gaze of grace will be found out, and once found out, weighed in the balance. Seemingly morally neutral acts, then, can only seem neutral, for nothing can be neutral in the light of grace. The rub is this, with reference to the grocery-stocking of the pagan grocer: Apart from the question of his grocery-stocking's being a natural good, we must ask the further question of whether or not his grocery-stocking will please God. If yes, it becomes a virtue; if not, a vice. It can only be one or the other.

From De civitate dei XIX, 25:

For though the soul may seem to rule the body admirably, and the reason the vices, if the soul and reason do not themselves obey God, as God has commanded them to serve Him, they have no proper authority over the body and the vices. For what kind of mistress of the body and the vices can that mind be which is ignorant of the true God, and which, instead of being subject to His authority, is prostituted to the corrupting influences of the most vicious demons? It is for this reason that the virtues which it seems to itself to possess, and by which it restrains the body and the vices that it may obtain and keep what it desires, are rather vices than virtues so long as there is no reference to God in the matter. For although some suppose that virtues which have a reference only to themselves, and are desired only on their own account, are yet true and genuine virtues, the fact is that even then they are inflated with pride, and are therefore to be reckoned vices rather than virtues.
Augustine's language of 'virtue' and 'vice' here should not be misleading - he is speaking here about pre-Christian Rome, and specifically about the 'natural' accomplishments of the earthly empire - overcoming unruly enemies, establishing peace, generating a thriving culture, etc. The stocking of groceries can be considered as one element of this larger human industry. And the evaluation of such an act turns upon whether or not it is carried out 'with reference to God', which is to say, whether or not it is done for the glory of God. If it is, it gives God pleasure. If not, it can only be a veiled attempt to exalt human pride. There can be no 'neutral' act from an Augustinian perspective, since an act is always judged according to that to which it has reference. Hence, the well-known reference to St. Augustine's concept of pagan virtues as 'splendid vices' (vita splendida). A grim view of human nature? Perhaps. St. Augustine, as is often pointed out, is nothing but a realist. From another perspective, St. Augustine has a dark view of man's capabilities without God, but a glorious perspective on man's capabilities when assisted by Him.

# posted by Jamie : 12:41 PM


An Augustinian Scholar's Gold Mine 

A reader has just alerted me to the existence of an on-line databank of secondary literature on Augustine. Based on the Augustinus-Lexikon and the Corpus Augustinianum Gissense, the database has compiled some 27,000 titles into an on-line bibliography, accessible via a wide variety of search strings (a minimal familiarity with German may be necessary to navigate the site). Hat tip to David of Cosmos, Liturgy, Sex!

Without further ado, behold the Augustinus-Sekundarliteraturdatenbank!

# posted by Jamie : 8:21 AM


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

On Michael O'Brien's Father Elijah:

I hesitate to review the first novel in a series without having read its successors, but, as each novel does intend to 'stand on its own' (lacking clear chronological sequence), I think a review is not out of place.

Right off, Michael O'Brien stands head and shoulders above any other writer in the 'acocalyptic fiction' genre, even if, as other reviewers have said, this isn't saying much. He has been rightly compared to Dostoevsky, and some passages of the book are clearly reminiscent of the great Russian master. A few dynamic subplots in the middle of the book (e.g., the rambling confessions of Count Smokrev), which seem on the surface to be entirely out of place, simply make the novel. The vibrant Catholic orthodoxy which pierces every page, along with the thick layers of 'POD' (pious and overly-devotional) - relics, shrines, saints, scapulars, exorcisms, and Marian devotion to your heart's content - make the novel a delightful diversion for the theologically like-minded, if nothing else. Deep mystical themes interweave throughout the book - it seems, at times, less of a novel and more of a prayer.

Now, the complaints. First, the dialogue in O'Brien's novels, however theologically and spiritually potent, bears little to no resemblance to any actual dialogue that might occur between two actual persons. It bears a closer resemblance to, say, a written correspondence, over the course of ten years, between St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, somehow condensed and re-formatted into a hypothetical conversation. Memo to author: Many people wish they could write like that; fewer people actually write like that; no one talks like that.

Second, the characters are surprisingly two-dimensional. Father Elijah, despite all of O'Brien's attempts to plague him with human weaknesses, is unshakably saccharine. I mean, when Smokrev browbeats him with tales of human perversions, you just know Father Elijah is going to respond with some pious dictum about the redemptive forgiveness of Christ. Despite his all-too-human foibles, Father Elijah is about as predictable as can be, a consistent mouthpiece for traditional Catholic piety, all of which makes him inspiring, yes, but also a bit hard to relate to. And don't get me started on O'Brien's Antichrist character, who is so utterly stereotypical and cliche that Left Behind's 'Nicolae' is more believable.

But all told, these minor flaws do not diminish the strengths of O'Brien's novel: a compelling and driven plot laced throughout with an inspiring spiritual message. No one would put O'Brien in the 'first tier' of fiction writers (with Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc.); few would put him in the 'second tier' (with O'Connor and Greene). He is most likely somewhere near the top of the 'third tier', which is not at all a bad place to be.

# posted by Jamie : 12:42 PM


The Diocese of San Bernardino received its first auxiliary bishop yesterday, Rutilio J. del Riego, a Spanish-born priest currently serving in the California diocese (pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Riverside, perhaps the ugliest parish on the West Coast). Father del Riego is a member of the Diocesan Laborer Priests, a secular institute founded in Spain in 1885 and devoted to 'the promotion of vocations and the spiritual redirection of youth'.

UPDATE: Correction: Del Riego will not be the diocese's first auxiliary bishop - his predecessor in that position, Bishop Dennis P. O'Neil, died two years ago. More on del Riego, the diocese, etc. here. Hat tip, Rocco Palmo.

# posted by Jamie : 9:17 AM


Pope Benedict's 'Augustinian Thomism' 

Justin Nickelsen's fine new blog, Sources Chretiennes, gets the Ad Limina nod for the coolest blog title of the year - simple yet hermeneutically rich. One to keep an eye on.

Yesterday Justin posted a Zenit interview with the John Paul II Institute's Tracy Rowland. Jamie loves it so much he can't help but post page-long sections:

Q: You have said that the major intellectual and theological battle within the Church is between the "Augustinian Thomists" and the "Whig Thomists." What does this mean?

Rowland: First, let me define "Whig." The expression "Whig Thomist" was coined by Michael Novak to describe his intellectual project. Originally the word "Whig" came from the Scottish word "Whiggamor" for a cattle driver -- though some sources say cattle thief and others say horse thief. It was initially applied to Scottish Presbyterians, mostly from the west coast of Scotland, who opposed the Stuart cause in the wars of the 17th century. Their counterparts, the Tories -- a word derived from the Gaelic for "outlaw" -- consisted of some aristocrats, large landowners and agrarian peasants. They were mercantilist in economic policy, royalist in politics and tended to support the succession of James II [1633-1701]. Over time the term was used to refer to a faction in British politics. Although there was never anything like a strong doctrinal definition of the term, as a sociological generalization it can be said that the Whigs were the heirs of the Scottish Enlightenment, which emphasized economic and political liberty, or an emerging philosophy known as liberalism, which was often fused with a Puritan form of Protestantism. In the 19th century Lord Acton popularized the idea that Thomas Aquinas was the first Whig, that is, the first proponent of a modern, post-Enlightenment concept of politics. Thus "Whig Thomism" refers to an intellectual project that seeks to locate the genesis of the liberal tradition in the thought of Thomas Aquinas and to synthesize elements of the Liberal tradition, particularly those provided by the Scottish Enlightenment, to classical Thomism. The project of reading Aquinas as the first Whig or first Liberal has been criticized by a number of scholars. For example, Robert Kraynak, in his work "Christian Faith and Modern Democracy," has written that "though intriguing, Acton's interpretation is misleading because Thomas defends power sharing and political participation, not as a right of the people to parliamentary consent nor as a means for protecting personal rights and liberties, but as the prudent application of natural law whose ends are best realized in a stable constitutional order dedicated to peace, virtue and Christian piety. This is medieval corporatism applied within the [Augustinian] doctrine of the Two Cities, rather than the first stirring of modern liberty." Those who may loosely be classified as "Augustinian Thomists" follow such a Kraynak-style reading of Aquinas, rather than an Actonian. What I argued in my book "Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II" is that there is a division between those who think that the Thomist tradition should accommodate itself to the culture of modernity, particularly the economic dimensions of this culture -- the self-described "Whig Thomists" -- and those who believe that modernity and its liberal tradition are really toxic to the flourishing of the faith. Those who take the latter position do not want to supplement the Thomist tradition with doses of Enlightenment values. They are very broadly described as Augustinian Thomists for the want of a better label because, in a manner consistent with St. Augustine's idea of the two cities, they reject the claim of the liberal tradition to be neutral toward competing perspectives of the good and competing theological claims. While the Whigs argue that liberalism is the logical outgrowth of the classical-theistic synthesis, the Augustinian Thomists argue that the liberal tradition represents its mutation and heretical reconstruction, and they tend to agree with Samuel Johnson that the devil -- not Thomas Aquinas -- was the first Whig. There are thus two different readings of modernity and with that, two different readings of how the Church should engage the contemporary world. While the Whigs want the Church to accommodate the culture of modernity, the Augustinians favor a much more critical stance. Another point I made in my book is that those who think that the liberal tradition is avant-garde are about 40 years behind the times. Liberalism ceased being the hegemonic intellectual tradition in the Western world in 1968. At least since then the intellectual battlefront has been three-cornered. First of all there are theists -- Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Protestants, etc.; secondly, there are believers in Enlightenment-style rationality, that is, different varieties of liberals who sever reason from faith; and thirdly, there are the postmoderns who think that the Enlightenment was a very oppressive social experiment and that all versions of rationality are in some way related to theological or mythological presuppositions, although they do not accept that we can use our reason to judge between those competing theological presuppositions. On some fronts Catholic scholars may do better to work with the postmoderns than those who insist on a strict severance of faith and reason, or at least not nail their colors irrevocably to a liberal mast. The point at which the Whigs and Augustinians come into conflict is over the issue of the moral quality of what is called the "culture of America," which is not of course confined to the geographical boundaries of the United States. It is, as Alasdair MacIntyre says, a theoretical construct. The Whigs want to baptize the current international economic order, while the Augustinians take a more critical approach, arguing that there are economic practices characteristic of this order that cannot be squared with the social teaching of the Church. Moreover, the Augustinians are more likely to point out that most people do not sit down and develop a worldview for themselves from hours of philosophical and theological reflection. They tacitly pick up values and ideas from the institutions in which they work. The Augustinians argue that there are aspects of the culture of modernity that act as barriers to the flourishing of Christian practice and belief, and unless the culture is changed, no amount of intellectual gymnastics on the part of the Church's scholars will be of help to those 1 billion Catholics who have to make a living within the world. In other words, if one has to be a saint not to be morally compromised by the culture in which one works, then there is something wrong with that culture. I don't think that this is the major intellectual battlefront within the Church, but it is an important one.

Q: In what sense is Pope Benedict an Augustinian? In what sense is he a Thomist?

Rowland: I would say that Pope Benedict is a Thomist insofar as he would probably agree with most of what St. Thomas wrote. However, he is not a Thomist in the sense of appealing to the authority of St. Thomas in his defense of the faith, focusing his scholarly endeavors upon the works of Aquinas or in the sense of using a scholastic methodology. Rather, Pope Benedict is one of the many members of his generation who, while not disagreeing with the content of Thomist thought, believed that the scholastic presentation of the faith doesn't exactly set souls on fire unless they happen to be a particular type of soul with a passion for intellectual disputation. He has said that "scholasticism has its greatness, but everything is impersonal." In contrast, with Augustine "the passionate, suffering, questioning man is always right there, and you can identify with him." Benedict has also been strongly influenced by the Augustinian principle that faith is the door to understanding. He has said that he believes that a kind of memory, of recollection of God, is etched in man, though it needs to be awakened. His Augustinian pedigree is also manifest in his interest in the transcendental of beauty and his understanding of the catechetical importance of language and symbols and the relationship between matters of form and substance. So much of the liturgical mess of the last 30 years has been brought about by philistines who want to dumb down the language of the liturgy, replace symbolic gestures by lay people explaining what Father is doing -- as if we are all uncatechized Martians -- and gutting liturgical language of its poetic dimensions. Even secular linguistic philosophers argue that form and substance are inseparable -- that if we change language, we also in some sense change the way that people think. Pope Benedict is onto this, along with Francis Cardinal George of Chicago, and liturgical scholars such Aidan Nichols, OP, Monsignor Peter Elliott, Stratford Caldecott of the Center for Faith and Culture in Oxford, and Alcuin Reid, OSB.

Q: How does Pope Benedict XVI's "Augustinian Thomism" shape the way he views the phenomenon of liberal democracy?

: From an Augustinian point of view, the biggest problem with liberalism is its claim to be theologically neutral or indifferent toward different religious traditions. Quite a long list of scholars are coming to the view that the liberal claim to theological neutrality is bogus. This list includes Anglicans associated with the radical orthodoxy circle and scholars with a more Baptist-oriented theological background. It is not a position limited to so-called conservative or ultra-montanist Catholics. Indeed most postmoderns would agree with this criticism of the liberal tradition. Pope Benedict has made it clear that Catholics should not be persuaded by the liberal rhetoric to believe that in order to be good citizens they must bifurcate themselves into public and private halves. He has observed that secularism is itself an ideology, a kind of religious position that presents itself as the only voice of rationality. He sees these views as posing a challenge to the dominant political cultures of contemporary liberal democracies. To say this, however, is not to say that he is against constitutionalism. He is not saying that the Church should run the state. He would probably agree with the saying of Martin Luther King that the Church is neither the master of the state, nor the servant of the state, but the conscience of the state.

Read the full interview.

# posted by Jamie : 8:27 AM


Friday, July 22, 2005

Saddled by the Spiritual Method 

In Beryl Smalley's epochal work, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, the author lets loose a barrage of snide criticism against the 'cumbersome' exegetical methodologies of the proto-scholastic masters. Here, Peter Langton falls prey to Smalley's pen:

"The concordantia has been quoted as a final example of the cumbrous paraphernalia which the masters were saddled with. Langton takes a section, comprosing, let us say, four verses; he gives a list of variant readings; he gives out the order of the glosses and perhaps variant readings of them too; he collects alternative explanations (I have known him to suggest six for one text, three of which he prefers); he solves questions arising from the glosses and their 'originals', and perhaps from the Histories, as a rule by 'concording' them; he makes a table of related texts, a 'concordance'; after that he still has to plod through it, according to the spiritual senses, all over again. By the time he has finished, we have forgotten what he said about the section before. All continuity in the explanation of the sacred writer's meaning has disappeared."

Understanding Smalley's criticism requires an awareness of her presuppositions, chief among which is her utter contempt for the spiritual exegesis of the Fathers, which receives a brutish right hook in chapter one and never quite recovers (our friend Origen, as you might imagine, is the Antichrist). It is difficult to determine exactly what Smalley prefers (she writes before the full 'blossoming' of modern text-criticism, though she seems to anticipate it), but it is less difficult to determine the essential outline. Smalley gets goosebumps about anything vaguely Hebraic (hence, Jerome gets a pass), which is another way of saying anything which points to a reading of Old Testament not overly colored by Christian suppositions. Her obsession with the Victorine school is clearly due that school's trademark preference for the historical reading over the tropological. All this points to one golden ideal - a literal, straightforward reading of the biblical text according to its historical sense, without reference to the Christian theological tradition, or any other such subjectivism.

Here lies the root of the tree, the template for historico-criticism of the post-modern variety. While none would deny that a historic ('literal') reading of Scripture is an essential part of our tradition, perhaps the most essential, it takes a very truncated view of historical theology to claim that it is the only authentic way the Church reads Scripture, or ought to read Scripture.

The most intriguing facet of the 'spiritual method', as the Fathers called it, is, paradoxically, the quite extraordinary degree to which it could be scientific. Origen, of course, is the first to apply a scientific rigorism to the spiritual method, which is outlined in the De Principiis but evidenced in the hundreds of commentaries and exegetical homilies he leaves us (much misunderstanding of Origen would be allayed if first-year graduate students were given the Commentary on St. John rather than the De Principiis as a representative work of Origen, given that the latter is anything but representative).

For this exegetical methodology we go to Book IV of the De Principiis. The letter of the text, for Origen, is the mere 'earthen vessel' for the divine meaning (8). A priggish affection for the letter can only lead to absurdity, heresy, or worse, the hardness of heart typified by the Jewish rejection of the Messiah. If, as Christians believe, the Scriptures are God-breathed, bequeathed to and handed down by the apostles through ecclesiastical tradition, the only conclusion can be that the text constitutes merely "the forms and figures of hidden and sacred things". Recall that, for Origen, to 'stop' at the figure without advancing to the truth is the very essence of sin. The inspired reader is forced to ask, "Is there not hidden there also an inner, namely a divine sense, which is revealed by . . . grace alone?" "[A]re not the Epistles of the Apostles, which seem to some to be plainer, filled with meanings so profound, that by means of them, as by some small receptacle, the clearness of incalculable light appears to be poured into those who are capable of understanding the meaning of divine wisdom?"

For Origen this realization unfolds a 'threefold manner' in the understanding of 'divine letters'. This is rooted in Origen's tripartite understanding of the human person as 'body, soul and spirit' (man being the image of the Triune God - hey, that would make a great dissertation topic!). The simple begin with an understanding of the 'body' of Scripture, the 'common and historical sense' (elsewhere, the 'inferential historical sense'). Once they make spiritual progress, they begin to discern the 'soul' of Scripture. Those who attain spiritual perfection, however, progress even to the 'spirit' of Scripture (11). “Now a 'spiritual' interpretation is of this nature: when one is able to point out what are the heavenly things of which these serve as the patterns and shadow . . . and of what things future the law contains a shadow, and any other expressions of this kind that may be found in holy Scripture; or when it is a subject of inquiry, what is that wisdom hidden in a mystery" (13).

As Origen systematized Pauline exegesis, Augustine systematized Origenist exegesis. We find St. Augustine's method laid out in his De doctrina Christianae, in particular Book III of that work. St. Augustine's methodology is more strictly grounded in the historical-literal sense, this latter sense never threatens to asphyxiate the spiritual, but rather becomes its foundation and springboard. His approach to the literal sense is expansive, insisting a full exploration of etymology and linguistics, zoology and minerology, a cross-reference with other available textual sources, and above all, a sense of the unity of all Scripture. The literal sense never binds: If ever the literal sense suggests a meaning which stands in violation to reason, piety or sound Christian doctrine, this is a sure sign that the text has been misunderstood. The impact of the text on the moral life of the Christian, its efficacy in preaching (cf. Book IV), its relation to the rule of faith, all have a bearing on how that text is to be read. The 'rule of charity' prevails over all: a text is read properly only when it facilitates the reader's love of God and neighbor. One could hardly be further from the rigid historo-literalism of the modern biblical schools.

The Medieval exegetical system, which is detailed in Smalley's book, represented nothing more than an organic development of the Origenist-Augustinian exegetical tradition, as that took shape in the monastic cloister, and eventually, in the monastic schools. Hence, the pious tradition of lectio divina, along with the 'ornamentation' given to many biblical passages by their liturgical placement, advanced the 'spiritual' strain. Parallel to this, the various collections of scholarly glosses, along with the need to cross-reference between them, advanced the 'scientific' strain. The emerging exegetical methodology, then, was both spiritualist and scientific, a complex and expansive interweaving of patristic, liturgical, moral-spiritual, and dogmatic elements to form a synthetic, if somewhat cumbersome, system. This, of course, is what Smalley ridicules as the "the cumbrous paraphernalia which the masters were saddled with," in her commentary on Langton's work which opened this piece.

I have always noted that no one without a spiritual life is capable of understanding the spiritual method. But I must also add a renewed complaint. No matter how 'cumbersome' the early scholastic commentaries on Scripture could become, could any of them ever approach the sheer textual weight of Raymond Brown's New Jerome Biblical Commentary? Would St. Jerome himself not cringe in horror at a 'commentary' in which a single phrase of Scripture can receive up to two pages of commentary, especially when that commentary is exclusively of a 'scientific' nature (historical, archeological, textual-critical and lingustic)? A tome so massive it requires a substantial effort to lift, and yet there is not a word in it which is capable of lifting the mind to God, much less the spirit. Father Joseph Komonchak once told us of preparing for a homily on Jesus' healing of the man born blind. After spending an hour in Raymond Brown and reading nothing but critical notes about the textual history of the kerygmatic oral motifs of the original narrative, he turned to St. Augustine, and found a beautiful, uplifting and catechetical commentary on man's healing from the crippling effects of sin. If modern readers are 'saddled' with anything, it is this. If anything can free us, it is the exegesis of the Fathers.

# posted by Jamie : 11:58 AM


Two Reasons why The Incredibles is Incredible:

1. The Parr family is less 'American Beauty' and more 'Little House on the Prairie'. Bob Parr is no clumsy lout or second-rate oaf. He is a strong, capable and manly man, who takes his role as his family's protector and provider with absolute seriousness. He bears a strong sense of justice, right and responsibility. Helen Parr, for her part, is a supportive and nurturing wife and (stay-at-home) mother, who sees her primary task as ensuring her family's protection and thriving. But when her family is endangered, she is a lioness, and no man or beast can stand in her way. Both parents strike a fine balance between disciplining and protecting their children, yet also creating an environment where they can exercise and refine their own talents and gifts, each contributing to the greater good of the family and community. The children learn that their own thriving is facilitated not by setting themselves against their parents, but by exercising their gifts in service to one another. The villian in the story is a sordid youth who uses his talents to further his own self-advancement and egoism; the Parr family emerges from their adventure more closely bound together. Even the baby is not excluded: he gets to deal the death blow to the bad guy.

2. Lest I give the impression that The Incredibles is a parenting movie: Despite being an animated feature film (which I, as a rule, depise), it is packed to overflowing with action, violence, and arbitrary killing, from the opening machine-gun car chase, to the closing scene where the villain is sucked into a jet turbine. Jamie like. Jamie like very much (though children, of course, should stay far away).

# posted by Jamie : 9:16 AM


Our New Bishops Get to Work... 

Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph does his summer housecleaning - bringing much-needed reforms to catechetical programs, the diocesan newspaper, and chancery staff - and sallies forth on the work of the laity and on political involvement.

UPDATE: Bishop Finn sends out a new set of liturgical norms. (Hat tip, Polish Prince, who has met Bishop Finn and claims he's possibly 'the best bishop in America'.)

Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu
discusses his role as a bishop, his ordination, and coming back to his birthplace.

(Hat tip, Rocco Palmo.)

# posted by Jamie : 8:34 AM


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

More on World Youth Day 

VATICAN CITY, JUL 19, 2005 (VIS) - "I wish formally to announce that the next World Youth Day will take place in 2005 in Cologne, Germany. In the great cathedral of Cologne the relics of the Magi, the Wise Men from the East who followed the star which led them to Christ, are honored."

With these words, pronounced during the Angelus at the 19th World Youth Day (WYD) in Toronto, Canada, in 2002, John Paul II announced the next pilgrimage of young people from all over the world. WYDs were established in 1984, the Holy Year of Redemption, to reaffirm the Church's interest in youth. This year, the young people meeting in Cologne from August 16 to 21 will consider the theme: "We have come to worship Him," the words with which the Wise Men of the Gospel of St. Matthew reveal the reason for their own pilgrimage.

The fact that the 20th WYD is being held in Cologne is also associated with a desire expressed by John Paul II to Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of that city, during the WYD held in Paris in 1997. "The Pope told me he felt it appropriate that one of the first WYDs of the new millennium should be held in Cologne," Cardinal Meisner recalls, "because last century Germany witnessed some terrible disasters for humanity, and it is right that it should now witness a great sign of hope."

Benedict XVI's visit to Cologne will be his first outside Italy. The Pope will meet the young people (around a million according to the WYD organizers) on August 18. On the evening of August 19, he will participate in the Way of the Cross; on August 20 he will join the participants in a prayer vigil, and on August 21 he will celebrate the event's closing Mass. The altar at which he is due to celebrate stands on a hill overlooking a large field where the pilgrims will gather. The hill itself is manmade, composed of earth from all the countries of the world brought by young people who have participated in the preparatory meetings for this WYD.

During the WYD, the famous reliquary of the Wise Men will be placed behind the altar in the cathedral, as it used to be in the Middle Ages, so the pilgrims can see it as they pass and so, in some way, take away with them the blessing of the Three Kings of the East.

Another feature of the WYD in Cologne will be a large mosaic depicting the face of John Paul II composed of photographs sent in by young people from all over the world.

Benedict XVI's program for the days he will spend in Cologne also includes a visit to the synagogue and various meetings with the German civil and religious authorities. He will also travel to Bonn, where he lived from 1959 to 1963 when he taught theology at the city's university. In Bonn he is scheduled to meet Horst Koehler, president of Germany.

According to the latest information, 7,000 priests and 700 bishops will travel to Cologne where they will impart catechesis in the mornings, hear confessions, and celebrate the Eucharist in the evenings.

# posted by Jamie : 9:25 AM


Monday, July 18, 2005

So I'm stuck in a metro car for a full hour in the middle of downtown, with the car ahead of us having mechanical problems. At the other end of the car, a middle-aged lady dressed quite unfashionably in pink turns to the gaggle of children surrounding her and says, in a voice of solemn severity: "Now you see children, this is all that Ronald Reagan's fault." She went on to explain the basic principles of economic deregulation. Nice.

# posted by Jamie : 4:10 PM


Blogodoxy takes on the question, "Who is the Greatest Theologian of All Time?" (hat tip, Pontificator). In fact, the post is a response to the publicized results of a poll (ready for the answer? psst . . . It's John Calvin! Yes, the hard-nosed, displaced Frenchie with the heart of adamantium). And speaking of adamantium, Blogodoxy gives a little shove in the back to our friend Origen (imagine: an Orthodox who likes Origen? Must be a convert. Yep!):

Perhaps all could agree that the overarching purpose of any theologian is to articulate and clarify the nature of God and religious truth--but how that is done would remain contentious. As a professed "man of the Church" Origen of Alexandria spent his entire life trying to do just that in a hostile environment prior to any consolidation of Church teaching. While a number of his ideas have come to be condemned as heresies or, at the very least, generally viewed as falling short of the truth, it would be difficult to conceive of theology in the Church from Nicaea on without him. In his case accuracy would have to be sacrificed as a category of determination, replaced perhaps by an appreciation for the pioneering nature of the work and the fidelity he held to the Church and to uncovering the truth through Scripture.

A finer summary of Origen's contribution to the Chalcedonian church one could not hope for. St. Augustine gets a pat on the head, because the votes of 1.1 million Romanists ought to count for something, but of course 50% of Augustine is just Origen recycled. Aquinas, alas, gets a mere sentence (because he is Augustine recycled?). Blogodoxy's preferences?

1. Origen of Alexandria
2. The Cappadocian Fathers - Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus
3. St. Maximus the Confessor
4. St. Augustine
5. St. Athanasius

If we're limiting theology to the first half millenia of the Church, then I suppose I have little to argue with. While Augustine was, without doubt, a much better systematician than Origen (as Aquinas was vis-a-vis Augustine), few can doubt that Origen had the harder task cut out for him, and did a knock-out job of it. Methinks St. Athanasius was a better politicker than a theologian. Can anyone who's read his De incarnatione really claim it's first-rate theology? If it is, it also contains, in germ, most of the Alexandrian heresies spawned in the next two centuries (to which our friend Origen is, unsurprisingly, the panacea). But I suppose you have to give credit to the man who looked an Arian episcopacy in the face and refused to blink. The same for a man who had his tongue dismembered.

Speaking of dismemberment, to anyone who doubts Origen's credibility as a systematic theologian, I would add that theology, as conceived by every period ere the modern, includes what most modern academics would style 'spirituality' or 'mysticism'. And if we're grading the aforementioned characters by their success in laying a spiritual framework which would inspire generations of future mystics, no one on the docket comes close to Origen, without whom we would have no Cappadocians, no Bernard, and no Balthasar. Does anyone pretend that Calvinism could actually inspire anything resembling a mysticism? Does the term 'predetermined reprobation' give you sweet vibes of mystical pleasure?

UPDATE: As usual, the commenters on Pontifications are having a ball with this one. And don't miss Elliot B's comments at Fides, Cogitatio, Actio.

# posted by Jamie : 3:30 PM


Cosmos, Liturgy, Sex! 

A fine new blog by an acquaintance, although if your tech department monitors your website viewing, typing those words into google might raise a few flags. It seems to me that only a Balthasarian could get away with a blog title like that.

# posted by Jamie : 12:53 PM


"We are already spiritually on the march to Cologne. We will all meet in Cologne!" (Pope Benedict: VIS)

Anyone else out there headed to Cologne, or know any other bloggers who are?

# posted by Jamie : 8:36 AM


Catching up on the Rome-watching... 

John Allen's Word from Rome is in: on Pope Benedict's vacation, his 'clerical entourage', his ties with Communion and Liberation, etc.

Sandro Magister on Pope Benedict's first three months in office.

An interview with the papal spokesperson, Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

# posted by Jamie : 7:51 AM


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Oh, how quickly it unravels.

# posted by Jamie : 10:03 AM


Back in Action 

Arrived back from vacation yesterday, straight back to the office.

My car, the much-beloved Bernadette, is still in the shop for another two days. Her head gasket blew the day before we were scheduled to leave, which apparently means $1,500 and ten days in the shop (apparently, could have been twice that and I would have nodded glumly and taken out my checkbook). The naysayers are shouting 'resell' and 'lease', but she's paid for and, doggonit, she's my baby. So we ended up taking a rental on vacation.

One of the highlights of the trip was our Sunday visit to the best-kept secret of the Smokies, the Basilica of St. Lawrence in Ashville, North Carolina. I've got a bunch of pictures, but they can't really beat the on-line tour of the nave here. I'll post my pictures of the Adoration Chapel and the Marian Chapel later. All in all, it's quite a small church, but the architecture and statuary inside is exquisite, safely protected against 'wreckovation'. If anyone is vaguely in the area, I highly recommend a short pilgrimage. You will have to tolerate the city sprawled around it, though, which is sort of a hillbilly Berkeley that never got off the ground.

My dad offered me a glass of abisnth during my visit. Now I've been hearing about the stuff for months, and the Old Oligarch is always talking about the stuff like it's the nectar of the gods, so let's just say I had high expectations. These expectations were utterly shattered, cast upon the ground, and irreverently trod upon. I do not believe I have tasted such vile concoction in many, many years - at least since my high school days. I will continually fail to understand the obsession.

I visited at least five used bookstores in three cities (Ashville barely counted: its main bookstore had three full bookshelves of the occult and meditation, and one row of 'Christianity'). The highlights:

- Louis Bouyer's Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer ($6)
- Karl Barth's Epistle to the Romans ($5)
- Jean-Pierre de Caussade's Abandonment to Divine Providence (free - checkout lady thought my son was cute)

To top it all off, I had a chance meeting with the finest professor of my alma mater; more on that later in the day...

# posted by Jamie : 8:14 AM


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Jamie and family are taking a well-earned (trust me) vacation this week, and will be mostly sans posting. A full report, with pictures, will follow.

Some highlights:

- the fates turn against me: Bernadette, my trusty and beloved Honda, attempts suicide and nearly succeeds;
- a visit to the best-kept secret of the Smokies: the Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville, North Carolina;
- Jamie's first (and last) experience with absynth;
-used bookstore tour 2005 (motto: 'a thousand points of light');
- a reunion with the man who started it all (my love of the Fathers, that is): Peter Iver Kaufman;
-more to come...

# posted by Jamie : 6:55 PM


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

John Milbank's Theology & Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason (next in stack)

Colson Whitehead's Zone One (reading)

Michael Wyschogrod's Body of Faith: God and the People Israel (reading)

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)

Edward Peter's Modern Guide to Indulgences: Rediscovering this Often-Ministerpreted Teaching (finished: 1 star)

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