For those who are interested, I’ll be on the Son Rise Morning Show tomorrow morning (3/23) at 8:40AM EST speaking about the stages of the Catholic Ecumenical Movement. You can stream the interview live at Sacred Heart Radio.
Archive for March, 2010
Longtime readers of this blog know about my quixotic campaign against Twitter (see examples here and here). Although I am a technology professional, and I have a blog and Facebook account, I have never liked the whole Twitter vibe. But I believe my campaign has come to a crashing end:
Roma locuta est, causa finita est
As the story goes, God spent six days creating the world and then rested on the seventh day. He told the Jewish people to always rest on the seventh day of each week, which was to become known as the Sabbath for them for eternity.
This was before Facebook, Twitter, BlackBerries and iPhones, of course. Adam and Eve didn’t have friends who would get upset if texts weren’t returned promptly, parents who wanted to know where their children were all the time or bosses who had complete access to their employees via work-issued devices. There is no excuse good enough to ignore the boss, even on a weekend.
But one group is trying to take back the Sabbath: Reboot — a nonprofit organization aimed at reinventing the traditions and rituals of Judaism for today’s secular Jews.
Composed of Internet entrepreneurs, creators of award-winning television shows, community organizers and nonprofit leaders, these “Rebooters” are people who typically have their cell phones glued to their palms. Several of them go so far as to say they have an addiction to their devices.
But this weekend they will be observing 24 hours of freedom from their devices: a National Day of Unplugging lasting from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.
I think this is a great idea, and it is one that I try to follow every Sunday. One of the great ironies of the more “connected” world we live in is how disconnected technology can actually make us. The constant stream of information we get via email, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, TV, etc. makes it more and more difficult to connect person-to-person with those around us – our families, our friends, our co-workers, our neighbors. But direct, face-to-face contact is still the highest, most “real” form of human contact possible (why do you think you can’t go to confession via the phone or email?).
Modern technology is not evil, but as fallen human beings we can easily distort technology and become controlled by it. Taking one day off from technology – like the members of the “Reboot” organization – is a wonderful way to ensure that we control technology, not the other way around.
I have an article over at Catholic Exchange called The Four Stages of the Catholic Ecumenical Movement, in which I compare the development of Catholic ecumenism with learning to drive a car (you’ll have to read the article to see if the analogy works).
Check it out!
Anyone who thinks this will have a simple and tidy conclusion are kidding themselves. The Legion is intimately linked to its fraudulent, devilish founder and purging them completely of his influence while keeping the value of the group will be a long and difficult process (unless, of course, Pope Benedict decides to just abolish the Legion, in which case its members will need to find new spiritual homes).
Of course the trouble within the Legion is just one in a whole host of such problems facing the Church today. The various crises related to sexual misconduct which have rocked the Church over the past few years – in the U.S., the Legion, Ireland, and now all of Europe – are a result in so many ways of unfaithfulness and fornication with the world. In the Old Testament, whenever Israel faced troubles, whether from inside or outside their nation, the prophets told them that the root of their problems was their unfaithfulness to God and His covenant. This unfaithfulness was inevitably likened to adultery (see: Hosea). Do we really think that things are different for us?
As Catholics, we too have been unfaithful to God’s covenant, and the covenant we have with God is much greater than the Old Covenant. We have the sacraments as the means in which to stay within that covenant, and we can even receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ! Yet we have continually fornicated with the world, accepting its values instead of the values of God. And the most important word in the previous sentence is “we” – do not think that the problems of the Church are someone else’s problems. If you are a Catholic, then they are our problems, helped along by our sins.
The solution to these problems is not some new program or even some institutional change. It is repentance. If we beg God to forgive our sins, then perhaps He will be merciful to us.
I think it does not bode well for supporters of Medjugorje that it is being investigated now. Usually the Church waits until an apparition event has completed before moving to make any statement in favor or opposition. This is simply because if the Church approves the apparition and later statements by the visionaries conflict with Catholic teaching, then the Church would have to revise its statement (and would have egg on its face). The fact that they are moving before the apparitions have ended suggests that they have already heard enough to make a definitive judgement, and that the judgement is not going to be supportive of the apparitions.
But time will tell, and I hope and pray that all Catholics – both those supportive and opposed to Medjugorje – will submit to the authority of the Church in this matter.
A couple weeks ago, I mentioned an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art called “The Sacred Made Real” which features religious paintings and sculptures from 17th century Spain. This past weekend my family went down to the exhibit, and I was blown away. The artwork was simply magnificent, and very fitting for Lent. Here are a few of my favorites:
(The sculpture above was particularly powerful in person, as Christ’s back shows in graphic detail the results of his scourging).
More images can be found at the National Gallery of Art website.
If you are anywhere near DC in the next two months, make every effort to attend this powerful exhibit.
Conventional wisdom over the past few decades has created an image of Jesus as a crusading liberal. He is seen as a rabbi working against the conservative and rigid Pharisees, trying to establish a more tolerant religion which accepts all people, no matter their preferences or practices.
In reaction, many conservatives have created a Jesus in their own image: he was a prophet who advocated a strict morality and did not make any attempt to overthrow the existing government structures.
Depending on whether you think Jesus was a liberal or a conservative will influence which parts of the Gospels you will emphasize.
So, was Jesus a liberal or a conservative?
The answer is neither. And both. Fundamentally, Jesus was a radical. By “radical” I do not mean the common usage of the term which associates it with 1960′s radical politics like the Weathermen. I mean it primarily as an adjective: Jesus was a radical liberal as well as a radical conservative. He was radically liberal when it came to overthrowing the calcified human traditions that had grown around Judaism, and he was radically conservative in preserving the core teachings of the Israeli religion.Whether he was conservative or liberal depended on the specific issue (Divorce laws -> conservative; Sabbath laws -> liberal), but he was always radical.
For what does it mean to be radical? The word comes from the Latin for “root”. A radical, in other words, gets to the root of a matter. And this is exactly what Jesus did. For example, when it came to divorce laws, he went to the root of the issue: what exactly is marriage? This led him all the way to the beginning and Adam and Eve. By going to the root of marriage, he taught that divorce is always wrong, and that the allowances for divorce under the Mosaic law were actually liberalizing deformations of the original meaning of marriage.
Likewise, when it came to Sabbath laws. What is the purpose of Sabbath restrictions? They are to help the individual to draw closer to God and to the people and world around him. All the additional rules added later in order to “conserve” the sacredness of the Sabbath needed to be thrown away in order to get to this root meaning of the Sabbath.
The radicals in the 1960′s would sometimes even resort to planting bombs in an attempt to undermine structures they opposed. Jesus also planted “bombs” within Judea and Galilee by his radical teachings and his radical death and resurrection. These actions lead to the most subversive organization that the world has ever seen: his Church. And this Church is called to be a destabilizing force in all generations, upending existing structures that reject God and His laws, and calling people to the roots of our human experience, which always leads to repentance, conversion, and a return to our original vocation as sons and daughters of God.
Jesus was a radical. Are you?
In recent years, a former Evangelical named Bart Ehrman has been attacking the veracity of the Bible. One of his main lines of attacks is that we cannot trust that what we read in our Bibles today is what was actually written by the original authors of the Scriptural texts. The issue he is addressing is known as “textual criticism.”
The crux of the issue is this: we do not possess any of the original manuscripts of the Old or New Testaments (just like we don’t possess the original manuscripts of almost any ancient document). What we possess are copies of those texts. In the case of the New Testament, some of the copies we possess date all the way back to the 2nd century, but many others are from centuries later. In some cases, these manuscripts disagree – one will have a verse another does not, and some will even have entire passages that others do not (such as the story of the woman caught in adultery). Sometimes, if you are observant, you will notice that a Bible might “skip” a verse; this means that the editors of that Bible decided that the verse in question was not in the most reliable manuscripts and therefore was most likely not in the original.
So how big of deal is this? Evangelical Greek scholar Bill Mounce has a recent blog post where he addresses this issue (read his whole post for more details about textual criticism), and in it, he notes the following:
- About 5% of the Greek text is in question
- No major doctrine is brought into question by 5%.
Ehrman, in other words, is barking up the wrong tree.
Furthermore, as Catholics, we can trust the Bible because the Church which Christ founded has declared which books are in the canon, and our tradition (which is guided by the Holy Spirit) has included passages such as the woman caught in adultery in those books. Even if this story was added later, we can trust that it was under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that this beautiful story (John 8:1-11) was included in the Gospel of John.
One of the very few non-Christian, non-baseball blogs I follow is Seth Godin’s. He is a marketing expert who writes about productivity in the business world (and in all of life) and other related topics. He recently had a post titled But it’s better than TV that I really appreciated:
At the local health food store lunch buffet, they offer stir fried tempeh.
I never get it. Not because I don’t like it, but because there are always so many other things on the buffet that I prefer.
That’s why I don’t watch TV. At all. There are so many other things I’d rather do in that moment.
Broadcast TV was a great choice when a> there weren’t a lot of other options and b> when everyone else was watching the same thing, so you needed to see it to be educated.
Now, though, you could:
- Run a little store on eBay
- Write a daily blog
- Write a novel
- Start an online community about your favorite passion
- Go to meetups in your town
- Volunteer to tutor a kid, in person or online
- Learn a new language, verbal or programming
- Write hand written thank you notes each evening to people who helped you out or did a good job
- Produce small films and publish them online
- Listen to the one thousand most important operas
- Read a book or two every evening
- Play a game a Scrabble with your family
None of them are perfect. Each of them are better than TV.
And of course, as Catholics, we could add many more to this list:
- Go to Adoration
- Pray the Rosary
- Help in a soup kitchen
- Visit your neighbor
And the list could go on and on…
I recently read the following advice from a Jesuit about how a Catholic can best interact with Protestants:
The first thing to keep in mind is that…he must look upon [Protestants] with great charity and love them in truth. And he must close his mind to all thoughts that would tend to lesson his affection for them. The second thing to be remembered is the need of gaining their goodwill so that they in turn shall love and think kindly of us. This can be accomplished by dealing with them in a friendly way on those subjects about which we are in agreement and by avoiding those disputed points in which one side might give the impression of lording it over the other. Rapprochement should be established with them in those areas in which there is concord between us rather than in those which tend to point up our mutual differences.
Who was the Jesuit who said this? Perhaps some 1970′s hipster who drank too much of the ecumenical Koolaid?
No, it is the words of Blessed Peter Faber, the first companion of St. Ignatius and cofounder of the Jesuits.
When they finally announce the actual release date for the Pope’s 2nd book in the Jesus of Nazareth series, which is coming “soon,” I think I should get one of those countdown clocks for my blog to mark the days, hours and minutes until it is available. That’s how excited I am about it.
Regular readers of this blog know how much I appreciate and love the Eastern practice of Christianity: its spirituality, its liturgy and its history. Most of my readers are Western, so I like to point out the many beauties of the East so that Western Christians will appreciate them as well. But I am a Western Catholic, not Eastern, and there are many, many things I love about being Western, so I thought I would post a few of my favorite particularly Western practices here.
(Please note: this post should in no way be taken as an anti-Eastern post or as Western triumphalism. Nor do I think Eastern Christians should adopt any of these practices [except perhaps number 10]. In the Body of Christ there are a diversity of gifts and loving one gift does not in any way denigrate other gifts).
1) The tradition of daily Mass
I am very thankful for the practice of daily Mass in the Western church. The fact that we can receive the precious body and blood of our Savior any day of the week is a great blessing, and one we should take advantage of as much as possible. Also, I love the whole simplified ethos of a daily Mass.
When I first became Catholic, it took me a while to get used to the whole kneeling thing. But over the years I have come to love the regular kneeling we Western Catholics do. It is an obvious sign of humility, and I find it very hard to be prideful in front of the Lord when I’m on my knees.
3) Eucharistic Adoration
This practice took centuries to develop in the West (and it never did in the East), but boy am I glad it did! I still find it amazing how I can walk into an Adoration chapel and immediately just know it is a holy place. The peace that comes from Eucharistic Adoration is hard to surpass.
4) Celibate clergy
I know that the East has a strong tradition of celibacy among their monks and bishops, but I am grateful for the West’s tradition of an all-celibate clergy, including parish priests. I think the sign that celibacy gives is needed even in the day-to-day of parish life, and the freedom such celibacy gives to the parish priest is very beneficial as well. (See this post for my defense of the Eastern practice).
5) Ash Wednesday
What is more humbling than walking around all day with a smudge on your forehead? I can’t think of a better way to start Lent than with this great day.
6) Diversity of religious art
There are rooms in my house in which you might believe you walked into an Eastern Christian church because there are so many icons. The Eastern icon is my favorite type of religious art. But I do greatly appreciate the wide variety of Western religious art over the centuries, and believe that this art has brought millions of people closer to Christ over the centuries.
7) The Rosary
It led me into the Church and has been my favorite form of prayer ever since. What more can I say?
8 ) St. Francis of Assisi
My all-time favorite saint is also quite Western as well. I can think of no better model for how to live like Christ (other than Christ himself).
I recognize the potential excesses of a scholastic outlook, but I also acknowledge the synthesis of faith and reason that St. Thomas Aquinas and his colleagues brought to the Church.
10) Recognition of centralized authority/papacy
I have often written on the importance of the authority of each bishop in his diocese, and I think we in the West would do well to learn from the East in regards to regional synods and collegiality among bishops. However, I also think it is highly important that the Church have a place where the buck truly stops. And in the West, we have always (rightly) seen Rome as that place.
11) 59-minute Sunday Masses
I just finished watching an address given by Houston Cardinal DiNardo at the Convocation of Houston Baptist University. His talk was focused on John 14:6 (“I am the way, the truth, and the life”).
I’ll say it again: wow.
If you want to see how someone uses Lectio Divina (“divine reading”) to interpret a Scriptural passage and lead us to a deeper understanding of Christ, take the time to watch his address. It is just amazing. Cardinal DiNardo effortlessly uses Scripture, the Fathers, and the whole Tradition to explain this passage. And it all is for one purpose: to bring us closer to Christ.