instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Year's Resolution

I've made resolutions in years past, and overall I have a pretty poor record of keeping them. Maybe it's time to stop making these little babystep resolutions and go for broke. So:

This year, I resolve to not sin.

UPDATE: Okay, starting now, I mean.

A POINT OF CLARIFICATION: For the purposes of this resolution, I except the case of scandal -- i.e., when people make me sin by their own actions. (It's the long skinny pedal on the right, Grampaw Kettle. Try pressing down on it next time.)

A LITTLE MORE CLARIFICATION: In the context of sacramental confession, of course, I don't except scandal when I firmly resolve with the help of God's grace to sin no more. (I'm not sure about the avoiding of the near occasion of sin, since personal duties and responsibilities oblige me to drive, but that's really between my confessor and myself.)

UPDATE: Unprovoked, grave sin, is really what I'm resolving not to do this year. I mean, the just man falls seven times a day, so... well, let's be practical about this.

FINAL UPDATE: All right, just to be clear, "unprovoked" means "premeditated, with malice aforethought," and "grave" means "leading to death or dismemberment of multiple persons." And I'm holding myself to it.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

And it shall happen unto you for a testimony

This week, the last of the liturgical year, the Lectionary takes us through the apocalyptic Chapter 21 of the Gospel According to St. Luke (though I suspect most Masses in the U.S. tomorrow will use the markedly less apocalyptic Thanksgiving Day readings (as entertaining as it would be for people who just showed up to get their pies blessed to hear a homily on the verse, "Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, for a terrible calamity will come upon the earth and a wrathful judgment upon this people."))

In today's Gospel reading, Jesus predicts the persecution -- in particular, the legal persecution -- of His followers because of His Name. He says being
led before kings and governors ... will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
On the one hand, this is a wonderful Emmanuel promise that Jesus is with us until the end of the age, not just to suffer alongside but to act through us (if we don't get in the way).

On the other hand, recall that Jesus Himself spoke with a wisdom that all His adversaries were powerless to resist or refute, and they stirred up a mob to shout, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" "Win an argument, lose a life" is a real possibility, even with this promise.

Legal victory, then, isn't Jesus' chief concern. He seems rather to be interested in the opportunity to give testimony. Persecution offers Him the chance to extend His preaching ministry beyond His ascension and on through time, through His disciples.

At least, through His disciples who are disciples enough to be persecuted because of His Name, and who allow His mouth and wisdom to speak in their defense.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Hello and goodbye

A few thoughts on how the Son of Man speaks to the righteous and the unrighteous:

Come, you who are blessed by my Father.Depart from me, you accursed [],
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
  1. The "Come/Depart" openings echo the moral of the Parable of the Talents, which immediately precedes this passage in the Gospel of Matthew:
    For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
  2. Origen suggests that the Son of Man does not say "you accursed by my Father,"
    because of all blessing the Father is the author, but each man is the origin of his own curse when he does the things that deserve the curse.
  3. Origen also points out that the eternal fire was not prepared for reprobate men because God "did not, as far as in Him lay, create men to perdition."

    Which is a comforting thought for those of us who still have time to minister to the needs of the least ones*, but pretty harrowing for the damned, who (pace Dante) won't even be at home in hell.



* In commenting on the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (which comes right before the Parable of the Talents), St. Hilary says those who sell lamp oil
are the poor, who, needing the alms of the faithful, made them that recompense which they desire, selling in return for the relief afforded to their wants, a consciousness of good works. This is the abundant fuel of an undying light which may be bought and stored up for the fruits of mercy.
And St. John Chrysostom says,
You see then how great merchants the poor are to us; but the poor are not [in the afterlife], but here, and therefore we must store up oil here, that we may have it to use there when occasion shall require.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Nova est vetera

A Dominican friar is taking an overnight train west to Minneapolis. He tells the conductor, "We get there at 5 a.m., and I am terrible at getting up early, so please give me a good shake and make sure I get up and off the train."

"Sure thing, Father," the conductor says.

"Thank you very much, and God bless you," says the friar, giving him a handsome tip. "I'll probably be too grouchy and tired to thank you properly at 5 a.m."

The friar finds a seat and zonks out. When he wakes up, the sun is shining and the train is stopped at a station. He notices the sign says "Fargo," and looks at his watch. It's a little after 9 a.m.

He jumps up and grabs his bags, all the while yelling and cursing the conductor, the train line, the transportation industry, and all mankind.

Naturally, this scandalizes the passengers who can't help but hear him as he storms off to get on a train headed back to Minneapolis. After he's gone, one of the passengers says, "I have never in my life seen a priest so angry."

A train conductor standing nearby said, "You should have seen the Norbertine I put off the train in Minneapolis this morning."

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According to the Rule of Blessed Augustine and the Constitutions of the Friars Preachers

The blog of the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer (in New York City) has posted a video of the Mass of Final Profession of four brothers of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph -- Br. James Brent, OP; Br. Hyacinth Cordell, OP; Br. John Chrysostom Kozlowski, OP; and Br. Ignatius Schweitzer, OP. (The rite of profession begins about 46 minutes in, and the vows themselves are sworn starting at about 57 minutes.)

The Mass was held on November 8 in the chapel of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. The presider and homilist was Fr. Dominic Izzo, OP, prior provincial.

If you've ever wondered what the Eastern Province friars are all about, this is a great place to start finding out.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I keep forgetting this one

Today's Gospel reading is Luke's version of the Parable of the Talents. (Matthew's version was Sunday's Gospel.)

As St. Luke tells it, Jesus told a double parable, combining the one about servants and money with this one:
A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return...

His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, "We do not want this man to be our king."

But when he returned after obtaining the kingship, he [said], "Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me."
Not exactly Veggie Tales material.

Jesus, we read, told this parable "because He was near Jerusalem and they thought that the kingdom of God would appear there immediately." The nobleman's return "after obtaining the kingship" is understood as Christ's return in glory -- when, in fact, and whether we like it or not, those who have declared before the Father, "We do not want this Man to be our king," will be slain before Him. That part is probably closer to the literal truth than the bit about the servant who made ten gold pieces taking charge of ten cities.

Christians can't disown or downplay this parable without being false to the Gospel we have been given. But we can show that it is no prescription for temporal bloodshed -- it is the nobleman who has his enemies slain, and only after he returns; his good servants are busy in his absence earning him money, not killing his enemies.

We can also show that "slay them before me" doesn't imply a bloodthirsty God. Jesus is the Way, and those who do not follow Him are eternally lost. Jesus is the Truth; before Him no falsehood can stand. He is the Life, and apart from Him is only death.

On the last day, everyone will be brought before Him in final judgment. It's not that He wants to watch His enemies be slain before Him because He enjoys the sight, but that in the Father's justice Christ is our Judge, and justice requires that all who are accused stand face to face with their judge. And in the presence of Purity, all that is impure will be destroyed.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Score one for Washington!

One more assistant bishop:
Pope Benedict XVI today named Monsignor Barry C. Knestout, 46, a native of Bowie, Maryland, to be an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington. As bishop, he will assist Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl in the pastoral leadership of the 580,000-member archdiocese. His ordination will be held on Monday, December 29 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Washington, DC.
Bishop-elect (should that really be Bishop-designate?) Knestout is the son of a (now deceased) permanent deacon and the brother of a priest; not many households have managed that hattrick.
In introducing the new bishop, Archbishop Wuerl said, "We rejoice that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has blessed the Archdiocese of Washington with a new auxiliary bishop. Bishop-elect Barry Knestout is a native son of this archdiocese. It has been my pleasure to work closely with him over these past few years and I appreciate his breadth of knowledge of the archdiocese, his deep concern for the pastoral ministry and his patient and kind manner. We all recognize his pastoral ability, his priestly spirit and his love for the Church."
He's also quite young, if not quite young enough to make me feel old.
"This announcement brings me a mix of emotions: gratitude, joy, fear, confidence and hope," Bishop-elect Knestout said. "I am grateful to our Holy Father for this appointment and to Archbishop Wuerl. In this year when the Holy Father blessed this local Church with his visit to Washington, I pray that my service as a bishop will be an occasion when all will be filled with a greater sense of joy and hope, knowing of the faith that we all share in Christ, our hope."

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Blessed are those who fear the LORD

Here's kind of a backward question: Why don't you fear the people you don't fear?

If fear is how we react to apprehension of a potential future evil*, then we don't fear people whom we don't foresee doing us ill. The backward question becomes even more awkward: Regarding the people you don't fear, why don't you foresee them doing you ill?

It could be a lot of reasons, right?
  • They can't do you ill. Maybe they're too far away, maybe they're too weak.
  • They won't do you ill. Maybe you trust in their love, maybe they're doormats.
  • Your foresight fails. Maybe you've never heard of the guy, maybe you don't realize you've made him your enemy.
So (and you saw where I was going), why don't people who don't fear God foresee Him doing them ill?
  • He can't. Maybe He doesn't exist, maybe He's not omnipotent after all.
  • He won't. Maybe He's a pushover, maybe He doesn't care about the human virus infesting one tiny speck in one unremarkable galaxy.
  • Their foresight fails. Maybe they've never heard of the Guy, maybe they don't realize they've made Him their enemy.
Setting aside people who think God can't do anything they don't like to them, we're left with people who think God isn't the sort to do something like that and people who think they're not the sort God would do it do.

I would prescribe a daily dose of Scripture.


* St. Thomas taught that fear is a passion of the irascible sensitive faculty, whose object "is an imminent evil, which can be repelled, but with difficulty.." In this post, I'll skip the qualifications on the kind of evil implied by fear, but feel free to add them if you think it adds something to the discussion.

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Today's bugbear

"No one is pro-abortion" is one of the stupidest things I've ever heard anyone claim.

For what possible definition of "pro-abortion" is it not immediately, obviously, and empirically false? Do people think practicing abortionists aren't pro-abortion?

No, what they think seems to be that no one [practicing abortionists, for some reason, excepted] actively desires anyone to be in a position where they would choose to get an abortion. They mean it, in other words, in the same sense that they might mean "no one is pro-root canal."

But this reduces to the singularly uninteresting observation that no one is pro-nuisance. And we note the empirical fact that, given the nuisance of an unwanted pregnancy, tens of millions of Americans want to be able to abort the child.

True, absent the nuisance of an unwanted pregnancy, abortions don't occur for the most part. But we can't even get away with pretending that "pro-abortion" means "pro-unwanted pregnancy," because abortions are like face lifts: even if no one ever wanted one, there will be plenty of people ready to tell you who else should get one.

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Distinguo

Just to clarify: I don't find the mere fact that Dominicans (or Catholics generally) voted for Obama, or were happy he was elected, to be scandalous. I think concluding in good faith that there were proportionate reasons to vote for such a pro-abortion candidate is entirely possible. Just because I never heard a sound reason to reach that conclusion doesn't mean there wasn't one, and unsound reasoning isn't wicked per se.

What I do object to is the failure of Catholics to be Catholic. If you are Catholic, then be Catholic. Don't say, "No one political party is in perfect agreement with the Catholic faith," and then act in perfect agreement with one political party.

And if you are a Dominican, and you're speaking as a Dominican, and you're not speaking of Christ, then you're not speaking as a Dominican.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

All in the Family

According to Nunc Pro Tunc, the following appears in the minutes of a meeting last month of the Western [U.S.] Dominican Justice Promoters, in response to an email request that they "would consider the issue of abortion as a vital part of the agenda for promoters":
We all recognize abortion as contrary to support for all life, and we all support the life of the unborn. Following discussion, we agreed ... that abortion is not the central issue of social justice (although it is an important issue). In the past the overemphasis by some groups on the issue of abortion to the exclusion of other life issues, has been discussed. The group assembled decided we would recommend that abortion not be included in the new North American Dominican Call to Action.
Here's a PDF of the 2005-2006 Call to Action document, to give you an idea of what's involved.

I sometimes suspect that, among justice and peace promoters in the United States (and not just among the Dominicans), abortion is declassé. They may agree that abortion is a grave sin that ought to be eliminated, even made illegal, but to actually work against abortion, in any systematic way, would require working with... you know...

Those people.

The ones who belong to groups that overemphasize abortion. Most of them probably vote Republican and own American flags. Not really our type at all.

Still, if "abortion is not the central issue of social justice" -- which, since taken literally this contradicts everything the Church has taught about it, I take to mean "abortion is not the central issue of the Dominican Justice and Peace committees" -- that's fine; it's not like human trafficking or just immigration policy are trivial matters.

Just tell me which Dominican committee abortion is an issue of.

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Put no trust in princes, in mortal men in whom there is no help

Fr. Philip links to a page of responses to Obama's election on the Dominican Life USA website (aka DomLife). (I may have prodded him to mention it with an email I sent him on it.)

Partial Disclosure: When the Dominican Leadership Conference assumed editorial control of DomLife, I went in short order from having editorial privileges to not having my blog linked, so I am not an unbiased observer. (By the way, I "met" the then-Br. Philip on DomLife back in the day when commenting was allowed.)

That said, two things particularly bother me about the posted reactions.

The first is the complete lack of any residue of Dominican formation in many of the comments. How many could have been written by just about any politically liberal American and posted to just about any politically liberal American comment board? Does contemplation of the truth really add so little to political observation?

Second, related to the first but more troubling, are the many references to hoping in President-Elect Obama. The Christian hopes in God and puts no trust in princes.

The response may be that expressions like "at last here is someone who can be a figure of hope for the whole planet" -- from no less than a former Master of the Order -- refer to a natural hope for a natural good that is difficult but possible to obtain through natural means.

Well, maybe. (And maybe when the International Co-Promoter for Justice and Peace for the Dominican Family says Obama's election "felt to me like the resurrection of the soul of the USA," she means a natural resurrection obtained through natural means and is no way confusing faith and politics.)

But that simply cycles back to the first problem. Dominicans make vows (Lay Dominicans make promises) to preach Christ. The world is full of people who preach natural hope for natural goods obtainable through natural means. I suggest the world is not brimming over with people who can distinguish natural hope and supernatural hope.

So why, can someone tell me, are Dominicans preaching natural hope?

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

An uncommon consultation

Mark at Dominican Idaho links to a CNA story about a reformed Serbian abortionist. Stojan Adasevic's conversion was spurred by a recurring dream he had in which he saw a field filled with the children he had aborted. St. Thomas Aquinas was also there, although Adasevic, a lapsed Orthodox raised under Communism, had never heard the name before he heard it in his dream.

It's a peculiar story, whatever you make of it. A medieval Doctor of the Latin Church appearing in a dream to a non-practicing Serb? (Adasevic himself has reportedly suggested St. Thomas may have wanted to make amends for his teaching on when the fetus is infused with a human soul.)

Most peculiar, though, is what's most empirical: a man who committed tens of thousands of abortions has repented and is now a pro-life advocate.

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Guess I'll eat some worms

St. Catherine of Siena tells God He acts like a crazy, drunk lover toward mankind. Certainly, taken as a whole, that animal called man is not easy to love. Maybe that's the vicious cycle begun with the Fall: If I don't love myself, no one else will, but loving myself makes me less lovable, so I have to love myself even more.

Jesus spreads out His arms and says, "Whoa! Stop! I love you! I love you! I love you!"

Most of us, though, can't stop -- or rather, we won't let ourselves stop. We're too used to loving ourselves. It's too painful to let God love us instead, in large part because that would mean admitting that what we've loved about ourselves for so long is, literally, unlovable.

In the natural order, we get things like a woman giving $400,000 to Nigerian scam artists, because she "doesn't think she's a sucker" and "the scammers kept telling her that the next payment would be the last one."

In the supernatural order, we get things like an ethics advisory board chairman advocating medical experiments on human beings, because "most of these embryos are destined to be destroyed."

Might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb, the saying goes. I think we have stolen so many lambs, while telling ourselves we aren't thieves, that we are simply unable to conceive that stealing sheep is wrong.

(Nigerian scam story via five feet of fury.)

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Lebens unwertes Leben in the Washington Post

Dear Uncle Sam:

We have some children we have no use for. We were going to incinerate them, but if you want to use them for medical experiements instead, that's fine with us.

Sincerely,
The Parents


This tomorrow brought to you by Ronald M. Green, chair of the Ethics Advisory Board of Advanced Cell Technology.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Charity makes us weep

They're called the Joyful Mysteries, not the Restful Mysteries. The tidings of great joy the angel brought to the shepherds were also tidings of great stress for the Holy Family.

Note the bothandian "also." One lesson you learn at the School of Mary is that if you're experiencing spiritual joy, you're quite likely to also be experiencing material suffering.

How come that?

When discussing joy as an effect of charity, St. Thomas writes:
There can be spiritual joy about God in two ways. First, when we rejoice in the Divine good considered in itself; secondly, when we rejoice in the Divine good as participated by us.
A visual aid, using "our goodness" as shorthand for "the goodness of God as participated by us":


But while God's goodness is perfect, our participation is not. So the first kind of spiritual joy "is incompatible with an admixture of sorrow," but the second
is compatible with an admixture of sorrow, in so far as a man grieves for that which hinders the participation of the Divine good, either in us or in our neighbor, whom we love as ourselves.
The joy in "our" goodness -- which, again, is a joy in God's goodness which we participate in -- is not as complete as it could be, because we do not fully participate in God's goodness. We can't, even if we want to, until all things are made new.

Note too that, although as St. Thomas says this second spiritual joy proceeds from hope as well as charity, it is real, genuine joy experienced now, not just the hope of a future joy.

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A - D - W! A - D - W!

Archbishop Wuerl was elected to chair the USCCB Committee on Doctrine.

That means... um, actually, I don't have any insight or commentary about what that means. I just have a hometown rooting interest.

[Okay, I do know what it means in terms of blogosphere grousing about Archbishop Wuerl and the USCCB -- viz, more of the same -- but that doesn't take much insight.]

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Monday, November 10, 2008

An aid to conscience

Courtesy of Sunday's "Mary Worth." Print, clip, and save.

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Consumed by zeal

I heard something strange at the end of yesterday's Gospel. After Jesus rose from the dead, His disciples:
came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.
The word He had spoken was, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up," and St. John adds that Jesus "was speaking about the temple of his Body."

The Scripture the disciples came to believe is presumably Psalm 69:10, the Scripture quoted in the same passage:
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
Zeal for your house will consume me.
Okay, but... wouldn't the disciples have already believed the Scripture? It's, like, Scripture! And familiar enough to them that it comes to mind as they watch Jesus cleanse the Temple.

Besides, what is there to really believe about "Zeal for your house will consume me"? The Gospel makes it sound like there was a great post-Resurrection insight, even though long before Jesus' death they had seen Him act with zeal for the LORD's house.

The cleansing of the Temple comes immediately after the miracle at Cana, when Jesus' disciples "began to believe in Him." You could say they began to begin to believe in Him when John the Baptist testified that Jesus is the Son of God, and they continued to begin to begin after they had spoken with Him a little.

So when the cleansing of the Temple happens, the disciples have just begun to believe in Jesus, but don't yet know what it will lead to. Their understanding of the events that day remain imperfect until after the Resurrection (which, if we follow St. John's Gospel, also means after they receive the Holy Spirit).

The belief that comes to them later, then, is a belief in Jesus as the Suffering Messiah, which implies a belief that the Old Testament applies to Jesus in a unique and particular way. The psalmist who sings these words is singing about Jesus:
Let those who wait for you, LORD of hosts, not be shamed through me. Let those who seek you, God of Israel, not be disgraced through me.
For your sake I bear insult, shame covers my face.
I have become an outcast to my kin, a stranger to my mother's children.
Because zeal for your house consumes me, I am scorned by those who scorn you.
I have wept and fasted, but this led only to scorn.
I clothed myself in sackcloth; I became a byword for them.
They who sit at the gate gossip about me; drunkards make me the butt of their songs.
All this is a prophecy that has come true in Jesus, beginning with the mockery and misunderstanding of the Jews who asked for a sign to justify His actions in the Temple, and continuing to bear fruit in the shame and disgrace the first Christians faced from their kin.

The disciples came to believe, perhaps, that the Resurrection was no more the end than the Crucifixion. The Risen Christ doesn't end history when He appears to the Eleven; they have their own roads to Golgotha to follow yet. But their roads are, as His was, roads of triumph that contradict and bewilder the world.

Zeal for the LORD's house cannot consume you without your being scorned by those who scorn the LORD. In His great kindness, though, God will rescue you from the mire and from your enemies, and those who love God's name shall dwell in His land and possess it.

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Rien comprendre

I try. I do. I defend, I excuse, I try to understand.

And then the first thing I see when I go to the website on the first morning of the fall assembly is this:
USCCB Announces Winner of Faithful Citizenship
Ipod Drawing
Now, congratulations to the winner. But: Seriously?

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Inauguration Day Rosary Novena Starts November 10

A Rosary Novena sponsored by Rosaries for Life will run from November 10 through January 20.

The five intentions of this novena are:
  • For the triumph of the Culture of Life in the United States of America.
  • For President-elect Obama, and for all of the leaders of the United States of America, that they will be led personally to Jesus Christ and His truth, and that they will lead our country in a positive direction. Or in other words, as Archbishop Wuerl said, "May our nation's new leaders be guided in their decisions with wisdom and compassion and at the heart of all of their decisions may there be a deep respect for and commitment to the sanctity and dignity of all human life and support for the most vulnerable among us."
  • For the hearts, minds and SOULS of the American people, that they will be turned back towards Jesus Christ and the "least of His brethren".
  • For a renewal of the virtues of purity and self-control, especially among our youth.
  • In reparation for the scourges of abortion, Embryonic Stem Cell Research, euthanasia, cloning, artificial contraception, and all manifestations of the Culture of Death, and especially in reparation for the support and/or complacency that we as American Catholics have shown to these evils.
See the Rosaries for Life website for more information on the novena and the Rosaries for Life effort.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Credible news

On reading this, the only thing I can conclude is that whoever removed discussion of abortion and politics from next week's USCCB agenda figured the aftermath of the discussion would leave the Church in the U.S. even more screwed up on the question than it is today.

Which is not a cheery thought.

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Just saying

A tremendous amount of fruitless conversation can be obviated with these simple words:
Yes, but he's an idiot.
The trick, I think, is to use them precisely in order to obviate fruitless conversation, rather than as the introduction to a months-long effort to prove their truth.

And the point of obviating fruitless conversation is, of course, to free up time and energy for fruitful activities.

It may be fairly pointed out that whosoever shall say "thou fool" shall be in danger of hell fire. But I point out unto them, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment, and I suggest that we speak more, not fewer, idle words when we neglect to acknowledge we're speaking of idiocy.

It's also important, I think, to keep an eye open for opportunities to obviate fruitless conversation with the words -- so similar gramatically yet so radically different in meaning -- "Yes, but I'm an idiot."

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Putting the "catholic" in "Catholic"

If you happen to be in the neighborhood of Quezon City on December 7, you might stop by St. Dominic's Church for the diaconal ordination of four Dominican brothers.

If not, just keep praying for them and for all those in vowed or consecrated religious life.

UPDATE: Prayers for those in promised life would also be appreciated.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Inauguration Day Rosary Novena -- UPDATED

Plans are underway to offer a Rosary Novena, beginning November 10 and continuing through Inauguration Day on January 20. The intention of this novena, following Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl's call for prayer, is:
That our nation's new leaders be guided in their decisions with wisdom and compassion and at the heart of all of their decisions may there be a deep respect for and commitment to the sanctity and dignity of all human life and support for the most vulnerable among us.
The Rosary Novena consists of five decades of the Rosary each day for 36 days (that's all four sets of mysteries repeated in order nine times) offered in petition for the intention, followed by five decades of the Rosary each day for 36 days offered in thanksgiving.

(Thanks to Dave Mueller for the idea.)

UPDATE: See Rosaries for Life.

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Signifying nothing?

There was some discussion on a recent post regarding the "mathematical issue of the efficacy of a vote."

One of the statewide questions on Maryland ballots yesterday was "Question 2," a proposed constitutional amendment "Authorizing Video Lottery Terminals (Slot Machines) to Fund Education." The text of the question is this:
Authorizes the State to issue up to five video lottery licenses for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education of children in public schools, prekindergarten through grade 12, public school construction and improvements, and construction of capital projects at community colleges and higher education institutions. No more than a total number of 15,000 video lottery terminals may be authorized in the State, and only one license may be issued for each specified location in Anne Arundel, Cecil, Worcester, and Allegany Counties, and Baltimore City. Any additional forms or expansion of commercial gaming in Maryland is prohibited, unless approved by a voter referendum.
The current unofficial results from the Maryland Secretary of State are:
  • For: 1,155,204
  • Against: 818,160
The state constitution will be duly amended.

Now, I myself voted on Question 2 -- against it, in fact. If anyone would like to make any sort of mathematical or logical argument regarding the efficacy, significance, value, or what-have-you of my vote, please do.

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Pray for our bishops

The USCCB fall assembly begins next Monday in Baltimore.

The bishops' discussion of "the practical and pastoral implications of" "connectedness between the evil of abortion and political support for abortion" will, I'm guessing, be complicated by the fact of a Catholic Vice President-Elect who supports abortion.

Another major topic for the assembly is the "vote on goals and objectives for the work of [the] five task forces on the priority initiatives."

Here is the list of goals; each goal has a number of objectives:
  1. To increase the Catholic community's understanding and acceptance of cultural diversity in the Church.
  2. To include diverse cultures in the life and leadership of dioceses, parishes and other Catholic organizations in the United States.
  3. To inspire, challenge and help Catholic couples to witness to the meaning and value of marriage as a human institution and a Christian sacrament.
  4. To work for laws and public policies that protect, promote, and strengthen marriage.
  5. To invite all Catholics to a relationship with Jesus in a context of living faith, especially at the parish level, by catechetical and educational formation on the nature of Catholic identity and an appreciation of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. This effort takes place within an awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity in the identity and practice of the Catholic faith in the United States.
  6. To facilitate the prospective introduction, reception, and implementation of the new translation of the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia, to the Church in the United States.
  7. In a compelling and effective way, to re-establish the cultural compass of the United States to affirm the objective, transcendent truth of the intrinsic value of human life and the dignity of the human person from the inception of life to natural death.
  8. To help individuals hear and respond to a call by God to the priesthood or consecrated life.
  9. To educate all of the faithful on the importance of encouraging others to consider a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life.
There's something about Jesus in there, if you look for it within an awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity in the identity and practice of the Catholic faith in the Unites States.

The objectives mention things like "best practices," invitations "to collaborate in addressing issues and developing initiatives," and "achiev[ing] excellence."

I don't know if an official prayer has been promulgated for use by the laity in the lead-up to this assembly, but I have composed my own:
God help the bishops.
God help us all.
Amen.
UPDATE: Ha!

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I do not think that word means what they think it means

Someone recently told me about something called Downs paradox, or the paradox of voting. As the Wikipedia page puts it, the paradox
is a reference to the fact that for a rational, self-interested voter, the costs of voting will normally exceed the expected benefits.... The fact that people do vote is a major problem for public choice theory, first observed by Anthony Downs.
This interests me strangely.

I work with computer models for a living. When what I'm modeling doesn't do what my model predicts, it's called an "invalid model."

When what public choice theorists are modeling doesn't do what their model predicts, it's called a "paradox."

Invalid models lead to uncomfortable questions from people who expect you to produce valid models. Paradoxes lead to research papers and panel discussions at conferences.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

The fulfillment of the Law

The Greatest Commandment, as you know, is, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind."

But to love someone is to act for his good, and God is already all-good. St. Catherine of Siena is one of the saints who asked God about how we could act for His good. As He explained it:
This is the means which I have given you, that you may exercise and prove your virtue therewith; because, inasmuch as you can do Me no profit, you should do it to your neighbor.
The Second Commandment is not only like unto the first, then, it follows from and ends in the First. St. Catherine goes so far as to record God as saying, "love of Me and of [your] neighbor are one and the same thing."

The identity of the commandments is given perfect expression in the Crucifixion. It is wholly love of the Father that holds Jesus on the Cross. It is also wholly love of mankind that holds Him there. It is, so to speak, the hypostatic union of the two greatest commandments, on which dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

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