Month: June 2006

Elsewhere . . .

Just a reminder that if I’m absent from Against The Grain, there is a likely chance that I’m blogging at

  • Religion & Liberty Part of our “Church and the Liberal Tradition” research venture with regular discussions on the dreaded neocon trio (Fr. Neuhaus, Michael Novak, George Weigel), the “Whig-Thomist” / “Augustinian Thomist” debate, the religious disposition of George Washington and our Founding Fathers, together with rancorous tirades in the combox. =)
  • Just War[?] blogging in connection with our ongoing investigation of “the War in Iraq and the Catholic Just War Tradition”;
  • or our collective blogging venture Catholics in the Public Square, headed by David Schrader (Catholics for Bush) and Oswald Sobrino (Catholic Analysis).

Here and There . . .

An irregular roundup of blogs, articles and commentary.

So I’m taking it easy this summer — which means blogging less, and reading more. Nevertheless, for those who might be interested, here is the usual roundup of miscellaneous articles which caught my attention . . .

  • Mark Shea offers some thoughts on the apologetics subculture:

    I think the Faith is fascinating and just like telling other people about it, because I love to watch the lights come on and I love to watch the Faith liberate other people as it’s liberated me. Sometimes that involves “defending the Faith”. A lot of times it simply involves proclaiming the Faith.

    The two, by the way, are different and those who love apologetics would do well to remember it. The first and primary task of the believer is *not* to defend the Faith, but to proclaim it. In other words, evangelization comes first, and apologetics is, at best, its handmaid. You don’t *need* to “defend the Faith* unless the Faith is being attacked. And if you enter into a conversation with a defensive mentality, don’t be surprised if you ignite a hostile mentality in the person you are talking to.

  • Father Peregrinator (Canterbury Tales) writes about his Canterbury Trail to Rome:

    I was not always drawn to the Catholic Church. I once resisted it with great force. As a college student I believed that Pope John Paul II was the Antichrist and that the Catholic Church was the Scarlet Whore of Babylon described by St John in the Apocalypse. I even handed out Jack Chic tracts and left in them in my dorm toilet stalls (probably where they belonged in the first place!) for fellow students to read. Today my wife I are Catholic, a Roman Catholic. As Chesterton described above, the moment I ceased pulling against Catholicism I slowly (even without knowing it) began to be pulled toward it. . . .

  • The Gospel According to Rocco – Bill McGarvey of BustedHalo.com interviews Rocco Palmo (Whispers in the Loggia). A good interview overall, although hearing Rocco describe his day (“I’m up by 6:30 in the morning to get the Vatican’s daily press bulletin, and from there it’s like the green flag . . . The most typical thing about it is that at 7am I’ll say to myself, “You really have to get out today” and then I look up [and the day is nearly over]”), I can’t say I envy those who attempt blogging as a kind of “full-time job.”

    Part II of Rocco’s interview discusses his clerical audience (“If it’s six degrees of separation in the big world, it’s maybe two and a half in the church world. Everybody knows everybody”), his journalistic mission (“my core principle is just to be accurate. To give everyone the straight story, even if it isn’t pretty”), and perception of St. Blog’s Parish (“it doesn’t help when you have this readily available form of the internet and people are looking for something Catholic and what they find is not one beautiful Church but many warring fiefdoms”).

    In Part III he talks about two personal heros, Bishop Fulton Sheen and Cardinal O’Connor; finally, The Rocco Report: “Remedies for the Church from a 23-year old Whisperer.”

  • Teresa Polk Blog by the Sea celebrates the life of St. Bonificace, whose memorial was celebrated the 5th of June:

    In the course of his ministry, Boniface won more than 100,000 people to Christianity. He ordained more than 300 clergy and formed monasteries with more than 2,000 monks and nuns. In his day, he was already called the “Apostle of Germany.” Twentieth century English historian Christopher Dawson said that St. Boniface “had a deeper influence on the history of Europe than any Englishman who has ever lived,” carrying Romano-Christian civilization beyond the furthest reaches of the Roman Empire.

  • The Death of the Man who Lived – the blog Chesterton & Friends concludes its extended look at the life of Gilbert Keith Chesterton (the post contains links to previous reminisces by Fr. Vincent McNabb, Hilaire Belloc, Pope Pius XII and others).
  • Reading a Classic – Oswald Sobrino (Catholic Analysis remarks on his reading of Henri De Lubac‘s Catholicism, reprinted by Ignatius Press.
  • Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus on Cardinal Schonborn’s spiritual exercises, a book which I found made for particularly fitting Lenten reading several years ago (during the highpoint of the sexual scandals within the priesthood): Loving the Church: Spiritual Exercises Preached in the Presence of Pope John Paul II (Ignatius, 1998).
  • The Time Capsule – the Patristics blog The Way of the Fathers takes a look at the Christian community’s first catechism, “a book that bears the title ‘The Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles Through the Twelve Apostles’ — or, in Greek, simply the ‘Didache,’ the teaching.”
  • Eschatological Fact and Fiction: Catholicism and Dispensationalism Compared, by Carl E. Olson. Ignatius Insight June 10, 2006:

    Have you ever had non-Catholic friends ask questions such as, “Do Catholics believe in the Rapture?” and “Why doesn’t the Catholic Church interpret the book of Revelation literally?”? Perhaps you or someone you know has read the best-selling Left Behind books and wants to know if they are “biblically sound.” Maybe you saw a televangelist explaining that Christ will come soon to “rapture” Christians from earth, but you’ve never heard your priest talk about it. . . .

    Some readers might recognize Carl as author of Will Catholics be Left Behind?: A Critique of the Rapture and Today’s Prophecy Preachers – a substantial-yet-readable examination of some key concepts in eschatology and their interpretation in Catholic and Protestant / Fundamentalist circles.

  • Greg Krehbiel gives up on being “A Good Catholic”:

    In short, while there are lots of cultural attitudes about being a “good Catholic,” when it comes right down to it a “good Catholic” is good at only one thing — realizing that he isn’t good at all.

    My trouble is that I’m not even very good at that.

    A good Catholic ought to have a lot of faith — he ought to be assured of things hoped for and convinced of things he hasn’t seen. That sounds easy enough. You don’t have to be very smart to have faith, right? But it’s hard to decide to have assurance or choose to be convinced. We’re deceived so often, and surety can seem like an impossible goal. I find myself saying, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

    When I look at all this I’m left with very little. I’m not holy enough to see how unholy I really am, and I don’t believe half as well as I should. So to that inner voice of pride that wants to be able to say “I’m a good Catholic,” I can only reply, “No, I’m just a sinner.” And the good news is that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, so I qualify for the team.

    Amen and amen.

  • Suffering a tragic accident and told by doctors in March 2006 that left him in a coma, his family informed that he “would either never come back or return as a vegetable,” that the damage was “effectively all over, irreversible,” Jeremy Hand is making a remarkable recovery:

    The Patient Manager at Waltham Kindred Care Unit told three of us family members and Jeremy yesterday before we left, “I don’t know if any scientific explanation can ever explain what has happened to Jeremy. We may never know. This is not what we expected”

    A true miracle in the making. Praise God!

  • As Father Coughlin spins in his grave Townhall.com May 15, 2006. Alluding to the anti-semitic Michigan “radio priest” of the 1930’s/40’s, Jeff Jacoby notes the progress made in Jewish-Christian relations.
  • Still Slaying Dragons After All These Years National Catholic Register May 21-27, 2006. Tim Drake interviews the founder of Operation Rescue and recent convert to the Catholic faith, Randall Terry.
  • Fr. Philip N. Powell asks “Are You Saved? — A rousing homily from the Dominican priest and preacher, blogging at Domine, da mihi hanc aquam!.

    The question of confidence in one’s salvation was the topic of exchange on Pontifications “Salvation Certainty Hunting” (first in a series — see Part II; Part III). See also Christ Atwood’s response (“How do I get to a gracious God?”; Dave Armstrong weighs in on Luther’s Frequent Depression, Spiritual Crises, & Erroneous Projection Onto St. Paul of His “Evangelical Experience”.

  • Illegal Immigration: Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Mahony, by Greg Mockeridge (Cooperatores Veritatis):

    Browsing the online document library over at EWTN, I happened to stumble across the late pope’s Annual Message for Migration Day 1996 given on July 25, 1995. Since the topic of illegal immigration has been a hot topic as of late, I was more than just a little curious as to what the late pontiff had to say on the subject. I also wanted to know how it compared to what . . . Los Angeles Archbishop Roger Cardinal Mahony had to say in his 2006 Ash Wednesday Mass homily about it vis-a-vis a recent bill HR 4437 passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

  • James (Contemplation of Moral Theology) offers some reflections on “marriage and family”, referring to a speech given by the Pope on “The Legacy of John Paul II on Marriage and the Family: to Love Human Love” (May 11, 2006 – full text here):

    Pope Benedict first calls attention to marriage and family being founded upon the truth about the human person and his calling towards God. The Church’s teaching on marriage and family are not founded upon a false notion of patriarchy or out-dated idea concerning how to live but rather about the very nature and truth concerning who we are and how best to find happiness in this life and the next. Pope Benedict indictates the core of this understanding is from Sacred Scripture in light of man’s call to love as being an “authentic image of God.” And through love, we can become more and more closely united to God himself.

  • Paul J. Cella, on “What have the last four and a half years taught Conservatives about war?”
  • American Soldiers and How We Use Them, by Orson Scott Card. A lengthy reflection on the subject from The Ornery American. April 16, 2006.
  • the perilously lovable lifestyle – Diogenes (Off The Record) comments on a vocations poster for the Diocese of Rochester and why “I began to notice that the remark, ‘I love being a priest!’ nearly always set my teeth on edge.” (On a tangential note, dotCommonweal‘s blog ponders The Many Faces of Diogenes).
  • Addressing Rod Dreher’s recent admission that he’s considering [lapsing into] Eastern Orthodoxy (Orthodoxy and Me May 3, 2006), William Luse considers the prospect of “Catholic burnout”:

    These days, based on personal observation and the nature of much catechesis, when someone tells me he’s converting to the Faith, I’m tempted to ask, “So, how long you planning on staying?” I’m tired of this already, so pathetic it all seems. I’m burned out on burn-outs.

    Somewhat different reflections on the abandonment of the Catholic faith are offered by DarwinCatholic in Dreher Looks East and Al Kimel in “Ten thousand scandals do not make one doubt”).

  • History that Dares Not Speak Its NameGet Religion talks about “one of the most controversial events in the history of the 20th century,” lamenting the fact that “hardly anyone in America knows about it” (except, of course, for passionate fans of System of a Down):

    If a government managed to kill off nearly 80 percent of the members of a particular ethnic group within its borders, while also striving to destroy its history and memory, what would you call it?

    Genocide? A hoax? A massacre? A holocaust, even?

    What if the victims represented a branch of Eastern Christianity that few in the West knew about? What if the nation being accused of committing genocide were a crucial U.S. friend in the Muslim world and, now, a nation urgently trying to change its image in order to enter the European Union? And how would you treat this event in public schools? Would you allow it to be debated by partisans, pitting those who descended from the survivors against the various interest groups who want this issue to go away?

  • Responding to a post by David Anthony (“The root of Catholicism’s error” — that Catholics choose the Pope over God’s Word, following him “down the proverbial garden path into wrong doctrines such as salvation by works, praying to Mary and papal infallibility”), Al Kimel (Pontifications) blogs on Scripture, Church, and the Veneration of Mary.
  • Those Grand Ushers, by Fumare:

    A traditional mainstay at Sunday Mass is disappearing, and it is a tragedy. It seems that for time immemorial–at least in the United States–the usher has been an ubiquitous presence at Sunday Mass. Usually, these gentlemen were of the retired set. They generally dressed up in a coat and tie and were very distinguished in their reverence and propriety at Mass. The stately old gentlemen made sure that the folks were escorted to their seats and that latecomers were found seats. In many ways they performed the duties of a Sergeant-at-Arms during the Mass. . . .

    Unfortunately, this breed has become quite rare and the liturgical poachers have done their best to do away with them. Instead we are treated to the “Greeter Ministry” or “Hospitality Ministry.”

  • Indulging in a bit of self-promotion, I’d like to mention Haditha – A Rush to Judgement?, a roundup of commentary and analysis at Just War[?]; and my other blog Religion and Liberty (part of the Church and the Liberal Tradition Project), which my friend Santiago Ramos-Reyes has recently joined as a contributor.

On a Lighter Note

  • Kathy Sierra on The Myth of “Keeping Up” :

    Do you have a stack of books, journals, manuals, articles, API docs, and blog printouts that you think you’ll get to? That you think you need to read? Now, based on past experience, what are the odds you’ll get to all of it? Half of it? Any of it?

    So you let the stack of “things to read” pile up, then eventually when the pile gets to high you end up tossing half of it–or worse, moving it to a deeper “stuff to read someday stack. We have selective amnesia about what we’ll ever get to, but mainly because most of us keep feeling like we have to keep up! Keep up with what?

    You can’t keep up. There is no way. And trying to keep up will probably just make you dumber.You can never be current on everything you think you should be.

  • Somebody call Reuters — Blackfive posts a photograph of an American soldier torturing a little girl.
  • U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell of Orlando ordered bickering attorneys to settle their fight by playing “Rock, Paper, Scissors.”:

    In his order, Presnell chastised both sides for “a series of Gordian knots that the parties have been unable to untangle” — a metaphor for a difficult problem.

    He said he offered the game option as a “new form of alternative dispute resolution.”

  • The Mark Shea – Fr. Rob Travelling Apologopolooza – What happens when two fat Catholic guys, one of them a famous author and apologist, and the other a not-quite-so-famous priest and author, get together in Western Michigan? Well, all kinds of hijinks! (Also, Fr. Rob Johansen reveals The Ugly Underside of The Catholic Neo-Con Cabal.
  • Ted Nugent: Off his rocker? The Independent May 28, 2006. “He owns 350 guns, wants to nuke Iraq and makes his friend George W look like a liberal. Now 1970s heavy metal star Ted Nugent has his sights set on a new target: entering US politics.” Be very afraid.
  • Matthias Göring Goes Kosher?, by Ruth Elkins. Der Spiegel May 10, 2006. It appears that one of the great descendents of Hitler’s right-hand man Hermann Göring has discovered “a love for Israeli wine — and is considering converting to Judaism.” Talk about poetic justice.
  • Stephen Colbert does Liturgical Dance.

  • Thank God I converted — Baptists Bash Beer and Blogs.

So that’s it, read and enjoy. And be sure to visit I. Shawn McElhinney’s Miscellaneous Threads Worth Reviewing and the Catholic Carnival.

Feast of Pentecost – 2006

The People of God, who found their first configuration on Sinai, have now been enlarged to the extent that they are no longer bound by any borders of race or culture, of space or time. As opposed to what happened with the tower of Babel (cfr Gen. 11:1-9), when men who wanted to build a path to heaven with their own hands, ended up by destroying their own capacity for mutual understanding, in Pentecost, the Spirit, with the gift of tongues, reveals how his presence unites and transforms confusion into communion. The pride and egotism of man always create division and build walls of indifference, of hate and of violence. The Holy Spirit, on the contrary, makes hearts capable of understanding the languages of all, because it re-establishes the bridge of authentic communion between Earth and Heaven. The Holy Spirit is love.

But how to enter into the mystery of the Holy Spirit, how to understand the secret of Love? The pages of today’s Gospel take us today to the Cenacle where, once the last Supper was over, a sense of confusion saddened the Apostles. The reason was that the words of Jesus had raised worrying questions: He talked about hatred of the world for him and his followers, he talked about his mysterious departure and there were many other things yet to be said, but for the time being, the Apostles were not capable of carrying the burden (cfr Jn:16:32). To tackle them, he explains the meaning of his distance: he will leave, but he will return; in the meantime, he will not abandon them, he will not leave them orphans. He will send the Consoler, the Spirit of the Father, and it will be the Spirit who will lead them to understand that the work of Christ is a labour of love: the love of He who has sacrificed himself, the love of the Father who gave him up.

This is the mystery of Pentecost: the Holy Spirit enlightens the human spirit, and, revealing the crucified and resurrected Christ, shows the way to becoming more like Him, that is, to being ‘an expression and instrument of the love that emanates from him’ (Deus Caritas Est, 33). Gathered together with Mary, as it was at the time of its birth, the Church today prays: ‘Veni Sancte Spiritus! – Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!’ Amen.

Pope Benedict XVI – Homily on the Feast of Pentecost (2006). (Link via Amy Welborn).

More Pentecost Reflections: