Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Blog update

It is with no little amount of trepidation that I let you know I've decided to move my blogging to a blog hosted on stblogs.com. It allows me to do a few things I've been unable to do on blogger, and it also allows me to help support (even if only in my own very, very small way) a Catholic enterprise. I've copied over all the posts you'll find here just in case anyone really needs to find something I've written before. This blog will remain but will go dormant; you can find my new blog at http://ubipetrus.stblogs.com/.

And yes, I admit that it's entirely possible I'll become like some others that have tried to move off of blogger and have come back, but at least for now I'll move forward with this. I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Pelosi contra Gregory of Nyssa

It's interesting how life comes at you from multiple directions sometimes. This weekend in our RCIA class the fiancee of one of the inquirers suggested that he had been taught that the soul exists before the body, quoting Jeremiah 1:5 "before you were formed in the womb I knew you" as a basis for his understanding. Trying to explain God's existence outside of time became a rather interesting experience in explaining something one knows he cannot ever fully understand himself.

Now, and if you know me you won't be surprised, that poor attempt at an answer has been gnawing at me ever since. So tonight I sat down with my Logos and determined to read up on the whole issue. After digging through Origen, Tertullian and Irenaeus I came across the following from St. Gregory of Nyssa, from his On the Making of Man. It's amazing how well it contrasts with Nancy Pelosi's recent attempt at patristic research.

But just as we say that in wheat, or in any other grain, the whole form of the plant is potentially included—the leaves, the stalk, the joints, the grain, the beard—and do not say in our account of its nature that any of these things has pre-existence, or comes into being before the others, but that the power abiding in the seed is manifested in a certain natural order, not by any means that another nature is infused into it—in the same way we suppose the human germ to possess the potentiality of its nature, sown with it at the first start of its existence, and that it is unfolded and manifested by a natural sequence as it proceeds to its perfect state, not employing anything external to itself as a stepping-stone to perfection, but itself advancing its own self in due course to the perfect state; so that it is not true to say either that the soul exists before the body, or that the body exists without the soul, but that there is one beginning of both, which according to the heavenly view was laid as their foundation in the original will of God; according to the other, came into existence on the occasion of generation.
He says it, without surprise, far better than I ever did.

Friday, September 26, 2008

And I was just feeling sorry for myself this morning

Yeah, work is kicking my keester and I'm feeling perpetually further behind than I was the day before. But I've got nothing on this. 'Scuse me, I have to go admit that I've got it easy to a few people.

Ember days

If you, like me, have never heard of Ember Days you'll want to read this article at Rorate Caeli. It's a reprint of an article by Michael P. Foley from The Latin Mass Magazine. After reading it I feel, in a way, as if I've been robbed of some of my patrimony all these years. There is still too much of a "we threw everything out with Vatican II" attitude and all too often people glibly state that "we don't do that any more" neither knowing why we did it before nor why we do it now. History is a powerful teacher, if only you are willing to learn.

Update: I'm way behind (again) on my blog reading, or I'd have known to include a pointer to this post at NLM. So much about Ember Days I never knew, so much to have missed...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Signs and Mysteries

Okay, I admit it. When I saw this book on the list of possible books for review from Catholic Company I just about jumped out of my seat. I haven't met a book by Mike Aquilina yet that I haven't found both intellectually and spiritually stimulating. This one was no different.

It's a fairly slim volume, tipping the scales at 188 pages including references. A good number of these pages are accented by beautiful artwork by Lea Marie Ravotti; a book on symbols cannot survive without good artwork and this work does not disappoint. I've seen a couple of quibbles over the use of a relatively fine font combined with a medium brown ink. When I first opened the book I said, "oh yeah, I see what they're talking about". Then I started to read it. In the end analysis I'll say this: it may take a couple of pages to get used to it, but as long as you're not trying to read it by candle light by the time you're out of the Introduction you won't even notice it. And that's from someone who is destroying his eyesight by staring at a computer screen for eight to twelve hours a day for a living.

As important as the aesthetic of the book may be, without content it would be a niche intellectual object. Content, however, is not a problem for this book. In fact, I am in complete agreement with the author's plaintive cry in Chapter 1:

Few of us today, however, can even begin to understand the messages left for us by our ancestors. We have lost our Christian mother tongue - the code of the martyrs - and we are impoverished by the loss. They have become like hieroglyphics, a language that only academic specialists understand. What is worse is that we have forgotten how to think the way these distant ancestors thought, and this has rendered them even more remote from us. Their symbols seem incomprehensible now.

Yet delivering the message was, for them, clearly an urgent matter, a matter of ultimate consequence. To carve or paint or scratch these symbols, they burrowed into the ground and breathed foul air while laboring in dim lamplight. Our ancestors did this so that their message might reach us. We owe them at least the effort of a sympathetic study.

We do indeed, and this volume is an excellent start. By turns intellectual, historical, philosophical, academic and spiritual it lays out for us a world all together too many of us take for granted when we even acknowledge its existence at all. We have, by and large, lost the use of this language and that is only to our detriment.

I can say that within only a page or so of the first symbol explored in this book I was thinking "now there is something I can use with our RCIA class". The book is not so simple as to be redundant for all but the true patrologists out there, nor is it so complicated as to be over the heads of those with a thinner Christian formation. It is clear that Aquilina is not only comfortable with his subject matter but fluent in it. There is a point at which one becomes sufficiently steeped in a topic that conversing about it no longer requires complex explanations and stiff wording. No, in this topic the author is closer to conversational in tone which makes for a very comfortable reading even as the reader works his way from the author's words to a quote from a Church Father to a quote from the Bible and back again. It is a rare treat to read a book this informative that is simultaneously this fluid.

In my last review I said I was going to buy a copy of the book for myself since I had received an unbound galley copy; this copy was "the real thing". This time, though, I'm going one better than before. I'm not buying another copy for myself, I'm buying one for our RCIA director. If you know me, you know it's a rare thing indeed for me to buy a book for someone else; the last time I did that it was Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth so Mike Aquilina is in good company here. Does this mean I'd recommend this book to someone else? Absolutely, and for this price it's an absolute steal given how much you will learn. Buy it, read it, learn something about your faith. Then read it again and learn something else. Yeah, it's that kind of a book.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Signs and Mysteries-Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols .

40 Days for Life begins

For the first time since its inception, 40 Days for Life is in New Hampshire. Last night we held a kickoff rally outside the Planned Parenthood abortuary in Manchester. It was, in a word, powerful.

All told, I'd estimate around 60-70 people showed up - maybe more by the time things really got going. Before they rally started some people were handing out St. Michael the Archangel prayer cards (and how appropriate the line, "Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil", he who is ultimately behind this menace) and the Prayer for the Conversion of Abortionists by Fr. Frank Pavone. Things started shortly after with prayer and then witness from three different individuals, each with a different story. (Click on the picture for a larger version.)

The woman speaking in the above picture is the one who came to our parish this past weekend. She told of how she waited and prayed day after day for God to send someone to bring 40 Days for Life to New Hampshire (boy, that sounded familiar...) until finally one day she realized that just maybe God had put her in that place at that time for that very purpose. What a powerful reminder that each of us has an irreplaceable role to play in this world - one God has laid out for us that no one else can do.

The woman in the back whom you can just see holding flowers is a sidewalk counselor who came to speak to us from Massachusetts. Her message was simple - pray, and be a witness, because you never know who is watching or what will happen if you put yourself out there. And above all, trust in God even if you don't know how He is going to provide for you. She shared with us a few stories of times on the sidewalk when she had to step out in faith before she knew how things would work out and when she did God responded in a big and unforeseeable way.

The young man in the front of the truck spoke last, and his story was short but powerful. He is the father of a child aborted against his will. He told us of how when he called Planned Parenthood to ask them not to go through with the abortion he was told flatly that he had no rights in the matter and that's all there was to it. The dimming sunlight reflected off no small number of tears as he spoke.
One side of the crowd

The other side of the crowd
After the witnesses were given we, again, prayed some more. We then made a candle light procession in front of the abortuary, singing Amazing Grace, turned around at the Elm Street intersection and processed back to where we started again. We had time to briefly chat with some friends and acquaintances as sign up sheets were handed around for anyone who could commit to at least an hour's quiet, prayerful witness.

Yes, if you're curious, we did have one heckler yell out "choice!" as he drove by but, well, it took a minute to even figure out what he (yes, "he") said as he didn't make much of an attempt at either enunciating his opinion or even yelling in our direction. There were also a couple of girls in nurse outfits standing by the back of the abortuary using their cell phone cameras to record the procession as they laughed and giggled. I can only guess that they work there and have simply no idea what they are doing or the pain and harm they are causing. They were, in a way, among the first people to see the power of 40 Days for Life, even if they don't yet realize it. Those two young girls have never left my prayers from that moment on.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith

Sometimes I feel funny writing a review about books like thisthat have, to some extent, become a type of cultural icon. The then-Cardinal Ratzinger stepping out from behind a door, the Catechism in his hand and his now well-familiar understated smile on his face as the cover shot is now a familiar sight to many. It should come as no surprise that this book covers a wide variety of topics, spanning the range of pretty much every area of Catholic belief. As we continue further into the Benedictine Pontificate many of the topics he covers in this book and how they are covered become more well-known in general, although books like this are equally valuable for the insight into how the Pope both thinks now and has worked in thought through his life. I'd heartily recommend this book to anyone who is interested a not-too-deep but fairly broad insight into the thought of the man who would become Pope Benedict through the years.

Just because, and because it seems like this topic comes up now and again I thought I'd include his reflection on a topic that cannot help but be a hot-button. Even so, you notice right away the now-familiar combination of depth of knowledge, orthodoxy, and pastoral sensitivity - a combination we all would do well to emulate

Thus, for example, in the writings of William of Auvergne we find him making the distinction by which outward and inward communion are connected as are sign and reality. He then explains that the Church would never wish to deprive anyone of that inner communion. When she wields the sword of excommunication, then, according to him, this happens only in order to heal the spiritual communion with this medicine. He then adds a thought that is at the same time consoling and stimulating. He knows, he tells us, that for not a few people the burden of excommunication is as hard to bear as martyrdom. But, he says, very often a person makes more progress in patience and humility as an excommunicate than in the situation when he is outwardly in communion.
That deserves some not-inconsiderable chewing on. The man just makes you think - we are indeed blessed to have him as Pope.

One of the things I've long wanted to do...

...is teach my kids how to not only say the Rosary in Latin but to chant it as well. Hey, you know, in for a penny in for a pound and all. Well, with a hat tip to Rich Leonardi, I have a good start finally.

The simplicity of eloquence

Tolle, lege! Anything I'd say would just degrade it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Your friendly neighborhood reminder

Don't forget - the kickoff rally for 40 Days for Life is tomorrow, Tues., Sept. 23 at 6:30 in front of the Planned Parenthood on Pennacook Street (off of Elm Street) in Manchester. It is only through prayer and our faithful witness that we can turn the tide of this war of evil and help to bring about a culture of life throughout New Hampshire, throughout this country, and throughout this world. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Now this is how you do a vocations video

If more orders and indeed dioceses explained their role and goal with the combination of beauty and simplicity this video shows I cannot begin to imagine how many more vocations we would see. Yet again we see that those orders and dioceses who cling most closely to their original charism and the teachings of the Church are growing and thriving. H/T to Roman Catholic Vocations.