28 May 2009

In and Out

As the school year draws to a close, I'm preparing to leave for a Spanish immersion in Santa Ana, El Salvador. The next few days are going to be crazy as I throw the most crucial material supports to my life (clothing, books) into suitcases and the rest into unused rooms in my parents' house. Before the madness gets too overwhelming, I did take the chance to touch up some photos from our diocesan pilgrimage to the cathedral of St. Paul, MN to commemorate the end of the Holy Father's Year of St. Paul.

Pilgrimage to St. Paul, MN
(The photos look the nicest in the full-screen slideshow.)

We popped in to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Lacrosse, WI on the way back. It was a fine week, with much conversation and the honor of having our own Archbishop Naumann in company.

I had fun taking the photos, and have been learning about my camera as I prepare to do more serious traveling. I hope to continue posting to my blog while I'm out of the country, so check back periodically for pictures and stories.

vaya con dios

18 May 2009

Senior Moment

I found the following quote startlingly relevant:

It is said that Christianity, if it is to survive, must face the modern world, must come to terms with the way things are in the sense of the current drift of things. It is just the other way around: If we are to survive, we must face Christianity. The strongest reactionary force impeding progress is the cult of progress itself, which, cutting us off from our roots, makes growth impossible and choice unnecessary. We expire in the lazy, utterly helpless drift, the spongy warmth of an absolute uncertainty. Where nothing is even true, or right, or wring, there are no problems; where life is meaningless we are free from responsibility, the way a slave or scavenger is free. Futility breeds carelessness, against which stands the stark alternative: against the radical uncertainty by which modern man has lived—as in a game of Russian roulette, stifled in the careless ‘now’ between the click and the explosion, living by the dull grace of empty chambers—the risk of certainty.
John Senior
The Death of Christian Culture

17 May 2009

I Watched the President's Speech, and All I Got Was a Lousy Lecture

Am I the only one who grows uncomfortable when people in positions of power warn their opponents about the need to grow in humility?
Remember, too, that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It's the belief in things not seen. It's beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us. And those of us who believe must trust that His wisdom is greater than our own. And this doubt should not push us away from our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, cause us to be wary of too much self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open and curious and eager to continue the spiritual and moral debate that began for so many of you within the walls of Notre Dame.

This much is clear: President Obama has achieved a coup that we will be working to unravel for years to come. The country saw a rejuvenated portrait of dissenting Catholicism today, thanks to the poise and polish of Fr. Jenkins, the careful camera work, and the talking heads falling over themselves to get behind Obama and his brave new world. Even the President got caught up in the moment--though even as he held himself up as an examplar of fair-mindedness and aggrieved generosity ("I mean, look, I changed the wording on my
website ... and then said a prayer... "), his finger-wagging was clearly discernible beneath that diaphanous cloak of chameleon-skin.

One begins to wonder if even
he believes what he's saying.

And the real irony? Amidst the glamor and the high words and the hearts warm with pride and goodwill (isn't he wonderful? He
accepted the invitation!), no one thought it ridiculous that on the 55th anniversary of one of the most important Supreme Court decisions in favor of universal civil rights, an ideological lieutenant of a woman's right to choose--at the expense of all other rights--received an honorary degree at the hands of some of this nation's most prominent Catholics.

Shame, shame. For

16 May 2009

On the Proceedings in South Bend

My first response to the footage of the arrest of a priest and other peaceful protesters on the Notre Dame campus was embarassment ... couldn't they at least come up with a hymn that had a little more resonance with the public than "Immaculate Mary"? I mean, that means something to Catholics, but to the rest of the world it just looks like kookery. I felt bad about it, and all sorts of little voices started whispering about my apathy and lack of commitment over a tragic injustice. But it was just humiliating to watch those security personnel pick up a grown man, a priest, from the street, and haul him off for "trespassing."

And then it hit my why my sense of embarrassment wasn't entirely misplaced: through the camera lens and TV screen, I was eavesdropping on a private affair--a family affair. In a flood, the words of St. Paul washed over me:

When one of you has a grievance against a brother, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life! If then you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who are least esteemed by the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no man among you wise enough to decide between members of the brotherhood, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is defeat for you. (1 Cor 6:1-7).

Calling security personnel to haul away your brother in Christ? An elderly priest, no less?

Can this get any more ridiculous?

14 May 2009

Gathering Facts Without Abandoning Meaning

Their lives were too human for science, too beautiful for numbers, too sad for diagnosis and too immortal for bound journals.

There's a fascinating essay up on the Atlantic's website entitled "What Makes Us Happy?" It features a prominent behavioral scientist, Dr. George Vaillant, who has been the champion of a 72-year study on the lives of a group of 200 Harvard graduates. Known as a "longitudinal" approach, such studies select a relatively narrow segment of the population but track it over a much longer period of time--a sort of antithesis to the Gallup poll.

What I found so intriguing about the essay (and the man it featured) was that for all the empirical data, the lives of the men who were being studied had not been reduced to that data. It struck me as a good example of the sort of science that a Catholic Christian could embrace. There were no cries of exhaustive explanatory power for what constituted the fullness of human existence, nor declarations of the uselessness of all other approaches to understanding human beings. Just patient, intensely observant attention. Here was a man who seems to instantiate the openness to all the purview of reason, as described by Lewis, Chesterton, and more recently, Benedict (you can read more about their diagnosis of the contemporary self-limitation of reason here).

While there's no clear exposition of the philosophical outlook of study's champion, the tone I gathered was mostly favorable, and I would recommend reading the essay if you've got a half hour or so to spare.

Via Arts & Letters Daily.

11 May 2009

Of Virgins and Vikings

From a stirring passage in my current indulgence, The Master of Hestviken:

It is an easy matter, Olav, to be a good Christian so long as God asks no more of you than to hear sweet singing in Church, and to yield Him obedience while He caresses you with the hand of a father. But a man’s faith is put to the test on the day God’s will is not his. I will tell you what Bishop Torfinn said to me one day—it was of you and your suit we were speaking. ‘God grant,’ he said, ‘that he may learn to understand in time that whoso is minded to do as he himself wills will soon enough see the day when he will find he has done that which he had never willed.’

... and if one only hears bass guitar and synthesizers in Church, what then?