22 February 2010


Just a quick update for you all:

Tom and I have been in Rome for about a week now, and have enjoyed the cooler weather and fewer crowds that wintertime has allotted us.  Accomodations are also much cheaper--we've gotten away with a double room with private bathroom for $65/night, right next to the railway station.  My thoughts have been running to the vast differences between the Holy Land and Rome, the de facto Christian capital, and it is consoling to be here in this place where everything has the mark of Christendom upon it.  It feels like somewhat of a panacea for the possible complexes one might inherit from spending two and a half months in Israel.

Anyhow, these are thoughts that I'd like to develop when I have more time.  For now, it's off to the Pantheon!  Check back soon for more in-depth reflections on what it's been like overseas, as well as thoughts on Pope Benedict's Truth and Tolerance (in which he grapples with the question of world religions).


14 February 2010

Fun With Religion

You know, our religion can be kind of crazy sometimes:


A receptacle for such sacred objects as pieces of the true cross, short-ribs of the saints, the ears of Balaam's ass, the lung of the cock that called Peter to repentance and so forth. Reliquaries are commonly of metal, and provided with a lock to prevent the contents from coming out and performing miracles at unseasonable times. A feather from the wing of the Angel of the Annunciation once escaped during a sermon in Saint Peter's and so tickled the noses of the congregation that they woke and sneezed with great vehemence three times each. It is related in the "Gesta Sanctorum" that a sacristan in the Canterbury cathedral surprised the head of Saint Denis in the library. Reprimanded by its stern custodian, it explained that it was seeking a body of doctrine. This unseemly levity so raged the diocesan that the offender was publicly anathematized, thrown into the Stour and replaced by another head of Saint Denis, brought from Rome.

From Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary

Off to Rome!

11 February 2010

Day Sixty-Five

After a full morning of classes, we had the afternoon off until our appointment with the Latin Patriarch (a.k.a. Roman Catholic Archbishop) of Jerusalem. Unfortunately, he was whisked away to Rome, and this information was not made available to us until after we’d made our way through the freezing rain to the Patriarchate, just inside the Old City walls. Nevertheless, we had a chance to hear about what life is like for the local Church here on the ground from the lips of the chancellor, Monsignor William Chambly. We had a short Q&A and received many informative answers to our queries. As our short conversation made clear, it’s remarkable how the Church faces many of the same difficulties it does in the U.S. despite the disparity between the local culture and our own.

An example of this is priestly vocations. It has long been observed in the U.S. how priestly vocations are rare in more affluent societies; Israel is no exception. Of the 80 seminarians currently studying to become priests of this patriarchate, all but one come from Jordan or the West Bank—places where Catholics live as a tiny majority among a predominantly Muslim population in economically difficult circumstances. Israeli Christians tend to have greater financial security, and this seems to have caught the attention of young Catholic men here just as it has in our own land. Those that do not emigrate to find better opportunities abroad seem to be absorbed in whatever avenues of success are available to them here. The only Israeli seminarian is from Nazareth, and was just ordained a deacon December 18th in Beit Jala, just down the road from where we stayed in Bethlehem. Thanks be to God, the patriarchate has a relative abundance of vocations—80 seminarians from a Catholic population of around 80,000. For the sake of comparison, Chicago has about the same number of seminarians, but from a population of 2.5 million Catholics!

Our visit with the Chancellor provided us a bit more insight into the life of the Church here and now. Overall, the quality of the men and women of various religious and educational backgrounds who have come to speak with us has been extremely high. I’ve been impressed again and again by the level of commitment, insight, and breadth of knowledge they possess, and the nuance with which they articulate it. I suppose having the world’s attention on their every move does provide motivation to put their best foot forward.

09 February 2010


Well, I'm not exactly "keeping up" with this blog, but an interesting article presented itself this evening and it's worth reading:

Christopher Hitchens on the non-Muslim use of the word "Allah" for God:

I do enjoy his writing...