Wednesday, August 30, 2006

New vestment material arrived

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This is one of my upcoming projects. I ordered some new vestment material the other day (the rose and silver fabric pictured above). I was impressed with the quality of the material and the fast service of the seller Renaissance Fabrics.

I plan to use it along with some material I already have--the galloon and Roman purple Winchester patterned brocade pictured above, as well as a burgundy fabric for the orphreys (not pictured)--to make two Roman cut low mass sets of vestments. One chasuble will be purple and the other rose, both with the same orphreys, for use in Advent and Lent.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Kids pray the darndest things

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I've always been fascinated with misspoken prayers. Children often have the cutest ones. The other day, one little girl in church referred to me as "Father Napkin." As a child, I remember singing the camp song "Pray Zshee the Lord." Here are some other example of children's prayers.

"Give us this day our daily dread."

"And give us our press passes."

"And blessed is the fruit-of-the-loom, Jesus."

"O Lord, for give us n' hers."

And of course, sometimes a misspoken prayer really puts everything in perspective. One little girl prayed, "The Lord is my shepherd; that's all I want." Anyone heard any others?

Things may not go as planned

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Progress for the Pro-Life cause may have been dealt its most crippling blow so far with last week's unexpected decision by the FDA to approve the drug Levonorgestrel in a high-dose form called Plan B®. It has been common knowledge for some time that a high dose of hormonal birth control pills taken after sexual intercourse can prevent or stop pregnancy. However, this is the first time such a drug has been marketed as such--hence the name "Plan B."

The maufacturer puts a high dose of spin in its description of how the drug works. The website states:
Plan B® works like a regular birth control pill. It prevents pregnancy mainly by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary, and may also prevent the fertilization of an egg (the uniting of sperm with the egg). Plan B® may also work by preventing it from attaching to the uterus (womb). It is important to know that Plan B® will not affect a fertilized egg already attached to the uterus; it will not affect an existing pregnancy.

Plan B® is approved by the FDA and contains the hormone levonorgestrel, the same hormone in the birth control pills that healthcare professionals have been prescribing for more than 35 years. The difference is that Plan B® contains a larger dose of levonorgestrel than the amount found in a single birth control pill.

Remember that Plan B® is not RU-486 (the abortion pill). Because Plan B® is used to prevent an unplanned pregnancy, it will not work if you’re already pregnant. If you take Plan B® and are already pregnant, it will not affect your existing pregnancy.

The key sentence is, "Plan B® may also work by preventing it from attaching to the uterus (womb)." What is "it" in this sentence? "It" is a fertilized egg, a zygote, a human embyro, a conceived human being. And if "it" is prevented from attaching to the uterus, "it" "dies." What the description also fails to convey is that while this induced miscarriage is not the only way the drug can work, it is likely the main way that it will function. The window of time for preventing ovulation and later fertilization of the egg, plus the fact that for this method to apply the timing would have to be just right, make this function of the drug far less likely to occur in actual use.

The plan is currently for Plan B® to be available over the counter for adults and by prescription for teenage girls. A number of concerns have been articlated about its sociological effects. As teenagers have plenty of access to cigarettes and alchohol (not to mention illegal drugs), it is though that restricting the drug to prescription only for underage girls may not make that much difference. Especially when sexually active teens and adults keep the drug stocked.

Some of the health risks associated with birth control pills (life-threatening ectopic pregnancies, for instance) are a clear danger for some women with Plan B®, too. Also, some physicians are concerned about the long-term effects of this high-dosage birth control pill and others worry about their effect on adolescents and the fact that there are no constraints that would prevent repeated use of Plan B for "emergency contraception."

Access to the drug may be used to talk girls out of using condoms and thus increase the spread of STDs. Scotland and the United Kingdom have already discovered that STDs increased and abortions increased when Plan B® was made easily available. The availablility of Plan B® may also increase unwed sexual activity in general simpliy because we now have one more easy way to avoid the consequences of our actions. All of these problems were unintentional, but then, "things don't always go as planned."

And, of course, all this sets us further and further adrift from the idea that sex has anything to do with the worship of God and the conception of children.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Back to the doghouse

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If you don't clear your neighborhood, you just can't be a planet. It works on so many levels. The redefinition of "planet" last week by the International Astronomical Union states that a planet is a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, is in hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round shape) and has "cleared the neighborhood" around its orbit. This sends Pluto back to the doghouse.

Oddly, there was the possibility of keeping pluto and including three more celestial bodies in the list of planets in our solar system at the IAU conference. The matter came to a head with the need to categorize and name the recently-discovered trans-plutonic object 2003 UB313, which, being larger than Pluto, was thought to be equally deserving of the status of "planet". In its original form, the redefinition would have kept Pluto as a planet and recognized three new planets: Ceres--a large asteroid between Mars and Jupiter, Charon--a moon of Pluto or bi-planetary system, and 2003 UB313 (often called "Xena"). It was presumed that, after more observation and discussion, astronomers would accept more objects in the solar system as meeting the new definition. On August 22, however, the original redefinition (which recognized twelve solar system planets, including Pluto), was dealt a fatal blow in two open IAU meetings.

The final decision has been criticised for several reasons. First, the lead scientist on NASA's robotic mission to Pluto, Dr Alan Stern, contends that Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Neptune have also not fully "cleared their orbital zones" either. Earth orbits with 10,000 near-Earth asteroids. Jupiter, meanwhile, is accompanied by 100,000 Trojan asteroids on its orbital path. "If Neptune had cleared its zone, Pluto wouldn't be there," he added.

Second, many astronomers were unhappy that they were left out of the final discussion. The votes were cast on the last day of the Prague conference when many of the 2,500 attendants had already left. As only 424 voters participated it is debatable that this represents a consensus.

I wouldn't buy a new science textbook just yet.
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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

First class all the way

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This article was brought to my attention by a parishioner. Now I've seen it all.

ABILENE—On Sunday mornings, six-year-old Adrian Teller goes to Sunday school through a VIP entrance, avoiding the "cattle class" at the front desk. "It's worth the $15 per week," says mother Sandy Teller who has embraced Abilene Baptist Church's "First Class Kids" option.

The church is one of a handful to experiment with premium nurseries and Sunday school classes. Children in the First Class Kids program enjoy premium snacks, private bathrooms and personalized lessons. They are separated by a curtain from other children, to avoid causing jealousy. "People want choices of service," says pastor Ron Jacobs. "If we can offer 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. worship times, why not first class and economy class Sunday school?"

You can read the whole thing here. Of course, what I failed to mention is that it's another beautiful spoof from Lark News. Or is it? Some church's have become so commercialized, it's not quite so obvious what's real and what's a joke. I was listening to a radio advertisement for a church the other day. It wasn't until the end that I figured out it was a church. It sounded like some kind of amusement park or funland for kids. Here's a related story: "Man's prophetic actions offer lifestyle of fun."

It also made me think of a church that was being built close to my house last year. Driving past it, my wife and I said, "Oh look, we're going to have a new movie theatre closer to our house." I couldn't tell it was a church until they put a little cross up at the top one afternoon. I'm embarassed to say I was almost dissapointed. But I'm still not sure if I was dissapointed that it didn't look like a church, or that it wasn't a cinema. I know what the right answer is, just not the true answer.

On a related note, our parish secretary forwarded me this wonderful story with a similar theme, origin unknown.

I saw him in the church building for the first time on Wednesday. He was in his mid-70s, with thinning silver hair and a neat brown suit. Many times in the past I had invited him to come. Several other Christian friends had talked to him about the Lord and had tried to share the good news with him. He was a well-respected, honest man with so many characteristics a Christian should have, but he had never put on Christ, nor entered the doors of the church.

"Have you ever been to a church service in your life?" I had asked him a few years ago. We had just finished a pleasant day of visiting and talking. He hesitated. Then with a bitter smile he told me of his childhood experience some fifty years ago. He was one of many children in a large impoverished family. His parents had struggled to provide food, with little left for housing and clothing. When he was about ten, some neighbors invited him to worship with them. The Sunday School class had been very exciting! He had never heard such songs and stories before! He had never heard anyone read from the Bible! After class was the teacher took him aside and said, "Son, please don't come again dressed as you are now. We want to look our best when we come into God's house." He stood in his ragged, unpatched overalls. Then looking at his dirty bare feet, he answered softly, "No, ma'am, I won't ever."

"And I never did," he said, abruptly ending our conversation.

There must have been other factors to have hardened him so, but this experience formed a significant part of the bitterness in his heart. I'm sure that Sunday School teacher meant well. But did she really understand the love of Christ? Had she studied and accepted the teachings found in the second chapter of James? What if she had put her arms around the dirty, ragged little boy and said, "Son, I am so glad you are here, and I hope you will come every chance you get to hear more about Jesus." I reflected on the awesome responsibility a teacher or pastor or a parent has to welcome little ones in His name. How far reaching her influence was! I prayed that I might be ever open to the tenderness of a child's heart, and that I might never fail to see beyond the appearance and behavior of a child to the eternal possibilities within.Yes, I saw him in the church house for the first time on Wednesday. As I looked at that immaculately dressed old gentleman lying in his casket, I thought of the little boy of long ago. I could almost hear him say, "No, ma'am, I won't ever."

And I wept.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Survey says . . .

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Christ Church in Plano TX has posted the results of their Congregational Life Survey online. It is worth a look. I always find it interesting how the actual data compares to uneducated guesses. I found a few suprises. Here's one example (I'd have thought the second and last response would be higher):

25. Before you started coming here, what type of congregation did you attend? (Mark only one.)
<1% Assembly of God
8% Baptist
16% Catholic
44% Episcopal
5% Lutheran
7% Methodist
<1% Nazarene
7% Non-denominational
<1% Pentacostal
3% Presbyterian
0% Seventh-day Adventist
<1% United Church of Christ
3% Other
6% I did not attend another congregation before coming here

Friday, August 18, 2006

It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time!!!

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If you are in need of a little time-out, listen to the song by the Buckwheat Boys here. The version from the Family Guy is here.

To put your high-tech computer to more good use, check out
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My regular cheese intake

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It seems that my regular cheese intake will have to go up this weekend. Between the debut of Snakes on a Plane in a theatre near you this Friday and the Comedy Central roast of William Shatner on Sunday, it should be a pretty cheesy weekend.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mary's tomb, a place of grace

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The Tomb of Virgin Mary lies at the bottom of the Mount of Olives at Gethsemane. This is considered to be the site where the Virgin Mary was laid to rest upon her death. The church, together with the Crypt cut into the live rock, is known as the Church of the Assumption and was first constructed in the Byzantine period (fifth century). It was rebuilt in 1130 by the Crusaders and since then it has been shared by Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, Copts and Muslims.
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Homily on the Dormition by John Damascene

Your holy and all-virginal body was consigned to a holy tomb, while the angels went before it, accompanied it, and followed it; for what would they not do to serve the Mother of their Lord?
Meanwhile, the apostles and the whole assembly of the Church sang divine hymns and struck the lyre of the Spirit: "We shall be filled with the blessings of your house; your temple is holy; won­drous injustice" (Ps 65:4). And again: "The Most High has sancti­fied his dwelling" (Ps 46:5); "God's mountain, rich mountain, the mountain in which God has been pleased to dwell" (Ps 68:16—17).
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The assembly of apostles carried you, the Lord God's true Ark, as once the priests carried the symbolic ark, on their shoulders. They laid you in the tomb, through which, as if through the Jordan, they will conduct you to the promised land, that is to say, the Jerusalem above, mother of all the faithful, whose architect and builder is God. Your soul did not descend to Hades, neither did your flesh see cor­ruption. Your virginal and uncontaminated body was not abandoned in the earth, but you are transferred into the royal dwelling of heaven, you, the Queen, the sovereign, the Lady, God's Mother, the true God-bearer.

O, how did heaven receive her, who surpasses the wideness of the heavens? How is it possible that the tomb should contain the dwell­ing place of God? And yet it received and held it. For she was not wider than heaven in her bodily dimensions; indeed, how could a body three cubits long, which is always growing thinner, be com­pared with the breadth and length of the sky? Rather it is through grace that she surpassed the limits of every height and depth. The Divinity does not admit of comparison.
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O holy tomb, awesome, venerable, and adorable! Even now the angels continue to venerate you, standing by with great respect and fear, while the devils shrink in horror. With faith, men make haste to render you honor, to adore you, to salute you with their eyes, with their lips, and with the affection of their souls, in order to obtain an abundance of blessings.

A precious ointment, when it is poured out upon the garments or in any place and then taken away, leaves traces of its fragrance even after evaporating. In the same way your body, holy and perfect, im­pregnated with divine perfume and abundant spring of grace, this body which had been laid in the tomb, when it was taken out and transferred to a better and more elevated place, did not leave the tomb bereft of honor but left behind a divine fragrance and grace, making it a wellspring of healing and a source of every blessing for those who approach it with faith.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Assumptiontide traditions

From Angelqueen:

The Feast of the Assumption, known in the Eastern church as the "Falling Asleep of the All Holy Mother of God" (or Dormition), marks one of the defined dogmas of the church. Feast Day Cookbook describes the charming customs from so many countries surrounding this day, including Poland, Italy, Portugal and France.

The great feast of this month is that of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin — the Day of the Great Lady, as it is called by a saint whose feast also comes in August: Stephen, the first king of Hungary. In the Orthodox Church the feast is known as the Falling Asleep of the All Holy Mother of God.

This is not only Mary's greatest festival, but one of her oldest, for belief that she was taken up bodily into heaven after her death goes back to the early Christian ages, even though only recently has it been defined as a dogma of faith. "How shall Paradise not take her up who brought life to all mankind?" asks Saint Augustine, speaking of it as an accepted belief in his day.

Everywhere the day has its charming customs. In Eastern countries all women bearing the name of Mary, or a name derived from one of her attributes, keep open house in Our Lady's honor and welcome all who come.

In Poland the day is known as the Feast of Our Lady of Herbs, for the peasants take to church sweet-smelling bouquets of their finest blossoms mixed with the green of herbs. And Poles in America also honor the feast as that of Our Lady of Flowers; at church children sing hymns both in Polish and English, and later to the lively music of a polonaise the grown-ups swing into the dances of their motherland.

In many parts of Italy, the statue of Our Lady is carried in procession through the streets to the cathedral or church. And in Siena there takes place a noted race called the Palio (Standard) in honor of the Assumption of the Virgin. This race is held in the splendid public square of the city, shaped like a scallop shell and surrounded by ancient and beautiful buildings draped with banners for the occasion. Each ward or parish sends to the race a horse, which is first taken past the cathedral door to receive the bishop's blessing. The medieval costumes of the pages and grooms, of the captain and standard bearers, the furious race of the bareback riders around the stone-paved square, the crowds of onlookers from adjoining streets and balconies, make of this a memorable occasion. The winning parish or ward carries on a celebration after the race. Scaloppine al Marsala is the appropriate dish for Italians.

In Portugal the Romeria, as the festival held on the Assumption is called, is marked with the playing of a brass band and of drums and bagpipes. And the statues of Mary, Queen of the Angels, are crowned in the churches.

In Armenia there is the Blessing of the Grapes on the Sunday nearest the feast of the Assumption. Great trays of the fruit are brought into the churches, and after they are blessed each member of the congregation carries a bunch home. Feasts are held in the vineyards, and at this time the first grapes of the season are eaten.

In France August 15th is in general a day for parties and excursions into the country. At Quimper in Brittany, there is held the Feast of the Soul, dedicated to Mary as the great consoler. It is here considered a day for betrothals, when young men and women come to ask her blessing on their future. The image of the Virgin is placed at the church door during the day, and at night carried into the village square, later to be returned in procession to her shrine. Then to the light of bonfires and the music of bagpipes, the young people dance and make merry. A Quimper specialty is Crevettes à la Béchamel (Shrimps with Bechamel Sauce).

A day of hope

The message of the feast of the Assumption of St. Mary the Virgin is that Christ's empty tomb is the promise--even now being fulfilled among us--that all of us who have him as our Savior will also have empty tombs.

"The Almighty has done great things for me; and holy is his Name." --Mary of Nazareth
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O God, who hast taken to thyself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of thy incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of thine eternal kingdom; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

For more on the commemoration, see Father Clifford Stevens' article "The Assumption of Mary: A belief since apostolic times" from the July-August 1996 issue of Catholic Heritage.

Tree of living water

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SAN ANTONIO—Is it an artesian spring, a broken water pipe or an abandoned well? Lucille Pope's red oak tree has gurgled water for about three months, and experts can't seem to get to the root of the problem.

Pope, 65, has sought answers from the Texas Forest Service, the Edwards Aquifer Authority and nurseries. They have taken pictures and conducted studies, but nobody has a firm answer.

"I got a mystery tree," Pope said in Friday editions of the San Antonio-Express News. "What kind of mystery do I have where water comes out of a tree?"

Her son, Lloyd, 47, discovered water leaking from the tree in April. He said it was cool, like it came from the tap. The only damp spot around the tree trunk is where the water lands.

You can read the rest of the story here. And you can find more here.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The seminarian Hall of Fame

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Jonathan Myrick Daniels has been held dear in the heart of Episcopal seminarians (particularly of the Anglo-Catholic stripe). He found faith at one of "our" parishes--the Church of the Advent in Boston. Then he decided to commit his life to the Lord in offering to serve in the priesthood. Then came his ministry project as a seminarian--his own martyrdom.

Daniels answered the call of Martin Luther King Jr. to come march in Alabama for civil rights in 1965. He returned to Selma to continue the work by helping assemble a list of federal, state, and local agencies that could provide assistance to those in need. He also tutored children, helped poor locals apply for aid, and worked to register voters. Daniels also devoted himself to integrating the local Episcopal parish, taking groups of young blacks to the church, where they were usually ignored or mistreated.

He was arrested on August 13th in Hayneville and held for six days. After being released without explanation, Daniels when with some companions get a cold soft drink at Varner's Cash Store (one of the few which served blacks). They were met on the front steps by an unemployed highway construction worker, Tom Coleman, who was wielding a shotgun. The man threatened the group, and finally leveled his gun at a sixteen-year-old girl named Ruby Sales. Daniels pushed Sales out of the way and caught the full blast of the gun. He was killed instantly.

Sales was so traumatized by Daniels' shooting that she was unable to properly speak for the next seven months. Despite death threats made to her and her family, she resolved to testify at Tom Coleman's trial. Sadly, Coleman was acquitted by a jury of twelve white men, on the grounds of "self-defense" because he said he saw Daniels with a knife. The murder of an educated, white, priest-in-training who was defending an unarmed teenage girl helped shock the Episcopal Church into facing the reality of racial inequality that it had tacitly participated in and continued. Daniels' death helped put civil rights on the map as a goal for the church as a whole, and reminded many upperclass white Episcopalians that this struggle was not nearly so distant as they had imagined it to be.

The environment in which Daniels surrendered his life sounds like another world to me. I have never seen a water fountain that said "White Only" or "Colored Only." Daniels is a reminder to me that things were once very different--but that even extreme change is possible through the force of moral courage. It reminds me that doing the right thing can be very costly. It reminds me that it is when we are at our weakest, that we can most effective draw upon the Lord's strength.

Daniels' papers reveal his strong personal faith and his sense of mission. He was devoted to Our Lady, who surely prayed for him in the hour of his death. Referring to singing the Magnificat at Evensong, he once wrote, "I knew [then] that I must go to Selma. The Virgin's song was to grow more and more dear to me in the weeks ahead." At another time, shortly before his death, he wrote, "The faith with which I went to Selma has not changed; it has grown. I lost fear in the black belt when I began to know in my bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord's death and Resurrection, that in the only sense that really matters I am already dead, and my life is hid with Christ in God."

When he heard of the tragedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "One of the most heroic Christian deeds of which I have heard in my entire ministry was performed by Jonathan Daniels. Certainly there are no incidents more beautiful in the annals of church history, and though we are grieved at this time, our grief should give way to a sense of Christian honor and nobility."

What is inclusive religion?

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I have come across a myriad of essays, advertisements, and blog postings identifying their church as being an inclusive congregation. There is even an Anglican website devoted to the topic. What does it mean to identify as "inclusive"? The website just mentioned puts it this way: "We have a vision of a liberal, open church which is inclusive of all, regardless of race, gender, or sexuality."

Of course the item that really makes the difference in applying the label is the church's teaching on homosexual behavior. A congregation or denomination that heartily welcomed everyone, regardless of race, sex, or sexual orientation and that also faithfully taught that sexual intimacy only belongs in marriage (between a man and woman) would not be labeled "inclusive."

However, I would suggest that such a congregation or denomination is the only kind of church that truly is inclusive. The mission of the church is to expand the fellowship between people and God--to call them to repentance, to be a hospital for sinners, to administer God's grace, and to teach the faith. In an eternal perspective, we might say that the church's mission is to help include all of us in heaven.

Yet, is a church which teaches that some behavior is holy rather than sinful really being inclusive? For it would be a church which keeps people from repentance, a church that misdiagnoses and dismisses the sick and wounded, a church that witholds God's grace of absolution, and a church that is deceptive when it comes to teaching the faith. Could you even say that those churches which label themselves as "inclusive" are in reality going out of their way to exclude real people from God's grace and fellowship? That would be tragic.

Bringing us all together

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It isn't often that liberals and conservatives are agreeing with Jerry Falwell, so I'm surprised that I missed this story from last year. The Human Rights Campaign applauded Falwell for his comments on MSNBC.

“Civil rights for all Americans, black, white, red, yellow, the rich, poor, young, old, gay, straight, et cetera, is not a liberal or conservative value,” Falwell went on to say. “It’s an American value that I would think that we pretty much all agree on.”

Saturday, August 12, 2006

And they say the golden age of television is over

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You can catch Squidbillies on Adult Swim (the Cartoon Network).

Here's a hint . . .

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I've heard that the fundraising for the building campaign of the new Cathedral of Hope in Dallas has been dragging a little bit. They can't figure out why. Here's a hint: Who would want to donate their hard-earned money to build a church that looks like it belongs on an episode of the Flintstones?

Romanism: the pre-conciliar curial mentality

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I am currently reading through The Pilgrim: Pope Paul VI, the Council, & the Church in a Time of Decision by Dr. Malachi Martin (published after the second session of Vatican II in 1964 under the pseudonym Michael Serafian). I have come across many interesting passages so far. It is no secret that Martin, the traditionalist, was a revisionary liberal back in those days (as was Josef Ratzinger). Their liberalism, of course, was not without reason. I thought I would share one passage (pp 13-16) which described "what it was like," for those of us who were not there or did not know.

Much has been written and said of a denigratory nature about the Curial mentality, mainly by people who do not know what the Curia is. It is impossible it is said that the majority of these Churchmen are in bad faith and are not acting from true zeal. If the contrary were true, a normal law for the conduct of human relations would no longer hold true.

The truth and reality are quite different, and more ghastly. The majority of these men are convinced "conservatives." There is no question of bad faith or viciousness on their part. It is a question of human blindness and historical ignorance. The mentality is somewhat as follows: As regards the Church: The Church consisting of Pope, Curia, bishops and religious orders, is there be divine appointment to take care of the people who belong to the Church. The Vatican Congregations, especially the Holy Office, are the organs of the Holy Father, and they share, therefore, his infallibility. The pillars of this Church are her universal canon law, her universal language—Latin. Since the first Vatican Council (1869) there is no further need for ecumenical councils; the Pope can decide for himself what is best for the Church. Collegiality is not based either on Scripture or Tradition. As regards those who belong to other Christian denominations: they are in grave error; they have but one alternative, namely, to renounce their errors and return to the fold of Peter. Submission is the condition for admission. Humility precedes unity. As regards other religions in general, whether Christian or non-Christian, error has no rights, and the erring person is in an inferior position.

As regards the State: the ideal arrangement is a state which acknowledges the Roman Catholic Church as the true Church, a confessional state. In the concrete order, the Church must tem­porize, but her doctrine remains intact and inviolate. As regards the Jews: the latter were guilty of crucifying God, and God put a curse on them for all time. Their sufferings and misery through the ages are but a divine recompense for their initial error and refusal to accept Christianity. As regards the Bible: modern attempts to interpret it in the light of archaeology, the literature, the languages, the culture, the civilization, the psychology of ancient peoples are tendentious, false, and lead to error.

With a sheaf of such principles in hand, there would be no difficulty in condemning anyone who appeared to err. And a denial of a fair hearing or trial or, indeed, of any word but that of condemnation, is logical, can even be holy. The refusal to go halfway to meet non-Catholic Christian brethren can be abso­lutely justified: return and submission are first required. It would be absolutely obligatory to ally oneself with the traditional, right-wing political forces in any given county. The reason: the latter hold out hope of a return of the confessional state, and error must be combatted by all good means.

Finally, this Curial mentality would and does inevitably lead to a frozen historical ghetto outlook which promotes increasingly a sense of irrelevancy and indifferentism. The whole affair of religion just does not seem to matter or be relevant to a world trying to solve concrete problems and which has been offered such ill-adopted instruments for this purpose. There is, finally, a kind of aura of glory around the Vatican administrative centre, a mystique of history, a feeling of timelessness, of continuity with past generations of two thousand years, of immediate relationship to countless generations to corne. This is the glowing heart of romanismus.

We must remember that the all-important Congregations which we have been discussing (in addition to others) are the product of the Tridentine and post-Tridentine period; they were and are the answer of the juridical, Roman mind to the onslaughts of the Reformers; they are also, in part, the answer of the same men­tality to the problem of grappling with the modern age ushered in by the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. Thus, the Holy Office was founded on July 21, 1542 by Paul III, and its procedures have remained the same since that date. The Consistorial was founded in 1591 by Gregory XIV. The Council on August 2, 1564, by Pius IV, the Seminaries and Universities in 1588 by Sixtus V, the Extraordinary Affairs in 1793 by Pius VI. This last owed its origin to the Vatican's difficulties with Revolu­tionary France. The Propagation of the Faith was established in July 1568 by Pius V, the Oriental in 1862 by Pius IX (by detach­ing a section from the Propagation of the Faith). The Secretariat of State dates from the time of Martin V (1417-1431).

Small wonder that the traditions, customs, and mentality of these institutions have hardly changed and hardly befit the modern conditions of the Church. Originally Italianate in membership and outlook, they were and are also Romanist in the full sense of the void. "Qui pensiamo in secoli" is an oft-repeated phrase in the corridors and offices of the Roman dicasteries ("We think in terms of centuries"). The Eternal City.

We are here at grips with a true mystique, a group mentality that has never found adequate expression but which nevertheless is part of the very atmosphere in which Romans live, work and die. Rome overflows its Seven Hills, piling up layers of eternity ind of time on top of each other, still refusing to be identified with any one epoch or period or culture. It stands apart even from the bones, marrow, essence of the ecclesial group to whom Christ promised eternity in time, His Church. Indeed this Church, the living organism that weaves dry dogma, dusty scholarship, imperious clericalism, prescribed rites, institutionalized sanctity, sinners, saints, all into one pulsating living thing, the Church, is not seen in Rome, nor is the glowing centre of the Roman men­tality. If Christ came back as He was two thousand years ago, He would not be at home here; He spoke no Latin; He did not wear satin slippers. And this is admitted by these Roman minds. No, the mystique is as much that of the Roman Emperors as of Roman bishops, as much the elegance of Roman Diana as the supernatural beauty ascribed to the Virgin. And when Greek hymns, Coptic songs, or Latin chants swell up beneath the span­ning arch of the Roman basilica, it is impossible to hear the melodies of Moses and Miriam, the Voice of Yahweh on Sinai, or the gentle tones of the Sermon on the Mount. For Romanism is a human expression of an historical garb the Message has assumed. The essential lines of that garment are divinely ordained: Peter is to have successors in perpetuity, the priest is to consecrate, minister, the bishop to rule, the faith to be kept alive, the moral rule to be observed intact.
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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Marital artifacts

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We can all tell when our spouse has been somewhere when you see that things have been moved or adjusted, the screen-saver has been changed, or things were left behind. It's very comforting. I can always tell when my wife has been somewhere because there will be beautiful little doodles and half-finished drawings like this one that I found recently.

This is the strangest thing ever

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As I was searching the internet for a picture of Bishop Atkins, I came across one of the weirdest websites out there called "Woman, thou art God" (some pictures on the site are not family-friendly, so I will not link to it). It is the website of Rasa von Werder, aka Kellie Everts--former Miss Nude Universe and "Stripper for God." Now that's strange enough all by itself, but it gets weirder. The description of her is as follows:

She is an instrument of God who seeks God above all things, and has received many graces from; Jesus, Mary, and the Holy Spirit. Some of her amazing graces are: Mystical Marriage with God, Seeing God Face to Face (twice!), and The Interior Divine Stigmata. She understands both Christianity and Yoga. Her Mission is sent by God to empower women, and to restore the worship of God as Mother.

Perhaps by now, you are thinking, "Yes, that is a bit unusual." Wait; there's more . . . much, much more. She has an extensive diary, chronicling (among other things) her face-to-face encounter with God, preaching the message of Fatima, and her gay-curing bilocation in the 1970s. While she describes herself as an "Unwashed Pagan Woman" and commends worship of the universe as "Mothergod--the second Person of the Trinity", we are told that:

Helping Souls in Purgatory is perhaps the greatest mission of Rasa Von Werder; the touchstone of her entire mystical life. She can judge how her inner antennas are working by whether or not she is communicating with them. There is an urgent need today to preach Souls in Purgatory, because the Catholic Church, traditionally their spokesman, has lain down on the job. Helping these souls is the greatest act of charity there is--and we benefit as much from this as they do. Greater rewards come from helping them than from any other action. The three things that they need are Masses, prayers, and voluntary hardships and sufferings for them.

It is reported (by Rasa) that Rasa has helped over 100 souls in purgatory ascend to heaven, including a few well known people, such as: George C. Scott, Elvis Presley, Timothy McVeigh, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Errol Flynn.

I can't go on. It's too weird.

To behold the King in his beauty

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In light of the Transfiguration theme of beholding the King in his beauty:

The Nashotah House promotional video from the 1980s closed with the acting Dean--the late Bishop Stanley Atkins of Eau Claire, Wisconsin--discussing the reason for the deliberate cultivation of beauty in the worship life of the seminary. He put it in a way that I shall never forget.

"Worship--beautiful worship--has access to the human soul which is not open to discursive reason."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Footnotes or endnotes?

I used to like endnotes better than footnotes. I liked having the page clean. Sometimes those footnotes could take up more than half the page in some academic works. Endnotes collects them all at the back of the book (or sometimes at the back of the chapter).

However, nowadays I think I like footnotes better. Sometimes the page may seem more cluttered, but that's part of the charm. I especially like when the notes are done by symbols rather than numbers. My favorite kind of footnotes are explanatory, which I would often miss when they were collected at the end.

The light of Tabor

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The transfiguration is a feast which originated in the Eastern Church, becoming widely observed by the end of the first millennium. From there it spread to the Western Church until it was universally established by Pope Callistus III to mark the deliverance from the Turks at Belgrade on August 6, 1456.

In the Eastern mystical tradition, the image of the transfiguration of Jesus upon the holy mountain is invoked by the phrase, “the light of Tabor.” Encountering the “light of Tabor” became synonymous with the deepest experience of God which completely transforms our being after “climbing the mountain”—after our spiritual pilgrimage.

Climbing the mountain is about intentionally drawing closer to God. Climbing the mountain means going out of your way to find God. Climbing the mountain means finding a sacred space to hear God. And yet how many people stop in the foothills, refusing Jesus’ request to go up any further.

Some people are afraid of what they may find at the top. Some people won’t venture onto the mountain because they have heard the might find God there. Some people are afraid to go onto the mountain because they don’t want to be different when they come back down.

For Peter, James, and John, it was a defining moment. Whether they were reluctant to go up or not, there they were. And what they saw was this: Jesus’ face began to shine like the sun. I’m sure these three apostles, with this unique experience, had a different way of seeing things than the rest of us. It occurred to me that perhaps that unique vision is evident in the scriptures.

Of course, St John often uses the language of God’s light to talk about Jesus. At the beginning of John’s gospel, we can see the insight he gain from the mountain. He wrote, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world . . . And the Word became flesh and tabernacle among us. And we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:9,14)

John wrote much more about the light of Christ and Christian believers. In his apocalypse, he explained that in the New Jerusalem, with beatific vision, Jesus’ disciples will also “see his face,
and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever”
(Rev 22:4).

Perhaps we see the Transfiguration experience reflected in James’ letter also. While writing mostly about moral behavior, James makes an interesting theological reference at one point. He says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Jas 1:17). It is a cloudy verse in James, but perhaps not when illumined by the light of Tabor. James knows the faith because he has seen it--Jesus, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. Like John, James saw the shining face of Christ, and he heard the voice--“this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

And what of Peter? Writing from a Roman prison near the end of his life, he speaks of us being called by Christ into his glory, about becoming partakers of the divine nature, and he writes about the brilliance of the gospel, shining as a lamp in a dark place. St. Peter wrote from experience when he noted in his second letter, “We did not follow cleverly disguised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were witnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Pet 1:16-18).

The lives of Peter, James, and John were shaped and guided by the light they saw on Mount Tabor. And one other apostle’s life was changed by seeing that light. Saul of Tarsus was not headed up a mountain to pray, he was headed to Damascus to persecute the Church and kill Christians. And yet he was knocked off his horse along the way by the vision of the Transfigured Christ, speaking to him, saying, “Why are you persecuting me.” Saul was stuck blind by that light until he went to the Church to find healing.

Saul, whom we know as St Paul, spent the rest of his life trying to share with others the glory of that light he saw in Christ. Should we not labor to do the same? He knew personally the power of Christ’s light to change lives. He wrote in his second letter to the Church at Corinth about the transforming power of Christ’s light.

“Since we have such a hope, we should speak all the more boldly, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face that the Israelites might not look upon the outcome of that which has been completed . . . through Christ, the veil is taken away . . . And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transfigured into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:12,14,18).
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Saturday, August 05, 2006

The audience is listening

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As my wife would say, I'm "geeking pretty hard" with this entry. I was first exposed to a THX-certified cinema and the original THX trailer, called "Broadway," in 1989 at an ACT III theatre in Lynnwood, WA. THX is a quality control certification for sound recording and reproduction. As noted on

Before launching the company in 1983, THX executives decided to leverage their wealth of creative talent and resources at Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Ranch to develop a promotional trailer. However, the company was looking for something that would be more than just another corporate logo flashing on the screen. "The first THX trailer had to deliver a sound and visual experience that left an impression on the audience, getting them primed for the feature presentation and making them realize that they weren't in just any typical movie theater," said John Dahl, product line director and resident historian at THX Ltd.

It was neat to work in the projection booth at a cinema with two certified screens in college. My favorite THX trailer is called "Cimarron." It's the one that starts with a conductors baton, then proceeds through warp space along red beams of light, culminating in a fly-over of the logo with the "Deep Note" sound. Here's more from Wikipedia:

"Deep Note" is the name of THX's audio logo, a distinctive synthesized crescendo sound. It was created by Dr. James "Andy" Moorer in 1982, then an employee of the Lucasfilm Computer Division. The sound is used on trailers for THX-certified movie theatres and video releases. The sound is a registered US trademark (serial number 74309951). The registration contains the following description of the sound:

"The THX logo theme consists of 30 voices over seven measures, starting in a narrow range, 200 to 400 Hz, and slowly diverting to preselected pitches encompassing three octaves. The 30 voices begin at pitches between 200 Hz and 400 Hz and arrive at pre-selected pitches spanning three octaves by the fourth measure. The highest pitch is slightly detuned while there are double the number of voices of the lowest two pitches.

Dr. Moorer has been quoted as saying, "I like to say that the THX sound is the most widely-recognized piece of computer-generated music in the world. This may or may not be true, but it sounds cool!"

You can read the full story on the sound here. You can view some of the movie trailers here.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Truth in advertising?

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The original story is here. Generate your own church sign here.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

"Keep the faith!"

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The Rt. Rev'd Michael J. Curry of North Carolina gave a stirring sermon in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco at the investiture of the Rt. Rev'd Mark Andrus as the new bishop of California. It is worth a listen. Though considering the context, I think I'd have said, "Come back to the faith!"

There's something about Pennsylvania

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Eight women ordained to the priesthood by womenbishops (left).
One of the protesters along the river's shore in Pittsburgh (right).

In the Episcopal Church, it was the "Philadelphia Eleven"--a group of women who were illegally ordained on 29 July 1974 at the Church of the Advocate. On 31 July 2006, eight women were illegally ordained Roman Catholic priests while cruising Pittsburgh's three rivers. The difference in the consequences of these two actions is that the Episcopalian women of 1974 were inhibited (the ordinations were later "regularized in 1976), while the Roman Catholic women of 2006 have incurred automatic excommunication.

This is the fourth such Catholic group ordained worldwide since 2002, and the first in the United States. . . . Dagmar Celeste, a former first lady of Ohio who was among the group's first ordinands in 2002, said, "Today we give honor to our mother God . . . Just as the water broke in the wombs of our mother, so we open the waters of mother church."

Rocco Palmo noted the event here at Whispers in the Loggia. The report from Ann Rodgers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (which includes a video report) is here. The website of Roman Catholic Womenpriests, the organization which is sponsoring the ordinations, is here. Also, Salon has a bit of the back story here.

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The fictional Fathers Ted Crilly and Dougal McGuire join the protest. Fr. Ted's partially obscured sign says, "Down with this sort of thing."

The best directory photo ever

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We're in the process of finalizing our new parish directory here at St. Alban's. Now most people hate having their picture taken. This family decided to take an ordeal and try to have some fun. The kids really seem to be having fun with it. It's easy enough to figure out that one of the parents in this photo is our youth director. What's not so apparent is that the other is our parish chancellor (and word is that the mustaches were his idea).

A confession

I still can't remember if it's labtop or laptop. Of course, I don't own either.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Looking at the 3:16s

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The building where I went to kindergarten was originally constructed to be Dodd College (for women), named after the Rev'd Dr. M. E. Dodd, longtime voice of the Baptist Hour and pastor of First Baptist Church, Shreveport, LA. The college didn't work out, but the building and grounds were later used for the new campus of the First Baptist Church and School.

Dodd chaired the committee that in 1925 recommended creation of the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention. Billy Graham said, "Dr. M.E. Dodd . . . was one of the greats, not only to Southern Baptists, but to the church at large during the last generation. He had a profound influence on the lives of young ministers." Dodd was a great orator, but also had his share of embarassing things to say.

Several of his sermon series were collected into books. The text of one, called Baptist Principles and Practices, is available online. When I was at Baylor, I was looking at another (I can't remember the title) in the Moody Memorial Library one day about the "3:16s of the New Testament." The first verse of scripture that many of us memorized was John 3:16--a gem, both theologically and linguistically. Moody pointed out that, by coincidence, the other 3:16s of the New Testament are preaching gems as well. What do you think? Here they are:

Matthew 3:16
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him

Mark 3:16
He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter)

Luke 3:16
John answered them all, saying, "I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Acts 3:16
And his name--by faith in his name--has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

Romans 3:16 [from a quote about the unrighteous]
in their paths are ruin and misery

1 Corinthians 3:16
Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?

2 Corinthians 3:16
But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Galatians 3:16
Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "And to offsprings," referring to many, but referring to one, "And to your offspring," who is Christ.

Ephesians 3:16
that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being

Philippians 3:16
Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

2 Thessalonians 3: 16
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

1 Timothy 3:16
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness

Hebrews 3:16
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses?

James 3:16
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

1 Peter 3:16 [in reference to defending your beliefs]
yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

2 Peter 3:16 [in reference to St. Paul]
as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

1 John 3:16
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

Revelation 3:16
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Today's vocabulary lessons

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Here are the literal definitions of some commonly misunderstood words about marriage and sexual ethics that I come across.

adultery = corruption of the marriage bed or the matrimonial agreement, from the Latin for "corruption."

annulment = a declaration that no true marriage exists (usually because there was some fraud, coersion, or impediment that made it impossible to freely contract marriage in the first place).

bigamy = being married to two people at the same time. Technically, it would mean the crime of attempting to contract a second marriage, since only the first one would be legally valid.

bride = a woman who is married or is soon to be married.

bridegroom = the bride's man (i.e., that she just married or is about to marry).

celibacy = the unmarried state (or what we usually call "being single"). Morally, it implies virginity, but not linguistically.

chastity = purity, in reference to a correctly or morally ordered sexuality.

concubine = a woman with whom a man cohabits or has as a sexual partner without establishing a marital contract. Most often used when the man already has a wife, and in some polygamous cultures, it notes the legal status of a secondary or lesser wife.

continence = voluntary self restraint, applied to the moral restraint from sexual intercourse required by the celibate state.

divorce = to divert from a husband, generally meaning the legal dissolution of wedlock by either party.

groom = a man.

husband = a householder or "master of the house."

marriage = the union of a woman to a man, refering both to the contractual/covenantal union and the physical union.

matrimony = the institution to foster a family, from the words for "motherly condition."

monogamy = having "one marriage," or being married to one person (not "one at a time").

nuptial = to take as a husband.

polygamy = many (or "multiple") marriages. It is applied to marriages that overlap chronologically, not generally to widows and widowers who remarry.

polygyny = having multiple wives.

polyandry = having multiple husbands.

virginity = unimpacted purity, usually applied to young maidenhood or to voluntary sexual continence in general.

wedding = the bonding in a covenant of one woman to one man.

wedlock = the bond of marriage, usually applied to the legal obligations of the marriage contract.

wife = a woman, usually applied to a married woman.

Also, Don Jim has an excellent primer on the distinction of vows and promises made by Catholic priests. (i.e., "Canonically, the Religious priest takes a sacred vow to abstain from sexual activity; the secular priest makes a promise not to get married.").