Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Computer's on the fritz...

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...and we just had a three-day weekend, one day of which I spent with students at a bazaar, discipling my friend, and then digging the Taichung jazz festival, and another day, yesterday, which I spent chilling at Sun Moon Lake. My school only, though, had Monday off since it's our 50th anniversary.

Thanks, all, for your comments, and prayers.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Reverse triumphalism

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So a few weeks ago, I go into confession with Fr. John. I'm kneeling and he's donning his vestments before approaching the confessional. At the same time, he tells me the following anecdote: one time a woman came in for confession, knelt at the divider and proceeded to confess... while Fr. John was still getting ready in the back room. Hearing a voice, he entered, unnoticed, allowed her to continue, unawares, and then absolved her. Realize, I hear this hilarious little tale only moments before I'm about to confess my sins to Almighty God... and I couldn't help but laugh. I simply shook with muffled laughter! It was such a bizarre and wondrous scene: I entered contrite, then found myself chuckling at the kneeler and then resumed contrition, to find myself, grace of graces, absolved by the Almighty. It was all so quirky, so human, and yet so powerfully holy – as such, it was a quintessentially Catholic moment.

Later toward the very end of the same Mass, Mark is doing announcements, while his six-year-old pistol of a daughter is rocking back and forth with her spindly arms on the front-pew divider. All of a sudden, with Mark forming a sentence into the mike, she pulls herself forward into a complete head-over-heels flip and crashes down under the first pew. We all jumped and stared, jaws gaping. Not hearing any crying or groans, Mark glared, actually quite benignly (perhaps not the first time...?), and his little firecracker stood to brush her hair out of her face, which now wore a dazed, calculating look over its previous jocularity. For better or for worse, another Catholic moment.

Finally, in the foyer downstairs after this same mad-cap Mass, we're all mingling eating Moon Festival pizza. Fr. John decides to tell me one more little tale: years ago, maybe in Vietnam, his home, or in Taiwan, or the USA, I'm not sure, he saw a young girl enter the church and stand in line before the confessional. He knew she wasn't baptized and her family wasn't even Catholic, so he asked her, "Why are you waiting? This is for grown-up Catholics."

"I'm waiting," she said, "for the toilet too."

Cue once again the indefatigable humanness of life in the Catholic Church.

Oddly enough, the next day or so my dad emails me with his own crazy Catholic tale from the same weekend: a burly man in dark baggy clothes barges into the chapel, surges up to the altar, slams his fists on the table, and then hurries straight back to the confessional, booze and sweat trailing him, where he readies himself to hear confessions.

Impious? Unsettling? Inappropriate? Distracting? You bet, all of them. But, as I say, part of my joy as a Catholic is knowing, in remarkably vivid anecdotes like these, that I have found a home as rumpled and as erratic as I am, a home as vastly idiosyncratic and unpredictable as the species it was established to seek and save. Call it reverse triumphalism. May I boast not only in my weaknesses in Christ, but also in the weaknesses of my fellow Catholics. For in our weaknesses, God's grace is made complete. The devotional high point of the Mass for me comes with these words: "Look not on my sins, O Lord, but on the faith of Your Church." In a similar way, the existential high point of being Catholic reduces, for me, to these words: "Look not on my crippling strengths, O Lord, but on the weaknesses of Your Church." I am cracked; hence, I need a cracked Church; for it is through the cracks that grace soaks in and seeps out.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

What God has joined let no man sunder

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I was daydreaming this morning about one day writing a book about the East-West Schism. Unoriginal and straightforward enough, right? Well, actually, rather than analyzing the typical factors -- theological methodology, cultural pressures, diplomatic gaffes, crusades, excommunications, heresies and the like -- I wanted to make it a love story, of sorts. Since Christianity is fundamentally a marriage – between Heaven and Earth, between the Sheep and the Shepherd, between the Holy and the Forgiven, between all peoples and the Three Persons at one Table – we must view the Church too as a marital saga. A long, long time ago, the East and the West lived as one married couple. They exchanged theological and financial goods, gave birth to children, learned from each other – and also often wounded each other. At some point, the estrangement grew to be too much, and the couple separated. Yet, mysteriously, they could never be divorced, for God had joined them around that one marital Feast, for better or for worse.

Hence, in telling the story of the Church in East and West, I would like to make my saga a history of exchanged love, both verbal and practical, between these spouses. The rhetorical courtesies bandied about between bishops should not be shelved as outdated customs, but should be re-announced as a sacred deposit of love. Love, after all, is stronger than death, and far stronger than schism. I dream of this history as a movingly humane, and perhaps embarrassingly human, testament in a dispute that is overwhelmingly driven by polemical differences.

Idealistic? You bet your scapulars it is! Naïve? You can bet your bottom antidoro! Simplistic? You can bet your Inter-Communion Ecumenical Comission on it! But, by God, we need such daft naïveté! We need to reverse the “polemical polarity” with a flood of sweet nostalgia, fond memories and loving words between a husband and wife who, for now, can only tolerate to live in separate houses. How silly it is to say we deem the other to be, techincally, orthodox on this or that point after a prolonged theolgoical examination, when we fail the whole time to proclaim loudly and unabashedly, "I love you in our shared Eucharistic bliss, O Easterner! I love you in our sahred, beloved Jesus, o Westerner!" Far from smothering over differences with sweet words, my (daydreamed!) history aims to put the disputes in the right light, namely, the light of Love.

Eastern Orthodox homework for the week: find out one new fact about the Western Tradition and share it appreciatively with a Catholic. Also, say, "I love you."

Catholic homework for the week: find out one new fact about the Eastern Tradition and share it appreciatively with an Eastern Orthodox. Also, say, "I love you."

Trans trans trans what?

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[I was perusing a thread about the Real Presence over at Papal Ponty's and decided to make a few comments in reply to an unabashedly liberal priest ("Spirit of Vatican II"). If I'm reading him aright, SoV2 claims a non-ordained Communion is Christian enough for him, since all transubstantiation really means is the transformation of our worship into a genuine mystical union with the Paschal Mystery. I disagree. I didn't intend it become such a lengthy reply, but there you have it, a lengthy-ish consideration of transubstantiated worship. Let me know what you think.]

There is much to learn from SoV2’s liberal fundamentalism.

First, we see the rigidly exclusionary logic of liberal theology. “Since the Eucharist is a communal celebration transformed into the Paschal Mystery-for-us, then it can’t be anything else, least of all sentimental, outdated, medieval notions of extra-communal Adoration.” Whatever transsignification occurs in the Eucharist does not occur at the exclusion of the real, enduring, substantial Presence of Christ in the Holy Gifts. The Mass effects an enduring transubstantial transsignification, not one element of which precludes the other.

Second, I find it just as ironic (but not delicious like BHM-ref’s tack, rather bitter and nauseating) that while liberal sacramentology always aims to “deepen” or “liberate” our view of the sacraments with (much hipper) talk of "transsignification" and "existential transformation" and "broader truths beneath narrow words" and “entering the paschal mystery” etc., it actually evacuate the Church's *total-ly* Eucharistic nature. By reducing (really, just condescendingly modernizing) "transubstantiation" to the transsignification of a particular ecclesial *action*, such talk actually truncates the Eucharist from the total, enduring, liturgical life of the Church and reduces it to a particular, temporal, anthropological act of the Church, rather than what it is: the ultimate *fulfillment*, the climax, of what the Church is at every moment. Liturgy is (literally) the “public act” of a community driven and filled by an ongoing inner work: the eucharistization[1] of humankind. United on every level of being with Christ the Holy Offering, we ourselves become a holy offering to the Father. The Eucharist, and Eucharistic adoration, is but the maximal exemplar of the Church's fundamental sacramental constitution, a structure which finds expression in numerous other practices. Icons, for example, are not venerable only when they are made, or brought into a church, or held up – all discrete actions – but are venerable at any moment precisely because they are manifestations of Christ ever-present and ever-active in the whole Church. Adoring an icon, therefore, is not a mere, discrete action of the Church or of a Christian, but is a sacramental node, a sudden bulge, of the larger, *ongoing veneration* we give to all things in an ascent to the adoration (latria) of God. So too with the Eucharist: it is not merely adorable in the discrete action of consecration or reception, but rather endures as a temporal, iconic "fixture" of Christ's transtemporal, propitiatory Presence with/in the Church, whole and entire *IN each local church FOR each individual Christian*.

Presumably, SoV2 recognizes the fact we must adore Christ in our hearts before, during and after receiving the Eucharist. As temples of the Holy Spirit, and as people allowing Jesus to cleanse us as His temples, I presume SoV2 recognizes the enduring, substantial Presence of Christ *in us* who have received. His Eucharistic endurance in us is the “fuel” that remains from Mass to Mass; He is the food that never empties as we feed on Him in our hearts; otherwise our theosis proceeds in jumps and starts. We can adore him in our hearts not by mere psychological recall, but in fact because of the perhaps embarrassingly literal fact that Jesus lives, grows and reigns in us, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. But, following SoV2’s thinking, does the Eucharistic Christ-in-us evaporate after we’ve consumed Him and the liturgical dust settles? I doubt he would say this. Hence, why does he deny the perfectly obvious corollary: that because Christ “abides” in the Holy Gifts even beyond the epiclesis, we can adore Christ outside the liturgy. For, just as Christ-abiding-in-us is God’s supreme means of divinizing us, of “Christifying” us, so too is Christ-abiding-in-the-Gifts God’s supreme way of unceasingly sanctifying even the stones and soil that make up a church. As I said, confining the Eucharistic transubstantiation to a temporal liturgical action not only fractures the totality of the Church-as-perpetually-worshipping Body, but also in fact sever our existential, embodied connection to the very places we worship. The church itself, and its grounds, become consecrated as the property of the King who abides there. We do not go to Mass, then, to “conjure Christ” (à la transsignification), but to *encounter* Him as He awaits us in the Gifts He Himself prepared.

Third, SoV2’s scrutinization of Trent’s Latin trees misses its whole sacramental forest. Notice, and notice very well, that Trent, with the Catholic Tradition generally, teaches the adoration of *the Eucharist as realized in the Holy Gifts*, but does NOT teach adoration of the Eucharistic assembly or its discrete actions (which is the view of transubstantiation you expressed). By focusing adoration on the discrete communal action itself, SoV2 has effectively turned the Mass on its head: the actors and the actions become central; the Lord offered to us in the Host becomes peripheral; once "we" are "finished" with our sacramental "act", the Lord wisps away into the heavens again. Precisely by "freeing" Christ from the "beck and call" of transubstantial consecration and adoration, you have actually imprisoned him in our actions.

Finally, it should go without saying, SoV2’s nonchalance about ordained or unordained Eucharistic presiders has not even a toe to stand on in light of the biblico-patristic record. Without a bishop, or his personally commissioned presbyter, there is no Eucharist. Period. Of the non-denom Lord’s Supper he attended, SoV2 says, “I think it was a Eucharist much as Christ intended.” How nice. SoV2 is free to think what he likes about what he likes; despite how much varnish it gets in light of his ordination, SoV2 is not fooling anyone with the sophistical charade of thinking with the Church.

[1] Did I just coin that word? No [as I discovered {bottom} after brief research]! As longtime FCA readers know, I have a penchant for creating (usually unsuccessfully) neologisms, like "the Interneterati". Another miss!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Holy Mysteries at last!

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It took me one week to do the first 60% and then six months to do the rest, but I have done it: here is the whole series for my report on the Sacraments. I began this before I was received into the Church, but only posted up to Anointing. Today I've posted Orders, Marriage and the Epilogue. Fin. I'm nothing if not (even embarrassingly) faithful to my word. Enjoy!

Part 0: Preface

Part I: The Heart of the Mysteries

Part II: Sacramentalism

Part III: Baptism

Part IV: Confirmation

Part V: The Eucharist

Part VI: Confession & Penance

Part VII: Anointing of the Sick

Part VIII: Holy Orders

Part IX: Matrimony

Part X: Epilogue - To Explain the Invitation?

Signs and Wonders: The Holy Sacraments in the Life of One Unholy Christian Man (X)

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The following are some thoughts I wrote to my Evangelical teammates here in Taiwan, in order to prepare them for the Easter Vigil and why non-Catholics cannot receive the Eucharist in Mass. I think they put the Sacraments in the proper context of the grand Sacrament of Salvation, the Church.

The Church is what Christ uses to reach the world today just as Christ was what God used to reach the world “back then.” As His Body, the Church is modeled on our Lord. Since Christ was not merely a spiritual or emotional entity, neither is His Church. Our Lord was a man of flesh and blood, and his grace was communicated precisely through those "mundane" materials. Being formally unified with the Church is as "mundane" and "material" a requirement as touching Jesus' body was to fully encounter Him back in the day. This is the basis for the sacraments themselves: they are the material channels God has given the Church so He can convey His grace into Christians, so that we, in turn, can convey His grace into the world. The sacraments are the “hem” of Christ’s garment, from which His power flows. In the Incarnation, and today in the Church’s sacraments, the materiality is not pitted against the spirituality, nor is formality pitted against faith. The Eucharist is the fullness of Christ's offer to mankind today. Receiving this gift entails mankind be as fully – officially and spiritually – united to His Body as possible. Agreeing to be formally united to the Catholic Church means you agree with its view of the Eucharist and desire to be just as formally and fully united with Christ himself in that gift. The reverse is true as well: desiring to receive Christ in Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity means signing on formally to the Catholic Church (or the Orthodox Churches).

Thus shall my “report” on the Sacraments end. I admit I feel kind of silly “explaining” the Sacraments. They are mysteries. They are existential realities which invite us to encounter God, not to examine them self-referentially. The Sacraments are the grips of God’s grace as we totter or tumble (or dive!) over a sea of sin. And as little as I would “explain” the how and the what of a man’s saving grasp on me as I nearly plummeted off a cliff, so little inclined am I to “understand” the Mysteries as I encounter God in them. Come, let us be on our way!

Signs and Wonders: The Holy Sacraments in the Life of One Unholy Christian Man (IX)

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1601 "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."84

I. Marriage in God's Plan

1602 Sacred Scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and concludes with a vision of "the wedding-feast of the Lamb."85 Scripture speaks throughout of marriage and its "mystery," its institution and the meaning God has given it, its origin and its end, its various realizations throughout the history of salvation, the difficulties arising from sin and its renewal "in the Lord" in the New Covenant of Christ and the Church.86

The beauty of this Sacrament is how radically it embodies the grace it conveys. In a sense, marriage takes the “incarnational principle” of Christianity to an extreme: God does not use “mere” bread or water of words to convey marital grace but in fact uses the willing bodies of two humans made in His own image! Every Christian marriage is therefore a vital, pulsing, mortal realization of the glory of God carried in jars of clay. Although virginity is inherently superior to marriage as a path of sanctification and theosis, marriage nonetheless illustrates two powerful realities, which many people in our day have a hard time seeing in consecrated chastity.

First, marriage sacramentally dramatizes the union of Christ with His Church – with all the sorrows of change, loss, infidelity and death which the Church knows, as well as all the joys of intimacy, wonder, fidelity and life which also thrive in the Church. Second, in marriage we have a living “window of flesh” into the Trinitarian mystery. For although individual men and women are each made in the image of God, Man and Woman express the image of God most completely in the life-giving union of Adam and Eve. Such Edenic union was and is modeled on the heavenly union of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as a life-giving communion of Love. How, then, can we see virginity, marriagelessness, as superior to marriage itself? Simply because consecrated virginity does in itself what marriage is meant for: the committed, spousal union of the soul with God. Marriage achieves by way of a partnership, wherein the husband helps the wife attain God’s bridal chamber and the wife helps her husband in the same way. Virginity does the same thing, but in a more radical, more direct fashion: in the virgin’s weakness God’s grace is made even stronger.

Marriage, then, is good news for the world. For in holy marriage, as St. Francis de Sales says, we see people “who live so calmly together in mutual respect, which cannot be had without great charity. [And we see] how these devout souls wed care of the exterior house to that of the interior, that is, the love of their earthly spouse with that of the heavenly Spouse” (*Introduction to the Devout Life*, I.18.2). Since few people experience the love and joy often “hidden” behind cloister walls, holy marriage is a channel of grace into the secular world. Marriage then is not just good news for the lonely and single but in fact is the Good News! Holy marriage is evangelism! And just as all the Lord’s commands and counsels carry within them the seeds of great fruit, so too the immense challenges of marriage – a lifelong cohabitation of sinners! – is not without special blessings. For, while marriage can help the world envision and encounter Trinitarian love alive in human love, the married must also keep in mind the Trinitarian basis of their vocation. They are never married “on their own” but in fact married into the family of God. This marriage not only can and must be renewed and deepened sacramentally in the Church’s worship but also can and must be fortified mystically in connubial intimacy, childrearing and family prayer.

Signs and Wonders: The Holy Sacraments in the Life of One Unholy Christian Man (VIII)

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Holy Orders:

1536 Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate. ...

I. Why Is This Sacrament Called "Orders"?

1537 The word order in Roman antiquity designated an established civil body, especially a governing body. Ordinatio means incorporation into an ordo. In the Church there are established bodies which Tradition, not without a basis in Sacred Scripture,4 has since ancient times called taxeis (Greek) or ordines. And so the liturgy speaks of the ordo episcoporum, the ordo presbyterorum, the ordo diaconorum. Other groups also receive this name of ordo: catechumens, virgins, spouses, widows,. . . .

One of my earliest memories about the Catholic Church happened one weekend when I entered my mom’s sewing room, riled up about some theological point. I must have been reading about Church history or something, because I asked her in a very agitated way who the Jesuits were. She told me they were a kind of priest in the Catholic Church and, therefore, subject to the Pope. I, being a well trained, if not very devout, Protestant, immediately retorted, “You’ll never see this Protestant obey no Pope!”

I take my change of heart as nothing less than the grace of God, grace which is whimsical enough to create puppies and to bring me to obey a Pope as Christ’s vicar on earth. I am now one of the Jesuits’ biggest “fans” and have even considered allying myself – my gifts, my love, my heart – with their order of “active contemplatives.” But that’s the future. For now, some nights I am almost awoken by the laughter of angels at my silly youthful oath. But that was the past.

As for the present, the greatest I “dig” about the Sacrament of Orders is that it, like every other sacrament, is so very real. (Pardon the truism, but human language has such puny lungs to grapple with God’s glory at these heights.) All sacraments, as I hope I have explained so far, demonstrate for us the truth that God’s grace is not merely an idea or an immaterial force. Grace is also somehow an incarnated reality. Deacons, priests and bishops all are the most literally living signs of God’s continuing grace for His People. Because I see living priests, I can better see Christ is alive. Ordination is the divine ritual man performs to invite God to embrace His servant, a mere man called to heavenly things. Ordination is the divine ritual the Church performs to ennoble this same mere man to embrace fellow men and women with the strength and grace of God.

New Patron Saint Day!

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Memorial: 30 July
Born: 12 May 1866 at Castelnuovo, Dalmatia (Bosnia-Hercogovina)
Died: 30 July 1942 at the Friary, Padua, Italy
Beatified: 2 May 1976 by Pope Paul VI
Canonized: 16 October 1983 by Pope John Paul II

As I mentioned when highlighting Jonathan Prejean’s Zubizantine blog, I enjoy “discovering” less “mainstream” sources of piety and learning. (The same goes for my taste in pop culture, which is almost always repelled from the most hyped things towards more “alternative”, underrated albums, books, movies, etc.) Well, I have unearthed a little (and relatively little-known) saint who has gained a great place in my heart: Saint Leopoldo of Castelnuovo, O.F.M. Cap. (1866-1942).

I first met St. Leopoldo in James Likoudis’s 1992 book, _Ending the Byzantine Greek Schism_ (p. 122-123). It sounds silly perhaps, but what first grabbbed me about St. Leopolod was his downright dwarfish cuteness. Without any disrespect intended, he looked like an adorable little Capuchin doll! As I learned later, he stood only four feet five inches and was generally physically undersized.[1] Now, St. Leopoldo’s “cuteness” was a function of his smallness, but his smallness, his feebleness, was and is integral to his charism: precisely because he was so minute, so disarming, so unthreatening, so very weak, St. Leopoldo relied all the more on the power of God; people recognized that much more easily the tremendous strength at work in such an incongruously weak vessel. In his smallness (as well as in his many physical sufferings throughout his life), St. Leopoldo shared in the sufferings of Christ, who was God self-emptied, wounded and *made small* for our salvation.

At any rate, something in St. Leopoldo’s wizened eyes stared out at me from Likoudis’s book, and I could never forget him, those riveting old eyes, particularly since one of Leopoldo’s chief vocations was aimed at the reunion of the Eastern Churches with the Catholic Church. His affinity for the Eastern Churches was significant for me because at the time, I had not decided whether to become Orthodox or Catholic. Once I became a Catholic, the desire for full ecumenical reunion burned in my soul; indeed it is now one of my own special vocational “passions” as well. One day I remembered hazily “that little Italian priest” in Likoudis’s book also had something to do with the Othodox-Catholic ecumenism. So I hunted for his picture – and was immediately riveted once again by his eyes. They spoke with the same miniscule might. Then I re-read Likoudis’s comments about him.

Saint Leopolod of Castelnuovo ... had offered his life and works to God for the restoration of his beloved Easterners to Catholic Unity. Only one year before his death ... he had written of his special charismatic mission in the Church:

"I have the East always before my eyes and I feel that God wishes me to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries ... so that the great promise of one fold and one Shepherd may in due course be fulfilled. And it certainly will be. ... God moves his ministers to apply his merits to the Eastern Dissidents, so that He is praying for them to the extent that we celebrate the Sacred Mysteries for that intention. That means, then, that He Himself is praying through us, and we know from His own words that God the Father always answers His prayers. The great event will therefore infallibly happen. My task therefore is to work toward the realization of this great prophecy."

Of course, no acquaintance with St. Leopoldo would be complete without discussing his “apostolate of penance.” Aside from being known as the “Apostle of Unity,” he is also known as the “Apostle of Confession.” Welcoming, healing, absolving, consoling and counseling sinners in the confessional was the core of St. Leopoldo’s outer life. I knew then and there this little Capuchin was a true patron saint for me. He put a face on ecumenism and confession, both of which were two aspects of being Catholic I have had to embrace despite Protestant biases. I frequently ask his intercession to help me cut the snares of sin with the knife of humility and penance and to withstand the onslaught of sin in the stronghold of the confessional. Hence, I have decided to add St. Leopoldo to FCA’s patrons and heroes (in sidebar). Allow me, then, to give you the giant tale of little Leopoldo (as provided primarily by the Catholic Forum and James Likoudis in "Apostle of Unity and Reconciliation with the Eastern Orthodox: Saint Leopoldo of Castelnovo, O.F.M. Cap. (1866-1942)".

+ + +

Padre Leopoldo was born at Castelnuovo of Cattaro in Dalmatia (the Croatian part of modern Yugoslavia and also where St. Jerome was born) on May 12, 1866 of a very ancient Bosnian noble family. The last of twelve children he was christened Adeodato Bogdan [Mandic Zarevic], which means "gift of God." ...

On November 16, 1882, he entered the strict Capuchin Seminary of the Venetian Province at Udine. He was 16 years of age. In 1884 he began his novitiate at the Capuchin Friary at Bassano del Grappa, and took the name of Fra Leopoldo. ... On June 18, 1887, while still a student in Padua, Padre Leopoldo first received the mysterious call to pray and work for the reconciliation of the dissident Eastern churches to Catholic unity. ... On August 21, 1914 (and again on August 3, 1928) he added: "The object of my life must be the return of the Eastern Dissidents to Catholic unity. ... It was in 1935 at the Seminary in Vicenza that he wrote: "...In the grace of my vocation in favor of the Eastern Dissidents, I bind myself to a vow that from now on the whole purpose of my life shall be to obtain that as soon as possible the words of our Lord Jesus Christ that there shall be one fold and one Shepherd shall be true of the Eastern Dissidents." Finally, on October 20, 1888, he made his Solemn profession at Padua as a member of the Venetian province. ... On September 20, 1890, he was ordained priest to the joy of his devout mother and father by Cardinal Agostini at 'Santa Maria della Salute' in Venice.

He hastened to make known to his superiors his desire to work in the Eastern European missions for the return of dissident Eastern Orthodox to the Church, but in view of his frail constitution and poor speech, they thought otherwise. (Throughout his life Padre Leopoldo suffered from defective articulation: however carefully he tried to pronounce words —even at Mass—, they came pouring out in a rush — to his great embarrassment. ... Not permitted to preach, the diminutive Capuchin occupied himself with being useful — hearing confessions. Thus began his marvelous apostolate as an Apostle of the Confessional which extended over a 50 year period....

Then, from 1906 – except for a brief enforced absence in prison during World War I because he would not renoucne his Croatian nationality – St. Leopoldo, as Likoudis says, “rivaled the celebrated St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars in a life of constant prayer, mortification, and suffering in the confessional.” As St. Leopoldo himself explained, "Since God has not given me the gift of words for preaching, I want to dedicate myself to bringing souls to him in the confessional." On another occasion he said, "I am like a bird in a cage, but my heart is beyond the seas." Leopoldo was "[a]lways there, for 10, 12, or even 15 hours a day, never thinking of rest or relief, always suffering (from a variety of illnesses). ... Seeing the Crucifix, he would repeat to himself, ‘I shall remain too, till I can do no more, even unto death, for souls are of more value than my poor life.'"

Interestingly, his fellow Capuchin, Blessed Pio da Pietrelcina had the greatest esteem for Padre Leopoldo, and after the latter's death invoked him with veneration. ... Though appartaining to the Capuchin order, these two spiritual giants never knew one another personally, nor ever exchanged a letter; but they remained intimately united in the mysterious ways of the mystical life, both having consecrated themselves to the salvation of souls through the Sacrament of Penance.

Much of St. Leopoldo’s emphasis on confession was rooted in his clear understanding the “battle lines” in the service of Christ the King:

"The Kingdom of Satan, which began with Adam's sin and will end with that of the last sinner, is nothing tangible, but exists within man so long as he has a mortal sin on his soul. The whole world of irreligious people gives allegiance to Satan and in this sense he is said to be the prince of this world. It is against this supreme enemy of the Gospel of Christ that we are called to fight."

Already known and venerated by large numbers of people in Italy and in his native Yugoslavia, particularly Slovenia and Croatia, St. Leopoldo is invoked in Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece and other Middle East countries. ... St. Leopoldo of Castelnovo was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 16, 1983. His Feast day is celebrated on May 12.

... "A Saint has died" was the cry of the entire city of Padua when Padre Leopoldo entered into the rest of the blessed on July 30, 1942 [due to esophageal cancer -- EBB]. The words of the Salve Regina were on his lips when he died: "O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary."

[1] Interestingly, St. John of the Cross was also very diminutive, standing a mere 4 feet eleven inches. As Jesus said, “The least among you shall be the greatest ... [and] who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Lk 9:48; Mk 10:15).

Friday, October 14, 2005

Love and forgiveness

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Love is preemptive forgiveness; it is a predetermined benevolence that outlasts the fickleness of sin. Forgiveness is resurrected love; neither it nor the Resurrection is merely "resuscitated" benevolence, but is a glorified, transfigured and life-encompassing renewal of communion.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Got zis frum a frend

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[Can you believe: a forwarded email gimmick on my blog. How low can I go, right? Ach, just enjoy it.]

The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5 year phase in plan that would become known as "Euro-English."

In the first year, "S" will replace the soft "C." Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy.

The hard "C" will be dropped in favour of "K." This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "PH" will be replaced with "F." This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.

Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.

Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "E" in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "TH" with "Z" and "W" with "V."

During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "O" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl.

Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

If zis mad you smil, pleas pas on to oza pepl.

Sunday, October 9, 2005

Help the Church in China

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Although I last posted expecting not to return to blogdom till next Tuesday, I decided the following news was worth breaking the silence for. (The hotel I'm at has a little internet room. Snazzy dazzy!) Having come over to Taiwan with an Evangelical mission agency, and having lived most of my two years in an Evangelical/ charismatic milieu, it's easy to hear so much talk of "the Church's explosive growwth in China" in strictly non-Catholic terms. But the Church -- the unstained Church of the full Tradition, the Church as preserved in union with the See of Rome according to the Lord's will -- is growing too. Care to help?

Catholic Exchange – Breaking News about the Church in China


Dear Friend of Catholic Exchange:

I [Tom Allen, Ed. & Pres. of Cath. Exch. -- EBB] want to share some exciting news that was recently brought to my attention by our man in Beijing. And then I'm going to ask for your help with a very special project. First, take a look at some of the quotes and news items that have recently come across my desk:

"Nowadays, curiosity about Christianity, the Church and Pope John Paul II is widespread among the Chinese populace-above all in university environments."
--AsiaNews, December 3, 2003

"Despite official regulations encouraging officials to be atheists, in some localities as many as 25 percent of Party officials engaged in some kind of religious activity."
--U.S. State Department, February 25, 2004

"What is amazing is the very fast spread of Christianity in China," said the Rev. Roch Kereszty.
--The Dallas Morning News, April 7, 2005

"…an underground Catholic church loyal to Rome continues to flourish and, according to Vatican estimates, has up to 10 million members."
--International Herald Tribune, September 11, 2005

"Recently, I found the Bible Story, Bible cartoons for children, the story of the Virgin Mary…and other books introducing Christian values…these books are not only sold in churches but also in public bookstores…"
--Paul Pann, CE correspondent in China via e-mail, September 24, 2005

When I read reports like these, I am both excited and grateful that our supporters are helping Catholic Exchange play a huge role in the evangelization of China.

As you know, our correspondent in China, Paul Pann, has been working hard to spread the word about our Catholic Scripture Study (CSS) materials. Happily, he's finding a great hunger among the Chinese people for quality Catholic bible teaching materials. What you may not know is that Paul is not working alone.

Franciscans in Hong Kong are translating our CSS materials into Chinese. Bishops across China are introducing their priests to the program. And a mother superior recently ordered 30 copies for the sisters in her convent!

In fact, 750 copies of the CSS on the Gospel of John have been distributed in China so far and the requests keep pouring in. We want to help Paul meet the demand, but we also want to do it in the most cost-effective way possible. Our plan is to help Paul get CSS into the hands of as many Chinese Catholics as possible, as quickly as possible.

And, as good stewards, our goal is to make this effort self-sustaining. We plan to print thousands of copies in China, distribute many at no cost to bishops, priests, and religious, and to sell the rest at a very reasonable price-enough to pay for the next printing.

A gift to this effort will go much farther in China than it could here in the U.S. Just consider what your gifts can accomplish:

A gift of only $18 will cover the cost of printing 20 copies of the CSS on the Gospel of John.

A contribution of $45 will cover the printing of 50 copies!

For $72, we can provide copies to the pastors of 80 parishes.

Only $108 can put a copy in the hands of every one of the 120 bishops in China!

Friends, we have developed a uniquely effective infrastructure in China, with special access to key clergy in the Underground and Patriotic Churches. GETTING OUR MATERIALS INTO THE HANDS OF BISHOPS THERE CAN MAKE CATHOLIC SCRIPTURE STUDY EXPLODE IN CHINA!

An offering of $210 will cover Paul's travel costs for an entire month, as he meets with priests and bishops throughout China, introducing them to our Scripture study materials.

A contribution of $1,310 will cover all of Paul's salary and travel costs for a month, his visits with priests and bishops, his talks to groups of university students, and meetings with clergy who are planning CSS leaders' training programs.
A gift of any size will help us in this important effort to evangelize China while interest in Christianity there is spreading like wildfire.

Here's how to contribute quickly, easily, and securely.

You can use your credit card right now to send your gift online on the secure Catholic Exchange website. Just click here.

You can donate over the phone. Just call us toll-free at 1-888-477-1982.

You can mail your gift to us at Catholic Exchange, P.O. Box 231820, Encinitas, CA 92023.

I've selected a special gift, just for donors of $50 or more. As soon as we receive your tax-deductible contribution, we will rush you the magnificent 2006 Our Lady in Art calendar from the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. This collectible treasure features a beautiful full-color Marian image for each month, with the liturgical seasons, feast days, U.S. holidays, and the Shrine's novenas. It makes a perfect Christmas gift, and a reminder to pray for our Lady's intercession throughout the year.

Please, prayerfully consider how you can help our Catholic brothers and sisters in China. Priests and laity alike are begging for our help. And the timing for this project couldn't be better. Thanks for your generous contributions.

Yours in Christ,

Tom Allen
Editor and President

P.S. Tonight I may have developed a very good way to simplify Chinese for modernization without completely destroying its ideographic genius and/or clarity. Fittingly enough, I call it RPC (Radical-Phonetic Chinese) and aim it at the PRC (People's Republic of China). I intend to work up my idea for further research here and then may discuss my findings in a special FCA report. You heard it here first! ;o)

Friday, October 7, 2005

C yuz!

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It's 10/10 (October 10) weekend here in Taiwan, which is basically Taiwan's Fourth of July holiday, so I'm headed to Taipei for a three-day visit hosted by a Taiwanese friend. Dane is tagging along too!

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Now that's cool!

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And also *really* disgusting.

Gator-guzzling python comes to messy end

(AP - Updated: 4:42 p.m. ET Oct. 5, 2005 - Science - MSNBC.com)

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Monday, October 3, 2005

The Random, the Funny & the Ugly

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Start Me Up
Blog Basics
The Fray
Super Seinfeld
Swiss Geek
Soda, pop?
Craig’s Cranny
Antic Collector
Fighter Priest
Amazon Jungle
Gay Theology

Fiction & Poetry (mine and others’)

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Super Seinfeld
The Fray
Fakespeare Truly disturbing
Naked joke
The key to life
Monk joke
Narrative Unpredictability
Milk and Cereal
King's _On Writing_


In This One Wall
Home Turf
The Glory of Sons
A Game of Life
By the Eye of a Needle
The $100 Crisis
Murder Me Wrote (seed only)


The Ties that Bind
Dog Eat Dog Town
Praying with the Enemy?


Time is a Ribbon
Mingus, an appreciation
Slip of a Hand
Expertise Lost

Books, Music & Movies

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Red Queen
The Da Vinci Code
Oryx and Crake
A Bad Rap

Personal Reflections & Teaching

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On Blogging
I am a dog
I’m a putz
Life is Worship

Completely unique?


I Love Teaching in Taiwan, 1
"I get _____ of bed"?
Hard As Nails

History, Society & Culture

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Cheney’s F-Bomb
Rep. Brooks Canes Sen. Sumner

Yoda Lingo
War Chaos



Gay Protestants
Calvin’s Gay Marriage

>>Sex & Abortion
Abortion Images
Contraception, 1
Bad Seed
Say OK to Kiddie Porn, 1
Say OK to Kiddie Porn, 2

>>Right-to-Life Issues
Schiavo, 1

Bush & Torture, 1
Political Curses
Selling Saddam

>>Arts & Media
Oryx and Crake
A Bad Rap

Muslim Wrath

Science & Bioethics

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German Strong Boy, 1
German Strong Boy, 2
Blue Rose

>>Biology & Evolution
Red Queen
NPR & Darwin, 1
Corpse Flower
Hirsute Eagles
Tropical Hibernation
Aping Plantinga

>>Astronomy & Physics
Space Elevator
Light News

New Skull Alert

>>Anatomy & Physiology
Furey’s Strength
Obesity and Ghrelin Spikes
TV Rushes Puberty

Baby Clock
Atkins Sex
New HIV test
New Fetal Scanning
Puff the Carcinogenic Dragon

Bulletproof -- and Stylin'


Contraception, 1
Verily, Vatican Condemns Condoms

Reagan on abortion

Watson the Ogre, 1
Watson the Ogre, 2

>>Cloning & Gene Therapy
German Strong Boy, 1
German Strong Boy, 2

Theology & Philosophy

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Mission and Procession

Cross & Crucifix

>>The Church
The Pillar
Worship Old and New
Ma Church and My Life
Calvin’s Gay Marriage

>>Evangelism & Apologetics
The Da Vinci Code, 1
The Gospel for Today
Caught By the Mind

Lectio divina
I’m a putz
Contraception, 1


>>Metaphysics & Ontology

>>Epistemology & Philosophy of Mind
Aping Plantinga

>>Moral Philosophy

>>Philosophy of History

>>Philosophy of Science

>>Cultural Studies

Tending the barn

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I'm reworking my ancient plan to file my posts thematically. Obviously, with over a year of unfiled posts behind me, I don't intend to get it in tip top shape any time soon )or perhaps ever); but now's the time to get back on the horse. Unfortuantely, as happened the first time, I must post a series of ungainly lists to anchor the filing cabinet system. I know some posts are duplicated in different cabinets, but oh well; some posts just get around more than others.

Just relax, this'll all be over in a minute. ;)

This has always fascinated me

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"The Incorruptibles" -- bodies and relics of saints that seemingly remain impervious to natural decomposition.

Since becoming Catholic (or really, since becoming-a-becoming-Catholic), I have had not the slightest qualms about relics and other such "morbid" "medieval" devotions. In fact, I love the idea of them. Relics are unliving tokens of living grace. Relics are concrete "tags" on the wall of history with which God signals his ongoing solicitude. They are tangible (and for some, all to tangible!) artifacts that pin the supernatural life at work in God's holy ones with the natural life of other less attuned or open to grace. They are enduring signs of a grace-punctured and life-punctuated world seemingly made only of loss and death. For example, at the church I attend for early morning Mass, they have a bit of St. Therese of Lisieux in an orb standing before a statue of her. I love this. The same Little Therese who was so magnificently filled with grace in body and soul is with us not only in her soul in the mystical unity of the Church as we worship but also quite vividly with us in token form as a tiny tombstone of divinized flesh.

From the same church, shortly before leaving for Europe, I bought a rosary that includes a small ampule of water from Lourdes, and which, only a day or two later, led me to have one of the more powerful spiritual encounters with God I've ever enjoyed. The water in that ampule had reached me all the way from France, and was carried on the holy little hands of my brothers and sisters in the Body. More important, the power of that water was an artifact signaling divine grace having broken through to our world even today and having reached me all the way in Taiwan, all the way into my tattered life. That little ampule was and is a tiny estuary capturing some of the grace which pours like blood and water -- as any and all grace does -- from the pierced side of Christ our Savior. Perhaps I should say it is an estuary within an estuary, since I, as a Christian, am a much larger and more complex estuary of the same divine grace. The grace filling His pierced heart flows into us not merely psychologically (or neurologically), as Evangelicals would have it, but also in ways as embarrassingly mundane and diverse as we are. This is quite simply what Chrsitianity, what the Incarnation, means -- God dwelt among flesh as flesh -- and is exactly what relics protect: the unending, unfading pierced presence of God in His Body in real human bodies.

Anyway, a reader recently directed me to a widely reported Marian appartition in an Oriental (Coptic) Orthodox church in Zeitoun-Cairo. On the same webpage I found a really cool page about saints' incorrupt bodies and wanted to share it with you. You may also want to take a gander at this historical and biblical primer-defense about relics.

Thoughts? If not, I still treasure your prayers. ;)

A swell weekend

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Except for no typhoon day-off tomorrow. Merp, snerk, waaa!

Annual Wei Dao teachers' banquet Friday night. I won a new Okiwap camera cell phone, but since I already have a camera celly, I went to the store the next day to exchange it for other goodies. With my store credit I got a new Epson scanner, new Altec Lansing speakers and 50 CD-Rs. Net cost to me (excluding travel, misc, etc. costs)? About $NT900. What a blessing from Him from Whom all good gifts descend!

True thankfulness, I believe, should stir us to true compassion for those leat inclined (by antural lights) to have it. Our blessings can and should propel us in joy to an equally gleeful compassion for the poor and the "unblessed" -- since, after all, theirs is the Kingdom. So, at the risk of "trumpeting" "my" "piety", I will say I intend to divert the money I saved on these purchases to the good of others in need. Any ideas, dear reader (or readerette[1]) about good recipients?

Saturday night, after hosting a friend from out of town for the day, I watched _The Motorcycle Diaries_ at a friend's new apartment. It was really enjoyable, albeit with frequent bursts of vulgarity (uh, handy Spanish practice for me?). While there is clearly an edge in the film against clerical pharisaism, the film does not embarrass itself with any anti-religious bumptiousness. (As a matter of fact, perhaps without even meaning to, it strikes that deeply Christian chord that rings out against clerical pharisaism!) _TMD_ is a visually stunning, intellectually articulate, well acted film that presents an honest young man's journey through complex realities. See it. (Of course, how historically accurate the film is, I don't know.)

Went to a small parish in Taiping this (Sunday) morning. The fathers are Argentine missionaries with the Order of the Incarnate Word, and they "run" a very nice Mass. The faithful reply robustly and alertly; the lectors actually chant the responsorial hymn and alleluia; and they seem to be devotionally active outside the "Mass box" (e.g., small Rosary group afterwards, blessing and distribution of scapulars today at the end of Mass, etc.). I'm hoping to go again, especially if next time I don't get lost for an hour in the rain like today. Zoinks! Afterward, hung out with an Orthodox friend and his family in Taiping. Then came back to Taichung and relaxed in a little park. Since the typhoon had passed through the previous night, Saturday was pretty much just nature cleaning itself up in a breathtaking way: since the wind had scraped away the clouds and pollution, the air was clear and cool and breezy. Saw an amazing full rainbow, including the "rainbow echo" effect.

A swell weekend, yes, but last week was, on the whole, very hard: struggles with lust, anger, bitterness (by the way, bitterness about being bitter is the most nefarious peril!), and a mild case of acedia. Thank God, I was able to confess today, albeit after Mass. It was a true episode of reocnciliation, a true burst of new life in my all too easily ragged and cranky heart. It was capped, best of all, by Fr. Alberto offering me the Blessed Sacrament back in the chapel. Now, even though it's late and I need to get to bed, I intend, with the abundance of grace poured anew into my heart, to "keep my hand to the plow" and rebuild virtue out of the damage sin wrought by doing my penance and shaking off the silly cloying embrace of acedia. (I can't wait for early Mass tomorrow morning!) God in heaven, it's an amazing liberation to know not only that I'm forgiven in love, not onlt that love Himself awaits me in the future, but also that grace alone has brought me this far and even now propels me into that love-suffused future.

[1] Or "lectionite" for the gender-sensitive.

The Shining was a horror movie?!

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Hat tip to Mark Shea for linking to this heartwarming redux.