Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Memento homo ...

When I was in school, I took a class which required me to read and study Percy Bysshe Shelley's sonnet "Ozymandias". The story sunk into my mind and memory and often resurfaces when I think about certain things. Lent is one of those things.

Its story is haunting and disturbingly relatable to so much of my own life. For me, one major goal of Lent is to recognize and struggle with the "Ozymandias" in myself.


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
~Percy Bysshe Shelley

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.
"Remember, O Man, that thou art dust; and unto dust shalt thou return."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ecumenical Concert Series Coming Up!

With the ECS fast upon us, I am working on my final entry. Even with the looming deadline, there is still time for some last minute tweaking. Here's what I have so far. I was inspired by a recent discussion with some friends regarding Just War Theory and the Crusades, and the state of Islam today...

To be sung to the tune Why Can't We Be Friends? by War. A snippet of the original is provided so you can, as the ECS Director likes to say, "get your funkumenical on..." Any constructive criticism is appreciated-- this year I know I'm going to take the coveted One World Trophy!

Why can't we be friends?
Why can't we be friends?
Why can't we be friends?

Why can't we be friends?

We both been ‘round for a long long time
And we share that Abrahamic line

Why can't we be friends? (repeat 3)

Your prophet’s name don't matter to me
As long as we can live in harmony

Why can't we be friends? (repeat 3)

Now I got all seven Sacraments

You can’t even beat the Protestants

Why can't we be friends? (repeat 3)

With you we venerate Maria
But we ain’t gonna do Sharia

Why can't we be friends? (repeat 3)

You don’t like being watched by the Feds
Hey, you could stop sawing off heads

Why can't we be friends? (repeat 3)

Sharing Heaven with you would be best
But you got to give jihad a rest

Why can't we be friends?
(repeat many times)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Stange Brew

For Christmas I received The Sources of Catholic Dogma by Henry Denzinger. While reading through it I came across the following under the heading: The Matter of Baptism [From the letter "Cum, sicut ex" to Sigurd, Archbishop of Nidaros, July 8, 1241]:

"Since as we have learned from your report, it sometimes happens because of the scarcity of water, that infants of your lands are baptized in beer, we reply to you in the tenor of those present that, since according to evangelical doctrine it is necessary "to be reborn from water and the Holy Spirit" [ John 3:5] they are not to be considered rightly baptized who are baptized in beer."
I was shocked and had to read it again. I couldn't believe it! And don't get me wrong, it wasn't that they were using beer to baptize their children - I actually found it a little comforting to hear that the Church has never been without Her liturgically creative. What shocked me was the fact that there once was a land where water was more scarce than beer.

I guess it's just a small reminder that no matter how good we may think we have it, there's always someone, somewhere, who had it a whole lot better.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

When All You Have is a Hammer, ...

Got into a discussion again this weekend about Bishop Williamson - the bishop of the Society of St. Pius X who recently had his excommunication lifted - over what should be done with him in light of his controversial views of the Jewish holocaust.

The person I was talking to was under the opinion that the Pope should seriously consider reapplying the excommunication. And this seems to be a popular opinion to hold. But what would the Pope excommunicate the Bishop for?

The Bishop was excommunicated for participating in an illicit consecration, so reapplying the excommunication would not make any sense since the issue at hand is his unfortunate view of historical events and not an illicit consecration.

The other option is to excommunicate the Bishop for his views. But would excommunication really be appropriate in a case over how someone interprets history - no matter how twisted that view is? Is excommunication something that should be used on those who hold a minority view of historical events? Is it a tool to instruct the historically ignorant?

Certain particularly grave sins incur excommunication, the most severe ecclesiastical penalty, which impedes the reception of the sacraments and the exercise of certain ecclesiastical acts, and for which absolution consequently cannot be granted, according to canon law, except by the Pope, the bishop of the place or priests authorized by them. In danger of death any priest, even if deprived of faculties for hearing confessions, can absolve from every sin and excommunication. - CCC 1463
The bishop should be corrected by his superiors and removed from public ministry due to his poor and irresponsible judgment (which has been done), but excommunicated?

Come on. If the Bishop can be excommunicated for being a fool, many of us should be worried.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fr. Marcial Maciel - Lived a Double Life

"But there is another vital reason to correctly name evil: the healing of its victims. The fact of the matter is that evil is one of the most difficult things to cope with." - Screwtape

From the New York Times:
The Legionaries of Christ, an influential Roman Catholic religious order, have been shaken by new revelations that their founder, who died a year ago, had an affair with a woman and fathered a daughter just as he and his thriving conservative order were winning the acclaim of Pope John Paul II.
Unfortunately the phrase "where there's smoke, there's fire" is often true. I can imagine how hard it must be for those involved with the Legionaries right now. The NCregister is also reporting on the matter.

Lot's that could be said, but none of it's necessary.

Keep the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi in your prayers. They'll be traveling along a bumpy - but I think necessary - road for a season.

"We are serene. Certainly, it is a time of great trial for us and in the face of this there is great suffering"
- Father Paolo Scarafoni, spokesman at the Legionaries’ headquarters in Rome

Hero To Zero: A Familiar Story

How do we pick our heroes, and how do we allow our children to pick their heroes?

Notwithstanding the spate of recent cabinet position embarrassments suffered by the new Obama administration, we have once again witnessed that human heroes do one thing exceedingly well: fall.
I'm not talking about Richardson or Geithner or Dashle or Killifer (hmm, that list is starting to grow faster than the evidence that global warming is a colossal myth-- but I digress). No, in this case I'm talking about the phishy phenom, and pot head: Michael Phelps. Now, I cheered this guy during the Olympics and as he won medal after medal. He seemed gangling and awkward; and like most young people today he slurred his words into an imperceptible static when he talked. But he seemed nice and his mom and family (sans dad, from whom he is estranged) cheered him on with us. It was nice gig for us and for NBC. I'm sure a million kid's rooms are now adorned with his posters.

However, Phelps was arrested for drunk driving in 2004 in an "isolated incident" and of course this past month was caught at a frat house party using a bong; a "regrettable" incident in which he showed "bad judgement." The local DA is investigating what charges can and will be leveled.

This post isn't really about Phelps; it's about us. It's in our nature of course to fall, we all do it. We can't help but fall. But the risk that we take when we begin hero-worshipping is pretty great, and if we indulge our children's interest in "teen idols" and other celebrities, so much the worse when it happens.

What are we to do? Saints? Popes (well, most of them)? Inordinate and blind fawning over anyone is dangerous. I suppose this is just an observation and cautionary note: watch whom your kids are watching, listen to about whom they are talking or are imitating, and get ready to explain to them that sometimes they're going to be let down.

There are a lot of true heroes out there, but I daresay most are not sports superstars, singers, actors, politicians, or of any other celebrity stripe.