Sunday, March 31, 2013

Epic Easter Unbelief

Faith is a gift from heaven above.  But for some, un-belief is a gift of cold cash ;-)

h/t  Rev. Han Fiene @lutheransatire

Energized by the Empty Tomb

Pope Francis' homily for the Easter Vigil considered the surprise and salvation associated with finding the empty tomb:

 In the Gospel of this radiant night of the Easter Vigil, we first meet the women who go the tomb of Jesus with spices to anoint his body (cf. Lk 24:1-3). They go to perform an act of compassion, a traditional act of affection and love for a dear departed person, just as we would. They had followed Jesus, they had listened to his words, they had felt understood by him in their dignity and they had accompanied him to the very end, to Calvary and to the moment when he was taken down from the cross. We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end. Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb. But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body.  
It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions: “What happened?”, “What is the meaning of all this?” (cf. Lk 24:4). Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do. Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises; we are afraid of God’s surprises! He always surprises us!
Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives! Are we often weary, disheartened and sad? Do we feel weighed down by our sins? Do we think that we won’t be able to cope? Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up: there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which he cannot forgive if only we open ourselves to him.
But let us return to the Gospel, to the women, and take one step further. They find the tomb empty, the body of Jesus is not there, something new has happened, but all this still doesn’t tell them anything certain: it raises questions; it leaves them confused, without offering an answer. And suddenly there are two men in dazzling clothes who say: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6).
 What was a simple act, done surely out of love – going to the tomb – has now turned into an event, a truly life-changing event. Nothing remains as it was before, not only in the lives of those women, but also in our own lives and in the history of mankind. Jesus is not dead, he has risen, he is alive! He does not simply return to life; rather, he is life itself, because he is the Son of God, the living God (cf. Num 14:21-28; Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10). Jesus no longer belongs to the past, but lives in the present and is projected towards the future; he is the everlasting “today” of God. This is how the newness of God appears to the women, the disciples and all of us: as victory over sin, evil and death, over everything that crushes life and makes it seem less human. And this is a message meant for me and for you, dear sister, dear brother. 
 How often does Love have to tell us: Why do you look for the living among the dead? Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness... and that is where death is. That is not the place to look for the One who is alive! Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.
 There is one last little element that I would like to emphasize in the Gospel for this Easter Vigil. The women encounter the newness of God. Jesus has risen, he is alive! But faced with empty tomb and the two men in brilliant clothes, their first reaction is one of fear: “they were terrified and bowed their faced to the ground”, Saint Luke tells us – they didn’t even have courage to look. But when they hear the message of the Resurrection, they accept it in faith. And the two men in dazzling clothes tell them something of crucial importance: “Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee… And they remembered his words” (Lk 24:6,8). They are asked to remember their encounter with Jesus, to remember his words, his actions, his life; and it is precisely this loving remembrance of their experience with the Master that enables the women to master their fear and to bring the message of the Resurrection to the Apostles and all the others (cf. Lk 24:9). To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have travelled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future. May we learn to remember everything that God has done in our lives. 

God of Resurrection and new life,
you whose dear Son, Jesus
broke open the tomb
and the clutches of death
help us to hear
today's Good News
with the enthusiasm of Mary Magdalene,
Peter, and the Beloved Disciple.

May we too run with energy,
pause with prayerful reflection,
and then believe as they did.
Help us hear "rumors of Resurrection"
everywhere we go -- and spread them.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ,
your Son, who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God for ever and ever.


h/t: Rich McKee
     Vatican Radio

Pope John Paul II on Easter

John Paul II

Saturday, March 30, 2013

John Wooden on Character

What Will Make the Difference for Marquette?

As the victorious warriors of the basketball court advance to the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament, it has sparked some hermaneutical introspection.

A Converse perspective adopts the Athletic Department’s enthusiasm.

It is no wonder that the Marquette Men’s basketball program has a 24 game winning streak, considering the loyalty of its fans, as shown by sell outs of the Bradley Center and the energy exerted in the student section.  One small detail that belies Marquette’s Ignatian charism is the one word sentence “Pray”.

Another symbol of the University is the school seal with the strange Latinate motto “Numen flumeneque” It translates to “God and the [Mississippi] River.

Stained Glass of Marquette Seal, Sensenbrernner Hall, Milwauke, WI

The motto has more meaning when one understands Pere Jacques Marquette was a Jesuit missionary  who, along with Louis Jolliet, was one of the first Europeans to explore the northern portion of the Mississippi River in 1673.  Marquette’s alacrity with languages came in handy in his mission to spread the gospel to various indigenous tribes in the new world (a.k.a. “New France”) as he worked with the Hurons, then had good relations with the Illinois tribe as well as when he explored.

Aside from  Père Marquette, the school seal incorporates imagery which honors St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (a.k..a the Jesuits).  The diagonal red and gold bands honors heroes from Ignatius’ lineage who achieved valor in battle. In addition,  the wolves in the coat of arts symbolize the generosity of the Loyola family that even the wolves found something in the kettle to feast.

In 2002, Marquette University adopted the tag line “Be the difference” as it challenged the Marquette community to be leaders to make important contributions, which echoes the Ignatian attitude to be “contemplation in action”

Marquette athletic teams have gone by several monikers.  Originally, they were named “the Hill Toppers” due to their topography.  In the 1920s, they were nicknamed “the Golden Avalanche” for their football prowess by sports writers.  Other teams were informally tagged “the Blue and the Gold”.  The name that really stood out was the Warriors, which all Marquette teams sported from 1954 to 1994, including the infamous 1970 NIT Champions and the 1977 NCAA Champion basketball teams under Al McGuire.

Aside from a proud record for Marquette basketball, the University has the knack for choosing colorful and charismatic coaches.  The 2013 jerseys bear patches to Al McGuire as well as Rick Majerus, who played for the Warriors (or warmed the bench as he would put it), was an assistant coach and head coach before moving on.  This is Buzz William’s fifth season at Marquette.  Williams takes a humble but persistent approach with his team.  Williams recently observed:

That's just another Marquette game.  We're not good enough to blow anybody out. We're just good enough to get blown out. And if we can turn it into a fight and make it ugly, then it probably trends toward helping us the most. What you saw is a microcosm of our culture.

They also have been playing with teamwork and everyone contributing.  In a recent March Madness game, Buzz Williams made 67 substitution.  Many of the bench players get more minutes than the starters.  It may be synchronicity but this humble, determined and gritty approach approximates the Jesuit ideal.

Marquette basketball has produced some great pro players of late, including Dwayne Wade (Miami Heat) and Jae Crowder (Dallas Mavericks).  But aside from their atheletic excellence, Marquette student athletes have stellar graduation rates.  Marquette athletes have a 91% graduation rate, compared to 78% of the whole student body.

In 1994, Marquette University President hastened a change from the Warriors to the Golden Eagles, allegedly so that the Warriors could be unisex, but what is more likely is that the machinations were to be politically correct and to sell more licensed sportswear.  Even today, Marquette basketball games are punctuated with spontaneous cheers “Let’s go Warriors!” instead of chanting up the unremarkable  “Golden Eagles”.

While the Willie Wampum cartoon Warrior was obviously offensive to modern mores, Marquette University crafted a Warrior consulting with various Indian tribes that bespoke honor and valor in battle, much like Ignatius of Loyola’s black robed religious warriors.

This is Marquette University basketball’s third straight trip to the Sweet Sixteen, and first advance to the Elite Eight since 2003, where they were roundly beaten by Kansas.  There is the possibility that there might be a rematch between the Jayhawks and Marquette in this year’s final four.  Rather than be haunted by the past, it is better to be calm and ahoya on.

Win or lose, Warrior or Golden Eagle, may the imprint of Marquette to be the difference in the world.  But if it helps, the Elite Eight game is being played in the District of Calamity (sic).

Pere Marqutte Statue by  Gaetano Trentanove (1896)

The Wisconsin contribution to the Congressional collection is none other than Père Jacques Marquette.  It used to be in Statuary Hall but now is displayed in the Congressional Visitors Center at the U.S. Capitol. Perhaps that omen will bring some luck to keep the Blue on Gold on route to the Atlanta Highway for the Final Four.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Prayer to the Blessed Virgin of Sorrows

Pieta by Salvador Dali (1982)

Let me live at your side, my Mother,
and be the companion of your bitter solitude and profound pain.
Let my soul feel your eyes' sad weeping 
and the abandonment of your heart. 

On the road of my life
I do not wish to savor the joy of Bethlehem,
adoring the child Jesus in your virginal arms. 
I do not wish to enjoy the amiable presence 
of Jesus Christ in the humble little house of Nazareth.
I do not care to accompany you in your glorious Assumption
to the Angels' choir.

For my life, I covet the jeers and mockery of Calvary;
the slow agony of your Son,
the contempt, the ignominy, the infamy of His cross.
I wish to stand at your side, most sorrowful Virgin,
strengthening my spirit with your tears,
consuming my sacrifice with your martyrdom,
sustaining my heart with your solitude,
loving my God and your God
with the immolation of my being.


C.S. Lewis on Forgiveness

CS Lewis

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Equalizer?

As the California Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) cases were argued before the United States Supreme Court, there was a concerted social media campaign to show support for Same Sex Marriages by displaying an equals sign on a red background. 

This Graphic "You want to talk about Equality"  challenges that meme with footprints challenging progressive secular sanctimoniousness by reminding them about their negative solution on the Right to Life. Meme chose, n'est pas?  

Actually no it isn't as the right to life would seem to trump altering contract rights and imposing it on all states. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pope Francis on Holy Week

Tenebrae Time with the Suspicious Cheese Lords

Mount St. Sepulchre in Washington, DC is a Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America. The Church itself neo-Byzantine design by Roman architect Aristide Leonari in 1899.  The church looks akin to  St. Sophia (Hagia  Sophia) in Constantinople (Istanbul).

The interior of the church resembles a five fold Crusader Cross of Jerusalem. The large bronze baldachin is is supported by columns which depicts the twelve Apostles. The interior is decorated with the Ave Maria and scenes from the life of Mary.

The Friary is the home of Franciscan Commissariat in the nation's capital, and they continue their 800 year tradition of supporting the Holy Land. Part of the charism of the Commissariat seems to be a special celebration of Passiontide.

The Tenebrae service which is celebrated on Spy Wednesday is is resplendent in faith and history, as is incorporates a cappella medieval pieces sung by the Suspicious Cheese Lords (Suscipe Domine Queso).

While they are a consummate choir, the Suspicious Cheese Lords need to practice their polyphonic songs in situ at the Franciscan Monastery.

The Suspicious Cheese Lords in rehearsal for the Tenebrae Service.

Even though the Suspicious Cheese Lords ordinarily sing early music works, one year they chose to perform Arvo Part's De Profundis (1980).

Lighting the Candelabra for the Tenebrae Service.

Extinguishing the candles during the Tenebrae Service.

 The closing of the Tenebrae service is marked by a retreat of the single candle into the crypt.  As the vault to the catacombs is slammed, it sets off an unnerving Strepitus, meant to symbolize the earth convulsing at the death of the the Messiah, Jesus the Christ.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Prayer in Spring by Robert Frost

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.

Robert Frost (1915)

Gerald Manley Hopkins Welcomes Spring

Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
  When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
  Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
  The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
  The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
  A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
  Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
  Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

Spring (1918)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Morning Prayer?

Some morning glory.  It seems you have to take it day-by-day.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Some Confessions of St. Patrick

But after I reached Ireland I used to pasture the flock each day and I used to pray many times a day. 
More and more did the love of God, 
and my fear of him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved
so that in a day [I said] from one up to a hundred prayers, 
and in the night a like number; 
besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain
and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain,
and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, 
because, as I now see, 
the Spirit was burning in me at that time.

[from the Confessions of St. Patrick]

George Washington on Faith

St. Patrick on Faith

Friday, March 15, 2013

Conclave Calm?

Who knew?  Apparently, the Holy Spirit!

Checking Out Pope Francis

After paying respects to the Salvation of the Roman People icon at the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore  (a.k.a. Our Lady of the Snows), Pope Francis' ecclesiastical entourage took an unexpected detour.  

The newly elected Argentine pope asked his driver to circle back to the Domus Internationalis Paulus VI,  so that Pope Francis could collect his luggage.  After he collected his things, the prelate went to the front desk of the Vatican run boarding house to thank the staff.  Then Pope Francis insisted upon paying his bill. 

Most people might have understood had the Pope had.left the Church pick up the 85 Euro a night tab for a complete pension,  he insisted on trying to pay his way to set a good  example of  what priests and bishops should do.  It is unclear how much Pope Francis actually paid. Moreover, it is humorous but dubious that he claimed that he checked in under a different name. 

This pied-de-terre episode certainly solidifies Pope Francis' reputation for frugality and fraternity with common folks.  But it may symbolize some of the new Pontiff's ambitions to challenge the comfortable situations of the Curia and dispel the anti-clerical slight that the Church lives high on the hog on their parishioners' tithes. 

The early trip to Santa Maria Maggiore may also herald another important aspect of Pope Francis's papacy.  New Popes are expected to visit all five of Rome's patriarchal basilicas early in their reign.  Moreover, many recent pontiffs, especially Pope Blessed John Paul II, have major Marian devotions.     
It is telling, however,  the on the morning of his first full day in the chair of St. Peter that Pope Francis visits  Salus Populi Romani and also brings flowers.  This icon is of particular significance to Romans. For example, when Rome was going to fall from Axis control in World War II, Adolph Hitler vowed to bomb the Eternal City to smithereens.  Pope Pius XII arranged a procession of the Byzantine Salus Populi Romani through the streets and miraculously a fog enveloped the city, so the angry Nazi bombs only fell on a Roman cemetery.  This humble act continues Pope Francis identification with his new Roman Diocese.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Frank" Pontification on Respecting Human Life

In 2012, now Pope Francis said 

Abortion is never a solution. We listen, support and understanding from our place to save two lives: respect the human being small and helpless, they can take steps to preserve your life, allow birth and then be creative in the search for ways to bring it to its full development.
It was during a 2007 speech that he likened abortion with the death penalty. 

As Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio  also voiced his opposition to capital punishment, assisted suicide and what he termed "clandestine euthanasia", which is a social services culture of discarding the elderly by stopping payment for services. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sistine Chapel Seagull

As the world awaits a smoke signal from the Sistine Chapel for the result from the second afternoon of the Conclave voting, a strange sight can be seen on the smokestack.

A seagull has been persistently  perched on top of the temporary chimney on the Sistine Chapel.  The seagull has remained there for over a half hour and caught the attention of the crowd in St. Peter's Square as well as the media.

The crowd that has been patiently waiting in the rain for Wednesday afternoon's results were entertained when two seagulls fought it out for the Petrine perch.

Usually the Holy Spirit is manifest as a dove, so it is unlikely to be a sign of the Trinity.  More likely, this seagull is what Senator John McCain (R-AZ) might call a "Wacko Bird".

 It is unclear what will happen when there is Holy Smoke signals.


Electing to Pray for St. Chad's Humility

Being a political animal, I first became familiar with St. Chad only after the contest Year 2000 Presidential elections, when hanging chads were the rage in Palm Beach County, Florida.  Even though there is no Patron Saint of Disputed Elections, St. Chad of Mercia (England) offers a wonderful example of public service and humility.

In the 7th Century AD, Chad was the abbot of several monasteries who was elevated to be Bishop of Northumbrian by King Oswiu. But when his appointment was disputed, the Archbishop of Canterbury asked Chad to step aside from his episcopacy.  Chad complied with remarkable humility. 

As it is only the second day of Conclave 2013, it is unlikely that the College of Cardinals is deadlocked on voting for the next Supreme Pontiff.  Still, St. Chad's example of humility and public service epitomizes the ideal of being elected the Servant of Servants of God. 

Almighty God, whose servant Chad, for the peace of the Church, relinquished cheerfully the honors that had been thrust upon him, only to be rewarded with equal responsibility: Keep us, we pray, from thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, and ready at all times to step aside for others, (in honor preferring one another,) that the cause of Christ may be advanced; in the name of him who washed his disciples' feet, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Papabili "Pontificate"

Even before the interregum began, Vatican watchers could not help but speculate who would become the sole Cardinal survivor who would become the Supreme Pontiff.

Choosing  the next vicar is not decided by playing musical chairs in the Sistine Chapel or at a chatty Church “Tribal Council” but by prayerful discernment with the guidance of the Holy Spirit after interacting with their Cardinal colleagues.

Part of the reason for the General Congregations of the Cardinals in the Sede Vacante interregnum is so that fellow cardinals can informally acquaint themselves before going into the Conclave.

These  informal judgments about character and virtue gleaned from coffee breaks and schmoozing can inform Cardinal-electors to their choice . Consider that as they cast each vote, they must swear an oath to vote for the vest man to lead the church as they as they stand before Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel.

Now that the start of the Conclave has been set for Tuesday March 12, we ought to  educate ourselves of potential pontiffs. While the faithful outside the College of Cardinals are neither  privy to a Papabili’s piety nor their force of personality amongst equals, we can get a glimpse of their persona through quotes attributed to these Princes of the Church.

In furtherance of this understanding, here are a passel of Papabili.  For those who appreciate hemaneutics, studying their heraldry along with their chosen mottoes might be revealing.

Note the San Marco lion and the ship on Archbishop Scola's crest--those are remnants from when the nine years when Scola was the Patriarch of Venice before he was transferred to the influential Ambrosian diocese of Milan.

Ravasi was appointed as Prefect of the Pontifical Council for Culture in 2007. Ravasi was also appointed for a five year term on the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Pontifical Council for Interreligous Dialogue and he was the first member of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

Pope Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Turkson to the the President of the  Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 2009.

Ouette has been the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops (having the responsibility for "recruiting" and vetting bishops)  as well as also serving as the President of Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

Aside from his tony lineage and close connections with  Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, Schoenborn was a key editor for the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Scherer does has some experience with the Roman Curia, as he washe was an official of the Congregation for Bishops from 1994 to 2001.

Braz de Aviz was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as the Prefect of the  Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in 2011.

Tagle only received his scarlet zucchetto in November 2012.  But the 55 year old Tagle had been named for a five year term to serve on the Congregation for Catholic Education.  Moreover, Pope Benedict XVI named Tagle as one of the Synod fathers for the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization on September 18, 2012.

Cardinal O'Malley is a Capuchin who is renowned for his holiness.  O'Malley serves on the Pontifical Council for the Family which befits his longstanding commitment to pro-life issues as well as  his association with March for Life founder Nellie Gray.

Dolan has  been a Cardinal for just over a year but he transferred from a seven year stint being Archbishop of Milwaukee to the Archbishop of New York in 2009.  Currently, Dolan is the President of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops.  Last year, Dolan was a leading voice in the Fortnight for Freedom project to educate Americans about the HHS Mandate and how it encroached on First Amendment liberties.

Prior to the Conclave's commencement, Cardinals have urged for prayer in their discerning.  To that end,  will designate a Cardinal-elector for you to pray for during this period.

Archbishop Marc Cardinal Ouellet on Leadership

Cardinal Cordes on Conclaves

St. Francis de Sales on Faith

St Francis de Sales

An animated St. Francis de Sales opines about the Image of God--