Monday, March 31, 2008

Well, this is interesting ...

I'm not actively reading this book, but it's laying around - for appearances' sake probably - on my night-stand. Not that my bedroom is a high-traffic area, except with the front stairs still blocked off, the kids run through morning and night on their way to the back stairs. I'm not trying to impress the little ones with the books on my night-stand.

So, I picked the book up last night for the first time in several months, other than to move it to get at other books. And I started reading at Chapter 2, "The Temptations of Jesus." I muttered a quick rebuke, Probably should have read this for Lent and moved on. Within four pages, I stopped dead, hung up on a reference to Abraham, Mount Horeb and the sacrifice of a son.1

"It isn't Mount Horeb! It was only a three-day journey!"2 I blurted out to my drifting-off-to-sleep husband who frankly couldn't care a drip. I thought and thought and thought again of how I could be wrong. And I concluded that I wasn't wrong. It isn't Mount Horeb. The text is wrong.3

My point isn't about the error but that somebody like me who knows nothing can find an error in such a book in under five minutes. Drives me nuts. Well, if by some grace I continue reading in this book, don't think I'm doing it in the hopes of finding more errors. Very unsettling.

1 That's on page 29 for those of you following along at home.

2 Genesis 22:2,4

3 Folks are saying the translation is wrong, in the comments (search the page for "horeb"). I haven't any other reference but my English version. The suggestion offered to fix the text (substitute "Elijah" for "Abraham," based on 1 Kings 19:8) doesn't work perfectly, so if there is a phrase that fits, I haven't found it online yet.

"Critics say Amish religious rights violated by upstate NY town", Newsday, 3/18/08:
The fight began in July 2006 when a member of the conservative Swartzentruber sect was charged with building a house without a permit.

The men do not deny building houses without permits.

They are willing to purchase building permits, but contend the requirements of the codes _ such as having smoke detectors, submitting engineering plans and allowing inspections _ violate their religious beliefs.

The Amish men speak mostly Pennsylvania Dutch and German and have had to use an interpreter to understand the charges against them.

[T]here have been no building collapses, fires, or other public emergencies that would provide the town with a compelling interest to enforce the building code on the Amish, who follow their own stringent building codes, which are part of the Ordnung, Amish rules for living passed down orally from one generation to the next.

In the early 1980s, local leaders and the Amish were able to reach a compromise on safety signs for Amish buggies.

[T]he Amish men would likely be fined if convicted, but could also face jail time and the razing of any structures they build illegally.
via MzEllen & Co.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

I could not sit there the whole meal knowing the kid had my wallet:

"A Victim Treats His Mugger Right" - NPR StoryCorps, 3/28/08:
If you're going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.

I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner and if you really want to join me ... hey, you're more than welcome.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Last night, another parent mentioned Bush's visit to Freehold today.

"President Bush visits Freehold Township" - Asbury Park Press, 3/28/08:
The visit is Bush's first to Monmouth County since he has been president. And it comes as local business owners and consumers are wary that the slowing economy could fall into a recession.
He said Bush will be right across the street from his office.

I could have found a reason to drive through Freehold today on my way to Delicious Orchards in Colts Neck but I decided I was too tired.

It would be nice to, after the kids get out of school, take them by there but, of course, there's no hope of even catching a glimpse. Which, I suppose, is how it is, ironically, in a free society.

But, if Kenny could catch a peek, he would be absolutely thrilled, I'm sure. So thrilled, in fact, that I shouldn't even tell him that the President is so close because he'd regret not trying to get a view.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008


For the first time, Kenny had to conduct an individual project for the school's science fair. At Tim's age, he still does group projects. His class's project is on the five senses.

Kenny wanted to do something with generators. He wanted to make his own electric generator but that's too advanced for second grade. "How would you follow that up next year, kid?!" (I don't even know if we have a soldering iron. Probably someplace!)

We have this hand-crank radio and I looked online for project ideas. We decided to measure how long the radio plays depending on how many times the crank is turned. Our guess was that more cranks would mean longer playing time.

We also wanted to understand the components of a simple electric generator (magnet, coil, crank), how those components work together to generate electricity and, rather than build one ourselves, use commercially available gadgets to demonstrate operation and prove our hypothesis that "turning the crank more results in a longer playing time."

Something we observed during our experiment is that raising the antenna increased playing time, as well. So we included that observation in our results: playing time isn't dependent exclusively on the number of cranks but also on whether or not the antenna is raised.

An online graph making tool available from the National Center for Education Statistics, a part of the U.S. Dept. of Ed. was a simple way to plot and show our results.

If you'd like a closer, more detailed look, check out the image at flickr.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Gorbachev models respect for his fellow atheists:
"To sum up and avoid any misunderstandings, let me say that I have been and remain an atheist."

Mr Gorbachev spent half an hour on his knees in silent prayer at the tomb [of St Francis of Assisi].

After his prayers, Mr Gorbachev toured the Basilica of St Francis and asked in particular to be shown an icon of St Francis portraying his "dream at Spoleto".

"I feel very emotional to be here at such an important place not only for the Catholic faith, but for all humanity."

The Russian Orthodox Church seemed just as unimpressed.

"In Italy, he spoke in emotional terms, rather than in terms of faith," a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox patriarch Alexei II told the Russian media.

"He is still on his way to Christianity. If he arrives, we will welcome him."1

Ronald Reagan, the former United States president, allegedly told his close aides on a number of occasions that he felt his opponent during the Cold War was a "closet believer".2

Ref. "Gorbachev a closet Christian?" - Chicago Tribune, 3/23/08; "Mikhail Gorbachev admits he is a Christian" - Telegraph, 3/19/08.

1 Ooh, icy Orthodox. Brrr. Just because he made his comments at a Catholic church.

2 Gee, when else has an American president been so wrong about a Russian leader? "I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul." "Bush and Putin: Best of friends" - BBC News, 6/16/01.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Kenny is home. He seems quite happy to be home. Everyone is happy to have him home again.

Happy Easter.

Previous post.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

As I sat in church this evening, I was so thankful that I didn't need a ticket to be there.

The article is over ten years old but I heard on the radio this evening that the practice still stands.

"An Easter Ticket That Can't Be Had by Faith Alone" - The New York Times, 4/7/96:
The tickets are free, but for those who want them, they are priceless.

There are only 4,200 available spaces (including about 1,000 in standing-room areas) at the midmorning Easter Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral -- not a lot, considering that for some people the cathedral is the place to be on Easter morning. Admission is by ticket only.

[T]he rector, said the cathedral draws so many people because it is "a spiritual oasis." Some 20,000 people will enter its grand double doors today for eight Masses between 7 A.M. and 5:30 P.M.
The new fire outside the new church prepared me for other changes that the new pastor, in his second Easter, has instituted.1

I gave Tim a moment by the fire ...

then we entered the dark church and, being ten minutes later than I planned, we weren't as close as I wanted. But, then, the reserved seating for the catechumens, sponsors, family and guests take up about ten rows, on either side of the center aisle. One middle-aged man was sprawled out on the cushioned pew just behind the reserved rows, as if asleep, in an attempt to save most of the row. I thought to myself, "This isn't a bus terminal" and moved on back.

The people around were as chatty as ever. Nary a prayer bein' lifted. The tired business of playing with ring tones, talking about work - it all felt like deja vu, even down to the fur-coat wearing elderly lady who gradually slumped left during the readings, only to sit bolt upright when the tambourines sounded! Your pastor has changed, Hamilton, but you haven't.

Timmy put me in no position to look down my nose at any of them because he was 1,000 times worse. I was ready to lie to the woman next to us: "Please, you must understand, he's a foster child from an abused home. He has a neurological disorder, please! He's adopted but his birth mother took drugs and alcohol, you must understand!" But I resisted the temptation to lie. He's my kid and none of those other things are true.

Now, two nights ago, I held a struggling Ella in my arms for two hours. Tonight I held a struggling Timmy for about the same amount of time. In other words, my arms are tired and sore. 'Though I guess those two kids weight about the same (good for Ella, poor for Timmy).

Timmy asked why the church was dark and I said that it's as if everyone is sleeping. I didn't want to be too exact ... and too morbid ... so I used a euphemism. I told him that when the lights come on, it will be as if we all wake up.

He and I went back to the new fire as summoned by the deacon. Timmy was directly in front of it; I don't think I've ever been so close. But then the catechumens came and stood in front of us and he got cold as a result. I held him against me and wrapped my coat around him.

The Exsultet wasn't my favorite arrangement but it was sung beautifully by neither a priest nor a deacon.

The readings2 went the same as usual: the chapel lights turned on when the reader said, "Let there be light." In response to the Genesis reading, Timmy said to me, "God says all these things and they happen!" Exactly. God's like a superhero to kids.

I remember in years past one of the readings being a duet between an elderly husband and wife. Isaiah 54, perhaps. But that didn't happen. Maybe one of them passed away. And maybe she did the Isaiah 55 reading instead.

One of my favorites:
For just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.
After the third Old Testament reading, the woman next to us checked her watch.

Father began his homily with an Eastern Christian greeting with which I was unfamiliar: "Christ is Risen!" and we were supposed to say, "He Has Risen Indeed!"3

There were eight baptisms and Timmy and I walked back to the narthex to watch. There's a camera and the live action is projected on the wall in the sanctuary but I wanted him to see it in person. He noticed that most of the candidates were female and he asked why. I didn't have an answer. I held him up high so he could see. For all I know, the camera picked up our image as well! He thought it was interesting.

After we returned to our seats, I announced to Timmy loud enough for the lady next to us to hear, "'Bout halfway through now!" She looked at her watch again. As the candidates for confirmation were being sealed with the Holy Spirit, the folks behind us - who were actually there on behalf of a candidate - let out an audible, "Oh, come on already!"

Plenty of people left before it was over ... and not just parents of young children. In fact, during the closing song - and the music was absolutely outstanding, timpani have such a powerful, solemn sound - regular folks were walking out the center aisle ahead of the pastor!

Now, I gotta wonder about something. Monsignor Stan blessed Timmy at communion time and told him to be a good boy. Timmy has a habit of sticking his tongue out at adults who talk to him or try to be nice to him. In this instance, I wasn't watching for Timmy's reaction. I was actually afraid to look or unwilling to make a scene by scolding. The deacon serving the cup also blessed Timmy. Then, during the recessional, Monsignor Stan locked eyes with Timmy as he passed us, so I can only imagine! One way or another, Timmy made an impression on the monsignor.

The bank of candles that were closed off for the Triduum were open, so I had enough money with me for Timmy to light seven candles, the "fullness of wishes." He was pleased as punch and insisted that we walk around the entire church on our way to our car. And we did that and came home.

1 Stayed local with Ella last year. Two years ago.

2 Selection of possible readings.

3 Incidentally, at a Presbyterian church this Easter Sunday morning, the pastor greeting his congregation in the same way, explaining the Eastern European origin of the expression. The topic must have come up at a Central New Jersey Pastors' Conference or something because it's just too much of a coincidence.
A couple of beliefnet blogs, this one and this one, are talking about the non-practicing Muslim that Benedict baptized this evening.

The pope is getting kudos from Christians for doing his job? Eh.

In late November 2006, the Egyptian apparitions from 40 years ago came up during discussion at a Bible study at St. Aloysius in Jackson, and the study leader, who is younger than I, wasn't familiar at all.

I sent her a private email, included here in full, when I got home, by way of background/explanation:
One more thing, about the reported Marian apparition in Egypt in the late 60's when Nasser was president:

I really think that Mary will have a role in bringing Christians and Muslims together, implicitly or explicitly. And that prospect is exciting to me.
I hadn't read this article until today when I found it linked to here but I'm not alone in this hope. Obviously the man the pope baptized today thinks so too:
ROME - 3 July 2006 - Mary can bring religions together says Muslim writer

An Egyptian Muslim and deputy director of a prominent Italian newspaper has suggested that Mary could be the figure to bring Christians and Muslims together.

Mr Magdi Allam of Il Corriere della Sera has launched an appeal in the pages of the national daily newspaper to Muslims in Italy to visit Marian shrines.

The journalist said that he is convinced that the Virgin Mary is a meeting point between Christians and Muslims.

"Mary is a figure present in the Koran, which dedicates an entire chapter to her and mentions her some thirty times. In Muslim countries there are Marian shrines that are the object of veneration and pilgrimage by Christian and Muslim faithful," he said.

"Therefore, I believe that if this happens in Muslim countries, why can't it happen in a Christian country, especially in this historical phase in which we need to define symbols, values and figures that unite religions, spiritualities and cultures?" he asked.

In Allam's opinion, "the Marian pilgrimage of Loreto - Italy's National Shrine - could represent a moment of meeting and spiritual gathering between Muslims and Catholics, around Mary, a religious figure that is venerated by both religions."
Do I believe in Marian apparitions? No, never for a second. But just because I don't believe in them doesn't mean they don't happen.
Fr. Komonchak has been posting from Augustine's sermons at Commonweal and today's is wonderful. A sample:
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? Has not my Lord shattered it? O death, when you went after my Lord, you died also to me. This is the salvation by which will be saved anyone who believes and is baptized.
Go, read it all.
I'm no fan of Alister McGrath, but since Darwin is unfairly blamed - or unduly credited - with the rise of religious skepticism, McGrath does an honest work, setting the historical record back to a movement of which Darwin was a mere heir:
The roots of atheism, [Alister] McGrath suggests, lay paradoxically in that primal phenomenon of Western modernity, the Protestant Reformation.

The Reformers' efforts to purify the institutional church in order to make it more concordant with their vision of Jesus' authentic teachings generated a loss of trust in institutional religion in general.

Furthermore, McGrath argues that the Reformers, by focusing upon the Bible as the sole source of God's revelation, effectively desacralized both the natural world and the secular human world, which in the integralist medieval Catholic view had been equally saturated with God's sacred presence.

With the Reformation, "God became an absence in the world," writes McGrath.
(From a book review)

It's nice to hear someone within the evangelical camp come clean on something that's so blatantly obvious.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

I'm not sure why Father went there because, in my mind, he opened a can of worms ...

He mentioned the absence of Simon of Cyrene1 in the passion account we read at 3 today. He tried to answer the logical question of why John left him out, assuming, I suppose that he was there, helping Jesus carry the cross, as the Synoptics and the "popular" Stations of the Cross indicate.

It's easy enough to admit that John simply left Simon out but that doesn't address the larger question of how Jesus got to Calvary. Was he stumbling and falling or was he so self-possessed that he yielded his spirit only after all was finished?

But this question starts in the Garden (of Gethsemane), if not earlier.

I'm not much of a fan of homogenizing Scripture, especially the Gospels. Whoever thunk up Gospel harmonies was trying too hard. Scripture says what it says. Let's not ponder over wise men and shepherds or two Temple cleansings.

But, in this case, can't we have both Christs? Isn't this the two natures, later defined dogmatically, clearly in evidence?

1 The Fourth Gospel isn't really late enough to take on full-blown Christian Gnosticism, but certainly some early christological heresies, like Docetism, could have used the figure of Simon of Cyrene as a stand-in for Christ at the crucifixion, as the Wiki article suggests.

This is parodied in Life of Brian briefly, fleetingly, but watching the film, I never associated the gag with a misappropriated Cyrenian tradition until just now.
My people, what have I done to you
How have I offended you? Answer me!

Good Friday Reproaches -- Wiki

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I would have rather gone than not, but when a grandmother-type approaches afterwards to tell me that I'm brave, it just makes me wonder whether I shouldn't have.

I don't like being brave. Or being called brave. I don't like being noticed ... for that sort of thing. It can't be good.

And it wasn't very good.

I missed the homily because Ella got into a (rare) crying fit. When I directed the two boys out, they were clueless at my meaning. "All this time, she's been ordering us to stay in the pew, now she wants us out?" The fact that there were other mothers with small children hanging about the narthex was a comfort at first, but as they gradually returned and I yet remained, I struggled to hold on to hope.

But the appropriate time manifested itself to me, after the foot-washing ritual - no creed recited - during the General Intercessions. Thankfully, no one had taken our seats. I'm not sure that anyone was pleased to see us return. We marked out our place early so that anyone who chose to sit around us knew what they were in for. At least I think it was fair warning. I suppose they could have mistakenly thought that my kids might behave.

Everyone around us was strikingly devout. I was touched by it. Holy Thursday brings out the spiritually serious Catholics, I guess. I would have thought that any of the young men seated around us with their parents were considering the priesthood, so fervent was their focus, so earnest their posture. I hated to mess that up with my two (three?) little wiggle worms.

Tim is good at finding things, little bits of things. He found several thin strands of palm from the previous Sunday. No matter how well the church is cleaned, those tiny pieces linger on. He was happy to manipulate the strings in his hands but his younger brother was set on pulling apart the strands into even smaller parts. Now, if the larger small pieces got by the church cleaners, how much more the smaller small pieces? I couldn't let him pull apart the strands but he wasn't happy about my interference especially because I allowed Tim, who wasn't doing anything wrong, to continue to hold his strands.

I had practiced my Pange Lingua/Tantum Ergo earlier in the day, but as the music commenced, Tim dropped the hymnal - on cue, you'd think! - and just enough time passed in recovery that I couldn't find my place until three stanzas later, towards the end. So few people were singing that it was very difficult to make out the words.

The candles were roped off for the Triduum, a custom that I wasn't familiar with - I've said before that I'm not much of a candle person. But Tim was very, very disappointed about not being able to light any candles. I just had to remind him that he lighted some candles at St. Gabriel's on Wednesday evening on his own, which I was still getting my coat on. He said that he wanted to show Chris how the electric candles worked. "But you didn't deposit a donation," I chided. That's ok, Jeff says, he didn't pray a prayer either.

The Simpsons one is ok too but the others are downright sacrilegious!

"Why don't we do it in 'The Road?!'"

via Happy Catholic
Speaking of Beatles and sacrilege, Jeff had me watch the recent episodes of American Idol of covers. He thought a couple were good, like "She's a Woman."

Covering such well-known songs is a great gamble.

The "She hates to see me cry" could be Judas Iscariot but otherwise he does the song as I imagine the Beatles wish they could have. On "The White Album", there's the impression that Paul held back belting out the more R&B numbers.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The results are in ...
Smartest Catholic Blog

What Does the Prayer Really Say?: 183
AmericanPapist: Not Your Average Catholic!: 54
the new liturgical movement: 53
The Raft on the Tiber: 3
ChristusVincit: 3
Teresa's Two Cents: 3
Catholic Analysis: 2

Total votes this category:
Results Last Updated: Wednesday, March 19, 2008 - 14:00
Congratulations to all the winners! I just want to say "thanks" to whoever vote #3 was, since I assume that my nominator voted for me.

I suppose I should have allowed Jeff to write the program that would stuff the ballot box in my favor, after all. There was just something about it that, well, just didn't sound fair. Right now, I just can't think what that was exactly ...
I looked back through my email and see that it was two years ago, during a study of Judges, that the study leader suggested Moriah and Golgotha were the same mountain height. It was in the context of Samson carrying the doors and posts of the city gate up to Hebron (Judges 16:3). That effort reminded me of Christ carrying the cross. That Sunday's reading was from Genesis 22: Isaac carrying the wood up Mt. Moriah.

And, having been in Jerusalem, I challenged the suggestion: Christ was crucified outside the city (Hebrews 13:12, 'though this could be metaphorical) and the Temple was built upon Mt. Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1). It's assumed that the Second Temple was built in the same place as the First.

How, then, could Christ have been crucified on Mt. Moriah, where the Temple stands? And why do the Gospels say differently?

The only way to believe that these are the same mountain height is to say, as some do, that the heights are in the same range. Qualified in those terms, it's simpler to say that the sacrifice of Isaac and the crucifixion of Christ happened in the same city! Why get romantic about it? Are mountains likewise sacred to us?

But is that even true? Did the events happen in the same city?

The Jewish Encyclopedia has something interesting to say on the subject of the sacrifice of Isaac:
Most modern biblical scholars, however, regard the name as a reference to the Amorites, losing the initial a via aphesis; the name is thus interpreted as meaning land of the Amorites. This also agrees with the biblical text as it appears in the Syriac Peshitta - where the near-sacrifice occurs at the land of the Amorites, and in the Septuagint, where, for example, 2 Chronicles 3:1 refers to the location as Ἀμωρία - Amōriā.

Some scholars also identify it with Moreh, the location near Shechem at which Abraham built an altar, according to Genesis 12:6. Hence a number of scholars believe that Moriah refers to a hill near Shechem, supporting the Samaritan belief that the near-sacrifice of Isaac occurred on Mount Gerizim - a location near Shechem.
Also from Wiki:
In the book of Chronicles it is reported that the location of Araunah's threshing floor is "in mount Moriah" and that the Temple of Solomon was built over Araunah's threshing floor.

This has led to the classical rabbinical supposition that this is at the peak of Moriah; a later Islamic tradition recounts that Moriah is the same location as the Foundation Stone, which Jewish tradition holds to be the former location of the Temple of Solomon.

However, this tradition is not reported by the centuries earlier Books of Samuel, and biblical scholars view the tradition as somewhat implausible; according to a Biblical passage concerning Melchizedek, Jerusalem was already a city with a priest at the time of Abraham, and thus is unlikely to have been founded after this, at the site of a sacrifice made by Abraham in the wilderness.
Why revisit all this two years later? Because I am now studying Genesis 22 and the study guide alludes to Christ's death during its treatment of Isaac, rather obliquely, "Many centuries later God would provide another 'lamb' who would die on this same mountain". Hmm. Who says that Christianity doesn't deal in myth?

(Of course, I love myth, but let's be conscious of it, alright?)

An amazing interactive map of Jerusalem.

cf. Reasons why the Garden Tomb isn't it.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Catholic Nerd blog seems to be back ...

These aren't from there ...
  • you feel challenged by Catholics who see no irony in considering themselves more Catholic than the Pope.

  • at Mass, you find yourself mouthing sotto voce a prayer prescribed for the priest, only to be horrified by his ad-libbing.


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Waiting for the Catholic Carnival to get posted, I was checking out the host blog, Aggie Catholics - aka "Mary's Aggies" which seems to be the blog of the Catholic Campus Ministry at Texas A&M.

I wasn't sure, as I watched the video associated with this post, what precisely piqued me but I found the video to be obnoxious, somehow.

Not the message, per se. So, the delivery ... It's smugness? Sure, like pride, smug people can't bear the smugness of others. And Christians are nothing, if not smug.

But, ironically, it's the ungracefulness - yeah, you heard right! - of the production, the setting, the actors, the dialogue, the props. Campus ministry production? Oh, but it isn't.

The literal application of Daniel 5:27 to Judgment annoys me:
Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting.
In that story, King Belshazzar was killed after he was found wanting ... and because of it. So, there's a sequence problem with the application to Final Judgment.

cf. Matthew 7:2 - For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
The Catholic Carnival is up.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Went to the beach this afternoon ... check out the pictures.

"A Little Help?"

Standing is easy now.

Getting back down, on the other hand, is scary.

Chris at Catholic Converts has a Holy Week poll.

I didn't answer in the majority. I don't see any reason to "move in" until Thursday night.

As one person put it, "I never heard of 'Holy Monday.'"

"The Irish are the blacks of Europe.

Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland.

The Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin.

Say it once and say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud."

The Commitments
I wouldn't say I was lost, but I went too far one Friday evening after Stations and, in the act of doubling back, came across the renowned, Western NJ religious goods shop, The Cross & Shamrock.

Formerly located near Quakerbridge, not so far-away sounding as it used to, since I find myself on Route 1 quite often. I never visited the shop there.

Knowing several children making sacraments, including one of my own, I dropped in for gifts. I was unprepared for the number of white First Communion gowns available! I don't need one (yet) but I looked them over anyway in dreamy anticipation. Kenny doesn't need white, so I planned just getting a sports coat from Lands End.

The traditional mass book/rosary/scapular kits seem just as impractical as ever. There's really no such thing as a children's mass book, like there's no such thing as a children's Bible. That didn't stop me from getting a couple of children's Bibles. Nothing else struck me as appropriate.

While browsing, I noticed ... to my chagrin ... that I was "out of uniform." Chris and Ella were decked out appropriately in green outfits but I had on Italian brown. Tsk-tsk. When telling my friend, Elizabeth, an Asian Catholic who grew up in an Irish neighborhood about the store, she planned a visit and I warned her of the dress code. She understood it better than I.

There's a box at the back of church with the names of First Communicants on slips of paper. Parishioners are encouraged to draw a name and pray for the child every day between now and their date, printed on the paper. Dropping them a note card through the religious education office is also requested. I took a name last week and taped it to the dashboard of my car. I peaked in the box Sat. night after mass and saw the first three letters of Kenny's name underneath another slip of paper. I reached inside and moved his paper to the top. I need to remind Father to mention the box because I've only heard it once or twice.

What if a child's name ... and there are still several in the box, I'm thinking of drawing another name ... doesn't get selected?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rod Dreher talks about changing his mind on his church:
There was a time when I thought nothing could change my mind about the Roman Catholic Church, of which I was a staunch and intellectually convinced communicant.

What more fundamentally changed for me was my faith in man's ability to say he will never change his mind about anything.

See, I believed in the truth of Catholicism as firmly as I believed there's a sun in the sky. And was I ever proud of my religion!

And now I can see that the pain and humiliation of losing my religion broke my intellectual pride, and led me to a deeper, truer faith.

... having discovered the fragility of certainty and the finitude of reason, I see the freedom to change one's mind as an ambiguous blessing.
Could he, like the rest of us, have swallowed his pride? But staying means the temptation to pride is there yet. We have to keep remembering ...

I'm not clear what became untrue about Catholicism as a result of the sex-abuse scandal. Perhaps something about the office of bishops, like Paragraph 862:
Hence the Church teaches that "the bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent Christ."
I strive to change my mind earnestly on beliefs and opinions. I wasn't born knowing anything. Maybe I wasn't even taught the right stuff. I'm parochial.
I'm sure I've mixed them up ...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

This article isn't very well-written ...

"Early date for Easter has church scrambling" - Asbury Park Press, 3/9/08:
Cross off the feast of St. Patrick on March 17.

Insert an arrow to move the solemnity of St. Joseph, an important holiday for many ethnic Italians, from March 19 to March 15.

Draw another arrow to switch the feast of the Annunciation from March 25 to March 31.

Like a collision of freight cars at a train depot, the more weighty days of Holy Week have bumped the three other feasts out of the way.
I had secretly hoped, through some miraculous mistake, that this evening's Gospel would come from the daily readings because the Palm Sunday reading1 is sooo long! No chance.

And my Daughters of St. Paul missal2 doesn't mark out the roles, so I had to hold the heavy, flopsy pew missal.

As a kid, I remember loathing the "Crowd's" lines. Why is it my part to cry "Crucify Him!"

As I get older and more cynical, it gets easier to read those lines ... and mean them.

1 There are, in fact, two Gospel readings in the Palm Sunday liturgy.

2 With Scripture commentary by Fr. Harrington from the Sacra Pagina Commentary Series. How can I not feel that I've backed the right horse?!

Discussing baptismal rites in reaction to the Vatican's call for a return to traditional trinitarian language, the description came out of a ritual involving the sprinkling of rose petals.

One of the older ladies side-barred to her friend, "Didn't they throw rose petals at Christ when he entered Jerusalem?"

I thought to myself that I'm not looking forward to getting old and having the mind go.

The processional hymn was the Campus Crusade classic mantra Our God Reigns which only I and the cantor were familiar with. No one else was singing.

From the same Press article:
Here at the Jersey Shore, it means an earlier than normal spring kickoff for Jenkinson's Amusements on the boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach and Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, both of which traditionally begin weekend operations on Easter weekend, when parents in the know line up to buy half-priced tickets.
My friend wants to go Good Friday if the weather's decent. She hasn't a religious impulse in her body. We still have tons of tickets that she bought for us half-price last year. Still good, perpetually good.

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The picture at the head of the blog is "Ecce Homo" arch.

Cf. Ecce Homo Convent.
I've had a Byrds song stuck in my head since Wednesday.

I caught myself singing it yesterday morning as I took my son's suitcase to the car before school.

He called this morning from, he thinks, South Carolina. In this age of text messaging, I don't feel too out of touch with him. After a quick 'hi' to me, he wanted to talk with his brothers. The call got dropped in under five minutes.

He wished us "Happy Easter" about a million times before he left. I understand that Catholic churches are off the beaten Disney trail, so I asked his chaperons to do what they would normally do on Sundays, without giving Kenny any extraordinary consideration.1 I was as clear with them as I could be that he hasn't any dietary restrictions, either for health or religious reasons.

Heck, I'm expecting pictures in a day or two!

1 This is the kid who came out of his religious education class on Tuesday evening proclaiming to me, with great boldness, that he can't eat meat on Friday!

I told him not to be such a moron, which, I see, at his age is a compliment. Then I asked him if he got this information from his religious ed. teacher, and he wasn't sure where he heard it.

I still might have to talk with the director about it because my friend, whose daughter attends St. Rose, says the teachers there encourage the second graders to abstain and fast. I find that absurd. NJ Catholics are so weird.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Tim joined me again at Stations. I had invited a friend from the morning's Bible study but she had a conflict, something going on at her church. I've invited her to things before but it seems that her personal life revolves around her church, in a disturbingly cultish way.

Just as well, because the night's programme was different: the confirmation class miming the Stations. Everyone hates mimes, right?

The turnout was much, much larger than usual, because of all the parents. It wasn't quite a circus atmosphere, despite the mimes, but some parents moved about, snapping flash photographs. It's a large nave, so their walking around wasn't as distracting as the children themselves who, 'though they acted well, didn't send me into a contemplative mood, certainly.

I brought in some singles for Timmy to light candles in the back. He had asked last time but I hadn't any money. So, we lit two candles before the service and, if he behaved well, two candles afterwards. Admittedly, I've only lit one candle in my life, and that was in Holy Sepulcher church, on Calvary. I mean, no matter what you believe, how can you not light a candle there, in front of this?!

So long as the boy portraying Jesus was strapped to the cross, Timmy was concerned for him. "When's he coming down from there?" he demanded. It made Timmy uncomfortable, so I referred him to the latter Stations directly behind us for the story line. I asked him to point to the bas-relief that depicts Jesus being removed from the cross and laid in the tomb. And he was able to do that. So that gave him some assurance that the "living stations" would catch up to the static story on the wall behind us.

At the end, we heard the bells chime and I allowed him to light two more candles. He wanted very much to blow out some of the other lighted candles, a rather typical impulse at his age, I suppose. But I told him that people wouldn't get their wish if he did that. And he said, transparently, that he didn't want them to get their wish.

They have nice grounds there, so while the parking lot emptied out, we walked the cobblestone path to the front of the old church and through the prayer garden. Along the way, I pointed out and explained a few very simple elements of church architecture to him. We came straight home.
We looked at what I've always called "the sacrifice of Isaac," 'though it's more properly called "the binding of Isaac," since that's as far as the ritual went before a substitution was made.

The questions were deep and involved. The discussion reminded me of the trend among some to disbelieve the physical dimension of eschatological resurrection. I had Luke Timothy Johnson's book with me (excerpted here at beliefnet), and while for the most part, Johnson's more traditional than I, in an instance like the old-fashioned belief in the resurrection of the body, he comes in handy.

We were referred to Hebrews for some insight into Abraham's motivation. And, as we read verse 19, He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back (Hebrews 11:19), someone objected that this was conjecture.

I surprised even myself when I countered, "Yes, it's a person's opinion but it's inspired!" I wasn't challenged, but if I had been to explain "inspired," I would have answered, "trustworthy, reliable." You can believe it. And why not?

But the thing to keep in mind, when the Bible seems to make an inexplicable jump of light years without any discernible paper trail, one must look outside the Bible, in the rabbinic tradition, for the full story. This is my suspicion based on the NT hints, but I don't know enough, not specifically about Abraham and Isaac, certainly.

Cf. Fr. Komonchak's post at Commonweal blog.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Just a follow-up on this previous story ...

"Vatican statement on baptisms not meant to cause panic, priest says" - Catholic News Service, 3/12/08:
"If someone knows for a fact they were baptized with another formula," they should say something, said Susan Wood, a theology professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee. But if they don't know the wording used, they shouldn't be anxious, she told CNS.

Wood, who is currently writing a book on the ecumenical and systematic theology of baptism, said she was pleased with the Vatican announcement, noting that there has been a change in baptismal practice in recent years, primarily in Protestant churches but also in some Catholic churches that use gender-neutral terms to refer to the Trinity.

Wood pointed out that an attempt to "avoid male language for God ends up creating more serious problems for Trinitarian theology," because the wording takes away the relationship that each member of the Trinity has with the other and ends up reducing members of the Trinity to their functional roles.

"The personal relationship gets lost" in the attempts to "be politically correct," she said.

Quoting another church tradition, Wood said, "We believe according to how we pray," meaning that prayer formulas influence what one believes.

Ann Riggs, former director of the National Council of Churches Faith and Order Commission, noted that some Protestant churches refer to the Trinity with the gender-neutral terms in baptism while others use the traditional "Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

She said the discussion among Quakers about whether to use water in baptism to bring their practice closer to that of other Christians has been going on for more than 100 years.
I haven't kept up with the homework because I don't understand the readings.

But we looked at Hippolytus of Rome against the heresy of Noetus, and Jim pointed out the following paragraph to us, that is, paragraph 10, as having some precision and beautiful expression:
God, subsisting alone, and having nothing contemporaneous with Himself, determined to create the world. And conceiving the world in mind, and willing and uttering the word, He made it; and straightway it appeared, formed as it had pleased Him. For us, then, it is sufficient simply to know that there was nothing contemporaneous with God. Beside Him there was nothing; but He, while existing alone, yet existed in plurality. For He was neither without reason, nor wisdom, nor power, nor counsel. And all things were in Him, and He was the All. When He willed, and as He willed, He manifested His word in the times determined by Him, and by Him He made all things. When He wills, He does; and when He thinks, He executes; and when He speaks, He manifests; when He fashions, He contrives in wisdom. For all things that are made He forms by reason and wisdom -- creating them in reason, and arranging them in wisdom. He made them, then, as He pleased, for He was God. And as the Author, and fellow-Counselor, and Framer of the things that are in formation, He begat the Word; and as He bears this Word in Himself, and that, too, as yet invisible to the world which is created, He makes Him visible; and uttering the voice first, and begetting Him as Light of Light, He set Him forth to the world as its Lord, and His own mind; and whereas He was visible formerly to Himself alone, and invisible to the world which is made, He makes Him visible in order that the world might see Him in His manifestation, and be capable of being saved.
What interests him, among other things, is the language - development of terminology - of the Fathers that ultimately finds its way into formulae and creeds.
Out at lunch discussing birthday plans, a 20-year old song cuts clear through the conversation and throws us all back to our college days.

"Back when you could get away with mixing Christ & Marx."

I must have the CD 'round here someplace because the album's songs are all in iTunes.

Find the CD?

Tinker with iPod-to-go?

Or burn a blank CD with The Housemartins's songs? Would you believe that's the easiest?! Ho, but the car's CD-changer's full!

The album contains a cover of a Hollies song. And I had a cassette of the Hollies Greatest Hits as a kid, so I knew all those songs, backwards and forwards. And would you believe, in the Wawa tonight, buying milk, I hear on the muzak, "I'll pay you back with interest ..."

But the song that's really stuck in my head got there yesterday. Philly's WHYY doesn't reach over to Shrewsbury where I was for an appointment, so I surfed the dial and picked up Brookdale's college station. It could have been Tom Petty but my radio's display said, "The Byrds" ... And I'll probably feel a whole lot better when you're gone ...

Back to The Housemartins: his voice is just great, especially in a song like this.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Here's an interesting question, "How to observe the anniversary of a moveable feast?"

I say on the day of the feast!
This isn't the reason I'm there. I don't think so. It happens so infrequently that, if it were the reason, I'd be mostly wasting my time.

A woman from Argentina, toting an obviously borrowed New King James Bible, joined. Right off the bat, she self-identified as Catholic. Why do we do that?! Told you the Bible was borrowed!

She participated but couldn't keep up. Protestant Bible studies jump around in the Bible, alot. Eventually she stopped trying to find the psalms or Romans.

She promised to come again. I'd be surprised. Lots of people never return. But she isn't attending anywhere and the study leader wants her to join there. But she said she's Catholic.

I've decided to bring the bulletin of the parish closest her neighborhood, which just happens to have a thriving Spanish-speaking community and pastor, and offer to attend with her, at least initially. If, as I expect, she doesn't return, I'll ask the study leader to pass along the bulletin and my offer.

Yes, I may be asking for trouble: we've known each other a long time, the study leader and I. And I'm just as resolute as she is.
I might have to start praying for healing. You know how hard it is to admit that modern medicine can't get the job done?

I've finished my ten-day series of Lupin 250 twice a day and nothing much has changed, sore throat and aching ears persist.

I'll just blame Father; he botched the St. Blaise blessing ... by forgetting about it (!) and then, after some (angry) parishioners reminded him (we are a traditional backwater!) with (heated) phone calls and email, he gave a general invocation of the saint's protection a week late and professed that God follows a different calendar from us.

I don't remember scoffing at the blessing ... I'm usually not fussy about accepting blessings ... but maybe I found it all silly.

I think, 'though, that I was genuinely distracted, trying to make up in my mind whether he forgot on purpose. The St. Blaise tradition doesn't strike me as his preferred shtick.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Kenny's book report is due Wednesday.

It's only his second one this year. I'll probably mention to his teacher at the conference later this month that she ought to give more book reports. Even though getting this one done is going to kill us. Because he reads so poorly. I'm appalled. Jeff isn't.

Our goal is ten pages a night but we'll have to double-up this weekend because ... he has 100 80 pages to go! Even then, he's going to need help.

We are reading a more challenging book than usual. With so few reports, why not?

This is likely a book that Jeff read in the sixth grade because I think he read everything in the sixth grade, even Narnia. Nonetheless, he doesn't exactly remember the plot. I'm the one who picked it because I figure that if I gotta read it along with Kenny, I might as well enjoy it too.

And I couldn't have made a better choice
- it's right up my alley! -: under-appreciated kids run away from home to a library the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If I could find my NYC Subway maps, I could show Kenny "Uptown." The only time we went there, we walked from MSG, up Eighth and through the Park to 5th and 79th or 78th or wherever it is. On the way back down, we were smart and took the subway.

To give you a sense of the degree of reading difficulty, Kenny can't even pronounce "metropolitan." The book contains fairly significant vocabulary words which, had I known, would be appropriate for flash-cards.

For the most part, the story captivates him. The sister and brother team act true.

UPDATE: OK, we just completed chapter 5 and I have to pronounce and explain "marijuana" and "dope" to him. Is nothing rated 'G'?
I'm not really an "insider" in my parish. That shouldn't surprise anyone.

I haven't evenings free to attend church meetings. But one was held to discuss the "fate" (can I say "fate" on a Catholic blog? Should I say "predestination" instead?) of the "old church." (can I say "old church" on a ...)

No, it really is old. More than 125 years old. And too frickin' small for the 2,000 Catholic families we have around here.

I'm rather sure that the "discussion" at the meeting was a formality. It was probably Father laying things down, "We don't have the money to keep ..."

I took a close look at the building on Tuesday afternoon on the way out of CCD. It's really, really cruddy. Beige stucco, brown painted trim. Not exactly mission style. More a shanty. I've never even set foot inside.

Yet I can't imagine the corner without it. Lots of visitors mistake it for the "real" parish. I know I did the first time. This was before all the letters tumbled off the church sign, piled at the bottom behind the sign's glass. Matters weren't aided by the diocesan directory including its picture rather than the "new" building.

The old church has an old cemetery. Those were the days. I'm not sure how that's handled. I suppose if when they raze the church, there's more room for graves? Keeping a cemetery on that corner would be nice. It's a quiet corner. But it would also be nice if they smoothed out the grade of the hill. Almost every time I drive through there, I fear becoming an addition to the cemetery ... one way or another.

When I learned of the impending demolition, my initial inclination was to approach the Monmouth County Preservation Society about the church. But I'm not sure of their interest. The best preservation might be through photography.

My favorite web site is NJ Churchscape. I've linked to it for a long time. And often wondered why St. Joe's isn't included. I waited, thinking there was still time. But, I don't think I can wait so I sent an email to the compiler, offering to submit a picture. He replied to say that he's working on a book on the County and that he'd better get out here and take a picture himself before the church is gone.

Maybe he will. But maybe I had better take one of my own. Of course, I could just reference the black & white one in the ol' diocesan directory. It doesn't look any more lively in color, trust me.
Voting is in progress for the annual Catholic Blog Awards. I voted for all my friends just now.

Matt at Absolutely No Spin (Matt, where are you? Post something!) nominated this blog in the "Smartest Blog" category. The nomination passed the rigorous inspection process and got on the ballot.

Boy, I figured for sure the blog wasn't liberal enough to make the ballot - none is more surprised than I. But, well, there it is. Must try harder in the future.

Don't be afraid to register and vote for all your friends.
“... a bowshot away ...” (Genesis 21:16)

In a chapter she contributed to the book Hagar, Sarah, and their Children: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives, the well-known, feminist exegete Phyllis Trible says
The reference to a "bowshot" hints at Ishmael’s future.
Therefore, the reference is not as ominous as I thought. Read selections from her book online.

Sarna’s commentary on Genesis reminds us that “The tradition that the Ishmaelites were professional marksmen is preserved in Isaiah 21:171, which speaks of the bows of Kedar’s warriors. Kedar is a son of Ishmael in the list of Genesis 25:13.”

The Jewish Study Bible notes on Genesis 21:12 that
it is Sarah’s protection of Isaac’s rights, rather than Abraham’s solicitude for Ishmael, that mediates God’s will in this tragic situation.

In the Talmud, this is cited as evidence that Sarah was a prophet. God's command to Abraham to do as she says uses the same term with which He rebuked Adam for obeying Eve in 3.17 – only with the opposite intent.

1 And I read Isaiah 21 just the other night for the Isaiah study!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The homework covered chapters 19 through 23, but I got bogged down in chapter 22, doing a dead-man float in the pools.

Hearing the "Man Born Blind" just Sunday, I wonder whether these are the same pools. Such a peaceful place, there.

And I fall asleep just before a point of significance ... where Currie picks up ...
Isaiah 22:22: "I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open."

Compare that with Jesus' words in Matthew: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
Hearing it only in the study discussion was enough to jog my memory of Currie's treatment. Well, partially. Because I read verse 25:

On that day, says the LORD of hosts, the peg fixed in a sure spot shall give way, break off and fall, and the weight that hung on it shall be done away with.

and couldn't remember how Currie handled that.

Everyone around me read verse 25 and assured themselves of it: "Why trust men?" came the consensus. One would use verse 25 against any man, all men, not just the successor of Peter.

The footnote in my Jewish Study Bible suggests the "peg" of verse 25 refers to Shebna, as strange (and convenient) as that could be. But even if the "peg" refers to Eliakim, as the JPS/JSB also suggests, and the NAB agrees, it still seems to describe the creation of an office with authority.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The carpet came up the front stairs yesterday as promised. No lovely red oak treads hiding underneath. This isn't an episode of This Old House.

The treads are, in fact, white-edged, evidence that the trim color was spray-painted on ... the first time. The tread that always creaked is clearly split right down the middle.

Jeff hasn't ruled out replacing the stairs altogether. Certainly the broken tread will need replacement. The front stairs are off-limits right now. We have gates up to keep the kids out.

Jeff hates carpet. He'd like to paint, probably white risers and dark brown treads. He might even grant me my runner, as these are the "front stairs" and must be fancier.

He spackled the wall, especially the quarter-sized divot I made in it last January when I fell down the stairs. Before losing my grip on the retrieved toy car altogether, a tail-fin must have gouged the wall as I tried in vain to regain my balance. The wall will be painted, that's decided.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

This needs to be read carefully because it has more to do with North American Protestantism than Catholicism:
Doctrinal and ecumenical officials at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the release of a Vatican statement addressing the validity of baptisms was to answer bishops' questions and to provide consistency in the church's practice.

The Vatican's statement was released because of the abuse (by priests and Protestant ministers at baptisms) and the questions that have come from it.

Some Christian leaders would be concerned over recognizing their own local congregations' decisions and autonomy over the formula they use at baptisms. Because many non-Catholic denominations do not have a hierarchical structure like the Catholic Church, many decisions on such matters are determined by local congregations.

Father Tiso said he currently is working on a document with four of the Reformed churches, which should be finalized in mid-March. The document includes an affirmation for baptisms to be mutually accepted by the Catholic and Reformed churches that include the use of water and the biblical formula "Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
See also: CNS News Briefs, 2/29/08

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