Friday, July 31, 2009

My Flickr Pro expires today.

Thanks for the free year, MzEllen. Hope your Dad and Mom feel better soon. You aren't having a fun summer.

Yesterday's day trip to the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

My friend works for these people:

Ben Macdonald I think I'm gonna use a plate on my car from now on lol

Michael A. haha....that isn't cool

Jennifer K. hahahahahahaha, you silly boy

Kathy C. a dinner plate? do you think that would help?!

Amy Z. would think you would know better!!!!

Garrett M. bad boy bad boy, whatca gunna do? whatcha gunna do when they come for you.....?

Michael G. must run in the family, ryan doesnt use one either!lol.

Michael L. Does this mean your not going to make me drive without one either anymore ?

Joe M. Cop: "Do you know why I pulled you over?"
Me: "The town needs revenue?"
Cop: "Are you a comedian?"
Me: "I'm considering a career change. Do you think I'm funny?"
Cop: "I'm not laughing. I'll ask you again. Do you know why I pulled you over?"
Me: "You still haven't figured it out? I thought you'd know."
Cop: "Please step out of the car."
Me: "That's not part of my act."

This one didn't end well, folks but I got a kick out of it!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Just want to bookmark something here and maybe I'll get back to reading it.

Why I am not a Calvinist

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pictures of the county fair from yesterday:

At the entrance were on display county DOT equipment. Heavy equipment. And visitors were allowed to climb into the cabs, so my boys waited in line for a couple of them. In the backhoe, Kenny found the horn and pressed it over and over again. I didn't realize it was him but the custodians came over pretty quickly and let all the air out of the horns. And I chewed Kenny out for not showing better self-restraint.

Kenny was hungry right away so after getting the wristbands, I took them to the food aisle and bought him fried chicken tenders and lemonade. All the boys ate and drank some. Then they did Surf City, the Fun House and Monkey Maze before our friends contacted us (me) with text messages. Kenny went with them for about an hour while Tim and Chris jumped in the Dog Patch over and over again. When Chris waited to get on the merry-go-round, Tim disappeared. I looked for him in a bit of a panic but taking a cue from last year, assumed - correctly - that he hadn't so much disappeared as had gone ahead ... to the next ride.

So I looked down the way towards the Fun House and he was there. Just like last year. The trick worked the first time he slipped away and why not? It was still daylight ... he was the only kid in long pants.

Our friends made an early night of it and returned Kenny who was hungry again. The crowds had arrived; the ride lines grew. We went again to the food court and I got Tim some fried chicken tenders. Kenny got waffle cake or whatever it is. Chris shared it with him. In the adjacent tent were assembled a large group of musicians in kilts playing music on bagpipes and drums. Kenny liked how the drummers twirled their mallets. Tim was very bothered by their kilts.
Why are those men wearing skirts?!
I didn't really have an answer. Jeff messaged that he was at the gate and I replied where we were. He caught up with us in the middle of a bagpipe Amazing Grace which Tim could not (and did not care to) identify. It reminded me of a part in L. A. Story. Jeff was proud to hear that his son was bothered about men in skirts.
That's my boy!
So then Jeff took Kenny on "big kid" rides and I took the two younger boys on more of the same: Fun House, Monkey Maze and Dog Patch. The fireworks commenced right on time and ran for 20 minutes. Most ignored them but Chris and I stood and watched, at least until Chris announced, for the fourth time, that he had to, uh, you know. I rounded up Tim and we made our way through the crowd and found a handicapped-accessible Johnny-On-the-Spot big enough for us all to fit inside. Because, at night, Chris was too scared to enter alone and Tim was too scared to remain outside alone.

After, we met a huge man wearing one of those kilts and carrying his bagpipes to his car. I prompted Tim to ask him about his skirt. To my utter surprise, Tim did and the guy took him to task, in a playful way, for referring to his clothing as a skirt. But Tim didn't pick up on the guy's playful tone and became intimidated. I thanked the man for the information and caught up with Tim who had gone off in a huff towards the fairgrounds exit. I told him that was the wrong way and turned him in the direction of the rides. At one point, I stopped to gaze up at the fireworks which were still underway and immediately sensed that Tim was gone. Chris told me which way he had run off but I didn't trust his judgment and I took him by the hand and walked towards the exit. No, he wouldn't have gone out, I thought, into the quiet darkness.

The fireworks would have made it impossible to speak with any of the numerous county police in the vicinity. I had reminded myself earlier by looking through the stored photos on my camera just what Tim was wearing. So I was prepared to provide that when needed. I got a little panicked because it was very dark now, obviously, and loud and crowded. I took Chris as we scoped out a few of Tim's favorite rides ... but he hadn't returned to any as yet.

Then the fireworks ended and I thought I could approach an officer but I still wasn't ready to do that. The only thing was that I was ready to go home. So I called Jeff up to tell him that Tim had wandered off and he asked where we were, but it was too loud on our respective ends of the phone to communicate effectively. And I would rather look for him than stand there texting because it would take Jeff some time to come up from the back of the fairgrounds anyway.

So I asked Chris to tell me again which way Tim had gone and he gestured the same way. We started down that path and I immediately caught a glimpse of a young boy in jeans, coming towards us, skipping over some ruts at the edge of the dirt lane that ran between the craft and animal booths. It looked like Tim even in the dark and through the crowd, but his shirt had a sticker now, the 4-H.

He drifted past us and I told Chris to keep quiet. Since he hadn't gone immediately to a favorite ride, I tracked him in hopes of learning his ways a little better. For future reference. He came to the spot where we had first got separated, shook his head, shrugged his shoulders and threw up his hands in frustration. Then, seeing the Dog Patch, he went over there and got in line. That's when Chris got in behind him and said, "Hello, Tim."

Tim turned around to see me and seemed relieved but said nothing. I asked where the 4-H sticker had come from and he didn't answer.

I imagine he looked at some exhibits down that lane and someone gave him the sticker. But he must have walked around the booths with such self-confidence that no one suspected he was unsupervised.

I called Jeff once the two boys were inside the bouncy room and he came to join us. It was between 9:30 and 10 and everyone was tired. After a few turns at the bouncy room, we walked towards the fairgrounds gate but stopped in the "Home & Garden" booth to see a friend's painting that had won second place. From there, we could see the model airplanes and the sports cars. We looked at both, then the boys took turns driving a race car simulator. Jeff was parked in the overflow lot - in the next county, he said! - and had boarded a shuttle bus to the fair. He took Kenny with him to his car, and I took the other two the short distance to the parking lot. Of course, everyone always wants to go home with Dad because riding in his car is rare and different. But he tends to not have booster seats in his car so he can't take the little guys on the spur of the moment.

And I paid the babysitter $80 for watching Ella about six hours!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I had an unique thought last night while watching The Journey Home on location in Sweden. Since I usually have trouble with the foreign accents of the guests, I don't often sit through that episode, on the third week of every month. But these fellows were intelligible ... or maybe I was just desperate to watch something.

Sweden seemed to me like a weird setting because it isn't predominately a Catholic country. Why would they film there?

Why would they film there?

The roundtable members were all converts from the state Lutheran church whose adherents seem very nominal. So, at least they were true to their format in finding some converts there.

I've noticed that critics of the Catholic Church attempt to portray it as particular, the "church of Rome." Protestants are familiar with churches tied to a specific location: LCMS, PCA, AMiA, Willow Creek, Mars Hill Church.1 And why not, as this is the NT model as well.

But "the stone ... became a great mountain and filled the whole earth."

My hunch is that these programs are intended to highlight the genuinely universal nature of the Catholic Church against the obnoxious suggestion that something HQ'd in Rome is thereby parochial.

1 No, not Mars the planet, but after the Areopagus in Acts 17, the "hill of Ares," god of war.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"In conservative Protestantism Romans 12:6 is viewed as the biblical reference for the term "analogy of the faith" (i.e., αναλογἰα τῆς πἰστεως). The Bible alone is considered the word of God and the only infallible standard for judging faith and practice;" - Rule of Faith, Wiki
I first encountered this understanding of Romans 12:6 in Allert's book and couldn't really argue with it.

But last night I read Kittel (scroll down to αναλογἰα ) and, clearly, it runs contrary.

Here's the key part:
The πίστις ("faith") which underlies this correspondence, however, is not the regula fidei of the objective content of Christian faith or the doctrine of faith. This is proved beyond dispute by the parallelism both of ἑκάστῳ ὡς ὁ θεὸς ἐμέρισεν μέτρον πίστεως ("as God has apportioned a measure of faith," v. 3) and of κατὰ τὴν χάριν τὴν δοθεῖσαν ἡμῖν ("according to the grace given to us," v. 6).

Only the believer can exercise the χάρισμα ("gift"); the power of the χάρισμα ("gift") stands in αναλογἰα ("proportion") to the power of the faith appropriate to each. This is true of all χαρίσματα ("gifts"). But in others, e.g., the healing of the sick, the correspondence is externally visible, since the power of the χάρισμα ("gift") disappears with the cessation of faith. In the case of προφητεία ("prophecy"), however, which needs other special tests of its genuieness, there is the inherent temptation to exercise it without πίστις ("faith"). The reminder is thus needed that it is truly possible only κατὰ ἀναλογίαν πίστεως ("according to the proportion of faith").
Now I need to find Allert's book and look at it again. I also wish I'd seen this sooner.
“What church do you attend?”

St. Joseph’s.

“Is that an Episcopal church?”

Um, no, no, it’s a Catholic church.

“Oh! And they’re OK with you attending a Christian Bible study?”

Yes, yes, they are OK with it.
That was some small-talk from 2002, after I'd been attending the study for about a year. The woman who talked with me is long gone, but I'm still there.

And, so, this morning I had the, um, assignment of leading an informal discussion on Psalm 73 using questions from Lesson 21 in this collection of all the lessons on the Psalms.

I spent time over the course of the last week preparing. I have many books on the psalms because I took a class from Jim, um, seven years ago now. But all those books are tucked away as we fix up that room. So I really had to rely only on my own reading, which isn't great, and what I read here, which is great, but too much.

The first verse affirms the traditional belief that God is good to Israel. I mentioned the hymn I'd sang at the nearby UMC with my visiting friend, God is so good, because one of the women there this morning attends that church. This is the thesis that must be proved because the psalmist just wasn't seeing that working itself in reality. That bothered him. However he prudently kept it to himself until he had worked it out, for the sake of the faith of those around him. He was in some position of leadership and didn't want to raise his objections until he had found the answer. And he really believed that there would be an answer. His is an attitude of "faith seeking understanding," as St. Anselm would later phrase it.

The psalm stands in the wisdom literature alongside Job and Ecclesiastes - books to which it is often compared - and asks the age-old question why do the wicked prosper. We read the psalm a few verses at a time and then turned to the corresponding questions. I wanted them to see how the psalmist's focus goes from others, to himself, to God. And, frankly, he's envious. If you want to say there's a confession of sin in verse 3, then ok. Unlike Job, this psalmist isn't innocent.

His conclusion in verse 13 is that he has served God for nothing. The psalmist sounds a little like the older brother in the prodigal son story. But, even more, consider that in Job 1:9, Satan asks, "Does Job fear God for nothing? You have blessed the work of his hands.” Are we following the Lord for the reward it brings us? Then I read from Garry Wills's book, What Jesus Meant, as he quotes from Venerable John Henry Newman1 about Jesus:
“All who came near him more or less suffered by approaching him just as if pain and trouble went out of him, as some precious virtue for the good of their souls.”
I was careful to point out the two verses (7 & 10, NAB footnote) in which the Hebrew of the MT is uncertain, and English translation was based on the Syriac Pershitta and/or the LXX. I just didn't want them cracking their heads on anything which is ultimately hopelessly obscure.

The psalmist tries to reason his way out of his conundrum but it's only in the presence of God at worship (v. 17) that things begin to make sense. I read this excerpt from Letters to Malcolm:
"for our spiritual life as a whole, the ‘being taken into account’ or ‘considered’ matters more than the being granted. Religious people don’t talk about the ‘results’ of prayer; they talk of its being ‘answered’ or ‘heard.’ We can bear to be refused but not to be ignored. The apparent stone will be bread to us if we believe that a Father’s hand put it into ours, in mercy or in justice or even in rebuke. It is hard and bitter, yet it can be chewed and swallowed.”
I was a little distracted during the study because the youth pastor's alcove is situated right off the meeting place, that is, we meet in the youth ministry wing of the church. And his computer's music program was running so I heard softly in the background the same post-grunge music that I usually listen to at home: Second Chance by Shinedown, some songs by Live and Nickelback. It was nice but just a little bothersome especially because I was thinking to myself, Oughtn't a youth pastor listen to only Christian music. You know, me being all judgmental.
cf. "Psalm 73: The Suffering of the Righteous and the Success of Sinners" - Bob Deffinbaugh. If you are interested in this psalm, read Bob Deffinbaugh's entire article as it's really good and I was able to get only a few key insights into my presentation. But the connection to Job 1:9 is his idea and the relationship between the wicked and the psalmist is also from him.

Monday, July 20, 2009

She'll talk about 20 or 30 different people, many of whom I know only from her description of them. Of these people, she'll zero in on one and rant for ten or fifteen minutes. Invariably the person has been divorced and remarried at least once. There may be charges of embezzlement. This was the case with the former parish priest. In fact, that is the punch-line to all these intense scrutinies: the guilty party is a Catholic who goes to church every Sunday.

And she prefaces these diatribes with, "Now I know you belong to the Catholic religion but what gets me about Catholics ..." In this case, her objection to Catholicism was the practice of confessing sin. Yes, to a priest, but then in general.

"If you know it's wrong, don't do it in the first place!"

I don't think the sacrament of penance encourages sin any more than those who lean on 1 John 1:9.

I was on the verge of reminding her of the Lord's Prayer which she probably knows:

"And forgive us our trespasses, ..."

But instead I just became keenly aware that Christianity presumes guilt and, therefore, doesn't have anything to say to people who live right.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A meme on Facebook: random search songs in a personal library in answer to set questions. I used my iTunes's "Purchased" folder.

Some of the responses are alright:

When you wake up you say...
There's No Way Out of Here - David Gilmour

It's Friday, how do you feel?
Over the Rainbow - Judy Garland

Summer! The first thing you do...
Come Thou Fount - Nathan Tasker

When you're alone you think...
Where Have All the Flowers Gone - The Kingston Trio

Just failed your final! What do you say!?
Second Chance - Shinedown

This song describes your room
Greenback Dollar1 - The Kingston Trio

Your crush just asked you out! You say...
I Got You - Split Enz

This song describes your personality
Tuesday's Gone2 - Lynyrd Skynyrd

This song describes your future
Heaven - Live

1 Our room is painted green.
2 Born on a Tuesday, "Tuesday's child is full of grace"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

At least I picked up the Gilead book today.

But I didn't get much further than that the book was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

I remembered that third name explicitly from Seven Storey Mountain.

Not that Bob Giroux is mentioned in the memoir as several other Bobs are. He was the editor of Merton's book. And, gee, he died last year while living in Tinton Falls.

Here's an excerpt from Seven Storey Mountain:
Huxley was thought, by some people, to be on the point of entering the Church, but Ends and Means was written by a man who was not at ease with Catholicism. He quoted St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila indiscriminately with less orthodox Christian writers like Meister Eckhart: and on the whole he preferred the Orient. It seems to me that in discarding his family's tradition of materialism he had followed the old Protestant groove back into the heresies that make the material creation evil of itself, although I do not remember enough about him to accuse him of formally holding such a thing. Nevertheless, that would account for his sympathy for Buddhism, and for the nihilistic character which he preferred to give to his mysticism and even to his ethics. This also made him suspicious, as the Albigensians had been, and for the same reason, of the Sacraments and Liturgical life of the Church, and also of doctrines like the Incarnation.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The speaker from last week's class is featured in this video :

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Day Two

... here goes ...

Our speaker says that the virgin birth is historical, in the sense that "it actually happened." 99% of scholars think the virgin birth is made up. While he can't prove it positively, he can refute their arguments against it. For one thing, they point out that there are many stories of gods copulating with women in the ancient world so it would be normal for Christians to have something similar. Two pagan examples are Suetonius, "Lives of the Caesars," Augustus, paragraph 94 (go to page 100 or search 'XCIV') and Plutarch's "Parallel Lives," Alexander, paragraph 2.

Those who say it was copied speak generically because the details differentiate. It's like drawing two squares side-by-side and populating one with four smaller squares and the other with six small circles. The similarity of the stories is more apparent than real. In the pagan stories, the women are always married, never virgins, and the act is prominent and borders on p0rnogr4phy (intentionally misspelled, ok). Details are explicit. But consider that the virgin birth story began in Antioch among a conservative, Jewish community.

If the virgin birth is made up, it was made up to say something about Jesus. What does it say? It's his divinity? But pagan stories never believed for a second that the offspring are divine. Take the Book of Jubilees (150 BCE). To what extent Adam and Eve were thought of as human beings: they have sex (chapter 3) and live by the dietary laws. Did anyone think Adam was God? Every Jew believed that Adam had been created directly by God but that didn't make him divine.

The virgin birth doesn't say anything about Jesus, except that he's special. It isn't a theological statement but a historical fact. Since everyone tends to look for the worst possible interpretation - no one reads with a generous mind - what idiot would have made up a story that led to such a dismissive interpretation as cover-up for adultery?

Right, so, it happened and it was enough to motivate Jesus to search out his identity and divine calling. So, next we find Jesus in the Temple, trying to learn from the teachers of the Law what he should be doing. But he comes up empty. Then he waits about twenty years for John the Baptist to come on the scene and he's attracted to him as a possible clue to his mission. He tells John of his special birth and John goes to Jeremiah 1:4-5 and concludes that Jesus is called to be a prophet just like John. So Jesus does that for a time and things are going well until John gets arrested. And suddenly Jesus changes his message. And John finds out about it and asks him from prison. John had been looking forward to the one who was to come and Jesus gives an unusual answer, telling him the results of his work and letting John decide from that. And drawing from Isaiah.

Our speaker is known for believing that Paul went from a Pharisaic legalist to an antinomian in the course of his life. And our speaker sees the same track in Jesus. Samples of his legalism can be found in Matthew 5:18 and his cleansing of the Temple (according to John where it occurs at the start of Jesus ministry). In scenes like this, Jesus is still acting in his role of prophet, calling people back to faithful observance of God's mitzvot. The thing about the money changers was that they were taking in Jewish coinage in exchange for the hardest currency available, Tyre skekels, which were 92% silver and also bore the image of a pagan god and an eagle. So, introducing pagan images into the Temple. But the priests wanted the Tyre currency because it was purer silver, and they wanted it once a year instead of once a lifetime. The Qumran community opposed these abuses and Jesus did also, during what our speaker calls his legalistic period.

Jesus conversion to antinomianism (I'm not sure whether our speaker uses that word) occurred gradually and with great internal struggle. But it was prompted by compassion for people around him who lived the best they could but still seemed to be on the wrong side of the religious authorities. He saw them as victims. During the time before and after Jesus' life, landownership in the Galilee changed dramatically: it went from being a patchwork of small, independent farmers to huge estates. Consider that a bit of land must produce many things, including sustenance for the farmer and his family, income for expenses and (capital) improvements, plus money for taxes. A farmer gets behind and sells out, becomes a tenant farmer so, then, the land must produce enough to cover the additional expense of rent. Finally the farmer sells out entirely and takes a job as a camel-driver (scroll down to Mishnah 14) which is not an ideal profession. So the farmer ends up becoming a Sinner with a capital 'S' because it's his way of life.

Oh, yeah, and he told us that we are all so pious and that we got our knowledge of the Bible from holy cards. But I got him to autograph my copy of his book anyway. :-)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

This will be messy ...

He walked on stage with only a well-worn New Testament, presumably the one with Greek and the RSV on facing pages. Oh, no, it was thinner than that one, but when he read aloud, he wasn't translating the Greek on the fly, so maybe he had only the RSV text in some out-of-print edition. I just know his words were a little off of the NRSV in my lap. Maybe I'll get a better look tomorrow.

But, in other words, he had no notes. No notes at all. He lectured from the top of his head, or rather, he had his entire three-hour lecture in his head. He spoke for three hours but I can only remember about one third of it. If that.

He did distribute a packet of material that I'm supposed to go over tonight. I hope I get to it. He urged us to read the Gospel accounts of Jesus' baptism, "because you are ignorant of it. You are. You never read it because you say you know it already. Read it carefully and see what details you can detect. Because the devil's in the details."

Yes. I know what he's talking about.

The first part of his lecture was about the "descent" of biblical scholarship into almost total skepticism. He blames this entirely on German Lutherans. It wasn't all bad intentions: the ecumenical movement sought to resolve divisions across the Western church by getting to the roots of theology, thinking that a fundamental familiarity with the biblical text would erase theological differences.

He said that the first victim of rationalism was John's Gospel. It could not be trusted for historical information. The laws of nature were being formulated at this time and anything supernatural could not be considered historical.

It was noticed in 1835 that the order of the pericope in Matthew is identical with the order in Luke only when they both repeat Mark. Since Mark was the shortest, it was considered the first and Matthew and Luke not independent. Further it was noticed that in Mark's account of the Feeding, the color of the grass is given, which given Israel's arid climate, fixes the date of the feeding sometime between March and late May. So Mark has the detail of an eyewitness and the other Synoptics don't. Another reason to favor Mark. But then it was noticed that Mark's theological development is still too high, his christology is still too developed, so neither could it be trusted as historically reliable.

This was the scholarly climate that he says he entered when he was ordained in 1960. Serious scholars didn't work on Jesus if they wanted to be taken seriously. The Gospel genre was all but discredited as an artifact with any historcity. One only found the Italians writing lives of Jesus that were simply works of piety (his name was mentioned by someone in the audience as an example and met with approval). He think he was looking to justify his reasons for turning to Pauline scholarship: he could no nothing else.

A theme he returned to a couple of times was the blessing war time was to European biblical scholarship, especially. Paper was scarce, so professors were relegated to reading the Biblewhile sitting in a tank or a trench instead of publishing their thoughts. And we got to literary form types, and like Grimm fairy tales, Gospel stories must have served some purpose to the community to have been remembered long enough to be written down. The form critics came up with this scenario that the Spirit-filled, post-Pascal community was very creative in solved their problems by putting solutions on the lips of Jesus. But the form critics underestimated the influence and control of the pre-Pascal community: eyewitnesses who weren't about to let go what they'd experienced firsthand but would protect it against any innovation. He quoted 1 Thess. 5:19-21: "Don't quench the Spirit ... test everything." Communities that accept prophecy have built-in safeguards against taking in false prophecy. And the test of the new material was the old material as remembered by the Apostles and disciples who knew Jesus.

He mentioned this recent book as a recognition of 1st century best common practice for recording history: it's the job of the historian to believe those worthy of belief and to be skeptical of secondhand reports. So, if this was the attitude in which the Gospels were written, then we should use this criteria and assume that there were written by eyewitnesses. Unless we have reason to believe otherwise.

And so, you are starting to see the "ascent," aren't you? Starting with Kaseman essentially. He had some critical words for The Jesus Seminar - Catholic scholars speak out against it any chance they get. He again pointed out that the descent was the fault of the German Lutherans, that Fr. LaGrange (oh, what a coincidence, a Dominican) voiced the traditional Catholic view through this period of the 20's and 30's, showing that Protestant German biblical scholars were biased, both religiously and philosophically. Consequently, Catholic biblical scholars never became the skeptics that Protestant biblical scholars did. But LaGrange's words fell on deaf ears because (1) he was French and (2) he was Catholic. "German don't read French. Neither do the English." But now, Protestants are beginning to say what Catholics have been saying in the 1920's. Kaseman insisted on the historical Jesus because without Jesus, the kerygma is floating like a myth. But Kaseman had no way to get rid of the skepticism. It was instead a German Catholic priest, Heinz Schürmann, who pointed out that the post-Pascal community answered to the pre-Pascal community, a community that listens to the stories about Jesus, not to be informed, but to be affirmed. And another contemporary scholar he mentioned was James Dunn and his book Jesus Remembered.

He got into how the fishermen Jesus called weren't dumb peasants but upper middle class entrepreneurs who really gave something up to follow Jesus. Since Peter is always called "Simon" (not "Simeon") and Andrew and Philip are Greek names without any Semitic form, it can be assumed that Greek was spoken at home. "If the children who live next door are called 'Marie Claude' and 'Jean Sebastian,' what language would you guess was spoken at home?" Right. He said that his only problem with N. T. is that "he never uses one word when ten will do. He's very verbose." But Wright is "well worth reading, very middle-of-the-road." He picked apart Meier's four volumes in about two minutes, especially affirmed Mary's perpetual virginity against Meier's conclusions, expressing that Meier's the second volume is the best and the third volume has nothing original. He said that Bart Ehrman and Luke Timothy Johnson are fine scholars but he tended to favor Johnson, probably because he's a Catholic.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Becoming a more 'authentic' Catholic
Question Corner, Fr. John Dietzen

Q: Our son just finished his first year of college at what we were told is one of the "real" Catholic colleges in the country.

He has been surprised, however, by some of the groups he is urged to participate in to be a more authentic Catholic. Frankly, we share his confusion. Some make us hesitant, especially one which is allegedly tied to appearances of the Blessed Virgin.

Another experience that gives him, and us, some concern is the claim that no one can be a "good and loyal Catholic" except their way.

Sometimes they sound very narrow. Have you any suggestions on how to deal with this? (Michigan)

A. Your concern is a healthy one, and, as my mail reveals, is shared by a number of faithful and well-informed Catholics.

Good common sense is always the first judge in such dilemmas. After that, Catholic tradition suggests some solid basic guidelines.

It is always good to remember that ours is a big Church. In all its 2,000 years it has been at its best and most alive when there has been room for a whole rainbow of ways for people to pray, to think, to live out their faith and grow in holiness.

Just because something does not appeal to us, doesn't necessarily mean there is something bad about it. Without respect for, and a willingness to explore, honest varieties within the appropriate framework of faith, the Church stagnates, intellectually and spiritually.

One danger sign to look for is any position that rejects out-of-hand what the Church is teaching today. We've experienced sad examples in the past few decades of individuals and larger Catholic factions who refuse to accept any developments in the Church since the Second Vatican Council.

In their opinion, present teachings and practices conflict with what they view as the "golden age" of Pope Pius V and the Council of Trent in the 16th century, and therefore deserve no respect or recognition by authentic Catholics.

We believe, on the contrary, that the same Holy Spirit who was with the Church in the past is with it now.

Another warning flag is the claim that this or that faction constitutes the "elite" in the Church. For example, there are the genuine orthodox Catholics who think anyone not with them, or who sees things differently, is at best a second-level Catholic.

These types of movements (one might even call them cults) have been around since the beginning of Christianity. We read about them already in the New Testament.

Exaggerated claims like this seem to be a common temptation for enthusiastic religious associations. In my 55 years as a priest I have led or participated in dozens of spiritual or apostolic movements. All have accomplished much good.

Nearly every one, however, went through a stage when it was tempted to consider itself something like an eighth sacrament, to assume that no one is a genuine, full Catholic until he or she has done their "thing" or seen things their way.

Naturally, groups and societies who pursue this course always have the highest motives, to "purify" the Church and so on. But unchecked, such attitudes often lead to gross arrogance and intolerance. When sufficiently large, they can cause enormous personal pain, persecution and hurt to the body of Christ. But still they surface every generation or so.

The eucharistic liturgy, the sacraments, the Gospels, intelligent efforts to grow in knowledge of the faith, and the basic prayer and spiritual exercises contained in continuous Christian tradition still suffice to make good, loyal and faithful Catholic Christians.

Finally, the best criterion of all in evaluating any phenomena in the Church is the old standby: What are their fruits, their results? Do they bring to the Catholic community (parish, diocese, universal Church) greater hope, unity, charity, kindness, peace and other fruits of the Spirit listed by St. Paul in Galatians 5:22-23?

Or do they foment mistrust, secretiveness, elitism, hostility and bickering, division and oppression?

You can guess which ones St. Paul and Christian tradition recommend.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

State eliminates 2 local school districts - Asbury Park Press, 7/1/09:
announced the elimination of 13 school districts, [...] that were operating without any schools ...

Sea Bright Board of Education President Marianne McKenzie, who said she viewed her district more as a "send-all" district, rather than a non-operating one ...
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This week: Picking up a book from church

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

So, I set a goal of reading the Murphy-O'Connor book before Tuesday. And I haven't made any progress today, but that's another story1.

Then, last night I got an email about the parish book club book being available for pick up. For "convenience," the deacon decided to place the copies in the sacristy:
"That's where we always put materials that we don't want to 'walk.' Lectors' workbooks, altar server schedules. You know, you put something on the table in the back of the church and people help themselves."
Convenient for him maybe, but I'm not comfortable waltzing into a sacristy. Call it superstition. When I told Jeff, he reproved me in a debunking tone, "You want me to pick it up for you? How long you been a Catholic?!" Yeah, well, where the Church is concerned, I'm still 12, alright? Like relating to your parents.

So, just in case the books came early, you know, last Saturday evening, after the lightly-attended service, I tried to sneak back into the sacristy for a peek, if only to familiarize myself with the terrain. I knew the pastor was at the rear door greeting people on their way out. And, well, the eucharistic ministers were busy tidying up, purifying the vessels, etc., etc. Psst., don't tell my bishop. The books weren't in sight and I decided I'd rather avoid such a public "going up" in the future. In other words, there were still too many people around for me to feel comfortable.

Getting the email last night, then, left today and tomorrow before the weekend services. And, to be honest, I'd rather get a copy sooner than later just in case there aren't enough. I'm pretty sure if they were one short and I didn't have one, that would be my problem.

Besides, next week is pretty much shot for creeping into church as I expect to be getting back from class around 1:30 and the secretary goes home 'bout 2. In fact, with the parish office closed tomorrow for the holiday, today was the only choice, really. And what made today even more attractive is there is no daily mass on Thursday mornings. So I wasn't likely to bump into anybody except the parish secretary.

We had a couple of errands first that were time-critical and got to St. Joe's a little after 10 this morning. We walked up the back stairs, past the parish office, but Jean never poked her head out. And we didn't peer in. Chris kept remarking to me, in a not-so-quiet voice, well, how quiet everything was. He couldn't believe it. And I'm thinking, yeah, the only ones breaking the silence are Ella counting aloud each step as she goes up2 and you pointing out how quiet it is.

I stood at the back of the empty nave and mustered my concentration, focusing on the little doorway to the left, from my view, of the sanctuary. "Just walk, straight up the left aisle and go in." Afraid that even a pause to genuflect would have got me doubling back. So I did and it's a nice room, not as little as I thought. There's a custom table that the books and sign-out sheet were on, very prominently. I signed my name, took my book, turned to see Chris fiddling with a censer. Even before seeing him, I said, reflexively, "Don't touch anything" because I knew that enough time had elapses ( ~ 5 secs.) since I last spied them and they were, therefore, already into something. It's only logical.

Chris jumped about a mile when I said that. I didn't realize he would be so startled because, well, I didn't realize yet that he was touching something. I don't remember what Ella was into, maybe some empty wicker collection baskets. So, after quickly surveying the room, noting the clothes rack of white surplices for the altar servers3 and the bookcases that acted as china cabinets, we stepped back into the church and took the first pew in front of a statue of the BVM.

The kids were as calm and quiet as the empty church - only Ella asking what happened to the lights - and I spent a few minutes in stillness in front of the statue, thinking about the latest H1N1 death. Then the warmth of the space began to get to me. Seeing the Woman, Chris asked where the daddy was and I pointed out St. Joseph's statue on the other side. He and Ella walked over quietly for a closer look. Then, when they returned to me, I could see that they weren't going to settle down again, so I suggested taking some cold water from the drinking fountain outside the lavs. Chris hypothesized as we walked again along the left aisle, that the left side of the church displayed statues of women and the right side had guys. For Mary, Kateri Tekakwitha and Therese of Lisieux, his theory was spot-on. But then we saw St. Anthony, St. Patrick, St. John the Baptist and his guess fell to pieces.

In front of the Infant of Prague statue, he asked about the ball in his hand. I told him he's king of the world and, after noting the crown on his head, he asked where the queen was. I motioned to the Lady he'd seen at the front but, not seeing a crown on her head, he wasn't buying it. He also wondered about her gesture of prayer, as her hands are crisply folded and her eyes are intensely shut, almost scrunched. But, of course, it's not an ugly statue; I just describe it that way. And I just marveled at how intuitive this religion is. If it didn't exist, we would have to invent it.

1 I thought I'd get an hour or two of reading while the kids were out at the fireworks but unpredictable weather forced a reschedule.
2 Wonder, oh, who taught her that?!
3 Kenny who enters fourth grade this fall is eligible to be an altar server and he isn't interested. We've already talked about it many times. I'm not going to be the pushy mom who wants her son to do things she never did ... although he did go to private school for a number of years ... and summer camp ... and Disney ... and ... but I'll promise you, if any of my children act as altar servers, I'll buy the surplice!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

I'm going to try something novel: read the required text before the class begins.1

I don't know how successful I'll be. I've read the first chapter (read it here) of this very slim, very easy-to-understand course book and it took a long time and called for lots of notes. And, well, I'm not reading it now, so I'm wasting time.

No, I'm not, either: I'm reviewing the material, if only for my own sake.

But I know he'll hit the ground running on Tuesday and expect us all to be prepared, know his positions and his reasons and he doesn't suffer fools (or sloths) gladly.

So, first off, he's clearly got a thing against Luke. He's long been known for not finding Acts historically reliable. In this book, because of the census flub, Luke's framework or timeline of Jesus' birth and childhood can't be trusted. The upside is this prejudice reduces his exegetical work exactly in half, then, as he treats only the testimony of Matthew's narrative. That's alright, I prefer Matthew, as well. Don't be taken in by his refined Greek prose and self-attestation (Lk. 1:3; Jn. 5:31), Luke is just some Gentile getting it all second-hand.

As I think he says that Luke also uses παιδίον, so his testimony doesn't go against his conclusions from Matthew's use of the same word. Now, on pages 2 & 3, he says that Matthew felt the Magi Story and the Flight/Return Story had actually happened, but our scholar does not believe the first one. And for that, God allowed the editor to miss a typo on page 3. Ba-dumpt-da.

So the point of chapter 1 is to show, from Scripture with lexical support from contemporary literature, that Jesus and Paul were born within a year of each other. He draws from ancient sources different than those mentioned in this ten-year-old BBL Q&A2 with more satisfying results.

I suppose the obvious question to come to my mind is who, then, clued in Herod to Christ's birth and significance if the magi were made up. And, another question, more a curiosity really, is why does Matthew 2:18, which quotes Jeremiah 31:15, use τέκνον instead of παιδίον (like the rest of Matt. 2) or even υἱος (like the LXX).

And this:
"Some confirmation of this approach is to be found in Judaism where a significant change takes place at the age of sixty. In terms of his redemption price, the value of a man dropped from fifty silver sanctuary shekels to fifteen shekels when he attained the age of sixty (Lev 27:2-7)." - page 8
Hmmm, reminds me of the senior citizen discount for Belmar beach badges.

1 Fr. Fitzmyer's book review. They are known to disagree with each other and, really, I'm not sure they get along, either.

2 I'm a little surprised West would ask such a question, actually.