Sursum Corda
"an insightful Catholic Blog that eschews extremism in any direction."
--Commonweal Magazine
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Topical musings from a Catholic perspective

Friday, July 27, 2007
This is a test

posted by Peter Nixon 7:34 PM
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Thursday, March 09, 2006
RETURN FROM EXILE: Or perhaps I should title this "falling off the wagon?" Yes, the rumors you have heard are true. I'm returning to blogging on a limited basis. Starting today, I'll be blogging over at the new Commonweal magazine group blog, known as DotCommonweal. My own posting activity will probably be a little more sporadic (that is, from my perspective, the advantage of a group blog). Also, I expect DC to be a little more on the practical side, so I may post more spiritual pieces here at SC from time to time. But I wouldn't advise checking every day. Use an aggregator or newsfeed like Bloglines, which will alert you when a new post is up.

Also, haven't figured out whether or not to restore comments over here. Not expecting to need them and you have to monitor them for spam. If posting activity back here becomes frequent enough, I'll restore.

Until then, see you at DotCommonweal!

posted by Peter Nixon 10:55 AM
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Friday, March 03, 2006
HE'S NOT QUITE DEAD YET: Stayed tuned for an important announcement regarding future blogging by the proprietor...

posted by Peter Nixon 10:34 AM
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Monday, May 03, 2004
OKAY, OKAY, I WON'T DELETE IT: You guys are just too much. I've been tearing up all afternoon and evening reading my comments and mail.

Okay, here's the deal. My wife will change the password and keep it to herself. Since she has about a dozen things she'd rather have me doing than blogging, there is little chance of me getting it out of her. So the temptation will be removed, but the archives will sit here as long as Blogger will support them.

You guys are amazing. Take care of yourselves.

posted by Peter Nixon 10:22 PM
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CLOSING TIME: Well I don’t know how to say this so I’m just going to say it:

I’m shutting down the blog.

It’s been a good run, an amazing run in fact. Two years ago, would I ever have predicted that this thing would be written up favorably in Commonweal? No, I don’t think so. Traffic has risen dramatically over the past few months. I feel like a career .250 hitter who decides to retire after his first .300 season. It’s nuts.

But I’ve got too much to do and something has to give. I start a graduate program in theology at the GTU—part time—this fall, which means I’m going to have to get even better at time management. Joseph starts Kindergarten again in the fall, which means I’ll have more things to do at night. Work is getting more intense. I’ve also got a lot of house projects I need to do before the rains come next fall. And to top it off, we just lost a musician from our jail ministry team, which means that I have to practice my guitar more frequently so I can provide music when I lead the service.

I could try to “cut back,” of course, but I’ve tried that before. It doesn’t seem to work. I just don’t seem to have the willpower. And the truth is that this is a medium that favors immediacy. It just wouldn’t be the same if I only updated it once or twice a month.

So here’s the really hard part, and this may even upset some people: when I talk about shutting it down, I’m not just talking about letting it go dormant. I’m talking about deleting it. Because as long as it’s sitting there, it’s going to be a temptation to me and I can’t have that right now. And I’m not comfortable having something with my name on it floating around in cyberspace unless I’m actively maintaining it.

I’ll keep the site up—without new posts-- for another week or so. I’ve got copies of everything that’s been posted on the site. If you want a copy of something, I’m happy to oblige you. Just send me an e-mail. Maybe someday I’ll throw it all together into a book. Or maybe not, who knows. In any case, feel free to keep sending me e-mail. I’m happy to correspond anytime.

I’ve had a wonderful time out here and I’ve met a lot of great people. The hardest part about this decision is the letters and comments I’ve gotten from people who really enjoy the site and find it spiritually and intellectually helpful. I don’t want to let anyone down. But I need a break—a long one.

I know that I was sometimes a little out-of-step with the general zeitgeist at Saint Blogs. That was fine with me because I was being challenged and stretched in ways that might not have happened if I was surrounded by people who saw the world the same way I did. I hope it was fine with you. I think it’s helpful to get out of our own ideological or theological apartments on a regular basis and take a walk around the neighborhood. It might inspire us to do a little redecorating. Or maybe not, but at least we might realize we’re part of something that’s a lot bigger than we are.

It’s hard to stop writing when you know it will be the last post. But it’s time to turn out the lights and lock the door. Be careful about anger, okay? Cultivate the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Always remember that you are the only Gospel that someone might read.

Vaya con Dios, hermanos y hermanas,


posted by Peter Nixon 7:00 AM
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Sunday, May 02, 2004
SCENES FROM A COUNTY JAIL: This morning was a bit of an adventure for a variety of reasons. We just had a musician leave the ministry team (she and her husband moved out of the county) so I have agreed to provide my own music when I lead the service until we can find a replacement. This was the first time playing guitar in front of an "audience" for...well, longer than I can remember. I think I had longer hair back then and very little of the music I played was suitable for a Catholic worship service! In any case, the men love to sing and their loud voices covered my fuzzy chord changes.

This was also the launch of my (reasonably) bilingual service. After three semesters of Spanish, I figured it was time to give it a try. I did the opening and closing prayers, the Gospel and the Our Father in Spanish as well as English and threw a few lines of Spanish into my reflection.

How did it go? Well, there were a few moments where I saw a couple of the Spanish-speaking guys look at each other as if to say "What did he just say?" But I talked to one of the guys afterward who has been at the jail for a while and he said the guys appreciated the effort, because none of the other services out there are in Spanish.

"So how bad was my Spanish?" I asked him.

"'s improving," he said with a smile.

posted by Peter Nixon 8:41 PM
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Friday, April 30, 2004
LEARNING TO PRAY: George Weigel makes an important point about prayer in his weekly column:

Looking through the well-stocked "spirituality" section in your local bookstore, you may think that Americans are doing the same; in today's jargon, there seem to be a lot of "searchers" out there. Catholic faith, exemplified in this season's readings from Acts, teaches us something different about searching, however. Catholic faith teaches us that the spiritual life is not our search for God, but God's search for us --- and our learning to take the same path through history that God does. Our prayer must somehow reflect that truth.

posted by Peter Nixon 1:35 PM
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MCCARRICK: NCR has posted the transcript of John Allen's interview with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. McCarrick comments on a wide range of issues, including the bishops' role in politics, abortion, war, and the United Nations to name just a few. Allen's weekly column is here.

posted by Peter Nixon 1:31 PM
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CATHOLICS AND POLITICS: I saw several stories today about Catholic bishops in other countries commenting on certain political issues. In Kenya, the Bishops have appealed to the wrangling factions in the ruling coalition to put an end to their power struggles. In the Philippines, a spokesperson for Bishops Conference reiterated that the Church will not be endorsing political candidates, although lay movements like El-Shaddai may do so. In Uganda, the Bishops there are calling for a "transparent" transition to multi-party government. In the United Kingdom, the Bishops Conference issued a statement on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

posted by Peter Nixon 1:16 PM
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THE BARQUE OF PETER: A friend of mine once joked that I was the “last man standing,” by which he meant that I’m the only person in my family who actively practices his faith.

But if you are looking for the family saint, don’t look here. My sister eclipses the rest of us in that regard. She is the mother of four children, one of whom has a genetic condition. When she was working, she was an early-childhood special education teacher who volunteered to teach in urban school districts because, as she once put it “these kids really need good teachers.” She would regularly tell me stories about her students that would have me in tears.

So I’ve never really cottoned to the idea that Catholics or Christians or even religious folks generally have cornered the market on holiness. The Spirit bloweth where She willeth and all that.

Which sort of raises the question: why bother? Why should someone pray, or believe in God, or follow Jesus, or do any of the things that believers tend to think are “necessary?”

I’ve tried
in the past to offer answers to that question, but the truth is that I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer it. Because in the end, for me at least, it wasn’t a choice. I’ve never really sat down and analyzed the pros and cons of belief versus unbelief, or tried to compare the relative merits of various religious traditions. In my late teens, I tried to walk away from all of it. But in the end I was seized by something that pulled me back.

It’s one of the reasons I find the doctrine of “election” so interesting. Because that’s the way it feels sometimes. As the force of habit and custom in determining religious practice declines, it seems the churches are increasingly filled with people who need to be there, who were somehow called to be there.

And what of those who don’t have this call? I’m not sure. Subjectively, at least, it seems to describe a fair number of people I know, many of whom are “good people” by any reasonable standard. They are happy, well adjusted, and don’t give any outward sign that their lives are somehow deeply uncentered because they are oblivious to a central aspect of reality. Perhaps there’s something going on inside, but usually I can’t see it.

Since I’m still more of a failed poet than a theologian, I can take refuge in metaphor. It seems to me sometimes that the Church is a large ship manned by a reasonably competent but fractious crew who have been pressed into service. The ship sails through the seas, leaving a great wake behind it. There are many smaller craft who sail in the great space of calm created by this wake, sometimes unaware of its source. Perhaps it would be better to be aboard the great ship; certainly it would be safer. But as long as the great ship continues to move forward, the armada in its wake has a good chance of making it home.

But dangit, I’m never going to get the hang of tying these knots…

posted by Peter Nixon 9:58 AM
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Thursday, April 29, 2004
WHY RAISING KIDS IN CALIFORNIA IS DIFFERENT: Yesterday my wife and 3 year old daughter were shopping in one of those premium grocery stores that are very popular out here when my daughter saw some snails--excuse me, escargot. She asked my wife about them and my wife told her that people ate snails. My daughter was very excited and said that she wanted to try them. So my wife bought two, along with some pesto sauce for dipping. My daughter loved them!

Let's just say that no one ever offered me snails for dinner when I was growing up in New Jersey. Of course, if they had, I probably would have had the same reaction my son had when my daughter cheerfully informed him he would be eating snails for lunch: he burst into tears!

posted by Peter Nixon 7:42 PM
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THERE'S NOTHING ORIGINAL IN ME, EXCEPT... Eve Tushnet has a fine post about the meaning of original sin. Much better than simply repeating that old Reinhold Niebuhr quote...

posted by Peter Nixon 2:04 PM
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VOTING: Well, if you want to get the spectrum of Catholic opinion on what issues should influence our voting, you can read this post from Fr. Rob Johansen and this editorial from the National Catholic Reporter.

I'm still a little skeptical of this idea that you can create some kind of algorithm in which you crossmatch Catholic teaching with the candidates' positions and "poof" out pops the appropriate way for a Catholic to vote. What if, for example, you are opposed to the death penalty, but doubt that there will be any legislation of significance on this topic during the next four years. How does that weigh in your consideration? Does the possibility of a candidate doing something positive in one area outweigh the certainty that he will do something negative in another?

Or let's take another thought experiment: let's assume that one candidate wanted to strongly increase the penalties for infanticide, while the other candidate thought they were fine the way they were. Let's even assume that the penalties in that state were rather mild compared to neighboring states. Do I have to vote for the candidate who wants to increase the penalties, even if I think the legislation is mostly symbolic and will have no impact on the rate of infanticide?

One might argue that these scenarios bear little resemblance to reality, and I'm willing to concede the point. But if you are going to articulate some kind of "general theory of Catholic voting," you need to take into account that there is often a very large gap between what candidates say and promise and what ultimately ends up happening in the legislative process.

posted by Peter Nixon 10:26 AM
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MICROCREDIT: The NYT takes a look at "microcredit." Organizations like the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh have been offering small loans--mostly to poor women living in rural areas--to encourage them to start small businesses. The idea has captivated development experts around the world, although the jury is still out on their overall impact on poverty and economic development.

posted by Peter Nixon 9:24 AM
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