Sursum Corda
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Topical musings from a Catholic perspective

Friday, September 19, 2003
EVERY PLANET ON EARTH: Well I've been blogging some of the California gubernatorial candidate bios, but I haven't gotten around to letting the incumbent himself speak his piece. Here's Gray Davis' response to a question about what his vision for California is:

My vision is to make the most diverse state on earth, and we have people from every planet on the earth in this state, ah, we have the sons and daughters of people from every planet, of every country on earth, in this state. We are about 50 years ahead of the rest to America. We have no ethnic majority any more. I want to prove we cannot just survive, we can succeed. Let me tell you why. Most of the of folks that come here are the sons and daughters of middle class parents someplace else, they are enterprising, hard working, and they are able to attract capital from whatever country they came from into whatever business they’re doing. And that creates jobs for folks that are already here, gives them opportunity. And that’s why I want to make sure education is open everybody, that we have scholarships for kids who get a B-average in their school and if they have financial challenges then we’ll pay for all the academic costs of any public college they can get admitted to on their own merit. That wasn’t the law before I became governor. It’s the law now. It’s a tremendous motivator for young people. It is also a way in which a teacher can motivate a young child who doesn’t have two nickels to their name. Because it doesn’t matter, if they get a B-average. I am very excited about this state. It has great opportunities. They say California rides point on America. Some things we do we do really well. Some thing we do not do as well. But I want to prove we can succeed, big time.
I think the Sumo wrestler was a little more focused in his response, don't you think?

posted by Peter Nixon 4:49 PM
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IS CIVILITY A GOSPEL VIRTUE? Cardinal Francis George thinks so. In his most recent column in the Catholic New World, he says the following:

Is there a religious dimension to civility? Should we be concerned about a lack of civility not just as citizens but as men and women of faith? Reading the Gospels, one could argue that Jesus was not particularly civil. He denounced his enemies as hypocrites and accused his friends of lack of faith. He insulted people who asked favors of him and was rude to the people of his hometown. All of this can be interpreted, perhaps, as prophetic discourse; and prophets are not supposed to be polite. The word of God is always two-edged, as sharp as any sword.

Yet Jesus, in his own life and in his instructions to his disciples, rejected violence and demanded love of enemies and patience in suffering. Bearing witness to the truth, he asks for discipleship to be based on free assent. As Pope John Paul II often says: “The Church proposes; she imposes nothing … Love is the driving force of mission.” Speaking to the Catholic laity in the world of his day, St. Francis of Assisi wrote: “Realize, dear brothers and sisters, that courtesy is one of the properties of God. … It is the sister of charity, by which hatred is vanquished and love is cherished.”

Civility is a sign of humility, of the recognition that one is not the center of the universe, of the desire to be properly submissive to God and to those whom God gives us as companions on our earthly journey, especially those most in need. A civil person is grateful, because he or she recognizes that life itself is a gift for which one can only say “thank you.”

posted by Peter Nixon 1:41 PM
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HOW MUCH? The NYT has an analysis piece about what determines the size of a sexual abuse award/settlement.

posted by Peter Nixon 1:28 PM
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Thursday, September 18, 2003
THE PRIESTHOOD AND THE CHURCH: Interesting notes from a Catholic Common Ground discussion of The Priesthood in the Church held at the The Oblate Renewal Center in San Antonio.

posted by Peter Nixon 7:42 PM
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STOP THESE DEATHS: The National Catholic Reporter reports on a forthcoming mass on the U.S.-Mexico Border to commemorate the deaths of migrants who have attempted to cross the border:

In El Paso, Texas, Nov. 2, the Day of the Dead, Catholics on each side of the Mexico-U.S. border will push tables against a common fence to form one altar. Bishops from both nations -- separated by wall and wire -- will concelebrate a Mass that will be the culmination of a huge organizing event coming together as “The Border Pilgrimage.”

The Mass will be offered for the more than 2,300 migrants who have died trying to cross the border in the past eight years. That estimate, compiled by the University of Houston, goes back to roughly the point at which construction of “The Wall” (NCR, Jan. 17), the 66-mile barricade that starts in the Pacific Ocean in the Tijuana-San Diego Bay, began to impede crossings close to San Diego.

Maryknoll lay missioner West Cosgrove, a key local coordinator with Jose Escobedo of the pilgrimage’s “Border Convocation” in El Paso, estimates that this year another 400 men and women could die in attempts to cross into the United States.

posted by Peter Nixon 9:40 AM
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ADULTS: In this week's America, Jane Regan talks about some of the challenges involved in adult faith formation. The article is only available to subscribers, but here's a thought to chew on:

To add yet more programs to an already overextended parish calendar and parish staff does little to shift the focus from children and youth to adults. It is more likely to place added stress on families who are already juggling multiple commitments. In addition, periodic programs unconnected to the life of the parish or the parish vision can easily reinforce the already well-established belief that adult catechesis is something on the side, to be addressed when there is time and energy to do it. Or, even worse, if the program is poorly attended or unenthusiastically received, it can be discouraging to all involved. Soon the attitude becomes: “We’ve tried that before—it doesn’t work. The adults in our parish just aren’t interested.”

posted by Peter Nixon 9:30 AM
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THE CREED: William Reiser reviews Luke Timothy Johnson's new book The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why It Matters.

posted by Peter Nixon 9:24 AM
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Wednesday, September 17, 2003
BILL PRADY: Well things here in California are in a bit of a tizzy since the 9th circuit decided to postpone the recall, but I'll still be blogging a few of the candidate bios that I find particularly amusing. Here's Bill Prady, a Democrat:

You know the wonderful world that exists in television comedies--a world where, no matter what problems arise or conflicts exist, people work together to overcome any obstacle and, maybe, learn a little something? Wouldn't you like California to be a place like that? It can be if you elect Bill Prady to be the next governor of our great state. Bill Prady is an award-winning television comedy writer and producer who will bring the skills he's learned creating sitcom episodes to Sacramento. If elected, he pledges to solve all the state's problems in 22 minutes and 44 seconds with two commercial breaks and a hug at the end. After all this turmoil, isn't this just what California needs?
Personally, I'm thinking of writing in Sarah Michelle Gellar: Buffy for Governor!

posted by Peter Nixon 11:30 AM
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NOONAN ON THE MEETING: Peggy Noonan gives her impressions of the recent meeting between some prominent conservative Catholics and some bishops. While I agreed with some of her points, I found the general tone of the piece grating. Here's a sample:

First, I think in some small way the meeting was historic. The non-Catholic public would probably assume that bishops and cardinals frequently talk with conservatives in the church. The non-Catholic American public would probably assume bishops and cardinals are the conservatives in the church. But this is not so. Conservatives in the church often feel that they are regarded, and not completely unkindly, as sort of odd folk, who perhaps tend to have a third hand growing out of their foreheads and tinfoil hats on their heads. We say, "Please, we must speak more as a church about abortion," and church leaders say, "We may possibly do that after issuing the report on domestic employment policy." We ask the church to teach Catholic doctrine, and they point out that the press doesn't really like the church. We ask them to discuss the pressing issues of the moment, such as cloning--we're entering a world in which industrial fetal farms may grow replacement people for replacement parts--and instead they issue new directives on how it would be better if people sang songs during the mass after communion, and hugged each other instead of shaking hands during the moment of peace.
I always thought it was conservatives who had been most outspoken against the "culture of complaint," but I guess when conservatives themselves feel like an aggrieved minority, they give themselves a pass. Is it any wonder that bishops might be less inclined to take conservatives seriously when they present themselves as a saving remnant and make sweeping comments ("I had planned to address the teaching of Catholic doctrine, which is something the American Catholic Church doesn't really like to do in any depth") that suggest the bishops are largely incompetent?

I'm not sure how I feel about the relative secrecy of the earlier meeting between a few bishops and some prominent liberal Catholics. I would like to know more about what had been said there. But at least the participants haven't been spouting off in the op-ed pages about how smart they are and how dumb the bishops are.

posted by Peter Nixon 11:22 AM
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BACK ON THE JOB: Striking Catholic schoolteachers were back on the job yesterday. Speaking as a former union staffer, I can tell you there is nothing better than a strike that ends quickly with a contract both sides can live with (except, of course, getting a contract before the strike.

posted by Peter Nixon 10:48 AM
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Tuesday, September 16, 2003
THE CHURCH'S HIDDEN JEWISHNESS: Interesting review in Christianity Today of In the Shadow of the Temple, a book by Oskar Skarsaune, professor of church history at Norwegian Lutheran Theological Seminary. Skarsaune argues against a widely held view that Hellenic culture decisively shaped the early church in many areas, and tries to show how Jewish influence was usually decisive where the two cultures conflicted. Can't comment on the strength of his argument since I haven't read the book, but at least it sounds interesting.

An interview with Skarsaune, published in the same issue, was a little more difficult to digest, as Skarsaune takes issue with Catholic beliefs about the priesthood and the Eucharist as sacrifice. Since he is a historian, I would have expected him to know that the roots of the priesthood and the Eucharist as sacrifice go back earlier than Constantine, but I guess this is one of those things you can debate for a very long time.

posted by Peter Nixon 9:36 AM
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GET OUT: This just in from a newspaper in Malawi:

The Blantyre Archdiocese of the Catholic Church said on Monday people who do not agree with the church’s sermons on politics, justice and peace are free to leave the church and stop calling themselves Catholics. Reacting to a protest by some Catholics from Limbe Cathedral, calling themselves The Voice, against sermons that are delivered by priests at their church because they carry political messages, spokesman for the archdiocese Monsignor Boniface Tamani, said the Catholic Doctrine is about justice and peace and that the church will keep on preaching on this.

posted by Peter Nixon 9:28 AM
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Monday, September 15, 2003
WE ARE THE LORD’S: I found out a couple of weeks ago that another parishioner I know reasonably well is battling cancer. His name is Don and he has been the motivating force of our parish men’s group. He beat back colon cancer a few years ago, but they recently found cancer in his throat that has spread to his lymph nodes.

It’s been a tough year for this sort of thing, with the passing of our friend Nancy and our pastor’s mother Margaret. My godfather is also fighting colon cancer. Another friend goes in for her second heart operation in the last 12 months.

One of the things we do as Christians is walk with each other through suffering and death. I think this connection was easier to see in centuries past when more churches had graveyards attached to them. You would, in essence, see your future every Sunday on the way to mass.

The physical manifestations of suffering and death are such that some kind of supernatural hope is required to believe that they can be transcended. Death seems very final. A corpse looks like a corpse, not flesh awaiting glorification. We need to support each other in this belief, because I’m not sure any of us could sustain it alone. As Paul suggests, we would “grieve like the rest, who have no hope.”

One of the things that impresses me about monastic life is the vow of stability. One of the unspoken premises of such a vow is that the person making it agrees that he will suffer and die with those who witness his vow. He will accompany his brothers in suffering and death and someday he, too, will be laid to rest in a tiny graveyard with an undistinguished cross to mark the grave.

For some strange reason I find this idea comforting as I contemplate the loss of many whom I have come to love as brothers and sisters in Christ. Accompanying each other on this journey is part of what Christian life is about. And how we walk that path is part of the way we bear witness to the world.

None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living-- Romans 14:7-9

posted by Peter Nixon 4:56 PM
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JUSTICE VOICES: Interesting piece on the Maryknoll Language Institute that ran in the Montana Catholic. Increasingly, missionaries are not merely going from North to South but from South to South, and the makeup of the students reflects that shift.

posted by Peter Nixon 2:08 PM
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RALPH AND THE ARCHANGEL: A moving story of a former bank robber who converted to Catholicism while in prison, and eventually took vows as a Benedictine brother shortly before he died.

posted by Peter Nixon 1:55 PM
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