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Showing posts from October, 2013

Saint Cecilia's RCIA: Week #4

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Last night, the Saint Cecilia's RCIA group met at our usual 6:30 time. Having had three weeks to get to know one another better, we started to move more deeply into discussions of "nuts and bolts" Catholicism. By this I mean, simply, raising and reflecting upon some key questions one must of necessity wrestle with as a believer.

What impresses me most of the group I'm praying with (and for) is their willingness to venture questions. Given their love of questions, I turned to a reliable source - The Teaching of the Catholic Church by Father Herbert McCabe, OP - and raised five questions to the group last night. Thus, after praying from Proverbs 8, we reflected as a group about what it means to call God the creator, what God wants for creatures, and whether evolution/science are hostile to religious belief.

I've attached the schedule from last night in case it is helpful to anyone as a resource.

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In addition, I learned that, when I wear the costume wig my paren…

Birthday Wishes Do Come True!

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I came home from playing music at the local pub last night and went to bed, still a little sad: my only wish on my 34th birthday was for hair.

This morning, I woke up with...hair!

Yep: after years of asking/begging/praying, the most unlikely source of grace came through with my heart's sole desire: my mom and dad. I have to say, the color works pretty well: it matches my beard. Sadly, it looks like I've a bit of bed-head. All the same, I particularly like being able to run my hands through it, even it's not *quite* my own natural hair.

Thanks Mom! Thanks Dad! Just keep rubbing in the fact that you gave me life and horrific genes leading to baldness. Nope, no resentment there.


A Jesuit's Advice On Classroom Management

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Looking back upon my own experiences as a teacher, I can attest without any hesitation that the steepest learning curve to contend with is classroom management. Students I taught as a first-year teacher, now well into college, delight in reminding me of my own trials. Without question, I learned by trial and error.

A new teacher, after reading an essay I wrote called The Jesuit Guide to Teaching, wrote me to ask about advice in managing the classroom. He has been challenged by the administration not to be "too nice" and to "harden his heart" in order to maintain discipline.

I resonated with his initial response to this directive. He writes:
To be honest with you, I have a difficult time discerning when to turn theother cheek and when to flip over the tables and crack the whip in certainsituations. Christ was a man of great kindness, yet he used brutal honestyand even force to make his views known. What should I do? How can I showlove to my students while being firm…

Can Atheists Experience Awe?

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Chris Stedman, assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard, has a piece over at CNN's Belief Blog entitled "What Oprah gets wrong about atheism." He takes as his point of departure the recent contretemps between Oprah and swimmer Diana Nyad.

In his reflection, Stedman raises this concern:
Winfrey's response may have been well intended, but it erased Nyad's atheist identity and suggested something entirely untrue and, to many atheists like me, offensive: that atheists don't experience awe and wonder.  Now - and I speak as something of a theist...Jesuits do, in fact, believe in God - I don't get the sense from Oprah that she is erasing Nyad's atheist identity. Instead, what Oprah experiences as a sense of awe, of the mystery of creation, is what she calls an experience of God. In quoting Karl Rahner yesterday, I attempted to shore-up Winfrey's response. Rahner, one of the theological giants of the 20th century, understood the experience of God seldom to…

An Atheist in Awe

Apparently Oprah Winfrey has caused some flap amongst atheists in the wake of her recent interview with famed swimmer Diana Nyad. On Sunday's "Super Soul Sunday," Oprah questioned Diana about her religious beliefs. 

The issue, as far as it is an issue, centers on exchange between the two. Nyad asserts herself an atheism, but that she is a person who is deeply in awe.
Nyad: I can stand at the beach's edge with the most devout Christian, Jew, Buddhist...go on down the line, and weep with the beauty of this universe and be moved by all of humanity...all the billions of people who have lived before us, who have loved and hurt...Oprah: YeahNyad: ...and suffered. So to me, my definition of God is humanity and is the love of humanity. And as we return to...Oprah: Well, I don't call you an atheist then! I think if you believe in awe...and the wonder...and the mystery...that is what God is Critics have been quick to take aim at both personalities. Nyad is critiqued for a …

The Scandal of Poverty in a World of Plenty

In a splendid and deeply challenging article in America Magazine, Bishop Robert McElroy draws upon the Holy Father's call to a mass cultural conversion. Pope Francis, McElroy notes, has exposed "three false cultures that materialism has created in our world:

The Culture of Comfort - we think only of ourselvesThe Culture of Waste - we seize the gifts of creation, exhaust what we have seized, and then discard themThe Culture of Indifference - we have become insensitive to the suffering of others.  The culture of materialism has worked toward the creation of the Anti-Kingdom of God. Rather than being gathered into a New Jerusalem ruled by God, those of us who are able prefer to worship at the altar of capitalism: we are, as a society, an idolatrous people. Gathered around the graven image of wealth and prestige, we become what Pope Benedict XVI lamented in Caritatis in Veritate: a globalized society of neighbors but not sisters and brothers. 
Bishop McElroy prophetically calls f…

RCIA: Signs, Symbols, and Sacrament

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Last night's RCIA topic was "Sign, Symbol, and Sacrament." My intention for the class was to develop a Catholic way of seeing the world around us. Just as a musician trains to hear the intricacies of music, or a surgeon trains in dexterity and deftness of hand, so must the Catholic train "to see" the world differently, to see how the "Grandeur of God" shines through it.

We live in a world of signs. Signs are objects that point away from themselves and tend to have one, relatively clear meaning. A STOP sign hardly calls for much interpretation; a check mark on an test records approval, a red-x an incorrect answer. Granted, many signs are ones we have, as a society, agreed upon in recognizing: Green means go, Red means stop, and Yellow means either "caution" or "hurry up!" There could have been different colors chosen, but we've settled on these three.

The next level down, symbols are more complex and involved signs. They can ha…

Does Jesus Condemn the Rich Man to Hell?

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Do you remember the Public Service Announcement, "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk"? I'm enough of a child of the 1980's to recall these billboards. I also remember the "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?" commercials. The image of a frying egg is indelibly burned into my imagination.

Using a fancy word, these might be called "paraenetic" instructions: they give advice in moral or ethical matters. The nun who taught 4th grade religion was a master of paraenesis: any time a student would lead back in his or her chair, she would admonish us with the story of the student she knew who had tipped the chair back, fell, and had the chair splinter and rupture his spine so he's spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. It was a story told to warn us away from reclining, not to tell us that if we recline, then we will end up with a shard of wood in our spinal column and dreaming of a helper monkey who will do our…

So...Hell has Frozen Over

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Thanks to my friend Brigid for drawing my attention to this clip of a recent interview of Notre Dame theologian Candida Moss (PhD, Yale) with Bill O'Reilly. Taking place on the O'Reilly Factor, the interview's focus is on Killing Jesus: A History co-written by O'Reilly and Martin Dugard.

Rather than attempting to reproduce the transcript of the talk, I've embedded the video:



There is hardly any question that the poor were the main audience of Jesus' preaching. His preaching of God's in-breaking kingdom was directed to them; what Jesus experienced as central to his own life, God's Reign on earth, he preached to listeners. We take for granted how audacious it is to pray "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Thy will (the will of God) is quite hardly ever My will.

Gustavo GutiƩrrez, one of the architects of modern liberation theology, resists reducing "the poor" to those afflicted only to economic poverty. He writes
From its …

Option for the Poor (On Liberation Theology)

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Much digital ink has been spent of late trying to sort out the current Pope's relationship to Liberation Theology. Last month, the Holy Father met with Fr. Gustavo GutiƩrrez, one of the architects of 20th century liberation theology. Soon after their meeting, reports of the Pope "distancing himself from liberation theology" began to circulate. Suspicious of certain Marxist tendencies within this mode of theological reflection, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published in 1984 its Instruction on Certain Aspects of the "Theology of Liberation"and, in 1986, its follow-up Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation

Longtime readers of my blog will know of my...strained relationship with fellow-blogger Joseph Fromm over at GoodJesuitBadJesuit. I use the term "blogger" with reserve, as he's more of an aggregator of various stories about Jesuits to which he affixes labels. His lack of understanding of Liberation Theology is particul…

Pope Francis Speaks...Again!

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Catholic news junkies were abuzz yesterday morning when the Italian newspaper la Republicapublished an interview between Pope Francis and Eugenio Scalfari. Following less than two weeks after the interview published in America.

There are two quotes I find particularly interesting/moving.
The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don't even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live crushed under the weight of the present? Without a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.
One detects, immediately, the Pope's empathy within this observation. Last night, as we began our RCIA …