Schools versus Christianity

August 27, 2010

Earlier this summer, there were three instances of colleges and grad schools terminating three Christians for stating the Christian view of homosexuality.

Kenneth Howell was re-instated after being fired for teaching Catholicism in an Introduction to Catholicism course.

Jennifer Keeton is appealing the judge’s decision that she has to take indoctrination … er, sensitivityclasses because of not affirming homosexuality.

Another case being appealed is Julea Ward’s, in which she referred a client to a different clinician because of the “values conflict.”   

Please keep the cases being appealed in prayer.


Reflections on the Feast of the Assumption

August 20, 2010

Singing for Sunday’s Assumption Mass brought two things to mind. One is how much I like chant. The other that August 15 is indelibly connected in my mind with Byzantine (Melkite rite) celebration of the day, in particular, Archbishop Raya. 


The topic of chant during liturgical prayer is an ambivalent one for me.  On chant itself, I have no mixed feelings.  It’s a wonderfu way to pray the psalms and parts of Mass.

In some ways, I feel I’ve never been without chant. Others have not been so fortunate, which is one reason why it was nice to have chant at Sunday’s Mass.  Among my memories of the pre-1962 Mass, chant is not an immediate one  but undoubtedly there as background.  Time spent at the Abbey of the Genesee was also a deep experience of chant.  Mostly though, I draw on my time at Madonna House where mornings start with chanting the psalms. Music purists turn up their noses at Gelineau psalmody, which is what Madonna House uses. That reminds me of a quote of Tolkien’s about those who didn’t like LOTR.  While chanted psalms are a perfect way to start the day, a chanted Gospel in Mass drives me up a wall.  I think the difference is that the psalms were written to be sung and the Gospels weren’t.  I’m well aware the Gospel is chanted at Mass – I’m just saying that I find it to be a distraction.

The ambivalence on the topic of chant is mostly because it is a focus in the liturgical wars and even the most neutral mention is likely to draw heated comments. I have and will continue to mostly stay out of discussions about music at Mass. Partly it’s because I like a wider style than whenever the topic arises. Partly it’s because I’m equally irritated with both those who refuse chant in any form and those who disdain anything other than Gregorian chant. At any rate, I enjoyed the chant at Sunday’s Mass.


A Latin rite Catholic’s first experience  of a Byzantine liturgy is generally an eye-opener. The effect is even more pronounced when the celebrant is Archbishop Raya, whose physical body barely contained his joy in the Lord.  He knew suffering but his entire being manifested suffering as only a prelude to the glory of the Resurrected Lord and he did so better than anyone I know.

That is particularly apt for the feast of the Assumption or as the Eastern rites call it, the Dormition of Mary.  During Archbishop Raya’s time at Madonna House (he died in 2005: Wikipedia entry here; Madonna House bio here), the weekend of the Assumption was busy as they celebrated both Latin and Byzantine aspects of vespers and the day itself.

Now that I think about it, of all the major feast days, Mary’s Assumption/Dormition most reminds me that “the Church breathes with both lungs.”

Assumption Mass

August 17, 2010

A small choir at Our Lady of Victory sang a Gregorian chant Mass for Sunday’s Mass of the Assumption and it was well-received.  David O’Donnell, who directed the choir, and the organist, whose name is not in front of me so I won’t even attempt it, did double duty in that they also sang.  It was wonderful to be in the midst of such talented musicians, both official and members of the choir. 

The day brought about further reflections on chant and the Assumption – perhaps later in the week.

Feast of the Assumption

August 13, 2010

The Assumption is a big feast day and I’m sure the Catholic blogsophere will cover it well.  I always think of the Eastern rites, probably because my recollections of the Assumption at Madonna House included liturgy in the Melkite rite.  Very much a celebration.

On an entirely different note, it also means the beginning of the end of summer.  Kids were all over the grounds of the local museum and science center – turns out today is the last day of summer camp.

Most of all though, August 15 is a day to honor Mary and her role in the Church.

A Tale of Two Books

August 13, 2010

Way back in the beginning of summer, during the four days of 90+ temperatures, I wanted to write a post on light Catholic reading, perfect for days when the brain is too fried to take in anything substantial.  The Kenneth Howell firing (thankfully now re-instated) and various constraints on my blogging time delayed that.

Then an acquaintance lent me two books (one print; one an audiobook), both on the topic of searching for God. With so many good Catholic books to read, why am I writing about two books from authors who aren’t even interested in Christianity? Because apparently, a lot of people who are searching for God are reading them, that’s why.

Eat  Pray  Love

Eat Pray Love (Elizabeth Gilbert) was on the New York Times Bestseller list for more than 155 weeks. In many ways, that’s understandable.   Gilbert is an excellent writer, often quite funny, and with a knack for imagery that you remember long after you stop reading. The book has makings of classic chick lit: relationships (marital breakup, deepening of relationship with her mother and sister, and

*spoiler alert* a new relationship at the end of the book*end spoiler alert.* 

Distinguishing this book from regular chick lit is that it also contains classic moments of the spiritual journey both in general and Catholicism in particular. At the beginning of the book, Gilbert decides on celibacy during her year-long search.  Her description of her first six weeks at a “yoga camp” has a Benedictine quality of “ora et labora.”  Initially, her prayer time is characterized by distracting thoughts and talking rather than listening, both of which are familiar to Catholics beginning contemplative prayer.

As much as I enjoyed the section on Italy, I did stop reading in the India section. Why read about praying with oneself when you can have the real deal, the Real Presence, Jesus in person? Still in all, a lot of people are reading this book first published in 2006. Because I was lent the audiobook, I thought to read the print edition – only to find that every copy in the library system is checked out.  Perhaps that has to do with the opening of the film version today (August 13).

At some point, I’ll go back and read through the rest of the book, if only to know what others have read.

Book titled “Conversations with God”

Not so for Conversations With God (Neale Donald Walsch).  This is a guy who not only claims God spoke to him, but through him, to also the reader.  On page 62, he says,

If there were such a thing as sin, this would be it: to allow yourself to become what you are because of the experience of others.

So the author says to never take another’s word as authority, yet expects the reader to take him at his word.   That lack of logic lost me right away.

The biggest red flag is in the first chapter:

…as I scribbled out the last of my bitter, unanswerable questions and  prepared to toss my pen aside, my had remained poised over the paper, as if held there by some invisible force.  Abruptly, the pen began moving on its own.  I had no idea what I was about to write … Before I knew it, I had begun a conversation … and I was not writing so much as taking dictation.

Emphases are the author’s.  That description is should warn off anyone. Anyone’s hand who moves not of his own volition is not of God.

Having read that, I was greatly surprised to read that the book (the first of three) had been on the NY Times Bestseller list for 137 weeks.  It’s also a caution to those who consider outward success as the sole criterion of a person being in God’s will.

The author would appear to be against all religion, but clearly he’s attacking the Judeo-Christian faith, particularly Christianity:

Waschle:  Leaders, ministers, rabbis, priests, books, the Bible, for heaven’s sake,

supposed deity: Those are not authoritative sources. (p.8)

On prayer (p.11), the author says prayer should not be supplication, but gratitude.  Now it’s true that we’re to give thanks always, but the statement is a big pfffft to Jesus, who when asked how to pray answered with the Our Father with all its petitions. 

On God’s plan (p.61)

For God’s plan is for you to create anything – everything – whatever you want…evil is what you call evil.

 Not surprisingly, the author has some “fact malfunctions,” including misquoting Scripture.  I’ll have to check the page on that, but he misquotes both Moses asking, “Who shall I say” and replaces “I AM” with the Word of God. Slippery and misleading for those who don’t know their Scripture or Christian faith. 

It’s the first time I’ve heard Freud referred to as a philosopher when he identifies others as psychiatrists.

And this biggie: You are three beings in one, whether you call it mind, body, spirit or Father, Son, Holy Ghost or id, ego, superego.  (p. 91, perhaps not in that order)

There’s much more, all in the same vein.

Bottom line: there’s much work to do.  Lots of people looking for God in all the wrong places.


August 6, 2010

Today is the feast of the Transfiguration. Lots can be – and has been – written on the Transfiguration. It’s always a reminder to me that there is more, much more, than our life here on earth.