Friday, February 24, 2006

Da Vinci Deception

An blogger that I have a good deal of respect for named Mark Shea has an interview about a book that he wrote by the above title. The article is on

Here's an excerpt that explains my concerns about this book exceedingly well and why I call Dan Brown evil.

...tens of millions of people have read "The Da Vinci Code" and many have had their faith in Christ and the Catholic Church shaken. This blasphemous book has become a major cultural phenomenon, largely by attacking the very person and mission of Jesus Christ. It must be addressed... "The Da Vinci Code" has become the source for what I call "pseudo-knowledge" about the Christian faith. Pseudo-knowledge is that stuff "everybody knows," such as the "fact" that Humphrey Bogart said "Play it again, Sam" -- except he didn't. Pseudo-knowledge doesn't matter much when the issue is the script of "Casablanca." It matters greatly when it adversely affects the most sacred beliefs of a billion people, and when it levels the charge that the Catholic Church is essentially a vast "Murder Incorporated" network founded on maintaining the lie of Jesus' divinity and resurrection.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

retreat reflections

As I said Monday, I focused on John Paul II (and Benedict) when I went on retreat. I'll (hopefully) have a longer post about Benedict by Tuesday.

I used the document on priests, I will give you shepherds (Pastores Dabo Vobis) as the voice of John Paul II. I was really struck by some of the connection JPII made between celibacy/priesthood/image of Christ. Here's what I mean in paragraph 29...

"For an adequate priestly spiritual life, celibacy ought not to be considered and lived as an isolated or purely negative element, but as one aspect of the positive, specific and characteristic approach to being a priest. Leaving father and mother, the priest follows Jesus the good shepherd in an apostolic communion, in the service of the People of God. Celibacy, then, is to be welcomed and continually renewed with a free and loving decision as a priceless gift from God, as an "incentive to pastoral charity " as a singular sharing in God's fatherhood and in the fruitfulness of the Church, and as a witness to the world of the eschatological kingdom. To put into practice all the moral, pastoral and spiritual demands of priestly celibacy it is absolutely necessary that the priest pray humbly and trustingly, as the Council points out: "In the world today, many people call perfect continence impossible. The more they do so, the more humbly and perseveringly priests should join with the Church in praying for the grace of fidelity. It is never denied to those who ask. At the same time let priests make use of all the supernatural and natural helps which are now available to all." Once again it is prayer, together with the Church's sacraments and ascetical practice, which will provide hope in difficulties, forgiveness in failings, and confidence and courage in resuming the journey."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The noble picture of the noble saint from whom the humble servant is named

St. Denis (from

Bishop of Paris, and martyr. Born in Italy, nothing is definitely known of the time or place, or of his early life. His feast is kept on 9 October. He is usually represented with his head in his hands because, according to the legend, after his execution the corpse rose again and carried the head for some distance. That, however, while still very young he was distinguished for his virtuous life, knowledge of sacred things, and firm faith, is proved by the fact that Pope Fabian (236-250) sent him with some other missionary bishops to Gaul on a difficult mission. The Church of Gaul had suffered terribly under the persecution of the Emperor Decius and the new messengers of Faith were to endeavour to restore it to its former flourishing condition. Denis with his inseparable companions, the priest Rusticus and the deacon Eleutherius, arrived in the neighbourhood of the present city of Paris and settled on the island in the Seine. The earliest document giving an account of his labours and of his martyrdom (Passio SS. Dionsyii, Rustici et Eleutherii), dating from the end of the sixth or the beginning of the seventh century and wrongly attributed to the poet Venantius Fortunatus, is interwoven with much legend, from which, however, the following facts can be gleaned.
On the island in the Seine Denis built a church and provided for a regular solemnization of the Divine service. His fearless and indefatigable preaching of the Gospel led to countless conversions. This aroused the envy, anger and hatred of the heathen priests. They incited the populace against the strangers and importuned the governor Fescenninus Sisinnius to put a stop by force to the new teaching. Denis with his two companions were seized and as they persevered in their faith were beheaded (about 275) after many tortures. Later accounts give a detailed description of the confessors' sufferings. They were scourged, imprisoned, racked, thrown to wild beasts, burnt at the stake, and finally beheaded. Gregory of Tours simply states: "Beatus Dionysius Parisiorum episcopus diversis pro Christi nomine adfectus poenis praesentem vitam gladio immente finivit" (Hist. Franc. I, 30). The bodies of the three holy martyrs received an honourable burial through the efforts of a pious matron named Catulla and a small shrine was erected over their graves. This was later on replaced by a beautiful basilica (egregium templum) which Venantius celebrated in verse (Carm. I, ii).
From the reign of King Dagobert (622-638) the church and the Benedictine monastery attached to it were more and more beautifully adorned; the veneration of St. Denis became by degrees a national devotion, rulers and princes vying with one another to promote it. This development is due in no small degree to an error prevailing throughout the Middle Ages, which identified St. Denis of Paris with St. Dionysius the Areopagite, and with the Pseudo-Dionysius, the composer of the Areopagitic writings. The combining of these three persons in one was doubtless effected as early as the eighth or perhaps the seventh century, but it was only through the "Areopagitica" written in 836 by Hilduin, Abbot of Saint-Denis, at the request of Louis the Pious, that this serious error took deep root. The investigations of Launoy first threw doubt on the story and the Bollandist de Bye entirely rejected it. Hilduin was probably deceived by the same apocryphal Latin and Greek fictions. The possession of the Areopagitic writings (since 827 in Saint-Denis) strengthened his conviction of this truth. Historiographers of the present day do not dispute this point. All attempts of Darras, Vidieu, C. Schneider, and others to throw some light on the subject have proved fruitless.

Mark Twain's caution against the next few days of my blog

I am still working on putting together a few thoughts from my retreat but, in the mean time, here's a great quote from the free reading I got in Hawaii, "Mark Twain's letters from Hawaii". Twain was trying to convince people in the states to invest in Hawaii before France and the UK get their hands on it. In his letters, he often makes referance to a fictitious character named "Mr. Brown" who is the comic relief. Twain is still finding his writer's legs, if you will, so they aren't quite as humorous as other of his writings. But it made me laugh and will guide me as to what I write in the next few days.

In Central Kona there is but little idle (sugar) cane land now, but there is a good deal in North and South Kona. There are thousands of acres of cane land unoccupied on the island of Hawaii, and the prices asked for it range from one dollar to a hundred and fifty an acre. It is owned by common natives, and is lying "out of doors." They make no use of it whatever, and yet, here lately, they seem disinclined to either lease or sell it. I was frequently told this. In this connection it may not be out of place to insert an extract from a book of Hawaiian travels recently published by a visiting minister of the gospel:
"Well, now, I wouldn't, if I was you."
"Brown, I wish you wouldn't look over my shoulder when I am writing; and I wish you would indulge yourself in some little respite from my affairs and interest yourself in your own business sometimes."
"Well, I don't care. I'm disgusted with these mush-and-milk preacher travels, and I wouldn't make an extract from one of them. Father Damon has got stacks of books shoemakered up by them pious bushwhackers from America, and they're the flattest reading—they are sicker than the smart things children say in the newspapers. Every preacher that gets lazy comes to the Sandwich Islands to 'recruit his health,' and then he goes back home and writes a book. And he puts in a lot of history, and some legends, and some manners and customs, and dead loads of praise of the missionaries for civilizing and Christianizing the natives, and says in considerable chapters how grateful the savage ought to be; and when there is a chapter to be filled out, and they haven't got anything to fill it out with, they shovel in a lot of Scripture—now don't they? You just look at Rev. Cheever's book and Andersen's—and when they come to the volcano, or any sort of heavy scenery, and it is too much bother to describe it, they shovel in another lot of Scripture, and wind up with 'Lo! what God hath wrought!' Confound their lazy melts! (sic) Now, I wouldn't make extracts out of no such bosh."
"Mr. Brown, I brought you with me on this voyage merely because a newspaper correspondent should travel in some degree of state, and so command the respect of strangers; I did not expect you to assist me in my literary labors with your crude ideas. You may desist from further straining your intellect for the present, Mr. Brown, and proceed to the nearest depot and replenish the correspondent fountain of inspiration."
"Fountain dry now, of course. Confound me if I ever chance an opinion but I've got to trot down to the soda factory and fill up that cursed jug again. It seems to me that you need more inspiration—"
"Good afternoon, Brown."

Monday, February 20, 2006

pray for the church in Australia

I don't know the argument, let alone the circumstances of the argument but here's an interesting article.

I think the bishops statement is telling. It makes me suspicious that he's dealing with the corruption of Vatican II that has happened in the last few years. The author's referance to a "reforming council" made me laugh. Wasn't it an ecumenical council? There were reforms that came about from it but was that the real intent of this (non-dogmatic) council?

I could get into the bastardization of Vatican II for a million years. But, I find it interesting that these people demean their own argument by comparing moral statements about abortion, contraception etc. with the moral statments of a man that killed six million jews (and six million others).

Is the propoganda surrounding Eugenio Pacelli (Pius XII) so pervasive that we automatically connect strong stands by church leadership with the Nazis? What biases might the signers bring that would make the vatican suspicious?

Sister Veronia Brady - partisan democrat speaker

Professor Max Charleston - "Overwhelmingly the view of people applying for IVF (in vitro fertilization) was we just want to have a child you know. We don't want to you know do all those terrible things that people are accusing us of, you know we want to buy a child. They'd never think in that way. And so just leave us be and lets make up our own minds about this. Now that gradually led me to become much more libertarian in the field that we're talking about." (ecclesioogy: Come be part of our community until you don't want us around.)

Historian Paul Collins - "Dr Collins acknowledged an implicit criticism of John Paul II in his desire for a more modest pope. Later in the interview, he was less subtle. “I like Benedict because he’s not John Paul. John Paul so dominated the church that we all became altar servers. This man exhausted the church; he took it over and became the church. That’s the danger for young people. They think the pope is the church.” (Historically: Be more like those popes that stayed in Rome and had no effect on the day-to-day lives of people. Then we can accuse you of being removed and out of touch with modern civilization!)

NSV judge Chris Geraghty - "Chris Geraghty is a judge of the NSW Compensation Court. He was a Catholic priest for 14 years but left the priesthood in 1976...'But, if you want to know, what I would like to see - I'd like to see actions. I'd like to see a whole change of the way priests are trained, how they're assessed, how they're selected. I'd like to see lay people involved in the appointment of bishops. I'd like to see another Vatican council. But not in Rome. I'd like to see it Dunedin or in Sydney or in Jerusalem. Maybe that's the solution to the Palestinian problem. Geraldine Doogue I don't think they need that added...
Judge Chris Geraghty And they've got to stay in for as long as they can to solve these problems. I want actions. I want to see fruits.'"
(transllation...I want it done my way!!!)

Now, I know that these thoughts don't encompass all the thoughts of these folks. I actually agreed with part of the article from Paul Collins. But my question is: Can these people honestly say they're surprised that a hierarchy that they have probably tried to undermine for forty years isn't rushing the first minute they cry wolf?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Real Hope

This past Friday, I awoke at 8:00 and walked out on our porch in shorts and T-shirt. The morning was a little cool, 65 degrees but the sun quickly warmed it up to closer to the mid seventies. I was in Hawaii on retreat, not in the midwest where you were enjoying temperatures closer to the freezing point. It really was a beautiful experience of seeing mountains, rainbows and flowing plants. Part of the time, I was on retreat in prayer, which is always so rewarding. Yet, I must admit that there's something nice coming back, even if I did go from 72 degree weather in Hilo to 18 below in the Twin Cities. There's just something good about the familiarity of home!

In this way, I think I can sympatize with the gospel for this weekend. In it, Jesus goes home. But, it's not the home that we might expect. It's not Bethlehem of Judea, where he was born. No, he was forced to leave from there as a baby by Herod. And it wasn't Nazareth, the place his mother and father brought him to be raised. A town, by the way, that, in another passage of scripture, nearly throws him off the top of a cliff. Jesus' home in the gospel if a town called Capernaum.

Now, you may wonder why Jesus called Capernaum a home. Some say that it may have been the place Jesus and Mary went after the death of Joseph. That sort of makes sense since it was another growing city at that time and it was just up river from the Jordan. Jesus could have easily heard about John the Baptist in this town much easier than in Nazareth.

Yet, I think there is a larger theological significance to the referance to home. I think the gospel writer is using code. Jesus finds himself in the ideal preaching scenario. He's literally surrounded with people listening to him, even people standing in the doorway. Yet, the reason he's attracted the attention of so many people is not because he's such a good story teller or because he's so funny. They come because he is preaching the word. This is the environment where Jesus is at home...when people listen to the word and seek to draw closer to him. It's, basically, what the first reading calls "something new." We all need something new to maintain our hope.

Yet, something new is different than something novel. Let me clarify the distinction that I'm making with an example. When I was in Dubuque last year, I was approached by a teacher who wanted the students in the catholic grade school to have a particular prayer experience. We approached the principal who thought it was a good idea. The students took turns coming over to church on Friday morning and experiencing. Yet, the prayer experience was adoration of the blessed sacrament, something that we do at the end of mass on Holy Thursday and that probably harkens memories of forty hours for the majority of you. It's an ancient prayer form in which we remind ourselves of the value of the eucharist, not something novel. The kids walked away with a deep respect for the eucharist and a respect for silence, as well. The newness was more interior than exterior.

Too many times when we seek for hope in the church, we think we have to reinvent the wheel. We put on new programs and try something novel. Maybe we use a new eucharistic prayer or walk into church in a different way. That's okay, I suppose. But, in truth, what gives us the hope is when God does something new to our spritual life and draws us closer. Maybe it's when we hear something new in church, not because it's not been there before but because we made a connection or really listened when it was taking place.

This is why the church feels like a home to us, because it is a place of hope for us, a place to experience the newness of Christ. In it, we are called to be open to God making this church our house, making us anew, and giving us hope in his powerful spirit.