Sunday, October 19, 2014

Blessed Pope Paul VI - Proving Prophetic

Today Pope Paul VI was officially proclaimed Blessed Pope Paul VI.

I'm sure that fact will offend a number of people who are calling for changes in Church teachings. After all, Pope Paul is the one who gave us - shudder - Humanae Vitae, the encyclical that reiterated the Church's prohibition on artificial means of birth control.

Theology underlying that prohibition is difficult for many people to grasp - not because it is wrong, but because of the level of understanding and subtle thinking required.

The controversies surrounding that encyclical, and the misunderstandings about it, have been blamed for leading people to leave the Church or to simply ignore its teachings, often inspired/influenced by critics and dissidents.

I'm not here to debate the teachings - which I support - but rather to point out how Blessed Pope Paul has proven prophetic.

Since most people - including many people who criticize it - have not read the actual document, I'll quote the prophetic passage:

17. Upright men can even better convince themselves of the solid grounds on which the teaching of the Church in this field is based, if they care to reflect upon the consequences of methods of artificial birth control. Let them consider, first of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality. Not much experience is needed in order to know human weakness, and to understand that men -- especially the young, who are so vulnerable on this point -- have need of encouragement to be faithful to the moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.

Let it be considered also that a dangerous weapon would thus be placed in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies. Who could blame a government for applying to the solution of the problems of the community those means acknowledged to be licit for married couples in the solution of a family problem? Who will stop rulers from favoring, from even imposing upon their peoples, if they were to consider it necessary, the method of contraception which they judge to be most efficacious? In such a way men, wishing to avoid individual, family, or social difficulties encountered in the observance of the divine law, would reach the point of placing at the mercy of the intervention of public authorities the most personal and most reserved sector of conjugal intimacy.

The key points in this are his prediction that the widespread use of contraception would have four main negative consequences:

It would lead to a lowering of moral standards.
It would lead to an objectification of women into sex objects.
It would lead to an increase in infidelity (and in the number of illegitimate children).
It would lead to the government intruding into provision and even imposition of contraception.

We have seen all prophecies coming true - From what passes as entertainment these days, statistics about cohabitation, the illegitimacy rates, the growth in pornography and pressures put on women, the push for homosexual marriage, the government forcing people of faith to provide birth control or to pay for provision of it, and so much more.

Birth control has not freed women and men: It has enslaved us. It has turned sex into just a recreational activity, not an intimate and selfless expression of love between a man and a woman.

Blessed Pope Paul VI deserves to be honored if for nothing else for his foresight.

 Pax et bonum

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Margaret Coel - an enjoyable read

The latest Catholic mystery read was Margaret Coel's The Shadow Dancer.

Not only does it feature a priest sleuth, it's set on a reservation - shades of Tony Hillerman! The Native American elements alone were enough to attract my attention.

I'm glad it did. It was worth the read.

Coel's style is very workman-like - in the positive sense. The story is well-crafted, the characters well developed, the dialogue handled well, the plot is plausible. It's obvious Coel knows what she is doing.

Oh, there are some quibbles - really, no one knows the story of the abused ex-wife? On a small reservation with a close-knit community, people and her grown children don't know why she got divorced? (Even though it took place when the kids were young, kids see things.) That seems a bit of a stretch. And there were some background details that got repeated - as if we (or she?) might forget them in 100 pages. And the public hearing with the bishop to close the mission did not rings quite right. 

But those are quibbles. Over all, it was a good read. I even went back to the library and borrowed another one of her books - that tells you something right there.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Desert Fathers - with a Japanese perspective

During a trip to the Abbey of the Genesee last Saturday, I spotted a book about the Desert Fathers. I'd read other book collecting the Zen-like wisdom of the Fathers, so the book intrigued me. Henri Nouwen's name was prominent on the cover, so I figured he had written it.

Silly me.

While Nouwen helped to inspire it, and wrote an introduction, the book was actually a work of translation and illustration by Yushi Nomura, who'd been one of Nouwen's students at Yale. This edition is an updated version of the original 1982 book - with some lecture notes of Nouwen's added.

Despite the mistake about who'd written it, buying Desert Wisdom: Sayings from the Desert Fathers was no mistake.

Nomura did a nice job of selecting and translating, and his illustrations fittingly were Japanese in nature, highlighting that Zen-like quality of the saying that I'd mentioned earlier.

It  was a quick read - and one of those books that merits rereadings. Some of the sayings hit home based on some of my own current musings and challenges.

Nice find.

Pax et bonum

Monday, October 13, 2014

Steubenville Conferences - Summer 2014 - "God Is"

One coming to Rochester in the summer of 2015? A sign of the renewal in this diocese?

Pax et bonum

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mass changes begin; buckle your seatbelts!

Bishop Salvatore Matano has issued some rubrics for celebrating several sacraments in our diocese. The rubrics clear up some issues and abuses, but not all.

This morning at Mass Father announced a few changes - like requiring those seeking First Communion and First Penance and Confirmation to be regular Mass goers before they receive, or the sacrament might be delayed. Horrors. He sounded almost apologetic as he said it, probably afraid there might be some backlash. (After all, the Bishop has gotten some unfair flak already.)

He also talked about how Eucharistic ministers have to wait until after the priest receives Communion before approaching the altar - previously EMs at our parish had stood behind the altar while Father received.

If he had just announced the changes with a little explanation that we are following what the Bishop has decreed, it would have been fine. But Father added that before we just had guidelines and we didn't have to follow them strictly, now we had procedures. And we have to follow them.

That attitude helps to explain why there have been so many liturgical abuses and liturgical free lancing in the diocese over the years. Even when we only had "guidelines," the rules were there, just fudged or ignored because they were never really proclaimed or enforced. And folks who asked respectfully that we follow the rules were labeled and ostracized.

I'm waiting to hear how Father announces some of the other PROCEDURES - like the two-year confirmation process that has some people complaining because our kids are just so busy already - you know, with soccer leagues on Sunday mornings, jobs, sleeping in, etc.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, October 11, 2014

More on that mystery novel

I'm still doing research on monastic life for my mystery novel. I've developed more of the makeup of the monastery and its income and products - honey. bee hives, jellies and preserves. Right now researching the monastic life and schedule.

I have more of the back story of the protagonist - Brother Francis: divorced, former radio and print journalist, alcoholic and former street person who now lives as an oblate at the monastery, doing all the errands, driving the monks to appointments, helping to sell the monastery products, whatever is needed.

I have some ideas about one of the main monks - Father Barney, a holy, gentle but wise soul who has a way with bees - and how the monastery gained some income and fame - a former punk rocker (from the band Black Hornets?) who after a scandal and drug problems finds peace at the monastery and in the company of Father Barney. When the musician dies, it draws attention to the monastery - that's how Brother Francis, back when he was a journalist, first had contact with it - bringing visitors. The musician also left part of his estate to the monastery.

In addition, the abbot is a former social worker who allowed Brother Francis to move to the monastery as a way to help him.

I also have an idea about how the monastery was created, and the neighbor woman who helped to create the products, and who was in love with the founding abbot. Maybe her daughter/granddaughter still helps?

In the city, the protagonist has contact with the police through a former friend who is on the police force. In addition, he still has contact with the director of the shelter who helped him get sober, and who now runs a neighborhood center. He also has some journalistic connections who help. And he will have some kind of contact with his ex-wife, now serving as a communication director for the mayor.

The first crime involves a deranged mass murderer.

Still working out how Brother Frank gets drawn into the case, and how his insights will help solve it. Something about his days on the streets? Ah - perhaps the shelter director asks for help with a troubled young man, through whom Brother Francis will have contact with the killer?

I'm also looking for ways to incorporate bees and the monastery products into the plot. Searching for a way one of them can help give Brother Francis a clue to help solve the crime.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Blood moon didn't rise

School work has intruded on independent reading - or writing, or even this blog.

This is what happens regularly as my students begin to submit papers and I get caught up with grading, lesson planning, the administrative details the school requires, and so much more.

So it goes.

My major disappointment was the Blood Moon that was supposed to be visible the other morning. Too many clouds; no moon to be seen from my house. Alas.

Another moon related haiku lost in the shuffle!

I did get one moon haiku published (in the October edition of Brass Bell):

crescent moon
above our snow-shrouded neighborhood
so many secrets

That gets me up to about 45 poems published  - I'm still in minor poet territory!

Pax et bonum