Thursday, February 28, 2008

Two Trains

Musica Sacra has put online Dr William Mahrt's A Critique of Sing to the Lord and I was struck by the poignancy in this paragraph:

Another positive statement and a distinct improvement in the present document is the acknowledgement of the role of Gregorian chant, quoting the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which gives chant “pride of place in liturgical services,” (SttL ¶72) and citing the council’s mandate that the faithful be able to sing the Ordinary of the Mass together in Latin (¶74), and even asserting a minimum: “Each worshiping community in the United States, including all age groups and all ethnic groups, should, at a minimum learn Kyrie XVI, Sanctus XVIII, and Agnus Dei XVIII.” A second stage of learning then includes Gloria VIII, the Credo, and the Pater Noster (¶75). Though the document does not mention it, the latter two are particularly desirable for international gatherings, especially for papal audiences, where everyone can participate in a common expression of worship. There is a touching story from the time immediately following the Second World War: Two trains arrived at the same platform, one from France and one from Germany, and the tension between the two groups disembarking was palpable. Then someone intoned “Credo in unum Deum,” and the entire crowd spontaneously continued singing the whole Creed, expressing a common faith which transcended the recent history of animosity. Would enough people today even know the Credo, were the same event even to occur now?

Building Cathedrals

My favorite blogs are the Mom blogs..just came across a new one today:

Building Cathedrals

We are a group of seven young, Catholic mothers who graduated from Princeton between the years of 2000 and 2003. While at Princeton, each of us found our way to the Catholic faith community, some of us near the beginning of our time at Princeton and others of us at different points along the way.
Between the 7 of us, we have 17 children in our homes with 3 more currently on the way! And although we are spread apart geographically, we all know that support is never far away when we need it. Among us are educators, political strategists, doctors-in-training, lawyers, and counselors, so each of us brings a unique perspective to our group conversations. Through it all, our primary goal is to give glory and honor to God by raising thoughtful, loving, and vibrant families! Just as the architects of the great cathedrals built their masterpieces for an audience of One, so too do we build our families day by day, stone by stone, seeking above all to please Him.
Seven bachelors degrees, four advanced degrees, and nearly 200 combined months of pregnancy have only convinced us of how much we have left to learn in matters of faith, family and vocation. We adhere wholeheartedly to every doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church, but the details beyond that, from co-sleepers and breast pumps to schooling options and professional life, are grounds for robust discussion with like-minded friends. Nothing written on this blog is intended to incite maternal guilt, anger or to advise on medical or legal matters. Virgin most prudent, pray for us!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Priestly Community

Susan Woods goes on to say:

The sacramental character or "mark" also places us in relationship to the church. It is an ordination in the sense that it gives us our place within the church. Baptism orders us within a priestly community, confirmation orders us within a prophetic community, and the sacrament of orders bestows the ability to represent the church and Christ in the governance and sacramental life of the church. What is significant is that all these sacraments place us within a network of relationships. The church is the locus of intersection of these relationships. Another way of saying this is that the church is the locus of charisms, since baptism and confirmation in their bestowal of the Spirit confer gifts for the building up of the body that are personal and particular to each individual, yet oriented to the good of the community. The community, then, is "marked" with these gifts as a kingly, prophetic, and priestly community in its identity as the body of Christ who was priest, prophet, and king.

Baptism into the Church

In an article on baptism in the book The Marks of the Body of Christ, Susan Woods remarks:

Baptism does not just incorporate us into the church as a club or an organization. It does not just bestow grace to us as individuals. It makes us "living stones" to be "built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood." Through our participation in the life, death, and resurection of Christ in baptism we share in his priesthood. Baptism gives us a share in the priesthood of all believers. Just as stones construct a building, so the church is constituted by Christians and is a priestly community by virtue of its being the body of Christ, the high priest. This "house" and this "priesthood" is essentially communal. However, for a number of reasons associated with Christianity becoming a majority rather than minority religion and the disintegration of a unified rite of initiation, the communal meaning of baptism was replaced by a more individualistic focus. This individualistic focus emphasized the salvation of any individual through the removal of sin and the bestowal of grace rather than incorporation into an eschatological community identified as the body of Christ. Eventually, too, the concept of graace became reified, imagined as a quantifiable substance rather than a relationship of communion.

For the early Christians, the implications of baptism were enormous demanding a total conversion that immediately placed them in a countercultural position at odds with the dominant faith systems, wheather Jewish, Roman, or Greek. This conversion was a process that proceeded in stages over what was frequently a three-year period of probation known as the catechumenate. Initiation was not easy, and half-hearted Christians were discouraged from undertaking the process.

Discipline and Discipleship

Cath: Help me with evangelism and discipleship and I'll help you with discipline and magisterium.

Prot: Fair enough, but why are you willing to do that?

Cath: Evangelism/discipleship is about personal relationship, in whatever community of Christians; discipline/magisterium is corporate and will inevitably lead to the Catholic Church in the long term.

Personality Profiles

In a comment on a topic at Welborn's Charlotte Was Both blog, Heath White makes a clear observation:

I am an evangelical and also an academic. I have several friends who have become Catholic from evangelicalism, and I know a lot of people who were raised Catholic and became evangelical. The profiles of the two types are extremely consistent.

Very consistently, evangelicals who become Catholic are very intelligent and historically informed. They reason their way into Catholicism, often with not much input from Catholics. They do this by observing the weaknesses of the evangelicalism they know—the thin ecclesiology, the problem of authority, the lack of roots in tradition and history—and figuring out that Catholicism is the antidote. Such conversions are not, in any case I know of, products of outreach on the part of Catholics.

Very consistently, Catholics who become evangelicals will tell you that they spent thirty years in the Catholic church and never heard the gospel. They were given a set of rules to follow, and told either (a) that their eternal destiny depended on how they followed the rules, or (b) that because they were Catholics they were good to go. (A generational difference.) Then they met an evangelical, who intentionally made friends with them, told them that Jesus could turn their life around, invited them to a church and a small group Bible study. They learned how to look for answers to their problems in life in the Bible. They got help with raising their children, or their marriage, or their problems at work. They learned how to pray without a text in front of them or memorized. And they learned how to repeat the process with their friends and neighbors.

The reason there is an 8:1 ratio is that the number of highly intelligent, historically informed evangelicals is rather small, and the number of unevangelized cradle Catholics is rather large. For example: at the Presbyterian church I now attend, the entire deacon board was baptized Catholic.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Church Discipline

There’s an article on church discipline from a Reformed/Baptist perspective by Albert Mohler at:
and John Drury discusses a connection between church government and discipline in his article Is Church Discipline Really Possible Any More?

Here are some Christianity Today articles on the topic.

The evangelical Anglican blog, Stand Firm in Faith, has a relevant discussion here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Specific God

In an article on catechesis in The Marks of the Body of Christ, Robert Jenson writes:

"Finally there is theology. Folks are baptized into the name - that is, worship of and obedience to - a specific God. They have to know who that is. He is not Moloch, and therefore he does not want the blood of our children. He is not the Goddess, and therefore does not reveal himself in polymorphous sexuality. He is not the spirit of the wolf, and therefore dreams of wolves are not divine revelation. He is neither the Dialectic of History nor the Invisible Hand of the free market, and therefore life cannot be fulfilled by economic endeavor of whatever sort. And so on and on.

For my students, it is always a revelation that there are many and decidedly different candidates for the God-job, and that all of them cannot simultaneously be legitimate. Once the logic of the matter is pointed out to them, they see it. But somehow, their pastors and church teachers had not pointed it out to them.

The God of the church is Father, Son, and Spirit. For persons able to learn, warranted participation in the church's life requires fairly precise knowledge of the doctrine of the Trinity. This should not in fact require much time to teach; the time required is inversely proportional to the depth and accuracy of the teacher's knowledge.

Then, of course, since the church will be baptizing and making eucharist, those able to learn need to understand something of what the church thinks it is doing when it does these things. And again, the time required to give adequate understanding is inversely proportional to the depth of the teacher's understanding.

One more time the mystery. We first need to know who God is in order to address him. The doctrine of Trinity - and indead, by derivation, all Christian teaching - is not in the first instance a discourse in the third person, but rather in the second. It is in the first instance doxology, and only secondarily description. Therefore, when we teach would-be believers doctrine, we teach them to intrude on God."

Braaten on office of ministry

In an article, The Special Ministry of the Ordained, in the book The Marks of the Body of Christ, Carl Braaten writes:

"My thesis is threefold: first, that Lutherans have been and are still confused on the doctrine of the ministry; second, that there is no way to resolve the difficulty by going more deeply into our own confessional sources because they bear the imprint of ambiguity inherent in Luther's own statements on ministry; and third, and most importantly, there is no ecumenically viable way out of this morass without eventually realigning and reconciling Lutheran ordained ministry with the episcopally ordained ministries in apostolic succession in the Eastern and Western brances of the one holy catholic church."

It seems to me that the ambiguity Braaten mentions is also present within Anglicanism.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Surveys of Christian Belief

Surveys of Christian belief come in many forms. When they are for use among folks accepting the teaching authority of the Church, it is reasonable to follow the common practice of discussing those beliefs in the order of the Nicene Creed (as do, for example, Thomas Aquinas, Karl Barth and various catechisms at various levels).

This is still reasonable when the concept of "Church" and "teaching authority" have become somewhat fuzzy, perhaps. However, in my opinion, for the majority of folks in the United States today, there is little acceptance of such authority and for many "The Church" is more of an abstract idea than the living organism created by God. As a result, a survey of Christian belief (at whatever level) needs a reversed order of presentation: one that starts with the Church and human nature and ends with the triune God. Unfortunately, one can not just take standard presentations and read them back to front, so to speak. While the basic propositions of the faith remain the same, the reversal of order necessitates an entire rethinking of the rhetoric. This is difficult. Of course, the standard presentations remain very useful as one engages in this new evangelism.

Man is by nature a political animal....

Some folks see the Christian community going downhill soon after the Ascension, if not before! Such attitudes, whether by naturalists, unitarians, oneness pentecostals, or congregationalists seem to reflect a lack of confidence in the Holy Spirit along with an excessive confidence in oneself and one's immediate community.

A systematic exposition of the faith in response to this could be organized as:
  • Anthropology
  • Mariology
  • Ecclesiology
  • Pneumatology
  • Christology
  • Theology


With Easter Week fast approaching, here's a page on the Triduum, from an Anglican perspective.


From Heim's book, Joseph Ratzinger - Life in the Church and Living Theology, p 347:

Rediscovering Jesus Christ - who gathers his people around himself as ekklesia through their listening to his Word and their celebration of the Eucharist - as the spiritual center of the concept "Church" was, in Ratzinger's view, the chief concern of Lumen gentium. Accordingly, the term ekklesia has a fourfold meaning that expands concentrically: the worshipping assembly, the local community, the Church "in a larger geographical area", and the one Church of Jesus Christ himself. Moreover "there is a continuous transition from one meaning to another, because all of them hang on the christological center that is made concrete in the gathering of believers for the Lord's Supper." [quote from Called to Communion]

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The World That Has No Music In Its Soul

On the Touchstone blog, Anthony Esolen has a post: The World That Has No Music In Its Soul

....But what happens when you don't have a culture? I've argued this before, but it bears repeating. I'm taking the word literally. You have a culture when you cultivate those beliefs, customs, celebrations, and virtues you hold most dear; and in this sense culture is by nature conservative and often proudly local. That's why totalitarian systems despise it; it stands in the way of the flattening of variety that the modern state demands. But this consumer society of ours despises it, too. It stands in the way of the itch for the new-and-improved, for novelty for the sake of vanity....

Monday, February 11, 2008

Augustine on the word: Catholic

The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house.

-St. Augustine, Against the Epistle of Manichaeus

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Dominican Chant

Fr. Augustine Thompson has several informative postings, at the New Liturgical Movement blog, about Dominican Chant.

What I am about to describe is how Dominicans have dealt with the problem of rhythm since the 1200s. I do not claim that this system is "better" than any of the modern Solesmes methods, including that of Dom Mocquereau, currently in favor with workshops sponsored by the Church Music Association of America. Those who want to sing Dominican music, however, cannot use that method because it depends on the presence of Solesmes marks, and these do not exist in our books....

Friday, February 08, 2008


(source: )

Women have had a hand in aiding and abetting the consumerism that objectifies them, and it's the result of original sin, says Helen Alvare.

Alvare, the former pro-life spokeswoman for the U.S. bishops' conference, and a law professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said this today at the Vatican conference under way through Saturday on "Woman and Man, the 'Humanum' in Its Entirety."

Given our environment of rampant consumerism, "it was almost inevitable that human beings would become the 'ultimate' consumer product," said Alvare. "Women's physical beauty and sexual complementarity with men make them particularly desirable in a commercial economy."

"The money to be made on sexualized images of women is staggering. It is conservatively estimated in fact today that the pornography industry is worth $60 billion annually. It is further estimated that pornography attracts 40% of all Internet users in the U.S. at least once a month, 70% of male Internet users between the ages of 18 and 34, and half of all hotel patrons," Alvare explained.

Empty pursuit

However, she continued, "the degree to which women, individually and via organized groups, have embraced their own objectification as consumer items is a particularly disturbing feature of our current situation."

Alvare added, "In his Theology of the Body series of talks, and in 'Mulieris Dignitatem,' John Paul II discusses original sin's effect upon women. He repeats the words that God 'addressed to the woman' after the commission of the first sin: 'Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.' He interprets this as indicating that the woman develops an insatiable desire for a different union. It is not for a relationship of communion, but a 'relationship of possession of the other as the object of one's own desire.'

"Even a secular observer would have to conclude that women's cooperation, even encouragement in the objectification of their bodies today, seems a modern manifestation of this inclination which Catholics call 'original sin.' Women debasing themselves in pursuit of the belief that it will lead to union with a man."

"This is not confined to the pornography industry, or even to commercial advertising or films or television," Alvare underlined. "Rather, ordinary women across the continent buy clothing designed to emphasize or expose those parts of their bodies associated with sex. Many women often also debase themselves with their speech, or by exposing themselves to media which gradually desensitizes them to the proposal that women are beautiful, sexualized objects for consumption."

Mimicking domination

"A final and disturbing aspect of women's conniving in their own objectification," continued Alvare, "is the involvement of prominent strains of feminism who insist that they are striking a blow for women's freedom by identifying freedom with undisciplined sexuality."

"On the one hand, one can see how strong was the temptation to break women out of the limited roles assigned to them in earlier times [...] but this feminism's response was and remains fundamentally flawed."

This type of feminism "drew upon the worst features of male behavior for its prescriptions. Thus was the feminist woman urged to be a sexually adventurous, marriage-and-children-spurning, money and career driven, creature," Alvare concluded. "Feminism urged women to imitate the male version of original sin -- domination -- to attain equality and happiness."

McCain's Position

"I believe today -- as I believed 25 years ago -- in small government; fiscal discipline; low taxes; a strong defense; judges who enforce, and not make, our laws; the social values that are the true source of our strength; and, generally, the steadfast defense of our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which I have defended my entire career as God-given to the born and unborn."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sympathetic Ashes

Amy Welborn writes:

....Which I succeeded at up until the last - that last moment when I thought I had escaped, but ’twas not to be.

“Please join in our closing hymn…..Ashes.”

No, we do not “create ourselves anew.”

Well, we do actually. We try and we try to “create ourselves anew” pretty constantly. But Lent reveals to us the opposite - it’s futile and even destructive. Empty yourself and let God create you anew. He wants to. He’ll do a better job than you would. Promise.

Personality and Language

There are interesting connections between concepts of personality and concepts of language. For example, the McCabe quote below calls to mind Wittgenstein's discussion of private language.

A Christian Worldview

Here's a quote from an essay, Obedience, by Herbert McCabe:

Just as what I called the modern view is based on a certain notion of the human being as an individual of sheer autonomous will whose life is the development of her individual personality (the view we call liberal individualism), so our view is based on another notion of the human being, a more ancient notion, perhaps a more primitive notion, but any way I think a more accurate notion. (We could even call the modern view Protestant and ours characteristically Catholic, but that would be to oversimplify.) For the modern view society is made of individuals, for our view the individual is made of societies. There is simply no such thing as the sheer me existing prior to, and in isolation from, the very many societies or communities in which I have a role. I came into existence as the fruit of community, the union between my parents which itself depended on a social community to which they belonged. My process of growing up and developing the personality I have was the process of being brought into, having a role in a whole succession of communities, family, school, church, university, the political and economic world, the Dominican Order. These are all networks of human relationship, which is to say that they are forms of love, for love just is that specifically human relationship. In so far as a school or the political order succeeds in being a form of love it is a good school or political order, in so far as it doesn't - it isn't. The political order is not the same form of love as the family, and if it tried to be it would fail to be a form of love altogether. All these are different forms of love each valid in its own way.

All this means that I find myself, my unique personality, not in dividing myself off from others, not by looking for some unimaginably private me existing prior to my relationship with others, but precisely in my relations with others. I discover myself not by standing back from but by entering into community. I am my membership of community - not of course one but many. For me to exist is for me to be a citizen of the Irish Republic, a Dominican, a teacher in a university, the brother of my various siblings, the friend of these and these men and women, a creature of God, a child of God. There is no me apart from all that. As St Thomas says:

Since a man is a part of a family, or a city, he has to consider what is good for him in terms of his good sense with regard to the good of the community. For the good disposition of a part depends on its relation to the whole (ST IIa IIae, 46, 10).

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Faithful Departed

Catholic World News has online the first chapter of Philip Lawler's eloquent The Faithful Departed.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Geographic Ecclesiology

One can only reasonably be a part of parish life if travel time is not too great. If a congregation is particularly evangelistic and new to an area, the travel time can be increased somewhat but there's still a limit. Also, on the 'iron sharpens iron' principle and given various realities which I'll label political, the requirement should be extended to: two congregations in full communion both within reasonable driving time (where I define full communion not denominationally or ethnically but rather via the full recognition of one another's sacraments, and where sacrament is extended to, for example, the gift of tongues among Pentecostals - that being their confirmation sacrament). What counts as reasonable travel time will, of course, vary.

My own rule of thumb, given current modes of transportation and expectations, is that an ecclesiastical community has a presence in a place if there are two congregations in full communion within a 30 minute drive of that place, or at least if both are within a total driving time of an hour of that place.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Parker's Back

My favorite Flannery O'Connor story is perhaps Parker's Back, both for its words and its images.

"Sarah Ruth thought churches were idolatrous"

Saturday, February 02, 2008

World Religion

From page 60 of Herbert McCabe's God Matters (regarding postmodern attitudes towards the Incarnation):

One of the concerns of these authors, particularly John Hick, is that the incarnation seems provincial in that it makes Christianity something utterly different from all other world religions. Now quite apart from the presence of grace and therefore of incarnation in the followers of other religions, it is relly time we stopped and criticised this phrase. There is no significant world religion except Christianity. Every other religion, however many its adherents, has shown itself incapable of breaking free from a particular culture or even a particular people. Atheistic humanism is worldwide but not a religion. Indeed the paradoxical concept of a religion (something which is tied to history and tradition and particularity) which is nonetheless worldwide, transcending cultures and histories, is itself a peculiarly Christian and 'incarnational' notion. The Greek term for a world religion is Catholicism.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Anglican Ecclesiology?

In a recent post on The Continuum blog (continuing Anglican), I commented:

Taking this posting to be, broadly, about ecclesiology, I'd like to recommend to those wanting to read current Catholic thinking to look at a recently translated book by Maximilian Heim: Joseph Ratzinger: Life in the Church and Living Theology - Fundamentals of Ecclesiology with Reference to Lumen Gentium. Yes, does sound more like a dissertation title. The second edition/English translation (2007) has a forward by Pope Benedict XVI.

I'd like to read something comparable from an Anglican but wouldn't know where to find it. The situation is, in my opinion, much like that within Eastern Orthodoxy: After a lecture a year or two ago, I said to David Bentley Hart that I was looking forward to reading what he had to say about ecclesiology and he replied (not exact quote): I don't know if I have anything to say..everyone has their own opinion...

Which I found rather sad.

and also

Wanted: a coherent and comprehensive setting forth of ecclesiology in an in-print book of 300+ pages with some right to authoritively represent contemporary Continuing Anglican understanding.

Wanted: a coherent and comprehensive setting forth of ecclesiology in an in-print book of 300+ pages with some right to authoritively represent contemporary Eastern Orthodox understanding.