Monday, March 31, 2014

Silent communion

Christian meditation may sound like an uneasy hybrid, but that awkwardness is hiding something important

Post-Modern Art Is Nonsense, Of Course

From pickled sharks to compositions in silence, fake ideas and fake emotions have elbowed out truth and beauty

Yeah, and true religion, too.

[And yes, I'm a Scruton fanboy.]

Relax, Leave The Guns To The Professionals

Or, Guess the State

Resident: Deputies search wrong home

Plus, this stunning quotation:
"[Captain] Patrick, who for the past three years has routinely failed to follow the public records requirements of the Ohio Revised Code, was also unavailable."

Grandparent To USDA: No

USDA to Grandparents: Read Government Bedtime Stories to Encourage Healthy Eating

Lenten Wave #27

"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little." - Edmund Burke

The Feast Of John Donne

Donne was one of the Metaphysical Poets of the late 16th/early 17th centuries; he is often considered the founder of that school of English verse.  This is how I was introduced to him, at any rate, when I was a public school student.  I would be a teenager before anyone bothered to tell me [or I bothered to discover myself] that he was also a priest in the Church of England whose highest office was that of dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

Our clergy had a noble and nimble history in the arts and the intellectual life once upon a time.  While there are still pockets of resistance to contemporary educational trends, the bulk of our academic attention is now claimed in more facile disciplines.  Oh, well, nowadays we'll have to let a strongly worded letter to the editor or online comments about the Tea Party or gun owners suffice as our literary effort.

Much more of Donne's life may be found here.

A Hymn to God, the Father

Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallow'd in, a score?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And, having done that, thou hast done;
I fear no more.      

Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes to see, with your servant John Donne, that whatever has any being is a mirror in which we may behold you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Archaeological News

Archaeologists in Britain said on Sunday they had solved a 660-year-old mystery, citing DNA tests which they said proved they had found a lost burial site for tens of thousands of people killed in medieval London by the “Black Death” plague.

An Obituary Of Note

Hobie Alter, modern surfboard and small sailboat inventor, dies

Not only did he and Grubby Clark invent the lightweight, foam-core surfboard [what most people are thinking of when they use the term "surfboard"], but he also invented this:

The ubiquitous Hobie catamaran, familiar to beaches and shorelines throughout the world.

Lenten Wave #26

"A man knows when he has found his vocation when he stops thinking about how to live and begins to live." - Thomas Merton

Saturday, March 29, 2014

But What Will It Do To The Surf, Dude?

After Sandy, feds mull plan for artificial islands off New Jersey, New York

"For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Chuck him out, the brute!' But it's 'Saviour of his country' when the guns begin to shoot."

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) blocked the release of the names of hospitals where 19 veterans died because of delays in medical screenings, leading to calls for transparency from news outlets and a bipartisan group of Capitol Hill lawmakers.

Huh? This Could Have Been Phrased Better

US Forces Japan to return some land to Japan

Doesn't sound like this would be too hard.

What A Marvelously Pungent Film Review. Rock People? Really?

Where was I? Oh yes, Noah is a terrible, terrible movie. As a story, it doesn’t attain to the level of the worst of the cheesy Biblical movies made in the fifties. Aronofsky broke the first and sacred rule of storytelling: you have to make the audience care. We never cared about Noah even after he was kind to a wounded, half dog – half snake. (No, that wasn’t a mistake.) We never cared for any of the characters. I kept hearing people say this movie is deep. It isn’t. It is psychologically pedestrian. The only emotion the movie elicited in me was laughs of scorn. The script is problematic in every way in which a script can be problematic. Bad characterizations – no complex personalities, just stereotypes. Unmotivated choices abound. No imagery or story subtext. Huge story problems requiring ark-sized suspension of disbelief. Earnest, oh so earnest, dialogue with every syllable on-the-tedious-nose. Awkward transitions. Completely missing a coherent theme. Embarrassing soap-operaish holds on actors looking tense or worried or just staring ahead trying to convey lostness and doubt. And the fakest, funniest looking, plastic green snake used repeatedly to indicate badness. 

It’s so dumb, I can’t even write a serious review. Seems likely the studio purposely created and then drove all the controversy around the movie because they knew they had a dog. They’re hoping they can have a huge opening weekend because as soon as word gets out that this is a dull, idiotic waste, it’s going to drop like a rock person next weekend.

The problem, of course, is that the spiritually illiterate will think that this is an accurate representation of the Bible.  Or the Torah or Koran, for that matter.

Now Showing At The Cloisters

Once in 835 years qualifies as a rare event, and for the first time since their creation in 1178 six very fine and incredibly beautiful stained glass windows are on display outside of England's Canterbury Cathedral.

Lenten Wave #25

"The world's thy ship and not thy home." - St. Therese of Lisieux

The Feast Of John Keble

It was one of those occasions, routine and familiar in the workings of both the Church of England and the Royal Courts. At the beginning of each annual session, judges, barristers, solicitors, and other court officials would gather for a service in the chapel at the Inns of Court and listen to a sermon on the topic of justice. Generally, this sermon was not at all memorable.

On July 14, 1833, The Rev. John Keble, chair of poetry at Oxford University and the author of a very popular collection of poetry entitled The Christian Year, was invited to give the “Assize Sermon”. While some may have been blithely looking forward to a sermon of some intelligence and even lyricism, a note of its title, “National Apostasy”, may have given them some clue as to what was to follow.

Remarkably, Keble, a clergyman of careful articulation and pastoral bearing, denounced both the nation and the leadership of the Church of England for turning away from God and coming to regard the Church as a mere institution of society, rather than as the prophetic voice of God. The sermon caused a tremendous sensation.

So sensational, that Keble’s fellow ordained Oxford dons, a group that included John Henry Newman, the vicar of the university’s church, and Edward Bouverie Pusey, professor of Hebrew at Christ Church, joined together to continue the address of this serious issue and to aid the return of more devotional elements in theology and the sacrament and boost the intellectual muscularity in common spirituality.  This became known in Anglican history as The Oxford Movement.

The Oxford Movement’s rallying point was what was known as “Branch Theory”, which understands that Anglicanism, along with Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, form three branches of one catholic Church. Correspondingly, most of the Movement’s leaders included in their practice traditional liturgy and the non-verbal aspects of worship in absence of which the Church had become rather plain. Thus, there was a return to the so-called “high church” practices that are found in the stronger communities within the Anglican Communion to this day.

This was not a popular notion to the leadership of the Church of England. In true episcopal fashion, Keble, Newman, and Pusey were all subjected to some form of punishment for their efforts. Keble was banished to a parish in Hampshire. Pusey was forbidden from preaching for five years. Newman became so alienated that he "swam the Tiber" and became a Roman Catholic priest, and eventually a cardinal. The students of the dons were largely denied positions in the church, thus forcing them to find ramshackle ministries in either the slums of London or in the less savory portions of the British Empire.

However, the Oxford Movement was not so easily suppressed. The zeal of the dons' students, fueled as it was by their sense of employment injustice and the bureaucratic martyrdom of their favorite professors, was fed into a variety of organizations dedicated to addressing issues of social inequality, especially the seminal Christian Social Union.  They saw to it that the Anglican Church, once again, became prophetic in British society.

Elements of the Oxford Movement may be seen in our own practices, too. The fact that we celebrate the Holy Eucharist as our principle liturgy, that clergy wear vestments, and that men and women are welcome in Holy Orders all grow from the writings and practices of those early academicians.

Keble’s Assize Sermon may be found here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Jake, We Need To Talk

Pet cats infect humans with TB for first time

Sometimes We Live In 400 A.D. Rome, Other Times It's Buck Rogers In The 25th Century

NEITHER dead or alive, knife-wound or gunshot victims will be cooled down and placed in suspended animation later this month, as a groundbreaking emergency technique is tested out for the first time. 

Surgeons are now on call at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to perform the operation, which will buy doctors time to fix injuries that would otherwise be lethal. 

"We are suspending life, but we don't like to call it suspended animation because it sounds like science fiction," says Samuel Tisherman, a surgeon at the hospital, who is leading the trial. "So we call it emergency preservation and resuscitation."

I Knew It!

NYT: Julia Child, goddess of fat, is beaming somewhere. Butter is back, and when you’re looking for a few chunks of pork for a stew, you can resume searching for the best pieces — the ones with the most fat. Eventually, your friends will stop glaring at you as if you’re trying to kill them. 

That the worm is turning became increasingly evident a couple of weeks ago, when a meta-analysis published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that there’s just no evidence to support the notion that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. (In fact, there’s some evidence that a lack of saturated fat may be damaging.) The researchers looked at 72 different studies and, as usual, said more work — including more clinical studies — is needed. For sure. But the days of skinless chicken breasts and tubs of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter may finally be drawing to a close.

Now what will the politicians scold us about?

I Feel As If I'm Living In Fifth Century Rome

A high-ranking, gun control-supporting state senator in California takes bribes from a Chinese triad in order to facilitate the smuggling of weapons from Russia to Muslim militias and it appears in the New York Times on page...A21?

In the old days of a news room, we would have run over one another's desks to get even a piece of a story like this.  We live in a cynical age when such stories rate only cursory interest.

This Week's Best Headline

Woman named Crispi tried to set ex's house on fire with bacon

Good Question

Where Is Our Religious Freedom Ambassador?

It's an actual government position that was created about fifteen years ago as a portion of the International Religious Freedom Act.

Lenten Wave #23

“In the end, it is our defiance that redeems us. If wolves had a religion – if there was a religion of the wolf – that it is what it would tell us.”
― Mark Rowlands, The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death, and Happiness

[Remember that there has never been an act of defiance greater than the one realized on Easter morning.  It is one thing to defy Temple authority, or Roman bullying, or Satanic coercion; it is at a whole new aspect of redemption that requires defying mortality itself. - Me.]

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Relax, Let The Trained Professionals Handle The Guns

Three Secret Service agents responsible for protecting President Obama in Amsterdam this week were sent home and put on administrative leave Sunday after going out for a night of drinking, according to three people familiar with the incident. One of the agents was found drunk and passed out in a hotel hallway, the people said.

Given the First Family's preference for elaborate international travel, this would worry me.

In the church, we would call this a systemic issue:

As the U.S. Secret Service arrived in the Netherlands last weekend for a presidential trip, managers were already on high alert to avoid any further em­barrassing incidents involving agents.The agency’s director had admonished supervisors after two counter-sniper officers suspected of drinking were involved in a March 7 car accident during a presidential visit to Miami, according to several people with knowledge of the incident. The driver passed a field sobriety test and was not arrested.

Lenten Wave #22

“I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.”
                                                    ― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Buddy, You Should See What Theology Students Are Like These Days

A survey on the first day of class confirmed the expectation. Between them, the sixteen students could produce the titles of only eight novels that they had read (but that not all of them had read), and of these the three most-mentioned (five students had read all three) were Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games (2008), its sequel Catching Fire (2009), and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight (2005). Four students listed F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby (1925); one listed Oscar Wilde’s Portrait of Dorian Gray (1890). Six out of the ten coeds, but none of the men, had read Jay Asher’s adolescent female suicide-story Thirteen Reasons Why (2007). A few students had read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet but none had read Hamlet or The Tempest. No student could name a poem by William Wordsworth, John Keats, or Robert Frost.

There is, however, a bright side:

"I return to a point that I have made elsewhere in writing about student encounters with Richard Wagner and H. G. Wells. Contemporary college students are not stupid, but they are often far more ignorant than they need to be, having been ill-served both by the jejuneness of North American K-12 and by the ideological tendentiousness, verbal abstruseness, and hackneyed content, of the postmodernity under which the majority of their college preceptors have also been educated. Given patient, orderly instruction, and, more importantly, the opportunity to confront non-trivial ideas and rich objects of aesthetic contemplation, they are capable of initiating independent thought and of enriching their notions of art, literature, and the world."

A "Religion" Of Ideology With No Place For The Sacred

Today’s secular liberals are the direct descendants of the past century’s Puritans and Protestants, deeply concerned with matters of sin and salvation in the church of politics.

My relationship with mainstream Protestantism is beginning to remind me of what one would have with a high school girlfriend after graduating and going off to different colleges.  We still have an affection but our interests have changed and, thus, so has our relationship.  The Episcopal Church is an organization of verbal, not always practical, socio/political advocacy, and I've become much more interested in the metaphysical.

This Is A Satire. Partially.

MIDDLETOWN, CT—After carefully scrutinizing the application of high school senior Erica Allson, admissions officers at Wesleyan University confirmed Monday that the 18-year-old was the ideal candidate to subsidize the tuition and fees of three lower-income students. “Erica is truly a perfect fit for us: Not only does she show sufficient academic potential, but her parents are two highly successful professionals capable of paying the school’s annual $47,000 in tuition plus $13,000 in room and board in their entirety,” assistant admissions director Stacey Wright said, adding that she was left in awe after reading Allson’s near flawless income disclosure form. “With the money she’ll bring to campus, we can easily admit several less-well-off students, which will help us project our desired image as a highly progressive and inclusive institution, plus we’ll still have some extra left over to add HDTVs to the dining hall and install a rock-climbing wall in the freshman dorms. It’s all about striking the right balance with our student body.”

Satire is getting closer and closer to reality these days.

Lenten Wave #21

"Christians have children, in great part, in order to be able to tell our children the story. Fortunately for us, children love stories. It is our baptismal responsibility to tell this story to our young, to live it before them, to take time to be parents in a world that (though intent on blowing itself to bits) is God’s creation (a fact we would not know without this story). We have children as a witness that the future is not left up to us and that life, even in a threatening world, is worth living—and not because “Children are the hope of the future,” but because God is the hope of the future."

- Stanley Hauerwas, from Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony

Monday, March 24, 2014

There's A Little Hyperbole Here, But The Writer Is The Best Jazz Critic Around And He's Right

Music Criticism Has Degenerated Into Lifestyle Reporting

Here's the home run quotation:

"I’ve just spent a very depressing afternoon looking through the leading music periodicals. And what did I learn? Pretty much what I expected. I found out what the chart-topping musicians are wearing (or, in many instances, not wearing). I got updates on their love life, and learned whose marriages are on the rocks. I read updates on the legal proceedings of the rich and famous. I got insights into the food preferences and travel routines of megastars. And I read some reviews of albums, and got told by “‘critics” (I use that term loosely) that they were “badass,” “hot,” “sexy,” “tripped-out,” and “freaky.”

On a few occasions, a reviewer might mention the instruments involved in the making of an album—but usually skipped these apparently tedious details. I couldn’t find any cogent analysis of how these instruments were played. (No, I don’t count “totally shreds” as cogent analysis.) I didn’t read a single discussion of song structure, harmony, or arrangement techniques."

What Are The Primordial B-Mode Polarizations?

Basically, it's the very first sound made by or in creation.  Wow.

How the Biggest Scientific Discovery of the Year Was Kept a Secret

I knew it!  New Big Bang evidence also hints that we may exist in a multiverse

Lenten Wave #20

"One who has no faith has no freedom of spirit." —St. Ambrose of Milan

Good News

A New York Episcopalian has taken the lead in the effort to rebuild the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti’s St. Vincent’s School for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince, which was destroyed by the 2010 earthquake.

I was on the board of St. Vincent's School in the earlier part of this century and helped re-build it twice when it was flattened by a couple of hurricanes.  I'm glad to see the Presiding Bishop's office arranging for something practical.

Yes, This Is Still Going On

A jihadist group in Syria has demanded that Christians in the northern city of Raqqa pay a levy in gold and accept curbs on their faith, or face death.

Plus this:
"The directive from ISIS, citing the Islamic concept of "dhimma", requires Christians in the city to pay tax of around half an ounce (14g) of pure gold in exchange for their safety. BBC map of Raqqa and Damascus in Syria It says Christians must not make renovations to churches, display crosses or other religious symbols outside churches, ring church bells or pray in public."

The Episcopal Church reaction may be found at this link.

The US government reaction is here.

The Feast Of Gregory

March 23: Gregory the Illuminator [257-332]

When I attended the General Theological Seminary in New York City, over thirty years ago [!], the institution also served as the eastern seminary for the Armenian Orthodox Church in the US. Due to the many similarities between our branches of Christianity [Celtic Christianity is older than the Church of Rome; Armenia was the first nation to convert, before the Roman Empire did], it was a handsome fit. Also, the Armenians, many of whom were enjoying their first stay in the United States, were great friends and classmates as they were gregarious, generous, and full of life.

Two things I learned about them: They have a remarkably low regard for the Turks [see "Armenian Genocide"] and a terrific veneration for St. Gregory the Illuminator. The former is a matter of history, the latter of history and faith:

In the 3rd Century, Armenia served as a buffer state between the empires of Rome and Persia, and was often caught between the empires' competing desires. Gregory was born circa 257 and, while an infant, his participated in national politics by assassinating the King of Persia. In result, family friends carried Gregory away for his protection to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he was baptized and raised as a Christian. 

About 280 he returned to Armenia as a missionary and anchorite. Although he was originally treated severely, eventually, by patience and through sound preaching and example, he brought King Tiridates III and his people to the Christian faith. 

A generation later, Gregory was consecrated as the first bishop of Armenia. He died about 332. 

Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your servant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world, and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Science Is Never Settled

A Challenge to the Supremacy of DNA as the Genetic Material

Headline Of The Week

Chicken 'Embryo' In Campbell's Soup Probably Just Regular Dead Chicken

Thank God for that, eh?

Lenten Wave #19

" … the world is a work of art, set before all for contemplation, so that through it the wisdom of Him who created it should be known …"
                                                                              — St. Basil, from Exegetical Works

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lenten Wave #18

Today's quotation is from Alan Watts, who was, before he become the premier apologist of Eastern religion in the United States, an Episcopal priest:

"Religion is not a department of life; it is something that enters into the whole of it."

The Feast Of James DeKoven

March 22: James DeKoven [1831-1879]

If you have ever traveled eastbound through Middletown on Route 66 [not the fabled one that begins, or ends, at the Santa Monica Pier, but the more prosaic namesake that laces across the Nutmeg State] and have come to a stop at the intersection of Route 9, there is a house that sits on the right side of the road named DeKoven House. You may note that there is an historic plaque on it that cannot, alas, be easily read from the road. That's a pity, because it is significant in the life of one of the most important Episcopalians in our ecclesial history.

Connecticut's James DeKoven was born in 1831 to a prominent maritime family and ordained at the age of 24. His early service to the Church was as a professor at Nashotah House, an Episcopal Church seminary in the wilds of 19th century Wisconsin. Later, he would also serve as Warden of Racine College, an Episcopal college on the frontier.

What makes DeKoven special, at least in the eyes of clergy such as your rector and the shrinking number of his compatriots in liturgy and theology, is that he was a champion and theological apologist for those who believe that the more intentional the Celebration of the Holy Communion, the more purposeful its experience and result.

For example, DeKoven emphasized the "real presence" of the Christ in the bread and wine, not in some superstitious sense, but as an obvious reaction to the teachings of the New Testament. To highlight this understanding, DeKoven resurrected for the American Episcopal Church practices such as bowing, kneeling, the use of candles, the making of the sign of the cross, and the "manual acts" engaged by the celebrating clergy [as seen every Sunday behind the altar at Christ Church].

Naturally, true innovation is so prized in institutions that DeKoven was labeled a "ritualist", slandered a dozen different ways for his "Romish" practices, and twice denied the office of bishop, despite having been elected such by the Dioceses of Wisconsin and Illinois, respectively. That notion of respecting the dignity of every human being can be a fickle thing.

However, his liturgical theology carried with it a logic and, not to be discounted, great ability to use non-verbal imagery to carry those understandings that are beyond words. Hence, he is recognized on this day for his contribution to our common life and, like many of the true innovators of the Church, his providential avoidance of the limitations of the office of bishop.

He died at the age of 48, after teaching that day's classes at Racine College.

Almighty and everlasting God, the source and perfection of all virtues, who didst inspire thy servant James de Koven to do what is right and to preach what is true: Grant that all ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may afford to thy faithful people, by word and example, the knowledge of thy grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Friday, March 21, 2014

About Time

UN report blasts Iran for persecution of Christians

I Think I Just Went Green

Burials go green; bodies interred in just a cloth bag or wicker basket

Because In A Hyper-Politicized World, Clergy Are Tools Of The State

Malloy asks state clergy to tell congregants about Connecticut’s version of the Affordable Care Act

Dear Dan:

Thank you, but no.

Apparently, The Movie "Noah" Is A Comedy

The story of Noah's Ark is found in the sacred literature of three of the world's religions, so it is familiar to 54% of the world's population; over 38 billion people.  This would seem an ideal platform from which to convince people to spend money to see a big-budget movie of it.  Surprisingly, in order to make it "popular", its director resisted having God mentioned in the script.

I guess this is why I wasn't a marketing major.

Lenten Wave #17

"The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays."
- Soren Kierkegaard

[I'm getting a little tired of Roger Scruton; time for some other philosophers.]

The Feast Of Thomas Ken

March 21: Thomas Ken [1637-1711]

Ken trained at Win­ches­ter and New Coll­ege, Ox­ford, and was or­dained an Ang­li­can priest in 1662. In 1663, he be­came Rec­tor of Lit­tle East­on, and Rec­tor of Wood­hay and Pre­ben­da­ry of Win­ches­ter in 1669. He pub­lished a Man­u­al of Pray­ers, for the use of the schol­ars of Win­ches­ter Coll­ege, in 1674. He was brief­ly chap­lain to Prin­cess Ma­ry, and lat­er to the Brit­ish fleet. He be­came Bi­shop of Bath and Wells in 1685. He was one of sev­er­al bi­shops im­pris­oned in the Tow­er of Lon­don for re­fus­ing to sign James II’s “De­clar­a­tion of In­dul­gence” (hop­ing to re­store Ca­thol­i­cism in Eng­land); he was tried and ac­quit­ted. Ken wrote much po­e­try, pu­blished post­hu­mous­ly in 1721.

He is also the composer of the hymn that marks the Offertory in our parish and in almost every other parish in the Episcopal Church: "Praise God, from whom all Blessings Flow".

Almighty God, you gave your servant Thomas Ken grace and courage to bear witness to the truth before rulers and kings: Give us strength also that, following his example, we may constantly defend what is right, boldly reprove what is evil, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Riiiight. How'd That Get In There?

Michigan district baffled by union clause giving hiring preference to non-Christians

Petty Bureaucrats Of The Week

Oh, hey.  They're in Connecticut.

City orders woman to take down fliers in search for missing dogs

Although I was once a little annoyed that someone put lost dog flyers on all of the cars in the parish parking lot during Palm Sunday services.  Where I live, that dog was already a predator's meal and, naturally, I had to clean up the discarded leaflets.

[For those wondering: "Style guides seem to disagree with dictionaries about the proper spelling for handbills: “flier” or “flyer.” Supposedly, “flier” is the American spelling and “flyer” is the British spelling. That’s what Garner’s Modern American Usage claims, and that claim is backed up by the Associated Press (an American organization), which recommends “flier,” and The Economist (a British publication), which recommends “flyer.”]

A Brief Theology of Coffee

This Lent I will not give up coffee absolutely. But I will enjoy it with more moderation and with an ear that’s more attentive to the rhythms of this day, week, and season. And I will do so not because I can accomplish all that I want to accomplish with or without it, but because I choose to submit to these limits and rhythms that bind me. This Lent, I choose to give up my perfectionism and try to dance more honestly to these seasons of work and rest, fast and feast.

This Is Why I Could Never Be A Public Intellectual: I've Actually Read These Books

The Top Ten Books People Lie About Reading

Rand is a dull writer, as is Smith.  There are whole portions of Melville's classic that one could skip, unless one is planning a career in whale processing.  I actually liked Joyce.

Then there's this quotation that made my day:

"Take Neil DeGrasse Tyson as one example, whom the internet loves with an unrestrained passion usually reserved for fluffy cat videos. He was asked a few years ago on reddit to share his recommended reading list. Given his brief commentary on the eight books he recommends, he seems largely unfamiliar with the actual content of the works by Adam Smith, Thomas Paine, Niccolo Machiavelli, and particularly Sun Tzu, who views the avoidance of killing as the best form of warfare."

As Discussed In My Adult Ed. Group Tonight

Feast Of Cuthbert Of Lindisfarne

March 20: Cuthbert of Lindisfarne [634-687]

Almighty God, you called Cuthbert from following the flock to be a shepherd of your people: Mercifully grant that, as he sought in dangerous and remote places those who had erred and strayed from your ways, so we may seek the indifferent and the lost, and lead them back to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lenten Wave #16

"Faith exalts the human heart, by removing it from the market-place, making it sacred and unexchangeable" - Roger Scruton

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Feast Of St. Joseph

March 19: St. Joseph
 220px-Saint_Joseph_with_the_Infant_Jesus_by_Guido_Reni,_c_1635.jpg (220×270)

I might add that as of the 21st century, he has also become the unofficial patron of step-fathers.

O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lenten Wave #15

"Piety is not irrational at all. It is the voice that tells us that the goods of society are inherited."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cyril Of Jerusalem

March 18th: Cyril of Jerusalem [313-386]

When growing affluence, Christian evangelism, and the formidable Roman highway system encouraged greater travel to Jerusalem during the days leading up to Easter Sunday, the bishop, in order to give the pilgrims who were filling his city something constructive and reverent to do, developed a series of liturgies specific to the days of Holy Week, each based on an event leading to the resurrection.  So popular did these proper liturgies become that pilgrims brought them back to their home congregations upon their return, thus ensuring that, over time, these liturgical practices would become universally engaged.  Thus, Cyril is recognized as the creator of the Holy Week liturgies: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil of Easter.

More of him may be found here.
Strengthen, O Lord, the bishops of your Church in their special calling to be teachers and ministers of the Sacraments, so that they, like your servant Cyril of Jerusalem, may effectively instruct your people in Christian faith and practice; and that we, taught by them, may enter more fully into the celebration of the Paschal mystery; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Lenten Wave #14

"Through the pursuit of beauty we shape the world as a home, and in doing so we both amplify our joys and find consolation for our sorrows."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lenten Wave #12

"If there are people who are indifferent to beauty, then it is surely because they do not perceive it."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

According To Patheos, "Cosmos" Is Fun, But Its View Of Christianity Is...Special

“This was a time when there was no freedom of thought in Italy.” 

"God, I really hate it when historical illiterates try to read church history through a modernist lens. Let’s time travel back to the great universities of the 16th century and ask those people if there is “freedom of thought”? Naturally, they’d have no idea what you mean. Of course they’re free to think, and debate, and write. That they shared a set of fundamental truths is seen as no barrier to that debate, but the ground upon which it takes place. 

If someone denies that shared ground–a foundation built on Aristotle and the truths of the Christian faith–they will be challenged because they’re striking at Truth with a capital T. They won’t be thrown in jail for it. They will be urged to either prove their opinions or change them. If they refuse, then they may be called before the Roman Inquisition, which also will–in a full court of law with legal protections and evidence–urge them to change their views."

There was far greater "freedom of thought" on 16th century campuses than 21st century campuses.

The Obituary Of The Week

There will be no viewing since his wife refuses to honor his request to have him standing in the corner of the room with a glass of Jack Daniels in his hand so he would appear natural to visitors.

It's Not Just That

Anwar: Use of witch doctors to locate MH370 made Malaysia look ‘stupid’

A Professional Milestone Of Sorts

My wife mentioned something that I had noticed, but only at a subliminal level.  For the first time in a few years or so, no one called, wrote, or spoke to me of a complaint for a week now.  No complaint about church music, ice on the walkways, a burned out light bulb, the cleaning service, the parish website/newsletter/order of service/Facebook page/etc.  I suppose I would hear complaints about The Coracle, too, if more than five or six members of my parish actually read it.

I had forgotten how peaceful the world could be.  I'm hoping that people have given up complaining for Lent, but that may be wishful thinking.  Maybe, though, we've become aware of how fortunate we are and are looking at the world through that prism, rather than as a place of perpetual disappointment.

If so, then the Gospel is truly being heard.  Amen to that, eh?

Lenten Wave #9

"Being, for the religious person, is a gift, not a fact. It is through understanding this that we overcome our metaphysical loneliness"

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Because The Only Value Of Clergy In Contemporary America Is As Political Tools

Mayor Rogero calls on area clergy to talk up Affordable Care Act

This Is Rather Retro; And Rather Sad

However, as a lawyer acquaintance notes about our contemporary times: "Because men don’t have parental rights, just responsibilities."

A Reprint [From An Interesting Source] Of An Article From 1954

It's still relevant, of course.

10 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend

Not To Be An Apostate, But Maybe Something More Than Money Is Needed

San Francisco spends $165 million a year on services for homeless people, but all that money hasn't made a dent in the homeless population in at least nine years.

What A Marvelous Headline

Mayor resigns from jail

The Feast of Gregory the Great

St. Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome [540-604]:

St. Gregory the Great, officially known as Pope Gregory I, earns a place on our calendar as he was the Bishop of Rome before our schism with the Roman Catholic Church and was an innovative leader and creative personality.  He is the composer of the eponymous Gregorian setting of the chant and was also responsible for ensuring that the British Isles were well-supplied with good, faithful, organized missionaries, thus enabling the orthodoxy and consistency of Anglican theology.

More of him may be found here.

St. Gregory, born at Rome about the year 540, was the son of Gordianus, a wealthy senator, who later renounced the world and became one of the seven deacons of Rome. After he had acquired the usual thorough education, Emperor Justin the Younger appointed him, in 574, Chief Magistrate of Rome, though he was only thirty-four years of age.
After the death of his father, he built six monasteries in Sicily and founded a seventh in his own house in Rome, which became the Benedictine Monastery of St. Andrew. Here, he himself assumed the monastic habit in 575, at the age of thirty-five.
After the death of Pelagius, St. Gregory was chosen Pope by the unanimous consent of priests and people. Now began those labors which merited for him the title of Great. His zeal extended over the entire known world, he was in contact with all the Churches of Christendom and, in spite of his bodily sufferings, and innumerable labors, he found time to compose a great number of works. He is known above all for his magnificent contributions to the Liturgy of the Mass and Office.
Almighty and merciful God, you raised up Gregory of Rome to be a servant of the servants of God, and inspired him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people: Preserve in your Church the catholic and apostolic faith they taught, that your people, being fruitful in every good work, may receive the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lenten Wave #8

"The vow is a pledge to the ideal light in you; a contract is signed by your self-interested shadow"

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

In The U.S. Military, One Defends The Constitution; You Just Can't Live By It

Air Force Academy removes Bible verse from cadet's whiteboard

Of course: "He said the Bible verse on the cadet's personal whiteboard created a hostile environment at the academy."

I wonder if the quotation had come from the Koran if they would have felt the same way.

We Had Somewhat Less In Our Sunday Collection

Officials at Lakewood Church, the Houston church made famous by its pastor, Joel Osteen, announced Tuesday that $600,000 in Sunday donations were stolen from its safe last weekend....

I Know This Is Meaningless To Some, But It's Really Interesting News

Turing's theory of chemical morphogenesis validated 60 years after his death

Something Related To A Previous Posting

The other day I linked to the rather weird story of how straw "Christians" were being set up by a pastor's website enabling anonymous people to slag the faith.  I probably left out the editorial comment I just made, but that's the way it looked to me.

It appears I wasn't alone:

The real issue goes beyond some “pastor” attempting to suck-up to mainstream society and capitalize on a cultural meme by bashing Christians. The real issue is the unfair and damaging stereotype that this site erroneously enforces: the notion that Christians are selfish and uncharitable frauds who largely ignore the Bible edicts to give to the poor and serve the less fortunate. 

 It’s bad enough when atheists and secularists peddle this garbage, but it’s utterly scandalous when Christians do it themselves. And why do they do it? Not because it’s true. It isn’t. They do it because they want to score points and win friends. They want to get a collective head nod and a high-five from the cool kids. 

 And, in doing so, they succeed in scaring more people away from the Faith while simultaneously undermining all of the inspiring, courageous and selfless work done by BILLIONS of Christians today and throughout history.

I'm beginning to understand how the Jews in Europe felt around the end of the 19th century.

Terrific. We're Now The 31st Happiest State.

Connecticut has the second-worst work environment in the union.  At least we're not Mississippi.

Lenten Wave #7

"Nonsense confiscates meaning. It thereby puts truth and falsehood, reason and unreason, light and darkness on an equal footing"

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Govt Says "All Is Well", But I Think I'll Confine Myself To Surfing The East Coast For The Next Half-Life Of Strontium 90

SALEM, Ore. -- Very low levels of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster likely will reach ocean waters along the U.S. West Coast next month, scientists are reporting. 

 Current models predict that the radiation will be at extremely low levels that won't harm humans or the environment, said Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who presented research on the issue last week. 

 But Buesseler and other scientists are calling for more monitoring. No federal agency currently samples Pacific Coast seawater for radiation, he said.

What Cat Doesn't?

Simpson said the owners told the dispatcher the cat has a history of violence.

Good Question

Why Can't Daylight Savings Time Be Repealed?

This Is What I Think I Look Like When At Meetings

Lenten Wave #6

"Nonsense confiscates meaning. It thereby puts truth and falsehood, reason and unreason, light and darkness on an equal footing"

[Yes, above is a cloud wave.  Cool, huh?]

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Realities Of Volunteer Burnout

Volunteers who have begun to "burn-out" in their activities, whether in a religious or secular organization, usually manifest a majority of these symptoms:

1.  Feelings that they are perpetually under-appreciated.
2.  Sensation that work cannot be completed, or completed to satisfaction, without their participation and presence.
3.  Finding or expecting slights and insults in interactions with other, often in innocuous circumstances.
4.  Chronic complaints about leadership personnel.
5.  Cynical or callous comments about other volunteers.
6.  Perpetual sense of crisis.
7.  Physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion.
8.  Overreaction to minor circumstances.
9.  Increasing triangulation in communication patterns.
10.  Sense that the volunteer activity is now a chore.

Of course there are also physical or psychological experiences on the part of the volunteer that can exacerbate burn-out, ranging from addictive disorder to a lack of parental support in childhood. Volunteers and their supervisors are always urged to be aware of these signs and work to address them directly as burn-out among volunteers can have a rapid morbidity.

[Courtesy of Interfaith Resources]

"Shaming" Websites And Poor Christian Tippers Seem To Be Two Peas In A Pod To Me

Pastor sets up website to shame terrible Sunday after-church tippers

I'm Guessing That There's An Architect Who Likes To Read

Lenten Wave #5

"To speak of beauty is to enter another and more exalted realm"

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Lenten Wave #4

"Christianity is an exception among religions, in imposing a religious duty to construct a civil order in which religion plays no part"

Friday, March 7, 2014

No Reason; I Just Liked The Photo

Lenten Wave #3

"When sacrifice is present and respected, life redeems itself; it becomes an object of contemplation, something that 'bears looking at.'" - Roger Scruton

The Feast of Perpetua and Her Companions

March 7: Perpetua [181-206] and her Companions

From the original edition of Lesser Feasts and Fasts -

Early in the third century, the emperor Septimius Severus decreed that all persons should sacrifice to the divinity of the emperor. There was no way that a Christian, confessing faith in the one Lord Jesus Christ, could do this. Vibia Perpetua was a young widow, mother of an infant and owner of several slaves, including Felicitas and Revocatus. With two other young Carthaginians, Secundulus and Saturninus, they were catechumens preparing for baptism. Perpetua and her companions were arrested and held in prison under miserable conditions. They received baptism during their imprisonment. Felicitas, pregnant when arrested, bore her child in prison.

In a document attributed to Perpetua, we learn of visions she had in prison. One was of a ladder to heaven, which she climbed to reach a large garden; another was of her brother who had died when young of a dreadful disease, but was now well and drinking the water of life; that last was of herself as a warrior battling the Devil and defeating him to win entrance to the gate of life. “And I awoke, understanding that I should fight, not with beasts, but with the Devil…So much about me up to the day before the games; let him who will write of what happened then.” At the public hearing before the proconsul, she refused even the entreaties of her aged father, saying, “I am a Christian.”

Perpetua and her companions were martyred for their faith in Christ in the year 202 or 203 on March 7.
O God the King of saints, you strengthened your servants Perpetua and Felicitas and their companions to make a good confession, staunchly resisting, for the cause of Christ, the claims of human affection, and encouraging one another in their time of trial: Grant that we who cherish their blessed memory may share their pure and steadfast faith, and win with them the palm of victory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lenten Wave #1

"The accumulated evidence of human nature tells us that the only improvement that lies within our control is the improvement of ourselves" - Roger Scruton
Remember the old surfing adage: You learn something from every wave.  

During Lent, The Coracle will offer select quotes from philosophers and theologians, chiefly the contemporary philosopher, Roger Scruton, for the next few weeks.

Monday, March 3, 2014

I Guess I Won't Be Going To Walter's Funeral

Walter Williams comes alive in Mississippi funeral home

This would have been an even better story if Walter had waited six more weeks.

The Feast of John and Charles Wesley

During one of the moribund periods in church history, namely during the first half of the 18th century when [surprise!] usage of the Book of Common Prayer had fallen into an indifferent lassitude, the Wesleys, along with fellow students at Oxford, began to re-discover prayerful harmony through adherence to the Prayer Book's structure. Because of this, they were referred to by their fellow students as "Methodists".

As time went by, they graduated and moved to the colony of Georgia, where John served as an Anglican missionary and Charles as assistant to the governor. Neither found those positions particularly fulfilling. Then, within days of one another, the brothers received a moment of epiphany. As powerful as the intellect could be in proclaiming the Gospel, so, too, was to be honored the emotional response one may elicit. Thus began this evangelical strain within our tradition.

John was the preacher and Charles the hymn-writer. John believed in the use of lay preachers, sometimes ill-educated, to create a Paul-Peter type of proclamation dualism. While this practice may have caused the Wesley's homiletics professors to shudder, it could be effective. Consider the following anecdote:

The early Methodist meetings were often led by lay preachers with very limited education. On one occasion, such a preacher took as his text Luke 19:21, "Lord, I feared thee, because thou art an austere man." Not knowing the word "austere," he thought that the text spoke of "an oyster man." He spoke about the work of those who retrieve oysters from the sea-bed. The diver plunges down from the surface, cut off from his natural environment, into bone-chilling water. He gropes in the dark, cutting his hands on the sharp edges of the shells. Now he has the oyster, and kicks back up to the surface, up to the warmth and light and air, clutching in his torn and bleeding hands the object of his search. So Christ descended from the glory of heaven into the squalor of earth, into sinful human society, in order to retrieve humans and bring them back up with Him to the glory of heaven, His torn and bleeding hands a sign of the value He has placed on the object of His quest. Twelve men were converted that evening. Afterwards, someone complained to Wesley about the inappropriateness of allowing preachers who were too ignorant to know the meaning of the texts they were preaching on. Wesley, simply said, "Never mind, the Lord got a dozen oysters tonight."*

Charles wrote over 600 hymns, including such favorites as "Oh for a thousand tongues to sing".

The Methodist Society was intended to be a part of the Anglican/Episcopal Church as a place for evangelical zeal and teaching. So ill-received was it by the bishops, yet so popular with laity and clergy with common sense, that the Methodist Church eventually developed into its own denomination.

The lections for today may be found here.

[*from John Wesley's Sermons: An Introduction, by Albert C. Outler.]