Saturday, April 19, 2008

Here we go again

I have been sick for the past 4 days, and so it has given me time to reflect on the Pope's visit a bit more then I probably would have been able to if I was well (heck, I would have been able to see almost none of it if I was well!).

1. Media

I wish the media would listen. I was watching CTV Newsnet this evening, and most of it was ok. I am getting a bit frustrated because it seems all the news bites focus just on the Pope's address of the priest sexual abuse. I have seen very little coverage of his UN speech, which was a cornerstone of his visit and his hope for engaging the world in terms of relativism and natural law. Plus, I was rather saddened by the fact that the media TOTALLY mishears things, or hears things that as they want to hear them. At the end of the story on the Pope's events for the day, the reporter mentioned how "Benedict even abandoned God in his youth in Germany". I would like to know what speech they were listening to. He was warning against societies that lose their ability to recognize the place of God in their lives and how the Nazis in Germany abandoned God when he was young, but not him. I am a bit perplexed about that to say the least.

However, from what I have heard (and from the bit I have been able to see from their website), CNN has been giving fantastic coverage of the event. I saw a 5 minute spot about Wolf Blitzer meeting the Pope with 9 other journalists. He looked absolutely giddy. He even said on the air "I almost never say this, but I was truly blessed today". Apparently the Baptist man who works for CNN was also quite moved by the Mass on Thursday.

So, there have been the ups and downs.

2. Politicization

It is typical of people wanting to put things in a box. Unfortunately, too, they are attempting to create a certain polarization. These are unfortunate. You can't really "box up" Benedict, except to say he is orthodox. Most news stories and such are attempting to show that "if the Church doesn't change her teachings, then she will lose her numbers". But that is not the message of the Church, which states that "if the people in the Church don't strive for holiness, then the Church will lose her numbers". But numbers aren't what it is about. Of course, it would be wonderful if the entire world accepted the Church, her teachings, and strived for holiness. But that's not reality. The Church's mission is to bring people to Christ, and that they live lives in pursuit of His Face.

This politicization and polarization come from the labels "conservative", "progressive", "moderate", and "liberal". First, these words refer to terms that change. That is, the terms they point to change according to the trends. For example, the "conservatives" used to be the "liberals". And people use these words for the Church in the same way. And some say that the Pope is "conserving the Deposit of Faith" and so, in that sense, is a conservative.

However, I still don't think that that is a viable label for the Pope. To conserve means to prevent a danger from happening to something, and that it can change. We don't conserve things that don't change. But both those situations are contrary to the very essence of the Church. The Church does not change, and Christ promised that the gates of Hell shall not prevail. There is nothing to conserve, because the Church's essence, by her essence, cannot change. Thus, no one can be a conservative, because there is nothing to conserve, there is only a Truth, Who is a Person, to be uplifted and brought to everyone.

And some may complain about the word "orthodoxy". It is true, it refers to right belief. But Chesterton says that orthodoxy in the Catholic view involves the entirety of our faith. As St James says "Faith without works is dead". Thus our belief, if it is right (and that is that it our faith is in the Person of Jesus Christ) means we truly live it out. Orthodoxy, then, is much more then the doctrines we hold.

3. The Pope

I was blown away by the Pope's time at Dunwoody today. First, I must say, a friend of mine who lives in New York served the Papal Mass today at St Patrick's Cathedral, he was the one holding the Missal for the Pope.

Anyways, the Pope at the Seminary, I saw there the Benedict that I know. This is not to say I haven't elsewhere. But he has seemed tired and a bit worn out these past few days, and that is to be expected of someone of 81! But today, at Dunwoody, he was electric! He was energetic, with a smile that was constantly beaming across face. He was funny, and he even did something unscripted. He was passionate, because I think for him the youth are the hope of the Church's future. He saw true hope present. He definitely fed off the crowd, and he gave a 45 minute talk to the youth! That is far longer then any other talk he has given, which tells you that this was the most important to him. I encourage EVERYONE to read it, or go to EWTN's website and watch it there (they have the whole of the Pope's trip on the web to watch). It was fantastic and out of this world. Please watch it.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

What did he say?

I'm sorry, I have a hard time hearing the homily of Benedict XVI from his Mass at National Stadium today. The noise of bloggers complaining of horrid liturgical practices is just a tad overwhelming.

I was reading Whispers in the Loggia the other day and a rather convicting statement was made in regards to people paying attention to what the Pope had to say instead of what he wore. I think the same can go for the Masses he celebrates.

Fr. Neuhaus had a wonderful comment on EWTN. While he wondered if those planning the Liturgy had ever read any of Benedict's works, he said "but the Pope is being pastoral, knowing that he cannot allow this to get in the way of the message of Christ and the graces of the Eucharist". I think Fr. Neuhaus is dead on.

Sure, the music wasn't great. I myself am no fan of Marty Haugen's Mass of Creation. But I have come to realize "is this really the core of the Mass?" I am not denying the awesome wonder music can create. It most definitely has an essential role in the Mass. But things take time. And the important things from the Mass happened. The Pope delivered an awesome homily, and the Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated.

If people were not so busy complaining about this and that about the music, maybe they could be quiet long enough to hear the awesome message of the hope Christ brings to us. Maybe, JUST MAYBE, they would be able to understand that Christ is greater that bad liturgical practices, and that his message can come out in those settings as well.

It is important to note that Msgr. Marini has been taking a very active role in planning the Papal Liturgies. Note, however, that they allowed these things to happen. They may not be perfect, but the Pope knew that the Eucharist being celebrated was the pinnacle of the Mass, not its music. If people could start realizing that, I thik we could do a lot to grow.

The issue, in the end, is that when we are too busy complaining about bad liturgy, we are not open enough to listen to the words of Christ. This is something I have been coming to learn. This is not to say we ought not to work to have the Liturgy celebrated according to the desire of the Church, discussion is an essential means for the further promotion of proper liturgy. But we must remember that things take time. Instead of complaining, there must be work done with those who do have different liturgical views. We must remember that the Liturgy is an expression of our faith in Christ, and if our faith is true, so will be our expression. Thus the solution is not a pragmatic concern in which policies can easily change things. Rather, the issue is one of holiness. If people would have actually paid attention to what the Pope had to say today, you would have noticed that he said that this is our fundamental goal as Christians, that our hope rises in a life lived in holiness.

The Pope knows that in order for the Liturgy to be properly celebrated, there needs to be holiness first. And so, far from pragmatic concerns, the Pope is looking towards a supernatural means of bringing people to the heart of the Church. When holiness is lived, it expresses itself in everything, and the Liturgy is definitely one of those times.


Friday, April 04, 2008

It's Been A While

But better late then never.

So I've been watching Battlestar Gallactica now for about 3 weeks and have just begun Season 2.5.

I will admit, I found the show a bit slow to start off. But where I am now, watching it in the context of the show in its entirety, I'm sure I will feel differently about that when I start the series all over again one day.

Anyways, the show is interesting because it asks questions that shows usually refuse to ask. They don't ask them because they fear that the ratings will be low. And, in a certain sense, that's probably true.

The beauty of Science Fiction, the undeniable quality it has that is lacking from any big time show is precisely the fact that it can ask the tough questions, those that are the most important and central to who we are as human beings.

The interesting thing is that the show does not attempt to just throw the questions out there. It is not some intense philosophical discussion with no plot. Rather, it does things in the manner that I know J.R.R. Tolkien would approve of. They do it in the form of myth, of, if you will, a space fairy tale. It asks the important questions, but in a way that it is central to the story as a whole. These questions do not force themselves into the plot line, but rather, they are weaved in a way that they are essential for the plot line to move on.

There are many interesting questions the show raises. Are Cylons people? Can Cylons love? There are many others as well. But the most important, and definitely the most human one, is the one that gets to the core of our humanity. It seems that the Cylons attempted to destroy mankind because they felt that they were not deserving to live. They kill each other, and, well, if you can name a bad act, man does it. They don't seem deserving of life.

So, in my opinion, the central question of the show is "what makes humanity worthy of life". After watching Resurrection Pt. 2, I think I have come to the answer. And it came with such a simple, and yet profound, display of humanity. Adama, shaken up by the death of Admiral Kane, knowing that it was almost him who ordered her death, ends it all with a kiss with President Roslin. The range of emotions is truly remarkable.

But what finally hit it for me, what finally got me the answer was that very display. What makes man worth of life is that which makes him man! Humanity is worthy of life precisely because it's human. Or, as the quotable Del Myers puts it much more precisely "Man is worthy of redemption because he is capable of it". Our strength, our weakness, the wholeness of what makes us human, that is what makes us worthy of life. We are worthy to walk this Earth precisely because of our mistakes and triumphs.

To me, that is an utterly Christian outlook of the world, because it is the core of the message. Christ comes to redeem, but He cannot redeem those who feel they have nothing to redeem. That is the trait that is different between man and they Cylons. Man is able to make mistakes, but the Cylons refuse to. Number 6 would not kill herself because it was a sin. She refused to accept her weakness. That is the true weakness, when we are unable to accept our weakness, for it is only when we accept our weakness are we able to be made strong in Christ.