Project Bread, Walk for Hunger, May 7th

Just a quick p.s.a., and a cheap appeal for cash.
I'm walking in two weeks in Project Bread's Walk for Hunger here in Boston. For those of you outside of Boston, this walk is a 20-mile walk which is the major fundraiser for Project Bread, supporting food pantries, soup kitchens, and children's meal programs across the state of Massachusetts. I'm proud to say that it started back in 1969 as an initiative of my own church, the Paulist Center in Boston; it's much larger now, but it's also still the major source of funding for our weekly meal program, the Wednesday Night Supper Club.
So if you're in the area, please, please walk! If you're not, and would like to sponsor someone, hint hint, email me at baptizedpagan@gmail.com, and I'll give you a link to a website where you can sponsor me by credit card. Even 5 or 10 bucks would help if you can swing it! Thanks.


Gospel of Judas, Redux

From the New Yorker. This week's "Cartoon of the Week", available by email.
(BTW, sorry I've been so into posting images lately. I'll go back to words soon. For now, enjoy all the pretty pictures.)

Sunday Magazines Round-up

Do not anger this woman. Today's New York Times Magazine has a short interview with Madeleine Albright, which is as remarkable for her frankness as for the sketch of her personality provided in just a few lines. The highlight is the concluding exchange:

Q: It has become a cliché to say that powerful women scare off husbands and lovers. Do you think it is true?
Madam Albright: I don't think I ever would have been secretary of state if I had stayed married. But I loved being married. I was married for 23 years. I was very sorry when it ended.
Q: Will you marry again?
MA: I doubt it.
Q: Why not?
MA: Why?
Q: Companionship?
MA: I have lots of companionship. I am about to be 69 years old, and I have three daughters, three sons-in-law and six grandchildren. I am not looking to meet men. I also truly can't imagine who is out there who might be interested in someone like me. I'm intimidating, don't you think?
Q: I wouldn't want to have to arm-wrestle you.
A: I work out three times a week, and I can leg-press up to 400 pounds.

400 pounds!

Albright also laments the "unraveling", in her words, of the work she did as Secretary of State, and regarding Iraq mentions that, "you can't go to war with everybody you dislike." The Boston Globe Magazine has a heartbreaking article today of the effect of the war upon the state of Vermont. Lamented by conservatives as the blue-est of blue states, it also has one of the highest per capita number of National Guardsmen -- and casualties -- in the country.

Isaac Hecker in America

So if you haven't seen this past week's America yet, you might want to check out the cover article by Bruce Nieli, C.S.P., entitled "Uniting America Spiritually" on Fr. Isaac Hecker, the founder of the Paulist Fathers. Hecker's spirituality, his devotion to the Holy Spirit, and his commitment to the American project make him one of the best examples of how Catholic inculturation has occurred in our times. Some highlights from the article:

'Connected with Isaac’s passion for Catholicism was his passion for America. He was convinced that America was good for the church. He beheld the American experience of religious freedom as helping the Catholic Church grow in membership and openness to the Spirit. To Pope Pius IX’s caution that “in the United States there exists too unrestricted liberty,” Hecker, in a personal audience with the pope, responded that many “seeing in the United States that the Church is alone and independent, begin to regard it as a divine institution, and not as necessarily connected with what they term despotism, and they return to the Church.”'

'A similar evangelical spirit had been communicated over 100 years before by Isaac Thomas Hecker, who boasted that divine providence had placed him in contact with “all classes” of people: “But the discerning mind will not fail to see that the [American] republic and the Catholic Church are working together under the same divine guidance, forming the various races of men and nationalities into a homogenous people, and by their united action giving a bright promise of a broader and higher development of man than has been heretofore accomplished.”
Father Hecker saw the United States as a natural, providential match for the e pluribus unum spirituality of Catholicism.'


New England, Unite!

An op-ed in today's Globe by Neal Pierce and Curtis Johnston of the New England Futures project argues that the six New England states, and particularly their governors, need to work together on various regional issues more effectively if the region is to survive and thrive. While this is not quite the opening guns of the founding of Atlantica (a utopic nation to be founded when New England and the Canadian maritimes secede from their respective current countries...shout out to DJ-S, supreme leader of Atlantica), it's a good alert to the need for some good old-fashioned New England pride. I mean, c'mon, we're the Hub, the spirit of Massachusetts is the spirit of America, etc. etc.


Sandro Magister on Benedict

Sandro Magister, a noted Italian journalist and Vaticanista, has a regular online journal, available at www.chiesa.espressonline.it. You can also subscribe to an email newsletter. It's really a blog, but apparently that doesn't translate as easily into Italian...

As everyone is running around doing retrospectives on B16's first year in the papacy, Magister has a good take on the phenomenon of B's ability, and willingness, to answer questions simply, spontaneously, and honestly...what Jim Weiss of B.C. theology, in Sunday's Globe, referred to as his calling as a teacher: "[Benedict's] calling as pope shows greater awareness [than JPII] of his earliest calling as a teacher. Teaching relies on patience and slow progress, rather than instant clarity and compliance. The surprises of his first year may signal a pope of some paradox after all."

Magister laments the lack of public access to B's more intimate, more off-the-cuff, Q & A sessions, and, for our benefit, provides some translations in English on some current topics. (Aside: note that B16 praises, in passing, the work of the Jesuit theologian Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini!). Some highlights:

"If it is important to read Sacred Scripture with the help of teachers and in the company of our friends, our companions on the way, it is particularly important to read it in the great company of the pilgrim People of God, the Church. Sacred Scripture has two subjects. In the first place, there is the divine subject: it is God who is speaking. But God wanted to involve man in his Word. While the Muslims are convinced that the Qur’an was inspired by God word for word, we believe that one of the characteristics of Sacred Scripture – as the theologians put it – is “synergy,” God’s collaboration with man. He involves his People in his word, and thus the second subject – as I have said, God is the first subject – is human. The authors are individual, but there is the continuity of a permanent subject: the People of God that walks with the Word of God and is in conversation with God. In listening to God, one learns to listen to the Word of God, and also to interpret it. And thus the Word of God becomes present, because individual persons die, but the vital subject, the People of God, is always alive, and remains the same down through the ages: it is always the same living subject in which the Word lives."

"We all know that reaching a goal in sports or business requires discipline and sacrifice, but then all of this is crowned by success, by reaching the desired aim. And so it is with life itself: becoming men according to the plan of Jesus requires sacrifice, but this is not something negative; on the contrary, it helps us to live as men with new hearts, to live a truly human and happy life. Because there is a consumerist culture that wants to block us from living according to the Creator’s plan, we must have the courage to create first islands and oases, and then great landscapes of Catholic culture in which life follows the design of the Creator." [I've heard the same thing, almost verbatim, from some of my Catholic Worker friends...just a caveat for those of us who have a tendency to read a right-wing bias into anything said by a church authority...]

"To come to the definitive question, I would say: either God exists or he doesn’t. There are only two options. Either one recognizes the priority of reason, of the creative Reason that stands at the beginning of everything and is the origin of everything – the priority of reason is also the priority of freedom – or one upholds the priority of the irrational, according to which everything in our world and in our lives is only an accident, marginal, an irrational product, and even reason would be a product of irrationality. In the end, one cannot “prove” either of these views, but Christianity’s great choice is the choice of reason and the priority of reason. This seems like an excellent choice to me, demonstrating how a great Intelligence, to which we can entrust ourselves, stands behind everything."


Outrage, yes, but why only now?

There's an article in today's New York Times on the Rev. Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas, and he and his church's protests against U.S. military funerals, as well as the numerous bills heading through state legislators in response. As the article details, he and his family believe the U.S. is being punished for not resisting homosexuality strongly enough, and his "God Hates the U.S.A." signs have attracted enough outrage at veterans' funerals that nine states have recently approved laws restricting demonstrations at funerals. A quick glance at the Wikipedia biography shows that this is obviously a very troubled man, with a very troubled history, more deserving of pity than of fear. The only thing to fear in his regard is giving any more publicity to him and his family.

But with all due respect to the pain of the families of veterans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have to raise a small point of justice: Fred Phelps has been picketing at the funerals of gay men, especially gay men who have died of AIDS, and of gay men like Matthew Shepard gay-bashed to a pulp, for about fifteen years. Fifteen years. Fifteen years of "God Hates Fags", "Your Son is in Hell", and "Thank God for AIDS" signs that the families of gay men have had to walk by as they mourned their dead partners, lovers, brothers, sons, and friends. And legislators have only decided now that this is "repugnant, outrageous, despicable," in the words of Rep. Steve Buyer of Indiana?


Resurrexit sicut dixit, Alleluia!

I was privileged to be able to give a lay reflection at my church, the Paulist Center in Boston, at our paschal vespers service this evening. I've copied the text of my reflections below, hope you enjoy them!

Paschal Vespers, 2006
To begin, let me remind you of three things we have heard. From our opening hymn, the Phos hilarion: “O radiant Light, O Sun divine of God the Father’s deathless face, O image of the Light sublime that fills the heavenly dwelling place.” From the Exsultet last evening: “Of this night Scripture says, ‘The night will be as clear as day; it will become my light, my joy.” From the prologue of John’s Gospel: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

As if the big paschal candle and the candles burning here weren’t obvious enough, I remind you of these words because I want to think with you about light for a while this evening. Why did we chant “Christ our Light” last night? Why does the hymn call Jesus our “Sun divine” (with a “u”)? Why were our Elect, our neophytes now, given candles as a primary symbol of their baptism? Why now, as the day ends, as this first day of the week ends, do we come together once more to light candles as the darkness approaches?

When do we notice light? We notice it in contrast to darkness; we most often notice it when it’s gone, when the candle goes out or the power fails. As individuals and as a church we spent forty days paying attention to the darkness, not out of morbid curiosity, but to open our eyes again to the gulf between darkness and light. We paid attention to the lack of light in our own lives, to the dark corners that needed to be cleansed, to the musty shadows of our own sins, our bad habits, our failures to love, our failures to be light for others. And, while Lent officially ended on Thursday, Good Friday was the culmination of this detailed study of the dark: we saw the final result of real darkness, the Innocent One crushed by our sins, the sacrament for us of all the ways our sins, individually and collectively, crush the world.

And yet. And yet, we learn through Christ’s resurrection that the light wins in the end. We hear through the witness of Mary Magdalene and the other apostles that the candle that we thought had been snuffed out for good, has been re-lit by the Holy One, by the Mystery who declares that “the night will be as clear as day”. The disciples who recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread walked back to Jerusalem in the middle of the night, illuminated by the Risen Christ’s presence. The Easter Gospel is that, for all of its power, all of its evident power in our world, the power of darkness is not the final power. That the love with which God loves us, and by which we are empowered to love each other, is stronger than the worst our darkness can throw against it. Our Eastern Christian sisters and brothers call this week “Bright Week”; we celebrate a “week of Sundays”; tomorrow is not the “Monday after Easter”, but the “Monday of Easter”, the second day of this one day, the beginning of fifty days of light, longer and stronger than the forty days of darkness. This candle, the symbol of the “Sun divine of God the Father’s deathless face”, shines forth from now until Pentecost. Easter is the day that we remember that darkness is the intruder in a world meant to be light, and not the other way round.

But as we leave here in the evening, we cannot be naïve; the sun outside is setting. These candles will burn down. Christ our Lord rose from the dead two thousand years ago, and yet our attention to the darkness has plenty of material right here and right now; the “reign of God” we proclaim seems more like a pipe dream, an abstraction, than the “reign of death” which seems so evident around us. We cannot dare to be naïve about the darkness. Mythical words about Satan and hell is harder for our 2006, American ears to hear; but what about the word of war? What about the words of the poor who come to our doors here each week, of the raped and abused whose lives and whose pains should temper our joy? What about the words of our conscience that remind us that even we who are pious enough to go to church one more time this weekend, perhaps even especially we, turn from the light frequently, forcefully, and easily?

Celebrating Easter together as the day ends, it seems to me, gives us the chance to pray about how the light of Christ will shine in the darkness that threatens again as we leave this place. Jesus is Risen. God has spoken in his Christ, God has said in his Word that the flickering light of love, as feeble as it seems in our weak hearts, as feeble as it looks hanging from a cross, is where God enters the world and is saving the world from within. Two thousand years ago, God affirmed that love was stronger than the worst that an occupying Empire could throw at a peasant speaking the truth in love. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Last evening, five members of our community, and thousands of people all over the world, began their journey as members of Christ’s body in this world. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Last evening, Christians around the world re-dedicated themselves to the difficult discipline of struggling once more to be light. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” In this place, right now, we dare not dismiss the darkness, we dare not ignore the darkness as its shadows crowd in again on our Easter joy. But our night is as clear as day, our joy is more real than our fear, Christ our light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Exultet iam angelica turba caelorum!!!

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,

that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.

Deacon: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Deacon: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin to our eternal Father!

This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!

Therefore, heavenly Father,
in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church's solemn offering.

Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.


Karl Rahner on Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is a strange day, mysterious and silent. It is a day without a liturgy. This is, as it were, a symbol of everyday life which is a mean between the abysmal terror of Good Friday and the exuberant joy of Easter. For ordinary life is also mostly in between the two, in the center which is also a transition and can only be this.
Perhaps the worst in life is already behind us. Though this is not certain, and perhaps not even radically true. For the very end is still before us. Nevertheless, maybe we have "come through"; perhaps the old wounds are no longer bleeding; we have become wiser and more modest in our desires; we expect less from ourselves and others, and our resignation is not too painful.
This may be just as well. We cannot always have everything in one exercise, as a medieval mystic says. We need not always be horrified by the incomprehensibility of life nor entranced by its glory, we need not always celebrate the highest liturgy of life or death. Ordinariness, too, may be a blessing. But this ordinariness of the in-between must be understood as a transition, the transition from Good Friday to Easter.
The human being, especially the Christian, has not the right to be modest, she must maintain her infinite claim. The fact that her pain is bearable must not be allowed to replace her blessed duty to hope for the infinite joy of eternity. Because God is, he may demand all, for he is all. Because death has died in Christ, our resignation must also die.
The Holy Saturday of our life must be the preparation for Easter, the persistent hope for the final glory of God. If we live the Holy Saturday of our existence properly, this will not be a merely ideological addition to this common life as the mean between its contraries. It is realized in what makes our everyday life specifically human: in the patience that can wait, in the sense of humor which does not take things too seriously, in being prepared to let others be first, in the courage which always seeks for a way out of the difficulties.
The virtue of our daily life is the hope which does what is possible and expects God to do the impossible. To express is somewhat paradoxically, but nevertheless seriously: the worst has actually already happened; we exist, and even death cannot deprive us of this. Now is the Holy Saturday of our ordinary life, but there will also be Easter, our true and eternal life.

--- From Grace in Freedom, pp. 124-25


Timothy Radcliffe, Modern Prophet

There's something about the British Dominicans that never fails to attract me to their thought, and to their general style; there's a lack of fear, and an overall style of presentation that always seems to be in line with a Gospel sense of humility.

And of the many British Dominicans running about, one of my favorites is Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, the former Master-General of the Order. I'd recommend almost any of his books (his newest, What is the Point of Being a Christian?, his reflections on the Seven Last Words, and I Call You Friends) for Lenten, Holy Week, or Easter reading.

Last week, John Allen of NCR had some extensive quotations from a talk Radcliffe gave in L.A. in his column; they're a good way of someone from outside of the American situation reminding us of how we are called to be in relation to each other, despite our intense ideological divides:

On Saturday morning in Los Angeles, Dominican Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, master general of the worldwide Dominican order from 1992 to 2001, delivered a keynote lecture on "The Church as Sign of Hope and Freedom."

On the subject of the church and homosexuality, Radcliffe called for the church to "stand with" gay people.

"We must accompany them as they discern what this means, letting our images be stretched open," he said. "This means watching 'Brokeback Mountain,' reading gay novels, living with our gay friends and listening with them as they listen to the Lord."

Even when we feel that gay people are moving in the wrong direction, he said, we must "walk with them."

Radcliffe, an Englishman, later addressed what he called the "ideological divisions in the church in the United States," saying they struck him as deeper "than anywhere else in the world."

"We are not a sign of God's freedom until we can dare to belong to each other across every theological boundary," Radcliffe said, drawing sustained applause from the crowd in the Anaheim arena.

Radcliffe called for compassion for various constituencies, including sexually abusing priests, whom he described as "the lepers of the modern church, the unclean whom we fear to touch."

Radcliffe then contrasted the spirit of the gospels with a political approach he called "expediency," meaning a willingness to treat people as means rather than ends -- the supreme instance, he said, being the attitude of "better one man should die than a risk of unrest" which led to Jesus' death on the Cross.

Radcliffe described the Allied firebombing of Dresden during the Second World War, the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the detention centers at Guantanamo Bay, and the practice of "special renditions," in effect meaning torture, now in use as part of the War on Terror, as examples of the logic of "expediency."


Gospel of Judas, Part II

The Boston Globe has an article by James Martin, a respected Jesuit journalist and, most recently, the book My Life With the Saints, on the Gospel of Judas.

Some excerpts:

The Gospel of Judas has an agenda -- at least when it comes to the story of Good Friday. For that matter, so do the familiar gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But their aim was different: to portray not Judas but Jesus in a positive light, and to describe what led to the Crucifixion. They are far less concerned with Judas. As a result, they offer contradictory and even confusing, explanations for Judas's betrayal.


In the end, Judas wanted a God of his own making, an avenging God who would serve justice by tossing out the hated occupiers and restoring the fortunes of the people of Israel. What Judas got was very different: a suffering God who accepted a shameful death on a cross. Tragically, Judas didn't stick around to see what happened on Easter morning.

The Gospel of Judas will continue to be fodder for television shows, magazine covers, and lunchtime conversations. But the answer to the question raised every Good Friday remains the same. Why did Judas do it? Because Judas, like many of us, wanted to make God in his own image -- rather than the other way around.

Red Sox Home Opener

Don't forget that the season starts this afternoon! I went out and got a Jason Varitek t-shirt (size boys medium...so it will make me feel cute) for the occasion.

Philocrites has already written the rant that I was going to write regarding the all-NESN (i.e., all-cable) game schedule this year. Sigh.


From this week's Onion

Faded jeans...I wish I could quit you...


Curiouser and curiouser

Just a heads up for those of you not obsessed with Vatican politics...the B16 Bomber is expected to make some major announcements regarding the reorganization of the Curia during a meeting tomorrow with the heads of all the Vatican departments (the various "dicasteries", as they're known). Could get interesting.

Also, if that doens't interest you, then get ready now for A&E's new reality show on men thinking about the priesthood entitled "God or the Girl". I chuckle. Just a little bit. Don't ask me why.

Just in time for the Da Vinci Code movie...

News from today's New York Times and more information at the National Geographic on the finding and translation of the Gnostic Gospel of Judas. You know, the one where Judas is the good guy. Because he helped get rid of Jesus' (evil, or close to evil) body.

Unlike some theologians who are afraid that this will just lead to more confusion (in addition to yet more questions for me at weddings this summer...), I think that the more information that we get out there on what the Gnostic Gospels are actually saying, and how the current biblical canon was created, will better help people to make an informed decision. It also will help to undermine a view of the Gospels as dropping full-formed from the sky...these texts were created by human beings, in communities of other human beings, and the process of the reception and rejection of the texts is far more interesting then either Dan Brown or an idea of divine inspiration as angels-whispering-in-your-ear dictation would lead you to believe. (They're both really two sides of the same coin.)

The two things that I think most weaken popular culture's ability to interpret these texts correctly are our lack of a real sense of history, and our current crisis in church authority. First, when we read that this manuscript fragment is 1700 years old, and based on an 1800-year-old original, our first impulse is to think that this must be true, because it's really, really old, like all the other Gospels. But to actually pay attention to the dates, instead of setting up the binary pair "ancient/contemporary" might help here. So we know that the canonical Gospels are written between 65-110 a.d.-ish, give or take. And we also know that Christian communities are running around the eastern mediterranean basin from around 45 on, if not earlier...that is, within about ten years of the death of Jesus. So it takes a pretty big leap of historical judgment to think that a document written around 200 a.d., and rejected by these 150-year-old communities, has the story down better and more accurately, in either its details or its theological understanding, than the texts circulating more widely and earlier than these fascinating, but not necessarily more accurate, Gnostic texts.
To make a crude analogy: if you were trying to understand the American Civil War, from which we're about 150 years distant, would you trust the documents of the time and the continuing stream of interpretation from that time and the following 150 years of historical interpretation, or would you trust a new document -- not a new interpretation of old documents, but an entirely new document -- which claimed, say, that General Grant actually lost the war, that the entire "union victory" was in fact a hoax developed to confuse us, and that the U.S. Government has been intentionally hiding this from you in order to control you? Note that I haven't made an argument here based upon my faith; just because we're talking about something upon which people are making religious commitments, we shouldn't take off our critical historical hats and believe anything that comes down the pike. This is fundamentally the argument of N.T. Wright.
The second factor, I think, which makes us more likely to be a bit more gullible when it comes to biblical texts, is the fact that so many of our church leaders have been less than honest in recent years, particularly in the Catholic church. It's no coincidence that the Da Vinci Code (and I _refuse_ to hyperlink to it) took off so quickly during the height of the abuse crisis here in the U.S. In some ways the Da Vinci Code has been a great thermometer or canary in the mine to alert the Christian community how disillusioned, how distrustful, we've become of our own leaders. If so many Christians could so easily think that our leaders were lying not just about sexual abuse, but about the whole darn story, then we have a real crisis of authority (not to mention a crisis of basic catechesis). You can see this in the Da Vinci Code itself...the greatest historical mistakes that Dan Brown makes involve the transposition of late 20th century church structures (like an all-powerful papacy) directly into the early church. Historically, the decisions about what texts did and did not fit into the canon weren't made by a "them", by a group of bishops, popes, and emperors deciding from the top down, but by an "us", by local communities interpreting new texts in the light of their own traditions. The best short intro to some of these issues is Bart Ehrman's Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code.
So if all of this helps people to understand the real process of how the bible was written and collected, then I'm all for it. But I'm just a little suspicious, given past experience, that instead I'll be spending the entire summer explaining to other wedding guests why I think the bible as we have it is a relatively reliable source for knowledge about Jesus. Sigh.


Back from the guest-blogging abyss

My guest-blogging stint at BustedHalo.com ended on Friday. Whew. It was a lot of fun, but it also was a good proof to me that I'm not cut out for full-time journalism. It's not that I don't enjoy spouting off my opinions to anyone who will listen...it's being forced to spout off opinions on a deadline that I'm not cut out for. Each evening as the witching hour came closer, a tiny voice in my head reminded me that I needed to start being witty and insightful...now.

One thing I can't blame my procrastination on is the tenor of the conversation. My counterpart, whose blog y'all can keep reading at You Duped Me Lord, was a generous, thoughtful interlocutor. If anything, the small problem may have been that we were both a little too generous and thoughtful...to the point that some of my friends thought that his posts (labeled "Damn Yankee") were actually mine. (I was "Golden Eagle". No, we didn't choose the names.) So while the Paulists might have been looking for a knock-down, drag-out fight, they had more of a Platonic dialogue over tea and biscuits.

Which, I might add, is as it should be. I was privileged this past weekend to be down in New York, helping out at my friend's parish, the Church of the Ascension on the Upper West Side, for their Lenten discussion series. (I'm so saving the bulletin which lists me as a "special guest theologian"!) Ascension is a great place, with Sunday evening jazz mass, followed once a month by martinis. Tres New York. But I was talking with them about ecumenism and conversion, ecumenism and repentance, and sharing some of the wisdom of my dissertation subject, the late ecumenist Fr. Jean-Marie Tillard, O.P. Tillard looked at the dynamic of openness to the other in love, the reconciliation of those whom the world considers intractable enemies, as key to understanding the Gospel message. That dynamic, he argued, is at the heart of both ecumenical dialogue and internal dialogue within the a church community; in both cases, thecommitmentt to the other in love sets the framework for being able to disagree, to argue, to search for the truth together, but to do so in a way that avoids the sharpness and the lack of charity of arguing a point the way we would without God's grace. Learning those skills in our intraCatholicdiscussionn and our extraCatholic, ecumenical discussions, are two sides of the same coin, and I think that our relatively pacific, non-competitive search for meaning together on BustedHalo was one small step of my learning how to dialogue in grace.

Also in New York, I was able to see the Darwin exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, and, thanks to the XtremeGenerosity! of my friend Joseph, heard and saw the premiere of Don Pasquale at the Met. Both of those require their own commentary, though, so more on them later today or tomorrow.