December 03, 2003

Amazingly, I CAN Remain in Contact

Even sans laptop and without a connected PDA, can use the exceedingly crude hotel access to annoy people at a distance. Oh, technologty is goodly, wonderful thing. Praise God for these small wonders, and for the gorgeous palms bending in the wind just outside this room. No time to get to the beach today, but it is nevertheless a truly wonderful day. Pray for me as the trip continues, and please pray for my beloved wife who is quite seriously ill--pray for complete and rapid recovery--things are so bad that we even had to cancel my annual pilgrimage to Islands of Adventure to revel in the Spiderman ride!

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A Brief Description of the Virginia Trip

In the course of my trip to Virginia, I met with five different figures from the blog-world (well, considering the presence of another small one--six). It is perhaps significant that two and a half of these meetings were initiated at a Church, one and a half at a bookstore (one was at a bookstore in a church, hence the half), and one in a Museum (Natural History to be precise.)

It seems that this sums up the motions of my life--God, Books, and Fossils. I met with Tom of Disputations, Kathy the Carmelite, Therese (who has no blog, but who frequents many and provides innumerable cogent comments), Peony Moss and Child (an utter delight, wonderful in every way), and Father JIm of Dappled Things (I went to Mass regularly at his Church).

Every one of these meetings was a blessing. Three were pretty much as expected, two people were totally unexpected. Since Fr. Jim has posted pictures of himself on his blog, there were no surprises to be had there. And Tom was exactly as I had pictured him, a wonderful surprise in itself. Ms. Moss was almost exactly as I expected, and her son was one of the great highlights of my trip. We spent the better part of two hours taking him through the various exhibits and I enjoyed myself tremendously. (Especially lovely was when we joined my family for lunch and Samuel was so forthcoming about sharing his food--he has learned very, very well.)

Therese was a complete surprise, and that has more to do with my prejudices with regard to the name than with Therese. (I know a great many hispanic and Philippino ladies by the name of Therese). And Kathy was a surprise to me. I guess because I had formulated no notion of what exactly I expected.

Each meeting was wonderful beyond words, illuminating, and worth everything all parties had to go through for the meetings to occur. I hope that all those I met were as rewarded as I was through the meetings.

Therese very generously gave me a book. It is this book that I am taking around with me as I drag my carcass through the various cities I am about to visit. It is R. Garrigou-Lagrange's Christian Perfection and Contemplation I've read about a hundred and twenty pages, understood perhaps as much as ten percent of it, and am bewildered and mystified as to why anyone would regard the life of a mystic as a "problem." But as Therese noted, given that it is a study of the mystical life according to the traditions of St. John of the Cross and St. Thomas Aquinas, it is the perfect gift from a Dominican to a Carmelite.

My thanks to everyone I met for taking the time and trouble to meet with me. I can't tell you how much it added to the trip and how much I enjoyed each meeting. Now, someday, we shall all have to meet in one place--oh say the Natural History Museum Paleontological wing, and I can give you a general tour and analysis of the invertebrate life in the fossil hall. I can provide minimal insights into the vertebrates--but I think we'd all have a great time. Thanks once again for the fantastic experience.

Now, T.S.--I'm going to be in Cleveland Thursday--want to run up from your abode? Just kidding--won't have time to even visit the Natural History museum there (They have a great Dunkleosteus(or here--fierce Devonian Fish) or my usual Polka Barn hangouts or even Stan Hywet Hall. Oh well, it is, after all, a business trip.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:54 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

December 02, 2003


It appears that a majority of blogspot blogs are out of commission this morning. I had cause to be up in the wee hours of the morning and noted the beginning of the cascading failing, but not it seems epidemic. And I have so few days to access and catch up. Annoying, but c'est la vie.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 01, 2003

On Catholic Community

While discussing things much out of my depth at Disputations, it occurred to me that I have long been interpreting a certain verse of the Bible far too narrowly and the worlds that this verse opens up are vast, wonderful and puzzling.

St. Paul tells us somewhere (I will supply the reference in the near future I hope), that "All things work to the good of those who love Him." All things--everything--all that is. Not just those things that happen in our own experiences, but all things. That is a hurricane in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has some place in God's salvific plan for me individually, and for every individual who loves Him. We cannot know what that place is, nor can we begin to see what the fullness of that plan means. However, we can know and must assert that ALL things work to the good. Things that in themselves are not good--war, crime, poverty. Does it mean that these things should continue unabated? As Paul says with regard to sin elswhere--"Should we sin the more that the glory be greater? Far be it from me!" And yet, even these terrible things work to the good of everyone destined for salvation. How this might be is deeply mysterious. But we do ourselves a disservice by interpreting the verse too narrowly.

And then--what are the implications for Catholic Community. There is a sector of the Catholic population that would prefer to believe as John Bunyan portrays in A Pilgrim's Progress that we are all on our own, just me and God on the road to salvation. But that seems not to be the case at all. If so, why would we need priests or reconcilation, or any of a thousand other things that draw us together as both ecclesial and social community? (And make no mistake, the social aspects of that community, while they should never predominate, are integrally important in the economy of Salvation and the life of the Church.) If all things work to the good--that means the confession of my neighbor, works to my good. The Eucharist taken by someone I don't even know contributes to the Divine economy.

I'm sorry I'm so hurried, I'd like to pursue this further, but this is a start, and a most wonderful thought. Now everyone, let's all join in a chorus of "The Circle of Life."

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Another Hiatus

Regrettably, I shall be going away again on business, so there will be another brief interruption in what I would like to continue unbroken.

Ah well.

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Dedicated Particularly to Erik

I had Erik especially in mind during the week I was in Washington. Events conspired to keep bringing him forward. First, I found a lovely set of typology from Jonathan Edwards, and a few new poems by Edward Taylor--I immediately thought of Erik's fondness for our Puritan forebeings.

Then I went to the West wing of the National Gallery of Art. There they had just opened a sculpture wing featuring some of Degas' sculptures and some studies for larger pieces by Rodin. I love Rodin's method of seizing solidity from the numinous--figures emerge from and sink back into the medium with eerie and wonderful effects. I thought of Erik.

I trotted over to the east wing where there was a fairly large gallery of "Modern Art," including some burgundy, brown, black and white canvases by Rothko. I remember Erik speaking highly of him and really tried to get something out of it, and perhaps succeeded. In addition, even if not there were a few pieces by Constatin Brancusi (whom I love), and Alexander Calder (both mobiles and stabiles--wonderful intricate, moving pieces.) Then there was a series of paintings by a person who I have first heard of from Erik, although I had seen these before. Barnett something, or something akin to that name. It was a series of 14 stations of the Cross so bereft of anything moving, interesting, worthwhile, or exciting that the last time I recall being so repulsed by a work of "religion and devotional art" I was walking through the new chapel of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, trying to puzzle out what those little squiggles on the floor meant. Anyway, I didn't get a lot out of looking at these largely white canvases--Modrians without the sense of design.

Finally I saw a magnificent painting/sculpture/installation called Zim Zum--the artist was German, and of course I thought of Erik for the mere coincidence of the thing and wondered for a moment what Erik would have made of it.

I crammed all this in between subway stops as I was on my way uptown to see one of St. Blogs' own.

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On Progressive Catholicism

First, I want to thank M. Jcecil3 for the removal of labels from some people on his site. I think my point may have been misconstrued, so I do want to make it clear--I don't stand opposed to being labeled (that is part and parcel of humility), but I do find the use of labels not terribly helpful, and potentially lacking in charity--but these are subtle issues. I wanted once again to engage in dialogue with M. Jcecil because he is so lively and courteous a correspondent.

First I thought I would address the following list of "controversial" topics that he lists on his site--with each point, I will indicate my own position. This is more a reminder list so that I might be able to address those points on which we disagree.

M. Jcecil's list:

(1) I believe that God can be called Mother as well as Father--For me, not a matter of controversy--it has been done throughout the history of the Church and within the Bible itself--at least tangentially and by implication. Most radically, the hymns of St. Anselm to Christ our Mother.

(2) That inclusive language in reference to the people of God should be used in liturgy--I don't know about this. I suppose if it is a proper and accurate translation fine--however, if it is the hideous jumble that often results from the over-the-top attempts at inclusivity, I'd rather not.

(3) That women could be ordained ministerial priest, and perhaps should be ordained (The Pope has clearly said no to this one)--We will disagree on this.

(4) That married men should be ordained--some are--usually converts from other faiths who have faculties within those faiths. And certainly in Anglican Use and Eastern Churches this is already done. I don't feel particularly attached to this discipline of the Church, but perhaps I have too vague an understanding.

(5) That even with original sin, we image the divine and we are inherently capable of some good--We will disagree on this. I am with the traditional teaching that argues that self is sufficient for sin alone--good may only be accomplished through the power of God.

(6) That the ancient rite of adelphopoiesis could be restored as a union for homosexual Catholics--We will disagree--I hope to spell out my disagreement in more detail.

(7) That divorced and remarried Catholics can participate in the life of the Church--I leave this to the Canon lawyers; however, I think not.

(8) That artificial contraception in marriage is morally equivalent to natural family planning--While I disagree with the notion, I do find it interesting that the morality of either is not commented upon.

(9) That ecumenical dialogue is essential to contemporary Catholicism and we can learn from non-Catholics--Unquestionably.

(10) That social justice is part and parcel of the gospel--Absolutely, depending on whether one intends that to mean also the fullness of the gospel, in which case it is not true.

(11)That salvation is integral for the whole human person (involving liberation)--Uncertain what the codicil (involving liberation) means; however, if it indicates liberation theology, we will most probably disagree.

(12) That there is room for democratic forms of Church governance--There certainly is room for it, and then one ends up with what happens in the Anglican communion. Historically, this is a very unstable way to govern churches--22,000 different denominations of Protestants are a fairly strong argument against this.

(13) That Catholics should be committed to conserving the environment--Certainly, we are stewards of Earth's resources, we must care for them and see to it that they are used wisely, or in some cases not at all.

(14) That Catholics can conscientiously object to all war on principle--I think this may be true--I find just war doctrine a case of special pleading that has yet to really convince me. I don't know that just war is possible--although I wonder about conscientious objection to something like WWII. But I can be persuaded.

(15) That Catholics should be opposed to the death penalty in the modern world--I believe the Holy Father basically says as much, despite what justice Scalia may remark on the point. I agree.

Here are fifteen "controversial" issues on which I agree in whole or in part with nine. Now, I may be agreeing to something not proposed, and may not be agreeing on issues of subtlety--but some of these issues are, it seems to me, only controversial in a very small part of the Catholic population as a whole. I doubt seriously whether many well-informed Catholics would suggest that the Earth is ours to pillage and destroy as we will. There might be a few, but vanishingly few.

So it seems on some issues of controversy, I find myself at least sympathetic to the views likely to be espoused by M. Jcecil3. On the issues wherein there is disagreement, I hope to spend some time later.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:59 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Back from a Long Break

After hellish travel and nearly 16 hours in a vehicle, I'm back and ready to talk again. I'm still processing much that happened in the course of the week and will probably talk some about it as things progress.

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