Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Recent Entries 
About This Journal
Originally intended to be, and still occasionally a more formal "Theological Notebook," this is an ongoing open letter to family and friends: a continuation of my 1997 online journal, which in retrospect makes me one of the early adopters of the "blog," and this one of the elder blogs on the internet. So these are the incomplete words and experiences of a kid who grew up to become an historian and theologian. For me, there was no greater adventure than to try to gain a mastery of the whole of human experience. It's an impossible quest, of course, but the challenge of there always being more to learn keeps making it worth pursuing. Raised in the town of Oregon, Illinois in an Irish manner, vigorously educated (by atheists, Holy Cross and Jesuit priests, and a whole lot of ordinary folk, including his students), and recently completing a doctorate, the author continues to wander the Earth, looking for adventure.
Writing in Jackson Hole
Do you ever have those memories that you suddenly realize aren't real, but were just dreams? Dreams that had somehow snuck into your regular memories and mixed with them? A little while ago, I was walking out of my apartment to go over to the clubhouse, to work out in the gym, which I have been doing late on mornings I don't have to be in at work early. I thought to myself as I was walking, "Maybe I should just go running." I know that I'm not supposed to run; in fact, that I really can't anymore, given how banged up my knee is. But I also knew that that fact hadn't stopped me before, and that I had been running for a while, nevertheless.

As I walked along the driveway through the apartment complex, enjoying the cool Florida night breeze on my skin, I thought, "When did I take up running again?!" I rooted around in my memory for a little bit and recalled all these memories of going out in recent months for light workouts – light and guarded running, compared to what I used to do. I knew that I ought not to be doing it, but I had done it anyway because I loved it so much. But something felt wrong about that. I thought a little more, and realized that none of this ever happened, and that I was drawing on vague memories of a vast sequence of dreams of going out running.

My intention to pick up the journal again is clearly not going well: it's a hard habit to renew. I wonder if I could adequately describe this time, though. Professionally, I'm teaching all scripture courses and that re-immersion seems a bit subtle for a journal account, in its own way. I suppose that it's something like physical therapy after an injury, where your day-by-day workout is building toward a notable result, but the changes and experiences each day don't seem to distinguish themselves from one another so significantly. I've taught scripture as part of my courses for years, but I haven't taught a course solely devoted to the topic since I taught high school. I suspected that extended time to immerse myself in scripture was going to be a treat for me, as I tend to function more as a contemporary theologian. And indeed it has, although, as per the physical therapy analogy, I find it difficult to explain exactly how it's affecting me. There's something of a "back-to-basics" pleasure to it, re-engaging foundational material for the theological discipline. There's also something of the pleasure of re-discovery to it, too, as I come back to this immersion with more years of thinking and of experience. Employing and teaching the critical methodologies hits me a little differently. Reading Hebrew Scriptures at this depth feels especially fresh, and I've been pulling out and revisiting material from my undergraduate Ancient Near East studies with Marvin Powell along with the new readings.

There are, of course, recreational highlights, too. I went out last night with Professors Clausen and Orlando to catch a showing of Gravity, which was indeed very much augmented by 3-D filming. Visually stunning and with a really impressive soundtrack. Other than an initial "That doesn't make a lick of sense" moment of my inner Physicist protesting at the nature of the disaster that initiates the drama, it all kept us on the edge of our seats. The three of us caught a late dinner at the Stonewood Grill & Tavern where we decompressed after the film, talking through that. Cheryl (a geneticist) lead the group protest about the initial physics that I mentioned, but approved of the ride of the film. We ended up talking a lot about music, compared our various high school nerdinesses, and talked at some length about Frank's dissertation (he's a political scientist, and is expert in Congress and the study of organizations). I had hoped for an apropos fly-over of ISS to conclude the night, but that came later in the evening, with too much haze and too little sunlight for the station to catch. If only life were more consistently artful.
24th-Aug-2013 01:48 pm - Personal: A New Year
DS9 Temporal Mechanics
I let this journal slide in 2012-13. Partially, this was due to the unwieldy lack of integration between the new, now-awful Scrapbook that LiveJournal gave us. (The temptation to ascribe what seems to be the awful business sense of LiveJournal these days to Russian experience is hard to resist.)

Even more, it had to do with the hiatus my life seemed to take in not finding an academic position for the year, the "involuntary sabbatical" I was taking while living with family and entering the year-old cycle of academic hiring again. I was, in short, embarrassed by my situation, and had no desire to advertise it. A bolder Christian writer would not have been humbled by mere humiliation, I suppose, but I was having a wretched, Mayan apocalypse of a 2012, augmented by the discovery that my mover, one Mark Cordle, had robbed me of everything I had, and just dumped it somewhere. I recovered a bit of my furniture in New Orleans, but that I could have lost most easily. 20 years' work in notes and most of my academic library, my filing cabinets, my computer, photo albums, letters – all of that was lost. So depression was added to humiliation.

And, of course, there was the simple fact that most of the social networking of everyone I knew had switched over to Facebook. For its speed, integration, and its orientation toward small, minor updates shared with friends, Facebook was a far more natural social networking outlet than a full-scale journal is, was, or could be. And so I diverted in that direction as it was likewise the most natural way to keep in touch with a lot of people. But I enjoy the discipline of the journal. I enjoy being able to have access to my life and memories this way, too, which is not something Facebook does well. And I enjoy the equal compatibility that the journal or the blog allows for long topical entries of the sort that my "Theological Notebook" contains, allowing me to even just copy in large news stories or material published elsewhere, all for easy future reference.

And so I'm going to try to revive the habit, now that a new year begins. (August 16th being, as I've said before, the halfway point of August and the start of a new school year in my mind, as well as being the day that I moved to Oregon, Illinois and what would become my real "hometown" as a seven year-old.) I was mentally composing this on the 16th, as I finished up my first day of orientation at Saint Leo, but I felt too tired when I actually got home, or was too out of the habit. So I'm trying to summon will where habit has failed. Here I go.
24th-Aug-2013 12:43 pm - Personal: The End of Orientation
Loyola Faculty Portrait

Wiped the hell out. After a week of unceasing orientations, I pretty much dropped last night. As this was the only time that everyone from the extension centers were here, too, and thus the only time you could spend with the full faculty, I wanted to take advantage of that, and so every evening was filled with social events. The orientations more successfully introduced me to everything that I don't fully understand at the university rather than getting me to master them, but perhaps that's the best that can be hoped for. But after an evening of Shepherd's Pie and great conversation at the Shamrock Ale House after seeing Man of Steel again (and featuring such cool topics as discovering that Brian and Dan were from the same town in Connecticut, to Patricia describing for me the imaginative and aesthetic impact of growing up around Chartres), I came in and slept for ten hours. So now it's time to turn to actually doing class prep.

Books (Trinity College Long Room 2)
What I've Been Reading
Reading List 2013-2014 School Year:

I get asked about this every so often, and I'm always willing to recommend a good book, so some years ago I thought I'd follow the lead of one of my favourite authors, Diane Duane, who has something similar up on her page. Books I re-read are heartily endorsed!

* denotes a re-read **denotes a book I'm teaching in a class
2013-14 (In progress):
Letters, Leo the Great/Pope Saint Leo I
A Voyage Through the New Testament, Catherine A. Cory **
Portraits of Jesus: A Reading Guide, Robert Imperato **
Owen Barfield on C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, ed. by G.B. Tennyson
Four Portraits, One Jesus, Mark Strauss **
The Jewish Study Bible, Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds.
Reading the Old Testament, Second Edition, Lawrence Boadt, CSP (I remember being far more annoyed with the first edition as I prepped to go to Notre Dame)
Pretty much the whole of the Bible in the first semester
The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, H.W. Brands
The Intimate Merton: His Life From His Journals, Thomas Merton, OCSO, ed. by Patrick Hart, OCSO
The Priority of John, John A.T. Robinson
Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton
The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution, James Hannam
Kish: A Novel, Ed Posega
One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic: A History of the Church in the Middle Ages, Thomas F. Madden
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon
The Craft of Theology, Avery Dulles * **
The Tripersonal God: Understanding and Interpreting the Trinity, Gerald O'Collins, S.J. **
The Trinitarian Controversy, ed. by William G. Rusch * **
The Writings of the New Testament, Third Edition, by Luke Timothy Johnson **
Engaging Theologians, Aidan Nichols, OP
C.S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet, Alister McGrath
Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, Diarmaid MacCulloch
Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces, C.S. Lewis
Jesus Papercuts, Yu Jia-De
The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis *
The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis
The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan
The Sea of Monsters, Rick Riordan
The Titan's Curse, Rick Riordan
Sheldon Vanauken: The Man Who Received "A Severe Mercy", Will Vaus
Debating Christian Theism, ed. by J.P. Moreland, Khaldoun A. Sweis and Chad V. Meister
Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II * **
A Morally Complex World: Engaging Contemporary Moral Theology, James T. Bretzke S.J. **
Veritatis Splendor: American Responses, ed. by Michael E. Allsopp **
Harry Potter et al., J.K. Rowling *
Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh *
Books (Trinity College Long Room)
What I've Been Reading
Reading List 2012-2013 School Year:

I get asked about this every so often, and I'm always willing to recommend a good book, so some years ago I thought I'd follow the lead of one of my favourite authors, Diane Duane, who has something similar up on her page. Books I re-read are heartily endorsed!

* denotes a re-read **denotes a book I'm teaching in a class
The Making of the Pope: 2005, Andrew M. Greeley
America's Second Revolution: How George Washington Defeated Patrick Henry and Saved the Nation, Harlow Giles Unger
Theological Investigations, XVIII: God and Revelation, Karl Rahner
The Making of the Popes 1978: The Politics of Intrigue in the Vatican, Andrew M. Greeley
Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: The Church as Communion, Joseph Ratzinger
Theological Investigations, IV: More Recent Writings, Karl Rahner *
Font of Life: Ambrose, Augustine, and the Mystery of Baptism, Garry Wills
The Cambridge Companion to the Trinity, Peter Phan, ed.
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card *
The Church in the Making: Lumen Gentium, Christus Dominus, Orientalium Ecclesiarum, Richard Gaillardetz
The History of Vatican II, Vol. 1: Announcing and Preparing Vatican Council II, Giuseppe Alberigo, ed.
The Complete Julian of Norwich, Fr. John-Julian, OJN
Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O'Dell
Secrets of God: Writings of Hildegard of Bingen, Sabina Flanagan, ed. and trans.
The History of Vatican II, Vol. 2: The Formation of the Council's Identity, First Period and Intercession, October 1962-September 1963, Giuseppe Alberigo, ed.
Vatican II: The Battle for Meaning, Massimo Faggioli
State of War: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1945-2011, Paul A. C. Koistinen
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E. L. Konigsburg (read to the nieces) *
The History of Vatican II, Vol. 3: The Mature Council, Second Period and Intercession, September 1963-September 1964, Giuseppe Alberigo, ed.
The History of Vatican II, Vol. 4: Church as Communion, Third Period and Intercession, September 1964-September 1965, Giuseppe Alberigo, ed.
Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ: A Model Theologian, 1918-2008, Patrick W. Carey
Some Bolitho novels, Alexander Kent
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle (read to the nieces) *
Karl Barth, Catholic Renewal and Vatican II, Benjamin Dahlke
An Historian's Approach to Religion: Based on Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of Edinburgh in the Years 1952 and 1953, Arnold Toynbee
The Logic of Liberty: Reflections and Rejoinders, Michael Polanyi
Systematic Theology, Wolfhart Pannenberg *
A Memory of Light, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Reason for Hope: The Systematic Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg, 2nd Ed., Stanley J. Grenz
Out of the Silent Planet, C.S. Lewis *
Perelandra, C.S. Lewis *
The Rise and Decline of the Scholastic 'Quaestio Disputata': With Special Emphasis on its Use in the Teaching of Medicine and Science, Brian Lawn
Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI, Tracey Rowland
Trapped in the Ice, Ruth Harnden (read to Haley) *
Grace: The Gift of the Holy Spirit, Revised Edition, David M. Coffey
The Historicity of Nature: Essays on Science and Theology, Wolfhart Pannenberg
The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage, Paul Elie
Universal Father: A Life of John Paul II, Garry O'Connor
Essays Presented to Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis, ed.
The Jeweler's Shop, Karol Wojtyla
My Witness for the Church, Bernard Häring
A Life with Karol: My Forty-Year Friendship with the Man Who Became Pope, Stanislaw Dziwisz
The Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis *
Christological Name Theology in Three Second Century Communities, Michael D. Harris
Medieval Writings on Female Spirituality, Elizabeth Spearing, ed.
The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life (2nd Edition), Ingrid Mattson
The Showings of Julian of Norwich, Critical Edition ed. Denise N. Baker
Crossing To Safety, Wallace Stegner
A Memory of Light, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson *
Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction, Jonathan T. Pennington
John Adams, David McCollough *
Modernity: Yearning For The Infinite
Just saw this one for the first time, courtesy of Mr. Hannan. I'm going to have to chew on this analysis for a while and see what I think. But it struck me that it may make for a good "discuss with students" article for some further, future incarnation of my Grace course, particularly once the students are advanced enough to start thinking through and applying ideas of "grace and freedom" in an informed way.

OPINION
America's God Is Dying
Stanley Hauerwas

ABC RELIGION AND ETHICS UPDATED 21 JUL 2010 (FIRST POSTED 20 JUL 2010)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer thus got it right when he characterized American Protestantism as "Protestantism without Reformation."

That is why it has been possible for Americans to synthesize three seemingly antithetical traditions: evangelical Protestantism, republican political ideology and commonsense moral reasoning. For Americans, faith in God is indistinguishable from loyalty to their country.

American Protestants do not have to believe in God because they believe in belief. That is why we have never been able to produce an interesting atheist in America. The god most Americans say they believe in is just not interesting enough to deny. Thus the only kind of atheism that counts in America is to call into question the proposition that everyone has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Consequently, America did not need to have an established church because it was assumed that the church was virtually established by the everyday habits of public life.

Just take, for example, the 1833 amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that did away with church establishment, which nonetheless affirmed "the public worship of God, and the instructions in piety, religion, and morality, promote the happiness and prosperity of a people, and the security of republican government."

In his important book America's God, Mark Noll points out that these words were written at the same time that Alexis de Tocqueville had just returned to France from his tour of North America. Tocqueville confirmed the point made in the Massachusetts Constitution by observing, "I do not know if all Americans have faith in their religion - for who can read to the bottom of hearts? - but I am sure that they believe it necessary to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion does not belong only to one class of citizens or to one party, but to the entire nation; one finds it in all ranks."

Protestantism came to America to make America Protestant. It was assumed that was to be done through faith in the reasonableness of the common man and the establishment of a democratic republic. But in the process the church in America became American - or, as Noll puts it, "because the churches had done so much to make America, they could not escape living with what they had made."

As a result Americans continue to maintain a stubborn belief in a god, but the god they believe in turns out to be the American god. To know or worship that god does not require that a church exist because that god is known through the providential establishment of a free people.

This is a presumption shared by the religious right as well as the religious left in America. Both assume that America is the church.

But now we are beginning to see the loss of confidence by Protestants in their ability to sustain themselves in America just to the extent that the inevitable conflict between the church, republicanism and commonsense morality has worked its way through the system of our national life.

America is the great experiment in Protestant social thought, but the society Protestants created now threatens to make Protestantism unintelligible to itself. Put as directly as I can, I believe we may be living at a time when we are watching Protestantism, at least the kind of Protestantism we have in America, come to an end. It is dying of its own success.

Protestantism became identified with the republican presumption in liberty as an end in itself. This presumption was then reinforced by an unassailable belief in the commonsense of the individual. As a result, Protestant churches in America lost the ability to maintain those disciplines that are necessary to sustain a truly free people - people who are capable of being a genuine alternative to the rest of the world.

The great irony is that the almost pathological fervency with which the religious right in America tries to sustain faith as a necessary condition for democracy is the surest formula for insuring that the faith that is sustained is not the Christian faith.

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Mac
For completeness's sake, and because I'm loathe to surrender my LiveJournal, despite the parent company's every attempt to render the product unusable as they "improve" it (I see today I can no longer add photograph's to my now essentially unorganizable photo album of what was once 10,000 meticulously-arranged and preserved photos), I am now updating a classic ongoing entry on my computers. Today I received the new laptop from my job (starting this fall semester) as an Assistant Professor of Theology at Saint Leo University, north of Tampa. My previous computer, the mighty Augustine, was stolen by ostensible mover, Mark Cordle, along with the rest of my belongings. While that added a great pile of misery on top of an already awful year of finding myself without work and having the left side of my face cut away and reconstructed, I did managed to be smart enough to keep a backup hard drive on my person when I came north. I'm currently attempting to transfer the contents of that 1TB hard drive onto a new 3TB external hard drive, which operation will then tomorrow be followed by an attempt to put a limited amount of that material onto the 500GB hard drive of the new laptop via a Time Machine "Restore" operation.

In the meantime, I'm having to come up with an appropriate name for the new laptop, in keeping with what became my tradition of naming the computers after figures in the history of the Church. (This was a slowly-emerging tradition as my first computer was named for an invisible figure mentioned in a bit on The Young Ones, and my second computer might have merged toward this tradition by being a blend of inspirations – I can no longer remember for certain – from "Milo Bloom" of Bloom County and "Saint Milo" from an unfinished screenplay, The Videpistles of Saint Milo, by the late great Dave Gustavson, may he continue to rest in peace.) Albertus was the first one clearly so-named in my mind, as I was reading Albertus Magnus, Albert the Great, for the first time, as I installed the new, modified G3 processor into Milo in a dramatic "brain transplant" effected entirely by use of a Swiss Army Knife, to turn Milo into a bona-fide G3 computer. Since then I've been drawing my names from the 4th century Milanese set, as the Ambrose/Augustine circle became ever greater in my eyes. The laptop I used at Loyola University New Orleans, unrecorded below, became "Alypius" in that mode.

So now I'm trying to figure out this weighty, so important matter, and my final decision will be posted on my historical litany below. "Leo" seems an obvious candidate, as I'm now starting at a school named for Leo the Great, Pope from 440-461. "Benedict" also appeals, as the school is a Benedictine one, and home to male and female Benedictine monastic communities. ... Alright. I think "Leo" has to win, in gratitude for being hired there, and in hopes that I bring some honour to the name and to the university community.



My Mac History:


Urosevich's Mac (used from 1989-92)

Macintosh SE (belonging to my college housemate)


Trevor (1993-97, my first computer)
Macintosh LC III


Milo (1997-2000)
Power Macintosh 6500/250


Albertus (Milo after G3 processor "brain transplant") (2000-2002)
Power Macintosh 6500/250/G3 (custom)


Ambrose (2002-07)
iMac G4


Simplicianus (2006-13)
PowerBook G4/800 Titanium


Augustine (2007-stolen 2012)
iMac 7,1 24" 750GB


Leo (2013- )
MacBook Pro 13" 2.5GHz i5
Vatican Sede Vacante
Three news stories purporting to have inside information on the shape of the election of Pope Francis during the conclave of 2013. For whatever they're worth.

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Vatican Sede Vacante
I've been noticing two media outlets trying to do profiles of the papabile for the upcoming papal conclave. There are ones that I would rate as more serious ones from John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter, and less-informed ones from the Associated Press. I doubt I can fit them all into a single entry, so I'm going to jot Allen's down here for posterity and any future research I might want to do in looking back at the 2013 conclave.

Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega of Guadalajara, Mexico
Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz of Brazil, Prefect of the Congregation for Religious
Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship
Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of the Democratic Republic of Congo

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Vatican Sede Vacante
I've been noticing two media outlets trying to do profiles of the papabile for the upcoming papal conclave. There are ones that I would rate as more serious ones from John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter, and less-informed ones from the Associated Press. I doubt I can fit them all into a single entry, so I'm going to jot Allen's down here for posterity and any future research I might want to do in looking back at the 2013 conclave.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina
French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, Sri Lanka

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Vatican Sede Vacante
I've been noticing two media outlets trying to do profiles of the papabile for the upcoming papal conclave. There are ones that I would rate as more serious ones from John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter, and less-informed ones from the Associated Press. I doubt I can fit them all into a single entry, so I'm going to jot Allen's down here for posterity and any future research I might want to do in looking back at the 2013 conclave.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, Italy
Italian Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria
Cardinal Péter Erdõ of Budapest, Hungary
Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer of São Paulo, Brazil

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Vatican Sede Vacante
I've been noticing two media outlets trying to do profiles of the papabile for the upcoming papal conclave. There are ones that I would rate as more serious ones from John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter, and less-informed ones from the Associated Press. I doubt I can fit them all into a single entry, so I'm going to jot Allen's down here for posterity and any future research I might want to do in looking back at the 2013 conclave.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines
Argentinian Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches
Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, Canada
Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan

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Vatican Sede Vacante
Jotting down media notes regarding the upcoming conclave, now that the process is really getting underway.

Cardinals begin pre-conclave meetings at Vatican
Cardinals meet; Vatican gives no comment on Scottish scandal
Cardinals begin pre-conclave meetings amid scandal

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Benedict XVI wind
[From Facebook:]

A few initial impressions of Pope Benedict XVI's/Joseph Ratzinger's announcement of his imminent retirement:

I'm not entirely surprised. He'd dropped hints in this direction before, and it struck me that his papacy – so much the "teaching papacy" of a professor – had the possibility of being capped by such an act, since the sheer legal fact that a pope *could* resign was generally not enough to make such an act acceptable or likely in the culture surrounding the papacy. To have someone whose Vatican credibility was high, like Ratzinger, take this further move toward providing a precedent for the modern papacy seemed, therefore, more likely to me, in an "only Nixon could go to China" way.

Nicole Winfield's AP story about the move is weighed down at the end by horrible "failed conservative" lines of analysis or sensationalism (citing his presiding over the ongoing sex abuse scandals and what she seems to think was a communications gaffe in Regensberg). Instead, as a minor league ecclesiologist myself, I'm inclined to call this one as a modest and successful papacy ending on a high note, as Benedict restructures an aspect of the papacy by act, rather than by legislation. He's teaching the Church something different than John Paul II did by his long and courageous (but different) facing of his own decline and death.

Benedict's was not as spectacular a papacy as John Paul II's, with that one's epic battle with European Communism, in particular. Unlike philosopher Wojtyla, this was more clearly the reign of a theology professor, and to my mind has been a pretty successful one, moreso than people are recognizing, as they either fixate on the situations that Ratzinger inherited, or on the larger-than-life impact of Wojtyla's personality. I would look instead at the content of Benedict's teaching, in his clear articulation of Christianity in a modern/postmodern Western context. The real action is there, and I think that it can have a long impact as it is absorbed – however indirectly such things are absorbed – into the thinking of the Church, via pastors, teachers, readers and seekers of every sort.

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30th-Dec-2012 11:59 pm - Personal: Journaling Note
Writing in Jackson Hole
The journal has been kind of on the backburner. Part of this has to do with LiveJournal itself, as the company has gone considerably out of its way to make its product so much less user-friendly through 2012, particularly in destroying the usability of the photo album/Scrapbook. Well done. I'm also living close to family nowadays, and that has cut down on my "updating/explanation-of-what-I'm-doing" mission here, as well as the sheer numbers dominance of friends being more likely to expect their social updating via Facebook. And then there's just the fact that 2012 has been kind of a Mayan Doomsday of a year, anyway. But I'm not ready to give up on the thing yet....
Holy Wisdom/Hagia Sophia
I'm always curious to see the Church in its most ancient settings, and I couldn't help but notice the work of Pope Shenouda III over the years. I'm afraid that the new guy has his work cut out for him.
Egypt's Copts choose new pope for uncertain times
Nov 4, 12:51 PM (ET)

By AYA BATRAWY and MAGGIE FICK

CAIRO (AP) - Egypt's ancient Coptic Christian Church named a new pope on Sunday to spiritually guide the community through a time when many fear for their future with the rise of Islamists to power and deteriorating security after last year's uprising.

The death earlier this year of Pope Shenouda III, a familiar figure who led the church for 40 years, heightened the sense of insecurity felt by many Egyptian Christians. They will now look to Bishop Tawadros, who will be ordained Nov. 18 as Pope Tawadros II, to fill the void in leadership.

Tawadros, 60, was chosen in an elaborate Mass where a blindfolded boy drew the name of the next patriarch from a crystal chalice.

"The situation for us in Egypt is not stable," said 27 year-old Peter Nasser, a volunteer at the Mass. "We hope the incoming pope will make our problems known to the outside world," he added, voicing hopes that Tawadros will also raise the profile of Christians in this country.

Nasser accused the current government, led by President Mohammed Morsi of the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, of discriminating against minorities. He claimed the new leadership does not work in the interest of all Egyptians.

But even under authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak, who ran Egypt for nearly three decades until he was ousted in February 2011, rights groups say police were lax in pursuing and punishing those who attacked Christians and few Copts were named to genuinely powerful posts in government.

Morsi, who was elected in Egypt's first free presidential race, has named a number of Christians as advisers and vowed to work closely with the community. But Christians are skeptical.

Morsi congratulated Tawadros and spoke of Egyptian "unity" and "brotherly love" between Copts and Muslims.

Copts, estimated at about 10 percent of the country's 83 million people, have long complained of discrimination by the Muslim majority state. Under both the old regime and the new Islamist leadership, violent clashes with Muslims have occasionally broken out, often sparked by church construction, land disputes or Muslim-Christian love affairs.

The newfound political power of Islamists in Egypt, who control the presidency and won parliamentary elections, has left many Christians feeling deeply uncomfortable.

Copts have faced sporadic, violent attacks by Muslim extremists. That has been compounded by deterioration in security and law enforcement since the uprising. In some cases, Coptic families or entire communities have had to flee their towns as a quick-fix solution to avoid more violence.

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John Paul II - World Youth Day Dancer
Score! Just got a note from Michael Fahey about enjoying my article on Dalí's The Sacrament of the Last Supper that clued me in to check online and discover that the Jesuits' ever-impressive weekly magazine America had at last printed the piece. (Trimmed down to half the size I'd submitted it in, I knew that it was going to be kept on file for a while, as it was not a time-sensitive piece.) It takes a while for America to ship out to the Midwest (and, Chris Bauer just mentioned to me, even longer for the latest issue to get to the West Coast), so I hadn't found out. But even more fun for me, I got the cover!

Jesuit Seal
L'Osservatore Romano published this English translation of the presentation of the Ratzinger Prize by Pope Benedict XVI to an old friend of mine from my Notre Dame days, Jesuit Patristics scholar Brian Daley, S.J., earlier this week, whose book on eschatology (The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology) in the first several centuries of the Church was a key text in bringing me back to Catholicism, and which I'd read late in my undergraduate. Not only is that an admittedly odd route to answering the Christian denominational question, I also couldn't remember the name of the author of the book when I was describing it one night to Brian over sandwiches at Marci's Deli before we went to catch a showing of The River Wild. He looked slightly poleaxed, and then modestly sheepish as he dipped his head and said, "I... I wrote that." "Get outta town!" A funny memory. Anyway, with both his work in early Christianity and in his dialogue work with Orthodoxy Christianity, I couldn't be more pleased with his selection as a winner of the Prize.



The presentation of the Ratzinger prize to Jesuit patristic scholar Brian Daley and philosopher Rémi Brague
Discovering the Art of Living

The presentation of the Ratzinger Prize - considered the Nobel of Theology - took place on Saturday morning, 20 October, in the Vatican's Clementine Hall. During the ceremony Benedict XVI presented the prize to American patristic scholar Fr Brian Daley, SJ, and to French philosopher Prof. Rémi Brague. Fr Daley is the Catherine F. Huisking Professor at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, and Prof. Brague is Professor of the Philosophy of European Religions at Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich.


Venerable Brothers, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to address my greeting to all of you who have gathered at this ceremony. I thank Cardinal Ruini for his address, as well as Mons. Scotti who has introduced this meeting. I warmly congratulate Fr Daley and Prof. Brague who with their personalities add distinction to this initiative that is taking place for the second time. And I mean "personalities" in the full sense: the aspect of research and of all scientific work; the valuable service of teaching that they have both carried out for many years; and also, in different ways of course - one is a Jesuit, the other a married layman - their being committed in the Church, actively making their qualified contribution to the Church's presence in today's world.

In this regard I noticed something which made me think; namely, that both the prizewinners this year are competent in and involved in two aspects crucial to the Church in our times. I am referring to ecumenicism and to the comparison with other religions. Fr Daley, with his in-depth study on the Fathers of the Church, has chosen the best school for knowing and loving the one and undivided Church, also in the wealth of her different traditions; for this reason in addition he is carrying out a responsible service in our relations with the Orthodox Churches. And Prof. Brague is a great scholar of the philosophy of religions, in particular of Judaism and of Islam in the Middle Ages. Thus 50 years after the beginning of the Second Vatican Council I would like to reinterpret with them two of the Council documents: the Declaration Nostra Aetate on the Relations of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, and the Decree Unitatis Redintegratio on Ecumenism, to which, however, I would add another document that has proven to be of extraordinary importance: the Declaration Dignitatis Humanae on Religious Liberty. It would certainly be most interesting, dear Father and dear Professor, to hear your thoughts and your experiences in these areas where an important part of the Church's dialogue with the contemporary world takes place.

Actually, on reading your publications, some of which are available in various languages, makes this ideal encounter and comparison already take place. I feel it is my duty to express special appreciation of and gratitude for this effort to communicate the fruits of such research. It is a commitment that is difficult but of value to the Church and to all who work in the academic and cultural milieu. In this regard, I would simply like to emphasize the fact that both prizewinners are university professors, deeply committed to teaching. This aspect deserves to be highlighted because it illustrates the consistent policy and work of the Foundation which, in addition to the Prize, sponsors scholarships for those working on doctorates in theology, as well as study symposiums at university level, such as the one held this year in Poland and the one that will take place in Rio de Janeiro in three weeks' time.

Scholars such as Fr Daley and Prof. Brague are exemplary figures for the transmission of a knowledge that combines science and wisdom, scientific rigour and a passion for man, so that one may discover the "art of living". And this is a feature of people who, through an enlightened faith and life bring God close and credible to the people of today. This is what we need: people who keep their gaze fixed on God, drawing from this source true humanity to help those whom the Lord sets on our path to understand that Christ is the way of life; people whose intellect is illuminated by God's light, so that they may also speak to the mind and heart of others.

Working in the Lord's vineyard, where he calls us, so that the men and women of our time may discover and rediscover the true "art of living": this was another great passion of the Second Vatican Council and one which increasingly forms part of the commitment to the new evangelization.

I warmly renew my congratulations to the prizewinners, as well as to the Scientific Committee of the Foundation and to all the co-workers. Many thanks.

(©L'Osservatore Romano - 24 october 2012)


American priest celebrates receiving Ratzinger award in Rome
By Matthew A. Rarey

Rome, Italy, Oct 22, 2012 / 01:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An American priest and scholar who was awarded the annual Ratzinger Prize for Theology by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 20 was both thrilled and surprised to receive the honor.

“It was a total surprise for me, but I'm really touched that they would think of me for this and that it would bear the name of our present Holy Father, whom I have always admired a lot,” said Father Brian Daley, a Jesuit professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame.

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John XXIII
Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the Opening of the Second Vatican Council, an event that has rightly been called the major religious event of the 20th century, and which went a long way to restoring the thriving diversity of the ancient and medieval periods to the life of the Church, which was increasingly mired in early modern political forms of centralization and philosophy, and which were generally imagined to be the "ancient" heritage of the Church. I'm a Christian because of the richness of intellect and experience evident in early Christianity and passed on to and developed by subsequent generations. I'm a Catholic because of the retrieval of that heritage and opening up to reimagine it in the modern world that occurred at Vatican II.

A few notes for the day. Pope John XXIII's opening address has been posted in the blog of America, the magazine of the Jesuits. I copy that below. And the great Jesuit historian, John W. O'Malley, who I had the pleasure to hear and meet at Marquette, after the earlier pleasure of reading him over the years, has written a column on the occasion for The New York Times, which I also record here.

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Benedict XVI wind
With a light touch, Benedict weighs in on the historiographical debates currently going on over the Council, fostering a moderate and realistic reading, reigning in the extremists.

At anniversary Mass, pope recalls 'authentic spirit' of Vatican II

By Francis X. Rocca
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the start of a special Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI called on Catholics to revive the "authentic spirit" of Vatican II by re-proposing the church's ancient teachings to an increasingly Godless modern world.

The pope spoke at a special Mass in St. Peter's Square Oct. 11, half a century to the day after the opening ceremonies of Vatican II. About 400 bishops from around the world, including 15 of the 70 surviving members of the 1962-65 council, attended. Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury attended as special guests.

The observances featured ceremonies recalling milestones of Vatican II, including the enthronement of a book of the Gospels used at the original gathering and a re-presentation of the council's final "messages" to various categories of lay Catholics, such as artists, workers and women.

Vatican II, Pope Benedict said, had been "animated by a desire ... to immerse itself anew in the Christian mystery so as to re-propose it fruitfully to contemporary man."

He noted that Blessed John XXIII, in his speech at the opening of the council, called for both the safeguarding and the effective teaching of the "sacred deposit of Christian doctrine ... this certain and immutable doctrine, which is to be faithfully respected, (and) needs to be explored and presented in a way which responds to the needs our time."

"The council fathers wished to present the faith in a meaningful way," the pope said, "and if they opened themselves trustingly to dialogue with the modern world it is because they were certain of their faith, of the solid rock on which they stood."

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"*That's* an idea!"
Going over the biographical essay in the draft for my book, adapting and expanding upon the work I did in the dissertation. I see that the question of the local church – the local church and the regional church – needed more attention than it received at Vatican II, according to Sullivan. Certainly a problem in the Catholic Church is excessive centralization and the need for a decentralization, at least in the way some things are actually conducted. It may be that Vatican II did not stress sufficiently the contribution that the local and regional churches should be making, and the extent to which they should actually be making decisions. In other words, Sullivan felt that we were here seeing a problem in the whole business of what might be called “inculturation” – recognizing that there are differences in the way that the Church has to be realized or actualized in different cultural situations.

Jotting down notes for a possible article here reflecting on the problem of mass media as a problem for inculturation because of mass media’s tendency to produce a single culture, philosophy and politics, and the resulting pressure on the Church to inculturate – or capitualte – solely to that culture’s terms.
Prayer-Fr. Charles Mosley
GOODBYE A MARTINI
"Church back 200 years"
The last interview: "Why do not you shake because we are afraid?"


Fr. Georg Sporschill, a fellow Jesuit who interviewed him in Conversations night in Jerusalem and met Federica Root Martini on 8 August: "A sort of spiritual testament. Cardinal Martini has read and approved the text. "

How do you see the situation of the Church?
"The Church is exhausted in Europe and America. Our culture has aged, our Churches are great, our religious houses are empty and the bureaucracy of the Church increases, our rituals and our clothes are pompous. These things express what we are today? (...) The welfare burden. We stand there like the rich young man who went away sad when Jesus called him to make him his disciple. I know that we can not let go of it all easily. But at least we can try to be men who are free and closer to the next level, as were Archbishop Romero and the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador. Where are our heroes to inspire us? For no reason we have to restrict the constraints of the institution. "

Who can help the Church today?
"Father Karl Rahner liked to use the image of the embers hidden under ashes. I see in the Church today so much ash over the coals that I am often overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness. Can you release the fire from the ash so as to revive the flame of love? First we have to look for this fire. Where are the single people full of generosity like the Good Samaritan? Who have faith like the Roman centurion? Who is as enthusiastic as John the Baptist? Who dare to be the new Paul? Who is as faithful as Mary Magdalene? I advise the Pope and the bishops to seek twelve people out of line for places directional. Men that are close to the poor and they are surrounded by young and they experience new things. We need the comparison with men who burn so that the spirit may spread everywhere. "

What tools recommended against fatigue of the Church?
"I have three that I would recommend very strongly. The first is conversion: the Church must recognize their mistakes and must follow a path of radical change, starting with the Pope and the bishops. The scandals of pedophilia push us to embark on a journey of conversion. Questions about sexuality and all issues involving the body are one part of this. These are important for everyone and sometimes maybe they are too important. We must ask ourselves if people still listens to the advice of the Church on sexual matters. Is the Church still an authority to consider in this area, or is it only the caricature seen in the media? The second tool I would recommend is the Word of God: The Second Vatican Council returned the Bible to Catholics. (...) Only the person who perceives in his heart this Word can be among those who help the renewal of the Church, and who will answer their own questions with a right choice. The Word of God is simple and appears to us like a companion: like a heart that listens (...). Neither the clergy nor the Right Church can replace the interiority of man. All external rules, laws, dogmas, there is no data to clarify the inner voice and the discernment of spirits. Who are the sacraments? These are the third instrument of healing. The sacraments are not a tool for discipline, but an aid to men in times of weakness and walk of life. We bring the sacraments to the people that need a new power? I think of all the divorced and remarried couples, families spread. They need special protection. The Church supports the indissolubility of marriage. It is a grace when a marriage and a family can (...). The attitude we take toward extended families will determine the approach to the Church of the procreation of children. A woman was abandoned by her husband and has a new partner who takes care of her and her three children. The second love fails. If this family is discriminated against, is cut off not only the mother but also his children. If parents are outside the Church or do not feel the support, the Church will lose the next generation. Before Communion we pray: "Lord I am not worthy ..." We know we are not worthy (...). Love is grace. Love is a gift. The question of whether the divorced can take Communion should be reversed. How can the Church get to help with the power of the sacraments to those who have complex family situations? "

What do you do personally?
"The Church is 200 years behind the times. Why do not you shake? What are we afraid of? Are we fearful instead of courageous? But faith is the foundation of the Church. Faith, confidence, courage. I am old and sick and depend on others. Good people around me make me feel love. This love is stronger than the feeling of distrust that sometimes is felt towards the Church in Europe. And only love conquers fatigue. God is Love. So I still have a question for you: what you can do for the Church?"


Georg Sporschill SJ, Federica Radice Fossati Confalonieri
September 1, 2012 (as amended September 2, 2012)
© REPRODUCTION RESERVED
Jesuit Seal
Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini, S.J., Emeritus Archbishop of Milan – one of the truly notable successors of the mighty Ambrose of Milan – died yesterday, I just read. It's one of those pieces of bad news I've expected for some time. I was familiar with Martini from my the time of my Master's studies, where it became obvious that he was the great hope by many liberal Catholics as the one to succeed John Paul II (although I began to wonder whether anyone in the hierarchy could come close to being the sort of Pope that some American and news media liberals imagined). The buzz I heard from the conclave was that he had categorically refused to serve if elected, being in the early stages of his Parkinson's Disease, and after the slow decline of John Paul II in that way, insisted that Church didn't need to go through that twice in a row, and thus his candidacy quickly fell apart.

I used his letter exchanges in a Milanese newspaper with writer Umberto Eco – published as Belief or Non-Belief: A Dialogue (or, depending on the edition you choose, the subtitle is given as "A Confrontation") – as a resource for class. And Martini became a significant character and resource in my doctoral dissertation for his interaction and influence with fellow Jesuit Francis Sullivan as they both taught in Rome in the 1970s. Even from a continent away, I found him influential as a pastor through his writing and example. His modeling of a dialogical pastorate with moderns was persuasively executed, as he didn't at all sacrifice strength for choosing a style that declined to try to simply rely on authority of office: instead he relied on the strength of the message of the Gospel he conveyed. Today the Church seems a tiny bit emptier for his death – the sort of thing that we will too often experience as absence.
Cardinal Martini, liberal papal contender, dies
Aug 31, 2:28 PM (ET)
By NICOLE WINFIELD

Cardinal Martini, biblical scholar, former archbishop of Milan, dies
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

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A Whole World Out There
How Google and Apple's digital mapping is mapping us
Digital maps on smartphones are brilliantly useful tools, but what sort of information do they gather about us – and how do they shape the way we look at the world?

Oliver Burkeman
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 28 August 2012 15.08 EDT

All mapped out … 'There's a fine line between this being really useful and it being creepy'
Over the last few years, at the kinds of conferences where the world's technological elite gathers to mainline caffeine and determine the course of history, Google has entertained the crowds with a contraption it calls Liquid Galaxy. It consists of eight large LCD screens, turned on their ends and arranged in a circle, with a joystick at the centre. The screens display vivid satellite imagery from Google Earth, and the joystick permits three-dimensional "flight", so that stepping inside Liquid Galaxy feels like boarding your own personal UFO, in which you can zoom from the darkness of space down to the ocean's surface, cruising low over deserts, or inspecting the tops of skyscrapers. (The illusion of real movement is powerful; your legs may tremble.) You can swoop down to street-level in Cape Town, spot ships in the Mekong river, or lose yourself in the whiteness of Antarctica.

But you don't, of course. What you do – or what I did, anyway, but watch anyone using Google Earth for the first time, and you'll see they do the equivalent – is to hurtle across continents to the semi-detached house on the outskirts of York where you grew up, to peer down at a street you know well. In an era of previously unimagined opportunities for exploring the far-off and strange, we want mainly to stare at ourselves.

It is a testament to the rate of change in the world of mapping, though, that Liquid Galaxy is now essentially old hat. Google has much, much bigger plans. In June it revealed that it had already started using planes – "military-grade spy planes", the New York senator Charles Schumer claimed – to provide more detailed 3D imagery of the world's big cities. It also unveiled the Street View Trekker, a bulky backpack with several 15-megapixel cameras protruding on a stalk, so that operatives can capture "offroad" imagery from hiking trails, narrow alleyways or the forest floor. Almost every month, new kinds of data are incorporated into Google Maps: in June, it was 2,000 miles of British canal towpaths, complete with bridges and locks; it was bike lanes. And for the first time, Google's dominance of digital mapping faces a credible threat: Apple has announced that it will no longer include Google Maps on iPhones or iPads, replacing it with an alternative that, an Apple source told the tech blog All Things D, "will blow your head off".

"I honestly think we're seeing a more profound change, for mapmaking, than the switch from manuscript to print in the Renaissance," says the University of London cartographic historian Jerry Brotton. "That was huge. But this is bigger." The transition to print gave far more people access to maps. The transition to ubiquitous digital mapping accelerates and extends that development – but it is also transforming the roles that maps play in our lives.

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Books (Trinity College Long Room)
What I've Been Reading

Reading List 2011-2012 School Year:

I get asked about this every so often, and I'm always willing to recommend a good book, so some years ago I thought I'd follow the lead of one of my favourite authors, Diane Duane, who has something similar up on her page. Books I re-read are heartily endorsed!

* denotes a re-read **denotes a book I'm teaching in a class
Hildegard of Bingen, Régine Pernoud
New Spring: The Graphic Novel, Robert Jordan, Chuck Dixon, Mike Miller, Harvey Tolibao
Creole: The History and Legacy of Louisiana's Free People of Color, Sybil Kein, editor
Summer on the Lakes, in 1843, Margaret Fuller
Theology: A Very Short Introduction, David F. Ford * **
The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages 400-1000, Chris Wickham
Modern Christian Thought: The Twentieth Century, ed. James C. Livingston **
Christianity 101: A Textbook of Catholic Theology, Gregory C. Higgins * **
Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture, Jaroslav Pelikan * **
The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan *
Towers of Midnight, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson *
The Great Hunt, Robert Jordan *
The Gathering Storm, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson *
God Sent His Son: A Contemporary Christology, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn **
The Dragon Reborn, Robert Jordan *
The Shadow Rising, Robert Jordan *
The Craft of Theology: From Symbol to System, Avery Dulles **
The Fires of Heaven, Robert Jordan *
Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection, Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI **
Lord of Chaos, Robert Jordan *
Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, Joseph Ratzinger * **
A Crown of Swords, Robert Jordan *
The Path of Daggers, Robert Jordan *
Winter's Heart, Robert Jordan *
Crossroads of Twilight, Robert Jordan *
Modern Christian Thought: The Enlightment And the Nineteenth Century, ed. James C. Livingston **
A Letter Concerning Toleration, John Locke * **
Philosophical Dictionary, Voltaire **
History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon **
Of Miracles, David Hume * **
What Is Enlightenment?, Immanuel Kant **
On Religion: Speeches To Its Cultured Despisers, Friedrich Schleiermacher **
An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, John Henry Cardinal Newman * **
On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine, John Henry Cardinal Newman * **
Introduction to Lectures on the Philosophy of History, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel **
The Essence of Christianity, Ludwig Feuerbach **
Pastor Aeternus * **
Practice in Christianity, Soren Kierkegaard **
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche * **
Christianity 101: A Textbook of Catholic Theology, Gregory C. Higgins * **
Modern Christian Thought: The Twentieth Century, ed. James C. Livingston * **
The Epistle to the Romans, Karl Barth **
The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer * **
Christ and Culture, H. Richard Niebuhr **
Lumen Gentium * **
Christology Within an Evolutionary View of the World, Karl Rahner, S.J. * **
Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, Joseph Ratzinger * **
Letter From a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. * **
A Theology of Liberation, Gustavo Gutierrez, O.P. **
Introduction to Systematic Theology, Wolfhart Pannenberg * **
God’s Presence in History, Wolfhart Pannenberg **
Master and Commander, Patrick O'Brian *
Sloop of War, Alexander Kent
Southey on Nelson (The Life of Nelson), Robert Southey; ed. Richard Holmes
Climbing the Bookshelves: The Autobiography of Shirley Williams, Shirley Williams
The Night of the Hurricane, Elizabeth Ladd (read to the nieces) *
Rowan's Rule: The Biography of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rupert Shortt
Augustine: Vittore Carpaccio
Been reading Rowan Williams, now finishing up his time as Archbishop of Canterbury, and about him. Wanted to jot a few passages down, such as this precise critique of the anthropological assumptions underlying peace movements (and the political and cultural Left more broadly, perhaps?) since the 1960s:
When, in the late sixties and early seventies, 'peace' became so much a catchword and a slogan among European and (even more) among American youth movements, it came as part of a package which included a deep suspicion of public life and social planning, an idealization of small, intensely interrelating groups, and what might be best summed up as a disbelief in original sin – a conviction that humanity could be drastically reconstructed by good will or love, a certain denial of history and guilt. 'Give Peace a Chance' was the cry of a sub-culture apparently persuaded that peace was a natural state of organic harmony between human beings which would 'happen' when once the obstacles of hostility and suspicion had been overcome. There is more than a hint here of the idea that peace is what is left when social constraint and its resultant tensions and self-doubts have all vanished – so that peace appears in rather negative terms. Unjustly so: there is also some sense of peace as a mutually enriching harmony. But overall it is difficult to deny that this represented a limited and in many ways naïve understanding of peace, even a sentimental one. It was a view which opposed peace to history. Peace was seen rather as a sinking back to natural harmony, an escape from the over-complex world of large-scale political decisions and from the obligations of assessing the effects of personal history (what sort of capacities and limitations have been formed in me by my past experience?) and social development (how am I involved in the wider structures of society?).
The Truce of God, pp. 49-50.
Sort of striking, especially from someone who is so sympathetic to the Left in many respects. It got me thinking about the idea of "nature" or "what is natural" implicit behind thinking in the last fifty years, and its ties to ideas of the purity of nature or of "natural man" from the Enlightenment.

The following passage was also interesting to me, particularly as an expression of the complexity of what Catholics call "the Tradition," the collective experience of all believers:
I've heard it said that one of the greatest triumphs of Catholic Christianity is its ability to train its own critics. And this means surely that Catholic tradition ought to be concerned with presenting a depth and range of resources that will stop anyone from too easily believing that the Church at any one moment has got it all wrapped up, has fathomed the meaning of Jesus Christ. And this isn't polite agnosticism or do-it-yourself modernism – making up Christianity as you go along – but the fruit of trying to keep eyes and ears and heart open to the wholeness of what's being passed on to us – including the awkwardnesses, the half-hidden points of conflict, the half-muffled voices.
– "Affirming Tradition," in Affirming Catholicism, ed. Rt. Rev. Richard Holloway, p. 2, quoted in Rowan's Rule: The Biography of the Archbishop of Canterbury by Rupert Shortt, p. 147.
I've been meditating a great deal on this sort of thing the last week or two as I wrote up a more fleshed-out version of my Yamauchi Lecture from November, and start looking at shorter adaptations of it to perhaps be popularly published elsewhere.
Requiem
Ralph Del Colle, my professor of Trinitarian systematic theology at Marquette and one of the members of my Doctoral Qualifying Exams board, died on Sunday. I didn't know him as well as I would have liked (I always got the impression that our senses of humor somehow just missed one another, but that he too found this amusing in itself), but every moment spent in his company was a pleasure. His seminar on the Trinity my second year is something I still come back to in my thinking and reading; his influence on the Trinitarian content in the classes I instruct is obvious to me; and stopping for conversation with him in the hallway or in his office was always refreshing and clarifying. He prepared me for my dissertation subject in ways I hadn't foreseen (he really ought to have been on my dissertation committee, but the text morphed in his theological direction only after I had already arranged my board). It was spontaneously comparing notes with him in the hallway one afternoon that began to hint to me just how influential the Catholic Charismatic Renewal had been, even if only episodically, in the formation of my teachers' generation of Catholic theologians. As that was confirmed for me in the stories I later heard from other faculty members, some of the potential for my dissertation to move in that way became clear to me.

Death always seems unfair in its timing, and I hate that he died so young when I think of his wife and children, or for the students he could have guided in the future. But from everything that I've heard from friends still in Milwaukee, he had a death that exemplified or revealed the heart of everything he believed: a holy death, with a kind of peace that the rest of the world would be stunned by, had they witnessed it.

As I've been keeping vigil from a distance electronically, and thinking about and praying for him and those he loved, I wanted to copy down here a few of the tributes that have been appearing in the last day.

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What Is A Theologian?
I was reading Rowan Williams and I cam across a line I quite liked, given my insistence with Pannenberg that the criterion of public truth is an essential one for the task of theology, and for the (ultimately) necessary continuity and harmony of scientific and religious thought:
"The love of truth drives us from the world to God: and the truth of love drives us from God to the world."
The line was attributed to William of Saint-Thierry, but after looking around for some time, I could not find any source given for it, or for the original if this turned out to be a paraphrase. So I asked on Facebook (since I have an inordinate number of friends who might also read in such directions) whether, by any miracle of miracles, anyone could both manage to see this and to point me in the right direction.

And, wonder of wonders, Josh Warner came through with a consult from his former abbot, Dom Stanislaus, who wrote, "The quote is from # 11 of his Meditations (11:13). A similar balance occurs in On Contemplating God 1:1."

I love it when a plan comes together.
22nd-Jul-2012 10:25 pm - Personal: Babysitting Nieces
Mac
[From Facebook:]

The nieces were strangely complaint as I made them turn off their insipid Disney Channel shows (the latest rage) and shuffle off for bed. Then I realized they were watching the shows on their iPods with headphones on. Nice!

And now they're up there (they're all sleeping together in the playroom) singing these Austin & Ally songs over and over again and laughing hysterically. Gonna be a long night of babysitting....
Nieces and Nephew
[From Facebook:]

July 20, 2012 at 10:10pm
The nieces were strangely complaint as I made them turn off their insipid Disney Channel shows (the latest rage) and shuffle off for bed. Then I realized they were watching the shows on their iPods with headphones on. Nice!


Natalie Crist, Michelle Rau and 2 others like this.

Mike Novak And now they're up there (they're all sleeping together in the playroom) singing these songs over and over again and laughing hysterically. Gonna be a long night of babysitting....


July 20, 2012 at 10:25pm

Jim Tu Go to sleep!
July 20, 2012 at 10:27pm via mobile

Kris 'Bigdaddy' Robinson oh my...
July 21, 2012 at 6:57am

Judith Simon You can do it. You can do it. Enter their world...
July 21, 2012 at 10:16am

July 22, 2012 at 2:49pm
As a kid, I would never have noticed how much fun people-watching is at a local fair. A different kind of crowd than college students! Watching the nieces on the rides is good, too. — at Lombard Germanfest.
Sitting Duck/Art of Michael Bedard
I was honestly a bit surprised to find such a blunt appraisal in the New York Times this week. I've long been concerned by the destruction of diversity in the American religious sphere represented by the destruction of liberal Christianity, but it seemed to be impossible to convince such people that they had left the liberalism of the Niebuhrs, or King, or Murray long behind and were evolving toward to something else. I had studied the very conscious acquiring of American Evangelicals as a voting block by the Republicans in the later 1970s after the New Left had driven them out of their traditional Democratic Party alliance, and couldn't help but notice the similarities – almost the reprise – of the attempt to acquire Catholic Americans as a similar voting block in the last decade. The creation (and solidification, in the mind of most American media commentators) of Christianity as an "intrinsically" conservative force has done little or nothing to help refine political discourse in this country, but I suspect that the Left has done more to create the Right that they hate than the Right itself has. This might be a test case for that strange dynamic.
OP-ED COLUMNIST
Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?

By ROSS DOUTHAT
Published: July 14, 2012

IN 1998, John Shelby Spong, then the reliably controversial Episcopal bishop of Newark, published a book entitled “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” Spong was a uniquely radical figure — during his career, he dismissed almost every element of traditional Christian faith as so much superstition — but most recent leaders of the Episcopal Church have shared his premise. Thus their church has spent the last several decades changing and then changing some more, from a sedate pillar of the WASP establishment into one of the most self-consciously progressive Christian bodies in the United States.

As a result, today the Episcopal Church looks roughly how Roman Catholicism would look if Pope Benedict XVI suddenly adopted every reform ever urged on the Vatican by liberal pundits and theologians. It still has priests and bishops, altars and stained-glass windows. But it is flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes.

Yet instead of attracting a younger, more open-minded demographic with these changes, the Episcopal Church’s dying has proceeded apace. Last week, while the church’s House of Bishops was approving a rite to bless same-sex unions, Episcopalian church attendance figures for 2000-10 circulated in the religion blogosphere. They showed something between a decline and a collapse: In the last decade, average Sunday attendance dropped 23 percent, and not a single Episcopal diocese in the country saw churchgoing increase.

This decline is the latest chapter in a story dating to the 1960s. The trends unleashed in that era — not only the sexual revolution, but also consumerism and materialism, multiculturalism and relativism — threw all of American Christianity into crisis, and ushered in decades of debate over how to keep the nation’s churches relevant and vital.

Traditional believers, both Protestant and Catholic, have not necessarily thrived in this environment. The most successful Christian bodies have often been politically conservative but theologically shallow, preaching a gospel of health and wealth rather than the full New Testament message.

But if conservative Christianity has often been compromised, liberal Christianity has simply collapsed. Practically every denomination — Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian — that has tried to adapt itself to contemporary liberal values has seen an Episcopal-style plunge in church attendance. Within the Catholic Church, too, the most progressive-minded religious orders have often failed to generate the vocations necessary to sustain themselves.

Both religious and secular liberals have been loath to recognize this crisis. Leaders of liberal churches have alternated between a Monty Python-esque “it’s just a flesh wound!” bravado and a weird self-righteousness about their looming extinction. (In a 2006 interview, the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop explained that her communion’s members valued “the stewardship of the earth” too highly to reproduce themselves.)

Liberal commentators, meanwhile, consistently hail these forms of Christianity as a model for the future without reckoning with their decline. Few of the outraged critiques of the Vatican’s investigation of progressive nuns mentioned the fact that Rome had intervened because otherwise the orders in question were likely to disappear in a generation. Fewer still noted the consequences of this eclipse: Because progressive Catholicism has failed to inspire a new generation of sisters, Catholic hospitals across the country are passing into the hands of more bottom-line-focused administrators, with inevitable consequences for how they serve the poor.

But if liberals need to come to terms with these failures, religious conservatives should not be smug about them. The defining idea of liberal Christianity — that faith should spur social reform as well as personal conversion — has been an immensely positive force in our national life. No one should wish for its extinction, or for a world where Christianity becomes the exclusive property of the political right.

What should be wished for, instead, is that liberal Christianity recovers a religious reason for its own existence. As the liberal Protestant scholar Gary Dorrien has pointed out, the Christianity that animated causes such as the Social Gospel and the civil rights movement was much more dogmatic than present-day liberal faith. Its leaders had a “deep grounding in Bible study, family devotions, personal prayer and worship.” They argued for progressive reform in the context of “a personal transcendent God ... the divinity of Christ, the need of personal redemption and the importance of Christian missions.”

Today, by contrast, the leaders of the Episcopal Church and similar bodies often don’t seem to be offering anything you can’t already get from a purely secular liberalism. Which suggests that per haps they should pause, amid their frantic renovations, and consider not just what they would change about historic Christianity, but what they would defend and offer uncompromisingly to the world.

Absent such a reconsideration, their fate is nearly certain: they will change, and change, and die.


This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 17, 2012

An earlier version of this article misstated the date of an interview an Episcopal Church bishop did with The Times. It was in 2006, not 2005.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on July 15, 2012, on page SR11 of the New York edition with the headline: Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?.
Augustine and Monica
[From Facebook:]

Damn! Augustine (for the 5001st time) is a freaking *genius*!

(With points to MRB for pointing me toward noticing how Augustine explains that the immaterial quality of divine nature allows the common operation of the Triune Persons, or the state of divine unity, that would otherwise be inexplicable.)
A Whole World Out There
There's a welcome sound of rain falling outside right now, and has been for nearly an hour. The wind even picked up to a more stormy level a few minutes ago. Illinois has been in drought for over a month, the southern part of the state – Ooo! Thunder! – having it even worse, and so this couldn't be more timely. I don't know if this will conjure up nearly enough to prevent a serious hit on the crops this year, but every bit helps, though perhaps it's needed somewhere else more than Chicagoland suburbs.

Over a late lunch, I have been finishing up Shirley Williams' autobiography, Climbing the Bookshelves. It was back in 2001-02 that I met Williams and her late husband, Richard Neustadt, a Harvard professor considered one of the great scholars of the U.S. presidency (himself featured in a recent study I'd like to visit: Guardian of the Presidency: The Legacy of Richard E. Neustadt; he himself had pointed me toward his own magisterial Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents: The Politics of Leadership from Roosevelt to Reagan, with what I only found out later was the most ridiculously modest comment that some readers "had found it useful.") This was when Williams was delivering the year's Erasmus Lectures at the University of Notre Dame (published as God and Caesar: Personal Reflections on Politics and Religion, during my final year of teaching high school at Saint Joseph's. I had more than my fair share's chances of talking with both of them, talking about the build-up toward the Iraq War and the action in Afghanistan with Neustadt in the wings after one of Williams' lecture sessions as she conversed with remaining members of the crowd, and dining with them one night after receiving a wryly surreal phone call from Erasmus Fellow George Howard (who directed Kevin Fleming's doctoral dissertation) intoning something like, "Are you available to dine with the Baroness of Crosby?"

The rain and Williams' ending combined in my head to create something of a bleak mood. Both rain and Williams are in an of themselves quite good. But it is the scope of something like drought that can feel overwhelming. (Along with the worries of something like climate change contributing to it, whether such change is actually man-made or part of the ongoing global warming that people suddenly seem to have forgotten that we've been experiencing since the last ice age.) And so can the governmental challenges that Williams outlines as she reflects over a life of public awareness, and then service, that goes back to being a student in a bomb shelter during the Second World War, arguing policy with the Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison, who happened to be sitting next to her.

My visit up here has been taken up thus far with a notable amount of babysitting duties or just keeping my nieces occupied, which I haven't regretted after being separated from them for so long. Sophie alone has kept me delighted with a steady stream of fun quotations from a five year-old, the last one being, as I searched in the refrigerator for the peanut butter that Haley wanted for lunch: "It's in the pantry. Get your facts straight!" Haley and Grace just add to the delight, with Haley building a catapult the other night in order to hit me in the head with a pillow, and Grace excited to take me on in chess, having just discovered that I know how to play it, too. I've had a few opportunities to work, though, and am in a big one now, as the family is away for a week, having driven down to Florida for a beach vacation.

So here I find myself locked into some work on Trinitarian theology (which reads far, far more slowly than an autobiography), along with some private excursions into reading what I can of subatomic physics after the physics world's giddy announcement that they think they may have observed a Higgs Boson at CERN. They're both necessary reading for me: the mystery of God and the mystery of Creation. (Again, outside of the biblical and secular fundamentalists, there's no intrinsic opposition between religious and scientific ideas: historically, attention to the latest details of scientific discovery have always been of theological importance in trying to understand what is meant by the act and the reality of Creation, of God's endowment of the universe with its own intrinsic characteristics.) Trinitarian theology, I've spent a lot more time on. I get it, to the extent that it can be "got," having followed the development of that analysis, description and logic through the centuries. Subatomic physics, I don't understand nearly so well, but I keep trying, finding within it every bit as much an occasion for theological and spiritual wonder as I do for physical wonder.

For me, that's all part of my "work," my occupation. Reading Shirley Williams, then, on the challenges facing us that she describes in her epilogue – though not failing to note the great advances made since she was born in the midst of the Great Depression – gives me a list of more than enough challenges and work to be done: enough to keep nearly everyone occupied. And which makes my own work in the field of human ideas and understanding seem incredibly luxurious and esoteric. I know, intellectually, that this isn't so: the whole point of my kind of historical and contemporary research is to recognize the huge effect that our ideas and presuppositions have upon our world and on our actions in it. Williams' book is a testament to that fact.

But, man, am I staggered when I look at the weight of everything that needs doing, and wondering whether my unquantifiable attempts to influence change – by exposing students to a greater world of ideas and helping them learn to weigh them – is really contributing enough to those needs. I related in a letter of application that a student once asked me what the "concrete products" were of reflective sciences like theology and philosophy. The truest and most precise answer I could come up with was "civilizations." And now we're having to build a new kind of global one: sustainable and no longer merely consuming, a world to garden, not just harvest, in a time when the communications and travel technology is such that I do indeed find myself in the (historically rather novel) position of having to worry about everything in the world.

And yet through all this, outside, the rain and the thunder roll on, reminding me that there's a great deal beyond all our power or control, and that grace itself is the factor in history most beyond all calculation.
10th-Jul-2012 04:04 pm - Personal: Moments with Nieces
Nieces 3 (and Nephew!)
[From Facebook:] July 1:

Harassing Haley: "What did you just say?! 'Me and Grace is...'?! Who taught you how to talk? Who taught you grammar?!"
Haley: "Hulk!"

July 2:

Overwhelmed with little girl chatter this evening as Grace hosted two of her friends (our power and AC are on). Thus I found myself having dinner with three nieces and these two friends: the combined ages of my dinner companions equaled my own. Earlier, they had squealed gleefully to see a Wii representation that they'd made of me get eaten by a ghost in a game....

July 4:

None of my nieces are fond of fireworks and their volume. 5 year-old Sophie made sure to bring ear protection, explaining matter-of-factly to me, "Because I get infections."

July 10:

Sophie, aged 5, trying to dissuade me from eating their dog while they're on vacation, finally comes up with: "He doesn't have a lot of calories."
30th-Jun-2012 10:34 pm - Personal: Time with Sophie
Nieces 3 (and Nephew!)
[From Facebook:] A day with interminable Monopoly-based games punctuated with cute niece dialogue. Oceanopoly, I find, has the virtues of some ecological awareness and science facts on the cars, leaving Yorkieopoly to just look insipid in its worship of diminutive dogs.

Favorite exchange of the day:

Sophie: I'm full!
Me: How can you be full?
S: I just am!
M: But it's ice cream!
S: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blah, blah, blah. Okay.

And left me reflecting on whether this was going on in my students' heads after I tried to make a point....



Tami Sexton, Ramon Luzarraga, Sara VanDenHeuvel and 5 others like this.

Russell Stewart Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blah, blah, blahzzzzz......zzzzzzz......zzzzzz......zzzzz......zzzzz.....zzzzz......zzz

...mmm?? Sorry Mike, did you just post something? ;)
June 30 at 10:53pm · Edited · Like · 1

Chelsey Michael Richter Hahaha! Yes but not all the time. I promise! Glad you're back home safe and with warm welcomes...nieces can be brutal.
July 1 at 12:08am · Like

Bob Wardlaw I had a great exchange with my second-cousin, Avery, this weekend:
Avery: You know how your brother is really silly?
Me: Yes...?
Avery: Can you be more like him?
July 1 at 8:24pm · Like
Glimpse
An "archive" entry, reprinting basically what was on my Facebook (with a few comments included), of updates from my 28-29 June journey from New Orleans to Chicago. Optimized for a window about 1200 pixels wide, but I don't know the HTML code to fix my browser entry's width like that, so beware the clutter if you have a wider browser window!

IMG_2210June 28 via mobile
Doing some final walkabout in New Orleans. Bags checked, train leaves in four hours. — at Lafayette Square.































New Orleans = Coast CityJune 28 via mobile
Hey! I recognize this street! It's Coast City! Hal Jordan fought Parallax here in Green Lantern. (Geek cred established.) — at Perdido And O'Keefe.

































June 28 at 10:14am in New Orleans ·
Biggest plate of scrambled eggs in human history! — at Welty's Deli.


IMG_2215June 28 at 11:05am in New Orleans ·
Of course. — at Jackson Square.

































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Loyola Faculty Portrait
[From Facebook:]

I just had to search back through my Fall 2011 course evaluations for some data. I wish I knew who it was who left the comment, "He knows his shit."
24th-Jun-2012 03:41 pm - Personal: Some Parting Visits
Conversation
Packing up has (naturally) been time-consuming and occasionally odious. But for someone like me, who can get lost in the rediscovery of old letters, knick-knacks, book marginalia and such, it's actually been something close to a triumph of efficiency. Not getting all that distracted, after all. The only downside is that I'm not getting the time that I hoped for to perhaps look around New Orleans a little more before I head up to Chicagoland.

2012-06-21 Bob Wardlaw at Nonna Mia's Cafe and PizzeriaBut I have made time to hang out with some people before leaving. After seeing Alex and Anil in the earlier part of last week, I closed out the week by taking some time to talk with Bob and Chelsey on Thursday and Friday evenings. Bob and I played tag for a bit because of my packing schedule, but he grabbed me while I was on campus Thursday working in my office and surprised me with dinner at a place I'd not heard of before: Nonna Mia's Cafe and Pizzeria, out near city central on Esplanade. He also gave me a going-away present of a number of albums by The Band. I've heard their music here and there through the years, of course, and some of the Freeks were fans, and so I remember some of that stuff being played on people's stereo systems at Notre Dame, or even covered occasionally, but I've never listened to it in a serious way. So that's on the iPhone now as part of the soundtrack of the train trip north and of the summer. He proceeded to give me a learned lecture on the material while we drove up Carrolton to the restaurant, with asides for highlighting personal favourites.

We got a great table on the front porch and started studying the menu. He was pleased to take advantage of their having Peroni, an Italian beer, on tap (his enthusiasm leaving me bummed once again about being such a bad Irishman that I have no taste for beer), and I found a glass of Zonin, a Montepulciano that I hadn't tried, that I found enjoyable enough. It took us a little bit of time to decide what to have because the options sounded so good. Bob eventually went with their Lobster Ravioli, served in a vodka cream sauce, which I had a taste of and which was scrumptious beyond reason (making me somewhat regret having anything else). But I went with one of their dinner specials for the night: the most fabulous seared salmon with capers, asparagus, and a zucchini and squash medley. It equaled the other dish and left me interrupting the conversation throughout to wax rhapsodic on the radiant joy of food!

So we talked about wine, women, and song – all manner of good things. He told me some more about growing up in Louisiana, about his family and the circle of friends he's cultivated down here. I couldn't help but admire his taste in knowing what the basic Good Stuff of life seemed to be. We compared travel notes, and he told me about high school adventures and misadventures in Rome when he took an overseas trip his senior year, and we talked about the attractions of Italy as we drank some more of what Italy had to offer.

2012-06-22-23 Closing Down The Columns with Chelsey RichterThe next night, I had made plans to catch up with Chelsey. Her sports internship kept her working well into the night, and so it was after eleven when we finally met at The Columns Hotel for drinks. There was a pretty huge crowd there, and I realized that I had tended to avoid it on Friday and Saturday nights exactly for that reason, and so I was pleased to have it thin out while we talked. And talked we did. We ended up closing the place down and then some: after originally finding space to sit and talk in the brunch room, and then later in the front room when the crowd had thinned out, we then moved out to the porch as the staff was preparing to shut things up at 2am, having our drinks switched to plastic glasses, and being told that we were welcome to sit on the veranda as long as we desired. We only sort of noticed in passing the other stragglers heading off as we continued to chatter, finally getting up to leave at 4am, after having had the space to ourselves for at least an hour.

There was more background talk than we'd ever had before, telling stories of family and where we had come from than we had known of one another, and I heard a lot more about growing up in the New Orleans area and some of its peculiar cultural tendencies than I had perhaps heard from other students. Unlike a lot of New Orleans natives that I had met, Chelsey wasn't utterly married to the idea of remaining in the area, whereas so many others are so taken with the city and its culture that they cannot imagine living anywhere else. (As devoted as New Yorkers, I've said, but not so arrogant about their place being the only place to live.) As far along as she was with her work in sports promotion, she had a number of other sites where she would be interested in working once her current internship was over. And so there was a certain amount of conversation about living in different places and the changes that come with different job prospects. There were only touches of "shop" talk having to do with the coursework we did together, most recently being my Modern Christian Thought class, other than her laughing about her mother noticing that since graduation she's been reading a lot more freely in the ethics direction, and so we talked a little about the temptation that some further graduate work has for her in wooing her away from the kind of business work she's been preparing for for so long.
Requiem
I saw these online today. I think it's a pity that when someone dies, language becomes so inadequate to describing the person lost. I didn't know Fr. Fagin well, only working with him when we swapped classes last spring so that he could teach an undergraduate course on Ignatius of Loyola while I took the Master's class on "Church, Sacraments and Ministry" at the Loyola Institute for Ministry. But in talking over teaching that course with him, I was deeply impressed by his passion for working with students. That impression was reaffirmed in hearing students talk about him.
Loyola loses long-time teacher and beloved priest Gerald Fagin, S.J.

Father Jerry Fagin, S.J.Heavy hearts are on the campus of Loyola University New Orleans after the loss of Gerald “Jerry” Matthew Fagin, S.J., who died June 14 at the age of 74 after a courageous battle with cancer. Fagin, a member of the New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus, taught theology and spirituality at Loyola for 33 years, was a Jesuit for 55 years and a priest for 43 years.

“Jerry was a man who not only knew the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, but who also truly lived them in his work, his decision-making and in his life. He was a wonderful person to spend time with. He was insightful and humorous and had a wide array of interests. He truly believed that a person can find God in all things,” said Loyola President Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., Ph.D.

To many, he was considered to be a true servant, powerful teacher and living example of Jesuit spirituality. Fagin was in great demand as a spiritual director and devoted many years to developing spiritual formation programs at Loyola and at the Archdiocesan Spirituality Center in New Orleans.

“I find it sadly appropriate that this great man passed away at this time of year when we celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” said Edward “Ted” Arroyo, S.J., rector of the Jesuit community in Mobile, Ala., and a long-time friend and colleague of Fagin’s.

“Father Fagin was a wise, kind and inspiring guide for the Loyola University community and his Jesuit brothers, steeping us all in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and steering us in ancient and contemporary ways of following Christ. He will be dearly missed by so many whose lives he touched,” said Fred Kammer, S.J., director of Loyola’s Jesuit Social Research Institute.

Father Jerry Fagin in the ClassroomAccording to Thomas Ryan, Ph.D., director of Loyola’s Institute for Ministry, through his teaching, preaching, spiritual direction, and leading workshops and retreats, Fagin touched people in many circles in New Orleans and around the world.

"Jerry was beloved because of his gentle insistence on God's unconditional love and for his quiet and Irish sense of humor. He also loved to speak of gratitude - because of God's gift to us of our lives and creation, what other response can we offer to God than lives and words of gratitude?” Ryan said, adding, “Jerry always ended conversations about difficult and vexing matters with a word of hope. He would say, 'Courage.'”

Fagin was born in Dallas, Texas on April 19, 1938. He graduated from Jesuit High School in Dallas in 1956 and entered the Society of Jesus at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, La., that same year, pronouncing first vows on August 15, 1958, and remaining in Grand Coteau for his Juniorate (1958-60). He continued studies at Spring Hill College, receiving a Master of Arts in philosophy in 1963, and returned to Jesuit High in Dallas for regency from 1963-66. He then studied at Regis College in Canada where he received a Master of Divinity in 1969, as well as a Master of Theology and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology in 1970. Following priestly ordination on June 7, 1969, at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Dallas, Fagin received a doctorate in theology from St. Michael’s College in Toronto.

Most of Fagin’s apostolic career was centered at Loyola University in New Orleans, where he began teaching theology in 1973. From 1978-89, he was associate professor of religious studies and was the chair of the Department of Religious Studies from 1981-84. He served as rector of the Loyola Jesuit community from 1984-89, and returned to teaching at Loyola as an associate professor of religious studies from 1991-95. From 1996 until May 2012, he was associate professor of theology in the Loyola Institute for Ministry. Fagin’s publications include “The Holy Spirit” (2002), co-authored with J. Patout Burns, and “Putting on the Heart of Christ” (Loyola Press, 2010), as well as several articles and published lectures. His new book, tentatively titled "God's Dream for You," will be published posthumously by Loyola Press. Fagin was also at work on a major book on spirituality for ministers at the time of his death.

“Jerry's last book before his death, ‘Putting on the Heart of Christ,’ shows us how the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius relate to contemporary virtue ethics, inviting us to a virtuous life,” said Arroyo. “May the example of Jerry's virtuous life help us who survive his passing truly grow in the virtues of putting on the heart of Christ.”

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Tetons and Me
2012-06-03 Dad in Audubon Park 3Lots going on. Dad's ten-day visit down here was helpful. As I recovered from surgery, he was able to run errands and such, saving me from the rigors of having to carry my own groceries and other trials while I was getting my strength back. Naturally, we watched the Cubs struggle more than once, although WGN's coverage of the Cubs isn't so constant down here. Long a vocal lover of trees, he kind of flipped with enthusiasm over the Southern Live Oaks that decorate New Orleans. (His train home was delayed with storm winds having knocked over a tree or trees onto the tracks, and while I was enormously grateful that this was caught and didn't cause any derailment, I could help observing to my sister that it would have been epically ironic had Dad been killed by a tree.) And we got a start on the packing, filling up some ten boxes of books and DVDs and the like. I've been continuing on that on my own, now that I'm stronger. I woke up early this morning and started at it again, and have packed another 17 boxes of books in the two days since the U-Haul boxes arrived.

Alex H. came over from campus the other night with some boxes, too, and we sat out on the porch and talked until two in the morning, ranging over how Loyola will finish up for him next year, to the theology of grace, to random talk about music. It was good to kick back and relax that way. I hadn't seen anyone socially, really, since Sarah had come over about two weeks ago the evening before she took off for her San Francisco internship, where we also cashed out on the porch for a few hours, after she had suitably charmed Dad after he came back for a walk. Somehow I can't remember much detail from that conversation, really, other than it being free-flowing and fun, and her laughing at the end about her un-lady-like sweating as we sat there. I talked with her a bit last night via text until I realized that she was texting while driving, which is the most hair-raising habit her generation possesses.

I bought my train ticket, but because I was still nailing down the exact details of my mover loading things up, it was just enough time that the price jumped nearly a hundred dollars. I could fly north for almost the same price now, but I've been wanting to make this train trip for a while, anyway. The "City of New Orleans" run between here and Chicago is scheduled at 20 hours or so: leaving here at 1:30pm and arriving in Chicago at 9am. I've driven down to Tennessee in the past, so I'm mostly curious to see the land *up* to Tennessee. The train gets into Memphis at 10pm, so it'll be dark then, but with the solstice just passing, I should have light up until we get into the Mississippi Delta region, which is sufficient for my interests. And then there's possible complications: my Dad's train home was delayed for hours because of the trees on the tracks due to the storming going on during his whole way through that area.

My brain is starting to rev up again. Once I'm done with the packing and the moving out, all I'll have to do "work"-wise is the research side of things. I've got two articles to work on for peer-reviewed publications, the book, and when Dad was down here I just busted out my notes from last summer on the sketch for the book on spiritual development that I wrote for Kevin last summer. (Fruits of our morphing ten-year conversation on the subject, now being taken in new directions by all the neuroscience he's adding to his psychological work.) I was really surprised to see how well those seemed to read to me, given that I wrote that stuff when I was pretty sick from an antibiotic that I turned out to be somewhat allergic to (we'd spent months thinking its effects were from the infection). Most of last summer until we got the antibiotic balance right the week before I met you guys in Arkansas is just a blur to me. I went over it with Alex when he was here the other night, and he was kind of jazzed to see the realistic complexity of an attempt to describe spiritual development that wasn't as linear as the models that are out there. Indeed, it's the very complexity and not-entirely-linear reality of that kind of development that makes me wonder exactly what "good" the book would offer. Most stuff I've seen on spiritual development seems to try to "sell" you something by taking you on the linear path from A to B. There are certainly higher forms of development in the Christian spiritual tradition (and some of that complexity and less-commercial non-linear-ness would come from dealing with and within the actual Christian spiritual tradition and not trying to water down spiritual reality into something more secular and politically-correct), and paths of progress that can be pointed out, but what I'm seeing at this point is almost more like a diagnostic tool, if you could write a popular version of something like that. It reminds me, in that sense, of some of what Kevin has told me about the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) over the years. So that's bubbling in the mix, too.

I've been hanging a bit with Anil the last two weeks, too, and had to laugh when he asked if I would being interested in becoming a guerrilla movie producer the other month, as he is trying to get his production company off the ground. He's an Indian immigrant, in NOLA for 20 years, who lost his businesses in Katrina, has had to drive a cab since, but for whom (in the long run) the disaster has become an odd kind of backwards personal blessing in that having his businesses and their security stripped away from him because it has given him the freedom to roll the dice and return to his original love: film. He'd been an assistant director under the "Spielberg of India" (who had predicted that Anil would be the first Indian director to win the Oscar) before coming to the U.S., but NOLA didn't have a film industry to speak of when he arrived, nor did he know the American approach enough to plug into one. The screenplays and ideas this guy is churning out now are enthralling (a real Hitchcock feel to them), and he's arranging things right now to try to build up to full features: starting with a local documentary this summer which can let him be seen as a director, then a small indie feature here of jury room drama based on the huge civil rights case we had here the other year – a police shooting of a man post-Katrina, which Anil happened to be the swing juror on – and then on to a full feature. He's been acting some, too, locally (has played with Morgan Freeman, Mark Wahlburg, and Russell Crowe), and has put together a full production company out of the regional film industry of crew who have gotten to know him and want to work with him; now he's just having to get the investment funding. But going guerrilla and doing something totally off my chosen career path would have had more appeal in my 20s (like working and touring with the Freeks for a year), whereas right now I'd like to settle in and get to work on what I've already begun. But it's been interesting to see all this coming together and to see him make it come together. (We had enormous conversation the other day about how to outfit a cab with cameras for the documentary.) He has also asked to use some of my music for soundtrack purposes, so that could be a bit of fun.

Watched a documentary called American Teen whose trailer I remember seeing in the summer of 2008 in our art house theatre (The Oriental) in Milwaukee before seeing The Dark Knight, and have had on my list to see ever since. Painful in a number of points, and it left me with a lot to ruminate on as to what the entire project attempts to do in following and documenting some Indiana teens through their senior year in high school. Some reviewers loved it, others found it suspect or contrived, or pointing out that the presence of cameras always necessarily creates an artificiality. But I think perhaps the most perceptive bit of criticism I've read accepted that it was an undirected (if not edited) documentary, but that it was a documentary of American teens who have grown up with the idea of "reality tv" and being in front of the camera all the time, and what's to be expected of those in front of such cameras, or at least "expected" according to the conventions of such so-called reality programming as they've grown up with. Anyway, so that served as an interesting piece of distraction.

An even better distraction has been Sophie, who has been having enormous conversations with me via FaceTime just about every other day. I've suddenly begun to fear for myself for my visit up there, as I think I'll be reduced to the status of "toy" for her, at least until the novelty wears off. My family would say that I was born with the Irish "gift o' the gab," so much so that I refused in Ireland to go near the Blarney Stone, explaining to my friends that not only was it (in my opinion) a horrible bit of tourist junk, but that my family would pay me money not to kiss the thing. But Sophie's capacity for chatter utterly overwhelms me. I suddenly realized the other day what it was that her way of relating to me was reminding me of: I'm Hobbes, and she's Calvin....
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