November 6th, 2005

I See You!

Personal: Baby Coming--What Feast Day is it?

Live and up to the minute! I just got a phone call at around 5:25am from Kevin and Frannie from the hospital in Jackson, Wyoming, where Frannie is now in labour. First off, I was just so relieved that nothing was wrong--I've definitely become old enough that unexpected phone calls in the middle of the night fill you with dread, hoping that it's just some wrong number--but all was well. In fact, Frannie--now in the five-minute range of contractions--had asked Kevin, "What Feast Day is it?" Said Kev, "I'll call Mike!" There was a quick protest on her part about my upcoming exams, but Kev overrode that, which was all fine as far as I'm concerned. I was able to Google the following list of names I'd never heard of:
November 6

* St. Leonard
* St. Atticus
* St. Barlaam
* St. Winoc
* St. Demetrian
* St. Edwen
* St. Efflam
* St. Felix of Fondi
* St. Felix of Thynissa
* St. Joseph Khang
* St. Leonard of Noblac
* St. Leonard of Reresby
* St. Leonianus
* St. Pinnock
along with identifying from another website, "St. Nicholas Tavelic and Companions (d. 1391), the four of whom are among the 158 Franciscans who have been martyred in the Holy Land since the friars became custodians of the shrines in 1335."

So there you have it. As far as I know, the plan is and has been that we're awaiting the arrival of Miss Sophia Fleming, or Mr. Augustine Michael Fleming, but who knows what mad, last-minute improvisation might happen?

I talked to them both, then they put me on speakerphone and I said "howdy" to Paul, who just turned seven and is there, too. I listened to a bit of the action, before they finally decided to let me go whilst Frannie went to the bathroom. Kevin mentioned that his father-in-law, a member of the Board of Trustees at Notre Dame I've met several times since the couple got together, would probably be annoyed that they called me. Kev mentioned that Mr. Biolchini still mentioned how weird it was that Kevin and Frannie took me along on their wedding night in Chicago (see January).

Me, I call it symmetry.
Doctor Fate

Random: Wow! Infinite Crisis!

How to stay awake when you're falling asleep studying, but cannot afford to fall asleep because you'll screw up your sleep schedule when you need to get up early tomorrow: DISTRACT YOURSELF. I forgot to arm the VCR to record Meet The Press or to watch it live, so I went a-googling elsewhere....

When I've thought about visual art, I've described Michelangelo as my favourite artist, having edged out Botticelli a few years ago, and with the later Dali in the mix. But I realized the other day, maybe I'd been keeping two areas of art segregated in my head for years, and that if I were honest or more precise, perhaps my favourite artist, since childhood in fact, has always been George Perez.

Perez treats us to the following cornucopia in his cover for Infinite Crisis #2, which comes out this week. For those who know their DC Universe, this is both a great cover and work of art in itself as well as a fabulous homage to over 65 years' worth of artists and writers:

Unbelievable shocker on the last page of Infinite Crisis #1, for those who know what it means: Collapse )

Theological Notebook: The Continuing Conversation

More being reported on the conference I mentioned earlier.

Vatican: Faithful Should Listen to Science

Nov 4, 10:12 AM (ET)


VATICAN CITY (AP) - A Vatican cardinal said Thursday the faithful should listen to what secular modern science has to offer, warning that religion risks turning into "fundamentalism" if it ignores scientific reason.

Cardinal Paul Poupard, who heads the Pontifical Council for Culture, made the comments at a news conference on a Vatican project to help end the "mutual prejudice" between religion and science that has long bedeviled the Roman Catholic Church and is part of the evolution debate in the United States.

The Vatican project was inspired by Pope John Paul II's 1992 declaration that the church's 17th-century denunciation of Galileo was an error resulting from "tragic mutual incomprehension." Galileo was condemned for supporting Nicolaus Copernicus' discovery that the Earth revolved around the sun; church teaching at the time placed Earth at the center of the universe.

"The permanent lesson that the Galileo case represents pushes us to keep alive the dialogue between the various disciplines, and in particular between theology and the natural sciences, if we want to prevent similar episodes from repeating themselves in the future," Poupard said.

But he said science, too, should listen to religion.

"We know where scientific reason can end up by itself: the atomic bomb and the possibility of cloning human beings are fruit of a reason that wants to free itself from every ethical or religious link," he said.

"But we also know the dangers of a religion that severs its links with reason and becomes prey to fundamentalism," he said.

"The faithful have the obligation to listen to that which secular modern science has to offer, just as we ask that knowledge of the faith be taken in consideration as an expert voice in humanity."
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Theological Notebook: An Ancient Church Site Discovered in Israel

I end my lunch break with the delightful news of a new archaeological discovery in Israel, with intact inscriptions, no less.

Archaeologists Discover Ancient Church

Nov 5, 10:50 PM (ET)


JERUSALEM (AP) - Israeli archaeologists said Saturday they have discovered what may be the oldest Christian church in the Holy Land on the grounds of a prison near the biblical site of Armageddon.

The Israeli Antiquities Authority said the ruins are believed to date back to the third or fourth centuries and include references to Jesus and images of fish, an ancient Christian symbol.

"This is a very ancient structure, maybe the oldest in our area," said Yotam Tepper, the head archaeologist on the dig.

The dig took place over the past 18 months at the Megiddo prison in Israel's northern Galilee region, with the most significant discoveries taking place in the past two weeks, Tepper said. Scholars believe Megiddo to be the New Testament's Armageddon, the site of a final war between good and evil.

Tepper said the discovery could reveal more about an important period of Christianity, which was banned until the fourth century.

"Normally, we have from this period in our region historical evidence from literature, not archaeological evidence," he said. "There is no structure you can compare it to. It is a very unique find."

Channel Two television, which first reported the story, broadcast pictures of a detailed and well-preserved mosaic bearing the name of Jesus Christ in ancient Greek and images of fish.

Pietro Sambi, the Vatican's ambassador to Israel, praised the find as a "great discovery."

"Of course, all the Christians are convinced of the history of Jesus Christ," he told Channel Two. "But is it extremely important to have archaeological proof of a church dedicated to him? Certainly."

Joe Zias, an anthropologist and a former curator with the Israeli Antiquities Authorities, said the discovery was significant but unlikely to be the world's oldest church. He said Christianity was outlawed until the time of Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, and there were no churches before then.

"The earliest it could be is fourth century and we have other fourth-century churches. I think what is important here is the size, the inscription and the mosaics," he said. "I think it is an important find ... but I wouldn't say it was the oldest church in the world."

The Antiquities Authority said more than 60 prison inmates participated in the dig in recent months. Channel Two said there is speculation Israel may move the prison and open a tourist attraction in its place.

"If it's between a prison and a church, I would like a church," Zias said. "You can put a prison anywhere."

Israeli Tourism Minister Avraham Hirshzon said the discovery could greatly increase tourism to Israel.

"If we nurture this properly, then certainly there will be a large stream of tourists who could come to Israel," he told Channel Two.

Getty Images

Israeli prison warders and archaeologists gather outside the protected ruins of the recently excavated church. An inscription on the floor of the structure declares it was dedicated to “the God Jesus Christ as a memorial."
Perfect Moments

Personal: Sophia Grace Fleming

Naturally, just as I dashed downstairs to the Walgreen's to stock up on A&W Root Beer, Kevin calls to tell me of the birth of Sophia Grace Fleming, at 8 pounds, 1 ounce. I called back right away and spoke to him and to a jubilant Frannie, and heard the joy right from them. After 12 hours of labour, she made her entrance in a matter of two pushes, quietly eying the family and keeping her thoughts to herself. Bottom line: Mother and daughter are doing fine. (Dad in a bit of a state of shock, though, I think.)
I See You!

Theological Notebook: The Establishment Clause--What's it for?

Did any of you catch this article by Michael M. Uhlmann in last month's First Things? While I wouldn't sign off on everything he says, he gives one of the most sensible summaries I've see of the Supreme Court's problems figuring out a rational treatment of the Establishment Clause. I think he puts his finger right on the point where the train jumped the tracks (1947's Everson v. Board of Education) and how we'll have to work all the way back to that point in order to get a coherent, non-paranoid jurisprudence of Church and State. That part picks up about halfway down the article. A few select and well-penned lines:
After nearly six decades to ponder the depths of what is one of the central questions of American political culture, the justices have offered nothing except the very divisiveness some of them say the First Amendment was designed to prevent.
A good beginning would be to recognize that the First Amendment does not, and never did, require strict neutrality as between religion and non-religion for purposes of the Establishment Clause. Requiring the state to be neutral as between sects is both constitutionally necessary and morally desirable. Requiring it to be neutral as between religion and non-religion generally produces a decidedly unneutral result—the triumph of practical atheism in the public square.
I See You!

Random: An essay on Tillman I found shaming

One final random bit before bed and DQEs in the morning, as I read 1,000 pages a minute, books igniting in my hands, data crashing around me like a rainstorm,
I am become Google, skimmer of worlds....

Read the whole of this essay, even if you think you know the story already. What happens in the Army regarding this fallout is pretty sickening.

Military Cover-Up Dishonors Hero

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

By Radley Balko

In 2000, Pat Tillman, safety for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, turned down a $9 million contract offer from the St. Louis Rams, in order to remain in Arizona for a mere $500,000. Tillman valued team loyalty, even though his team wasn’t all that good.

Most of us now know what happened next. After Sept. 11, 2001, Tillman felt a different sense of duty. After watching the World Trade Center towers fall, Tillman left football to join the Army Rangers. His brother, a minor league baseball player at the time, joined him. In April 2004, Tillman was killed in Afghanistan en route to a sweep of a small town for Al Qaeda operatives.

The Washington Post and San Francisco Chronicle have since pored over thousands of Pentagon documents pertaining to Tillman’s death. Two themes have emerged from those documents:

The first theme is that Tillman cast an enormous shadow. Far from a footballing, soldiering brute, he was a curious and independent thinker, a man who embraced the challenges of leadership but shied away from fame and praise. And he was, of course, a guy who — if you’ll pardon the cliché — risked and paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

The second theme to emerge from Tillman’s death is that his country probably didn’t deserve him. At every turn, the U.S. military has exploited, desecrated, and, ultimately, turned its back on Tillman’s heroism. The Pentagon has since closed its doors to Tillman’s family, sharing information about his death only when compelled to do so by members of the media, or by the Tillman family’s newfound allies in Congress.Collapse )