Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Truly thinking?

What's the deal with people saying "thinking of you" in times of crisis or despair?

Bad things happen, and often at inopportune times. People seem naturally sympathetic to suffering, especially of friends and relatives; they are usually quick to offer their condolences. Our modern day society has begun to abandon the traditional (Christian) expressions of sympathy in favor of more secularized statements.

I noticed recently that, whereas the laudable expression "I am praying for you" was called for, most people have begun to say "I am thinking of you" instead. This unscientific observation of comments on the Facebook really disturbs me.

What does someone really mean when they say they are "thinking of you"? The average materialist does not believe in such things as prayer, or universal life force energy or the other things that could be considered intercessory. So, then, what might a non-believer be doing or indicating if he or she is thinking of someone else? Except for empty sympathy, the only thing I can think of is the offer of "misery loves company". You hurt, so I will share in your hurt so we can commiserate. If, however, at least the person being "thought of" is a believer, then he will understand that the person's thoughts, even if not made in faith, can still be heard by the Almighty, and carried to His throne by, say, one of their guardian angels, or the like. On the other hand if that person is not a believer I can't imagine why they would want anyone to "think of them" in non-practical ways (such as thinking of bringing them soup, for instance), except for the "misery loves company" theory, though I wouldn't think a truly compassionate person would want to burden someone else with their sufferings like that.

And so, I hope that anyone reading this will think twice about telling someone they are "thinking of them", and instead make it clear that you are "praying for them". And then do it! My personal favorite prayer for any intention at any time is the Memorare:
Remember, O most gracious virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O virgin of virgins, my mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy answer me. Amen

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

St. Bruno

Today is the optional memorial of St. Bruno. It is fitting, I think, that he be honored with an optional memorial, for his humility would prevent being desirous of being obligatorily honored by the universal Church. In fact, though his cult was approved by the Church in 1623, he was never canonized in the formal ceremonies common of the time. The Carthusian order wouldn't permit such pomp and ceremony to surround their humble founder.

Today would be a good day to watch Into Great Silence and drink some Chartreusse in his honor.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Zenit had a great article yesterday, an interview with Fr. Luigi Borriello, a Carmelite priest and professor of Theology. I recommend you go read it, but I will post a couple snippets.
ZENIT: In fact, many seek in the East what Christian mysticism already contains.

Father Borriello: Indeed. It's a paradox.

Many Christians don't know the wealth of their own mystical tradition and they turn to the East, seeking what is in the interior of that tradition.
ZENIT: Would it be appropriate to desire a mystical experience?

Father Borriello: It is not a question of asking for it but of receiving it when it comes, if it comes.

Experience is a category that is used in all the disciplines. I prefer to speak of mystical experience; it is something that God gives to man who receives it passively, and, in fact, makes an effort on receiving it.
True Christian mysticism is a bit of a lost art these days, though there are many, Christians included, who are attracted to the new-age mysticism drawn from Eastern traditions. I think there are a couple reasons for this. First of all, Eastern mysticism is about self, clearing ones own mind, and, after all, we are a very selfish people. I'm no expert, but I'm not sure what, if any, pre-requisites there are to approaching Eastern mysticism, either.

On the other hand, Christian mysticism is all about God, and a closer union with the divine. Requisite on the Christian seeking a mystical union with the Lord is a personal sanctity and holiness of life. Only then, as all the great mystical writers have told us, can the soul be open to the gift of a mystical experience. Further, Christian mysticism isn't all happy fun time either, in fact it is quite the opposite. Sure, as the soul begins to accept mystical union there can be many great consolations, but as the soul further approaches God, the tendency is that God will retreat, leaving the soul in a profound darkness. At its face, it seems a harder row to hoe than offered by the East.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

On the Theology of Science

My education has been almost purely technical since I began as an undergrad in Physics. Studying a Science, Engineering, or the like is quite intensive, and thus leaves little (if any) room for studying non-technical subjects. Even a tech school has general education requirements; I had 21 credits of humanities and social sciences, but there were not too many choices, and thus I took courses like "The Philosophy of Physics" and "Sociology of the Sciences". These brief introductory statements are meant to be an apology to all of the non-technical types who have a much better education in the field than I.

I read a book last year called "The new physics and a new theology" by Fr. Michael Heller, a priest and physicist who works at the Vatican Observatory. In it, he lays out a brief history of science and scientific thought, especially from the view of natural philosophy, and the history of relations between theologians and scientists up to today. In it he makes many good and interesting points, of which I will not discuss here. He ultimately proposes that a new branch of Theology be developed, which he terms the Theology of Science, to complement scientific inquiry and the philosophy of science.

I have had some time to reflect on such things recently, and, as such, will attempt to expound on this idea. Science asks the question: what is the universe like, and what rational laws with predictive power can we develop to help explain and understand what we observe in the universe? The philosophy of science, however, addresses a different area of thought, asking what methods are valid for scientific inquiry, how can we evaluate scientific claims, and what sort of Truths can we derive from these claims, that is scientific epistemology.

Theology asks further questions, and the theology of science would ask questions like: why does the universe seem to obey rational, mathematically elegant laws? What makes the form of Creation we have observed "good"? What does Creation, and the (scientific) knowledge we gain from observing it, tell us about the Creator? Save the last question I mentioned, the others are still a bit specific rather than general, and fail to capture or define the full scope of the field, but they at least form a starting point to attempt to interact with it.

Attempts to do this have, for the most part, fallen short of actually establishing a field, and I think I agree with Fr. Heller that attempting to stick these ideas into existing theological structures could be doomed to fail, or at the very least will likely prove inadequate in the long run. The problem, he says, is partly language: scientists and theologians surely do not speak the same language. This is made somewhat clear when considering attempts at discussing a theology of creation have been made. As a scientist reading Cardinal Schonborn's book Chance or Purpose? and other things he has written, he misunderstands some scientific statements, and perhaps more fundamentally, he seems to mis-represent (unintentionally, of course) the way that scientists actually think about science. This, says Fr. Heller, is attributable to the middle ages and the age of Aquinas. At the time, Aristotle was all the rage, especially among a certain class of the elites: enough so that some bishops evened banned the reading and teaching of Aristotle. Although the nascent "scientists" of the day were indeed attracted to this philosophy, it did not take too long for them to realize that to make real scientific inquiry would require Platonic (or indeed Archimedean) thought. In the mean time, however Thomas Aquinas "baptized" Aristotle and Theologians have been hooked since, thinking they were now on the same page as the scientists. In fact, Fr. Heller even postulates that your average Thomist today would still think his theological approach was "scientific" and similar to a scientist's approach to his craft.

Now, I don't pretend here to have actually defined the field of Theology of Science, but merely start to reflect on what it might contain, and of what use it might be. I, for one, am most interested in the last of the questions I have posed, namely, what we can learn about the creator by studying His creation. This will be left for another day.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Fruit of a Poisoned Tree

There is a legal doctrine, referred to as "fruit of the poisonous tree", indicating that any evidence obtained in an illegal manner, no matter how damning, is inadmissible in a court of law. The point of this is both to protect to rights of those persons involved, and also to deter those law enforcement agents from ever violating those rights in the first place. After all, if the protection against illegal search and seizure didn't actually prevent the reaping of the benefits of illegal police actions, there would be no real deterrents against blatant rights violations.

I think this principle needs to be considered with respect to the hundreds of thousands of human embryos we currently have "on ice" from the growth of the in-vitro fertilization. There are at least half a million human embryos sitting in cold storage in the United States alone, waiting.

Waiting for what, though? Most of them, I would guess, aren't intended, any more, to be bore in their mothers' wombs. Many extra embryos are produced in each IVF "treatment" cycle, "just in case," they say. Then what? The parents have a kid or two, maybe more with twins being quite common, and then, they decide they've "had enough," and are left with additional children on ice.

There has been a lot of discussion about what to do about these persons, and many good and prominent Catholics disagree about the best course of action. Some people suggest the "adoption" of these embryos by families who would be willing to bear and raise someone else's biological progeny. Others suggest that we must see to keep them cold until such a time as we can be confident that they have died. Secular thinkers even think we should be using them for embryonic stem cell research. The Catholic thinkers will at least admit that this is a very unfortunate situation and doesn't admit an immediately clear morally good answer.

This is where I think we need to consider the principle of the fruit of poison trees. The wholesale production of humans for the purpose of using a few in place of natural reproduction is morally reprehensible. No solution will change that. And, thus, any solution we come up with must not encourage the act. This is why the adoption solution is imperfect. What if it were to "catch on", if couples who were truly infertile found this a solution to their infertility? This could encourage more, not less embryo production.

The "tree" of IVF is truly a poisonous scourge on society, and the only way out will ultimately be to pull it out by its roots. We must stop this practice completely. Short of that, we will not be free of the associated problems.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Prague Cathedral

I have posted a number of times before on the state of the Prague Cathedral. A brief history: the first Church there was built in the 900s, the present day Cathedral in the 1200s, the Commies seized it (with much of the Church's property) when they took over Czechoslovakia, then, when the Czech Republic formed, they decided not to give the Church its property back, including the Cathedral. And so, there have been fights in Czech and European courts. But, now the word is that an agreement has been reached.

“The state and the Catholic Church will work together to administer and maintain the cathedral as they have done for centuries,” President Klaus explained, according to Radio Prague. “The Church will continue to use the cathedral as a metropolitan church and the state will secure the necessary funds for its maintenance.”

The agreement will create a board of administrators made up of the Czech Republic’s leading representatives. They will meet once or twice each year to discuss issues related to the cathedral’s maintenance and use.

The Catholic Church will be allowed to use two adjoining buildings, part of the Prague Castle compound, free of charge.

Not too bad a deal if you ask me, the State opts to pay to keep up the place, though I generally don't like the idea of getting in bed with the state like this. After all, what if the Secular authorities decide they want to hold some non-sacral events within the Cathedral, or worse. My guess is, this Cathedral is consecrated in perpetuity, and thus can't be rendered to the secular. The new Cardinal Archbishop, replacing Cardinal Vlk, decided that the probably almost 20 year old court battle has been drawn out too much.

Radio Prague reports that the new archbishop said the court fight, almost two decades old, was pointless.

“It is clear that this particular property cannot be judged on purely legal grounds,” he commented. “This cathedral is a historical, spiritual, national and cultural symbol dear to the heart of all Czechs – regardless of their faith.”

In the same way, the Pieta or the ceiling of the Sistine chapel are "historical, spiritual, national and cultural" icons, but I wouldn't want to turn their control or ownership in whole or part to secular authorities. This case, however, is different, as the state has the ownership at this moment. This is probably a good compromise, as the European Courts might just tell the Church "tough luck", and in this case, there could be a chance that a benevolent government in the future might decide that administrating Church properties nearly a Millennium old isn't worth it.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Though it is not an act specifically granted an indulgence under the Enchiridion, it would still be a good thing to recall and recite the Quicumque, or the Athanasian Creed today.
WHOEVER wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the Catholic faith.
For unless a person keeps this faith whole and entire, he will undoubtedly be lost forever.
This is what the catholic faith teaches: we worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity.
Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the substance.
For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit.
But the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have one divinity, equal glory, and coeternal majesty.
What the Father is, the Son is, and the Holy Spirit is.
The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Spirit is uncreated.
The Father is boundless, the Son is boundless, and the Holy Spirit is boundless.
The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, and the Holy Spirit is eternal.
Nevertheless, there are not three eternal beings, but one eternal being.
So there are not three uncreated beings, nor three boundless beings, but one uncreated being and one boundless being.
Likewise, the Father is omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, the Holy Spirit is omnipotent.
Yet there are not three omnipotent beings, but one omnipotent being.
Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.
However, there are not three gods, but one God.
The Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord.
However, there are not three lords, but one Lord.
For as we are obliged by Christian truth to acknowledge every Person singly to be God and Lord, so too are we forbidden by the Catholic religion to say that there are three Gods or Lords.
The Father was not made, nor created, nor generated by anyone.
The Son is not made, nor created, but begotten by the Father alone.
The Holy Spirit is not made, nor created, nor generated, but proceeds from the Father and the Son.
There is, then, one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.
In this Trinity, there is nothing before or after, nothing greater or less. The entire three Persons are coeternal and coequal with one another.
So that in all things, as is has been said above, the Unity is to be worshiped in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity.
He, therefore, who wishes to be saved, must believe thus about the Trinity.
It is also necessary for eternal salvation that he believes steadfastly in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God and man.
As God, He was begotten of the substance of the Father before time; as man, He was born in time of the substance of His Mother.
He is perfect God; and He is perfect man, with a rational soul and human flesh.
He is equal to the Father in His divinity, but inferior to the Father in His humanity.
Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ.
And He is one, not because His divinity was changed into flesh, but because His humanity was assumed unto God.
He is one, not by a mingling of substances, but by unity of person.
As a rational soul and flesh are one man: so God and man are one Christ.
He died for our salvation, descended into hell, and rose from the dead on the third day.
He ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
At His coming, all men are to arise with their own bodies; and they are to give an account of their own deeds.
Those who have done good deeds will go into eternal life; those who have done evil will go into the everlasting fire.
This is the Catholic faith. Everyone must believe it, firmly and steadfastly; otherwise He cannot be saved. Amen.
One of the symbols of the faith. Chock full of goodness, and especially nice for the feast of the Most Holy Trinity.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Marquette III

I don't have much time to discuss the ongoing discussions surrounding Marquette, but I wanted to post this. This professor is asking the right question:
"The question that should be asked is not why Marquette President Father Robert A. Wild backed off the hiring," Wolfe writes, "but how in heaven did the hiring ever occur in the first place?"
You can read his analysis yourself.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I'm getting tired of seeing non-real comments from robots on my weblog, so I have instituted "comment moderation." so as to prevent spam from filling up the comments section.

This may mean a slight delay in comments being seen, but I insist I will approve any non-spam comments.

Sorry I had to do this.

The Management.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Marquette - UPDATE

As I mentioned earlier, the President of Marquette University decided to rescind an offer of a dean's position to an openly lesbian professor who had a history of writing things contrary to Catholic doctrine. Lifesite News has a nice summary of the uproar that has followed.

They actually go through some of her writings and find some disturbing things. In addition, some more information has come out with regards to this decision.
One professor, speaking to Milwaukee Magazine on condition of anonymity, said that Fr. Wild told the faculty that Archbishop Listecki had expressed an opinion on the matter that had a bearing on his decision. Upon being pressed for an account of how the decision was made, Fr. Wild reportedly declined to give any details.

When Archdiocesan Judicial Vicar Father Paul Hartmann wrote to the committee chair searching for a new dean, according to the Journal Sentinel, he wrote that some possible candidates were pursuing subjects of study "that seems destined to actually create dichotomies and cause tensions (if not contradictions) with Marquette's Catholic mission and identity."

"My greatest fear, as a priest, alum, and as president of a high school which sends dozens of new students to (Marquette) each fall, is that the important decision to be made in this moment will instead dichotomize university from Church and reason from faith," Hartmann wrote.
Interesting if true. Can you believe, a University listening to its Ordinary? It's good to hear about such things.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Jesus of Nazareth II: Electric Boogaloo

Just in on the wires. Jesus of Nazareth part II is completed, or at least the German version is done. Work on translations, thus is about to get underway. Months, they say. I remember being promised this to be done in the spring. In fact the words were "should be ready" and "expected in the spring of 2010". Indeed, it is still spring, but I was led to believe that the translations were being prepared starting last September, not still the original.

That said, the Pope's a busy guy, and I suppose I can give him a break, but I can't wait for part II to come out! I do hope they don't rush the translation; I want it to be good, like part I was.

Cardinal Schönborn off the Rails

I've admired some of the works of Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, especially his book Change or Purpose on cosmic and biological evolution. He doesn't always get the science right, but he has at least tried to look at the science from a theological perspective, which is a direction in modern theology which I think need to be explored more, especially by those few who are familiar with both science and theology.

So, I have been a bit dismayed with some of the things I have seen in more recent times from Cardinal Schönborn and the Archdiocese of Vienna. Most recently, I saw this.
The Church should "give more consideration" to "the quality" of homosexual relationships, the cardinal archbishop of Vienna said this weekend. Christoph Schönborn told the far-left British Catholic magazine the Tablet that the Church should also consider allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion since “many people don’t even marry at all any longer.”

“We should give more consideration to the quality of homosexual relationships. A stable relationship is certainly better than if someone chooses to be promiscuous,” Schönborn said.


He's a Cardinal Archbishop. Where is this coming from?

Bishop fined for the Truth

Of course, we all knew the day was coming when the secular authorities started fining those in the Church for speaking out for the Truth. An article came out today about a Bishop in Costa Rica who was fined by the government for advocating in a homily voting according to Catholic principles.

He didn't even say anything that outrageous.
During the Mass last September, Bishop Ulloa told the faithful, “We are facing a political campaign in which we must carefully choose who is going to govern us. We are now finding out which candidates deny God and defend principles that go against life, marriage, and the family. Therefore, we must be coherent with our faith and cannot give them our vote in good conscience.”
"We can't vote for those who will oppose the Truth." A sound and simple principle.

Mark my words, the day is coming when the same will be be true in Europe (in fact, it might be here already) and even in this country. Maybe speaking out won't be a crime here, but I'm sure the calls for the Church to lose her tax-exempt status will come with greater fervor in years to come, especially since many of our bishops have started to find their voices in recent times.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Marquette and the Catholic Identity

A good friend of mine has directed me to this article.
Marquette University defended its decision to withdraw an offer to an openly lesbian faculty member to become a college dean after it became evident that the teacher's published writings opposed Church teachings on human sexuality.

The Jesuit university underscored the importance of finding a dean who is not only academically competent but represents “our Catholic identity.”

I took the liberty of checking out her CV, and it indicated she had written articles which had titles likely supporting the claim that her published writings opposed Church teachings.
Fr. Robert Wild, president of Marquette, commented on the situation during a faculty award dinner on Thursday, underscoring that the decision to withdraw the offer to O'Brien was not a discriminatory act.
“I want to say it strongly, clearly and directly,” the reason for rescinding the position was “not about sexual identity,” Fr. Wild said.
Right, the issue is Catholic identity. A Catholic university needs to seek out administrators and faculty who can build up and support that identity. Ex Corde Ecclesiae would agree, saying that those who are not part of the faith must nonetheless be aware of the University's Catholic identity and mission, and work toward that end.

Fr. Wild had to intercede on behalf of the Faith, which is is job. This episode indicates that there are probably some bigger issues that need to be dealt with on this campus. Any chance, though, to re-assert the Catholic identity on campus must be commended.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fr. Hesburgh and Health Care

I've been so busy recently, I've barely had the chance to even read articles that could make their way to this weblog. Today, though, I saw a headline that was too provocative to pass up: Pelosi Invoked Fr. Hesburgh to Turn 'No' Health Bill Vote to 'Yes'.

This saddens, but doesn't surprise me. Though it is worse than I thought. The headline made me think she said something like "what would Fr. Hesburgh do?" but, it turns out, he actually was asked to make a phone call
Hesburgh was called in to persuade U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) to vote for the health care bill despite the vast expansion of abortion funding embedded in it. Donnelly had been a member of the group of Democrats led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who opposed the bill without Hyde-amendment restrictions on abortion funding.

Elizabeth Shappell, Donnelly's press secretary, claims Hesburgh did not tell Donnelly how to vote but only advised him to "vote your conscience."

A well formed conscience should have been able to see clearly what the issues at hand were. In fact, it really would be the role of the episcopate and presbyteriate to help form the consciences of those considering this bill. There was no pressing need to pass this bill now, on that day, as it stood. After all, people weren't dying in the streets; the current system works, though perhaps imperfectly, and we thus should have done such a massive reform correctly, even if it took a little more time.

If only Fr. Hesburgh had forgotten all about the Land O' Lakes statement, and just told Congressman Donnelly to listen to the Bishops.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Works in progress

The faithful reader(s) of this weblog have surely noticed that in recent months, the frequency with which I have been making posts has greatly diminished. Fear not, for I am thinking no less than before; the world of graduate school work presently demands more time of me.

Rather than leave this simply apologetic in nature, I will enlighten you to the areas which have been drawing my interest recently. These interests, very often, manifest themselves as and/or culminate in essays, which could become weblog posts, or the like. This is a recent snapshot of what I have been working on and thinking about.

Working titles:
The theology of grading
On the gnostic nature of Linux
The internet these days (a look at how the internet has so changed everything)
The Scout Oath and Law as a rule for life
Adversus Matrimonii Mixiti (a critique of the practice of mixed-faith relationships)

In addition, I have started to work some more on my Way of the Cross reflections. I have also been tossing around the idea of writing a Rule.

I suppose if any of these interested anyone, I could "fast track" them, as it were. Otherwise, you may see these, or something else that strikes my fancy, right here on some day in the future.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Friends, I present to you the culmination of a bit of research on my part stemming from a conversation I had recently about archabbeys. I once learned that there were 5 archabbeys in the world, with St. Meinrad and St. Vincent being the two in the US. This was incorrect, as there are 11 in the world. I will recount the results, the sources, and a bit of the quest for this information.

To my knowledge, there does not exist a nice list anywhere, in English or otherwise, of the archabbeys in the world. Try searching google or wikipedia for archabbeys or the like and you won't find a nice list. I did however, come to find that there are indeed 11 in the world. St. Meinrad's website has a citation, claiming "There are only 11 archabbeys in the world, one other in the United States." This is repeated on the wikipedia entry on Indiana. This seemed to me to confirm that I had 11 to find.

I knew of a few, and decided the best way to get to this was to search for a parital list, to see if I could find a full list. I searched google for "pannonhalma beuron ottilien meinrad vincent", which were 5 I was able to find via looking through wikipedia. The only useful entry I found was a web forum in Italian. In case, at some point that link fails to work, I will post here the pertinent entry:
Originariamente scritto da Fidei Depositum Vedi messaggio
1) Sì. In tutto le arciabbazie sono 11 (secondo il sito dell'abbazia di san Meinrado): di queste conosco Montecassino, Pannonhalma (UNG), Beuron (GER), Emming(GER), San Meinrado (USA), San Vincenzo (USA), San Pietro a Salisburgo (AUT).
Se qualcuno mi sa dire quali manchino, ben venga.
Ringraziando Henry O'Shea e il sito www.osb-international.info, cui ho chiesto informazioni, posso fornirvi l'elenco completo delle 11 arciabbazie al mondo (ho completato aggiungendo ad ognuna il link al sito ufficiale):

1) Montecassino;
2) Monte Oliveto Maggiore;
3) Vallombrosa;
4) Arpino (monache)(non hanno sito web);
5) Beuron (DEU);
6) Sankt Ottilien (DEU);
7) Brevnov (CZE);
8) Pannonhalma (HUN);
9) Saint Vincent (USA);
10) Saint Meinrad (USA);
11) Sao Sebastiao em Salvador (BRA)(non hanno sito web).
So, I had a list. I knew some of these, but not all. I also was pointed to the Benedictine's central site, which has a nice search feature (called atlas). This however was not the end of my quest.

I decided that I must confirm that indeed each of these are Archabbeys, as I had my doubts (for instance about Montecassino). A confirmation, I decided, was some mention, on the internet, especially in something official (like their website) that it is an archabbey.

I will cut to the chase a little bit. I did not confirm this list completely, I was able to confirm 10 of the 11, and found another one, which makes 11. I will present them all below, with sources and such.

First, Montecassino in Italy. This one threw me for a loop, because none of the official websites refer to it as anything but the Abbey of Montecassino. A little bit of poking around, and I found a Vatican itinerary on the Holy See's website stating "Celebration of Vespers with the Benedictine Abbots and the Community of Benedictine Monks and Nuns gathered in the Archabbey of Montecassino." I call that confirmed.

Next, Monte Oliveto Maggiore, also in Italy, was another tough one. Their website, and that of the Benedictines didn't refer to it as an archabbey. But, I did find a letter of Pope John Paul II to the Olivetian Benedictines, which says: "...so united to the Archabbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore that they form a single family by a juridical bond..." If it's good enough for the Pope, then it is good enough for me.

I was unable to confirm #3 on the list, Vallombrosa, but I did confirm #4 Arpino. This was the hardest of all, because searching for Arpino in the website of the Benedictines didn't yield a result. In a sense, the confirmation was easy, searching Google for "Arpino archabbey" yielded the 2006 charitable giving of the Knights of Columbus: "Benedictine Archabbey of Arpino, Romania — New monastery". By having the Benedictine website list all the territorial abbeys, one can find the listing for Arpino. That gives you at least a little bit about it, and thanks to the crack record keeping of the Knights, we know it to be an archabbey of nuns.

Beuron archabbey in Germany is one of the few archabbeys with the word "archabbey" in the wikipedia page. Likewise, their website lists them as an archabbey (erzabtei in German).

Saint Ottilien, also in Germany, is also listed as an "Erzabtei" on the OSB website.

Brevnov, located in the Czech Republic, is listed as a "Benediktinske arciopatstvi" which would seem to be Czech for Benedictine archabbey. A quick glance at their website's German version also confirms that it is an erzabtei, or archabbey.

I add in, now, St. Peter's in Salzburg, Austria, another confirmed case of "Erzabtei" thanks to the OSB website.

Pannonhalma, Hungary, is one of the oldest abbeys in the world. Hungarian is a much different beast of a language, but luckily, they have an English version of their homepage, with a note signed "Archabbot Asztrik Várszegi".

St. Vincent in Latrobe and St. Meinrad in Indiana, both proudly call themselves archabbeys.

Which leaves us with the last of our list, being called "Sao Sebastiao em Salvado" in Brazil by the list we had. Though I know no Portuguese, I can gather that this is St. Sebastian in Salvador (Bahia) Brazil. The wikipedia entry for the archdiocese mentions "Basílica Arquiabacial de São Sebastião (first benedictine monastery in the New World)" as a notable Church. Google translate luckily tells me that "arqui abacial" would translate "arch abbey". Additionally, their entry in the OSB atlas gives an email address for the abbey as "arquiabadeemanuel@hotmail.com", and again, google translate tells me that this would be archabbot Emanuel. Looking at their website, they would seem to best be called the Monestary of St. Benedict at the Archabbey of St. Sebastion. Their site further seems to indicate that they were raised to the status of archabbey in 1982.

That is 11. Assuming there are indeed only 11 archabbeys in the world, this is therefore a complete list. I repeat now, the list:

1) Montecassino; Italy
2) Monte Oliveto Maggiore; Italy
3) Arpino (nuns); Italy
4) Beuron; Germany
5) St. Ottilien; Germany
6) Brevnov; Czech Republic
7) St. Peter; Austria
8) Pannonhalma; Hungary
9) Saint Vincent; USA
10) Saint Meinrad; USA
11) St. Sebastion; Brazil

[EDIT: The list of Territorial Abbeys is incomplete, and as such I have removed it. If you are interested the Wikipedia entry on territorial abbeys might be a useful starting point. I will note that though I can't exactly confirm the list, because I don't know if I can put an actual limit on the number of Archabbeys, it seems reasonable. (Actually Catholic Hierarchy and OSB international disagree on the list of territorial abbeys, that is, the OSB site doesn't list Einsiedeln, Subiaco, or Tokwon.) I might buy the Catholic Heirarchy list of male territorial abbeys, but the Wikipedia list leaves out Arpino and Isola San Giulio, which are abbeys of Nuns, so though independent of a local ordinary, they they might not have territorial control over parishes, for instance.]

There you have it, a (possibly) complete list, in English, of all the archabbeys in the world.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Design Argument

Today, I attended a lecture sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Culture by Stephen M. Barr, entitled The Argument from Design for the Existence of God and the Laws of Physics. He also wrote the book Modern Physics and Ancient Faith and writes occasionally for the Journal First Things. I was turned on to his writing by my Pastor (who also attended the lecture) and have started reading his book.

He started his talk by contrasting his views with the intelligent design view. He had recently wrote an article on the First Things internet site critiquing the Intelligent Design position. The idea is that intelligent design and atheism both see God and science an in competition. Intelligent Design relies on arguments from biology, whereas the Bible and early Christian writers (of which he quoted maybe 6) focused on astronomy and natural order, rather than on biological arguments. The idea is that order in the universe implies a lawgiver. Also, he pointed out that monotheism really ends in an expectation of a natural order, and that Judeo-Christian views have been positive to a scientific explanation of the world.

He then went on to define the three different types of design argument for the existence of God. The three were Cosmic, Biological, and Providential. The Cosmic argument relies on the beauty, order, and structure of the universe to argue for a creator. The Biological relies on bio-complexity. The providential is a midpoint between them. It sees order in the world as moving toward the "good" of creation. It sees and argues from a purpose in the universe and relies heavily on the anthropic principle. Both the cosmic and the biological can be weakened by arguments from atheists relying on simple Darwinism.

The rest of the talk focused on the "Cosmic" argument for the existence of God. Essentially the cosmic view sees the mathematical beauty of the physical world to point toward a creator. The theist would say that seeing an arrangement implies an arranger, aka God. The Law, that is the physical law, does not explain the necessity of the Law. It just is. Consider walking into a room, and seeing a room with a neat arrangement of chairs. Would you assume the arrangement occurred spontaneously or was deigned by some intelligence? The chairs follow a "law" but that is not a necessary law (they could have followed some other law/had some other arrangement). Some laws, however, are necessary; the fundamental laws of mathematics (1+1=2) and logic (a statement cannot be both true and false) are both examples.

The postulate was put forward that order cannot emerge if order is not already extant. If a bunch of hard spheres (marbles, for instance) are put in a box, they will settle into a hexagonal close packing arrangement. This arrangement has less symmetry than an individual sphere. Thus, order at higher levels, which we observe (think, crystals) emerge from even stronger order at deeper levels. All of this comes down from the symmetries we observe in nature, which drive the development of modern fundamental physical laws.

He concluded by critiquing Richard Dawkins. The argument of Dawkins and his ilk is that order builds up from disorder, a bottom up approach. This, Prof. Barr claims, is an illusion (rather than a delusion) which comes from a superficial understanding of science. A simplistic understanding of Science, as a zoologist might have, might think that this is the way the world works. Physics claims that lower order, which we observe, stems from a higher symmetry principle, which may or may not be part of our direct experience.

I was impressed. I have enjoyed the things I have read by Prof. Barr, and this talk beat expectations. I don't need a Cosmic design argument for the existence of God; I am a believer. Even ontological arguments, like that of Anselm, I don't need, but it is at least an idea which can be used to defend the reasonableness of the Theistic position. I look forward to finishing his book.

The above was taken mostly from my notes, but I have been reflecting on this and have a couple more thoughts to add. Professor Barr is a Physicist, this is important to remember. With this in mind, think about what a tough job he has. As a believer, he might be in the minority in his field. At the very least, the most vocal physicists in the question of Faith are the nonbelievers. Then, when he gives talks like this, as the Q&A session bore out, he will be attacked, or at least challenged/questioned on his philosophical and/or theological grounds. He's not a philosopher, nor is he a theologian, so to respond to those points will often be unfulfilling to those groups. He's not alone, but he is almost alone.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

February Intentions

I'm excited about the Pope's general prayer intentions for the month of February, because he's praying for me:
That by means of sincere search for the truth scholars and intellectuals may arrive at an understanding of the one true God.
I like it!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fr. Elgar Bockenfeld, OFM

I was recently informed that a long time pastor of two parishes near my home town passed on to his eternal reward Tuesday evening.

Fr. Elgar Bockenfeld, OFM was 93 years old, was the pastor of two parishes at the time of his death. This fact alone should be enough to tell you what kind of man he was. I imagine (though I could be wrong) that he was possibly the oldest active pastor in the Roman Rite, and if not, in the top 10 or so.

He has always been old. When I was born, he was a stone's throw from 80 years old. I've always known him to have a hacking cough, brought on by years of cigars I'm told, and a slow, shuffling gait.

One of his appeals as a pastor was his liturgical style. His liturgies were fast, but correct. He always had a homily, even if somewhat short, but always relevant to either the readings of the day or some pressing issue in the world. He didn't skip any non-optional parts of the Mass, though he did skip the optional parts, for instance the sign of peace. The altar was always just as it should have been, ready with chalice and pall and burse and veil, colored accordingly with the day. He was one of the few priests who made it a point to "care about the crumbs" in an obvious manner. He insisted on communion with altar servers holding pattens, and was always sure to clean them before stowing them.

He was also devoted to the sacrament of confession. For a while, he was the only priest in the area who had a regular, at least weekly, confession schedule. In addition, as Easter and Christmas approached every year, he always preached on the importance of making a good confession, at this time if at no other, and to reinforce that, he scheduled confessions daily, so nobody had an excuse.

Being a pastor in one place for nearly 40 years is quite unique. I bet he baptized, married, and buried at least someone. He most certainly has baptized grandchildren of couples he married.

Although the Church Militant lost a great pastor yesterday, the Church Triumphant will surely be gaining a great saint.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Christian Unity Week

Somehow, I forgot to post on this earlier. In addition, I really thought I had made this post before, but, for the life of me, cannot find it.

This is the week dedicated for prayer for Christian Unity. This is quite important in this day, considering the overtures offered to the Anglicans, and the rumblings regarding the Orthodox Churches.

And so, I present the prayer for Christian unity offered in the Handbook of Indulgences, grant 44.
Almighty and eternal God,
you gather the scattered sheep
and watch over those you have gathered,

Look kindly on all who follow Jesus, your Son.

You have marked them with the seal of one baptism;
now make them one in the fullness of faith
and unite them in the bond of love.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
A partial indulgence.
Remember, you can pray this any time, not just in the week for Christian Unity.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr

Today (January 20) is the feast of St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr. He's usually forgotten in the history books and even on the calendar, because people like St. Sebastian more. Pope Fabian was the 20th Pope, and probably my favorite ancient Pope (after Peter, of course). The Martyrologium Romanum states
At Rome, the birthday of St. Fabian, pope, who suffered martyrdom in the time of Decius, and was buried in the cemetery of Callistus.
Not much said, but there is much more to this interesting Saint. He was a layman when he was elevated to the Chair of Peter. In fact, he was a simple farmer. From the Catholic Encyclopedia
After the death of Anterus he had come to Rome, with some others, from his farm and was in the city when the new election began. While the names of several illustrious and noble persons were being considered, a dove suddenly descended upon the head of Fabian, of whom no one had even thought. To the assembled brethren the sight recalled the Gospel scene of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Saviour of mankind, and so, divinely inspired, as it were, they chose Fabian with joyous unanimity and placed him in the Chair of Peter.
The Catholic Encyclopedia goes on to tell us that there is a certain tradition that he instituted the minor orders. It could be St. Fabian we have to thank for the subdeaconate. He sent missionaries to Gaul. Overall, he was a well-liked Pope, I think. He condemned some heresies and did other such Popery.

He is an example for us all. He was not the only Pope to be elevated to the Papacy while still a layman, but he may have been the first (ignoring arguments about when Peter was selected first Pope and made a priest/bishop). Though he isn't especially "popular" among the Saints, evidenced by the fact that usually Sebastian's mass texts get said today, and that he has no official patronage. I, however, propose that he should be considered a patron of being open to the call of God, After all, he just came into Rome to catch some of the excitement of a Papal election (there had had been less than 20 ever). By being open to the grace of God, he came up to Rome a farmer, and ended up Bishop and Pope.
God our Father, glory of your priests,
may the prayers of your Martyr Fabian
help us to share his faith
and offer you loving service.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Old Mass/New Mass

Fr. Z at WDTPRS made a post here asking for readers, especially those of the younger generation, to email him with brief thoughts on the old mass/new mass question. The responses are there, and in part 2 and part 3. My response was made and posted. All of the responses taken together make an interesting reflection on the question, and as I have continued thinking about it, I'd like to make a more substantial discussion of the topic than was afforded there.

First, I must lay out what I mean by the "old mass/new mass question." Overall, I'd like to discuss my preferences, how I arrived at them, and also the role the Extraordinary Form (EF) has played in my spiritual life at different points.

As I have said before, I didn't much care about the Faith, nor attendance at Church through my freshman year of college. When I returned to the Church as a sophomore, I had only moderate religious formation, and very little understanding of liturgical history. Luckily, though, I had friends who were also willing to learn, and as a group, we grew in the Faith. A close friend of mine had heard that there was a place in the Archdiocese (of Chicago) that had a special indult to celebrate the "Latin Mass" (as we called it). We decided to take in the Mass, and see what it was all about. I looked at some online missal and saw a general structure I recognized, and I figured that since I had been going to Mass all my life, a little Latin wouldn't deter me from knowing what was going on.

We were late, got a little lost on the way, and walked in during the Kyrie. I recognized that; it was one of the last things I recognized. Because we were late, I didn't notice the mass guides in the back of the Church when we came in. The experience was something wholly other. I was lost the whole time, and just did my best to pay attention to the bells. Come communion time, they used a communion rail. I had never received my Lord and Savior directly on my tongue in my life, let alone while kneeling. I think I knew not to say "Amen," but that was about all I knew. Moved by the sacredness of this mode of receiving, from that point on I only received on the tongue.

Reflecting on that Mass later, and attending the EF mass a number of times again, I was moved by the realization that this Mass was one and the same mass that my parents grew up with, and my grandparents had for much of their lives, and my great-grandparents, and back and back and back. I was also struck by the sanctity that the priests and servers showed toward the celebration of the Mass, something I had not seen anywhere else I had been. I also attended Mass at the same parish in the Ordinary Form (OF) in Latin.

Now, with my initial experiences of Mass in Latin laid out, I'd like to go on to discuss my preferences. In short, for the most part, and all things being equal, I'd prefer to go to an OF mass over an EF mass. Part of this is definitely familiarity; I think if I had only known the EF mass and then had limited exposure to the OF mass, I'd at least be leery of it. But, there is more than that. I like hearing what the priest is saying, and having responses given by the congregation rather than by the servers.

I don't attend the EF mass very often, despite having two nearby places to attend every Sunday. I used to go more often when I was in Chicago. I would go when I felt like I needed "an infusion of sanctity" or tradition, or just wanted to attend a liturgy which was done carefully. Today, the parish I attend does not do things "perfectly" (to my liking, at least), but things aren't off the wall either. I would probably more regularly attend if the EF mass was offered as one of the regular liturgies by my parish.

I haven't yet touched on the language issue. On this point I am still torn. I would like to see much greater use of the Latin language, but to what extent I am not sure. Of course, I think that things like the readings of the Mass ought be in the vernacular, but I'm not sure which parts of the ordinary ought be in the vernacular languages, and which others in Latin. I don't accept the premise that people won't be able to relate to or understand prayers in Latin, or whatever the usual complaint is. How many people even pay attention to the words of the Confiteor or the Credo when they hear it in English? Would it be any worse if the prayers were in Latin? The thing I like about keeping large parts of the ordinary in Latin is the uniformity and universality of worship among the Roman (Latin) Rite Catholics.

Finally, I will take a quick detour to discuss the reform I wish had taken place after the council. The mass I would like to see is essentially the EF mass, but with the points I've mentioned above, that is audible prayers by the priest (at least some of those prayers ought be audible), and responses given by the people. Throw in the additionally extended lectionary, and we've got a renewed liturgy which is clearly in continuity with Tradition. This, I think, having read things like Sacrocanctum Concilium, is what the council foresaw.