Saturday, February 28, 2009

Order in Variety

Fr. Obih is a priest from Nigeria. While our regular pastor, Fr. Danel, is on an Italian pilgrimage to see Padre Pio et al, Fr. Obih is filling in.

This evening I served Mass for Fr. Obih. Mark one in the universality column for the Latin crowd: the north-Atlanta American suburbanite assisted the visiting African priest, and the unrehearsed ceremony went off without a hitch.

Friday, February 27, 2009


WHAT: The Chieftains, Ireland's official musical ambassadors
WHEN: Saturday, February 28, 2009, 8:00 PM
WHERE: The Fabulous Fox Theatre, Atlanta

I saw the Chieftains perform a few years ago at Chastain Park. They're back in town this weekend; I'd planned to go, but ran into a complication with the arrival of out-of-town company. Missing the show will be a good little sacrifice to offer up for Lent.

Forty-three albums of traditional Irish music in forty-four years: not a bad run at all.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Social Web Sites Cause Brain Damage?


According to neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, social networking web sites are causing alarming changes in people's brains. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Bebo shorten attention spans, diminish the ability to communicate and concentrate, encourage instant gratification, and make people more self-centered.

Interestingly, these same problems (along with increased frequency of ADD, criminal behavior, drug use, teenage pregnancy, depression, and suicide) also occur more frequently in single parent homes.

I also recall reading the remarks of a British jurist who observed that young people make bad jurors because they have such short attention spans. Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge of Draycote is of the view that Gen-Y folks are so used to information presented on a screen that they are unable to listen to complex arguments in a courtroom.

At the same time, social sites seem to provide an advantage to business. Perhaps the breakdown is social technology as business tool vs. social technology as social mechanism?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fr. Damien


Pope Benedict will canonize 10 new saints this year, five in April and another five in October. One of the October saints is Fr. Damien de Veuster.

Fr. Damien de Veuster
Photo taken two months before his death

Fr. Damien was chaplain for the Molokai leper colony in Hawaii. Born Joseph de Veuster in 1840, he took the name Damien and went to Hawaii in 1864 to join his fellow missionaries of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. About 10 years later he started caring for leprosy patients on the Kalaupapa peninsula of Molokai island, where about 8,000 people had been banished during an epidemic in islands.

Father was a heroically generous soul who sought out those who had been abandoned and left to rot (literally). The forgotten ones on the leper colony were demoralized and lived in despair (at times even dissolutely), but the good priest reminded them of their dignity and told them that the Son of God had died for them as well. Fr. Damien labored hard to cultivate a culture of life on the island, especially through the Church’s liturgy: the magnificent Catholic Latin High Mass was a beloved hint of Heaven to those suffering people. At the end of his life he contracted leprosy himself -- a cross he bore generously, uniting it with Christ's suffering on Golgotha.

In the 19th century the colony was accessible only by sea just a few times out of the year; sometimes the lepers were just thrown overboard near the shore because there was no place for the ship to land. Even today a boat docks at the site of the colony only twice a year (planes make it a bit more accessible).

In 1936 Fr. Damien's body was exhumed and returned to Belgium (though in 1995 his right hand was returned to his original grave in Hawaii). The woman whose miraculous healing served as the final proof of Fr. Damien's sanctity had stage 4 cancer; she'd prayed to Fr. de Veuster for help, and after seven years her prayers were heard. (Aside: not that a saint answer prayers; when you ask for a saint's help, what you're doing is asking him to intervene on your behalf before the throne of God).

Fr. Damien's canonization has been expected for some time.

Friday, February 20, 2009



U.S. astronomers spotted a huge explosion in space. Scientists calculate the blast to be stronger than 9,000 supernovae.

The Kepler Supernova
20,000 light years from earth
A million-trillion times as bright as earth's sun

Gamma rays -- which are released by an eruption of this sort -- are able to penetrate matter. Said astrophysicist Frank Reddy of NASA, "These things don't stop for anything -- they just bore through and that's why we can see them from enormous distances."

After His Resurrection Christ walked through a solid door to stand beside His Apostles in the upper room. The quality of a Resurrected body that allows it to pass through solid objects with ease is called Subtlety.

I'm not suggesting that a glorified body in Heaven -- one in which the body is perfectly in tune with and subject to the soul -- is like a gamma ray. I'm just pointing out (perhaps for the sake of those who like those who like empirical support for a proposition?) that with the gamma rays escaping a supernova we have an example in the physical universe of one thing being able to pass through another with alacrity.

For the record, in addition to subtlety, there are three other attributes of Resurrected bodies in Heaven:
* Impassibility: incapable of experiencing physical pain or corruption
* Agility: free and swift movement -- with the quickness of thought, in fact
* Clarity: to shine with a brilliant radiance and beauty

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Important to Whom?

I was having lunch one day with a woman who said that her mother was struggling to find meaning in her life after the youngest child in the family had gone off to college.

"My mother has nothing in her life to give her value," she said, slurping on a straw. "She's never done anything of real meaning."

I haven't chatted again with this individual, in part because I wonder how much I'd enjoy another conversation with someone so obtusely selfish.

The mother in this case had been the stay-at-home variety who'd looked after several children -- which meant that there were a number of years when the mother was the most important person in the world to a bunch of little ones. That one of the little ones would grow up to be the oblivious individual sitting across the table from me was disappointing -- after all, it's sad when a person looks on others as existing mostly to gratify one's ego, but to escape adolescence and still be thinking that way about your own mother? What a clueless way to go through life.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Stimulus Plan Variation

I do not like the stimulus plan being pushed through congress: it awards money to people who made a number of bad decisions without obliging them to correct what caused the problems to begin with.

Having accepted that money is going to be given out as part of a stimulus plan, one wonders how matters would go if the funds went to pay off mortgages instead of being handed to the banks? Then the banks would get their money, and homeowners -- whom the money originally came from anyway -- would have paid-off homes.

Would you triage recipients: those who are not in arrears and have kept up their payments get the funds first? Perhaps limit it to primary place of residence?

Still, such a plan would be unfair to the people who have been responsible managers of their mortgages -- about 90% of homeowners -- to help those who have been less than prudent. And it's unfair that people who bought too much house or made imprudent purchase decisions should be excused from the consequences of their greed and stupidity. Would it still be better than just giving money to banks and having the homeowners lose out anyway?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Model Monarchs

I was talking to a friend today who said that monarchy was synonymous with tyranny. My friend appealed to Thomas Paine, who held that it was outrageous for people to not have a mechanism in place for altering their inherited government.

I took issue with the declaration that a monarch was necessarily a despot. What Paine really objected to was having another man over him – and non servium is a bad creed to live by.

Yes, of course I'm a republican -- I doubt I'd know what to do under a monarch, though I suppose with time I wouldn't mind it so much if I found myself in such a situation. My point was that I don't go in for gratuitous assertions that insinuate a pre-determined answer into the questions they raise. It's bad for the brain.

Not that anecdotal examples will settle the matter, but I did do a bit of research to identify monarchs who have been declared saints by the Catholic Church. I found 12 instances; no doubt further searching would turn up more examples, but this list is sufficient to illustrate the point that monarchy is not synonymous with tyranny.
1. St. Helena (d. 330), Empress of Rome
2. St. Oswald (605-642), King of England
3. St. Bathilde (d. 680), Queen of France
4. St. Edmund (840-870), King of England
5. St. Edward the Martyr (962-979), King of England
6. St. Henry (972-1024), Holy Roman Emperor
7. St. Stephen (975-1038), King of Hungary
8. St. Canute (994-1035), King of Denmark
9. St. Olaf (995-1030), King of Norway
10. St. Edward the Confessor (1003-1066), King of England
11. St. Margaret (1045-1092), Queen of Scotland
12. St. Louis IX (1215-1270), King of France

I'm also waiting for the canonization of Blessed Charles (1887-1922), Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, and King of Bohemia and Croatia. His incorrupt body lies in a church on the autonomous Portuguese island of Madeira, where this last of the Hapsburg monarchs died in exile.

Blessed Charles of Austria

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Popes

Of the 266 Popes who have governed the Catholic Church for nearly 2,000 years, 78 have been canonized -- which means we can be certain they are Saints in Heaven.

The first 35 Popes -- starting with St. Peter (32-67 AD), the first Pope and the chief of the 12 Apostles -- were all canonized. Many of these were martyrs who reigned during periods of terrible persecution, when to be elected Pope was frequently tantamount to receiving a death sentence.

Another 10 Popes are numbered among the Blessed.

I was asked once who I thought the best Pope was of the 20th century. It was no contest: St. Pius X (1903-14), I said, because he was the first Pope canonized in 500 years.

Here's to hoping that Pope Benedict XVI will be the next one.

* St. Peter (32-67)
* St. Linus (67-76)
* St. Anacletus (Cletus) (76-88)
* St. Clement I (88-97)
* St. Evaristus (97-105)
* St. Alexander I (105-115)
* St. Sixtus I (Xystus I) (115-125)
* St. Telesphorus (125-136)
* St. Hyginus (136-140)
* St. Pius I (140-155)
* St. Anicetus (155-166)
* St. Soter (166-175)
* St. Eleutherius (175-189)
* St. Victor I (189-199)
* St. Zephyrinus (199-217)
* St. Callistus I (217-22)
* St. Urban I (222-30)
* St. Pontain (230-35)
* St. Anterus (235-36)
* St. Fabian (236-50)
* St. Cornelius (251-53)
* St. Lucius I (253-54)
* St. Stephen I (254-257)
* St. Sixtus II (257-258)
* St. Dionysius (260-268)
* St. Felix I (269-274)
* St. Eutychian (275-283)
* St. Caius (Gaius) (283-296)
* St. Marcellinus (296-304)
* St. Marcellus I (308-309)
* St. Eusebius (309 or 310)
* St. Miltiades (311-14)
* St. Sylvester I (314-35)
* St. Marcus (336)
* St. Julius I (337-52)
* Liberius (352-66)
* St. Damasus I (366-83)
* St. Siricius (384-99)
* St. Anastasius I (399-401)
* St. Innocent I (401-17)
* St. Zosimus (417-18)
* St. Boniface I (418-22)
* St. Celestine I (422-32)
* St. Sixtus III (432-40)
* St. Leo I (the Great) (440-61)
* St. Hilarius (461-68)
* St. Simplicius (468-83)
* St. Felix III (II) (483-92)
* St. Gelasius I (492-96)
* Anastasius II (496-98)
* St. Symmachus (498-514)
* St. Hormisdas (514-23)
* St. John I (523-26)
* St. Felix IV (III) (526-30)
* Boniface II (530-32)
* John II (533-35)
* St. Agapetus I (Agapitus I) (535-36)
* St. Silverius (536-37)
* Vigilius (537-55)
* Pelagius I (556-61)
* John III (561-74)
* Benedict I (575-79)
* Pelagius II (579-90)
* St. Gregory I (the Great) (590-604)
* Sabinian (604-606)
* Boniface III (607)
* St. Boniface IV (608-15)
* St. Deusdedit (Adeodatus I) (615-18)
* Boniface V (619-25)
* Honorius I (625-38)
* Severinus (640)
* John IV (640-42)
* Theodore I (642-49)
* St. Martin I (649-55)
* St. Eugene I (655-57)
* St. Vitalian (657-72)
* Adeodatus (II) (672-76)
* Donus (676-78)
* St. Agatho (678-81)
* St. Leo II (682-83)
* St. Benedict II (684-85)
* John V (685-86)
* Conon (686-87)
* St. Sergius I (687-701)
* John VI (701-05)
* John VII (705-07)
* Sisinnius (708)
* Constantine (708-15)
* St. Gregory II (715-31)
* St. Gregory III (731-41)
* St. Zachary (741-52)
* Stephen II (752)
* Stephen III (752-57)
* St. Paul I (757-67)
* Stephen IV (767-72)
* Adrian I (772-95)
* St. Leo III (795-816)
* Stephen V (816-17)
* St. Paschal I (817-24)
* Eugene II (824-27)
* Valentine (827)
* Gregory IV (827-44)
* Sergius II (844-47)
* St. Leo IV (847-55)
* Benedict III (855-58)
* St. Nicholas I (the Great) (858-67)
* Adrian II (867-72)
* John VIII (872-82)
* Marinus I (882-84)
* St. Adrian III (884-85)
* Stephen VI (885-91)
* Formosus (891-96)
* Boniface VI (896)
* Stephen VII (896-97)
* Romanus (897)
* Theodore II (897)
* John IX (898-900)
* Benedict IV (900-03)
* Leo V (903)
* Sergius III (904-11)
* Anastasius III (911-13)
* Lando (913-14)
* John X (914-28)
* Leo VI (928)
* Stephen VIII (929-31)
* John XI (931-35)
* Leo VII (936-39)
* Stephen IX (939-42)
* Marinus II (942-46)
* Agapetus II (946-55)
* John XII (955-63)
* Leo VIII (963-64)
* Benedict V (964)
* John XIII (965-72)
* Benedict VI (973-74)
* Benedict VII (974-83)
* John XIV (983-84)
* John XV (985-96)
* Gregory V (996-99)
* Sylvester II (999-1003)
* John XVII (1003)
* John XVIII (1003-09)
* Sergius IV (1009-12)
* Benedict VIII (1012-24)
* John XIX (1024-32)
* Benedict IX (1032-45)
* Sylvester III (1045)
* Benedict IX (1045)
* Gregory VI (1045-46)
* Clement II (1046-47)
* Benedict IX (1047-48)
* Damasus II (1048)
* St. Leo IX (1049-54)
* Victor II (1055-57)
* Stephen X (1057-58)
* Nicholas II (1058-61)
* Alexander II (1061-73)
* St. Gregory VII (1073-85)
* Blessed Victor III (1086-87)
* Blessed Urban II (1088-99)
* Paschal II (1099-1118)
* Gelasius II (1118-19)
* Callistus II (1119-24)
* Honorius II (1124-30)
* Innocent II (1130-43)
* Celestine II (1143-44)
* Lucius II (1144-45)
* Blessed Eugene III (1145-53)
* Anastasius IV (1153-54)
* Adrian IV (1154-59)
* Alexander III (1159-81)
* Lucius III (1181-85)
* Urban III (1185-87)
* Gregory VIII (1187)
* Clement III (1187-91)
* Celestine III (1191-98)
* Innocent III (1198-1216)
* Honorius III (1216-27)
* Gregory IX (1227-41)
* Celestine IV (1241)
* Innocent IV (1243-54)
* Alexander IV (1254-61)
* Urban IV (1261-64)
* Clement IV (1265-68)
* Blessed Gregory X (1271-76)
* Blessed Innocent V (1276)
* Adrian V (1276)
* John XXI (1276-77)
* Nicholas III (1277-80)
* Martin IV (1281-85)
* Honorius IV (1285-87)
* Nicholas IV (1288-92)
* St. Celestine V (1294)
* Boniface VIII (1294-1303)
* Blessed Benedict XI (1303-04)
* Clement V (1305-14)
* John XXII (1316-34)
* Benedict XII (1334-42)
* Clement VI (1342-52)
* Innocent VI (1352-62)
* Blessed Urban V (1362-70)
* Gregory XI (1370-78)
* Urban VI (1378-89)
* Boniface IX (1389-1404)
* Innocent VII (1406-06)
* Gregory XII (1406-15)
* Martin V (1417-31)
* Eugene IV (1431-47)
* Nicholas V (1447-55)
* Callistus III (1455-58)
* Pius II (1458-64)
* Paul II (1464-71)
* Sixtus IV (1471-84)
* Innocent VIII (1484-92)
* Alexander VI (1492-1503)
* Pius III (1503)
* Julius II (1503-13)
* Leo X (1513-21)
* Adrian VI (1522-23)
* Clement VII (1523-34)
* Paul III (1534-49)
* Julius III (1550-55)
* Marcellus II (1555)
* Paul IV (1555-59)
* Pius IV (1559-65)
* St. Pius V (1566-72)
* Gregory XIII (1572-85)
* Sixtus V (1585-90)
* Urban VII (1590)
* Gregory XIV (1590-91)
* Innocent IX (1591)
* Clement VIII (1592-1605)
* Leo XI (1605)
* Paul V (1605-21)
* Gregory XV (1621-23)
* Urban VIII (1623-44)
* Innocent X (1644-55)
* Alexander VII (1655-67)
* Clement IX (1667-69)
* Clement X (1670-76)
* Blessed Innocent XI (1676-89)
* Alexander VIII (1689-91)
* Innocent XII (1691-1700)
* Clement XI (1700-21)
* Innocent XIII (1721-24)
* Benedict XIII (1724-30)
* Clement XII (1730-40)
* Benedict XIV (1740-58)
* Clement XIII (1758-69)
* Clement XIV (1769-74)
* Pius VI (1775-99)
* Pius VII (1800-23)
* Leo XII (1823-29)
* Pius VIII (1829-30)
* Gregory XVI (1831-46)
* Blessed Pius IX (1846-78)
* Leo XIII (1878-1903)
* St. Pius X (1903-14)
* Benedict XV (1914-22)
* Pius XI (1922-39)
* Pius XII (1939-58)
* Blessed John XXIII (1958-63)
* Paul VI (1963-78)
* John Paul I (1978)
* John Paul II (1978-2005)
* Benedict XVI (2005-)

Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Benedicto. Dominus conservat eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum ejus.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Tuppence For Your Thoughts

Yesterday I visited a haberdasher to improve on my threadbare wardrobe. While I was in the queue to pay for my purchase, I overheard the man in front of me describing his divorce.

"Then my attorney showed up charging his hourly fee. And his assistant was there too, charging his fee. And of course her attorney was there, and her attorney's assistant. So I spent $14,000 -- and you know what? We accomplished absolutely nothing."

The conversation degenerated from there, but one additional remark stayed with me: when the fellow said, "Which just goes to show that you shouldn't ever marry -- and if you do, make sure she always works and never stays home."

How bleak. Children suffer when mom works, but the wisdom of the hour is that a wife should always have a job outside the home just in case the marriage doesn't stick (and the husband has to make sure he's not taken undue advantage of in the divorce proceedings). The business of no-fault divorce is penny wise and pound foolish, in my view.