Saturday, December 27, 2003

HOW DO YOU KEEP THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS ALIVE AFTER THE 25th until the end of the Christmas season? Recta Radio offered some suggestions which Lee sent to his mailing list. I confess, though, that mostly the ideas didn't appeal to me. Especially the idea of saving up $1200 to spend on the 12 days of Christmas. I have already had entirely enough spending to last until Easter! Shopping can get boring when you do too much of it. Each year I kept the decorations up a little longer until finally taking them down after Epiphany a year or two ago. Having an artificial tree helps to make that possible. The Protestant custom of placing the "Christ candle" at the center of the Advent wreath is a tradition I've been keeping for a long while already. I change the ribbons, remove the four Advent candles and disguise the four holders with white poinsettias and ribbons, then place a large white pillar candle in the center. That stays on the table and is lighted during dinner for weeks after Christmas. And I still sing Christmas carols after Christmas, though mostly when I'm by myself. What are some of the rest of you doing to extend the season past the commercialized version of the holiday? I'm wondering particularly how Eastern Catholics/Christian families who celebrate Christmas on January 6 cope with the Dec. 25 holiday? Do children receive presents from Santa on the 25th? Is all celebrating postponed until the 6th? And if so, how do the children cope with peer pressure when they return to school and have no stories of presents to share? CarrieTomko@aol.com

OLD CATHOLIC MARIAVITE CHARISMATIC REVIVAL The Mariavites in the Old Catholic Church have their own Charismatic Revival. CarrieTomko@aol.com

LINKS FROM LEE HAVE BEEN PILING UP IN MY MAILBOX waiting for blogging. I'll put them all into one post. First, an article about the spiritual soup that is India suggests that "work is worship," and that every nation has a "special genius", which in India is relgion. India, the home of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. There is Amma, the illiterate daughter of a fishing family who is known for hugging. She is believed to have hugged 21 million people, and devotees stand in line to receive one of her hugs. Then there is the Art of Living Foundation, and its founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with an urban middle class following. This guru preaches a "globalized wisdom" drawn from many traditions. This particular spirituality sounds more like a businessman's employee improvement program than it sounds like religion. Curiously it is known by the letters "AoL." There is "Vedanta" Hinduism which preaches that all religions are united and amount to different routes to the same end. Islam finds itself unwelcome among the Hindus in India. Hindu "fanatics" have destroyed a mosque. There is the inevitable conflict where religion and politics interface. Sir Mark Tully, a British broadcaster and writer, this year made a television documentary about India (�Hindu Nation�), in which he argued that religion and spirituality were so much part of Indian life that to exclude them from politics would be dangerous, and bound to lead to distortions. He was immediately�and unfairly�condemned by many liberals in Delhi as having become a cheerleader for hindutva. Sounds all too familiar. THE PEW RESEARCH CENTER offers a picture of America as seen by the rest of the world: The speed of the war in Iraq and the prevailing belief that the Iraqi people are better off as a result have modestly improved the image of America. But in most countries, opinions of the U.S. are markedly lower than they were a year ago. The war has widened the rift between Americans and Western Europeans, further inflamed the Muslim world, softened support for the war on terrorism, and significantly weakened global public support for the pillars of the post-World War II era � the U.N. and the North Atlantic alliance. These are the principal findings from the latest survey of the Pew Global Attitudes Project, conducted over the past month in 20 countries and the Palestinian Authority. It is being released together with a broader survey of 44 nations conducted in 2002, which covers attitudes on globalization, democratization and the role of Islam in governance and society. While the postwar poll paints a mostly negative picture of the image of America, its people and policies, the broader Pew Global Attitudes survey shows wide support for the fundamental economic and political values that the U.S. has long promoted. Globalization, the free market model and democratic ideals are accepted in all corners of the world. Most notably, the 44-nation survey found strong democratic aspirations in most of the Muslim publics surveyed. The postwar update confirms that these aspirations remain intact despite the war and its attendant controversies. The new survey shows, however, that public confidence in the United Nations is a major victim of the conflict in Iraq. Positive ratings for the world body have tumbled in nearly every country for which benchmark measures are available. Majorities or pluralities in most countries believe that the war in Iraq showed the U.N. to be not so important any more. The idea that the U.N. is less relevant is much more prevalent now than it was just before the war, and is shared by people in countries that backed the war, the U.S. and Great Britain, as well as in nations that opposed it, notably France and Germany. In addition, majorities in five of seven NATO countries surveyed support a more independent relationship with the U.S. on diplomatic and security affairs. Fully three-quarters in France (76%), and solid majorities in Turkey (62%), Spain (62%), Italy (61%) and Germany (57%) believe Western Europe should take a more independent approach than it has in the past. ? The British and Americans disagree � narrow majorities in both countries want the partnership between the U.S. and Western Europe to remain as close as ever. But the percentage of Americans favoring continued close ties with Western Europe has fallen � from 62% before the war to 53% in the current survey. In fact, the American people have cooled on France and Germany as much as the French and Germans have cooled on the U.S. In Western Europe, negative views of America have declined somewhat since just prior to the war in Iraq, when anti-war sentiment peaked. But since last summer, favorable opinions of the U.S have slipped in nearly every country for which trend measures are available. Views of the American people, while still largely favorable, have fallen as well. The belief that the U.S. pursues a unilateralist foreign policy, which had been extensive last summer, has only grown in the war's aftermath. In Great Britain and Italy, positive opinions of the U.S. increased considerably since just before the war (see page 19). Of the 21 publics surveyed in the new poll, overall support for the United States is greatest by far in Israel, where 79% view the U.S. favorably. Israelis also express near-universal support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism, with 85% favoring the fight against terrorism. Majorities in Western Europe and Australia also back the war on terrorism, but support has slipped since last summer in both France and Germany (15 points in France, 10 points in Germany). In addition, the bottom has fallen out of support for America in most of the Muslim world. Negative views of the U.S. among Muslims, which had been largely limited to countries in the Middle East, have spread to Muslim populations in Indonesia and Nigeria. Since last summer, favorable ratings for the U.S. have fallen from 61% to 15% in Indonesia and from 71% to 38% among Muslims in Nigeria. In the wake of the war, a growing percentage of Muslims see serious threats to Islam. Specifically, majorities in seven of eight Muslim populations surveyed express worries that the U.S. might become a military threat to their countries. Even in Kuwait, where people have a generally favorable view of the United States, 53% voice at least some concern that the U.S. could someday pose a threat. Support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism also has fallen in most Muslim publics. Equally significant, solid majorities in the Palestinian Authority, Indonesia and Jordan � and nearly half of those in Morocco and Pakistan � say they have at least some confidence in Osama bin Laden to "do the right thing regarding world affairs." Fully 71% of Palestinians say they have confidence in bin Laden in this regard. More generally, the postwar update survey of 16,000 respondents finds, in most countries that are friendly to the United States, only modest percentages have confidence that President Bush will do the right thing in international affairs. People in most countries rate Vladimir Putin, Gerhard Schroeder, Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair more highly than they do Bush. The president also ranks slightly behind Blair in the United States, mostly due to political partisanship. Nearly all Republicans (95%) express confidence in Bush, compared with 64% of Democrats. Sounds like a build-up to a Democratic presidency in the next election. There are lots more statistics in the article for anyone who is into that. TIME EUROPE MAGAZINE presents God European-style: Christianity is becoming a minority faith in Europe, as church attendance falls, the clergy ages, and scandals and harsh doctrine drive people away. But the faith is reappearing � and thriving � in all sorts of unexpected places. A search for God in Europe, 2003 Speaking of the tendency to treat holy places such as Chartres Cathedral as just another museum, the article recounts tourist activities: And Malcolm Miller, who has guided tourists around the cathedral for more than 40 years, can't help but catalog the "vulgarity" of the visitors: the woman who asked what he meant by the terms Old Testament and New Testament; the one who let her dog drink the holy water; the couple � he shirtless, she in a bikini � who arrived on a feast day, strode up to the altar and took a flash photo of the bishop, mid-Mass. Look around and play your own game of Spot the Vulgarians; how about the folks at the back, pumping euros into the machine that spits out "official" Chartres coins? The death of Catholic faith in Europe, or the prelude to the resurgence of the faith? Sounds like it could go either way. I'm not ready to write Europe off yet. A little persecution from Islam could well make Europe appreciate its heritage. CarrieTomko@aol.com

WILL THE INTERNET REMAIN FREE? or will the cybercops close it down, permitting only that which is politically correct to be posted, and making sure that every post on the web can be identified as to poster? Sure, it sounds like a conspiracy theorist's question, but this article comes from MSNBC: Issues 2004 - Picture, if you will, an information infrastructure that encourages censorship, surveillance and suppression of the creative impulse. Where anonymity is outlawed and every penny spent is accounted for. Where the powers that be can smother subversive (or economically competitive) ideas in the cradle, and no one can publish even a laundry list without the imprimatur of Big Brother. Some prognosticators are saying that such a construct is nearly inevitable. And this infrastructure is none other than the former paradise of rebels and free-speechers: the Internet. To those exposed to the Panglossian euphoria of Net enthusiasts during the 1990s, this vision seems unbelievable. After all, wasn�t the Internet supposed to be the defining example of empowering technology? Freedom was allegedly built into the very bones of the Internet, designed to withstand nuclear blasts and dictatorial attempts at control. While this cyberslack has its downside�porn, credit-card fraud and insincere bids on eBay�it was considered a small price to pay for free speech and friction-free business models. The freedom genie was out, and no one could put it back into the bottle. CarrieTomko@aol.com

WAS A VATICAN ATTACK PLANNED FOR CHRISTMAS? According to Reuters: ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said in an interview published on Saturday that he had "precise" information before Christmas about a threat of a Christmas Day attack on Rome and the Vatican. � He said in the interview with the Libero newspaper, conducted on Christmas Eve, he had received "precise and verified news of an attack on Rome on Christmas Day. A hijacked plane above the Vatican... An attack from the sky." "The threat from terrorism is extremely high at this moment. I've spent today (Dec. 24) in Rome to deal with the situation," Berlusconi added. "Now I'm calm. It will pass... I don't say this out of fatalism but because I am aware that our defenses are very high. If that is what they have organized, they won't make it." He gave no details of who was believed to be behind the planned attack or of any measures taken to prevent it. Meanwhile, today, there is a denial of the quotes about the attack from Berlusconi. The Italian press seems to have communication problems in more places than the Vatican: ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has denied quotes attributed to him in a newspaper report that said he had received information about a plan to attack the Vatican on Christmas Day. CarrieTomko@aol.com

DR. BRIAN J. KOPP IS GETTING AROUND! His article appears at the WorldNetDaily website. CarrieTomko@aol.com

KEEPING MONASTERIES IN THE BLACK What do you do when the cost of maintaining the monastery and its occupants is greater than the income? Market Zen, apparently... The five brothers at the St. Franziskus monastery in Dietfurt, Bavaria, offer a variety of Zen, qigong [a form of Chinese exercise and meditation], and tai chi classes as well as Christian contemplation. Father Nathanael, St. Franziskus' guardian, thinks Eastern wisdom and Christianity go well together. "Zen is a form of meditation that can lead to other levels of consciousness," he says. "We supply the spiritual basis." Did I mention that this appears to be a Roman Catholic monastery? Not to be thought backward about ecumenical holiness while producing an income, the nuns offer their own brand of contemporary generic spirituality: Critics argue that making a business out of spirituality demeans the faith. But the clergy say there is much more than their own financial welfare at stake. The mission of the Dominican nuns, for example, is "the salvation of the world." If saving the world means a convent needs a pub, phytotherapy sessions and a jacuzzi, then Arenberg's Sister Maris Stella says so be it. "We tried to find out what people need today and then offer them new forms of spiritual guidance and assistance to find it," she says. God does work in mysterious ways. "Phytotherapy"??? Are they saving the world from the Jacuzzi or in it? Seems like it's not the work which is "mysterious" but rather the god himself, who seems to be the god of temporal indulgences. (Sorry, I can't get pious over chlorine soaked spirituality.) CarrieTomko@aol.com

Friday, December 26, 2003


ALL OF THAT EFFORT, AND NOW IT'S JUST A MEMORY Hopefully a good memory for readers of this blog. But how quickly it all comes to an end. One thing I'm always grateful for is that our liturgical calendar provides a period of let-down after Christmas. The carols seem more appropriate now than they did on Dec. 23. This is when I want to sing "Silent Night" and "O Come All Ye Faithful," not before Christmas when these hymns are blaring in all the stores. I'm completely out of synch. It always seems so strange when I turn on the radio on Dec. 26 and find nothing but non-seasonal songs. It reminds me that the public use of Christmas is strictly utilitarian and centered on profits. The REAL Christmas season begins on Dec. 26 when only those who know the meaning of the holiday are still celebrating. CarrieTomko@aol.com

FAULTY CATECHETICAL TEXTS are being addressed: NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, DEC. 24, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Nearly two-thirds of high school catechetical materials used throughout the United States are not in conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans, chair of the U.S. bishops' ad hoc committee for the Implementation of the Catechism, reported the results of the committee's evaluation of catechetical books at the episcopate's conference last fall. He urged that bishops in their own dioceses restrict the use of catechetical texts to those that have received the judgment of conformity by the committee. Archbishop Hughes shared with ZENIT what deficiencies the current textbooks have and what the U.S. bishops are doing to remedy the situation. Something needs to be done. This sounds like a good start. The article spells out some of the problems. It appears that only high school texts are being evaluated. Hopefully all Catholic texts, right down to the kindergarten level, will be brought into conformity with the CCC. Some examples of material that needs to be corrected: The distinctive role of the priest may be sidelined or even ignored. Sometimes the impression is given that the community baptizes or confects the Eucharist. The unique presence of Christ in the Eucharist is often obscured. They may be led to believe that the sacramental power to forgive sins and anoint the sick was once shared by all the faithful. In some texts, the teaching about the Church's restriction of ordination to men is ambiguous or even misleading. Often the moral life is not adequately presented. There seems to be a reluctance to name premarital or extramarital intercourse as sinful. Virtue may be encouraged primarily in order to make personal life or the world better. The relationship between living a moral life and eternal life is often not treated. There is in some texts a studied avoidance of the revealed proper names or personal pronouns for the persons of the Blessed Trinity. The Father may be referred to as God. Jesus may not be identified as the Son of God and the Holy Spirit may be called the Spirit of God or God's Spirit. These are serious deficiencies! May God grant that orthodox clergy and laity are the persons in charge when these revisions are made, so that we have a return to the true teachings of the Church and no more "Spirit of Vatican II." It is just possible that hindsight will show that the greatest contribution to the faith made by John Paul II has been the Catechism of the Catholic Church. CarrieTomko@aol.com

MORE CONFUSION FROM THE VATICAN Recently we were told that the Pope had pronounced on Mel Gibson's film after seeing it, that "It is as it was." Now we are told that the Pope had not spoken about the movie. So, which report is accurate? What did the Pope actually say or not say? And does this have implications for other papal announcements? Should they all be read skeptically? Who does and does not speak for the Pope? From the website: VATICAN CITY�Although Pope John Paul II watched at least part of Mel Gibson's film, The Passion Of The Christ, he made no comment about it, said a senior Vatican official. "The Holy Father saw it, but he made no comment. He watched in silence," the official told the Catholic News Service on Wednesday. "The Holy Father does not comment, does not give judgments on art," the official said. "I repeat: There was no declaration, no judgment from the pope." CarrieTomko@aol.com

EARTHQUAKE May God grant succor to the people of Bam, Iran as they search for loved ones in the rubble. This girl cries out especially to me: ''I have lost all my family. My parents, my grandmother and two sisters are under the rubble,'' said Maryam, 17. She will not be far from my thoughts and prayers today. CarrieTomko@aol.com

THE COMPANIONS OF CHRIST Diocesan priests in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Diocese have opted to live in community with their brother priests, eating meals together and praying together several times a week. The disciples were together more than for human support -- as important and good as that was, they were together to witness love. The people of God are meant to look at priests and see the love of Christ. Their experience of seeing priests living and working together should draw the response, "See how they love one another." My conviction is that this priestly witness of community is not only a great help to me in my pursuit of holiness, but also a powerful witness to the faithful. Q: What is the growth trend for the group? What accounts for that trend? Father Huard: Our growth has been slow and steady. We are now a dozen priests and four seminarians. Another handful of men are inquiring at the moment. In addition, we have had many men live with us for a period of time as they have discerned their futures -- some to marriage and some to religious life. We have been very happy to be able to help these young men along the road to their vocations. What might account for this growth at a time when priestly vocations are not abundant? Maybe this: Priesthood is inherently attractive to those who are called to it, who hear the voice of Christ deep within them saying, "Follow me." Such young men are looking for a way forward, a way to respond to that voice, often without quite realizing what they are seeking. For such priestly calls to come to completion there is needed a living witness of a joyful and bracing priestly life, a life of willing sacrifice, a life with the love of Christ at its heart. At present the Companions of Christ has four houses in which both diocesan priests and seminarians live together while serving the parishes and taking classes at the nearby seminary. The fraternity of diocesan priests was formed in 1992 and has been growing steadily since. CarrieTomko@aol.com

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