The Crossroads Cultural Center, in conjunction with the American Bible Society, will be hosting a presentation by applied scientist Dr. Giorgio Ambrosio and professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Delaware and First Things Advisory Council member Stephen M. Barr.
“The God Particle… and Me:
A Quantum Leap from the Subatomic to the Human”
Saturday, April 13, 2013
American Bible Society
1865 Broadway (corner of 61st Street)
New York, NY
The event is open to the public and free of charge.
According to Vatican Insider, new chemical and mechanical tests carried out at the University of Padua offer further evidence that the Shroud of Turin, the piece of cloth said to have covered the body of Jesus when he was laid in the tomb, does indeed date back to the first century. Professor Giulio Fanti and journalist Saverio Gaeta have published the news in a book Il Mistero della Sindone (The Mystery of the Shroud), which comes out tomorrow. Fanti’s findings will also be published in a magazine and assessed by a scientific committee.
In the midst of political, religious, national, and personal battles, there is one thing that unites all Argentines: Mate.
Mate (pronounced máh-teh), despite what you may have heard, is not an herbal green tea. That makes it sound sissy. It is a tea-like drink made from a green-colored yerba (herb), but it is much more robust than tea. For Argentines, mate is the very heart of life.
Mate is drunk by the old and young, rich and poor, Peronists and Radicals, parents and children, among students while they study, during winter and summer. After years of conflict, Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner greeted the new Pope Francis with . . . a beautiful mate set—el “mate de la paz”—after which the pope asked her to stay for lunch with “unos mates” to follow.
“A longstanding Vatican protocol forbids the Pope being seen consuming anything but the Eucharist,” as Rocco Palmo noted on the occasion, but that did not stop Francis from being photographed enjoying the drink.
A text on mate given to me by a friend puts it this way (my translation):
When you meet someone for the first time, you drink mate. People ask, if they’re unsure: “Sweet or bitter?” The other responds: “However you take it.” The cracks in the keyboards in Argentina are filled with yerba. Yerba is the only thing that is always around, in every house. Always. With inflation, with hunger, with militaries, with democracy, with whichever of our eternal plagues and curses. And if one day there is no yerba, a neighbor has some and he’ll offer it. Yerba is denied to no one.
Everyone I know from Argentina proudly emphasizes the inclusivity of mate. In the hymn “Argentina Comparte el Mismo Pan” mate is even likened to the Eucharist:
Nos dicen qué es la Iglesia:
como un gran Río, el fluir lento de una esperanza.
Y qué es la Eucaristía:
como en el mate, no hay excluidos y siempre alcanza.
They tell us this is the Church: Like a great river, the gentle flowing of hope. And that this is the Eucharist: Like mate, no one is excluded and there is always enough.
There is even a “Lady of Good Mate,” recognized by John Paul II on May 1, 1993 when he declared, “With all our hearts we grant the implored Apostolic Blessing, under the auspices of Nuestra Señora Gaucha del Mate.” The special prayer to María del Buen Mate asks her to “Teach us to drink mate . . . that mate may be good news, a song of friendship, a way of loving and giving life.”
Last year, I was working at a public school in an after school program with “kids at risk” run by the YMCA near my home. When March rolled around, I told the kids I wanted to do something with them for St. Patrick’s Day. A few days later when we were cutting out shamrocks one boy asked me, “Miss Katie? Who is Patrick and why do we celebrate Patrick’s Day?”
“Can anybody else answer his question?” I asked, “Does anyone know who St. Patrick is or what St. Patrick’s day is all about?”
A couple of kids tried to answer, but it struck me that every single one referred to “Patrick.” The word “Saint” did not pass through a single pair of lips other than mine.
I had been told before not to bring up religion with any of the kids. If they asked (which they did as I often wore a Rosary around my wrist) I was to deflect their questions, saying something like, “Well this is what I believe, but you should ask your parents what they think.”
With these constraints, I found myself floundering trying to explain who “Patrick” was with no mention of religion. “Well Patrick was a man who came to Ireland many years ago to, uh . . .” Evangelize! Spread the gospel! Teach the Irish about Christ! “We associate him with shamrocks because, well . . . he used to use them as a symbol
. . .” Of the Trinity!
It was impossible. Even if I qualified the statements saying that “some say” or “Irish legend has it” or “Catholics believe,” it would be culturally and historically inaccurate to say that March 17 was anything but a celebration of Saint Patrick.
David Blankenhorn, founder and president of the Institute for American Values, will be hosting our own editor in chief Rusty Reno on Tuesday, March 19 at 6:00 p.m. EST to speak about the new conversation on marriage: “Should Religious People Join the New Conversation?”
If you are an almost or recent college grad and this is how you envision heaven, the First Things Junior Fellowship may be the job for you. Take our quiz to find out . . .
. . . and then hunker down and finish your application because it’s due this Friday!
In the very first issue of First Things, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus wrote, “Temporal tasks are best conducted in the light of eternal destiny.” The First Things Junior Fellowship is certainly a place where your temporal tasks will be part of an integrated life of faith, thought, and work.
As a Junior Fellow you will be challenged to become a better editor and writer. From the seasoned editors here I have learned (among many other things): that maintaining high academic standards does not constrain one to dullness, that writing is as much about personality as it is about noble thoughts and proper grammar, that both faith and editing require a discerning and critical eye, but neither can be done without a degree of gentleness.
My own work in and out of the office—in the pages of First Things and in the many conferences held by the Institute on Religion and Public Life—has helped me both deepen my own Catholic faith and engage more fully in ecumenical dialogue. It has given me a greater awareness of and respect for what many Jews, Muslims, Orthodox, and Protestants believe and face in the public square.
It’s not often a young person can work, live, and pray in an environment with such fervent and civil discussion of the things that matter the most—the first things. The Junior Fellowship is such a place.
“I think I may be somebody who believes in the Pope’s position more than most Catholics. . . . if you have someone who is a conduit to God and is speaking God’s word, even if you can’t understand exactly what God’s plan is . . . that still doesn’t mean you get to vote on what God actually believes.”
In an online debate sponsored by the University of Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Social Movements addressing the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Bachiochi suggests that pro-choice and women’s equality movements will crumble of their own accord when their proponents realize that they stand on a foundation of inherent contradictions regarding three key truths.
Roe was clearly defined in Doe v. Bolton, the little-known companion case the Court decided the same day. . . . when read together [they allow for] abortion for any reason throughout all nine months of pregnancy.
If polls reveal anything, it is that the majority of the American public is in favor of what they think Roe holds: restrictions on abortion after the first three months of pregnancy. The thing is, we’d have to overturn the 1973 case to get there.
The nature of women’s equality.
Sexual equality via abortion looks to cure biological asymmetry—the fact that women get pregnant and men don’t—by promoting the rejection of women’s bodies. Authentic equality and reproductive justice would demand something far more revolutionary: that men and society at large respect and support women in their myriad capacities and talents which include, for most women at some time in their lives, childbearing.
I agree with Bachiochi’s three points. That said, if pro-abortion claims are so illogical, why are we not any closer to overturning Roe? And it wouldn’t help to answer by concluding that all abortion supporters are bumbling irrational idiots who deny the Truth outright while looking it square in the eye. It’s more complicated than that.
Most pro-choice advocates truly believe that making abortions widely available will lead to less stressful family situations for young, low-income teens; more opportunities for solid high school and college educations and successful careers; stable homes for the children born to a woman when she is emotionally, mentally, and financially ready. And who wouldn’t want these outcomes, on either side of the debate?
Of course we can continue to make logical arguments to appeal to reason, but the problem in many of these cases is that fear, especially the mother’s fear of losing her own dignity (be it through the reaction of her peers or her own sense of failure), wins out over logic. What we need, along with appeals to reason, are more concrete displays of caritas, verifying the dignity of the whole person—and not just of an innocent human life—dignity that does not disappear even in the midst of sin, ignorance, or poverty.
Take the Sisters of Life for example. In working to uphold the dignity of innocent human life, they simultaneously uphold the inherent dignity of the mother, by first acknowledging in their prayers lives that they too are sinner, and then by showing the pregnant mother that she and her child are both worth it. Their Pregnancy Help page says
There are so many unanswered questions, so many seeming impossibilities. But the passion that has already given shape to your hopes and ambitions in life is what reveals the strength you are capable of as a woman, even in the most confusing of circumstances.
So many young women choose to abort not because they fail to recognize the dignity of their child, but because they are consumed by fear and a loss of their own dignity. What the pro-life movement lacks is a greater emphasis on the dignity of all human life, wether innocent or not.
William F. Buckley Jr. and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus on Firing Line
Larry Perelman, a close personal friend of William F. Buckley Jr., recently published a piece he had written shortly after his friend’s death five years ago. He was staying in Buckley’s house when he died.
On this, the fifth anniversary of Bill’s death, I am observing a Yahrzeit (a Jewish tradition of commemorating the dead) because I feel the absence of Bill in a particularly profound way. Five years ago I wrote about my friendship with Bill and the dinner I had with him on what ended up being the night before he died. I ended that piece at the point when he went upstairs to bed. In fact, I too spent that night at Bill’s house so that I could practice the next day for the concert.
I wrote the following not long afterward, but saved it for publication until I felt a comfortable period had passed. Now is the time I’ve decided to share it.
Buckley, Perelman says, “was and is,” (along with his ally Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, I might add) “in the pantheon of great men, intellectual giants, and artistic geniuses.” Read the whole story here.
In 1984, in association with an institute in the Midwest, I established the Center on Religion and Society. Five years later there was a very nasty break-up, with the Illinois institute sending thugs to raid the offices and put us out on the street. It was a much publicized brouhaha at the time, with “paleo-cons” (them) and “neo-cons” (us) going at one another. Bill’s support was invaluable, and out of it all came the Institute on Religion and Public Life and this magazine. Every May 5, the staff of the magazine has a celebratory lunch in honor of the raid. You may be sure that this year we will be raising a glass to Bill Buckley.
Bill was what some call a natural Catholic, bred-in-the-bone, so to speak, but his was also a faith refined and reinforced by a lifetime of spiritual reflectiveness. He indicated from time to time a mix of puzzlement and sadness about those who resisted an explanation of reality so comprehensive, coherent, and reasonable. When in 1990, talking in his car after the taping of a Firing Line episode, I told him I had decided to become a Catholic, he said he felt like a Red Sox fan who had just learned about their signing up the Yankees’ star pitcher. That was intended to flatter, of course, but the unspoken implication was, “What took you so long?”
Bill Buckley was a man of almost inexhaustible curiosity, courtesy, generosity, and delight in the oddness of the human circumstance. He exulted in displaying his many talents, which was not pride so much as an invitation to others to share his amazement at the possibilities in being fully alive. He was also, in and through everything, a man of quietly solid Christian faith. I am among innumerable others whose lives are fuller by virtue of the gift of his friendship.
On Friday, the Obama administration filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act:
DOMA, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, has been found unconstitutional by lower courts. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in one of those cases, U.S. v. Windsor. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 27.
The administration argues that the court may consider a higher level of rational-basis review. The brief states that the increased consideration would be valid in order to “guard against giving effect to a desire to harm an ‘unpopular group.’
The end of the brief opposed the view put forward by the House Republicans in the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group:
[The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group] makes an appeal to this Court to allow the democratic process to run its course. That approach would be very well taken in most circumstances. This is, however, the rare case in which deference to the democratic process must give way to the fundamental constitutional command of equal treatment under law. Section 3 of DOMA targets the many gay and lesbian people legally married under state law for a harsh form of discrimination that bears no relation to their ability to contribute to society. It is abundantly clear that this discrimination does not substantially advance an interest in protecting marriage, or any other important interest. The statute simply cannot be reconciled with the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. The Constitution therefore requires that Section 3 be invalidated.
“First Principles: Natural Law and the Theologico-political Question”
The seminar will be taught (and students will be housed) on the campus of Princeton University from July 28 – August 10. This year’s seminar will focus on the relation between natural law and the theologico-political question, that is, the question of the best way of life, enshrined in the best laws, supported by the best form of political regime. Students will consider this topic by reading and discussing works of Thomas Aquinas, Thomas More, Eric Voegelin, Harry Jaffa, selected works from the Vatican on political life (Quas Primas and Dignitatis Humanae), and key documents of the American Founding.
T.S. Eliot wrote, “And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.” “That place,” says Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein at The Velvet Kippah, “for many Christians today, is looking more Jewish all the time.”
The more Christians learn about Jewish pain, persecution, and suffering, Rabbi Alderstein argues, the more it seems they are peering into a mirror. The tables have turned, and Christian persecution has succeeded, numerically, that of Jews.
While Jews feel threatened by the massive explosion of global anti-Semitism in the last years, coupled with Iranian and Islamist calls for the genocidal destruction of all Jews, very few Jews in 2013 are dying because of their faith or their roots. Christians, on the other hand, have become the New Jews.
In a huge swath of territory from Nigeria east and north to Iran and Pakistan, millions of Christians live in fear of losing their property or their lives simply because they are Christians. In the Assyrian Triangle of Iraq, the campaign of church-burning, clergy-killing, and terror has all but decimated the historically oldest Christian communities. Egypt’s Copts, a full 10 percent of her population, treated for decades as second-class citizens, now face an even more uncertain future as Egypt’s constitution moves the country closer to Sharia.
Christians today have learned what it is to be foreigners in their own land. They have learned to keep mute about their belief to protect their loved ones. They have become the “scorned stepchild within general culture . . . mocked and derided, and treated as intellectual pygmies who have nothing to offer the better, more enlightened people around them.”
They have also, along with their Jewish brethren, held strong to their belief “that if you are fortunate enough to possess the truth, you do not compromise or sacrifice it, even if it means that you continue on only as [a] tiny fleck of mankind.”
We regret to inform you that we must cancel George Weigel’s book talk scheduled for Friday evening, February 15. As one of the world’s experts on the papacy, George will be in Rome to provide commentary for NBC until a new pope is elected.
We apologize for any inconvenience.
Please know that our next evening event will be with Christopher West on March 11 at 6 p.m. He will talk about his new book Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, and the Universal Longing.
The World Youth Alliance will hold a screening Monday, March 4, 2013 at 6:15 p.m. of It’s a Girl—a documentary film on gendercide and violence against women to highlight sex-selective abortion as an egregious form of violence against women and girls.
Drew Room, Ground Floor
Church Center for the UN
777 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
I once heard the story of a women named Kara Walton, of Claymont, Delaware who “sued the owner of a night club in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000 . . . plus dental expenses.”
While this story seems to be an urban legend, I was sort of left with the same feeling after reading about the most recent civil war going on in the Catholic Church, this time between Catholics for Choice and the Cardinal Newman Society.
Catholics for Choice, a group who’d like to enter Catholicism through the bathroom window without having to subscribe to any Catholic belief or doctrine about contraception, abortion, or homosexuality, has recently released its “Opposition Notes: An Investigative Series on Those Who Oppose Women’s Rights and Reproductive Health”, deeming The Cardinal Newman Society “The most unhappily and inappropriately named society on the planet.”
While the Newman Society’s mission is “to promote . . . a truly Catholic university education and to seek the faithful implementation of Ex cordeEcclesiae,” Catholics for Choice seems to think that the CNS is not living up to the inclusivity of its “freethinking namesake.” They should be more inclusive, says CFC, but not so inclusive as to include the official Church document Ex corde Ecclesiae which CFC defines as, “a document that was an attempt to close ranks in Catholic education after years of openness to modern society, especially in the United States.”
“There are important debates to be had about furthering Catholic higher education,” says CFC, “but healthy debate seems to be the main target of the CNS. The question is—should Catholic institutions be judged by a narrow set of criteria imposed by one self-appointed judge of orthodoxy?”
While University of Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins is correct that The Cardinal Newman Society has “no ecclesiastical standing and no academic standing,” and at times, i’ll admit, does give off an overly-eager “watchdog” vibe, the Society “enjoys a significant level of approval as working within the official teaching authority of the church.” That’s more than Catholics for Choice can say.
Inaugural Saint Catherine of Siena Chair in Health Care Ethics Lecture Brother Ignatius Perkins, O.P. Saturday, February 2, 2013 1:00 p.m.
Professional literature in health care ethics today frequently reports discussions on the multiple variables that threaten the human dignity and vulnerability of the sick person. Unfortunately, little attention is given to understanding how human dignity of the clinician is threatened and violated in the current health care environment. . .[which] has led to the systemic violation of the dignity of the clinician (and ultimately that of persons who are sick), created moral distress among clinicians, and the collapse of the healing relationship.
Brother Ignatius Perkins, O.P. holds the St. Catherine of Siena Chair in Catholic Health Care Ethics at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. and at the Dominican Friars Health Care Ministry of New York.
See here for more information. Registration for this event is required.
“Could it be then that the muse isn’t Greek after all? That Mt. Parnassus is really St. Peter’s?” asks Bruce Guernsey in the most recent issue of Dappled Things.
Guernsey, a practicing poet who is former editor of the Spoon River Poetry Review and has taught creative writing at Eastern Illinois University for twenty-five years, describes himself as a “lapsed Catholic.”
Guernsey first began to see hints of a certain Catholic sensibility in the poetry of one of his students. “There were no obvious references to the Pope or Holy Communion, but the writing had a certain kind of sensibility . . .” This “deeply imbedded Catholic sensibility arose spectre-like again and again . . .”
For Guernsey, the very writing of poetry is Catholic. The freedom within structure:
I can be most anybody in a poem . . . But the patterning and shaping, the writing in syllables, in sounds—these I can’t get away from. The rise and fall of the priest’s chanting, the repetitions of prayer, the standing, the kneeling, the sitting down: going to Church was a physical experience, visceral and enduring.
And the very words of the liturgy and the sacraments are poetry:
“My last confession was a week ago,” its perfect iambic pentameter a subtle mnemonic device, like a line from Shakespeare, the rise and fall of the beating heart, mine then in my spondaic throat.
The imagery, memory, colors, the smells, the Latin he inhaled like incense: “Buried below the troubled institution of the Church lie archetypes as deeply human as those of the crib.”
“Although I haven’t been to Mass regularly in years,” he says, “my senses remain tuned to its sounds and symbols when I read a poem or when I try to write one.”—to which his readers respond, “Come back. We’ll wait for you.” “Agreed. Come back. You get it more than most who never left.”
Find some of Bruce Guernsey’s own poetry here. His own Catholic sensibility is much more explicit in poems like “The Letter X” and “The Apple” (also featured on NPR) and more subtle in “Maps.”
For those of you in the New York area, the Thomistic Institute will be hosting a symposium on John Henry Newman next week.
Newman and the University: A Symposium on Religion and University Education Catholic Center at NYU (Washington Square S. & Thompson St.)
Monday, February 4, 2013
1:00 pm: “Universities, the University and the Universality of Knowledge” Lecturer: Shalom Carmy, Yeshiva University Respondent: Eric Gregory, Princeton University
2:15 pm: “University Education, the Unity of Knowledge–and (Natural) Theology: Ruminations on Newman” Lecturer: Reinhard Huetter, Duke Divinity School Respondent: John Bowlin, Princeton Theological Seminary
3:30 pm: Panel Discussion:
President John Sexton, president, New York University
R.R. Reno, editor-in-chief, First Things
President John Garvey, president, The Catholic University of America
Please see the conference flyer for more details. This symposium is free and open to the public.
“But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom!”
Okay, not exactly about the new removal of the ban on women in combat, but it could be.
We are not engaged in any cultural battle because that battle has been won. All we have to do is give witness to that victory. But we cannot give convincing witness unless we experience the reality of that victory within our own lives and heart. Otherwise it is just words, and our cultural efforts will degenerate into a moral reform movement. That’s all. Nothing more need be said.
Am I prepared to say before the evidence of my own heart that this is true . . . ? That every Mass and any Sacrament is like the sign at the house of Mary in Nazareth that has the well-known proclamation of the Gospel, Verbum caro factum est, “the Word became flesh,” but in that place there’s one little word added to it that’s different—hic, namely “here.” “Here the Word became flesh.” “Here.”
You see, part of the success of the dominant secularist culture is to try to succeed in hiding how interesting the Christian claim is, how beautiful, but above all, how interesting. . . . In the end, nothing really interests you enough to change your life so that you can fix your attention at least to investigate further.
So . . . as a cultural center, we do interesting things, things that express what we have become interested in . . . At the very least people should be able to say, “These are people who are fascinated.”—not in those words, in whatever words they find it, fascinated by the reality of human personhood, by the reality of human subjectivity, by being someone and not just something.
I still recommend reading the presentation in its entirety. (The funny bits were too long to add here.)
There are a lot of people like me. Women who know things. Women who have seen things. Women with diseases in their livers. There are a lot of women with scars on their arms and words that carry themselves like sparrows. There are women who were too big for this town, who had their backs bent carrying things like religion and a history that originated somewhere in the crook of a branch that extended over a stream. A place where a patch of the sky was visible through the leaves, where a little girl let her bare leg dangle too far down. . .
I want them to become women who remember me modeling impossible beauty. Modeling beauty in the face of a mean world, a scary world, a world where we don’t know what to make of ourselves.
What does this have to do with human rights? Well human rights, at least ideally, are based on human dignity. The most common understanding of human rights today is utterly devoid of any reference to a Creator or any coherent understanding of what a human being is. We know that we have human rights, but we don’t know why or where they came from. So, we think of more things that we want and fight to define them as rights.
But it doesn’t work that way. There cannot exist side by side, for example, both a universal right to life and a universal right to kill children in the womb. Human rights cannot be whatever they say they are. Human rights only make sense when understood as that to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being. And human being, in the truest sense, can only be understood as a creature. Thanks be to God that he became human to reveal to us what a true human being is.
If we want to uphold, or in some cases bring back, a culture of true human dignity–a proper understanding and valuing of what each human being is–we must believe and do what Amanda has here expressed. To demand that others be treated as dignified and valuable–even after having committed grave sins–simply because he or she is a human being, without treating myself as such is unfair if not hypocritical. When God told Moses “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” he didn’t mean you can treat everyone poorly as long as you treat yourself the same way. It is implied that, first, there must be a true love of self.
Along the same train of thought, I once heard a talk about confession while I was on a week-long silent retreat in the mountains of Salcedo, Ecuador. (Okay, so it was a silent retreat except for the liturgy sung with the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Youth, the Mass sung with Trappist monks, and the audio CD of talks to make sure the silence didn’t allow my mind to wander completely off track.) Anyway, listening to this talk was the first time that I realized that the Sacrament of confession, in the Roman Catholic understanding, is not a private matter.
In fact, what I say to that priest in that dark sound-proof box is quite a universal event. For if the Church is truly one body, the body of Christ, then each time that I go to Confession and am absolved of my sins, I am helping to make that body a little whiter. In a sense, I can actually go to Confession not only for myself but for my friends and family, offering this purification for those who have not the strength to do it or the understanding of its importance. It is actually quite humbling to know that it is not all about me and my sins.
Just as Amanda cannot expect her daughters to see themselves as beautiful if she doesn’t see herself as beautiful, or just as the United States cannot expect to beg Syria and Nigeria to stop the violence while we kill the most innocent in our own country, I cannot ask my friends and family to forgive each other or accept my forgiveness if I cannot humble myself enough to accept God’s mercy and forgiveness myself.