RSSCategory: Religion

Mass in Cantonese

| March 15, 2012 | 0 Comments


On Thursday morning, I visited St. Jude’s Church for 7:15 am Mass. The celebrant was an American priest, but, otherwise, everyone in the “church” was a Hong Kong native. The Mass was in Cantonese, so I had to follow along knowing the rhythms of the Mass. I like going to Mass when I visit exotic places because it is always an opportunity to experience full local authenticity.  I was not disappointed.

St. Jude’s is a combination church and kindergarten. While there is a real church, the Mass was held in what looked like a conference room with folding chairs as pews. Except for the strange language, it was the same Mass that I attend in Washington and Boston. In fact, it is the same Mass that has been celebrated in every corner of the world every day for 2,000 years. There is something remarkable about that. Upon receiving Communion, the deacon switched to English and said “Body of Christ,” for me. Nice touch.

From there, I walked the mile back to the hotel along King’s Road, which is a block in from the harbor and is a large commercial street. Got to see a typical morning with mobs of people hustling to work. Didn’t feel quite so exotic, but interesting, nonetheless.

A Jesuit Retreat

| March 4, 2012 | 0 Comments

Sunset over the Potomac at Loyola Retreat House

I spent this weekend at a Jesuit retreat in southern Maryland at Loyola Retreat House, a facility on a bluff overlooking a very scenic bend in the Potomac River. It was a very different experience from the 24 hours I spent with the Benedictines a few weeks ago.

This is not a monastery but a retreat house. The accommodations are the same, very spare, but this time I had a lot of company. This is the annual “Men’s Retreat” for my parish, Blessed Sacrament in Washington, DC. But it’s a silent retreat, so you don’t really have the opportunity to get to know your fellow retreatants. Lots of smiles and nods, but no real conversation. Continue Reading

Andrew Sullivan on Santorum

| February 25, 2012 | 0 Comments

Andrew Sullivan has a grudging respect for Santorum because Santorum is willing to defend in public the looney views that the Republican primary voters demand of all the candidates. Say what you want. You know where he stands. Romney? Not so much.

Key quote:

And, by the way, those Washington pundits now huffing and puffing about Santorum’s extremism? They should have spoken up a long time ago. Or tell us now what substantive differences there are between Santorum’s apocalyptic war-mongering and Romney’s; or between Santorum’s belief in erasing the difference between politics and religion and Romney’s. Or simply acknowledge they have no principles but defeating Democrats by whatever means necessary.

24 Hours in a Monastery, St. Anselm’s Abbey

| January 28, 2012 | 2 Comments

The Chapel at St. Anselm's Abbey

I spent 24 hours at St. Anselm’s Abbey as a sort of “mini-retreat.” What follows is an account of that experience. I’m posting it mainly for my own record, for posterity, as it were. It’s a long post and I doubt many of the vast numbers of my readers will be interested, so feel free to pass this one by.

Continue Reading

Giving the Reading at St. Peter’s in Rome

| January 7, 2012 | 0 Comments

It occurred to me that I’ve never posted the video of a high point in my life, the day I gave the reading at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  It happened on a family vacation on June 26, 2005. I was plucked out of the congregation seemingly at random. The video was taken by my daughter, Bridget, who was 11 at the time. My wife, Rita, panicked when she couldn’t get the camera to work, so Bridget saved the day.  For those keeping score, it was Romans 6:3-11.

I thought I’d test out the video capabilities for my new hosting service for the Preferential Option blog by posting the event.  Here it is.  It starts out with a Vatican official testing my reading abilities.  There were about ten bishops on the alter.  Very intimidating.

Movie Review – The Way

| January 2, 2012 | 0 Comments

Martin Sheen is known to be a devout Catholic.  I describe myself and an observant Catholic who aspires to be devout.  So, I went to see Sheen’s new movie, which was written and directed by Sheen’s son, Emelio Estevez, with certain expectation and  some concerns.  My expectations were that it would be a religious movie, since it centers on a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago.  I’d never heard of this apparently well know trail along which pilgrims have traveled for hundreds of years.  It is described in the movie in fairly mystical, but not religious, terms.  My concern was that the religious aspect of the movie would be depicted in a smarmy, emotional way.  I imagined this as a bit of a proselytizing project of Sheen, which was supported by the fact that Sheen and his son appeared at Catholic University last year on their promotional tour.  Frankly, I enjoy watching Martin Sheen, but I have seen him in roles that are a bit over the top. Continue Reading

Away in a Manger

| December 25, 2011 | 0 Comments

A Real Manger

I sometimes think it’s a mistake to drill into children the Christmas story of Jesus born in a manger in Bethlehem. In a way, we end up trivializing the story because it becomes so familiar by the time the child reaches critical thinking that the story loses all its powerful. You almost have to relearn the enormous implications of this story if you, in fact, believe it. What is says is that the creator of the unimaginably vast universe, of which the earth is but a less than insignificant speck, lowered him of herself to be born as a human on this speck and offered a promise of eternal, joyful life. Of course, the story gets even more improbable as it goes on to Jesus’s actual life.   But even the birth story is a bit hard to grasp when considered tabula rasa.

It might be better to work backwards.  Imagine there’s a God who cares about us.  Now, imagine that this God wants to communicate a certain message to us.  Finally, imagine that the message is one of humility and love for the least among us.  How would God communicate that message? Continue Reading

Paris – Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral

| June 18, 2011 | 1 Comment

I attended 8 am Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral on this somewhat chilly and overcast morning.  It was a very nice service, celebrated by two Black priests and with 34 congregants in attendance.  There is something extraordinary about the fact that the Mass is the same in every corner of the world, although it is very special in French.  I was able to follow the order of the Mass and the readings by using the “Breviary” app on my IPhone. 

Notre Dame is very similar to the Washington Cathedral.  Of course, it’s probably the other way around. 

Mass was held in the front section with the congregation seated on either side of the altar. 

It was a pleasant way to begin our first full day in Paris.

Andrew Sullivan Contemplates Death

| May 16, 2010 | 0 Comments
In a fascinating post, Andrew Sullivan invites his athiest readers to explain what they believe about death.  Then , he offers his own view, which admire tremendously.  Wish I had his depth and faith.

I live in this awareness. But I also live in the awareness that eternity is here already, that the majesty and miracle of God’s creation resonates through every second of our lives and every particle of matter within and without us. That is how I interpret Oakeshott’s deeply Christian (and somewhat Buddhist) understanding of salvation as having nothing whatsoever to do with the future. The unity and individuality and wonder we are told we will only know then is actually here now, shielded from our own eyes by our own mortal fear, by our own avoidance of death, by our own inability to grasp that this struggle we fear is actually already over, that God loves us now unconditionally, overwhelmingly, this knowledge prevented solely from penetrating us by our own sense of inadequacy, or our looking away, or are losing ourselves in the human and worldly things that I understand by sin.

So I do not believe our consciousness is utterly different after death than now. I believe, with Saint Paul, that this is the same divine experience, but through a glass darkly. I believe it is Love, because Jesus showed me so. And I await with with great fear because I am human and I await with great hope because of the incarnation and resurrection of God in human history.

Religion as a Means, not an End

| February 2, 2010 | 0 Comments
I am a fan of C.S. Lewis, particularly his Christian apologetics. I find him to be the most intellectually satisfying defender of Christianity that I have read. He is brilliant, creative and honest. And he gives due deference to contrary arguments from skeptics. One of his most creative works is The Screwtape Letters, a book in which the “narrator” is a senior level demon, working for Satan, who is advising a “nephew,” an up and coming demon, on how to lead a particular human away from God and toward the dark side. So, he cleverly describes various modes of thinking and behaving that tend to lead humans astray and explains how his nephew can encourage those behaviors.

I’ve been re-reading Screwtape and was struck by the following quote, which I think effectively describes the Christian Right in America in the last 30 years. They use their religion as a political weapon to achieve temporal ends. Bear in mind, Lewis is writing this during World War II and Screwtape is explaining how to push a mode of thought that leads to evil. If C.S. Lewis has it right, these “Christianists” are in for a surprise on judgment day. (emphasis added)

Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the “cause”, in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war-effort or of Pacifism. The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours—and the more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely