Thursday, January 31, 2008

Why I missed the Latin class last night. I attended the wake of a saint.

Why I missed the Latin class last night.

A saintly woman at Holy Cross Church, Dolores Spada, died last Sunday at 75, and I attended her wake last night. I told Kevin (our Latin class teacher) that I would stay for the rosary and then come to Susan W's 1/2 hour late for the class, but then it seemed rude to get up and walk out in the middle of the tributes that followed the rosary. Besides, my car was blocked in the mortuary parking lot.

So I stayed and listened, sometimes a bit impatiently, and lingered afterwards to watch a video the family had prepared of family photos as a Christmas gift. One woman from the parish read a generic poem about how Dolores was now in the sunset and the waves and the breeze and would never die as long as she lives on in our hearts. A grandson read a more personal tribute, a poem that didn't quite scan but had lots of feeling. The same poem was printed on the back of a little program they handed out at the entrance to the viewing room along with a bag with a rosary in it for each, and a story of how much Dolores loved and believed in the rosary.

Here is the front of the little program:

The grandson said that relatives had been wondering what he was up to scribbling away during Dolores' last hours, but he met his goal to be able to read the poem to her before she died. t was called, "Almost Time to Dance," and looked forward to Dolores' first dance with her husband in heaven. I note these things merely as a record of how death is celebrated in our times, at least in this corner of the world, in northside San Jose CA.

Yesterday morning in Rollo's doughnut shop after 7:30 Mass across the street, I heard even the most hard-hearted little old lady in her group of friends had positive things to say about Dolores. The most apt was "She taught us how to live and she taught us how to die."

Dolores had cancer years ago and it recurred. The first time, her children were already grown, so when she learned that a younger woman with children at home got cancer too, she told the Lord she would offer herself so that the other woman might live. I don't know what happened to the younger woman, but Dolores had a long remission afterwards.

That first time and then when the cancer returned, Dolores offered up her sufferings in an old fashioned Catholic way for the good of others. But then joining one's sufferings with the sufferings of Christ for the good of the world is an intrinsic part of Catholic doctrine, although it is generally more honoured in the breach than in the observance.

It was a privilege to know her. She never gossiped or was unkind, even though she was surrounded by people who did and were. What amazes me most is that she seemed oblivious to the failings of her friends and family. That old unconditional love thing, she had it down pat. She also had a great devotion to Our Lady and said two rosaries a day.

One of her friends told me that at one point when she was dying, Dolores opened her eyes and said that she had seen the Blessed Virgin with a bouquet of roses. Our Lady was holding the hands of her two little sons who had died. They were waiting for her arrival.

Her five living children and many grandchildren, and great grandchildren were at the wake along with hundreds of others.

The California Tower of Babel experience I so often notice was in full effect. (Since English is a second language for many people around here, I often see people from different parts of the world speaking their own kind of English dialect at each other when they don't share the same dialect and hence don't understand hardly a word the other side is saying.) The biggest manifestation of the Babel phenomena occurred when the parochial vicar, a nice young Scalabrinian priest from Mexico, told the parishioners yesterday morning that the wake would be in the hall and waved towards the back of the church. I wondered why the wake was being held in the church hall, but one of the ladies told me he meant the mortuary, which is about 10 blocks away in the direction towards which he waved.

Not everyone understood. So, at 6:30 last night, the choir that sings at the 11:30 a.m. Sunday Mass (mostly Filipinos) was wandering around the parish hall wondering where everyone else was. When they finally figured out where the wake actually was located, they arrived late with their guitars. They sang On Eagle's Wings, I am the Bread of Life, Oh Lord my God and two abysmally bad renditions of Ave Maria. The distinctive Filipino "a" and "i" sounds were dominant throughout. Winging it without hymnals, the choir seemed to making up some of the words and they definitely made up many of the notes. Each of them seemed to create new arrangements as they went along

Dolores would not have criticized, maybe she would not have even noticed.

Every time I ran across Dolores the past year or two, I was relieved and delighted because at the end of each previous encounter, I had been afraid that meeting might be the last. She took all the treatments available, and she said would be happy as long as she could drive herself to daily Mass. When she could, she would join the ladies for coffee in the doughnut shop afterwards. She did the books and volunteered in the church office as long as she could too. Every time I saw her, I would hug her and kiss her and thank God for her still being around and smiling her cute smile. Now the time has come that I dreaded, and I won't be seeing her on this earth any more.

It did my heart an immeasurable amount of good to know her. We need saints because they show us glimpses of the goodness of God.

Love in Him,


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Moral Qualities of a Theologian

I found some interesting quotations about essential qualities of a theologian this morning when cleaning out my bathroom. Really! In a basket of steam-wrinkled reading material that I decided to purge, I found a handout that one of my lay Carmelite brothers gave me, which he had received I believe during a month-long vocation-discerning retreat in a Cistercian monastery.

I don't know much about Gregory of Naziannzus who I quote below. (He is also called Gregory the Theologian and is honored by both the Eastern and Western churches.) But from what little I read, it is not for nothing that this St. Gregory is a Doctor of the Catholic Church. The conference leader, Daniel Hombergen, wrote in the handout:

"Gregory initiates his first Theological Oration (Or. 27) by addressng his opponents {Ed: neo-Arians], whom he attacks for the pride they take in their dialectical skill as sophists and word-gamesters, but who neglect to engage themselves in moral action and ascetic practic with a similar skill. ... Speculating about God, however, is a matter of great delicacy."

I see a lot of pride among the writings of theologians that I have been exposed to. Even if pride weren't a sin of great magnitutude that leads to other sins, their pride is misplaced pride. Their credibility is low and their credulousness is high. I always recall my dismay at a ridiculous article someone at work gave me from a respected theological journal. The theologian who wrote the article had searched the New Testament and cobbled together a series of texts that proved to his satisfatction that the Apostle Paul was a Roman spy.

Back to Gregory. I have a few minutes before a carpet cleaner comes (still another task outstanding from my Advent wreath fire on the last Sunday of Advent).

"O listeners, it is not for everyone to philosophize (phiosophein) about God ... definitely not. This is neither such a matter that can be easily be acquired, nor something for peple cleaving to earth. . .. This is not for all men, but only for those who have been put to the test and who have progressed in comtemplation (theoria), that is, those who have first purified their souls and their bodies, or, at least, those who are purifying it. For if someone is not pure, it is not without danger to take hold of what is pure, as it is for weak eyes to look into a sun ray. What is the right moment then? When we take distance from the mud and the disorder in the outside world, and when the governing part of our soul (hegemnikon) is not confused by evil images wandering in all directions, as if we were mixing calligraphic writing with dreadful scrawling or odoriferous* scent with mud. We must actually be free in order to know God . . ."

I couldn't have said it better :-). Actually, I couldn't have said it at all, just trying to be funny. The wisdom of St. Gregory the Theologisn is the fruit of a long period of self-abnegation practiced by him. It comes from God, not from the cleverness of the writer. Enough said.

* [Ed: Perhaps a more-positive word than odoriferous should have been used here, since the most comon understanding of odoriferous is not pleasant. Perfumed, or fragrant would be better even though they are not as rich in connotations as the positive sense of odoriferous would be]

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Notes from Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism

Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism
Donna Steichen
Second printing, 1992. 1991 Ignatius Press, San Francisco

It may be hard to believe if you haven't come across this information before, but this book describes rage-filled feminists, some gone madly into witchcraft, among some Catholic women in religious orders and in leadership roles in schools, parishes, and dioceses after Vatican II. In this book, you can also read about how liberal bishops, like the discredited Archbishop Weakland, held "listening sessions," where they sensitively heard out the complaints of rage-filled women as they voiced their demands for "rights" such as abortion. Those same bishops, like every liberal priest I've ever met, were not at all interested in the quieter but firm voices of women who tried to speak out against actual atrocies promoted by hijackers of Vatican II.

It has been my experience that the post-Vatican II proponents of a liberalized Church are big on dialogue, but only dialogue with those who express the voices of the world. They don't want to hear from anyone who asks questions like I did: "How can you believe in a Church that you claim was maliciously and ignorantly teaching error for 1960 or so years until some modern Bible scholars and theologians supposedly figured out what Jesus really meant? And how can you stand up in parishes and leadership institutes and say that the documents of Vatican II said things they never actually said?"

Some of the women described in Steichen's book stayed in their orders and some left but kept jobs in diocesan roles.

According to Steichen's book, some practiced a mixture of witchcraft with free sex thrown into the brew. Even some among those who expressed hatred for everything the Church stands for stayed because they want to overthrow traditional Catholic beliefs from within.

For one example of the distorted thinking they exhibit they have redefined the term virgin. To them, a virgin is not a woman who has never physically had relations with a man, but as a woman whose sexuality is not owned by any man. The way they define virgin, as a woman who demands that no one put any boundaries on her sexual behavior, sounds like the old definition of a whore to me.

I personally was heart sick when I returned to the Church in the mid 1979s, and I found out that goddess worshipper, mad Mary Daly, feminist "theologian" was teaching at venerable Boston College. Imagine my sickness of heart when I chanced upon an article in National Catholic Reporter by a feminist nun who was proposing that divorce should be a sacrament. I had come back to the Church because I had tried my own share of lunatic ideas and found them wanting. I came back because the Church answered all of the questions I had been trying to answer, including What is Truth, and how can I satisfy the deep deisre in my heart for immortality?

I had no idea how far that witchcraft and Church-hating feminist contingent had spread within the Church, until I read this book.

Here are the chapter titles:

Chapter One: from Convent to Coven
Chapter Two: The Daughters of Lilith
Chapter Three: Eve Reconsidered
Chapter Four: The Journey Within
Chapter Five: The Domino Effect
Chapter Six: Marching through the Institutions
Chapter Seven: from the Catacombs

Following are some notes I jotted down, because I want to return the book to a friend who loaned it to me. I read it in my quest to understand what happened to cause the radical redefinition of Catholic beliefs that I saw had occurred after Vatican II. When I came back to Catholicism in 1975 or so after leaving it in 1963, I wondered where the Church had gone. I am still trying to understand how such a change for the worse could have occurred.

Just last week, a niece of mine expressed an anti-hierarchical opinion when talking about how her pastor in Dedham Mass had succeeeded in keepng their parish church open when threatened with closing. She believes that the Boston Archdiocese was threatening to close the parish because the pastor would say things the hierarchy didn't like, such as voicing his support for homosexual marriage from the pulpit. See, he wasn't a [what word did she use? slave, patsy, ?] She saw nothing wrong with her pastor, who is an ordained representative of the Catholic faith standing up and opposing official Church teaching, nothing at all. Apparently one can be a Catholic without believing in Catholic teaching, and not only that, one can feel obliged to stand up against the leaders of the Catholic Church if they teach doctrines that are contrary to current mores.

“In March of 1989, at a historic Vatican meeting between American archbishops and curial officials, John Cardinal O’Connor spoke for multitudes of laymen when he described the unintended side effects of the Second Vatican Council as catastrophic. “We are still trying to recover from the chaos of misunderstanding and deliberate distortions,” he said, “Suddenly all the the old certainties seemed to be in question. Many Catholics felt betrayed. They felt the rug had been pulled out from under their most sacred and certain beliefs.

The public face of Catholicism is more altered than anyone would have predicted in 1960.” p.17

CORE IDEA: Deliberate distortion. Betrayal of the intent of the Council.

The trouble arose from “a betrayal of the intent of the Council by midlevel Church professionals, who should have had a strong natural interest in maintaining and enhancing the status of the institution they served. .... “Determined to accept no further magisterial direction toward the kingdom of God, they listened instead to dissident theologians and leftist politicians . ... neo-modernism had been eroding traditional theology, liturgy, and catechetics for some years prior to the Council.” p. 17

“Foreign missionaries today are apt to be so respectful of indigenous cultures that they fail to evangelize, yet the once-vital culture of Western Civilization has been dismantled with brutally callous disrespect for the sensitivities of the American laity.“ p. 18

CORE IDEA: Let's have deep and tender respect for anyone else's religion but not for our own. That reminds me of a young woman I knew who was deeply into animal rights, and admitted that she hated the human race. It leads me to suspect that the devil has to be behind those lines of thinking that lead people into despising their own religion, race, country, class, culure, including their own religion.

p. 19 Most of the errors originated with male theologians, "but they are careful to keep a semblance of Catholic doctrine in their rhetoric.” The author states that women theologians and feminists are much more willing to "discard the entire substance of the faith." My thought is that women don't play the games that men do. Because their core beliefs are inconsistent with the Church's doctrines, they attack her head on, they are not willing to straddle the fence like the males do.

CORE IDEA: “Some [women] had valid grievances, of course. . . .. But far greater harm has been inflicted on them by those who seduced them into the smouldering resentment that poisoned their lives, drew them from their committments and drained away their faith. Their last condition is infinitely worse than their first.” p. 19-20.

Before Vatican II, the women (in and out of religious life) were denigrated and not taken seriously. The “good women” who remain faithful, live lives of self-sacrificial service and hold onto the truth are still ignored, while the more glamourous [sexually up front] feminists have been holding the attention of the clerics.

“shocked by the defection of some ten thousand priests and fifty thousand nuns between 1966 and 1976, Catholics assumed that religious who remained at their posts, at least, were faithful, sane and trustworthy.” p. 20. The author describes how wrong these Catholics were. "Early rumors of excesses among nuns were dismissed as distasteful and flatly incredible, except by the few [like the author] who encountered them frst hand." p. 21. Steichen at first thought she had "stumbled into a uniquely luatice social cul-de-sac. I didn't know it was part of a movement and didn't guess how closely it was entangled with general thological dissent, broader political feministm and epidemic neo-gnosticism. Later investigation revealed that witchcraft is one particularly bizarre manifestation of a widely disseminated decay. Most of he old Catholic culture has been devoured by spiritual termites, leaving behind a structure that looks solide to the eye but crumbles at a touch.

" The post-consilar metamorphosis has been more profound among female religious professionals than any other group, and more instrumental to the misapplication of the "spirit of Vatican II." p. 21

Many orders "adopted policies adversarial towards the Church. As Catherine Victory, a former Dominican, has reported, the old structured convent life changed beyond recognition, and some of those who departed did so not because4 they had lost their vocations but because there no longer seemed to be a community in which to live it. [footnote: Catherin Victory, "Reflections of a Former Nun," Catholic Twin Circle, Nov. 1, 1987, 1.]

The radical feminists practice rituals they don't literally believe it. Many of them don't believe in Satan, yet practice witchcraft and pray to the goddess. They may believe that the goddess is themselves. But they are calling on forces that are real, and that can enslave. They also want to remake the Church to remove patriarchiy, hierarchy, restrictions on sexual practice. They are seemingly trying to recreate Church doctrine according to their philosophy. They don't believe the Scriptures portray true events since they share the widely held belief that is held by many who are holding onto some shred of faith in Christianity while denigrating its doctrine and its documents, that the Scriptures were written by communities with an agenda. They believe that Christianity is "an ammendable human construct." They are trying to construct a New Faith.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote in the Ratzinger Report quoted on p.96:
Christianity is not a philosophical speculation. it is not a construction of our mind. Christianity is not "our" work, it is Revelation . . . and we have no right to reconstruct it. Consequently we are not allowed to change the Our Father into Our Mother;the symbolism used by Jesus is irreversible.; it is based on the same Man-God relationship that he came to reveal to us.

Why did nuns buy into the errors? Chapter Five: The Domino Effect has a lot to say about it. A fair summary might be that the "new theology" sent the religious orders reeling. The damage started with the Sister Formation movement in the 1950s and 60s. John Dewey's secularistic theories, the ideas of psychology all were embedded in American higher education, and the nuns went out and studied in the teachers' colleges while the Catholic colleges were affected by neo-modernism from Europe, which had its roots in rationalistic Protestant Biblical theology. which rejected the historical truth of Sacred Scripture. "The Second Vatican Council was not the cause, but the precipitating occasion, for a revolution already under way." p. 259

Along with the inerrancy of Scripture and the immutability of dogma, the vision of the Mystical Body was dismissed. Pg. 261.

CORE IDEA: The thing I got out of this book for my investigation of what happened, is that whole orders of nuns went bad. Anyone who stood up against the radical changes was ostracized or forced to leave. I imagine there are countless unsung saints among women who were in convents when the 1960s hit. Marginalized, shunned, shamed, belittled, told they were spiritual imbeciles, I wonder how they held the course. For me it is simple, if it once was true, then it always will be true. So i cannot understand those who are able to stay members of the Church when they believe she was so wrong for so many years until some guys in the 1960s were able to set the Church right, finally. How can they stand to be part of an institution that they hate so much and believe such bad things about? Beats me.