Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What Did Saint Augustine Really Say?

About Abortion? Thanks to Father Z:
Abortion: Augustine, in common with most other ecclesiastical writers of his period, vigorously condemned the practice of induced abortion. Procreation was one of the goods of marriage; abortion figured as a means, along with drugs which cause sterility, of frustrating this good. It lay along a continuum which included infanticide as an instance of "lustful cruelty" or "cruel lust" (nupt. et conc. 1.15.17). Augustine called the use of means to avoid the birth of a child an "evil work": a reference to either abortion or contraception or both (b. conjug. 5.5).

Augustine accepted the distinction between "formed" and "unformed" fetuses found in the Septuagint version of Exodus 21:22-23. While the Hebrew text provided for compensation in the case of a man striking a woman so as to cause a miscarriage, and for the penalty to be exacted if further harm were done, the Septuagint translated the word "harm" as "form," introducing a distinction between a "formed" and an "unformed" fetus. The mistranslation was rooted in an Aristotelian distinction between the fetus before and after its supposed "vivification" (at forty days for males, ninety days for females). According to the Septuagint, the miscarriage of an unvivified fetus were vivified, the punishment wa a capital one.

Augustine disapproved of the abortion of both the vivified and unvivified fetus, but distinguished between the two. The unvivified fetus died before it lived, while the vivified fetus died before it was born (nupt. et con. 1.15.17). In referring back to Exodus 21:22-23, he observed that the abortion of an unformed fetus was not considered murder, since it could not be said whether the soul was yet present (qu. 2.80).

The question of the resurrection of the fetus also exercised Augustine, and sheds some light on his views on abortion. Here again he referred to the distinction between the formed and unformed fetus. Though he acknowledged that it was possible that the unformed fetus might perish like a seed, it was also possible that, in the resurrection, God would supply all that was lacking in the unformed fetus, just as he would renew all that was defective in an adult. This notion, Augustine remarked, few would dare to deny, though few would venture to affirm it (ench. 33.85). At another point Augustine would neither affirm nor deny whether the aborted fetus would rise again, though if it should be excluded from the number of the dead, he did not see how it could be excluded from the resurrection (civ. Dei 22.13).

--from John C. Bauerschmidt, "Abortion", in Augustine Through The Ages: An Encyclopedia, edited by Fr. Alan Fitzgerald, OSA, p. 1.

To learn more about Christian history, read more about the Catholic Mass here.

Pope Benedict Continues Catechesis on Saint Paul

From today's general audience, from Asia News Italy:

Today, he sketched a biography of the apostle to the gentiles, leaving the subject of his conversion, "the fundamental turning point of his life", until next Wednesday.

Benedict XVI first highlighted that Paul - born in Tarsus, probably in the year 8 - "spoke Greek, even though he had a name of Latin or Roman origin". He was "a meeting point of three cultures" - Jewish, Greek, and Roman - "and perhaps for this reason as well was able to mediate between cultures, in a true universality".

Paul was educated in Jerusalem by the rabbi Gamaliel, "according to the strictest norms of the Pharisees", for which reason he believed in a "profound orthodoxy that saw a risk, a threat in the man called Jesus". "This explains the fact that he clearly persecuted the Church of God. He was on the road to Damascus precisely in order to prevent the spread of this sect, as he himself said". From that moment, the persecutor of Christianity "became a tireless apostle of the Gospel, and passed into history for what he did as a Christian, or rather as an apostle".

The pope then recalled his apostolic activity, which "is subdivided on the basis of the three missionary voyages, to which is added a fourth, when he was taken to Rome as a prisoner". Among the various moments in Paul's life, Benedict XVI recalled his famous speech in the agora in Athens: "In the ancient cultural capital, he preached to the pagans and Greeks. In the agora, he gave a model speech for explaining to the Greeks that this God is not foreign and unknown, but one they had been waiting for, the deepest response to their anticipation".

In conclusion, Saint Paul "dedicated himself to the proclamation of the Gospel, without holding anything back", making himself, as he wrote, "the servant of all, confronting harsh trials". "I do everything", he said, "for the sake of the Gospel". "This commitment", the pope said, "can be explained only by a soul that is enraptured with the light of Christ", by the conviction that "it is truly necessary to proclaim the light of Christ to the world, to give a glimpse of the beauty and necessity of the Gospel for all of us". "Let us ask", he concluded, "that the Lord may show his light to us as well, and that we may also give the world the light of the Gospel, the truth of Christ".

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bishop Baker on Reading Saint Paul

Bishops Respond to House Speaker

From the USCCB, Pro-Life Activities:
All persons, not just Catholics, can know from the scientific and medical evidence that what grows in a mother's womb is a new, distinct human being. All persons can understand that each human being -- without discrimination -- merits respect. At the very least, respecting human life excludes the deliberate and direct destruction of life -- and that is exactly what abortion is.

Catholics are also pro-life because our Christian tradition is pro-life. As Pope John Paul II says, Christians believe that "all human life is sacred, for it is created in the image and likeness of God." Aborting an unborn child destroys a unique creation which God has called specially into existence.

Christian teaching also obliges us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, who spoke and acted strongly and compassionately in favor of the most despised and vulnerable persons in society. Jesus touched lepers, spoke with prostitutes, and showed special mercy and tenderness to the sick, the poor, and children. Our society today has many vulnerable persons --- including women in crisis pregnancies as well as unborn children whose lives may be legally ended at any time during pregnancy and for any reason. In the tradition of Jesus Christ, Catholics have a responsibility to speak and act in defense of these persons. This is part of our "preferential option" for the poor and powerless.

The Church's mission to defend human life applies over the entire course of life, from conception to natural death. And so the Catholic Church has been a strong supporter of the civil rights movement and a leader in international relief and development efforts. Catholic hospitals and other health-care facilities form the largest network of private, not-for-profit health care providers in the United States. Catholic Charities USA --- one of a number of Catholic charitable groups --- is currently the single largest provider of social services to all Americans, regardless of race, creed or national origin.

The Catholic Church strives to be a prophetic voice, speaking out to protest injustices and indignities against the human person. Catholics will continue in this work, whether our words are popular or unpopular.

Since its beginnings, Christianity has maintained a firm and clear teaching on the sacredness of human life. Jesus Christ emphasized this in his teaching and ministry. Abortion was rejected in the earliest known Christian manual of discipline, the Didache.

Early Church fathers likewise condemned abortion as the killing of innocent human life. A third century Father of the Church, Tertullian, called it "accelerated homicide." Early Church councils considered it one of the most serious crimes. Even during periods when Aristotle's theory of "delayed ensoulment" led Church law to assign different penalties to earlier and later abortions, abortion at any stage was still considered a grave evil.

When biologists in the 19th century learned more about the process of conception, the Church altered its legal distinction between early and late abortions out of respect for reason and biology.

Since that time, science has only further confirmed the humanity of the child growing in the womb. Official Church teaching insists, to the present day, that a just society protects life before as well as after birth.

The reasons are not difficult to understand. One official Church document on the subject puts it this way:



"The first right of the human person is his life . . . It does not belong to society, nor does it belong to public authority in any form to recognize this right for some and not for others; all discrimination is evil. . . Any discrimination based on the various stages of life is no more justified any other discrimination. . . . In reality, respect for human life is called for from the time that the process of generation begins. From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth."Declaration on Procured Abortion, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1974), paragraphs 11-12.

Email us at prolife@usccb.org
Pro-Life Activities 3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington DC 20017-1194 (202) 541-3000 © USCCB. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

St. Paul's Simple Guide to Daily Living

The title of a talk that I'm giving twice in September. Btw...it is simple, but it's not easy...

September 28th:

Perhaps this could appear as "A Pocket Guide" similar to two that I've written already: A Pocket Guide to the Mass and A Pocket Guide to Confession which is part of a series of "pocket guides" that include titles by Dr. Scott Hahn: A Pocket Guide to the Bible , Peter Kreeft:A Pocket Guide to The Meaning of Life (Pocket Guide Series), Patrick Madrid: A Pocket Guide to Catholic Apologetics, A Pocket Guide to Purgatory , and Fr. George Kosicki's:A Pocket Guide to Divine Mercy (A Pocket Guide to)

Pope Benedict on Today's Gospel

From Asia News Italy:

“Even today we want to proclaim this with innermost conviction,” said the Pontiff. “Yes, Jesus, you are Christ, the Son of the Living God! We are aware that Christ is the true ‘treasure’ for whom it is worth sacrificing all. He is the friend who never abandons us for he knows the innermost expectations of our heart. Jesus is the ‘Son of the Living God’, the promised Messiah, who came on earth to offer humanity salvation and satisfy the thirst for life and love that dwells in every human being. What advantages would humanity get if it welcomed the announcement that brings with it joy and peace!”

Following the Apostle’s confession of faith Jesus conferred upon Peter his mandate (And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.).

“It is the first time that Jesus spoke about the Church whose mission is to implement God’s grandiose plan to unite in Christ the whole of humanity as a single family. Peter’s mission, and that of his successors, is to serve the one and only Church of God, which includes Jews and pagans. Its indispensable ministry is to ensure that it does not identify with any one nation or culture, but that it is a Church for all peoples, so as to make present among people, who suffer from countless divisions and contrasts, God’s peace and the renewing strength of his love. It must therefore serve the inner unity that comes from God’s peace, the unity of those who have become brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. This is the unique mission that falls upon the Pope, Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter.

Lastly “before the huge responsibility of this task I feel ever more the importance and the duty of serving the Church and the world that God placed in me. For this reason I call upon you, dear brothers and sisters, to help me with your prayers so that, faithful to Christ, we can together announce and bear witness to his presence in our times. May Mary enable us to obtain this grace! We call upon her, full of trust, as the Mother of the Church and the Star of Evangelisation.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Parents of St. Therese to be Beatified

On October 19th:

- LOUIS MARTIN E ZÉLIE MARIE GUÉRIN, laici, sposi e genitori: Domenica 19 ottobre 2008, a Lisieux (Francia), nella Basilica di Santa Teresa del Bambino Gesù, alle ore 10.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Porter Wagoner

Porter Wagoner - The Rubber Room


Found at bee mp3 search engine

Pope: Set the Example When You Drive

Something to think about this Sunday, from Asia News Italy:


In his reflection before the Angelus, he commented on the liturgy of the 20th Sunday in ordinary time, in which "the universality of salvation" is emphasized in various ways: "The Word of God thus offers us the opportunity to reflect on the universality of the mission of the Church, made up of peoples of every race and culture. This is the origin of the great responsibility of the ecclesial community, which is called to be a house of welcome for all, the sign and instrument of communion for the entire human family".

The pope said that "it is important, above all in our time, that every Christian community deepen this awareness more and more, in part for the sake of helping civil society to overcome any temptation of racism, intolerance, and exclusion, and to organize itself with decisions respectful of the dignity of every human being! One of the great achievements of humanity is, in fact, precisely the overcoming of racism. Unfortunately, however, there are worrying new signs of this in various countries, often connected to social and economic problems, which nonetheless can never justify disrespect and racial discrimination. Let us pray that respect for every person may increase everywhere, together with the responsible awareness that only in the reciprocal welcome of all is it possible to build a world marked by authentic justice and true peace".

Benedict XVI then dedicated a thought - and a prayer intention - to all the victims of vehicles or accidents in recent days (especially in Italy). "We must not", the pontiff said, "grow accustomed to this sad reality! Human life is too valuable, and it is unfit for man to die or be crippled by causes that, in most cases, could be avoided. A greater sense of responsibility is certainly necessary. Above all on the part of drivers, because accidents are often due to excessive speed and imprudent behavior. Driving a vehicle on the public roads requires a moral sense and a civic sense. In promoting the latter of these, a constant effort of prevention is indispensable, the vigilance and deterrence on the part of the competent authorities. As the Church, in fact, we feel ourselves directly involved on the ethical level: Christians first of all must make a personal examination of conscience of their own conduct as drivers; the communities should moreover educate all to consider driving as an area in which to defend life and concretely exercise love of neighbor".

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

No More "Yahweh" Songs

In Catholic worship, from CNS:

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In the not-too-distant future, songs such as "You Are Near," "I Will Bless Yahweh" and "Rise, O Yahweh" will no longer be part of the Catholic worship experience in the United States.

At the very least, the songs will be edited to remove the word "Yahweh" -- a name of God that the Vatican has ruled must not "be used or pronounced" in songs and prayers during Catholic Masses.

Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Divine Worship, announced the new Vatican "directives on the use of 'the name of God' in the sacred liturgy" in an Aug. 8 letter to his fellow bishops.

He said the directives would not "force any changes to official liturgical texts" or to the bishops' current missal translation project but would likely have "some impact on the use of particular pieces of liturgical music in our country as well as in the composition of variable texts such as the general intercessions for the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments."

John Limb, publisher of OCP in Portland, Ore., said the most popular hymn in the OCP repertoire that would be affected was Dan Schutte's "You Are Near," which begins, "Yahweh, I know you are near."

He estimated that only "a handful" of other OCP hymns use the word "Yahweh," although a search of the OCP Web site turned up about a dozen examples of songs that included the word.

OCP is a nonprofit publisher of liturgical music and worship resources.

Lunch with the Pope

"He's a good listener."

From the LA TIMES:
The lunch took place July 18 at Pell's residence in Sydney. Cervantes and the others were led into a room with a circular table. Place cards directed them where to sit. Security guards swept through the room, then the group was told to wait: The Holy Father would be with them shortly.

"All of us didn't know what to say," Cervantes recalled. They joked about not knowing which fork to use and warned those who would be seated next to the pope not to accidentally use his bread plate. They also peeked through the drawn blinds, hoping to catch a glimpse of the pope arriving.

When Benedict arrived with Pell, the two men quickly put the young delegates, who were all in their 20s, at ease. Share who you are and what you do, the pope told them.

Cervantes had memorized facts about his diocese and it was clear the other diners had also prepared facts to share. But that's not what the pope wanted. "He would bring us back to talk about us," Cervantes said.

He talked about his parents, both immigrants, and his work in youth ministry. The pope asked their names and where they had come from, and if Cervantes had siblings. "I didn't think he would ask any of that," Cervantes said.

But he answered the questions. His parents, Alicia and Fermin Cervantes, immigrated from Mexico. He has a sister, Vivian, and a brother, Miguel. The pope also asked about Orange County and if the church was multicultural. Benedict seemed pleased, Cervantes said, when he talked about the large presence of Spanish- and Vietnamese-speaking Catholics.

Another delegate, when asked, spoke of his work as a teacher. Benedict, a longtime academic, perked up at that.

"What do you like to teach?" he asked. Then a man representing Australia's aborigines -- his chair was decorated with a kangaroo skin -- said he hoped to inspire other indigenous peoples.

A thread connected most of the personal stories:

"That all of us had a struggle, a conversion or a transformation -- and that all of us had a desire to help other people," Cervantes said.

The conversation was held mostly in English, but the pope switched to Spanish and French at times. With a Korean man to his right, he spoke in German. Benedict was like "a grandfather trying to get know about his grandchildren," Cervantes said.

The diners took a break for the pope to see some gifts each person brought. Cervantes and his youth groups wanted to give the pope something classically American, so he brought a basket with assorted gifts. Among the items was a book of blessings from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In a nod to baseball, there was an Angels visor.

There was also an orange stress ball, the kind overworked people like to squeeze to relieve tension. "What is this?" Benedict asked.

Cervantes explained, prompting a laugh. "Seeing him smile and seeing him laugh was worth it," he said.

Then came the classic Orange County gift: A Mickey Mouse hat. As any kid knows, it has to have your name on it. So embroidered between the ears was "Benedict XVI."

But Cervantes had a serious message for the pope as well: "There is hope and there is faith in the U.S."

Two days after the lunch, Benedict delivered a homily during a Mass held at the Randwick Racecourse in Sydney. "The Church especially needs the gifts of young people, all young people," he told the crowd. "She needs to grow in the power of the Spirit who even now gives joy to your youth and inspires you to serve the Lord with gladness."

The homily hit home for Cervantes. "This is a person who truly cares, who lives what he preaches," he said.

In the weeks following his lunch with the pope, Cervantes has reflected on the experience -- "It's definitely given me more inner strength" -- and has realized that what surprised him then makes sense now. "His writings talk about making personal connections," he said.

That explains all the questions about family and personal journeys. And why the pope didn't really say much himself.

"He's a very good listener," Cervantes said. "You're used to seeing him take charge." But with the young people, he "just was listening to us."

Pope Prays for Those who ask

From Asia News Italy:
The Pope prays for all of those, "and they are many", who write to him about their difficulties: Benedict XVI reminds them, and all Christians, that "those who pray never lose hope, not even in difficult situations, even situations that are desperate in human terms. This is what the Church's history teaches us", and this is what is displayed by the witness of the martyrs, like Edith Stein and Maximilian Kolbe, whose feasts are celebrated in this period. "In human terms, their lives could be viewed as a failure, but in their martyrdom shines the splendor of love".

The commemoration of the two martyrs killed at Auschwitz by the Nazis was at the center of the remarks that Benedict XVI addressed to about 8,000 people gathered in the courtyard of the apostolic residence in Castel Gandolfo for the resumption of the general audiences, after the hiatus due to the pope's visit to Australia and his vacation in Brixen. The audiences have not been held at Castel Gandolfo since the pontificate of Paul VI, 30 years ago.

Benedict XVI looked relaxed after his days spent in the mountains, and he talked about the "serenity" there, and thanked those who "took care of" his vacation.

"There are very many", he then said, "who write to me asking me to pray for them, and they do not conceal their concerns, their problems, aspirations, and hopes which they carry in their hearts together with the uncertainties through which humanity is living in this period. I can assure all", he added, "that I remember you in my prayers, especially in the celebration of the Holy Mass and the recitation of the Rosary".

"How very often", he commented, "it has been prayer that has sustained the Christian people in their trials". In this regard, he cited Edith Stein and Maximilian Kolbe, whose feasts are celebrated in this period: "both concluded their earthly existence with martyrdom in Auschwitz. In human terms, their lives could seem like a defeat, but they are instead proof of the victory of love. As Saint Maximilian Kolbe said, 'hatred is not a creative force, only love is', and the proof of love was his generous offering of himself to take the place of [a fellow prisoner sentenced to death]". On August 6, Edith Stein, three days from her dramatic end, approached some of her fellow sisters and told them she was "ready for anything. Jesus is also here. So far I have been able to pray, and I have said Ave Crux". Survivors of the concentration camp, the pope said, have recounted that, dressed in the habit of her order, she distinguished herself by her behavior: "prayer was the secret of this saint, a co-patroness of Europe".

And "Ave Maria was the final invocation of Saint Maximilian Kolbe as he held out his arm to the man who killed him by injection".

"As we prepare ourselves to celebrate the solemnity of the Assumption", he concluded, "let us again entrust ourselves to her who looks upon us at every moment from heaven, with maternal love".

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pope's Question and Answers

Previous Q and A with the Pope here:

Most recent session from Sandro Magister:

1. "All great works of art are an epiphany of God"


Q: Holy Father, my name is Willibald Hopfgartner, and I am a Franciscan. In your address in Regensburg, you emphasized the substantial connection between the divine Spirit and human reason. On the other hand, you have also always emphasized the importance of art and beauty. So then, together with conceptual dialogue about God in theology, should there not always be a new presentation of the aesthetic experience of the faith within the Church, through proclamation and the liturgy?

A: Yes, I think that the two things go together: reason, precision, honesty in the reflection on truth, and beauty. A form of reason that in any way wanted to strip itself of beauty would be depleted, it would be blind. Only when the two are united do they form the whole, and this union is important precisely for the faith. Faith must constantly confront the challenges of the mindset of this age, so that it may not seem a sort of irrational mythology that we keep alive, but may truly be an answer to the great questions; so that it may not be merely a habit, but the truth, as Tertullian once said.

In his first letter, St. Peter wrote the phrase that the medieval theologians took as the legitimization, almost as the mandate for their theological work: "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope" – an apologia for the "logos" of hope, meaning a transformation of the "logos," the reason for hope, into an apologia, an answer addressed to men. He was clearly convinced of the fact that faith is "logos," that it is a form of reason, a light issuing from the creating Light, and not a hodgepodge resulting from our own thought. This is why it is universal, and for this reason it can be communicated to all.

But this creating "Logos" is not a merely technical "logos." It is broader than this, it is a "logos" that is love, and therefore to be expressed in beauty and goodness. And in reality, for me art and the saints are the greatest apologia for our faith.

The arguments presented by reason are absolutely important and indispensable, but there always remains some disagreement somewhere. If, instead, we look at the saints, this great luminous arc that God has set across history, we see that here there is truly a power of goodness that lasts over the millennia, here there is truly light from light.

And in the same way, if we contemplate the created beauties of the faith, these simply are, I would say, the living proof of faith. Take this beautiful cathedral: it is a living proclamation! It speaks to us on its own, and beginning with the beauty of the cathedral we are able to proclaim in a visible way God, Christ and all of his mysteries: here these have taken shape, and are gazing back at us. All of the great works of art, the cathedrals – the Gothic cathedrals, and the splendid Baroque churches – all of them are a luminous sign of God, and therefore truly a manifestation, an epiphany of God.

Christianity involves precisely this epiphany: that God has become a veiled Epiphany, he appears and shines. We have just listened to the sound of the organ in all its splendor, and I think that the great music born within the Church is an audible and perceptible rendering of the truth of our faith: from Gregorian chant to the music of the cathedrals to Palestrina and his era, to Bach and then to Mozart and Bruckner, and so on... Listening to all of these great works – the Passions by Bach, his Mass in B minor, and the great spiritual compositions of 16th century polyphony, of the Viennese school, of all of this music, even by minor composers – suddenly we feel: it is true! Wherever things like these are created, there is Truth.

Without an intuition capable of discovering the true creative center of the world, this beauty cannot be created. For this reason, I think that we must always act in such a way that these two things go together, we must present them together. When, in our own time, we discuss the reasonableness of the faith, we are discussing precisely the fact that reason does not end where experimental discoveries end, it does not end in positivism; the theory of evolution sees the truth, but sees only half of it: it does not see that behind this is the Spirit of creation. We are fighting for the expansion of reason, and therefore for a form of reason that, exactly to the point, is open to beauty as well, and does not have to leave it aside as something completely different and irrational.

Christian art is a rational form of art – we think of Gothic art, great music, or the Baroque art right here – but this is the artistic expression of a much broader form of reason, in which the heart and reason come together. This is the point. This, I think, is in some way the proof of the truth of Christianity: the heart and reason come together, beauty and truth touch. And to the extent that we are able to live in the beauty of truth, so much more will faith again be able to be creative, in our own time as well, and to express itself in a convincing artistic form.


2. "The earth is waiting for men who will care for it as the work of the Creator"


Q: Holy Father, my name is Karl Golser, I am a professor of moral theology in Brixen, and also director of the institute for justice, peace, and the safeguarding of creation. I enjoy remembering the time when I was able to work with you at the congregation for the doctrine of the faith. [...] What can we do to bring a greater sense of responsibility toward creation into the life of the Christian communities? How can we arrive at seeing creation and redemption increasingly as a whole?

A: I also think that there must be new emphasis on the unbreakable bond between creation and redemption. In recent decades, the doctrine on creation had almost disappeared from theology, it was almost imperceptible. Now we are aware of the damage that this causes. The Redeemer is the Creator, and if we do not proclaim God in his total greatness – as Creator and as Redeemer – we also deprive redemption of value. In fact, if God has nothing to say in creation, if he is simply relegated to being part of history, how can he really understand our entire life? How can he truly bring salvation to man in his entirety, and to the world as a whole?

This is why, for me, the renewal of doctrine on creation and a new understanding of the inseparability of creation and redemption are extremely important. We must recognize again: He is the "Creator Spiritus," the Reason that is in the beginning and from which everything is born, and of which our own reason is nothing but a spark. And it is He, the Creator himself, who also entered into history and is able to enter into history and act within it precisely because He is the God of the whole, and not only of a part. If we recognize this, it obviously follows that redemption, being Christians, or simply the Christian faith always and in any case mean responsibility toward creation.

Twenty or thirty years ago, Christians were accused – I don't know whether this accusation is still maintained – of being the real ones responsible for the destruction of creation, because the words contained in Genesis – "Subdue the earth" – were thought to have led to this arrogance toward creation, the consequences of which we are experiencing today. I think that we must again learn to understand this accusation in all its falsehood: as long as the earth was considered the creation of God, the task of "subduing it" was never understood as an order to enslave it, but rather as the task of being guardians of creation and of developing its gifts; of actively cooperating in God's work, in the evolution that He set in motion in the world, so that the gifts of creation may be treasured instead of trampled upon and destroyed.

If we observe what was born around the monasteries, how little paradises, oases of creation, were born and continue to be born in those places, it becomes evident that all of this is not only a matter of words, but wherever the Word of the Creator has been understood correctly, where life has been lived together with the Creator and Redeemer, there one finds efforts to protect creation, and not to destroy it.

Chapter 8 of the letter to the Romans also fits into this context, where it says that creation suffers and groans because of the subjection in which it finds itself as it awaits the revelation of the children of God: it will feel free when creatures, when men come who are children of God and will treat it beginning from God.

I believe that this is precisely the reality that we are witnessing today: creation is groaning – we can perceive this, we can almost hear it – and is waiting for human persons to look at it from God's standpoint. The brutal consumption of creation begins where God is not, where the material has become only material for us, where we ourselves are the ultimate standard, where everything is simply our property, and we consume it only for ourselves. And the waste of creation begins where we no longer recognize any standard above ourselves, but see only ourselves; it begins where there no longer exists any dimension of life beyond death, where we must hoard everything in this life and possess life in the maximum intensity possible, where we must possess everything it is possible to possess.

I believe, therefore, that real and efficient measures against the waste and destruction of creation can be realized and developed, understood and lived only where creation is considered from the standpoint of God; where life is considered beginning from God, and has greater dimensions – in responsibility before God – and one day will be given to us by God in its fullness, and never taken away: by giving life away, we receive it.

Thus, I believe, we must try by every means at our disposal to present the faith in public, especially where there is an existing sensitivity toward it. And I think that the sensation that the world may be slipping away from us – because we ourselves are driving it away – and the sense of being oppressed by the problems of creation, precisely this gives us the right opportunity in which our faith can speak publicly and be considered as a constructive contribution.

In fact, this is not a matter of simply finding technologies to prevent damage, although it is important to find alternative sources of energy and other such things. All of this will not be enough if we ourselves do not find a new lifestyle, a discipline that includes sacrifice, the discipline of acknowledging others, to whom creation belongs just as much as it does to us who are able to make use of it more easily; a discipline of responsibility toward the future of others and toward our own future, because it is responsibility before Him who is our Judge, and who as Judge is our Redeemer, but is also truly our Judge.

I therefore think that it is necessary, in any case, to put these two dimensions together – creation and redemption, earthly life and eternal life, responsibility toward creation and responsibility toward others and toward the future – and that it is our task to participate to this effect in a clear and decisive manner in public opinion.

In order to be listened to, we must at the same time demonstrate by our own example, with our own lifestyle, that we are speaking about a message in which we ourselves believe, and according to which it is possible to live. And we want to ask the Lord to help us all to live the faith, the responsibility for the faith, in such a way that our lifestyle becomes a witness, and then to speak in such a way that our words are credible messengers of faith as guidance for our time.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What Makes Shopping on Amazon Reasonable

There is little doubt that what makes Amazon so competitive with bricks and mortar bookstores is Amazon Prime. If you order a lot of books it is worth the price--you get them mailed to you in two days and sometimes, in my experience they even arrive in one!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Incense

Science uncovers some interesting facts--its good for you!

From Science Daily:
Religious leaders have contended for millennia that burning incense is good for the soul. Now, biologists have learned that it is good for our brains too. An international team of scientists, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, describe how burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression. This suggests that an entirely new class of depression and anxiety drugs might be right under our noses.

"In spite of information stemming from ancient texts, constituents of Bosweilla had not been investigated for psychoactivity," said Raphael Mechoulam, one of the research study's co-authors. "We found that incensole acetate, a Boswellia resin constituent, when tested in mice lowers anxiety and causes antidepressive-like behavior. Apparently, most present day worshipers assume that incense burning has only a symbolic meaning."

To determine incense's psychoactive effects, the researchers administered incensole acetate to mice. They found that the compound significantly affected areas in brain areas known to be involved in emotions as well as in nerve circuits that are affected by current anxiety and depression drugs. Specifically, incensole acetate activated a protein called TRPV3, which is present in mammalian brains and also known to play a role in the perception of warmth of the skin. When mice bred without this protein were exposed to incensole acetate, the compound had no effect on their brains.

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