Adopt a Cardinal

Adopt a Cardinal

So the Pope Emeritus will still wear white, but he doesn’t keep the red shoes. These are just two of the gradually emerging details relating to the life of Benedict XVI, post-resignation.

I can understand why some Catholics find such details arcane and maybe even embarrassing. Why is this news? Won’t people think we Catholics obsess over minutiae?

But I can also understand why other Catholics, and also some non-Catholics, find this stuff interesting. I find it interesting myself. As Dr Peters observes, this is history in the making. The Vatican is making it up as it goes along, because precedents are scarce. In the life of a 2,000 year old Church which esteems Sacred Tradition, that doesn’t happen very often.

Is the colour of the ex-pope’s wardrobe important? No. It’s trivial. But I like trivia.

Meanwhile, the Cardinal-electors must be feeling the weight of their duty. For better or worse, it falls to 116 men (at last count) to make a decision which a billion or so Catholics have an interest in.

So what better time to adopt a Cardinal? I drew Cardinal Sepe, for whom I’ll pray and fast until the conclave ends.

Call no man ‘father’ —
On the scandal in the Curia

Call no man ‘father’ — On the scandal in the Curia

Only last week, a friend and I were wrestling with the saying which appears in today’s Gospel: “You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven.” (Mt 23:10)

You’ve got to admit, when you combine this saying of Jesus with the Catholic custom of addressing priests as Father, we have left ourselves open to attack from Biblical Fundamentalists.

Nonetheless, I have no problem concluding that on this occasion, our Lord was engaging in hyperbole (in contrast to, say, John, chapter 6.) After all, this saying by our Lord didn’t prevent St Paul from calling himself father: “For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (1 Cor. 4:14–15)

As for the practice of referring to other Christians as his children, St Paul is joined by St Peter and St John. 1 Cor 4:17. 1 Tim 1:2. Tit 1:4. Phm 1:10. 1 Pet 5:13. 2 Cor 12:14. Gal 4:19. 1 Jn 2:1. . . You get the idea.

So let’s allow that Jesus has engaged in a bit of hyperbole in today’s Gospel. To what end? What lesson is he teaching?

I found a clue in the Collect:

Guard your Church, we pray, O Lord,
in your unceasing mercy,
and, since without you mortal humanity is sure to fall,
may we be kept by your constant helps from all harm
and directed to all that brings salvation.

But to be honest, I first saw it in the Closing Prayer in today’s Office, which is the same prayer as the Collect, but translated differently:

Watch over your Church, Lord,
with unfailing compassion,
and since, left to ourselves, we are prone to evil,
by your grace turn us away from all that is harmful
and direct us into the way of salvation.

(Father Z provides the 1973 ICEL translation. It doesn’t illustrate what I’m about to say at all. I don’t know how people can believe the old Missal is better than the present Missal, flawed though it is.)

The pertinent point is in line three. “Without you mortal humanity is sure to fall.” “Left to ourselves, we are prone to evil.

That’s a bit grim, isn’t it? Almost Jansenistic? But yet, how strangely reassuring, in light of the scandal looming over the Curia. (Robert Moynihan’s coverage of that unfolding drama is excellent. His reporting is suffused with a love for truth which is is no way compromised by an equally sincere love for the Church.)

Should we be surprised, if evil has infiltrated the Vatican? It’s the way of the world, isn’t it? — that where great goodness is found, great evil is found also? And we have been blessed with remarkably holy popes over the last century, Benedict included. Only a fool would believe that everyone in the Vatican is angelic. Even the Twelve had their Judas.

As the Church prayed today, “left to ourselves, we are prone to evil.” This is maybe what our Lord was getting at, when he told us that “you have only one Father, and he is in Heaven.” Human beings are flawed. They will let you down. You can’t find in them what you will find in God. So don’t make gods of men.

Perfect goodness subsists only in God. The evil doings of men — even priests and bishops in the Vatican — is no proof against goodness. It only demonstrates that we have only one Father, and he is in Heaven.

(Fr Pat O’Sullivan SJ — who is so quotable — makes a similar point relating to marriage. I can’t quite recall it, but it’s along these lines: “A marriage matures when both spouses realise — and are satisfied — that they can’t give to the other, or receive from them, the unconditional love only God can provide.”)

+Coleridge’s Lenten Message

Canon Law requires the men chosen to be bishops to have a doctorate. Can. 378 § 5 says that the candidate should “hold a doctorate or at least a licentiate in sacred Scripture, theology or canon law, from an institute of higher studies approved by the Apostolic See, or at least be well versed in these disciplines.”

Richard Chonak has an interesting post on the spread of doctorates in the College of Cardinals. He limits his survey to cardinal electors between the ages of 60 and 75 (the most papabile). Of the 67 cardinals surveyed, only three possess a doctorate in Sacred Scripture. That’s not surprising. The SSD is one of the most demanding of all doctorates.  Doctors of Sacred Scripture must first earn a Licentiate of Sacred Scripture, and only the Pontifical Biblical Institute the Pontifical Biblical Commission grant them (in course and by examination respectively). Candidates typically live in the Holy Land for several years, becoming conversant in biblical archaeology, Ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek.

The Archbishop of Brisbane is a Doctor of Sacred Scripture, and it shows in his Lenten message. This is great viewing (or reading). The fourteen minutes it takes to watch this is, I think, a good investment of time.

Prayers please

The smell of smoke and an eery red hue have lingered since lunch time. Reports from the CFA aren’t great. The nearby fires in the Grampians doubled in size overnight, and it seems only rain can bring them under control now.

But it won’t rain before Monday, and in the meantime, a change from the north will raise temperatures and redirect the fires toward population centres. It’s going to be a long weekend, in the worst possible sense.

Many parishioners are already adversely impacted, and many more have dropped everything and joined in the effort to fight the fires, and care for the fire fighters. Keep them in your prayers!

The view in Hamilton

The view in Hamilton

The view at Glenisla at 2pm this afternoon

The view at Glenisla at 2pm this afternoon


Victoria Valley, two nights ago

Sent by one of our parishioners. His family evacuated on Sunday. He was hit by a falling tree yesterday so is now out of action due to concussion — much to his children's relief.

The view at Mirranatwa, sent by one of our parishioners. His family evacuated on Sunday. He was hit by a falling tree while fighting the fires yesterday, so he’s now out of action due to concussion — much to the relief of his young children.

The value of introverts in a
world that won’t shut up

The value of introverts in a world that won’t shut up

Every now and then, a good review comes along which not only compels me to buy the book under review (getting around to reading it is a separate proposition), but which also stands out as a good essay in and of itself.

Sam Rocha’s review of Quiet, by Susan Cain, is an example of this. Quiet presents Cain’s case that contemporary culture undervalues silence, and misunderstands introverts. It’s an interesting idea, but without Rocha’s review, I don’t think I’d commit to reading a whole book on the subject.

But Rocha’s review opens up two related subjects – one explicitly, and the other implicitly.

As a lecturer in philosophy and pedagogy, Rocha has long wondered what, exactly, classroom participation entails. He always includes a note on classroom participation in his course readers. It reads in part:

I have no uniform expectation for participation. Honestly, I don’t really know what this thing called “participation” is exactly. What I do know is this: classroom participation is a mixed bag: better and worse, direct and indirect, this and that and the other thing and that thing over there. The most obvious way to participate is to come to class, and come prepared . . . Beyond attendance and preparation, I would actually prefer that you participate well in indirect ways rather than feel the need to participate poorly in more direct ways. In other words: speaking is not necessarily required for participation. There is space to be an introvert or a contemplative here. Shy and bashful people are welcome here.

Reading Cain’s book has caused Rocha to expand his thinking on this subject. I imagine Quiet could contribute in a similar way to the consideration of liturgy.

The Second Vatican Council famously called for more “active participation” of the lay faithful in the liturgy. It will be interesting to read Cain’s book and see how the cultural assumptions she critiqutes may have informed the post-conciliar liturgical reform, and how her thesis might lend itself to the present ‘reform of the reform.’

I would like also to consider how Cain’s ideas interact with Simone Weil’s thoughts on attention. Weil conceived of attention as a gateway to God. Attention, or attentiveness, is the necessary means not only to philosophical truth, but also to goodness and beauty. She writes particularly of attention to flesh and blood individuals – attention to abstract ideas, she suggests, belongs to the realm of ideology, and ironically blinds us to the truth of each person.

Attention as Weil conceived it features prominently in the Gospel. The Good Samaritan is attentive. (Lk 10:33) So too the watchful servant (Lk 12:36), and the wise virgins with their well-stocked oil lamps. (Mt 25:4) And of course, the mother of Jesus, who treasured our Lord’s sayings, and pondered them in her heart. (Lk 2:19)

Attention, Weil concludes, is the basis of prayer. It is also the basis of love of neighbour. It is not so much an act of the will, but a desire, though it demands effort – “the greatest of efforts perhaps” – and presupposes grace. In short, attention is a form of supernatural love.

I’m interested to see how this idea of attention fits into Cain’s assessment of introversion. Until then, I think I’ll suspend judgement on Rocha’s startling suggestion: “God is an introvert.”

In the Comment thread below, Samuel provides a link to 20 minute TED talk by Susan Cain, which relates to her book. It’s very interesting and entertaining viewing.

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