Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This is the Catechesis of His Eminence Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, SJ at the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec (all translation is mine, all boldface is His Eminence's, all emphasis and comments are mine):

The Eucharist: Gift from God for the life of the world.” The theme selected by this Pope for this 49th International Eucharistic Congress comes [to us] from the Gospel of St. John, from the passage in which Jesus our Lord proclaims: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven(…) and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world.” (Jn 6:51-52)

The Eucharist, gift from God, who wishes to give life to all, is a central theme of the Encyclical “Sacramentum Caritatis.” In the first part – “Eucharist, mystery to be believed” -- the Pope exhorts us to the adoration of the Eucharist as a “Free gift of the Most Holy Trinity for the life of the world”. And, at the end, in the third part – “Eucharist, mystery to be lived” -- he exhorts us to offer ourselves eucharistically to others, along with the Lord, given that “the vocation of each one of us consists of being, along with Jesus, bread broken for the life of the world.” The Eucharist, then, gift and task, gift of life that is received and gift of life that is given to all.

This life in Jesus Christ, “that those peoples in Him may have life,” is also what beats in the heart of the Document of Aparecida [the meeting of the Latin American bishops], with a tone of grateful praise and with missionary fervor, given that: “Life is a gift from God, gift and task…”

“The Eucharist is the vital center of the universe, capable of satisfying the hunger for life and happiness: “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him.” (Jn 6:57). In this happy banquet we participate in eternal life and, thus, our daily existence becomes a prolonged Mass. (as St Alberto Hurtado, SJ used to say).

In the middle, between the gift and the mission, the Church is the central motive of this catechesis for today: The Eucharist and the Church, mystery of the Covenant.

Simply put, I propose three steps to make this catechesis a “lectio divina.” The first step is a brief meditation on the Covenant. The second step, I wish for it to be a contemplative synthesis in which we remain looking and enjoying with the eyes of our hearts some images of the Virgin, our Lady, “[the] eucharistic woman.” And the third step will consist in drawing some pastoral conclusions that may be of help in our personal and ecclesial life.

1. The ecclesial and nuptial dimension of the Eucharist

“The Eucharist and the Church, mystery of the covenant.” With the term “covenant” is intended to place in [bold] relief the ecclesial and nuptial dimension of the gift of the Eucharist, gift through which the Lord wishes to reach all men. The Eucharist is living bread given for the life of the world and blood of the covenant shed for the pardon of the sins of all men. Having, then, our hearts firmly [grounded] in the gratuitous [i.e., in the sense of "free"] nature of the gift and in its universal missionary dynamism, we pause [to meditate upon] in the mystery of the Covenant.

The Covenant nothing nor anyone can break

“Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rm 8:35) The first thing which moves us about the Eucharist is that it deals with a “new and everlasting” Covenant, as the Lord said at the Last Supper. This is expressed by the Liturgy in the Eucharistic Prayer of Reconciliation: “Many times, we men have broken Your covenant, but You, instead of abandoning us, seal it anew with the human family, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, a compact so solid, that nothing will ever be able to break it.”

The desire for a Covenant that no person or thing could break was something the Lord kneaded through the centuries in the heart of Israel, and Jesus fulfills this desire and perfects it in such a way that there is no room for rupture.

In this solidity of the Covenant a central role is played by its institution prior to the Passion. By preemptively giving Himself at the Last Supper, the Lord transforms the moment and place in which covenants are broken (the moment of the treason by Judas) in the kairos –- of holy time and space -- where this new Covenant is sealed forever.

The eucharistic anticipation

To meditate on this mystery let us take as a guide some of the insights from John Paul II, which will help us to see importance of this Eucharistic “anticipation.” Decia John Paul the most fervent desire of his Encyclical “The Church lives from Eucharist” was to inspire “Eucharistic awe.” That the Lord has instituted the Eucharist prior to the Passion was and is the principal motive for [that] awe. Let us read a few lines “with the eyes of the soul,” as John Paul said:

“Of the paschal mystery the Church is born. Precisely for this [reason] the Eucharist, that is the sacrament par excellence of the paschal mystery, is at the center of ecclesial life...after two thousand years we still reproduce that primordial image of the Church. And, while we do so at the eucharistic celebration, the eyes of the soul are directed towards the paschal Triduum: to that which occurred on the evening of that Holy Thursday, during the Last Supper and after it. The institution of the Eucharist, in effect, anticipated sacramentally the events that would take place later, beginning with the agony in Gethsemane.

We see Jesus emerge from the Cenacle, descending with the disciples, traversing the stream of Cedron and at the Garden of Olives. In that garden there are, even today, some very ancient olive trees. Perhaps they were witness to what happened under their shade that fateful evening, when Christ, in prayer, experienced a mortal anguish and “And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground” (Lk 22:44). The blood, that shortly beforehand had been given to the Church as drink of salvation in the eucharistic Sacrament, began to be shed; its effusion would be completed afterwards at Golgotha, becoming an instrument of our redemption.

Further ahead, John Paul reveals how the title of this Encyclical came about:

“‘Mysterium fidei! – Mystery of faith!’ when the priest pronounces or chants these words, those present proclaim: ‘Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.’ With these or similar words, the Church, at the the same time it is referring to Christ in the mystery of His Passion, also reveals its own mystery: Ecclesia de Eucharistia.”

Here it is we find three three spatial-temporal characteristics that make the Eucharist the most intimate nucleus in the life (as gift and task) of the Church:

“If, with the descent [literally “gift”] of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Church is born and begins to walk the roads of the world, a decisive moment of its foundation is certainly the institution of the Eucharist in the Cenacle. Its foundation and starting point is the whole Paschal Triduum, but this is included, anticipated, and “concentrated” forever in the eucharistic gift. In this gift, Jesus Christ gave to the Church the perennial actualization of the paschal mystery. He instituted a mysterious “contemporaneousness” between that Triduum and the passage of all the centuries.”

John Paul ends this paragraph marveling and surprising us with the “redemptory capacity” (in which “all of history” enters, that is: all the life of the world) of this event:

“This thought brings us to feelings of great awe and gratitude. The paschal event and the Eucharist that actualizes it throughout the centuries have a “truly enormous capacity,” in which all history enters as intended beneficiary of the grace of redemption.”


This insight of John Paul II’s is very original and its formulation consists of a difficult [literally, “straitened”] synthesis. How to derive benefit from it without depleting it? I am thinking we ought attempt to enter through the pedagogical side. The Lord shows a pedagogical intention in the washing of the feet, when He says: “I being your Lord and Master [...] have given you an example …” (Jn 13:13-15). Therefore, we may well ask ourselves what is the pedagogical value contained in “inclusion-anticipation and concentration” of the Paschal Triduum in the Eucharistic gift? I am prompted to say that the intention of the Lord aims to dispose and condition the “recipient” of the Gift: the heart of the disciples to its personal and ecclesial dimension.

In anticipating His self-giving [and] including His friends in the communion of the Last Supper and concentrating all His love in the Eucharistic gift, the Lord succeeds in, when they become aware (each of them in due course) of what He offered in the Passion, likewise realize what they had already received, that they had already been made participants of that redemptive sacrifice. The desire of the Lord for the Covenant, His self-giving without reservation by expiring on the Cross, becomes manifest [to the disciples] not as an isolated and terminal incident, instead flooding their memory of that which they contemplate – of Mary, of John and of the saintly women, and later of the whole Church – with each and all of the acts [literally, “gestures”] of self-giving of the Lord (that spent time doing nothing but good) and, in the most special manner, filling the memory of the faithful with His Eucharistic self-giving at the Last Supper. Otherwise, the final act would have distanced us. It would have been a total, but unilateral, act of God, without there being a recipient worthy of receiving. The new wine would have burst the old wineskins…

But no, the act of total self-giving of the Lord on the Cross enters in the new wineskins of the hearts which had already received and pretasted the Eucharist. A Eucharist that “concentrates” the Passion giving it an “adequate proportion” to our capacity, so to speak. For this the whole Passion could and should be seen as salvific, because those who contemplate it are already “included,” in communion with the saving love that beats within the Lord feeling such. In that sense we are able to contemplate the washing of the feet as an act of purification (writ small) that counterweighs the effusion of redemptive blood on the Cross. The tension between great and small, between the mundane and the exceptional concentrates the Love of the Lord and places it at the disposition of our faith, preventing our understanding from skewing towards the overly extraordinary or being diluted by the overly ordinary.

There is a profound similarity to this in the formula of the sacrament of Christian matrimony, in that the spouses mutually selfgive and promise each other fidelity embracing – including, anticipating and concentrating to themselves – all that might occur in life: health and infirmity, prosperity and adversity. As an image of the Covenant of Christ that is presaged in the Eucharist, the spouses presage Love and make it inclusive of all, in such a manner that the Covenant is irrevocable.

New wineskins

God is [a] gift. And, in order for [this gift] to be capable of being given, the Lord goes about conforming the vessel [literally, “recipient”] in a manner appropriate to the gift, a vessel that will not break, the new wineskin. A vessel that is the fruit of a Covenant between grace and liberty. From this perspective of the “vessel” we can contemplate “the mystery of the Covenant between the Eucharist and the Church.”

Let us fix, then, our attention on this point: In the Eucharist we are transformed by what we eat, as written in Lumen Gentium quoting St. Leo the Great: “The participation of the body and blood of Christ causes us to pass into becoming that which we receive. In eating the Body of Christ the Lord, although He is made our size, He is not “reduced” The miracle of the Eucharist consists in that the “clay jar” begins to assimilate the “treasure,” instead of what happens in nature. In receiving the Eucharist, we are the ones assimilated to Christ. In this manner, through giving Himself over to be eaten as Bread of life, the Lord starts making the Church. He begins transforming within His Body – in a process of mysterious and hidden assimilation as it is completely given over to the process of nourishment – at the same time, whenever this process can count with the free “yes” of the Church, that assents in faith to the Covenant offered by her Spouse, it transforms into His bride.

2. Views of Mary, Eucharistic woman

To better contemplate this mystery of the Covenant, we must be centered on Mary. Once again, we are aided by the vision of John Paul II, who invites to enter “In the school of Mary, Eucharistic woman.”:

“If we wish to discover, in all its richness, the intimate relationship that unites Church and Eucharist, we cannot forget Mary, Mother and model of the Church [...] Effectively, Mary can guide us towards this Blessed Sacrament because she has a profound relationship with it.”

In the manner of the Russian nesting dolls where the larger figure includes within itself others which are smaller but, essentially identical, let us proceed directly to the “tiniest,” to our Lady, to see how what is manifested within her – the mystery of the Covenant that allows the gift of God to be accepted and communicated for the life of the world – is shown in the universal Church and in each soul. We follow the dictum of the Fathers according to which, with different shadings, “what is said universally of the Church, is said in a special way of Mary and individually of each faithful soul.”

In the relationship between Mary and the Eucharist we can see three images that reveal to us characteristics of the Covenant that we can later apply to the universal Church and to our own soul in particular.

The Covenant as company

The first Eucharistic image of Mary shows her to us as “included” in the Church, which at the same time, mysteriously, she includes in her smallness. The Pope makes a note of the “participation” of Mary in the Eucharists of the first community:

“She was with the Apostles, ‘with one mind in prayer’ (Acts 1:14), in the first community gathered after the Ascension in wait of Pentecost. This presence of hers, certainly, could not be lacking in the Eucharistic celebrations of the faithful of the first Christian generation, assiduous ‘in the breaking of bread’ (Acts 2:42).”

The community of Apostles perseveres in prayer with one spirit “in company” with Mary:

“And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James of Alpheus, and Simon Zelotes, and Jude the brother of James. 14 All these were persevering with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus...” (Acts 1:13-14).

The mystery of the Covenant between God and men is a mystery of “company,” of sharing bread, of “being with” others, in family, at table, mystery of fellowship continued. This company is appropriate to the pedagogy of the Lord, which transforms each person as with the disciples of Emmaus, as He accompanies them on the road.

The Covenant as confidence

The second Eucharistic image of Mary shows us the bride who places all her confidence in her Spouse. John Paul II accentuates the “interior Eucharistic attitude” with which Mary lives all her life, attitude that correctly defines “abandoning to the Word.” Mary concentrates within herself all “doing” with respect to the Word. The abandonment implies a “not doing,” appropriate of of someone fully disposed to receive a gift – the “be it done to me according to thy Word.” The abandonment also implies a “doing,” appropiate of someone who gives herself without calculation or measure and exhorts others to do likewise –“ whatever he tells you.”

For the Church and for each one of us:

“Living in the Eucharist the memorial of the death of Christ implies also receiving continually this gift. It signifies taking with us – following the example of John – she who was given to us a Mother. It also means assuming, at the same time, the committment of conforming ourselves to Christ, learning from His Mother and allowing ourselves to be accompanied by her.”

This total confidence and this obedience in faith makes the Heart of Mary the perfect vessel for the Word to become flesh and to, at its own pace, transform her fully.

The Covenant as hope

The third Eucharistic image of Mary shows us something quite proper to the Covenant that consists in living in anticipation – in hope – what is promise. John Paul makes reference to the mystery of “anticipation,” when he stated:

“Preparing day by day for Calvary, Mary lives a sort of ‘Eucharist anticipation’ one could say, a ‘spiritual comunion’ of desire and offering, that culminates in the union with the Son in the Passion and will manifest itself later in the post-Paschal period, in her participation in the Eucharistic celebration, presided by the Apostles, as ‘memorial’ of the passion.”

Desire and self-offering are the two anticipatory attitudes that convert the Church and also each faithful soul into “new wineskins.” By desire and self-offering we become, like Mary, vessels suitable for the Word to take on flesh within us. The humble and hidden presence of the Lord in Mary, in the Church and in each soul, radiates light and hope to the world. John Paul expresses this beautifully, speaking of the Visitation:

“‘And blessed art thou that hast believed’ (Lk 1:45): Mary has anticipated, in the mystery of the Incarnation, the Eucharistic faith of the Church. When, in the Visitation, she carries within her the Word made flesh, she becomes, in a way, a ‘tabernacle’ – the first ‘tabernacle’ in history – where the Son of God, still invisible to the eyes of men, is offered for the adoration by Elizabeth, as ‘radiating’ light through the eyes and the voice of Mary.”

Mary, therefore, is a model of the Covenant, between the Lord and His bride the Church, between God and each man. Model of a Covenant that is company of Love, confident and fruitful abandonment and fullness of hope that irradiates joy. All of these virtues become music in the Magnificat of which John Paul II gives us a beautiful Eucharistic vision:

“In the Magnificat, after all, is present the eschatological tension of the Eucharist. Each time the Son of God is presented under the ‘poverty’ of the sacramental species, bread and wine, the world has within it the germ of the new history, in which ‘He hath put down the mighty from their seat’ and ‘hath exalted the humble.’ (cf. Lk 1:52). Mary sings of the ‘new heaven’ and the ‘new earth’ that are anticipated in the Eucharist and, in a certain sense, allows a glimpse into its programmed ‘design.’ Given that the Magnificat expresses the spirituality of Mary, nothing helps us live better the Eucharistic Mystery than this spirituality. The Eucharist has been given to us for our life, as that of Mary’s, all one Magnificat!”

John Paul invited us to enter In “the school of Mary, Eucharistic woman.” Now we are shown how within the Magnificat is active and present the “end” or program of this school. End that anticipates – esta is the joyful Good News – the Eucharist, lived as a song of glorification and thankfulness. Thus Mary “anticipates” the “program of God” for history, His plan of salvation, and lives it as a prophetic present. In the joy that inundates her vision of faith; this way also the Eucharist anticipates “in its poverty,” according to John Paul, the creation of the new history.

This very thought has been expressed profoundly by Benedict XVI in his Encyclical on hope, when highlights that Christian hope “gives” something of substance in our present, anticipating the salvation not only proving information about the future but also “performing” our present life:

“Only when the future is certain as a positive reality, does it also carry the present. In this same way, we can now say: Cristianity is not solely some “good news,” a communication of contents unknown until that time. In our language we might say: the Christian message is not only “informative,” but also “performative.” This means the Gospels are not solely a communication of things that se can be known, but also a communication that shapes events and changes one’s life. The obscure doorway of time, of the future, has been opened wide. He who has hope lives in a different manner; he has been given a new life.”

What the Eucharist accomplishes – in its sacramental poverty – Mary sings in the Magnificat and as she sings it, the Church – and each one of us in it – we are made “contemporaneous” with our Lady and we live of her spirituality, that is life in the Spirit:

The Eucharist, as source and summit of the life and the mission of the Church, must be translated in spiritual terms, in life ‘according the Spirit’ (cf. Rm 8:4 s.; Ga 5:16, 5:25).”

I conclude [this section] with a quote from the homily of John Paul II on the occasion of the 150 years of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate, in which Mary is qualified as an “Eschatological icon of the Church,” as the one who pronounces the first “yes” of the Covenant between God and humanity and precedes the people of God in the path to Heaven, and the Church sees in her its salvation “anticipated”:

“She, the first one redeemed by her Son, fully participates in His sanctity, already becoming what the whole Church wishes and hopes to be. She is the Eschatological icon of the Church. For this the Immaculate, is “the source and image of the Church, the bride of Christ, filled with youth and of limpid beauty” (Preface), precedes always the people of God in the pilgrimage of the faith towards the kingdom of Heaven. In the immaculate conception of Mary the Church sees itself projected, anticipated in its most noble member, the salvific grace of Easter. In the event of the Incarnation we find, indissolubly united the Son and Mother: ‘He that is its Lord and its head and she who, pronouncing the first yes of the new Covenant, prefigures its condition of bride and Mother’.”

3. Concrete pastoral consequences

Personal consequences

Throughout this catechesis, as we contemplate in Mary the mystery of the Covenant, it has been gradually revealed to us the riches of the Eucharist and of the Church. In our Mother all becomes concrete and “possible.” In her school the ineffable mysteries of God are given a maternal face and tone and they become comprehensible to the faith filled with Love which, as God’s faithful people, we profess to Mary. The conclusions to be drawn for the personal spiritual life, I believe, each of us must select from among those in which one finds the greatest joy, as Saint Ignatius asserted in the Spiritual Exercises. Uniting the Eucharist and the sacramental communion with Mary is something that we do intuitively, and deepening our understanding of this is something which does us all good.

For this we might ask the Grace of receiving Communion as Mary received the Word and allow it to take on flesh anew in me; the grace to receive the Eucharist from the hands of the Church using ours as a paten (meaning “manger”), aware it is our Lady who places it there and entrusts us with same; the grace of singing with Mary the Magnificat in that moment of silence that follows Communion; the grace of anticipating in the Eucharist all that will be our day or week, with all the good and positive offered jointly with the bread, and all that suffering and passion offered jointly with the wine; the grace of believing and placing with Love all our hope in that premise and token of salvation we already have in each Eucharist, to later conform our life in the image of that which we receive. Thus, each of may derive benefit from that upon which we have meditated.

Ecclesial Consequences

Notwithstanding, it might do us good to draw several conclusions, in light of the riches we have seen, that these may be helpful in our ecclesial life. The affection and veneration we all feel, almost “spontaneously,” for the Virgin and before the Eucharist we must cultivate for the Church. These must be the same, given that as we have seen, Mary and Church are “vessels” transformed at the core for He who desired to “dwell” in them. The effect of of such an incarnation comes from the fact that these “wineskins” are transformed fully in the highest reality that includes them. Just as the Word in taking flesh from Mary sanctifies her totally (including prior to the Eucharist, in the Immaculate Conception), so is the Church holy and sanctifying due to the Covenant the Lord desired to make with her.

Therefore the Christian, when looking at the Church, sees her as holy, spotless and without blemish, as [he would] Mary, bride and Mother. The Christian sees the Church as the Body of Christ, as the vessel that guards with absolute integrity the deposit of faith, as the faithful Spouse who communicates without addition or subtraction all that Christ entrusted. In the Sacraments the Church communicates to us the fullness of life the Lord came to bring us. Although as sons we sometimes/often break our Covenant with the Lord at an individual level, the Church is the place where that Covenant – which we are given for ever in Baptism – remains intact and we might recover it with the [Sacrament of] Reconciliation.

From this holistic view – catholic in the fullest sense (“concretely universal”) – that considers the Church as a vessel whose quality and magnitude are measured from Him who inhabits and maintains forever His Covenant with her, surge other aspects, that might attempt to better or to correct or to express more explicitly aspects (be these partial, tangential, historical and/or cultural) of the Church. But always with this Spirit of Covenant that cannot be broken, as in a good matrimony in which all can be discussed and improved so long as it moves in the direction of the vital Love that mantains the Covenant.

Confessing that Christ has come in the flesh is confessing that all human reality has been “saved” and sanctified in Christ. For this the Lord even wished to remain dead three days and, beyond that, descend to Hell, the place furthest from God that human existence can achieve. The Church as a fully “sanctified” reality and capable of receiving and of comunicating – without error or defect, from its own poverty and even with its own sins –the full sanctity of God, is not a “complement” or an “institutional addition” to Jesus Christ, but a full participation of his Incarnation, of His Life, of His Passion, death and Resurrection. Without these are the “new wineskins” that are the Church and Mary – a concrete universality sin parallel, whose relation is paradigmatic of all else – the coming of the eternal Word into the world and assuming flesh, the Word in our ears and His life in our history, could not be received adequately.

To contemplate the mystery of the Covenant between God and humanity – Covenant that comes from the Old Testament and that is to be extended to all men of good will – the first thing is to situate the Church in the midst of this mystery as the “vessel fully sanctified and santifying,” just like Mary, from where springs the gift of God for the life of the world. As the Pope said, citing Vatican II.

Let us consider, then, the Church-Mary that have their center in the Eucharist: the Church-Mary that lives of the Eucharist and we makes us live thans to the Eucharist. Let us consider the Church-Mary that receive from their spouse the totality of the gift of the Bread of life along with the mission of distribuiting it to all, for the life of the world.

In them the Covenant of God with the humanity is give and is received and comunicated without fissures or defect. The selfgiving to the end, by the bridegroom makes the bride –Mary/Church – all holy, purifies and always creates anew in faith and in charity and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against her.

I finish by saying that this reassurance of the sanctity of the Church, is not a question of personal or social privilege, but rather that the Church is ordained to service. Let me explain. As the Church always defends its integrity – as always there have been and are those who take evil advantage of the strength of an institution (which is pathetic for how reductive it is to use something so beneficent as eternal life for the pleasures of transitory life), world has the impression the Church always defends its power and it is not so. In defending its purity, its indefectibility, its sanctity as the bride, the Church is defending the “place” through which the gift of the life of God passes on to the world and the gift of the life of the world to God. This gift – the fullest expression of which is the Eucharist –is not another gift among ourselves but the supreme gift of the most intimate life of the Trinity that poured forth for the life of the world and the life of the world assumed by the Son that is offered to the Father.

As Balthasar stated:

“The act of giving, by which the Father pours out the Son through all space and time of creation, is the definitive aperture of the Trinitarian act in that the “Persons” are “relationships” of God, forms, we might say, of giving and absolute self-giving and of Loving fluidity.”

It is the incommensurable, unreturnable nature of the gift that has been transmitted to us which compels the Lord to sanctify the Church in an indefectible manner, as He did with His Mother, in such a way that it is assured this gift can be both received and transmitted “for the life of the world.” the mystery of the Covenant that makes the Church all-holy is a mystery of [both] service and of Life.
It should never cease to amaze us this definite aperture to the Trinitarian life itself is given and is poured forth not just for some but for the life of the world. This is the case even if not all know it or take advantage of the fruit of the incomprehensible Liberty of the Uno and Triune God whose self-giving is total and for all.

“In uniting to Christ, instead of sealing itself off, the People of the new Covenant are converted into a “sacrament” for all humanity, sign and instrument of salvation, in a work of Christ, into a light of the world and salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5:13-16), for the redemption of all. The mission of the Church continues that of Christ: “As the Father hath sent me, I also send you.” (Jn 20:21). Therefore, the Church receives the spiritual strength necessary to accomplish its mission of perpetuating in the Eucharist the sacrifice of the Cross and being in communion with the body and the blood of Christ. So, the Eucharist is the source and, at the same time, the summit of all evangelization, given that its objective is the communion of men with Christ and, in Him, with the Father and with the Holy Spirit.”

Words of sanity.

From Patricia Chadwick, founder of Ravensgate Partners, LLC, dispelling many of the incorrect notions about the financial rescue package:


Monday, September 29, 2008

Updated money stuff.

As of the nanosecond I am typing this, the "bailout" (which wasn't, really, technically a bailout) has been rejected by the House of Representatives. The plan, which I believe was some sort of hybrid between the plan put forth by Sec. Paulson (as tinkered with by the Democrats) and the counterproposal by the Republicans. The House leadership promises to bring up the matter again soon. The Dow Jones Industrial Average collapsed 778 points, the NASDAQ 200 and the S&P about 100.

Stop and digest that for a moment.

Blood is not running down the gutters of Wall Street, but it's starting to trickle.

If whatever rescue plan emerges is substantially along these lines, (and it may well not be) then it seems it would be a workable deal. Not a great deal, but a good deal. Larry Kudlow, a stalwart free-marketeer capitalist who'd be my Sec. of the Treasury and under whose thinking cap groweth no moss, weighs in on why this would be a good deal (assuming what will pass, if anything, is essentially what he is discussing) or, as he called it a "win-win-win-win" and it merits your attention. Kudlow has a knack for reducing the complex down to layperson-friendly terms.

No, by my lights the deal voted down today wasn't perfect. For example, that mark-to-market accounting rule was not struck down outright, instead the deal "...mandates a study on the impact of mark-to-market accounting standards." Which is like saying that when you see someone being attacked by a swarm of hornets, you immediately demand someone conduct a study on the impact of hornet stings.

But it seemed to meet the main goal, that of stopping the financial hemorrhage.

Again, I have no idea how close to this plan is the plan which will actually end up passing. Assuming anything passes.

That said, I realize the plan -- in my opinion incorrectly billed as a bailout; "bailout" essentially meaning "here, Wall Street and deadbeat borrowers, take a gazillion dollars of taxpayer funds and clean up the mess you made" -- is wildly unpopular. However, the (incorrect, IMCO) popular perception is that this is showering money on people who shouldn't have had a mortgage in the first place, etc. (It's not.) Congress reported calls running +/- 25:1 against it, in fact. But most people really have absolutely no idea:

a) how financial markets work,
b) how what happens on Wall St. deeply impacts what happens on Main St. (which is why a lot of people get all mad at oil companies, instead of oil speculators, for rising fuel prices) and
c) the scope of the abyss* down which we are staring.

This is not to say there's nothing left to do and the plan (assuming...blahblahblah, etc.) will prove a miraculous cure-all. The problem, and it is a colossal problem, is that nobody wants to lend their money (and we're talking a zillion tons of it) to anyone. The issue (for now) is not solvency, but liquidity. It's not "does the car have any gas?" but "does the car have any oil pumping through it?" What would you rather have, a car that runs out of gas at highway speeds, or one that runs out of oil all of a sudden at the same speeds? (Hint: Find some videos on YouTube of race cars with catastrophic oil pump failures. Yeah..."wow" is right.) That is what we are facing, and it would be just as cataclysmic for an economy as it would for a minivan.

Lack of liquidity, however, has a nasty habit of turning into insolvency REALLY fast. Washington Mutual can't get the everyday cash it needs to handle daily operations and just like that [finger snap] it's seized by the gummint, broken up, and its assets sold off for pennies. Oh, those bondholders and shareholders of Washington Mutual are now holding worthless paper. This puts pressure on other banks (like, say Wachovia Bank, the 6th largest in the USA) because their cost on insuring their debt just shot through the roof just as they need cash on hand. Ta-da! Wachovia (wisely!) is now leaping into the arms of whomever is still there, kind of like a drunk guy looking at some aesthetically-challenged girls at closing time.

Furthermore, other banks don't want to lend to each other because they don't want to wind up like the saps who lent money to Washington Mutual and wound up losing all they invested. Worse, some of those bondholders and shareholders happen to be other banks in Europe and Asia (where they are still fighting the previous battle of inflation and have not yet figured out that systemic problems demand systemic solutions) and that's causing some of THOSE to start wobbling worryingly on their axis.This is all an unpleasant shock for people who assume this is just a USA thing; the financial markets are so interwoven -- and have been for so many decades -- that it is impossible to be isolated from the problems. Just ask Russia, which on top of everything is finding out that annoying the world with that whole Georgia-invasion thing is not the way to get people to fling capital at you.

In sum, if the situation on financial markets isn't addressed soon, we're facing, at very best, a really deep recession and at don't want to know. Let's just say your crazy relatives who moved to a compound up in Montana could be feeling pretty damned smug and history books will rewrite the Great Depression as the Not Really That Bad, Now That We Think About It, Depression.

However, this needn't get worse. The fundamental underpinnings of the US economy are still (for now) okay. Personal income grew 0.5% (the projection was for only 0.2%) and 2nd Quarter GDP was 2.8% (up from a piddling 0.9% in the 1st Quarter).

But every setback (not backstopping Lehman is starting to look ever-dumber, no?) just makes any eventual solution exponentially costlier and exponentially more painful.

In sum, if you want a cheat-sheet for seeing how things are going, just look to see how well banks are lending each other money in the "overnights," the more they are lending each other, the closer we are to the end of this mess. (Click here and check the "TED Spread"**.)

So that's what's going on so far.

Right now, we are playing Russian roulette and every week we keep adding another bullet to another chamber.


P.S. My favorite quote from Someone Who Really Knows: "If you're not scared [deleted] you're on public assistance."

* As in, really, really, REALLY have no idea how bad it would get.

** Quote: "Okay, it's a little eye-crossing. But basically, the bigger the TED spread number, the more hesitant banks are to lend to one another. And that reverberates all the way up the credit chain. (And that swap rating, basically the rate institutions put on trading cash flow streams, is even more complicated. In the end, it's a measure of risk aversion).
You don't have to be fluent in all this credit notions to make use of the page. In the end, it's a way of monitoring whether banks and other credit institutions are getting more nervous, or less nervous. Here's hoping those numbers head down. Let's watch'em."

Just to help

This may help understand how things work.



Thursday, September 25, 2008

Click, please.

New wine review is up. Please click.



Wednesday, September 24, 2008

So THAT's where he went.

The Jesuit formerly known as "Mark" is now Fr. Mark and he has a new blog. More of a diary, really, as it's a comment-free zone (Can't say I blame him.)

Still, check out Fr. Mark's new spot, and update your bookmarks:



P.S. Yes, I call him Fr. Mark. Don't make me come over there and explain it.

Thanksgiving's next.

Just today, while Davy was in one of his various therapies, I decided to take up the time by schlepping across the road and browsing in the stores. This being September, naturally there would already be some Christmas stuff up, but also some of those earthtone, fall-foliage-ish things.

I saw some nice tablecloths and I went to look at the prices but was stopped in my tracks by the fact all of them were not billed as being "for Thanksgiving" but for "celebrating the Harvest."

What's next? Wearing dark hooded robes and dancing around oak trees at the vernal equinox?



Tuesday, September 23, 2008

That. That's what we're talking about. Part the...what number are we up to?

This breezy little gem crossed my e-threshhold this a.m.:

Homeless Persons, Religious Leaders, Taxpayers Say City Should Not Fund Ministry That Compels Homeless Men to Attend Religious Services As A Condition of Receiving Shelter

The ACLU of the National Capital Area, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the District of Columbia's plan to grant more than $12 million in public property and cash to the Central Union Mission, a religious homeless shelter.

The Mission conditions shelter for the homeless on participation in Christian religious activity, including mandatory attendance at nightly church services. Its director has stated, "We are in the business of converting people to Christ. That's what we do." The Mission only employs Christians and requires volunteers to declare their church affiliation.

The lawsuit, Chane v. District of Columbia, was filed in Federal District Court for the District of Columbia. Two of the plaintiffs are homeless men in the District of Columbia who do not go to the Mission because of its requirement that the homeless participate in religious services. Six other plaintiffs are local taxpayers including members of the clergy who assert that the proposed gift of cash and property from the District of Columbia to the Mission will unconstitutionally support religious activities. The taxpayer plaintiffs include the Right Rev. John Bryson Chane, Episcopal Bishop of Washington, and the Rev. Joseph M. Palacios [, S.J.]*, a Roman Catholic priest and professor of sociology at Georgetown University.

Read the whole thing here.



* No, really, click on Father's CV. It is, er, illuminating.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

From deep within my pile of stuff to post

This is a cheery little bit of Jesuit humor.

A newly installed bishop decides to have a retreat with all the priests operating in his diocese. He calls them all together and after a whole Saturday of discussion and prayer they decide to end with an hour of adoration in the diocesan center's auditorium. Upon seeing the monstrance, a Jesuit, the president of XYZ University, strides up, prostates himself and says "O Jesus in the Holy Eucharist! Before thee, I am nothing!" Shortly therafter, the Jesuit provincial strides up, prostates himself and says "My Lord and my God! Before thee, I am nothing!"

Moved by this, a humble young diocesan seminarian walks up to the monstrance, prostates himself and says "O Savior of mankind! Before thee, I am nothing!"

And the Provincial looks at the University president, rolls his eyes and whispers "Look who thinks he's nothing."



Not that you'd read that from THIS side of the pond.

Leave it to our Britpals to tell us some interesting things about ourselves.


Friday, September 19, 2008

What's going on.

In an email volley with the lovely and gracious Karen, I explained "in crayon" what is going on on Wall Street and what it could all mean.

She suggested I ought blog this and seeing as how her orders are like commands to me, here 'tis.

The dirty little secret is that all the people who gave us this mess are Democrats. The Community [Something Something] Initiative that compelled banks to issue loans to people who otherwise would not qualify for them was Bill Clinton's. Places like Lehman and MBNA (which invested in those banks) and AIG (which issued rather creative insurances on those risky loans) were h-u-g-e donors to the Democrat Party and candidates and even better, the guy who drove Freddie Mac (or was it Fannie Mae?) off the cliff -- having been compensated to the tune of $100M -- is now B.O.'s leading economic advisor.

The fact the Usual Suspects have been talking down the economy (especially gazillionaire George Soros, who stands to profit immensely) only makes things worse.

What really happened is actually related to OIL, and how we're addicted to it. After 9/11, the interest rate drops to prevent an economic crisis. This leads to a housing boom. Those people who couldn't previously afford a home can now, barely, do so with the help of ultra-low adjustable rate mortgages. Banks issue tons of these loans. But then oil goes up in price, the Fed gets it into their head this is inflationary; food starts being diverted to biofuel which drives up food costs, and the Fed (thinking this is even more infaltionary) starts jacking up rates.

Only that all those people who could BARELY afford their mortgage as it was start seeing their monthly payments -- they had adjustables, 'member? -- spike. They default. The insurance companies who covered these risky loans have to start shooting off checks to cover the defaults. The banks have to declare these assets as WORTHLESS (instead of at a reduced value, as would be the normal case before Sarbanes-Oxley) because the new accounting rules say you have to declare your assets at market price. Which, when there is no market (like in home mortgages) is zero. So the banks have their ratings downgraded, the brokers who invested in the banks have THEIR ratings downgraded and eventually some companies, that are perfectly healthy, go under. Not because they are broke, but because they couldn't get access to cash. This is like having your car repo'ed because your ATM card wouldn't work.

OK, that's it in a very simpified nutshell.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More radio silence.

I had foolishly thought that once my previous project had wrapped up (successfully, by all indications) that I'd have the time I'd need to engage in frequent bloggery.


If you see the news from Wall Street, you'll see it is currently measure of turmoil. That turmoil translates into MUCH upheaval and stress and worry ovah heah. As in "Our Lady of the Prairies, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease pray for me." There is much perspiration and concern.

(Incidentally, if you could add this to my seemingly endless pile of things for which I need prayin' I'd be hugely appreciative. While you're at it, please pray to God to, pretty please, not trust me so bloody much.)

So that's been that.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A hunnerd thangs.

1. I was born in Michigan
2. I have lived in 4 separate countries and 3 other states
3. My family drives me mental and, because I'm an equal opportunity sort, so do my inlaws.
4. I believe it is important to eat together as a family every day
5. I have two boy children
6. I am not a pet person.
7. In fact, I am not even a houseplant person.
8. I can fake all accents, except any variant of Australian. This both bothers and fascinates me.
9. Scented candles, incense, etc. give me a raging headache.
10. I am pretty good at sewing
11. I am not good in crowds or large groups or small groups.
12. I fake being good at the above really well. But I hate it with a passion.
13. One-on-one I am a chatterbox.
14. My father has unqualifiedly praised me, to my face, exactly once. I was 13.
15. I am a rugged indoorsman, I hate the great outdoors.
16. I got chickenpox when I was 29.
17. I'm extremely judgmental. I try to shut up about it, which builds character.
18. I wish I had had more kids.
19. I'm a male, straight and I love pink.
20. I'm a snob.
21. I was painfully shy as a child
22. I am very good at languages. Particularly all those Romance ones. Maybe others like German or Japanese, but since I only drive Italian cars, I've never bothered.
23. I find most people fairly dull, fairly stupid or fairly prosaic. Sometimes a combination of the above.
24. I NEVER forget a kindness.
25. Ann Coulter make me laugh.
26. I have no fear whatsoever of public speaking.
27. I can't touch type.
28. I actually R.s.v.p. when I get an invitation and send thank-you notes. Those who don't puzzle and sadden me.
29. I'd never want to live anywhere else.
30. I used to be a Libertarian, but now I'm merely a lower-case-L libertarian.
31. I couldn't possibly care less about what is or isn't politically correct.
32. I have a collecting gene, from my mother.
33. I have a "marooned in a deserted island survivor" metabolism. This has yet to prove handy.
34. I tried my hand at stand-up comedy once. ONCE.
35. Seriousness makes my naughty bits itch.
36. I don't hate my government. I hate ALL government; since we're stuck with one, I prefer we opt for the most minimally intrusive one...starting with my wallet and whatever forms I have to fill out.
37. I get almost all of Dennis Miller's references. Not sure how I feel about that.
38. I worry about my friends
39. I cannot sleep on an airplane
40. I can tune out anything I want to
41. Cooking is a language to me, I can even think in it.
42. My dream job would be to be dictator. Really.
43. I always marvel at how many opportunities I missed to turn my life into a train wreck.
44. My guardian angel deserves overtime.
45. I drink coffee AND tea. In fact, my habit used to be so bad I'd have a shot of espresso and then fall asleep.
46. I dislike work. Not just my job, but ALL jobs.
47. I love ironing shirts. Trousers, not so much.
48. I read voraciously
49. I worry about hubris
50. I default to being arrogant and smug
51. I love studying ancient history and classics.
52. I am Olympically good at procrastination and insomnia
53. I try to go to Mass daily (but fail) and Confession monthly
54. I am short-sighted.
55. I am not, nor can I understand why anyone would ever be, a vegetarian.
56. People whose worldviews are permated by bitterness worry me. Hate, less so.
57. I only consent to drive manual cars. Power steering is also somewhat suspect.
58. I am impatient to a pathological degree.
59. I don't care for modernism, progressivism or any other euphemism for "new things that don't work."
60. I get in trouble because of my deadpan delivery.
61. I very, very rarely talk about sex.
62. I often hurl impressive bursts of profanity, but never around women or children.
63. I'm Catholic. Like THAT kind of Catholic.
64. When eating out, I find it amazingly easy to decide what to order. Knowing what to order is 90% of the trick of having a great lunch/dinner.
65. I have no sense of direction. NONE.
66. I'm a bit curt when my defenses are down.
67. PG Wodehouse is the greatest writer in the history of the English language
68. I hate, loathe, despise Daylight Savings Time.
69. I am a skeptic.
70. I am a cynic.
71. I am very particular about what my children wear. I don't mind a small, discreet logo, but I prefer classic stuff that won't require them to explain things when looking at photos many years hence. This is a result of having grown up in the 1970s; that ghetto of a decade.
72. I am somewhat vain.
73. I have an opinion about EVERYTHING.
74. I love roses.
75. I am, outwardly, a very unemotional person. But you'd be surprised at the stuff that makes my eyes well up.
76. I am hilarious
77. My friends tend to be also (it's a requirement, really)
78. I wonder what my life would have been like had I been born 10 years later.
79. I like writing letters and notes by hand, with fountain pen, on nice stationery
80. I pray for my friends, regardless of how they'd feel about that
81. I hope that Judgment Day arrives just as I walk out of Confession
82. I love silent comedies.
83. Nothing worries me more than what sort of men my sons will become.
84. I'm aware of my shortcomings and how they got there.
85. I love natural sponges
86. My oldest is attending an old-fashioned, classical-education Jesuit school, with a pedagogy that was fixed ca. 1850.
87. Just like I went to one. (As did my dad, in case you're counting)
88. I try and tread lightly on Creation. Not TOO lightly.
89. Baking remains outside my skill set.
90. I ADORE cooking dinner every night, night after night. Trips aside, I've done so for 15 years. 91. I shop for groceries and food every day, and at 5 different places
92. I'm actually JMG the III.
93. I have been drinking wine with dinner since I was 8
94. I am emphatically NOT a Francophile (my dad, alas is)
95. I am an Italophile
96. I am an Anglophile
97. I like all adult beverages equally, except white Zinfandel which is the wine used to worship the Prince of Darkness. (It will not transubstantiate, either.)
98. I have a finely tuned sense of irony and sarcasm
99. My friends are hugely important in my life. They generally are chosen for their kindness, charm, loyalty and conversational ability. Politics, religion, gender, race, etc. plays no part in the selection process. This leads to lively exchanges.
100. I am an optimist, and pessimists puzzle me.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Bitter irony, part the whateverth

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Charity, patroness of Cuba.

The Cliffs Notes on this:

Around 1608 three youngsters Rodrigo & Juan de Hoyos and Juan Moreno, left El Cobre (named after the copper mines) in Cuba in search of salt to preserve meat for the copper miners. Halfway across the Bay of Nipe they encountered a very violent storm and while the two older boys rowed and struggled to keep the boat afloat, Juan Moreno (apparently the family servant, depending on the version of the story) prayed fervently to Our Lady for protection. Eventually they all fell asleep, exhausted from battling the storm. The next morning they saw a small white bundle floating calmly across the bay, coming straight toward them.

It proved to be a statue of Our Lady affixed to a board and completely dry. It had the inscription "I am the Virgin of Charity." A shrine was built immediately, and instantly became a pilgrimage destination.

She was declared the patroness of Cuba by Pope Benedict XV in 1916. Then image was solemnly crowned in the Eucharistic Congress at Santiago in 1936. Pope Paul VI raised her sanctuary to a basilica in 1977. Pope John Paul II solemnly crowned her again on January 24th, 1998, saying:

During this celebration we will crown the image of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. From her shrine, not far from here, the Queen and Mother of all Cubans — regardless of race, political allegiance or ideology — guides and sustains, as in times past, the steps of her sons and daughters towards our heavenly homeland, and she encourages them to live in such a way that in society those authentic moral values may reign which constitute the rich spiritual heritage received from your forebears. With gratitude, we turn to her, as did her cousin Elizabeth, and say: "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord" (Lk 1:45).

In these words lies the secret of the true happiness of individuals and peoples: to believe and proclaim that the Lord has done marvellous things for us and that his mercy is from generation to generation on those who are faithful to him. This conviction is the force which inspires men and women to commit themselves selflessly, even at the cost of sacrifice, to the service of others.

Mary's example of readiness to serve shows us the path to take. With her, the Church fulfils her own vocation and mission, proclaiming Jesus Christ and exhorting us to do what he says, building a universal brotherhood in which every person can call God "Father".

The sad irony is that on her feast day, the Patroness of Cuba has to endure yet more misery heaped upon her sons and daughters as Hurricane Ike ravages the island.

Our Lady of Charity, ora pro nobis.



Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Crummy news or Please get your prayin' warmed up.

Dear All,

Firstly, monumental apologies for taking up valuable blogspace with what might actually be very old hat for some of you.

Secondly, I would like to humbly ask you all to keep my dad in your prayers as today he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's (yes, on top of the Parkinson's...I know!). It SEEMS as if it was caught early-ish -- thanks be to God -- and as such things are not as bleak as they might have otherwise been. Still, this is going to require a whole heapin' helping of prayer.

That's your cue, incidentally.

Be assured of my prayers in return & AMDG,