Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Procrastination MeMe

The Caveman invited anyone looking for a good time to consider themselves tagged for his meme. I picked up on it from the lovely and gracious Karen.

******

What time is your alarm clock set to?
6something a.m.

What is the first thing you notice about the opposite sex?
That this is the near occasion of sin, in big flashing neon letters.

Do you think people talk about you behind your back?
I do. I also think gravity is real and the earth is spherical.

What movie do you know every line to?
The Right Stuff, Duck Soup, Metropolitan, Airplane, and Volunteers. There are several others to which I know most of the lines.

What is your favorite movie?
The Right Stuff

Is anyone in love with you?
My wife, ostensibly, which is why I assume she hasn't yet shot me in spite of all the times she is vexed by me.

Do you sleep on your side, stomach or back?
I toss.

Who was the last person to make you mad?
They all make me mad.

Are you a lover or a fighter?
"I don’t understand why I have to pick one." But if I do, I’m a lover.

Are you a morning or evening person?
I’m a evening. Like a vampire, but without the whole blood thing, or the theologicaly worrisome occult/undead nasties.

Are you a cuddler?
No.

Are you a perfectionist?
Yes, which is also why I'm not much of a team player...not that you asked.

Have you ever written a poem?
Yes. Long story.

Do you have more guy or girl friends?
Girls, by far. They are ceaselessly fascinating, and it's kind of like being an expatriate in a strange and distant land where nothing makes sense to you.

How many tickets have you gotten?
One word: Wallpaper. (None recently)

Piercings?
None.

Do you have a tattoo?
One. Long story.

Are you patient?
Not especially, nor have I ever been adequate reason for being.

Do you miss anyone right now?
Probably.

Tea or coffee?
Orange pekoe or Earl Grey or Green tea. Espresso. (I'm bi-caffeinated.)

Regularly burn incense?
Why?

Ever been in love?
Thrice.

Best room for a fireplace?
Living room.

What do you do when you’re sad or upset?
Abuse livestock. Actually, I pray and I write (not related, incidentally) and I may cook if things look dire enough.

Afraid of heights?
No. Unless I'm on some rickety bridge over a gorge in the Amazon.

Can you change the oil in your car?
I could, but why?

Favorite flower?
Orange blossom.

Favorite hangout?
eBay.

Middle name?
M.

Most romantic sounding language?
Italian.

Ever been overseas?
Yes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

This is not what you think it is, but it is, in fact, related thereto.

Over at the lovely and gracious Karen's blog, there is much tumult, wailing and gnashing of teeth over the issue of same-sex marriage given the California Supreme Court's decision thereon.

My gripe with those on the opposite side of the issue -- those who espouse the rather jejune "fairness" argument -- is that in order to satisfy their thirst for fairness as they see it (which, intriguingly, is not the same things as righteousness) they are willing to redefine and bend things to coincide with their views while chanting the twin slogans of "It's only fair!" and "What slippery slope?"

The more adept of the benighted proponents of this new social order will point out things such as laws that at some point and in some places outlawed the marriage between people of different races. Where they fail to convince is in noting that striking down those laws (vestiges of a ruling class that was "pro-choice" on slavery) the definition of marriage was unaltered. Striking down those laws, actually, upheld the simple definition of marriage. One man, one woman, bound to each other sacramentally and legally. Ta-da. The moment this definition is subject to addition or subtraction, you start strapping on Teflon skis and heading for the double-black-diamond slippery slope.

Why?

Because the picosecond one decides that any universally held social institution (even the most wildly pro-homosexual societies in history never had marriage defined as anything other than a man-woman arrangement) is malleable to the whims of the zeitgeist then that institution is forever up for grabs. If any two people can be married to each other then why not any three people? Because the law is so writ? Wait...didn't we just reach the point along the arc of societal evolution where we just dispensed with the tyranny of the law as writ? Haven't we just said that things only mean what we say they mean? So how does this work? What is there to prevent some Supreme Court somewhere, generously endowed with Advanced People, from saying that marriage can only be a same-sex thing?

A: Once this happens, there isn't jack to prevent it.

All of the strictures that can prevent these things have now been tossed as so much mediæval ballast preventing us from being Advanced People ourselves.

Stop and ponder that one for a moment.

But that's not what I came to write about today. Those of us on the side of the angels on this issue contend -- and, sadly, history will bear us out -- that this new social order is detrimental to the institution of marriage properly understood, and the nuclear family. But here's the thing I hear nobody saying: How did marriage and the nuclear family get into such a Hell of a bad way that same-sex unions can damage it so? Same-sex unions shouldn't have that kind of power, but yet they do; and marriages shouldn't be so fragile, but they are. So what gives?

You see, darlings, the problem is that traditional marriage and families have been steadily corroded from within for the last 50 years and have turned marriage from a house of brick, to a house of sticks, to a house of straw. And what nobody has mentioned, thus far, is the catalyst for this devolution.

Divorce.

Marriage in Western society is in such disarray because divorce is rampant. we don't even bat an eye. (When was the last time anyone was surprised when a celebrity marriage broke up?)

Before marriage, like Troy, can be taken from without, it must be weakened and rendered unable to defend itself from within. Divorce is that Trojan horse. Once the bond that unites a man and a woman for life is soluble* due to any number of reasons (some, admittedly, serious) then all is lost. Once we say that bond may be severed (without major consequences) but "only for some very serious reasons," the high ground has been ceded and society can now move down one circle and start squabbling over what those "very serious reasons" ought be...and so the long day wears on, until we get to the rock bottom of drivel such as "incompatible differences."

This means, in legal jargon "because we feel like it."

Which is pretty neat because in every marriage there will be many, many (AMHIK) points when you will feel like leaving so fast you might lay down skidmarks on the driveway. If you have somehow been made comfortable (or comfortable enough) with whatever you believe will be the consequences of doing so, you will leave. Always. It is the path of least resistance.

And so we have a culture of divorce, which is self-perpetuating. Which has left permanent creases, weak points and faultlines in the foundation of society that is the nuclear family. No society is long for this world where the nuclear family, for whatever reason is weakened and/or unstable.

Even if the whole California thing is eventually defeated, like a shark bopped on the pressure point of its snout, that still leaves us with a whole lot of work still to be done, because right now we're just a swimmer bleeding in shark-infested waters.

And another shark will come by soon enough.

AMDG,

-J.

* Not talking about "annulled" marriages. So don't go there.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Cdl. Bergoglio's homily at the Mass for Educators

Here is Cdl. Bergoglio's homily at the Mass for Educators on April 23, 2008.

AMDG,

-J.

P.S. As usual, any emphasis or comments and translation are all mine. Sorry for the delay, between the flu and the complexity of this homily (and its translation) it's taken a while.

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Beloved educators:

Like every year, I address you to encourage you in this great task, to which you have been called, for which you have been assembled. My words as a shepherd are intended to accompany you, to encourage you in your everyday doings, and to fortify every bud of life projected to grow [during] this year 2008, already beginning.

Educating is one of the most passion activating arts in life, and requires [from us] a constant expansion of [our] horizons, a starting anew and to put ourselves on the path of of renewal. Furthermore, the needs of a rapid and changing world question us every day. One must conquer exhaustion, surpass discomforts, save our strength against the wear [and tear] of work. We need the balm of hope [in order] to continue; and [we need] the anointing of wisdom to restore us in [the good] news that takes the best from our tradition, and for us to know how to recognize those things that must be changed, and those things which deserve to be criticized or abandoned.

Time makes us humble, but also wise, if we open ourselves to the gift of integrating the past, present and future in a common service to our small ones. I also expect that these [of mine] words meet that standard.

I- THE ROAD IS TAKEN BY WALKING

Homo viator

Humanity has always viewed life as a road; and man as a traveler who, when he is born, is set in motion and, throughout his existence, he finds people or situations that put him back on the road (at times with a mission, at other times through a crisis). In the Bible this reality is constant: Abraham is called to stay on the road "without knowing where went"; the people of God is put on the road to be freed from the Egyptians. Thus also in the history or the mythology of other people: Aeneas, before the destruction of Troy, surpasses the temptation to remain to rebuild the city and, taking his father literally [the Argentinism translates as "to slippers." No, I don't know either.], undertakes the ascent of a mountain whose summit becomes the founding of Rome. Other mythological stories show this "human road" as the return home, to the ancestral place. Thus is the case of Ulysses or what was expressed so poetically by Hölderlin in his Ode on the return home. Tolkien, in contemporary literature, takes up [this theme] again with Bilbo and Frodo [being] the image of the man who is called to walk; its heroes knowing, acting, walking, along the drama that unfolds between good and evil. The "man on the road" involves a dimension of hope; "to enter" in hope. In every history and human mythology is underlined the fact that man is not [meant] to be quiet, stagnant, but "on the move", called or "vocado" -- from which we derived the term vocation -- and when does not he enter into this dynamic then he is annulled as the person, or becomes corrupted. Moreover, by being put on the road, man himself gives root to an interior anxiety that prompts the man to "to get out of himself," to experience an "exodus of himself." There is something [both] without and within us that calls us to take to the road. To leave, to walk, to carry out, to accept the elements and to renounce comfort…this is the road.

Walking, then, is a way of "entering" into a living hope. Just like Truth, Hope is something in which we should learn to reside, a gift that moves us to walk, and that, beyond each discouragement as a result of so much evil in the world, invites us to believe each day will bring [us] the necessary bread for our subsistence.

Walking in hope means to have certainty the Father will give us whatever is necessary. It is confidence in the gift [to reach] beyond every calamity or misfortune. Jesus, in the prayer of the Our Father, expresses this fundamental confidence, which finds its representation in the lilies of the field and in the birds of the sky. Walking and waiting thus become, in a way, synonymous. We walk because we hope. Being on the road brings us the visible image of the man that has learned to wait within his heart. Walking, without stopping or straying, is the tangible fruit of the hope. Not for nothing does the Pope invite us, in his last encyclical Spe Salvi, to place again before us the question ¿What can we expect? and this, according to Benedict, "makes necessary a self-criticism of the modern age in its dialogue with Christianity and with its concept of hope. In this dialogue, Christians, in the context of their knowledge and experiences, have to learn again in what their hope really consists, what they have to offer to the world and what is, on the contrary, what cannot be offered." (cf. 22).

Temptation is an invitation to stop marching, to un-wait. How not to fall, when already so, so many utopias have fallen in this postmodern start to a century of yet more war and inequality? The temptation is grave, and its very real possibility is known by everyone who, bravely, has overturned his heart and undertaken to act determinedly in the search of truth or justice. Only this person knows how arduous and deeply problematic is his yearning and [only this person] knows the sadly sweet and persistent siren song of discouragement, which invites us to a cowardly hiding from our historic responsibility. Every educator, quite often, feels he must face, each day, a double disavowal: that of a society which does not support nor provides the [appropriate] socio-hierarchical status –- denying him, many times for lack of supplies or by squandering the efforts built in the classroom, the real possibility of educating -- and that of some parents who do not accord the due respect or recognition to his fundamental task –- depriving him of authority before the children -- every educator, I repeat, is particularly tempted to despair.

Therefore I invite you again, dear educators, as I did in the year 2000, to remain firm in the hope to which have been called in the educational task, so fundamental and formative. At the time, I reminded of the pre-eminence and urgency of the theme. I invited you to reflect on Hope, "but not on a 'Hope Lite' or lifeless, separated from the drama of human existence." "Let us interrogate Hope" –- I said -- "from our deepest problems which vex us and which comprise our daily struggles [be it] in our educational tasks, our interpersonal contacts and in our innermost nature." Today, eight years later, I am still more convinced that, "the small hope", the one that contributes to our "sense and substance to our commitments and undertakings to face the responsibility to educate the younger generations, and of assume even that which we carry with difficulty, as if it were a cross".

II- WITH THE RESTLESS HEART

In the everyday pedagogical experience we verify the "little ones are restless." This expression contains various meanings. In a more superficial way we take it to mean something related to discipline: the children make a mess and then we think about measures to confine the vital spontaneity of the students. One must put limits, we all agree, but not so much that it becomes an impediment to development of that another disquiet that puts us on the road, drowning out Hope.

To discipline is a medium, a remedy necessary to the service of an integral education, but it cannot become a mutilation of desire, as St. Augustine understood it, not as tendency to possess, but like the one that "makes space." Desire is contrasted to need. The latter ceases upon the lack being filled; desire –- on the other hand -- is indicative of the presence of a positive good and always increases, is effected, puts people in movement to "more." The desire for the truth proceeds "from encounter to encounter," to discipline should not clip the wings of imagination, of healthy fantasy or of creativity. I posit the question: How integrate discipline with interior disquiet? How to do it so the discipline [will] be a constructive limit of the road upon which a child must travel and not a wall that annuls it or an aspect of education that will neuter him? We want children "quiet" a behavorist educator might say… but "I want them 'restless' in their desire, in their questions," might reply a humanist. A "restless" child in this latter sense is a child sensitive to the stimuli of the world and of society, one who is open to the crises to which life makes him submit, one who rebels against limits but, on the other hand, demands them and accepts them (not without pain) if they are just. One not conformist with cultural clichés as proposed by a mundane society; a child who wants to learn, to discuss…and thus we would go on and on.

Beloved educators, so that discipline may acquire the seal of liberty it is necessary for an educator to learn how to read disquiet as a language, from the search that [starts out as] physical movement, to the can-never-be quiet, passing to [phase] of ceaseless questioning, until [reaching] that of an adolescent who questions all and replies [to all], restless for another answer.

This pedagogical fact makes us return to the original issue: a man on the move, hopeful and kneading his destiny, and the drama of the quiet man, already "installed." It is interesting to think this word derives from the Latin "stabulum," stable, place where there are animals.The worldly systems look for ways "to calm" the man, to anesthesize the desire for him to place himself on the road, with the lure of of possession and consumption; a consumption permanently open to the latest new features that seem indispensable and, this way, alienates him from the possibility of recognizing and being guided by the most primal desires of the heart. It arrests our attention the great amount of "alibis" that inhibit the inner anxiousness from starting up, offering [us] an apparent peace. The Christian tradition, from the first centuries, describes these "alibi" as states of the soul that deprive of freedom, which enslave, and are [thus] named "capital sins": gluttony, lust, avarice, wrath, envy, despair, sloth, vanity, pride. These are traps of the soul which prevent him from walking towards the horizons of freedom, which they submit to the heart and offer him a certain quietist well-being [and] calm or, sometimes, of controllable disquiet. When these "alibi" take root in the heart they remove freedom, they make for conformism or entanglement in superficial, problematic existencialisms. They are stops to an inner search. Such auxiliary "alibis," which are repeated and multiply in so persistent a way, certainly are an excuse, a refuge that hides another thing: the fear of freedom, the fear to persevere along the path. In this reality of the "alibi" it calls to our attention how, throughout history (and also at the moment) fundamentalisms are multiplied. At the bottom of this are systems of well-assembled thought and conduct, that serve as a refuge. The fundamentalism is organized by the rigidity of a unique thought, in which the person is left protected against destabilizing consideration (and crises) in exchange for a certain existencial quietism. The fundamentalism does not admit shades or reframings simply because it is scared, and -- concretely -- it is scared of the truth. Whoever takes refuge in fundamentalism is a person who is scared to put himself on the road to look for the truth. He "has" the truth, has acquired it and instrumentalized it like a defense, because he gets to live [as if] any questioning is an aggression against his person.

Our relation with the truth is not static because the Supreme Truth is infinite and more can always be known, we always have to enter [deeper] into it. To the Christians, St. Peter the Apostle asks to us that we know how "to give reason" for our hope; it is that the Truth in which we walk throughout our existence must be open to the dialogue, to the acceptance of the difficulties that, regarding it, others may have or are raised by circumstances. The truth always is "reasonable" although I may not be, and the challenge consists of staying open to the point of view of the other, and not make ours an immovable totality. Dialogue does not mean relativism but that is a "logos" that shares, is reason at the service of love, together to construct an ever more liberating reality. In this enriching circle, the dialogue reveals the truth, and truth is nourished by dialogue. Kind listening, respectful silence, sincere empathy, an authentic openness to [what may seem] strange and foreign, are essential virtues to develop and to transmit in today's world. God Himself invites us to dialogue, calls us and summons us through the Word, which abandoned every nest and hideout [i.e. "every nook and cranny" of comfort] by becoming man.

Three interrelated dimensions appear here; one a dialogue dimension between a person and God -- that we Christians call prayer -- another one with people and circumstances and the third, the dialogue we have with we ourselves. Through these three dimensions the truth grows, consolidates and expands over time. To enter into this process implies to not be scared to seek the truth.

Faced with so many hideouts, and social and cultural refuges which shelter and paralyze the search for the Truth and camouflage the fear of looking for the truth in the "modus vivendi," one asks: How [do we] teach our students not to fear the search for the truth? How to educate them in the freedom, sometimes painful, in the path of a humanity that looks for the Truth and, entrust to them from there, to continue walking, to continue seeking it? How to form free men and women for the road of life, who do not finish caught up in a thousand and the one forms of paralyzing conformisms, or captivated by preachers of closed thoughts, exclusive thoughts, proper to a fundamentalism? How to get our "unquiet" and undisciplined children to end up being "anxious" in the search? How to help them to enter into hope and, mainly, to remain in hope?

III THE TRUTH WILL MAKE THEM FREE

And it is here where we must ask ourselves: What do we understand by "truth?" To look for the truth is different than finding formulations one can posess and manage at will. On this path of search all, one's whole personality, one's whole the existence is exerted; it is a path that fundamentally requires humility. In being convinced that one is not [truly] self-sufficient and that it is dehumanizing to use others to achieve that sufficiency, the search for the truth undertakes a laborious, some times artisanal, path of the humble heart that does not accept to satiate its thirst with stagnant waters. The "possession" of the truth in a fundamentalist sense lacks humility: it tries to impose itself on others in a way that, in [and of] itself, is autodefensive. The search for truth does not appease an awakening thirst. A conscience of "wise ignorance" is re-commencing continuously along the way. "Wise ignorance" that, with the experience of life, will become "scholarly." We can affirm at this point without fear that truth is not something to have, not to be possessed...it is to be found. In order to be yearned for, to be desired, it must stop being that which can be had. Truth is opened, is reveales to whom -- at the same time -- is opened to it. Truth, indeed, in its Greek meaning -- aletheia -- has to do with that which is manifest, which is revealed, becomes obvious by its miraculous and free appearance. The Hebrew meaning, on the contrary, with its word "emet," unites the sense of the true with the sense of the certain, the firm, which neither deceives nor defrauds. The truth, then, has that double component, is the manifestation of the essence of things and people, who when opening their innermost selves give us the certainty of their truth, a reliable evidence that it invites us to believe in them. This certainty is humble, because simply "it lets be" the other one in his manifestation, and it does not make us submit to demands or impositions. This is the first justice which we owe others and ourselves, to accept the truth of what we are, to speak the truth of what we think. And, in addition, it is an act of love. Nothing is built upon on the silencing or the negation of the truth. Our painful political history has often attempted this silencing. The use of verbal euphemisms often has anesthesized us or induced stupor in teh face of this. But already it is time to return to a brotherhood, to re-bond with a truth that must prophetically be proclaimed with an authentically restored justice. Justice only dawns when a name has been given, to those facts in which we have deceived ourselves and betrayed ourselves in our historical destiny. And in doing so we bequeath one of the main services of responsibility towards the next generation.

Let us consider that to the truth is not found alone. Next to her are kindness and the beauty. Or rather, the Truth is good and beautiful. "A truth not absolutely good always hides an untrue kindness" said an Argentine thinker. I insist the three go together and is not possible to look for them nor to find them one without the others. A reality very different from the mere "possession of the truth" desired by the [various] fundamentalisms: it is there where formulations by themselves are given worth, empty of kindness and beauty, which might even be imposed on others with aggressiveness and violence, doing damage and conspiring against life itself. How to make our students look for and find Truth in Kindness and Beauty? How to establish hope on the virtue that knowledge of truth brings us, knowing that there are truths which summon the whole man, not only his intellect? How to teach to perceive the beauty, to make authentically aesthetic experiences, those which signify landmarks and making sense of our life? How to teach to receive the kindness which being showers without fear and to discover the love [found]in its gratitude?

The encyclopedist illusion can, still, play a trick on us, when we confuse the search for Truth with the effort "to [merely] know things." Mere information barely scratches the surface of things and of the soul. This is similar to that "alibi" the first Christians described like the operative part of sloth: much movement on the surface which does neither moves nor affects the depth of thought. In this encyclopedist illusion is the functionalist dimension of action that, instead of transforming structures, is satisfied to in [just] ordering them. It is the fantasy of simple organizational charts. I recall the repeated history of our educational reforms which are never aimed [at changing] the essential and consequently, nothing changes. Reality, from this perspective, at the most, suffers from being ordered. Kindness and beauty are then only expressed in the design of functionality. The underlying gnostic balance is fascinating, sometimes it is only a conceptual balance, at other times, it is also a formal [balance]. Encyclopedism thinks it is enough with constructing and explaining contents, concepts and disciplines, it is false worship to consider these to be sufficient in their unfolding and [which in their] autointerpretation, fall into the naivete of dreaming about an aseptic hermeneutic. And this [hermeneutic] does not exist. The "content" of a concept is [valid only] in [its] intimate relation with the expression that contains it, with the "container." Already there is a hermeneutic here.

As well as truth, kindness and beauty go together and our encounter with them always will be insufficient and superficial, the same it happens in the education process: the single contents are not enough but they are to be assimilated, along with values and habits next to the glare of certain experiences. In the dialogue of "educating the content" [that dialogue] shines and thus summons or transmits a value, which finally creates a habit. For that reason, to walk in the search of the truth supposes a relational harmony of contents, habits, valuations, perceptions, that go beyond the mere desire "to collect data" or, if we shift the central focus, beyond the absolutization of a single value or a reduction to habit (in these last cases diverse forms of aestheticisms or behaviorisms could take place).

Beauty - not like that which ispretty it or is simply attractive, but like what in his sensible figure gives us a wonderful depth in its mystery, here provides a matchless service to us. When shining in beauty, truth gives, in this light, its logical clarity to us. The good that appears as beautiful brings with itself evidence of its duty [to itself] fulfilled. How many abstract rationalisms, and extrinsicist moralisms would see here the possibility of their cure if only they were open to think of reality first as beautiful, and only then good and true! I do not get tired warning about that which I already mentioned: the three go together, and to separate them has only brought as a consequence a lack of unity between contents, attitudes and procedures in which we often lose ourselves.

IV WITNESSES OF THE TRUTH

To educate in the search of the truth, then, demands a effort of harmonization between contents, habits, and values; a framework that grows and conditions together, giving form to life itself. In order to obtain such harmony information or explanation is not enough. That which is merely descriptive or explanatory does not say everything there is to something, by itself it vanishes. It is necessary to offer, to show, a vital synthesis between them...And that is only done by testimony. We enter, therefore, into one of the deepest and most beautiful dimensions of the educator: the testimonial [dimension]. Testimony is what anoints the educator as "master" and makes him a traveling companion in the search for truth. Witness, with its example, defies us, animates us, accompanies us; lets us walk, be mistaken and even repeat our error, [all in order for us] to grow.

To educate in the search of the truth will demand of you, beloved educators, that attitude about which I spoke above: "to know how to give reason," but not only with concepts [or] contents, but with habits and values made real. He will be masterful who can uphold, with his own living, those words of his. This somewhat aesthetic dimension of the transmission of the truth -- aesthetic and not superficially aestheticist -- transforms the teacher into a living icon of the truth which teaches. Here beauty and truth converge. Everything becomes interesting, attractive, and at long las we hear the sound of the bells which wake up the healthy "restlessness" in the heart of children.

The paradigmatic case of the teacher-witness is Jesus Himself. He is the "faithful Witness" par excellence (Rev. 1:5; 3:14), the one who came to the world to give testimony of the truth (Jn 18:37). He gives testimony of which "He has seen and heard" while next to the Father (Jn 3:11-32). And He gives testimony of that which He himself is (Jn 8:13). His confession in front of Pilate is a "supreme testimony" (1 Tim 6:13) that shows the divine plan of salvation. This testimony of Jesus, which we are to accept to not make a liar out of God (1 Jn 5:9), turns Him into the authorized teacher to teach to us about God (Mt 7.29). It is here where Jesus gives himself (Jn 13, 13-14), and is subsequently given, the title of "Rabbi", teacher (Jn 3:2; Mt 8:19, etc.). For that reason, for example, He can say to us with authority: "you, then, pray thus..." (Mt 6:9), this way and not that way.

It is notable and wonderful, to discover how all the education [we receive from] Jesus never divides [anything into] contents and perceptions, nor values and habits. Like a good teacher, Jesus speaks to the whole man and His words never are merely explanatory. He does not come to bring a new version of the law, or a novel explanation [of it] to us -- no matter how brilliant this might have been. No, the absolutely novel thing of the intent of Jesus is that He is Himself the Word, the Logos of the Father, just as John attests in his Prologue. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and for that reason only He gives back to man the unity lost because of sin, and restores [man's] integrity. Let us look at an example. When Jesus wants to us to transmit His intimate attitude in prayer, the filial attitude, he describes it thus: "Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened."(Mt 7:7-8).

In the Biblical world, far from the abstractions of ancient Greece, man was constituted by three concrete and dynamic aspects: the heart, source of one's deep psychic [no, not THAT kind of psychic] life, that refers to all the scope of human desire, and the intimacy of man where he makes his free decisions -- often united in purpose with the eyes; the tongue, which is the organ that "marks" the mouth, but also and most importantly means human language, all of the realm of thought, with its possibilities for truth and lies, often united in Scripture with the ears; and the hands, that synthesize in their concreteness all the gestures of human action, [be they] functional or symbolic, often [mentioned]together with the feet, representing the direction of the human action. Man appears expressed in an unitarian manner, in three aspects that always mention the whole man, and that from their concreteness are implied and which make reference mutually. We can synthesize the triad thus: Heart-eyes (all of human desires); Tongue-ears (all of "orthodoxy," speech and the human logos); and Hands-feet (all of the realm of "orthopraxy," as the significant action by which man looks to transform the world). Let us return now to the abovementioned text. There the whole man is alluded to by Jesus, and invited to enter in totality to dialogue with God. "Ask" is a reference to the realm of speaking, that is to say, orthodoxy; "Seek" speaks of the heart, the one that is opened or not in order to seek; "knock" deals with the hands that knock on the door, of human action that in his general orthopraxis always tends towards a sense of meaning. The invitation is to ask the Father with all our being, to pray with all our person, uniting all our desires, thoughts, actions, [in a manner] akin to the confidence of a boy to his father who will give him all that is necessary to him. Only when we reach this [level of] integration, [does] our prayer become authentic, and fulfills the will of the Master: that our whole self, without reserve, give itself [over] in prayer. That nothing within man be left out of the encounter with God, that our deepest desires be united with the requests of our lips, and that all our acts aim in that same direction. What wisdom of the Master, Who with [such] a simple phrase is able to give a whole image of man as God, his Father, thought him! Here there is no space for empty contents, distorted values or bad habits. Everything shines in the simplicity of His Person, who is One with what He says, who carries His testimony to the extreme, loving to us until death, and with that self-giving seals the sign of authenticity His life. And the Father will authenticate this word in the resurrection on the third day. Of this we are witnesses, and there is our hope, the one that we wish to announce to the world for its salvation.

The educator, as a companion in this search, offers a frame that, without removing freedom, clears away fear and encourages along the way. He also, like Jesus, must unite the truth he teaches, regardless of the environment in which he moves, with the testimony of his life, in intimate relation to the knowledge he teaches. Only this way can the disciple can learn to listen, ponder, value, respond... to learn the difficult science and wisdom of the dialogue. To engage in a dialog is for the travellers [on the road, seeking Truth]. Those who are quiet do not engage in a dialog. To engage in a dialog is a thing [only] for the brave. engage in a dialog is a thing [only] for the magnanimous. In dialogue one confronts but without aggression, one proposes but does not impose. To engage in a dialog is to share the road in search of the truth. It is to enter a crucible of time that purifies, illuminates, sapientializes. How many failures and wars by lack of dialogue, for failing to look together for the truth! Dialogue brings closeness. One thing is a simple interview and [quite] another to go on the road together. What is of an educator is that he goes on the road with the educatee, and along this way proximity and nearness are forged. This is another fundamental dimension in the search for the truth: not to fear the proximity, so different of a courteous distance or of promiscuity. Distance deforms our pupils because it turns us myopic in our perception of reality. Only nearness can carry that objectivity which opens to a greater and better understanding. In the [exercise of] personal care proximity is nearness: the person who is alongside us becomes "our fellow" and [that nearness] demands that we become "his fellow." The educator whoch teaches to not be scared in search for the truth is, truly, a Master, a witness of how the road is walked, a traveling companion, someone near, somebody who becomes "a fellow."

On this road for the search for the truth it is necessary to guard against thinking that everything is a shot at the infinite, an incessant walk and that "it is all road." It is not so. We are dealing with a search that progresses in stages, that consolidates in encounters that, in one way or another, become milestones along the route. The experience of encountering the truth along the way is both total and partial at the same time. Partially because we still must continue walking; total, because in all authentically human and divine realities, the whole is in each part. That is the reason for that dual feeling of "unfinished fullness" that characterizes all encounters. Tasting an encounter is one of the aspects of this search for the truth, one that harmonizes contents, habits, values, experiences. Accepting the incomplete aspect of same makes one mature, and expands the within hope us towards the eternal thing. The brilliance of the encounter produces the "Metaphysical stupor" proper of the human and divine revelation.

Several times I talked about the fear of getting started on the search for the truth. We may ask "Why fear?" Simply because fear is one of the primary feelings that occur in the experience of the abandoning yourself. To leave oneself, to put oneself on the road, implies a sort of insecurity, and that brings [about] fear. From there it's natural to cling to those existential places of stagnation, those comforting and deceptive "alibis," to not forge ahead. Some mystics speak of settling down in [one's] lodgings and not to continue along the way. It gives a certain amount of fear to continue walking, and the fear deafens one's restlessness, stops the march of hope.

Some months ago, the Pope could not speak in a University because an infinitessimally small group of professors and students so imposed it violently. This made think me about something a 2nd century author says to Herod about his violence: You work thus "quia timor you necat in corde" (because the fear in your heart kills you). All harsh closedness, aggression, violence constitute an external scaffolding that supports a fear within the soul. It is an alibi. Are our children intolerant? Have we educated them to open themselves to sharing the road of life with a Christian identity that knows to unload the weight of intolerance? A true challenge is posited: to educate [them] so that they do not fear, to educate them to be open to dialogue, to look for the truth.

But this way will not be easy to journey nor will be free of stumbling blocks; the fear of the other, the xenophobia of that which is different, is the main enemy of dialogue. Everything he says could be used against him, since it stems from suspicion of its intentions, turning relationships into something uncertain, threatening. How to engage in a dialog in a world where we are afraid of the others? How to exorcise fear and to allow the passage to a trust that not naive, but lucid and open? How to educate in dialogue when we have a loaded cultural language of unconscious and segregating discriminations? There are many ways to be a fundamentalist, although we do not subscribe to sects or ideologies of a closed type.

I invite you to reflect together and to become one in the idea that only he who teaches with passion can hope that his students learn with pleasure. Only someone who is dazzled by beauty can prompt his students to contemplation. Only someone who believes in the truth that teaches can request truthful interpretations. Only who lives in the good -- that is justice, patience, respect in the differences in the educational task -- can aspire to mold the hearts of those who have been trusted him. The encounter with beauty, good, truth, fulfill and produce a certain ecstasy in oneself. What fascinates us, expropriates and snatches [us out of ourselves]. The truth thus found, or rather that leaves to encounter us, makes us free.

V TO WALK IN HOPE

In order not to fall in abstractions and to be able to attend to that truth that it will inexorably direct to us to freedom, we must find "the lost drachma," the hidden treasure that allows to release the ray of light in the face of so much pain of this world, in the face of so many open wounds, in the face of the clumsy deformation of the truth that comes to us from the hand of fundamentalisms, individualistic liberalisms or nihilisms that are often beastly and indifferent.

For this reason I seek, and I invite you to seek with me, again, He that is absent and as necessary as bread and wine, He that makes us recommence each morning with a new breath, and that allows us to glimpse that life is beautiful, yes, beautiful in spite of everything-- of so much horror and so much evil -- and that it is worth the trouble to be lived. I look for that hope that will unite us again as a people, and which under the guidance of its star it will once again push to us to walk.

It is to you, dear educators, whom I invite in an urgent and renewed way to turn your face towards "youthful hope," that small virtue that seems to drag us forwards, in its humble persistence and its acting almost like a "nothing" to its big sisters, faith and charity. This small hope advances between its two older sisters and is not taken into account. But it is the only one that is ever beginning, because it is untiring like a child, like those students who we meet day to day untiring like hope.

To educate is, in itself, an act of hope, not just because we educate to construct a future, wagering on it, but because the very deed of educating is crossed by [hope]. Teachers ought to remember, always, the enormous contribution they make to society in this sense -- in giving us, in their everyday tasks with our children, adolescent and young Argentines -- this fundamental indication, this redemptive and salvific signal, one of hope, with which, every day, they distribute the bread of the truth, inviting us all to continue the march, to retake to the road.

Precisely this image, the one of the road, was the password that allowed us to enter to us in the field of desired beauty disinterestedly, of the gift of kindness, and the symphonic character of a truth that only blooms in dialogue. The humility that is given to us in the knowledge we are travellers, to understand ourselves as such, releases us of all fundamentalisms and all attempts making truth a weapon to self-validate or to defend ourselves. Dear educators, in this paschal time I wish for you the restlessness, image of the desire that moves the whole existence of man, is opened and expanded in that hope that does not defraud. And that, as educators you are transformed into authentic witnesses, neighbors in your fellowship to all, especially to the most left behind, to those who suffer most. Mary, Mother and Educator of Jesus, deign to be for us the Star of Hope, so that we may leave behind all division and despair.

May God want that as teachers, we may be able to fulfill our task in the spirit of that which was expressed by St. John: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life: 2 For the life was manifested; and we have seen and do bear witness, and declare unto you the life eternal, which was with the Father, and hath appeared to us"(I Jn 1:1-2). Here reappears the previously enunciated triad of seeing, hearing, touching. It is that the educational task requires us whole, so high is its dignity. Perhaps then in the education of our little ones we may obtain that they, when faced with the Truth can exclaim like Job: "before I knew you from hearing, but now I have seen you with my own eyes." That will be the best satisfaction we will have as educators.

In the Easter of the Lord of 2008

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, SJ

Archbishop of Buenos Aires

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Issue clickage, s'il vous plait

My latest is up at Vinapedia. Please click (early and often), and keep me in free wine.

Thanky much.

-J.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Done!

Davy made his First Holy Communion this weekend. He did so properly and sacrileges were not committed.

In other news, the flu is slowly -- at last! -- leaving me.

Still can't hold much food down, but that's not such a bad thing.

-J.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Just one of those things.

One of the weird things about being a man in the U.S.A. (an Anglo nation, by history and culture) with Mediterranean genes is that many of the aspects considered definitional of manhood are not quite the same.

In my youth (Father William replied to his son) I had a roomate at Very Big Deep South University; said roomie was an Italian guy from* New Joisey and many of the cultural things which we shared were seen as Mighty Strange by the southern students of said University. Things like a guy kissing his dad.

That sort of stuff.

The point I'm driving at is that having this somewhat different outlook on masculinity doesn't always come into play. The "machismo" end of it isn't all that relevant all that often and neither is its traveling companion, what I call the Mediterranean Reservoir that is our tear ducts.

Whereas your average guy from Mississippi might view (in PGW's words) "the not unmanly tear" with grave suspicion on this side, it's just a thing, albeit one so rare that it doesn't really garner much thought. (Tough guy Paul Sorvino bawling when his daughter won an Oscar is a perfectly legitimate example.)

In my case, this happened yesterday. Immediately after 8am Mass, I stayed behind to pray. A group of Ladies of a Certain Age always gather after 8am Mass to pray the Rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I like lingering and listening to them, their voices, softened by time and trial echo gently throughout the marbled space of the church, and it reminds me of my own Grandmother praying for me when I was little and sick. (To this day, I hold that grandmothers praying the Rosary in Spanish -- maybe also Italian, possibly Latin -- is the sound of angels.)

Anyway, between my own prayers and the echo and their soft tones, I couldn't actually make out what they were saying. As I moved out towards the front to exit, I caught what they were saying. They had reached the part of their prayers where they were praying for specific things and the first thing I heard them pray for was (in Spanish) "For all those children with autism, and for their parents."

I can't even type it without my eyes misting over as it is.

Communion of saints indeed.

-J.

* As it turns out, he was also Jesuit-educated.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

What have I gotten into? UPDATED

UPDATE: The translation is (finally!) up over at SWC. The whole emphasis/comments thing to follow, because this was a rough one to get over and I'm glad just to have gotten the translation done.
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I had decided to translate a homily of Cdl. Bergoglio. Seeing as how I'm a native Spanish speaker it hasn't been difficult to do in previous instances, but this latest one...WOW. Not only is it a rather lengthy homily, but it's also a rather didactic one, in an advanced way.

If you think Jesuits slinging around all these "-isms" is rough, wait until you have to slog through it in High Academic Argentine Spanish.

Oy.

-J.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Milestones of progress

There's something I have just now realized and, like pretty much EVERYTHING I "just now realized" it embarrasses me that it took as long as it did to realize whatever it was.

In this case I mean that I've just now realized that every single solitary instance of spiritual progress I have ever made has been hallmarked by a keen sense of humility. I have been very blessed with gifts, in terms of opportunity, intelligence, etc. and as a consequence I tend to default towards an unseemly sort of smugness. Which is, I know, Very Bad.

This all dawned on me when I was asking people to keep me in their prayers for a big deal thing going on at work. To ask for intercession is an act of humility. It says "My prayers alone might not be enough, and I just might need other people ferrying this intention along with me to God." at its core, humility is nothing more than saying "No matter how manifold and brilliant my gifts, I cannot do this by myself, and I need help."

The greatest quarterback ever would be a crimson puddle on the turf if he didn't have an offensive line to afford him the opportunity to use his gifts. The greatest race car driver would not get so far if he had no mechanics. And so it goes.

That's one of those "kernel" realizations I just had. Which I should have had epochs ago.

It is humbling just to mention it.

AMDG,

-J.

Monday, May 05, 2008

A somewhat mo' urgent prayer request

A "Very Big Deal" meeting with the bank (regarding one of our bigger projects) is taking place tomorrow morning. (11am EDT, for those who time these sorts of things.)

Please keep this/me/us in your (fervent, ideally) prayers.

You're also free to (i.e., pretty please) forward this prayer request along to those similarly disposed.

AMDG,

-J.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

To whoever is the specialist

If you guys know which saint is "in charge" of the flu, please pray for his/her intercession.

I feel shredded.

-J.

Blah.

I feel like [Heck].

Compounding this lousy feeling is the full-featured, action-packed day we had. It'd be very easy for me to get off on a rant, so I'll try my best to be charitable.

Yesterday morning, as we went to Confession there was a wedding going on, which is pretty unusual for that time of the day. That part is fine. I certainly can't blame any father of any bride for wanting to get off cheaply with a brunch rather than dinner. (The poshest possible brunch imaginable still weighs in at half the cost of the most meager dinner.)

What bothered me is that during the Nuptial Mass, the (ahem) congregation was deathly silent when it came to responses.

"The Lord be with you!"

Silence

"The Word of the Lord"

Silence

Only our little troupe of penintents were actually responding, which makes for a generically awkward feeling. Then, when the time came for the Gospel, the priest had to "invite people to stand"...and so the long day wore on.

...and another thing.

For the love of all that is Sacred...would it KILL anyone to dress up for a wedding? This is not a matter of affording certain types of clothes, so don't go there, lest I have to come over and swat you. By this I mean that a solid gold "battleship chain" is no substitute for a necktie, and that no matter how pleased a lady might be with her legs, there is no reason to have a skirt go to mid-thigh in Church. I won't even go into the whole "The Sopranos Sing Reggaetón" look.

Later in the day we had a 1st Holy Communion and that had the same sartorial misdeeds. Perhaps this is a Miami-only thing, BUT...wearing a long-sleeve guayabera IS NOT THE SAME as wearing a shirt and tie, let along jacket and tie. Even if it cost $1000. (You laugh.) Even if you wear it with cufflinks that cost $2000. It's a Hawaiian shirt with extra pockets.

Now, this 1st Communion took place at a Church which I have dubbed (to my wife's chagrin) St. William of Sonoma. Now, as far as modern churches go, it could have been infinitely worse. It has a center nave, and the tabernacle is actually there behind the altar (although well hidden, so your newcomer is thrown genuflection-wise) and the stained glass actually depicts recognizable things.

Naturally, the music was such that my offerings sprang a brigade of souls out of Purgatory, with drums and lots of clapping and nothing I'd recognize in the way of melody.

However!

This is where the parish of St. William of Sonoma really shone. All the kids who came up to make their 1st Communion walked up to a kneeler, knelt and received the Eucharist in the mouth. (From a priest!) Whoa! I was ready to forgive all the other drivel attributable to the zeitgeist as a consequence.

So that was my day.

-J.