Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween Pair-o-Dice

Happy Halloween from my twin niece and nephew, Ellie and Sam.
(and me.)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A Little Help, Please

To further add to the confusion about who speaks for the Catholic Church, some group calling itself "The Catholic Leadership Conference" is issuing statements about what Catholics should believe.

After a bit of research I've found that the group seems to have been around for about four years, but as far as I can tell their statements are made without any indication of who they are. One statement I found had a dead link that supposedly told you who was supporting their statement.

Can anyone illuminate me on this?

Drawing water, she weighed her lines

An interesting challenge at Matthew Lickona's blog:

Write a story using only six words. That's mine above, what's yours?

Saturday, October 29, 2005


I just discovered a bevvy of blogs by Filipino Jesuits. Looks like they're blogging in force!

They're mostly in English, but some of the posts are in Tagalog, so good luck with that!

Here's a sampling:

Filipino Jesuits Literary Blog

In My Father's House

Silent Dewdrops

Discreta Caritas

Three Stars and a Sun

batik-batik na kariktan




Wounded Healer

mute prophet

The Movie Fanatic

kamingaw sa payag

Signs of Winter

Well, it's happened . . .

Yes, first snow of the season, as I'm blogging.

(Isn't it just a little bit too early!)

Signs of Fall

In spite of the fact that my canine friend above is springing forward, don't forget that in the wee hours of tomorrow morning it will be time to "FALL BACK"

That means an extra hour of sleep--Yipee!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Now It's All Worth It! (Who Comes Up With This Stuff?)

My blog is worth $19,194.36.
How much is your blog worth?

That's more than I'm likely to make on my book, even if it sells really well, as noted on People of the Book.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Great Novels

Since Time magazine has put together their list of the 100 best English-language novels of all Time's time (i.e. since 1923), I thought it would be fun to list some of my favorites from the books that I've read--no time or language constraints though (they are in no particular order, and though some authors deserve multiple mention--like Henry James, Kurt Vonnegut or Graham Greene--I limited myself to just one novel or series of novels per author):

The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy
The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy
Silence by Shukasu Endo
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic
The Alienist by Caleb Carr
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
McTeague by Frank Norris
The Tale of Arthur Gordon Pym by Edgar Allen Poe
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay by Michael Chabon
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Cannibal by John Hawkes
The Universal Baseball Association by Robert Coover
Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
White Noise by Don DeLillo
Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
The Devil's Advocate by Morris West
Staggerford by Jon Hassler
The Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris Lessing
The Bell by Iris Murdoch
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Billy Budd by Herman Mellville
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The Enormous Room by E.E. Cummings
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Tales of Eva Luna by Isabella Allende
All Quiet on th Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula LeGuin
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Waterland by Graham Swift
Rabbit, Run by John Updike

So, if you're bored, there's some things to look at!

There's Something About Amy

After a mention on Amy Welborn's Blog, my blog traffic tripled today, and I was reunited with an old friend who saw the post!

So, hello to Niall, and all other new visitors! I hope you will visit again.

And thanks to Amy (who runs a very nice place too)!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


I watched the film Hero again tonight. What a beautiful and powerful film!

"A warrior's ultimate act is to lay down his sword."

We Have Been Visited

The dates of the seminary visitations and the names of the visitors have not been made public, but now that it's over I'm guessing it's OK to say we have been visited here at Weston.

It was a painless process, and fairly unintrusive. I had my interview this morning with a member of the visitation team. It was an enjoyable conversation between two people who are concerned for the future of the Church and for good priestly formation. I felt comfortable being honest, knowing that we were both about the same things, even if not necessarily in agreement on all the particulars.

The questions were all questions related to those on the "instrument," which has been made public, and covered areas from curriculum to liturgy to community life.

I had no sense that this was some kind of witch hunt, like the media has made it out to be (though, by his own admission, Archbishop O'Brien, the head of the visitation, did make a public statement that was misleading). Rather, it seemed a good will attempt to discover what we are already doing well in the formation of priests--which is a lot!--and how we can do better. I have confidence that the report of the visitors will help us to do that. Though I hope we will see that report sooner than last time (reportedly, after the last visitation, we didn't see the report until nearly five years later!).

The Bishop who led the visitation was also kind enough to point out that soon he will be on the other end of the visitation process, as his own seminary will be visited!

The other thing I liked about this visitation as well was that it was an opportunity for the Church to better understand formation in the context of religious life which, since the members of the hierarchy are predominately diocesan clergy, they are not always as aware of as dicoesan seminary formation (e.g. the questions on the instrument are clearly written with a diocesan seminary in mind). Having been in formation for eight years, I know that there are a lot of things that we do well, that others could benefit from knowing! So, my prayer is that this visitation might be of mutual benefit for both us and for our brother priests in the diocesan clergy so that the Church as a whole can benefit from the collective wisdom of the many facets of religious life and priesthood.

Given the energy and anxiety that has surrounded this visitation in recent weeks, I'm also glad it's over (for us, anyway)!

Pray that it will continue to go well as the over 200 seminaries and schools of priestly formation in the U.S. continue to be visited in the course of this academic year.

Monday, October 24, 2005

And a Blessed Sunday to You Too, Father

Yesterday I attended Mass at a parish up on the North Shore of Massachusetts. I was wearing my blue windbreaker, since I'm just not up to breaking out the winter jacket yet. After Mass the priest was standing at the back of the Church, as priests often do. But he wasn't shaking hands as I expected. Indeed, when I said, "Thank you, Father," he kept his hands at his side, looked at me and said, "Winter coats from now on." I won't be back at that parish next Sunday, but I kinda got the impression that if I were to come back, I'd better be wearing my winter coat!!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Wedding Band on the Run

I've heard of asking the Father of the Bride's permission before proposing, but who thought to ask one of the Beatles?:

Paul McCartney gives Ohio Couple Permission to Marry

By Diane Bondareff, AP

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — An ordinary down-on-one-knee engagement request just wouldn't be memorable enough for Ben Okuly.

He wanted something more, so he planned to ask his girlfriend, Melissa Steele, at a Paul McCartney concert Oct. 14 in suburban Detroit.

But it became a whole lot more memorable when McCartney joined in.

Since, reportedly, Paul and his late wife Linda were so in love that they never spent a day apart in the course of their marriage, he might not be a bad guy to ask!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Championing the Poor

Props to President Bush and Bono for today's tete-a-tete on behalf of the poor! Whatever you think of Bono, you have to admire his moral courage (and he ain't a bad singer either)!

Bono told Rolling Stone magazine in an interview before they dined that he had no fear of meeting Bush or any other world leader.

"They should be afraid, because they will be held accountable for what happened on their watch," Bono told the magazine for an article on newsstands Friday. "I'm representing the poorest and the most vulnerable people. On a spiritual level, I have that with me. I'm throwing a punch, and the fist belongs to people who can't be in the room, whose rage, whose anger, whose hurt I represent.

"The moral force is way beyond mine, it's an argument that has much more weight than I have. So I'm not feeling nervous."


Today I met with my new spiritual director, an older Jesuit about 30 years my senior. After introductions and a bit of conversation, he leaned back, settled into his chair and said, "What's the brew?"

I thought, Oh God! Is this some kind of sixties hippie code for: what's going on in your spiritual life?

I wasn't quite sure how to respond. Until I realized, he wasn't looking at me. He was looking at the Starbuck's coffee I'd brought with me.

"Cafe Vanilla Frappuccino," I offered, a bit embarassed (of course, I didn't tell him what I'd been thinking).

The rest of the meeting went quite well.

But it does cause me to wonder: Is my spiritual life like a Cafe Vanilla Frappuccino?

Destroying Hitler

It happened in the presidential debates (both candidates did it). I heard it in a promotional ad for the army recently. This casual talk of "destroying" the enemy.

I've also noticed a number of occasions recently where individuals or groups which were being attacked for holding certain opinions were quite unfairly compared to Hitler.

I have to think this kicked up, violent rhetoric which seems to be becoming more common in our national and church debates is hardly helpful and doesn't really reflect the hope for the peace of God's kingdom. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that in times past that people were a bit more careful about taking their rhetoric this far.

To have a viable political campaign, or to attract people to serve their country in the army, do you really have to talk about "destroying" other human beings?

I'd rather hear about not destroying other human beings, and doing so without calling those who don't agree with us "Hitlers" (this, I suspect, is not going to encourage them to rethink their position--and that is what we want them to do, isn't it?).

Has anybody else noticed this? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Child of Politics

Imagine you're in elementary school and your grandmother and aunt are U.S. senators.

This is the case for the grandson of Senator Barbara Boxer, as she revealed in her "Sixteen Questions" in this weekend's New York Times magazine:

Your daughter was married to Hillary Clinton's kid brother, Tony Rodham. Does that make Hillary a relative of yours?

We share a bond, because she is my grandson's aunt. My grandson is the only person that we know of in the history of this country who has both a grandmother and an aunt in the U.S. Senate.

Not to mention that Uncle Bill is a former U.S. President!!

How's that for a family?!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Enough Already!!

Today's Headline:

Waterlogged Northeast enters 8th straight day of rain

The Silence of Abraham and Isaac

I had to present an exegesis of Genesis 22:1-14 in my Old Testament class today. Thought I'd share it with you:

Genesis 22:1-14, often referred to in Christian Bibles as “The Testing of Abraham” and in Jewish tradition as the Akedah, or “Binding of Isaac” is fraught with tension and challenges us with its long silences. It stands as a single narrative unit, but within the development of the larger story of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants. The reader or listener is immediately drawn into the story by the effective use it makes of dramatic irony. Immediately, after only the first verse, we know something that neither Abraham nor Isaac know—God is testing Abraham. And as we listen to God’s command to Abraham, that he should sacrifice now his only, favored son, whom he loves (Besides asking Abraham to sacrifice his family’s future, which God promised through Isaac, God seems to be adding salt on the wound here), we are privy to what Abraham knows but Isaac doesn’t as the two prepare to journey to the place where God has directed them. Given what we know, the story is one of increasing dramatic tension. We watch as Abraham himself cuts the wood for the offering. Then the two travel for three days, during which the story offers nothing but silence. If you’ve ever set out on a long journey with something on your mind, you can just imagine what this must have been like for Abraham.

The break in Abraham’s silence is an interesting one, because his promise to the servants that he and Isaac will return is either a deception, wishful thinking, or a suggestion that he knows something that we don’t. Nevertheless, it is a bit shocking to learn next that Abraham lays the wood on Isaac for the rest of the journey, to a destination still far away, as many as 3-4 days longer, suggests the New Jerome.

This next part of the story, the rest of the journey, is set off by the repetition of the phrase “the two of them walked on together,” certainly to emphasize the dialogue which takes place between Isaac and Abraham. Isaac asks where the lamb for the sacrifice is. One wonders how Abraham could even answer the question, and, again, his words cause us to question. “God will provide,” he says. Is this, we can ask, another deception, is he speaking of Isaac, or does he know something we don’t know? Our questions carry us to their arrival at the mountain, as well as the arrival of the climax. The story slows for a moment as Abraham prepares the altar and binds Isaac, but the tension reaches its peak as Abraham raises the knife to strike. With Abraham, we’re likely to breathe a sigh of relief as the angel stays his hand. Abraham is congratulated for showing his fear of God in not withholding his son, the future of his promised family line, and a ram is given in place of Isaac. Still, we are left with the questions. Did Abraham know something we didn’t know? And, what exactly is this story about anyway?

In its original context, there are a number of possibilities. First, we must notice that this passage begins “after these things,” indicating this is part of a larger story. Indeed, the Jewish tradition has been to see this as the tenth and most important of the trials of Abraham, and there are suggestions in the text to support this. The expression “go to” which God uses in commanding this journey only appears one other place in the Abraham story, in Genesis 12:1, when he is first called. This suggests that despite a few failures along the way, Abraham has finally proven that he has the trust which God asked of him. There is even perhaps a suggestion in the angel’s words “now I know that you fear God,” that God had doubts about Abraham similar to those Abraham expressed about Abimelech in Genesis 20:11. Indeed, Walter Brueggeman speculates that God himself does not know whether Abraham will actually go through with it. The later exilic audience would be likely to understand the binding of Isaac as emblematic of their own captivity, the story holding the promise that God will provide for them, as he did for Abraham and Isaac.

The Jewish study Bible calls the interpretation of this as a polemic against human sacrifice a “widespread misperception,” and the New Jerome downplays this interpretation as well. The Jewish study Bible goes on to note that most rabbinic commentators indeed see Isaac as an adult, and a willing participant in the sacrifice. Jewish commentators also seem to anticipate the Christian connection between this story and the sacrifice of Christ. The substitution of a male sheep is said to foreshadow the Paschal lamb in Exodus, and a midrash relates the laying of the wood on Isaac to the Roman practice of crucifixion. These undergird the obvious parallels between Abraham giving up his only beloved son and God doing the same.

The emphasis in both the Jewish and Christian traditions with regard to this story has been on the faithful obedience of Abraham and Isaac, though as the naming of the stories suggests, the Christian focus is more exclusively on Abraham. This emphasis purports to offer some explanation for the silences the text faces us with, but there is still that and the question: Did Abraham know something we didn’t? The impulse in the historical evaluation of this story has been to say yes. Twelfth century Rabbis Ephraim and Judah, Origen, Augustine, Luther and even the Letter to the Hebrews all suggest that Abraham had some foreknowledge of resurrection or at least a belief that God could raise the dead. If not this, there is the suggestion that Abraham knew God would stop him or somehow see to it that Isaac survived, as Calvin suggests.

But what if what we are faced with is just silent, blind obedience? Can we accept that? Immanuel Kant insisted that a true God could not demand such a thing, and thus found the story absurd. I myself have to wonder why someone who so insistently questioned the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah could be so silent about his own son. The Jewish study Bible provides little consolation when it points out that the innocence of Isaac actually makes the sacrifice more commendable than the “forensic” destruction of the guilty Sodomites. However, at a time when often we find ourselves dwelling in silence at the unspeakable destruction of a September 11, Hurricane Katrina, or an earthquake in Asia, I would suggest that perhaps we not try to explain away the silence which confronts us in this story. Soren Kierkegaard, commending the story over Kant’s objections suggests that the reason for Abraham’s silence is that he can say nothing intelligible in response to the terrible act which God has demanded of him. Indeed, we may find instead in this story how much Abraham’s silence speaks to us when, as pastoral ministers, we are faced with the tragedy of another, and realize that there is no consolation that can be spoken. There is no remedy to the silence. Yet we can, like Abraham and Isaac, join that person on the journey to a place that God will show us, and walk on together.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Nobody Expects . . . The Muppet Inquisition

Most common search terms leading to my blog these days:

"Muppets" and "The Spanish Inquisition"

The Muppet Inquisition, now there's an idea for a screenplay!!

Lego My Ego

The Lego Me?

Fun with thanks to Susan Rose and The Mini-Mizer.


Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

A wandering spirit caring for a multitude of just concerns, you are an instrumental power in many of the causes around you.

And so am I, very dangerous: more dangerous than anything you will ever meet, unless you are brought alive before the seat of the Dark Lord.

Essential Reading

I've offered my contribution to Busted Halo's "Essential Reading" feature.

Check it out here.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Consolation for Red Sox Nation


Angels, 5 Yankees, 3

Sunday, October 09, 2005

New additions to the blogroll

I've been meaning to add these blogs to the blogroll, and I finally got around to it:

Maior Autem His Est Caritas

Sprite & Cookies

Paper Moon

Suitable for Mixed Company

ukok's place

Quo Vadam ed ad quid?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Finally, "Silence"?

The film rights to one of my favorite novels, Silence, by Japanese Catholic novelist Shukasu Endo, have been floating around Hollywood for many years now. Martin Scorcese has owned the rights most recently, but it's been a while. It seems, finally, that this might be his next film. It's an amazing story about Jesuit missionaries to Japan during the persecution of the Church there. Thelma Schoonmaker, a film editor who has worked with Scorcese for many years says this:

Do you have any idea what you will be doing next?

A movie called 'Silence', which is based on a great Japanese novel about 16th century Portuguese missionaries in Japan. It's something very close to Scorsese's heart – he's wanted to make it for many years but he's never really had the time to write the script and get it funded. But we're all hoping that this time it's going to happen, and it looks like we're going to shoot it in New Zealand as well. That will be very exciting, and I think I will have to do a lot of research for that one!

If it happens, this should be an amazing Catholic film, and I think Scorcese will give the story its due.

Go Marty!!

More on this great novel here and here.

They Speak It With Their Mouths, But . . .

Here's the problem with so many supposedly "pro-life" politicians, they claim to oppose abortion to get elected, but then don't ever really do anything about it. Today's editorial in the New York times gets at the problem:

Another Republican for Roe?

Published: October 6, 2005

STOP me if you've heard this one. A pro-life Republican president nominates a Supreme Court justice. The fate of Roe v. Wade, that momentous, muddled law of the land since 1973, hangs in the balance. Despite the best efforts of Democratic senators to force a confession, the elusive nominee remains mum on Roe and rides overwhelming Republican support to confirmation. (A pro-choice group immediately issues a press release that the sky is, in fact, falling.)

But a funny thing happens once the nominee is safely ensconced on the court: instead of sinking Roe, he supports it.

Read the rest . . .

And meanwhile they threaten to veto a bill that insists on respecting the human rights of prisoners of war:

Senate Moves to Protect Military Prisoners Despite Veto Threat

Published: October 6, 2005

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 - Defying the White House, the Senate overwhelmingly agreed Wednesday to regulate the detention, interrogation and treatment of prisoners held by the American military.

The measure ignited a fierce debate among many Senate Republicans and the White House, which threatened to veto a $440 billion military spending bill if the detention amendment was tacked on, saying it would bind the president's hands in wartime.

Read the rest . . .

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

There's Just SO Many Possibilities!

This one's just begging for captions. Whaddya say?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

And the winner is . . .

Which of these men do you think won the freestyle beard championship at the World Moustache and Beard Championships?

See comments for the answer.


There have been a spate of visitors to my site recently who found it by means of a search for The Spanish Inquisition. Should I be worried?

The content of this site is the responsibility of its author and administrator, Mark Mossa, SJ, and does not necessarily represent the Society of Jesus