Aug 19, 2006

Mateo Ricci--Jesuit Inculturationist

I had thought that Fr. Teilhard de Chardin S.J. had pretty much passed into oblivion, but here comes Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach. father general of the Jesuits, who compares Chardin to Fr. Mateo Ricci, who traveled to China and became the court mathematician in Peking. I find the comparison interesting because both of the named Jesuits compromised and adapted their Catholic faith to the environment of the time. Both inculturationists were disciplined by the Church.

Ricci was a Jesuit missioniary of the late 16th and early 17th centuries who spent the last 27 years of his life living and dressing as a Chinese scholar, and is considered a leading inculturationist who incorporated Chinese religious beliefs into Catholic liturgy. Because the practice of ancestor worship was so deepseated in Chinese society, Ricci allowed the new Chinese Catholics to continue with the ceremonies that honored the dead and Confucius. He also used certain Chinese terms to designate God that were later declared incorrect by Popes.

After much controversy and the passionate defense of Ricci by the Jesuits, the accomodations of Fr. Ricci to Chinese paganism were condemned in 1742 by Pope Benedict XIV in the Bull "Ex quo singulari." The Bull required the missionaries to take an oath that such abuses would not be tolerated in the future. Ceremonies in honour of Confucius or dead ancestors and relatives were said to be tainted with superstition to such a degree that they could not be purified.

In July 1983, the Red Chinese published a laudatory piece on Fr. Mateo Ricci. Seizing on this possible opening of Chinese Communism to Christianity, an International Convention to honor Mateo Ricci was held in in Rome during October 2001. The conference was sponsored by the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Italo-Chinese Institute. In a message to participants, Pope John Paul II called for the normalization of diplomatic relations with Red China. He also apologized to the Chinese for errors and actions that the Church in China had committed in the past. Enuff said!

Saintly Service in the Closet

I've been privileged to know a few people who have given saintly service to the Church, yet who will remain mostly unknown in closets of the past. One is a lady who has been dead for over ten years. Her life seemed to be divided into four parts--a very exciting international life before marriage; a happy life with a nice house, couple of kids, and golfing at the country club; a challenging life with a child that brought her into pro-life work, and a more difficult yet serene life when she was mostly homebound because of her health.

My friend was a great letter writer. Many times I would read her commentaries in public and church newspapers and magazines. She was distinctive in that her submittals were often the shortest letters published, yet they usually said the most.

It was her private letters that gave the most saintly service to the Church. She wrote many, many letters of encouragement to good priests who were tempted to leave the priesthood. The priests knew they were being robbed of their dignity and identity in Catholic churches during the 70's, 80's, and early 90's. They felt emasculated by limitations on their authority, certain women given responsibility for priestly duties, and mandatory retreats that left them dry of spiritual life.

From the little my friend would tell me, I knew she corresponded with a goodly number of these priests with her regular letters. Without her encouragement, I believe many good priests would have simply walked away from the horrible messes following Vatican II. Yet these good priests stayed to give the sacraments to faithful Catholics, even though sometimes they were severely limited in what they could and should do.

Esther, May God bless and reward you for your letters of encouragement to priests.

Aug 18, 2006

Large Houses and Lost Sippy Cups

All of our children now have larger houses than we do. Do I envy them? Oh, no! Both my husband and I think a large house is more of a rock around the neck forcing us to spend more money and time than either of us want to give. In addition, a large house requires a lot more effort to clean. I find my own housecleaning a real chore, and I live with the continuing promise of cleaning tomorrow, because I have more important things to do today.

I've just finished babysitting for one of our youngest grandchildren while her parents camped at a nearby lake with the older children. The toddler was good and I had extra time, even to make some brownies. My daughter wants me not to work excessively when I come, so she had gotten her children to help her clean the large house, and it appeared cleaner than mine.

Why is it that I always look for dirt to clean when I go to my children's houses to babysit? It is clearly an unnatural vice, because I always avoid looking at the dirt in my own house. Is it a problem with my eyesight? Or with my focus? Really, I just want to help my children because their large houses often have a lot of variety in cleaning opportunities. And the reward is greater because I usually get hugs and thank you's when my work is done.

The first thing I did after I arrived was to try to find a clean sippy cup so the toddler would not spill her milk. A sippy cup is made of three parts--the cup, the valve, and the lid through which the baby sucks the drink. The sippy cup drawer was full of misaligned parts, and only one lid fit with any of the clean cups, although a couple of correct valves were available. I decided to find some of the missing parts that I knew must be hidden around the large house.

Unless one counts the wastebasket, the most likely place to find missing toys (my grandchildren's greatest sorrow in life) is under things--under the table, under the sofa, under the bed, etc. From experience, I know the most promising place to look for baby bottles and sippy cups is under beds. As I went from bed to bed, I picked up the skirt and peered into the semi-darkness. I immediately found junk, otherwise known as my grandchildren's treasures. Moreover I found dirt--the most evil substance in the universe. [Sorry, League of Evil Traditionalists, you don't come close to matching the REAL thing.]

Success! I found three pieces of sippy cups under the seven beds. I also found an old baby bottle (which the toddler no longer uses) and a complete sippy cup assembly (yes, the milk was curdled into the solid part and the liquid part).

I'm sure my daughter thought her house looked clean enough that I wouldn't look and I wouldn't clean. Old grannies, at least this one, just can't help themselves.

Aug 15, 2006

We Are Hated, Not Evil

"Blessed shall you be when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you and shall reproach you and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake." Luke 6:22

Just to get this off my chest...

Aug 14, 2006

Excessive Blogging--A Heresy in the Home

My previous post focused on the mostly sedentary life of a blogger--perhaps leading to a few of us unwilling to show a photo of a fat slob in front of a computer screen. Excessive blogging is actually a heresy in the home that pretends we are only a distant intellectual being and avoids our physical being. The internet doesn't permit a real smile (only an artificial smilie) or hand shaking, and mostly avoids the hearing of our voices.

The danger is especially great if we blog too much with children at home. We may believe that someday our blogs will penetrate to our young children. Yet children are trained in truth by mostly their overhearing external discussions--preferably in person where the child can hear both sides of the conversation.

Our legacy will not be our blogs but our children. I've assigned a scoring system that ranks the different kinds of discussions we have with each other and that can influence our children for good:
  • Old times -- parent to friend in presence of child (2 pts)
  • Recent past--parent to friend on phone (1 pt)
  • Now--parent to others by email and blog (0 pts)
The best training is when a child can hear both sides of an adult conversation (2 points), --provided the parent realizes that part of the conversation that attracts the child is a good teaching experience. In second place (with 1 point) are phone calls with good Catholic pro-life friends. My children say they learned many good things that way, even though they really didn't like Mom to be on the phone so long. Blogging is dead last with zero points because the young child cannot read or is uninterested in reading a non-fiction blog.

Blogging is an extremely effective way of evangelization, in addition to explaining the truth to fellow Catholics and giving and gaining support from each other in times of difficulty. A little alcohol is very good too. But some people seem intoxicated with the web (and I'm finding that it is easy to become addicted).

So just as Alcoholics Anonymous has some questions for a possible alcoholic, here are my questions for bloggers:
  1. Are you searching the web constantly for news items on which to comment?
  2. Are you praying enough that God sends good ideas for your next post?
  3. Is blogging a substitute for cleaning or cooking duties in your house?
  4. Does blogging interfere with your job responsibilities?
  5. Do you spend more than about two hours a day on blogging?
  6. Do you blog during times when your spouse or children are entitled to your help?
  7. Do you believe your blogging will 'save the world'? Where did you get that crazy idea?
  8. Have you recently scanned some secular posts where the vacuous nature of the posts are so apparent? Are you beginning to copy these blogs with your own inconsequential posts?
  9. Is your good health and well-being being jeopardized by becoming sedentary and overweight due to excessive blogging?
So what's the cure for addicted bloggers? Think about it. How many really good posts can you produce a week or a month? I'm surprised that more joint blogs aren't being developed, such as the Shrine of the Holy Whapping. Is this type of blog with several contributors a partial answer to excessive blogging?

Aug 13, 2006

What do Bloggers Look Like?

I've noticed that some bloggers encourage using real names, rather than pen names such as 'dustiam.' I'd like to propose an alternative. Why not use a photo of a blogger or simply post the height and weight of a blogger? We could easily tell if a particular person is showing the effects of too much blogging. [Maybe that's the reason why there are so few pictures of bloggers who are more than 25 years old.]

Based on my experience of less than two months, blogging takes a lot of mental energy but little physical energy. It is so easy to use a nearby flat surface to hold drinks and food that are eaten without thinking. I confess that right now a glass that is within arm's reach was formerly full of milk, ice cream, and chocolate malt. Unfortunately, I told myself it was ok to fix the shake because I exercised earlier.

So here are my questions for bloggers:
  1. Are you now wearing loose fitting clothes or pajamas that have grown a little tighter recently?
  2. Do you prefer to eat your meals and snacks as you blog?
  3. Is the only time you get up from the computer terminal when you go to the refrigerator (or to the littlest room in the house)?
  4. Do you leave your (cell) phone next to the monitor so that if it rings, you don't need to get out of your chair?
  5. If there were a free service for an artist to draw a cartoon of you seated at your terminal, would you post it on your blog? Even if the face were eliminated?
  6. Do you walk regularly by a full length mirror? Do you look and cry?