Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Retirees Conquer the World

This is cool. The Ignatian Lay Volunteer Corps brings together retired persons fifty years or older working with and for the poor, together with spiritual guidance and prayerful reflection. Volunteers make a one year commitment to working two days a week, with an opportunity to re-up each year. This is work for God that is also working on one's own soul -- in the best Jesuit spiritual tradition. Good stuff all around.

Success Favors the Bold

Afghan women win big at the polls!

Waiting to Die

I think this post says it all about the joys of nationalized healthcare in Canada. Go look at the chart of typical waits for normal procedures and be appalled. And then there's this:

In Canada, MRI's are rarely available and are underutilized.

There are a litany of horror stories of patients left in hospital hallways for days on end, or worse.

In NY State, prisoners (poorly treated by US medical standards) released on parole have to wait 45 days to get on a healthcare program. In other words, if that parolee needed heart surgery (and didn't get it in prison), he would get it faster than if he were a law abiding, Canadian citizen.

The History of Telenovelas!

I have long said that telenovelas (Mexican and Latin American soap operas) rule. It appears that the rest of the world agrees with me.

Sigh. Why don't we have any Spanish language channels on the cable here (well, except the morning programming on EWTN)? Sigh.

St Gertrude the Great?

Okay, so who the heck is St. Gertrude, and what makes her so great? Heck, she's the only female saint called the Great. Why?

St. Gertrude was an orphan, her family name unknown, who was raised by Benedictine nuns and brought into their community. Like most nuns at that point in medieval times, she was a scholar. Initially, she was more interested in her studies than her God, but when she was 25, she had a change of heart. From then on she became a great mystic and had the requisite visions, miracles, and so forth... but she also wrote Latin works which were helpful in spiritual life. St. Teresa de Avila, for example, chose her as her model and guide. TAN is apparently publishing some of these works under the title of The Life and Revelations of St. Gertrude the Great. She also wrote a set of Spiritual Exercises which are still used today in some communities.

Here's a short but very useful intro which also tells you why she's "the Great".

As always, we can consult the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Another good page on St. Gertrude. This one is part of a POD, do-it-yourself lay apostolate: The Mission to Empty Purgatory. Yes, they mean to empty purgatory by using St. Gertrude the Great's prayer, which allegedly releases 1000 souls per time said. Yes, they have a pledge page. Yes, they have a page to show how close they've gotten to their estimated goal: only 90 million some to go.

Dang, we American Catholics do think big, don't we? Hee! Let's do it!

(Somewhere, my poor Evangelical friend Joy is cringing and wondering what Maureen is going to advocate next....)

Also , one of our "traditional" separated brethren has created a whole webpage on just this saint! It's good info, so ignore the radtrad nonsense and use the good stuff, in the real Catholic tradition of despoiling the Egyptians. :)

Here's some information on her devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Towards a Public Domain Liturgy of the Hours

Just like they did when they were Jews, the early Christians prayed at certain times of the day. This never went away, but turned into the Liturgy of the Hours (aka the Divine Office, the Office, the Daily Office, Common Prayer, Opus Dei, or the Work of God.) This is a system of psalms, prayers, and readings, varying by the weekday, season, and time of day, so people get big chunks of the Bible and don't get bored.

Most people don't do all of the Hours, but those who've been ordained are supposed to; most cloistered monastic communities also say all the hours. Some even sing or chant it. Most religious communities at least do morning and evening (Lauds and Vespers) prayer together, though they may follow their own community's usage instead of the standard breviary. However, the Council Fathers of Vatican II also recommended that all the laity make morning and evening prayer according to the Hours. (I never saw a felt banner pointing that out.)

You may ask yourself, where the heck do I get a breviary? What does one look like? Why didn't someone give me one at First Communion, if it's so honking important? (Okay, maybe that's just me.) Well, there are two major print options. One is a one volume book called Christian Prayer. (Boy, that just screams "find Liturgy of the Hours inside", doesn't it? Nothing generic about that title.) The other is a four volume set called "Liturgy of the Hours" which allows you not to waste all your time flipping back and forth, but will cost you somewhere between 100-150 dollars. (Ah, the accessibility.) Needless to say, none of these volumes have anything like the purty pictures you might recall seeing in medieval books of hours, even if the art books were very vague on what the written bits said.

The Internet has been a big boon to this devotion, making it possible not only to explain the principles of saying the Hours to clueless newbies such as myself, but also allowing them to pray along without dropping a wad of cash on hard-to-find books.

So it's kind of a big deal when Bettnet notes that is going off the free Net, to be replaced by a subscription service called is still fine, though. Also, we have Fr. Roderick's Praystation Portable.

Clearly, what we need is some sort of public domain liturgy of the hours, with the new breviary presented with its readings from the Bible and various other sources being drawn from public domain translations.

Meanwhile, one approach is that taken by Fr. Kenny, a Dominican in Nigeria who has created "the ultimate Liturgy of the Hours". The current version of the readings and prayers are all presented in the original languages, which cuts out the middleman. (Don't panic. He also made his own translations.) He also includes the chant tunes. (But the links to hymns are often to hymns in Hausa, so I hope you've boned up on your clicks and such.) Yes, this is real PODness, with a large helping of linguistic and musical geekdom on top. And no pages to flip. Awesome work!

Another liturgy of the hours resource is Pray the Psalms Daily with the Monks. It's more than just the psalms. (Oh, and Blue Cloud Abbey is a Benedictine monastery out in South Dakota. So that is a real placename.)

Here's something really interesting: a site for the Byzantine Catholic liturgy of the hours! Breathe with your other lung for a while! This site also features extensive links to Eastern Catholicism resources.

The Erie Benedictines write out some of the readings. The Yankton Benedictines provide a list of the readings, but you have to look them up yourself. There are plenty of other websites of this kind, as well as communities using their own readings and prayer schedule.

For those who'd like something shorter, there's also the modern version of The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. No pictures, alas. Here's an HTML version, but it only includes Morning and Evening prayers. An English version of the old Office is available (with illustrations!) at the Hypertext Book of Hours.

Finally, since I saw it listed on several links sites, I thought I should probably point out that is an Anglican site, although it doesn't say that right off. Their Divine Office and the Catholic Divine Office are not the same. Just so we're all clear on that.

St. Albert on the Web!

Hey! Two of St. Albert the Great's over seventy works are actually up on the Web! Check out "De quindecim problematibus" (Of Fifteen Problems), written circa 1270, and now available on that wonderful collection of Latin works, Bibliotheca Augustana. And there's also a copy of "De Fato" (Of Fate).

(I gather that "On Cleaving to God" isn't really by him. Neither is this medieval commentary on the Psalms, though it's very interesting.)

Also, here's a post at Blog by the Sea about his work to make Aristotle accessible to Christian academia.

It turns out that one famous picture of St. Albert by Tommaso da Modena was part of a series decorating a Dominican convent. I like the magnifying glass!

Here's a comment by our guy on marriage:

"Nothing prevents marriage from thus being traced back to two or three divine institutions: one relative to nature precisely as nature, another relative to nature precisely as fallen, a third relative to nature precisely as redeemed by Christ. And so marriage is the sacrament of innocence, in the Old Testament and in the New."

Here's another Marian comment by our guy:

"Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favour with God."

Note, Mary, that you have found grace,
not taken it as Lucifer tried to do.

You have found grace, not lost it as Adam did.

You have found favor with God
because you desired and sought it.

You have found uncreated grace --
that is, God Himself became your Son --

and with that Grace
you have found and obtained every uncreated good.

Finally, here are lots of St. Albert links from the Dominicans.

Scary Reading

Via Charlotte Allen, a study of how Salafist English suicide bombers think.

You know, it sounds like these folks really need evangelization and rebirth, not to mention aggressive policing of their neighborhoods and a strict anti-truancy policy to keep girls in school. If anybody ever needed the love of Jesus, these folks do. Pray that God will help them remake their twisted souls.

(Not that I didn't kill Christ, but sheesh. Think and do all this stuff and then blow yourself up while hurting others? Not the best condition of soul to meet God in.)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

No, Banshee, Tell Me How You Really Feel.

It's just as well I did forget about Fr. Gearhart's nifty post on St. Albert the Great, because right above that, the good father goes into McCain compliment mode. (Boy, I hope that's tongue-in-cheek. Very.)

My opinion on McCain differs from his. But then, it differs quite a bit from that of almost everyone else I know, so hey, why not air it on my blog?

I'm sick of McCain, frankly. Yes, he was a hero when the chips were down. But apparently, when the chips are not down, he has absolutely no hesitation in following his own opinions to the exclusion of anyone else's needs. Party loyalty to him is as a breath of air pushing against bricks.

Political promises also mean nothing; he always reserves the right to change his mind and say, "Oh, well, my conscience won't let me do that now." Well, if that happened once or twice, I think I'd understand. But if your conscience is going to change its mind as frequently as McCain's, you ought not to promise anyone anything until you and your conscience have chatted fully.

So yes, McCain's candid. But when someone candidly tells you he's about to torpedo you... and he's on your own side... well, there's something to be said for showing a little shame, however hypocritically.

Still, seeing as how he fights for causes he believes in and how he is loyal to those he believes to be his own, I can only assume that Mr. McCain no longer considers himself a Republican, a conservative, or anything else but a McCainite. Which is fine, but if that's what he is, he should run as such, and not take money from those he has come to despise. That would be candor.

I suspect that I feel so strongly on this subject because I have been subjected to a false friend. One of my less lovely childhood memories of parochial school in my old parish was getting taunted by a whole big ring of boys, which turned into fighting with them. (Fortunately, I had brothers, and they were apparently unaware that girls could punch hard. I enlightened them.) All the while, I kept expecting my best friend (a girl who was the biggest and strongest kid in my class) to wade in, bring the adults to save me, or at least yell support. Nothing happened. The adults maintained their usual observation of that Catholic value, the Prime Directive. The boys only broke it up when one of the teachers happened to look outside and see what was going on, and came out to deal with it.

Well, I expected constant harassment from the other kids and constant negligence from the adults. But if my brothers' classes had been out on the playground with us, I knew they would have waded in. Yet my friend, who was even taller than my elder brother, had stood there watching and pretending not to know me. Now, that upset me. I inquired the reason for this action.

She told me, without any shame, with perfect self-righteousness, that I couldn't possibly have expected her to fight all those boys. (Did I mention that she was very proud of her strength?) I had set them off, after all, by being alive. And besides, telling the adults wouldn't have done anything. The whole thing was my problem. I should be glad that she hung out with me at all.

False friends and allies have their uses. But really, they are worse associates than outright enemies. At least you know where your enemies stand. You have a decent hope that they will see the light or have a shift in self-interest. But a false friend is a false friend forever.

Happy St. Albert's Day!

My parish being dedicated to the Universal Doctor, we celebrate his feast two days ahead of time this year (to get it onto a Sunday). Our new organ will be officially blessed for use in giving God worship at the 9:30. Our choir is going to sing something special at that Mass. And I'm cantoring this morning at the 8:00! Yay!

UPDATE: Since I was half asleep this morning when I posted, I totally forgot to mention the nifty post on St. Albert by Fr. Gearhart on his blog. Also, don't miss this post on tribalism, globalism, and trying to get the truths of the Church into people's skulls (my wording!). In fact, there's tons of excellently cool stuff here!

If you happen to be close enough to Ohio Dominican University's main campus over in Columbus, they're going to have a lecture in honor of St. Albert on November 16 (a day late) at 10:30 AM.

A good article from earlier this month about St. Albert and the "conflict" between faith and science. Which he exposed as bogus. A loooooong time ago.

St. Albert's Canadian connection. New to me!

Here's an incunabulus (early printed book, often colored by hand) of his "De Mysterio Missae" (Of the Mystery of the Mass). The third and fourth images begin the text of the book, which the Latin scholars among you can read if you call up the (much!) larger image. There's some nice imagery right at the beginning.

Finally, I think I should note the interesting fact that he was very dedicated in his private devotions to praying the Hail Mary. (Or to be technical, just the Angelic Salutation part. That was all there was to an Ave in his time.) "A hundred times a day he bent his knees, and fifty times he prostrated himself raising his body again by his fingers and toes, while he repeated at every genuflexion: 'Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb'." (150 times for the 150 psalms, just like the pre-Luminous Mysteries rosary.) Talk about spiritual exercise!

I also picked up a cool new (to me) St. Albert quote about Mary's pregnancy:

"Magis Deo conjungi, nisi fieret Deus, non potuit."

(She could not have been more united to God except by becoming God herself.)