Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Catholics Have Daily Mass - Neener, Neener, Neener!

Here's an interesting story from The Washington Post about Wednesday night Protestant church services becoming popular again. In the story, one man talks about how being Christian is a lifestyle, not a one-day-a-week obligation. He's right on that point. But what he misses is that the only completely authentic Christian lifestyle is a Eucharistic lifestyle, which flows naturally from the Mass. The Mass, of course, is celebrated most joyfully on Sundays because of that day's "little Easter" designation. But the Mass is so vital that we have the opportunity to attend everyday. The Catholic Church is the only faith that recognizes that the unity of our heavenly destination and our earthly journey is made whole in the celebration of daily Mass.

I'm a huge fan of country music and this story reminded me of two recent country songs which I had problems with the first time I heard them and made me want to invigorate the heavily-Protestant country music world with some Catholic talent. The first song is "Monday Morning Church" by Alan Jackson, in which he sings about his woman's abscence leaving his "heart as empty as a Monday morning church." Yeah, Alan, unless of course you were Catholic and then the Monday morning church would be full. The second song is "What I Love about Sundays" by Craig Morgan, in which he sings about what he loves about Sundays - things like wearing jeans, football, blah, blah. But what we Catholics love about Sundays is the opportunity to attend a celebration of little Easter in the Mass.

Time On My Hands

Here's a really interesting story from The New York Times about Japan's obsession with punctuality and how it may have played a part in the devastating train crash (death toll now at 91) outside of Osaka Monday. The driver, as you may have heard, was travelling around a curve at twice the speed limit to make up for a 90 second delay.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Great Homily

Preached by Monsignor Peter Magee at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington last weekend is posted at Amy Welborn's blog.

Those who would seek to define the Church as "liberal" or "conservative" may be forgetting that one of the traditional descriptions of the Church is: "Ever ancient, ever new."

Interestingly enough, I have a project for a journalism graphics class in which I have to create and design a new publication. Mine is a weekly national Catholic newspaper for 15-30 year olds and it's name is Ever New. I'm working now on the design for the flag (the nameplate). Say a prayer that the whole thing turns out well. It's a lot of work, designing a newspaper.

Peer Pressure

You may have noticed from the names to your right that Catholic Girl Talk is supposed to be a group blog. Alas, only your's truly has posted thus far. Please encourage Lacy and Sierra to post. They're funny, they're intelligent and they have important things to say.

Please, please, please, Lacy and Sierra, post to the blog!

Lies and Pope Benedict XVI

There are malicious rumors floating around the MSM that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI is a cat lover. Luckily, Fr. Bill received a copy of the press release below, and passed it on to me and our beloved but slightly-misguided-in-her-love of cats pastoral assistant, Michelle.

VATICAN NEWS SERVICE
PRESS RELEASE


Date: April 25, 2005

FROM: JOAQUIN NAVARRO-VALLS
Vatican Press Secretary

It has been reported recently that our Holy Father Benedict XVI favors cats. This is a categorically false statement. In a recent speech he stated, “We hate cats. Now dogs are close to the heart of God.”


VATICAN CITY ROCKS

Monday, April 25, 2005

Some Interesting Articles on B16

Though I haven't read TIME's stories for this week (darn subscription-only website and $4 newsstand price!), Newsweek seems to have gotten the better of them in coverage of our new pope (minus Anna Quindlen). Here's a couple of interesting ones: One from JPII biographer George Weigel on Pope Benedict the man and one on the Vatican press corps' reaction to Pope John Paul II's death.

Americans Love Pope Benedict XVI

Germans may love one of our own, David Hasselhoff (sp?), and we Americans love one of their own, Pope Benedict XVI. Check out this Washington Post-ABC News Poll. It found that more than 80 percent of American Catholics approve of the new pope and 73 percent are enthusiastic about him. Now, as the then Cardinal Ratzinger said himself, "Truth is not determined by majority vote," what American Catholics think about abortion, women priests, birth control, etc. doesn't really matter - the truth does. But what does matter is that even though they may disagree with him about those things, American Catholics are excited about our new pontiff and that's a good thing.

It's a Blogger's World

I had breakfast this morning with The Baltimore Sun's Executive Editor, Timothy Franklin. Mr. Franklin is a member of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism Board of Visitors, which had its annual meeting today. I was asked to have breakfast with him and some other people as a student representative.

I was very impressed with Mr. Franklin. He spent the entire hour asking students what we thought about the college, about journalism's future and about The Sun and what it could do better. And he was actually paying attention. I brought about the subject of blogs, what it means for modern journalism, how I thought the MSM should be more receptive to them and how the MSM can make better use of them. A fellow student and I encouraged him to think about creating Sun blogs (possibly from the paper's public editor) as a way to interact directly with readers. He was very excited about the idea and said he was going to talk about it with some other people when he got back to the newsroom. I'm excited about that. The Sun has a great website - it just needs to make better use of it.

And for those blog lovers out there, check out this announcement:
The Philip Merrill College of Journalism is hosting a panel for the
regional chapter of the Online News Association on blogging and bloggers
next Thursday, April 28, from 7-8:15 p.m., in Jimenez Hall, Room 0220.
Students and faculty are most definitely welcome. Some snacks will be
offered in the lobby of the Journalism Building immediately after.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Only Thing That Makes Me Uncomfortable About the New Pope

...is his apparent great love for cats. Sigh. I'll get over it. Eventually.

Friday, April 22, 2005

I Just Don't Get...

How people can complain about the need for an increased role of the laity in the Church while also complaining that we don't have enough priests (though they conveniently forget that that's only a problem in the West and that in Africa and Asia, vocations are booming). The reason we have lay people as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and in other roles is because there aren't enough priests and religious men and women to fill all those spots. The moment we have an overflow of priests and religious, there won't be as much for the laity to do (of course, I'm talking about in the day to day operations of the Church here, not in things like supporting the Church and her priests with prayers and being a good example of a Christian family in the secular world). This is kind of like people who complain that Pope John Paul II made the papacy authoritarian and then complained that he didn't step in in individual dioceses during the sex abuse scandal.

Priests and religious aren't grown on some priest and religious farm. All of priests and religious formative years are shaped in large part by laity. They come out of regular families - families with 2 parents, single parents, no parents. Families with lots of money, some money, no money. Some are born to their parents, some are adopted by them. Some are good Catholic families, some are not-so-good Catholic families. Some are large, some are small. Some are black, some white. Some from Africa, some from Asia. Some went to Catholic schools, some to public. Some worked in the corporate world, some always wanted to become priests. It really is a diverse group of people.

I was thinking about this watching Pope John Paul II's funeral. During the Presentation of the Gifts, an Asian couple (looked like from Vietnam, possibly, but I'm not sure) who were wearing large scapulars presented gifts to the then-Cardinal Ratzinger. I said, "Oh, maybe they're 3rd Order Carmelites because Pope John Paul was a 3rd Order Carmelite." Then I thought about how the gifts of bread and wine, presented by a lay people - a married couple - on behalf of the whole Church would become the Body and Blood of Christ. In much of the same way, parents of children with vocations to the priesthood and religious life the same thing. They give their children up to God for the good of the whole Church. Their priest sons become another Christ. Their nun/sister daughters become brides of Christ. Lay people take what they've been given - their children - turn them back to God, and then He transforms them into His new life to be of total and free loving service to the Church.

A Religious Experience

As you may know, the Catholic Student Center held a Memorial Mass for our late pontiff, John Paul II, two weeks ago. Almost 500 students came, as well as some other university chaplains. But, though Fr. Bill had extended a very nice invitation to them, not one member of the administration showed up. Not one. It was rude, to say the least.

At first I thought that despite the fact the Catholic Church is the most diverse body in the world, we weren't diverse enough for the administration, since that's their big kick. But less than a week later, I found out that's only part of the problem. The other half is that the administration, however smart individual members may be in their own fields, have little wisdom when it comes to things spiritual.

A was invited to represent the journalism college at a "Celebration of Scholarships" luncheon the administration hosted at the new Samuel Riggs Alumni Center last week. In addition to showing off some of my work, I got a free lunch, which was attended by 500 other people. During the lunch, basketball coach Gary Williams spoke and then university President Dan Mote did.

You can't see it in the drawings on the website, by the Alumni Center has a big stained glass window of Maryland's flag on one wall. The luncheon was the first event held at the center.

During the event, President Mote remarked: "Isn't this new building just beautiful. It's amazing. With the stained glass, it's almost a religious experience. It's just fanastic. Really like a religious experience."

I started laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, and my iced tea almost came flying out of my mouth. Mote thinks stained glass = religious experience. Dr. Mote may be one of the world's leading experts on the physics of skiing, but that doesn't absolve him from stupidity.

As Thomas A. of Catholicae Testudines said when I told them the story...People have such an innate desire for liturgy that when they reject the authentic liturgy (the Mass, most importantly), they compensate for it by creating their own pseudo liturgies, like putting a stained glass flag in the wall of an alumni center to give the building the feeling of a "religious experience."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

New Facebook Group

Maryland's TheFacebook.com is now home to the His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI Fan Club. Within 5 minutes of its creation, it had 2 members - and it's growing. If you're from Maryland an you're on Facebook, sign up today! It's the coolest group around.

It's only competitor is, of course, the His Holiness Pope John Paul II Fan Club. They're not actually competitors. They're really a team. Join both!

Lift Your Glass

I heard someone say today that Fr. Bill said we should all have a German drink in honor of our new pope. I can't corraborate that quote as of yet, but it sounds like Fr. Bill and it sounds like a good idea. The Knights of Columbus are having their annual pig roast this weekend. And they could have German beer there if they wanted to. Hint, hint. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus Papam!

Pope Benedict XVI.

Say a prayer for the
new Holy Father as eases into the Petrine office.

Viva Il Papa!

UPDATE: I found out about our Holy Father's election during my 20th century European intellectual history course. I like my professor - he tries to be funny, he genuinely knows his stuff and he seems to really want us to learn. But he does seem quite adversarial to religion in general. One of the guys in my class had wireless Internet and announced before class that a new pope had been elected, but it hand' t been announced yet who it was. Then, with about 15 minutes of class yet, someone started playing what sounded like the Battle Hymn of the Republic (could have been another patriotic song) out on McKeldin Mall on a trumpet. My professor got thrown off in his lecture by it and the kid with the computer said, "Maybe it's in honor of the new pope."
My prof said, "They elected someone?"
"Yeah," the kid said, "Ratzinger. Now he's Benedict XVI."
"Ratzinger, really?" my prof asked. "Well now we're going to talk about Simone de Beauvoir. He wouldn't like her. Then again, she wouldn't have liked him. But I like her."

Hmmm...whatever.

When I asked my mom what she thought about our new pope, I thought she had a valuable insight. She was in class with her 8th grade religion students and they watched the announcement live. She said she was struck by the smile on Pope Benedict's face as he walked out on the balcony in St. Peter's. She said she thought it was very clear that he was a humble, kind man - and people who are humble lead others in the right direction.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Summer Reading List

I'm now accepting nominations on what to read for the summer. I do like many of the books I get to read for classes, but they leave little time for pleasure reading in college, and I want to make up for it in the summer. Last summer I was fairly productive, having read Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, Hugo's Les Miserables (got through about 800 of the 1400 pages before the summer was over), Pope John Paul's Crossing the Threshold of Hope and St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life, in addition to tons of children's literature while working/reading to kids at the Center for Young children (for recent children's books releases, I recommend the David! series and the book Mudpuddles - a huge hit with my 3-year-old class).

For this summer, Fr. Bill already recommended one, there's a big book release planned (guess what it is!), there's a couple I've started but not yet finished, etc., etc.

So, in no particular order, here they are. I'm open to other suggestions/changes/etc.

*Chesterton's Orthodoxy
*Twain's Huckleberry Finn
*PJP II's Memory and Identity
*Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame
*Woodward and Bernstein's All the President's Men
*a reread ofRowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to prepare for the release of...
*Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
*continue reading The Catechism of the Catholic Church
*reread of Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ. I think the translation I had before wasn't very good, but luckily my wonderful roommate got me a different translation for Christmas, knowing that I love St. Therese and this book was her favorite.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Witness to Hope

I know I'm rather late on my Pope John Paul II blogging, but for the last week I've been kind of numb to everything and trying to understand and collect my thoughts on it.

As attested to by anyone who had encountered him and by the titles of books written by/about him, Pope John Paul II was a man of hope. As a friend and I discussed last week, the pope experienced many tragedies in his life - his mother's death when he was 8, the deaths of his father and brother by the time he was 21, life during the Nazi occupation in which he watched his friends be brutally killed by Nazis, life under Communist rule in which he saw his beloved Poles oppressed, an assasination attempt. For any regular person, any one of those things could have caused a person to give into despair. But for John Paul, even the combination of all those things couldn't drive him to despair. Instead, he was full of hope - not because his life got easier as he went on (it did just the opposite, in fact, as evidenced by his final sufferings and the burden of the office he carried), but because he drew strength from the Eucharist and Our Lady and through them found that his real goal was Heaven, not consolation here on earth. One of my favorite quotes from him is: "We are an Easter people and hallelujah is our song."

When I was home for spring break (which was Holy Week), my sister was telling me about how they had had a discussion in her religion class (she, like me previously, attends Pope John Paul II High School, the first high school in the nation named after the pope). The discussion involved Judas and that his biggest sin was not his betrayal of Christ, but the despair that led him to suicide because he couldn't accept that Christ could forgive him. There are many Judases in our world today whose sin of betrayal is tiny in comparison to their rejection of Christ's mercy and forgiveness. In one of the talks on our recent CSC retreat, Chris observed that he thought more people didn't take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation because they hadn't yet learned to accept a God who offered them infinite mercy.

In that way, I think we could characterize much of American society as Judas-like. Once one societal sin is commited (acceptance of pre-marital sex, for example), we refuse to believe we can change or turn around. Instead, we push deeper and deeper into despair and commit other sins - abortion, contraception, adultery, divorce - because we naively believe they will solve the hurt, anguish and pain that accompanied our first sin.

Our late pontiff rejected that. He would not allow himself or the Church he so faithfully guided to fall into despair. As a Catholic people, we must be witnesses to hope. That hope in God's great love and enduring mercy stems from His creation of us in His image and His acceptance of human nature for our sake. Though we are unworthy in so many ways, Christ Himself makes us worthy. He shared in our humanity so that we may share in His divinity. And Christ was/is never more present to us than in His Incarnation and the Eucharist. That brings us back to Our Lady, whose surrender to God's Will was essential to the Incarnation, and the Eucharist, which we must strive to receive frequently and worthily. And those are the two things that John Paul II presented to us consistently: Our Lady and the Eucharist, Our Lady and the Eucharist, Our Lady and the Eucharist. Those were the last two years he cultivated for the Church: The Year of the Rosary and the Year of the Eucharist. The Rosary and Our Lady lead to the Eucharist and it is in the Eucharist that our hopes are fulfilled.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Media and the Pope's Death

There are so many stories about bets, gossip, chatter and desire surrounding the upcoming conclave and election of a new pontiff that I won't even bother linking to any of them.

My journalism ethics professor (who is Jewish) said last week during class that she thought all of those stories are ridiculous. One or two, fine. But in a story where there is no sure bet and the people who have real knowledge of the issue cannot speak about it under fear of excommunication, why waste newsprint on stories that don't actually present news, but only speculation? I thought that was a very insightful comment. Instead, she said, we should be pursuing those stories about the Holy Father and his death that aren't out there yet, including stories specifically about his theological writings and their impact on the Church.

I really like this professor, and not just because of that statement. This is the second class I've had with her and both have made me think about journalism and my responsibility more than any others I've taken. She teaches through discussion and never lectures. She has no class rules about being 10 minutes late for class, eating in class, and encourages us to keep our cell phones on if we need them to be and call her (she's in her 50s) by her first name. But she will raise hell with you if you don't participate thoughtfully. She tells us the very first day of the semester that she's a flaming liberal and asks us to check her on it if it influences anything she says. She always plays the devil's advocate in discussion on journalism ethics and never allows us to answer a question with "It depends on the circumstance." Instead, she argues, we must have a consistent ethical framework on which we practice journalism. She has a law degree from Georgetown and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia and, despite her liberal political leanings, is rather conservative when it comes to journalism and always encourages us to err on the side of caution when faced with an ethical problem in journalism.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Nothing But The Truth

"Mike, I knew we shouldn't have invited the girls. They always end up talking about sex and babies."

-Alex, at a party tonight

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Media and the Pope's Death

We spent almost all of my journalism graphics class today reviewing how local, national and international media visually presented the 2nd day coverage of the pope's death. It was quite interesting to see how newspapers from across the country and across the globe ran their stories. If you think American media is biased, check out international media sometime (Indonesia's main newspaper had a picture of the pope's body laid out in Clementine Hall with the headline "Arrivederci!" - exclamation point included). Of course, newspapers from Poland showered praise on the Holy Father, but their presentation was much different than anything we'd ever see here in the U.S. The Poynter Institute's website (see below) gives you the chance to see some front page PDFs.

Lots of non-journalism people ask me about the media at random times. If you want to know what journalists are talking about, the best place to find the information is on Romenesko, part of the Poynter Institute's website. Romenesko's website is the main place for discussion of the journalism industry by journalists themselves. The Poynter Institute is considered the best institute of journalism in the United States and one of the best in the world and is particularly noted for its emphasis on ethics. Here on some links from Romenesko on the coverage of the pope's death.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope John Paul II, 1920-2005

O God,
from whom the just receive an unfailing reward,
grant that your servant, John Paul II, our pope,
whom you made vicar of Peter and shepherd of your Church,
may rejoice for ever in the vision of your glory,
for he was a faithful steward here on earth
of the mysteries of your forgiveness and grace.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

-Order of Christian Funerals, paragraph 398, no. 14.

Friday, April 01, 2005

A Good Shepherd

I was reading the Pope's book Rise, Let us Be on Our Way last night, and I came across this passage, which seems appropriate considering the Holy Father's great example during his worsening illness:

The first and most important aspect of the honor due to a bishop lies in the responsibility associated with his ministry.

"A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden" (Matt 5:14). The bishop is always on a mountain, always on a lampstand, visible to all. He must always be aware that whatever happens in his life takes on greater meaning in his community. "And the eyes of all looked intently at him" (cf Luke 4:20). Just as a father shapes the faith of his children primarily by his example of prayer and religious fervor, so also a bishop inspires his faithful by his behavior. That is why the author of the First Letter of Peter begs that bishops be "a living example to the flock" (1 Peter 5:3).

And a paragraph later, the Bishop of Rome goes on to say that:

A bishop is called to personal holiness in a particular way so that the holiness of the Church community entrusted to his care may increase and deepen. It is his responsibility to promote the "universal call to holiness" of which the fifth chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium speaks.

Please keep the Holy Father in your prayers today.