Daily Archives: April 26, 2010

Priest's "sermonettes" offer daily dose of spirituality through the iPhone

It’s a slender thread, admittedly, that runs from a 16th-century pope to the Olsen twins to a converted car dealership in San Bernardino.

It’s there, though, hidden in the unlikely form of a new iPhone application that is dedicated to support of the Vatican Observatory, one of the quirkier institutions in Christendom.

Confused? Pause for a moment and step into St. Bernardine’s Catholic Church in downtown San Bernardino, where muted light filters through stained-glass windows and Father Mike Manning is at the pulpit, just finishing an impassioned sermon on “the power of accepting God’s love.” He is answering the question of whether it’s hypocritical for a sinner to go to church.

“The church is a place of sinners,” says Manning, a distinctly cinematic sort of priest with milky blue eyes and a glistening smile. “May we sinners never give the impression that we’re better than anyone else, and may we never hinder anyone from coming into our experience of the Lord in our church. Thank you ”¦ and may Jesus’ love for you always make you smile.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Media, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology

Lunchtime Mental Health Break–the Northern Lights only this time its the Southern Ones

Check it out.

Posted in Uncategorized

Elite U.S. Units Step Up Effort in Afghan City Before Attack

Small bands of elite American Special Operations forces have been operating with increased intensity for several weeks in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan’s largest city, picking up or picking off insurgent leaders to weaken the Taliban in advance of major operations, senior administration and military officials say.

The looming battle for the spiritual home of the Taliban is shaping up as the pivotal test of President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, including how much the United States can count on the country’s leaders and military for support, and whether a possible increase in civilian casualties from heavy fighting will compromise a strategy that depends on winning over the Afghan people.

It will follow a first offensive, into the hamlet of Marja, that is showing mixed results. And it will require the United States and its Afghan partners to navigate a battleground that is not only much bigger than Marja but also militarily, politically and culturally more complex.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, War in Afghanistan

John Shepherd–Trite music blocks our ears to the divine in the liturgy

In monastic terms, the liturgy is the path towards an exalted “ecstasy”, a flight into the cloud of unknowing, the place where God is, and where the true contemplation of the creative stillness of God is possible.

And this is a reality which is beyond the ability of historians, theologians, linguists, biblical scholars or even pastoral liturgists to express. Their contributions may even hinder rather than help. The intensity and intangibility of this experience can only be expressed through the arts.

This is why music of quality is a critical element within the life of the Church. It is a necessity, not a luxury. It is neither a frivolous confection nor an elitist distraction from the real business of faith. Music of quality, in the context of worship, does not entertain or divert. It reveals.

By means of evolving harmonies, rhythms, textures, modulations, orchestrations, melodies, counterpoints, imitations, this rich art form has the potential to create an aural environment which enables us to contemplate the mystery of God.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry

Canadian Archbishop Michael Miller Speaks on Aquinas and Universities

…fidelity to Thomas also demands that a Catholic university teach theology as a divine science, and not religious studies, a human one dependent on rational inquiry alone. Even though the core beliefs of Christianity are revealed and held by faith, students have to be informed of what they are. Aquinas never suggests that explaining the content of the articles of faith will bring about a response of faith, but he does think that we need to be told them. Theology courses at a Catholic university propose sacra doctrina. They set out what Christ taught in the Gospels, since he “is the first and chief teacher of spiritual doctrine and faith”. Consequently, a Catholic university should be a place in where special attention is given to ensuring that students learn from theologians who propose the teaching of Christ as historical and authoritative.

Authentic Christian faith does not fear reason “but seeks it out and has trust in it”. Faith presupposes reason and perfects it. Nor does human reason lose anything by opening itself to the content of faith. When reason is illumined by faith, it “is set free from the fragility and limitations deriving from the disobedience of sin and finds the strength required to rise to the knowledge of the Triune God”. The Holy Father observes that St Thomas thinks that human reason, as it were, “breathes” by moving within a vast horizon open to transcendence. If, instead, “a person reduces himself to thinking only of material objects or those that can be proven, he closes himself to the great questions about life, himself and God and is impoverished”. Such a person has far too summarily divorced reason from faith, rendering asunder the very dynamic of the intellect.

What does this mean for Catholic universities today? Pope Benedict answers in this way: “The Catholic university is [therefore] a vast laboratory where, in accordance with the different disciplines, ever new areas of research are developed in a stimulating confrontation between faith and reason that aims to recover the harmonious synthesis achieved by Thomas Aquinas and other great Christian thinkers”. When firmly grounded in St Thomas’ understanding of faith and reason, Catholic institutions of higher learning can confidently face every new challenge on the horizon, since the truths discovered by any genuine science can never contradict the one Truth, who is God himself.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Education, Other Churches, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Christian Post–Majority Anglican Bloc Unites Against Western 'Innovations'

Archbishops representing three-quarters of the Anglican world are rallying for firm action against two Western Churches for ”˜celebrating’ homosexuality.

The decision by the top leadership of the Global South of the Anglican Communion was prompted by the recent election by The Episcopal Church (U.S.) of a partnered lesbian as a bishop.

Heads of Churches in the Anglican Global South will be persuading their representative assemblies to reconsider communion with the North American Churches. This is “until it becomes clear there is genuine repentance,” in the words of a communiqué. The ”˜Fourth Trumpet’ was released Friday after an Anglican Global South summit held throughout the week at St. Andrew’s Cathedral.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Global South Churches & Primates, Global South to South Encounter 4 in Singapore April 2010

NPR–The Decline And Fall Of Al-Qaida

There is a lot of reporting on how terrorist groups get started and how they develop, but very little about how they end. Obama administration officials have been saying for weeks that its drone attacks over the past year have got al-Qaida on the run, but experts say it isn’t just drone attacks that are weakening al-Qaida. The group is defeating itself.

Al-Qaida is still a serious threat, and nothing could deny the fact the group is focused on attacking the U.S. any way it can. But if history is any guide, terrorist groups can eventually burn out.

Audrey Kurth Cronin, a professor at the National Defense University, lists the way such movements end.

“There are different ways that groups end, and those include decapitation, the capture or the killing of the leader,” she said. “Sometimes negotiations can help lead to the end — success which is, by the way, relatively rare; failure where groups lose popular support; and finally reorientation of the violence of a group.”

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Terrorism

USA Today–Battles loom over holding public school graduations in church

The latest school battle over the separation of church and state may not feature prayers at football games, after-school Bible clubs or even a moment of silence.

Actually, there’s no prayer at all.

The newest battleground could be a church building itself ”” and whether it’s a proper venue for public school graduation ceremonies. In school districts searching for ever-bigger venues at bargain prices, churches are an appealing (and weatherproof) alternative to civic centers, high school gyms and athletic fields.

An advocacy group that monitors church-state disputes says it has intervened in nine proposed church commencements in seven states over the past two years.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

AllAfrica–the New Anglican Primate of Nigeria

By his election, Okoh, a civil war veteran, becomes the first non-Yoruba to become the head of the Anglican Church. He follows a line of distinguished former Primates like Olufosoye Adetiloye and Akinola who were all giants of the church. It is the foot-prints of these men that Primate Okoh would now follow and possibly surpass.

We welcome the election of Primate Okoh to this elevated position in the Anglican Church. More so, as his election addressed a sore point within the Anglican Communion that has seen parishioners chaff under the headship of shepherds they felt did not share their culture and who they felt ensured that they were marginalized in church affairs.

This situation led to instances where, within the same communities, rival Anglican Churches emerged to cater to the different ethnic groups that established them.

It is a mark of the sagacity of the College of Bishops that elected Okoh that they shifted the office away from the ethnic group that has traditionally produced the top leadership of the Church. Call it zoning, if you like.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of Nigeria

Thomas S. Kidd–The Founders wouldn't back Hastings College

The school’s action not only raises questions about the CLS students’ freedom of association ”” which lead counsel Michael McConnell compellingly raised in Monday’s oral arguments before the court ”” but it also threatens a founding principle of religious freedom. Hastings says that it is banning discrimination against gays and lesbians, but they are doing so by singling CLS out and punishing it for its religious beliefs. If a future, more liberal CLS leadership decided to allow voting members to promote or engage in premarital or homosexual intercourse, they would obviously regain official status because they will have adopted the school’s preferred belief: the affirmation of homosexual practice.

This decision could set a precedent for broader state action against traditional religious groups. Would the court be prepared to apply the all-comers standard to organizations representing any and all faiths? The justices should remember that many religions, including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism have significant constituencies with similar beliefs about sexual behavior.

Christians like those in the CLS hold that the Old and New Testament’s prohibitions against premarital and homosexual sex still apply today. This is a serious, albeit disputed, religious belief about sexuality that is protected by the First Amendment. Authentic freedom of religion requires broad, utterly compelling justifications for the state to deprive anyone of privileges because of his beliefs, no matter how offensive the precepts in question are to some Americans. We should not require religious organizations such as the CLS to abandon core convictions in order to remain in the state’s good graces.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Legal Victory Raises Profile of an Atheist Group

Annie Laurie Gaylor clicked through a flurry of e-mail messages warning her to repent or she would burn in hell.

“Herod,” one messenger called her.

Ms. Gaylor leaned back and sipped from a cup of tea, unfazed and even a bit surprised at the relative tameness of the attacks. Fresh from her latest godless triumph, she had expected more vitriol.

“It used to be a lot worse,” said Ms. Gaylor, 54, an atheist whose organization, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, recently won a suit in federal court here that declared the National Day of Prayer to be a violation of the First Amendment. “Things are changing. Society is becoming more secularized. It’s becoming acceptable to be atheist and agnostic. And there are more of us.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Grosse Pointe Michigan Episcopal Church temporarily removes rector

The rector of Christ Church Grosse Pointe has been temporarily removed from his position because of a “serious allegation” that wasn’t specified, congregants learned this morning.

Rev. Brad Whitaker has run the prominent Episcopal church since 2002.

A representative of the Episcopal Bishop of Michigan addressed worshippers at the 9 a.m. service, followed by remarks by vestry senior warden Libby Candler.

Two calls placed to the home phone number listed for Whitaker the rector were hung up.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes

Jason Byassee–Family feud: Politics in a small church

I was struck during that zoning controversy how little I did to keep the church together. The ones really leading were the old ladies””molasses-sweet, blue-haired, Bible-believing old ladies who attended our Wednesday night prayer meeting.

The dispute did hurt our church. Longtime members threatened to leave, or at least resign leadership posts (which they left effectively vacant anyway). People worried openly about a church split. In one administrative board meeting I found myself with one candidate and his spouse and the campaign manager of the other and his spouse. The two men had once been close friends. Their sons still were. They’d known each other since their baptisms. Their parents still talked about how wonderful the other’s grandparents were. And their dispute wasn’t nearly as nasty or personal as that between their wives. But the two couples were not speaking. How were we to pass a budget together?

The most painful part was that they were all good people who still knew how to get their hands dirty and fix a motor, prepare a casserole and teach a Sunday school lesson, and in their business lives they could balance a million-dollar budget. But they could not, for the life of them (or their pastor), get along.

And precisely there is the small church’s glory. You can’t avoid the person you hate. You can’t wiggle out of the meeting with the person you’re not speaking to. And so you have a shot at being Christian.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Mark

Almighty God, who by the hand of Mark the evangelist hast given to thy Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank thee for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’

–Matthew 5:1-3

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture