March 20th, 2007
As we move deeper into Lent and Good Friday approaches, Christians devote special time to reflect on the Passion. We contemplate the meaning of Jesus, Christ crucified, perhaps even taking an afternoon to pray the Stations of the Cross.
I remember kneeling before the giant crucifix in the church from my childhood during Holy Week. As my mother prayed next to me, I would stare at this massive wooden Jesus, his face tilted downward and contorted with pain, the nails through his hands and feet so gruesome that the image is forever burned in my brain. While I knew to be sad for this man, he felt so other to me, an utter stranger to my world. Somewhere in my young mind I also knew he was God. As I grew older, this broken, unfamiliar man stood like a wall between me and my ability to cultivate a relationship with God.
The Feminine Divine
Then in graduate school I discovered theologians who discussed the feminine divine—Elizabeth Johnson, Sandra Schneiders, Rosemary Radford Ruether, among others—and I began to bridge the distance between me and God, between me and Jesus, daring to shift my God-images so they expressed the familiar feminine body, the same body that would empower me to reconnect with God and repair my relationship with Christ. Eventually, I began to propose this same feminine divine to the women students who populate my classes each semester—encouraging them to envision Christ Crucified with a woman’s body. For years I’ve struggled to help them make that connection but last semester I was armed with a new weapon. Madonna, the pop star, handed me a powerful teaching tool: her body on a cross.
The young, mostly Catholic women who take my classes aren’t terribly well prepared to tackle how we talk about and portray the feminine divine—at least at first.
Jesus Was a Man
“In Sunday School, we were told that God was a man,” chimed student last fall as I pushed the discussion into the uncharted territory of thinking about God in feminine terms. Other students nodded …
March 17th, 2007
The excerpt below is from an article written by BustedHalo editor-in-chief, Bill McGarvey for the March 17 edition of The Tablet a venerable London-based magazine of “progressive, but responsible Catholic thinking.”
“Judas!” the voice cried out from somewhere in the darkened seating area of Free Trade Hall in Manchester. It was 17 May, 1966, and on stage, Bob Dylan was coming to the end of another concert on a turbulent tour. Audiences that had hailed him as a genius just a year earlier now chastised him for daring to go “electric” with a full band, and for moving beyond the topical protest songs that had made him the great young hope of the folk scene. It had been this way throughout most of the tour with catcalls and boos from fans who couldn’t understand his new direction.
Being the “voice of a generation” can’t be an easy job. It is a position that the troubadour of modern culture – born Robert Zimmerman to a middle-class Jewish family from Hibbing, Minnesota – won very early on in his career and one he has always rejected. But I suspect it is this same antiquated notion of Bob Dylan that Pope Benedict XVI had in mind when he recently revealed that he had opposed plans for Dylan to perform at a 1997 concert for Pope John Paul II. “There was reason to be sceptical,” Benedict says in his new book John Paul II, My Beloved Predecessor, “to doubt if it was really right to let these types of prophets intervene.”
For Catholics like me – and, trust me, there are millions of us – who have been profoundly moved, nourished and simply entertained by Dylan’s music and countless other elements of pop culture, the pope’s comments felt like a betrayal of sorts as well. Fortunately, the then Cardinal Ratzinger’s arguments did not win the day back in 1997 and Dylan appeared as scheduled. Of course John Paul II used the event to his advantage (as he so often did), engaging people by preaching about the movement of the Holy
March 16th, 2007
March 17th marks St. Patrick’s Day, the Catholic feast day for the patron saint of Ireland, who died on that day in the 5th century.
Patrick was not Irish but was born in Wales in about AD 385 and for much of his youth did not practice the Catholic faith. He considered himself a pagan until the age of 16 when he was sold into slavery by a group of Irish marauders that raided his village and brought to Ireland. During his 6 year captivity, he became closer to God.
He did not remain in Ireland but instead escaped to Gaul (France) where he studied for the priesthood. In a dream he saw “all the children of Ireland from their mothers’ wombs stretching out their hands” to him. He understood this as his calling to convert the Irish Druids to Christianity.
His name was orginally Maewyn. He took the Christian name of Patrick after becoming a Catholic.
St. Patrick did not drive all the snakes from Ireland into the Irish Sea (Although some still say that this is why the sea is so rough). Snakes have never been indigenous to Ireland. Snakes are possibly a code word for the devil here. Some have also claimed that Patrick raised people from the dead. While many miracles have been attributed to Patrick this legend is, as the Irish say “a bunch of malarkey.”
After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died on March 17 around the year 461.
While the “wearin o’ the green” has become traditional dress, the color was often considered to be unlucky.
Pubs in Ireland were closed on St. Patrick’s Day, well into the 1970s.
It is a heresy to call Guinness “beer.” It is “dry stout” based upon the porter style that originated in London …
March 14th, 2007
Robert Anthony Siegel’s new novel All Will Be Revealed combines an engrossing plot with intricately drawn characters and a rich historical setting to create a book that is both entertaining and artistic in a way that literary novels so rarely are.
The book tells the story of Augustus Auerbach, a successful, wheelchair-bound pornographer living in late nineteenth century New York City and Verena Swann, a renowned spiritual medium and the widow of adventurer Captain Theodore Swann. The two meet when one of Auerbach’s models forces him to attend a séance at Swann’s home. At first skeptical, Auerbach becomes entranced by Swann who is able to summon her failing powers to channel Auerbach’s long lost mother. Verena Swann is torn between three men: the pornographer, her deceased husband and his brother, Leopold Swann who is her business partner and promoter. The plot of the novel moves deftly from Auerbach’s point of view to Verena Swann’s and back again, showing the worlds that they each inhabit and the insecurities that are inherent in their lives of deception.
All Will Be Revealed is the story of how the entrepreneurial spirit of Auerbach and Swann, can be tarnished by their own consciences. As a reader, it is a pleasure to dwell inside this novel. Siegel’s odd and flawed characters come to life, as if they could jump off the page and show the reader a pornographic photo or conduct a séance with her own lost loved ones.
On its surface, All Will Be Revealed is about the fantasy industry. Both Augustus Auerbach and Verena Swann are engaged in different forms of deception. Auerbach has amassed great wealth by creating the illusion of intimacy with his multi-dimensional stereograph portraits of sexual fantasies (a late 19th century version of the pornographic film). Swann, trades in spiritual illusion by pretending to connect with her client’s long, lost relatives.
“It is a pleasure to dwell inside the pages of this novel, as a reader. Siegel’s odd and flawed characters come
March 13th, 2007
Saint Joseph’s University’s Office of Mission & Identity present the next installment in their Catholic Intellectual Series
Ecclesia Virtualis: Catholics in the Blogosphere
For the First Time Anywhere…
Join us for a panel discussion on how the internet and blogs affect both the discourse on and the practice of Catholicism in America. Our panel features some of the leading voices on the Catholic Church in the blogosphere:
Author of the blog “Open Book“
Author of the blog “Whispers in the Loggia“
Associate Editor, Commonweal
*While we are not yet certain if the event will be streamed live, it will be filmed and available to watch online at some point.
WHERE: Chapel of St. Joseph
St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia
WHEN: Tuesday, March 20, 2007 7:30 pm, FREE
For further information, contact:
Rev. Daniel R. J. Joyce, S.J.
March 13th, 2007
In this secular society, what place does religion have in our public education system?
Compiled by Marc Adams reporting from the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress
March 6th, 2007
Verena Swann sat in her carriage, peeking through the curtain at the crowd of mourners filling the avenue. Derbies, bonnets, slick black umbrellas, here and there a pale, wet face like a camellia—pointed straight at her. They were waiting for her to open the door and get out, to become theirs—waiting for a woman who loved her husband so much she would not let him go, even in death.
Leopold, her brother-in-law, peered over her shoulder. “Look at this,” he whispered. “Thousands standing in the rain, for you.”
“For him,” she corrected. It was uncomfortable hearing the thought aloud. This was Theodore’s funeral, after all. They were here to honor him, to recognize the sacrifice he had made for his country.
“There’s no him without you,” said Leopold.
In a practical sense it was true: Verena was not only Theodore’s wife, but also his voice. Since his death, she had learned how to open herself like a door, so that his disembodied spirit could enter and fill her with his thoughts. She fell into a trance, and the two of them became entwined in a way she could not describe. His hand moved her pen. Her mouth formed his words. She shook with his laughter and cried with his sorrow.
Leopold sat back in his seat, clearly moved by the sight of the crowd. “All our hard work is finally paying off, isn’t it?”
The funeral, the crowds—they really were Leopold’s achievement. It was Leopold who had enlisted Verena in a campaign to raise funds for a rescue expedition. Under his direction, they had toured the country, lecturing on the history of Arctic exploration and the wonders of Spiritualism.
In the process, they had built Verena’s talent into a lucrative business. Verena was now the most famous spirit medium in the country. Her public séances were filled to capacity, and her private sittings commanded enormous fees. She was consulted by industrialists, politicians, and European nobility. She and Leopold moved through
February 22nd, 2007
Does the fact that there is a Black History month say something about the way in which Black history is covered in the American Education System? If so what and why?
February 15th, 2007
Have you ever been to a protest or political rally? If so, what was that like? What issues would cause you to protest?
February 12th, 2007
You can feel it in the air—the mad rush on Tiffany’s, restaurants booked-up for prix fixe dinners, store shelves cleared of teddy bears, chocolate and flowers. (And if you’re waiting until now to pick up any of these, good luck.)
Valentine’s Day—”Lovers’ Day,” as it’s called in the Romance languages—is right around the corner. It’s been celebrated for centuries, but these days, for my generation, I can’t help but wonder sometimes what February 14th means to us… and what it doesn’t.
My inner amateur sociologist has long maintained a particular curiosity about relationships, partly because mine have the curious habit of becoming disasters of an exceptional kind and I could use some pointers.
Sure, it could be said that my not-so-inner Italian hotheadedness has contributed to this, but only on occasion. The rest of the time—and this isn’t to absolve me of the many sins I’ve committed in the dating department—I’ve come to find that the culprit is something much bigger than myself and, for that matter, any one of us.
I’ve seen a lot of relationships and near-misses in my time: within my family, my circle of friends, my own turns at the roulette wheel. And looking around, it’s easy to be just a bit wary at the state of things.
You see, I’m blessed and lucky to have learned from my parents’ playbook. After 26 years of marriage, it’s an inheritance worth its weight in gold. Sure, how my Mom and Dad treat each other and handle the hurdles of life is heavily drawn from the ways of the old school, but I’ve never known a happier, more fulfilled couple—not to mention that it’s rarer still when you can say this about people you’ve spent most of your life actually living with.
The Sky is Falling?
But most of my contemporaries haven’t had this kind of example—and the modern scene is paying a heavy price for the lack of it. You’ll hear a lot of “sky is falling” rhetoric out there about how the legal sanction of same-sex unions will
February 6th, 2007
Do you like talking with people of different religious or political beliefs than you have? Have you ever had a conversation with someone of different views in which your own view changed as a result?
January 30th, 2007
Do you consider yourself to be a trusting person? When do you find it most difficult to trust and with whom?
January 26th, 2007
As the children of two academics who met while studying theology, growing up in the Byrne clan meant that religion was always about more than simply going to church on Sunday.
It still is. Now adults, Mary Byrne, a rock guitarist and Clare Byrne, a modern dancer, say Catholicism, the search for God and a sense of enacting holy rituals infuses their art. The rest of the family is similarly engaged with faith. One sister is a writer and comedian, their brother—who is also a musician—and father are starting an organic farm and intentional community in North Carolina. The oldest sister is the chair of Catholic Studies at Hofstra University.
Sense of Celebration
“We definitely grew up with a lot of religion in the air,” Mary, front-woman for the band Hot Young Priest, said as she and Clare shared a cup of tea on a recent Friday afternoon in Manhattan.
“We were really very tied into the liturgical calendar. We grew up with a really active sense of celebration and holidays.”
“St. Francis, St. Nicholas,” Clare interjects.
Mary nods. “We didn’t have to be Swedish to celebrate St. Lucy’s feast day,” she said.
In fact, their grandmother wrote several books on children, sacraments and the liturgical seasons.
Liturgy and sacramentality still animate Mary and Clare’s pursuits. “My work has always, especially in the beginning, referenced Catholic matters, issues, upbringing,” said Clare, the director of her own modern dance troupe based in New York City.
As a child she learned liturgical dance at her church in central Pennsylvania from a professional choreographer. As an adult she brought that sense of dance as a form of prayer and worship to her artistic performances. The New York Times described a 2005 performance as “the joyous physical equivalent of church-service speaking in tongues.” The Gay City News wrote, “Clare Byrne …believes in the connection to God through dance” and The New Yorker called her “soulful.”
For a dancer raised in a religion that can often appear suspicious of the physical, Byrne’s
January 5th, 2007
One rabbi who studied it grew crazy, one died and another became so bewildered that he lost his faith. According to Jewish tradition, the study of the Kabbalah or Jewish mysticism is not only powerful but also downright dangerous.
“Woe to the person who says that the Torah shares with us plain stories and mundane matters,” says the Zohar (Radiance), the traditional text of the Kabbalah, “…. rather all the matters in the Torah are supernal matters and supernal secrets.”
For centuries the study of the Kabbalah was forbidden, reserved only for Jewish males over 40, who were well-versed in Torah, but since its recent adoption by Hollywood celebrities, there has been a battle raging over this ancient Jewish wisdom: between traditional Jews—for whom Kabbalah is a mystical complement to one’s religious studies—and those newcomers for whom, according to some, the Kabbalah has been disconnected from it’s greater spiritual whole.
A Mystical Interpretation
Dating back to 13th century Spain, the Zohar was written in Aramaic and offers a mystical interpretation of the first five books of the Bible. Today the Zohar is the authoritative text for most Kabbalistic teachings.
“The difference between philosophy and the Kabbalah is that philosophy is what we think of God, the Universe and man,” says orthodox Rabbi Eyal Rav-Noy of the Jewish Learning Academy (JLA) to a packed classroom of attentive students in Los Angeles. “But the Kabbalah is what God thinks about God, the universe and man.”
Not too far from the JLA building, sits the Kabbalah Centre—a stone’s throw from chic Beverly Hills. Attracting the notice of such celebrities as Madonna, Britney Spears and Roseanne Barr, the star-studded Kabbalah Centre, which describes itself as “the leading educational organization on the wisdom of the Kabbalah worldwide,” is at the cutting edge of promoting Jewish mysticism today.
“The difference between philosophy and the Kabbalah is that philosophy is what we think of God, the Universe and man,” says orthodox Rabbi Eyal Rav-Noy. “But the Kabbalah is what God thinks about God, the universe and man.”
With its sprawling world headquarters on
December 30th, 2006
On August 24, in the motherhouse of the Sisters of Loretto, in Nerinx, Kentucky, one of the towering leaders of the Catholic church died. She was 98. Though Mary Luke Tobin, S.L., led a life described by superlatives, she may best be remembered as one of only 15 women, and the only American woman, to be invited to participate in the Second Vatican Council.
In article published in the Nov. 1, 1986 issue of America, the Catholic weekly, Sister Tobin noted that at the close of the second session of Vatican II, Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens of Belgium pointedly asked his fellow bishops this question: “Why are we even discussing the reality of the church when half the church is not even represented here?”
That query, as well as further insights that if women were invited as official auditors (or “listeners”) they should play a role in the committees formulating the documents, led to Sister Tobin’s historic work. At the time head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organizing group of American sisters, she contributed to the commission that drafted the revolutionary documents Gaudium et Spes and Lumen Gentium. Only two other women would serve on such commissions.
The rest of her life was full, varied and exciting. She led the way to update religious life, advocated for peace and justice, and worked tirelessly in the world of ecumenism. Her autobiography, published in 1981, was aptly titled: Hope is an Open Door.
Mary Luke Tobin, S.L., passed through church doors previously closed to women and helped to open them for those who followed—women and men alike, both halves of the church.
December 30th, 2006
When Jane Jacobs, the 20th Century urban activist and pro-city theorist died in May at the age of 89, we lost a secular prophet. Reading Jacobs’ landmark resistance to modern city planning methods, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, was one of the seminal experiences of my college years. It was an academic experience, but also a spiritual one.
Jacobs’ work trumpeted the city not as a problem to be solved but as a life-affirming manifestation of creativity. A city allowed to function properly has a soul, she argued. Her work resonated with me, a bookish suburbanite transformed into an urban studies major at Fordham University in the Bronx. The book put into words that awe the living city ignited in me. This place was hawking and swirling and booming in a dozen languages, and it was great. There was life here and life abundant.
Christ in All His Disguises
Consider the difference between the neighborhood in which I now live— where a hodgepodge of pedestrian-centered, independently-owned shops and high density housing initiates dozens of informal sidewalk encounters with Christ in all his disguises—and the sense of dislocated ennui, the loneliness, engendered by the ex-urban big box parking lot. It is the difference between being a linked-in part of the Body of Christ and being an atom adrift in what Jacobs called Noplace. To me it is the difference between life and death.
This living city has always seemed to me a basically religious, Incarnational, notion. Or maybe the Hindu god Shiva is a better example. Shiva’s regenerative dance keeps the earth spinning. It is the very disquiet of a city that is holy. In it we live and move and have our being, our very presence giving testament to and creating a new organism.
Jacobs defended the deep sense of place, the human naturalness of the urban environment against post-war planners who wanted to rationalize the city, to make it as orderly and dead as Levittown. In the forty years since she wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities, vast …
December 19th, 2006
BEDROCK, Dec. 19, 2006
Celebrities and dignitaries streamed into the memorial service for JOSEPH BARBERA at Bedrock Memorial Chapel today. Yogi Bear, Booboo, Fred Flintstone and Shaggy offer emotional, stirring eulogies for their creator, mentor and guide…
You’ll have a yabba-dabba-doo time
My first history lesson as a kid was something about pre-history: Brontosaurus burgers could be ordered at the drive-in way-back-then. My history teacher was Joseph Barbera and, along with my favorite family, The Flintstones, he would prove to be one of the most influential people in my young life—though I didn’t know him.
Joseph Barbera’s name will forever be connected with that of his partner, William Hanna. Together they created some of the most fun, enduring cartoon characters in the history of television—in fact, they paved the way for many TV characters to follow—from Kermit the Frog to Homer Simpson. Anyone who grew up in the 60’s and early 70’s can sing the theme song from the Flintstones, tell you about the Jetson’s robot, Rosie, or give their impression of Scooby’s “Roooby rooby roo!”
Smarter than the average bear
I’ve spent many years in Children’s Theater and I believe that my characters are informed by that early exposure to Yogi & booboo, Scooby, Huckleberry and Fred. My first experience as a performer came when, as a kid, I imitated cartoon characters form Barney Rubble to Scooby-Doo and got laughs from my friends—it gave me cache in school—and the joy that the creations of Joseph Barbera brought to so many of us continues to be an inspiration to me.
It’s funny to say that a cartoonist who pens a fake family could be an inspiration. I remember our family gathering in front of the TV to watch the Flintstones-and my mom and dad enjoyed them as much as I. I wondered if I would work at a job with a huge whistle that would blow at the end of the day. How many times do we have to gather as a family in community and laugh together ?
Yessir, Mr. Ranger, Sir
Joseph Barbara originally studied to become an accountant at a bank …
December 14th, 2006
What is something you would like to give or receive this holiday season that does not have a price tag and cannot be bought in any store? What is the greatest gift you have ever received that you would consider priceless?
December 13th, 2006
The catalogs and television commercials are full of smiling families greeting each other with holiday joy- gleeful reunions full of peace and goodwill. What they don’t show is the screaming match that took place in the kitchen just before the guests arrived or the eye rolling during dinner when dad launches into his favorite diatribe. They don’t have any pictures of your drunken uncle passed out on the couch or your backbiting sister-in-law picking fights. If your family is more “Dealing with Difficult People” than “It’s a Wonderful Life” read on. Here are ten tips for keeping your own sanity this holiday season, even if you’re surrounded by nuts.
THEY WON’T CHANGE BUT YOU CAN: Know that your crazy family will probably be the same as they always are and be prepared. Just because your jerk big brother wants to push your buttons doesn’t mean you have to indulge him. When obnoxious behavior fails to provoke, it’s so much less satisfying for the instigator.
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW: Introduce a new tradition or revive an old one. Nothing too elaborate but if you can keep the family busy with something else their fascination with conflict might just fade into the background for a few minutes. This year on Thanksgiving my youngest sister brought materials to make simple gingerbread houses, graham crackers, canned frosting, and LOTS of candy. The big kids helped the little kids and the experience made for happy memories of the day for adults and kids alike.
CREATE A DIVERSION: Become adept at changing the subject or excusing yourself if old arguments heat up. Does your dad like trains? Your mom like antiques? Pick up a few coffee table books at the bookstore or library and bring ‘em along for conversation starters. …