Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Ate Too Much

This past weekend I was invited to a Halloween party at the house of a close friend. We had a GREAT time and many people showed up in costumes ready for the occasion. I ATE TOO MUCH. My goodness, there was so much food! The above table shows some of the goodies (not all) that I stuffed my face with. And on another table was the main coarse, and yet on a third table were the hors d'oeuvres.

I typically don't drink, but I allowed myself A beer and a glass of something spiked. I still don't know what that something is. Or is it that I can't remember?


Saturday, October 27, 2007

An Observation

I'm convinced that the kindness and spiritual purity of a human being is many times detectable on the outside, albeit not always. I was looking at a picture of a group of nuns a few days ago and in their faces was an overwhelming expression of kindness and compassion. It's as if the inside had made its way out, and those things that made them who they are were visible for the world to see.

Take Blessed Carlos M. Rodrigues, a Puerto Rican lay person who was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 29, 2001. Rodriguez was heavily involved in restoring liturgical costumes that had gradually been abandoned over the years in Puerto Rico. He was a catechist for high school students, he organized choirs, and was a member of a number of lay organizations. When I look at this man's picture I see a kind, gentle and benevolent soul free of hatred and aggression. I see someone who took little to no offense at the transgressions of others. Perhaps one might justifiably come to the conclusion that I'm judging a book by its cover. I, however, would argue that the opposite is true. We know very well the content of Carlos' life, since many people still alive had the good fortune of knowing him personally. My belief is that the kindness and gentility that dwelled in him made its way out, so that others might know the One he labored for and dedicated his life to.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I Found My Halloween Reading

This book is comprised of over nine hundred pages of short stories written by some of the most consequential and prolific ink slingers of the creepy and the dreary, and they don't disappoint. Here, in this volume, you will find it all. The works of King, Bradbury, Jackson, Lovecraft, Poe and many others that are at your reading pleasure. Some of my personal favorites: The Beach (King); The Call of the Cthulhu (Lovecraft); Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper (Bloch).

Happy Halloweeeeeeeen!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Father (Lt.) Vincent R. Capodanno, USN

Big thanks to The Lair of the Catholic Cavemen who posted this article on Father Vincent R. Capodanno and his possible canonization.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Meister Eckhart, OP (The Catholic Church moves slowly but it always moves forward)

"Seek God and you shall find Him and all good with Him. Indeed, with such an attitude, you might step on a stone and it would be a more pious act than to receive the body of our Lord thinking of yourself."
~ Meister Eckhart

Mesiter Echart (1260-1368), also known as Eckhart von Hochheim or Johannes Eckhart, was a thirteenth century Catholic mystic and theologian who gained notoriety for his sermons during a period of chaotic competition between religious orders and Inquisitions. He was born near Erfurt in Thuringia, and in adulthood became a Professor of Theology and took a leading pastoral and organisational role in the Dominican Order in Germany.

Axiomatic in Eckhart's central message is the relationship of God to the soul and to all of creation. Unfortunately, because he used symbolic and metaphorical language only the spiritually advanced could understand, Eckhart developed oppugnant detractors who tried to discredit his believes as miscreant and impious. Although he managed to deflect multiple accusations of unorthodoxy in his lifetime, and on one occasion even recanted any articulations that may have been perceived as heretical or erroneous, Pope John XXII found seven of Eckhart's deductions as heretical and another eleven as derisive and suspicious.
In recent times, however, the Dominican Order has sought to rehabilitate Meister Eckhart by gaining an acknowledgement from the Pope for "the exemplary character of Eckhart's activity and preaching and to recommend his writings (particularly the spiritual works, treatises and sermons) as an expression of authentic Christian mysticism and as trustworthy guides to the Christian life according to the spirit of the gospel." That effort began in 1980, and its current ambiguous status lies somewhere inside the Vatican.

Cat Humor for You Cat Lovers

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Well, they definitely are popular and one can scarcely imagine a world without the latte-producing, frappuccino-whirling, ubiquitous Starbucks Coffee franchise. I went there last weekend with a bunch of my friends and it was my unfortunate turn to buy. I spent just under $80.00.

No, I wasn't filling my tank up with Starbucks, and we did not request a massage. There were fifteen (!) of us and everybody went for what their little hearts desired (I insisted they do so). No regrets, though. These are my buds and there is no better way of getting into trouble than by keeping their company.

Don't worry. Next time someone else is buying what my little heart desires. And, oh man, Starbucks is going to have its best quarter ever!


Monday, October 15, 2007

Still on a music trip: Magnificat

Estonian composer Arvo Pärt is the twenty first century successor to sixteenth century composer and priest, Gregorio Allegri. Pärt's music is simply breathtaking and sublime, and he has amassed worldwide notoriety with his venerable and contemplative compositions. With pieces such as the Kanon Pokajanen, and, featured here, the Magnificat, Pärt's music is consecrated to the Divine, and brings the listener closer to the sacred.

Alternating between female and deep male voices, when you hear the Magnificat you know instantaneously that it is written in the Russian-Orthodox/ Byzantine traditions. It is a subtle piece with surging moments that shatter its delicate and pensive reflection, while leaving the integrity of its sacrosanctness and hallowed intentionality pristine and intact.

If you want to listen to more music by this great composer, go online and purchase his Kanon Pokajanen, which is based on the canon of repentance written by St. Andrew of Crete. The opening impact of that piece is mesmerizing.

Magnificat by Arvo Pärt

The Singing Nuns of Sister Act

I had to do it.

Actually, no I didn't have to but I couldn't resist. Normally, I HATE this song. But the arrangement - I must say - is HEAVENLY!

I could do without Whoopi's singing. Her singing is so un-heavenly it reaches for the sewers.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

God, Neurology, and the Soul: A Jesuit Responds

As one might notice from the name of this blog, the dialogue between religion and science is an exchange with special significance for me. My ability (or inability) to reconcile the physical world with the spiritual world has tremendous impact on my perception of who and what God is. When I have difficulty, I ask people who know more than I do. Their guidance and clarity is invaluable to this pilgrim who is seeking out his God.

A few weeks ago I emailed Father Bill at the Vatican Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, seeking answers to questions related to neurology and theology. Before contacting him, I had searched for information on this subject matter but all I could find was an atheistic disposition explaining away the existence of God. Father Bill was kind enough to respond to my enquiry and I have included the email (both my questions and his response) below.

Fr. Stoeger-

My name is Tom and I write to you from Las Vegas, Nevada. For the past few years I have written to Father Chris presenting him with my bafflement in regards to religion and science, and he has been tremendously helpful in answering some of these questions (to the extent that you can be over email). I write to you to get a different angle on one such question that has been a source of frustration for me for quite sometime, since I can find no adequate answers from the theistic side of the fence. Perhaps, if your schedule allows, you can answer these for me. Please understand that I have no one else to turn to with a credible science background for guidance in these matters, so your response will be greatly appreciated.

These are my questions:
1) I have read many reports and papers on neurology that seem to suggest that God is the product of the human mind, and that evolution alone can account it's (God) invention. How does such a suggestion figure into the Christian faith?
2) The soul. Where does the soul exist? Is it in the human brain? What evidence exists to suggest it survives death?

Again, thank you for your time in reading my misunderstandings and I hope to hear from you soon.

Dear Thomas,

I am very sorry for the long delay in answering your questions!! Have been away a lot lately, and otherwise very occupied with work and other things, which I never quite catch up with .Your two questions are very good ones. With regard to the first one, it is very important to distinguish between the concept of God -- or a concept of God -- and God as God really exists. Certainly, any concept of God is a product of the human mind. There are many concepts of God -- all of them in some shape or form attempt to say something about the rich mystery of existence that we are and are part of, and the ultimate source of that. But all of those concepts are inadequate -- but some less so than others. But God God's self is independent of those concepts and also infinitely beyond any of them. We really cannot have an adequate description of God. Any description or concept of God serves, however, to disclose a reality that is at basic to reality -- ``the ground of existence and order, if you wish.'' And the less inadequate concepts of God are in some very small measure able to say a bit about who this God might be -- on the basis of what we know from philosophy and from divine revelation. E. g.that God is in some way personal, the Creator and source of existence and order, and a community of love (i. e. the Trinity). The key question from the point of view the philosophy of knowledge is, Do our concepts of God correspond to anything in reality? Does the God we conceive really exist? Certainly not in the way we ever conceive God! Because God is beyond -- much greater -- than any of our concepts of God. But, as I said above, there is a reason for our concepts of God -- there is something about reality which needs ultimate explanation and requires a basis for meaning. And our concepts of God are our very poor attempts to point to and articulate that transcendental reality. As far as question 2 goes, this presents an enormous challenge at the interface between science and philosophy. ``Soul'' is not a scientific category -- it is rather a philosophical category. And in Thomist philosophy is really equivalent to ``the substantial form of the body.'' It is NOT another substance independent of the person, but rather the form, the organization, of the person him- or herself. It is much more than the brain, or even the mind. In more scientifically accessible terms, I would say that the soul is the centered network of all the relationships --intrinsic and extrinsic -- which makes a human being (or anything else) what it is. Some of those constitutive relationships are accessible to science, and some (e. g. our ultimate relationship with God) are not.There is no purely scientific evidence that the soul survives death. But there is some definite broader evidence that it does: The fact that despite death very important relationships with those who have died persist. We are who we are because of the many people who have gone before us -- our ancestors, our parents, those who have directly or indirectly inspired us, taught us and nourished us. In some very definite way those relationships persist. And the long-term effects of our presence continue to be effective in big and small ways long after our deaths. We must also conceive that our central relationship with God as Creator also persists. Death does not sever or abrogate that relationship -- even though we only vaguely sense how that is possible.

With best wishes and prayers,
Fr. Bill

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Gregorio Allegri's Miserere Mei Deus

One of the greatest- if not THE greatest- piece of sacred Christian music is the Miserere mei Deus (Have mercy on me, O God) by the Baroque composer and priest, Gregorio Allegri. At the time, the Miserere was played only at the Sistine Chapel during Holy Week, and anyone caught transcribing the music outside that setting was subject to excommunication. Legend has it that a child-prodigy by the name of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, while visiting Rome, heard the music, and wrote the entire piece on paper entirely from memory. Mozart was summoned to Rome by the Pope, but instead of excommunicating the boy, he praised his musical aptitude.

Gregorio Allegri

Allegri's Miserere
is infused with a palpable sense of mysticism. And by mysticism I don't mean magic, or tarot cards or crystal prisms, or anything like that. I'm referring to the most traditional definition of the word itself: mystery of God. It brings your mind and your senses into a sacred space, and makes you aware that an infinite, boundless, and unfathomable Being exists.

There is a great deal about this piece that I am omitting from this posting, simply because it does have a lengthy and somewhat intricate history. This includes the contribution of another composer by the name of Tommaso Bai, and several different transcriptions that differ from the original version Allegri composed. That, however, takes nothing away from the beautiful resonance of this piece, or the accomplished creativity of its composer.

Allegri's Miserere Mei Deus

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Red Rock Weekend

This weekend I drove to Red Rock Canyon and captured a few pictures of the scenic beauty of this desert landscape. These pictures don't do justice to the majesty of Red Rock vista when seen in person through your own two eyes.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Looking for a Bloodcurdler

It's October 1st and I find myself in the spooky spirit of the Halloween season. To commemorate this creepy time of the year, I've decided to inundate myself in a good horror or thriller story.

The first two books I noticed (primarily because they were at close proximity to me) were Shirley Jackson's Come Along With Me, which is a collection of short stories,

and The Haunting of Hill House, a supernatural thriller about five individuals who come into contact with a preternatural entity while staying at a ghastly and malevolent mansion.

While these two books do grab my attention, I crave something more unearthly or spine tingling. I can't state specifically what it is I hanker for, other than to say that I'm looking for that story which encapsulates you in a horrifying shiver. Got any suggestions?


I've already read I Am Legend by Richard Matheson as well as The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty and LOVED them both (the conclusion to I Am Legend was somewhat disappointing).