Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
MOST people know Robert “Obet” Verzola as a University of the Philippines engineer who pioneered information technology in this country in the 1970s. Others know him as an election watchdog whose critiques of past polls he has backed up with copious statistics.
But this engineer cum inventor turned social activist is also an enthusiastic proponent of SRI—short for “system of rice intensification.”It was almost four years ago when Verzola guested at the weekly Kapihan sa Sulo media forum to help drum up support for SRI, which was to be the topic of a conference at UP Los Baños in October 2004. Unsurprisingly, SRI did not get much of a response from the government—and the vested interests in the commercial farming sector whose megaprofits stood to be eroded if Filipino farmers adopted this innovation in rice production. It is now 2008—and our collective indifference to SRI has begun to haunt us. While the authorities are correct in denying the existence of a rice shortage, the fact remains global supplies of this and other cereals have become increasingly tight due to a confluence of factors. And experts agree that the supply situation can only get tighter in the years ahead. Obviously, the time has come for the government—particularly Secretary Arthur Yap and the Department of Agriculture—to give SRI a second look.
Online sources tell us that SRI, as a method of increasing rice yields,
was invented in 1983 by a Jesuit priest, Henri de Laulanie, in Madagascar—although full testing of the system occurred only some years later. It was Norman Uphoff, director of the International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, from 1990 to 2005 who helped spread SRI from Madagascar to other countries.In 1993 Uphoff met officials from Association Tefy Saina, the NGO set up in Madagascar in 1990 by Father de Laulanie to promote SRI. Uphoff saw for himself the success of SRI for three years when Malagasy farmers—whose previous yields averaged two tons per hectare—began to harvest eight tons per hectare with SRI. Uphoff was quickly persuaded of the merits of the system, and in 1997 he started to promote SRI in Asia. As of 2007 the beneficial effects of SRI methods have been documented in 28 countries, most recently in Bhutan, Iraq, Iran and Zambia. Governments in the largest rice-producing countries—China, India and Indonesia—are now said to be supporting SRI extension. In India, SRI concepts and practices have reportedly also been applied with success to such crops as sugar cane, finger millet and wheat. In 2004 Verzola published “SRI: Practices and Results in the Philippines.” The paper reviewed the range of practices and results from field trials of SRI in the Philippines, based on the reports of groups, institutions and individuals that have tried SRI and on personal interviews with SRI practitioners and researchers.
Verzola, who is also secretary general of Philippine Greens, found the then-current average yield of SRI trials to be 6.13 tons per hectare—or 104 percent more than the national average of three tons per hectare. Meanwhile, return on investment ranged from 78 to 452 percent. Worldwide, Verzola said, yield gains from SRI have ranged from 14 percent in China to 209 percent in Gambia.The practices that attained these yields include: younger seedlings; one seedling per hill and wider spacing between hills; avoiding seedling root damage; moist, not flooded, rice fields; regular use of mechanical weeder; and compost instead of chemical fertilizers.
Verzola noted that the Philippine government’s hybrid rice program included some SRI practices, like single seedlings and wider planting distances. “This suggests that some of the reported hybrid rice yield gains are due to the SRI effect and not to changed genetic potential,” he added. Verzola proposed a scientific conference on SRI, more research on SRI practices, nationwide verification trials, widespread farm-scale trials, and a review of the government rice program to include SRI in the DA budget. That was four years ago—and little has been heard from the government on the SRI proposal.
To be sure, SRI has its share of detractors. According to online sources, SRI proponents point to other benefits aside from yield increase. These include resistance to pests and diseases, resistance to abiotic stresses like drought and storm damage, more output of polished rice when SRI paddy (palay or unmilled rice) is processed, less chemical pollution of soil and water resources. Critics, nonetheless, have focused on yield—alleging that claims of increase are due to “poor record keeping and unscientific thinking.” They objected to what they called a lack of details on the methodology used in trials and a lack of publications in the peer-reviewed literature. Online sources acknowledged that systematic trials that will satisfy scientific critics remain to be done—although researchers at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Laguna, and Cornell were last reported to be planning a joint evaluation. Instead of finger-pointing, our leaders could find better use for their—and our—time by supporting efforts to increase rice production through methods like SRI. This time around, let them put their money where their mouth is.
The Russian Orthodox Church’s representative to the European International Institutions Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria, on Interfax-Religion’s request, commented on the recent suggestion of Danish Lutheran theologians to consider the hell and the devil a metaphor and to accept only existence of the paradise. -
This theology should be considered in general context of liberalized Christian dogmatic and moral teaching developed in depth of many Protestant communities in several recent decades. Everything that makes Christianity is “inconvenient”,“uncomfortable” is being omitted, “the dark Middle Ages” heritage is cleared up.Christianity in light version is under construction and the hell and devil don’t match it. A tragedy of Protestantism has originally been the following. Seeking to get rid of medieval stratification of Catholicism, Protestants didn’t properly study the heritage of the Eastern fathers. And today when arguing with the Middle Age hell and devil, liberal Protestants don’t trouble themselves with reviewing the Holy Fathers and their conception of afterlife retaliation. Meanwhile, the Eastern
Christian tradition has never considered the hell as created by God to punish sinners. God didn’t create the hell, free will of people has created it. It exists not because God wants it, but because people keep it existing.They first create the hell on Earth and then carry it on to the afterworld. -What do you mean by the hell on Earth?- When a man using his power over others makes Earth the hell for them. Didn’t Hitler turn Earth to hell for millions of people tried and tortured in concentration camps, perished in gas cameras and battlefields? Didn’t Lenin and Stalin make hell for thousands and millions of people who died in camps or were shot on false denunciations or sentenced by Stalin’s “troika”?
Don’t today’s terrorists, who kill peaceful citizens, take them hostage and cut off their heads, turn Earth to the hell? And is it believable that malefactors and monsters, who kill other people and revolt against God and all-hallows will share the paradise with righteous and saints?Is it believable that the paradise will welcome both John the Baptist and Herod, St. Veniamin of Petrograd and Lenin, thousands of the murdered new Russia’s martyrs and confessors and their torturers? It removes division between the good and the evil. Then there’s no difference if you are a saint or a villain, if you do the good or the evil, if you save people from death or kill them. -So sins will be inevitably recompensed?-Any person bears moral responsibility for his actions. And he will answer for the sins of his earthly life in the eternity.
St. Isaac the Syrian writes that sinners in the hell are not deprived of God’s love. On the contrary, love is given equally to everyone: to the righteous in the Heavenly Kingdom and to the sinners in Gehenna. But for the righteous it becomes the source of joy and bliss while for sinners it is the source of torture. Thus, God didn’t create the hell for sinners, they did it themselves. God doesn’t send sinners to the hell, but people who oppose God’s will and revolt against God choose the hell themselves.And this choice is made in their earthly life rather than in some distant eschatological prospect. It is right here on Earth that infernal tortures and “the Kingdom of God come with power” begin. - However, even the Orthodox divine service says that the hell is “abolished” by Christ after His Resurrection from the dead? - The reality of the hell, its existence for sinners and even the possibility of its eternal existence don’t contradict the news of its abolition by Christ resurrected.
The hell is really “abolished” in the resurrection of Christ, as it is not inevitable for people anymore and doesn’t have power over them. But those, who consciously oppose God’s will and commit crime and sin, restore destroyed and abolished hell as they don’t want to reconcile with God’s love. I’d like to stress it again: God didn’t create the hell, people created it for themselves, God destroyed and abolished the hell, but people restore it again and again.The hell is re-created every time when the sin is consciously committed and isn’t repented.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Vincent Strand, S.J., 25, was a student at Marquette University studying biological sciences and theology when he began to feel that God was calling him. He said that he began to spend time with people from the Society of Jesus, also called Jesuits. "I really became convinced that God was calling me to be a Jesuit. I really thought he was asking me to do it personally," Vincent Strand said. "The call was not vague or abstract, it felt very concrete to me and that Jesus was speaking directly to my heart." In December 2004, he began to apply for admittance to start the novitiate process with the Jesuits. He is currently in New York City (Fordham) striving for a master’s degree in philosophy as part of his education process in the Society of Jesus. "There was just tremendous peace, joy and freedom," he said about pursuing God’s calling.
USF theology professor is ordained priest, but not a Catholic one
In a letter printed in the March 21 edition of Catholic San Francisco, Jesuit Father Stephen Privett took author George Weigel to task for saying in a column that Catholicism is “vestigial at best” on Catholic college campuses. In response, Privett said the University of San Francisco, of which he is president, “has a Catholic Studies program; a Catholic focused curriculum in the Theology and Religious Studies Department,” as well as other Catholic-inspired programs and activities.
USF may have all these things, but it also has Vincent Pizzuto, who, besides being assistant professor in the university’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies, is also an ordained priest in the Celtic Christian Church. Pizzuto also serves on the board of directors of the LGBTQ Caucus of the University of San Francisco, which says it was formed in the Fall of 2005 “as a way to promote social justice for LGBTQ people.”
From “a so-called ‘queer’ perspective,” Pizzuto said the underlying ethical dilemma he found in “the Roman Church” was that, “as a relatively healthy gay man, I had been deeply loyal and committed to an institution wherein my attempts to live honestly, openly, and with integrity of faith were met over and again with an institutional condemnation insisting that I was ‘objectively disordered’ and that my most natural inclinations toward intimate relationships was the manifestation of sin and inherently self-indulgent.”
It was thus that Pizzuto left the Catholic Church to join the Celtic Christian Church, which claims apostolic succession through the Old Catholic Church and other independent jurisdictions. The Celtic Catholic Church claims to be “an independent catholic and orthodox Church, living our faith in the spirit of the ancient Celtic Church. Our faith is that of the first seven ecumenical councils of the undivided Christian Church.” Pizzuto was ordained a Celtic Christian priest in San Francisco in July 2006.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
by Brooklyn Eagle 03-27-2008
Though he is little known in the West, Coptic priest Zakaria Botros — named Islam’s “Public Enemy #1” by the Arabic newspaper, al-Insan al-Jadid — has been making waves in the Islamic world. Along with fellow missionaries — mostly Muslim converts — he appears frequently on the Arabic channel al-Hayat (i.e., “Life TV”). There, he addresses controversial topics of theological significance — free from the censorship imposed by Islamic authorities or self-imposed through fear of the zealous mobs who fulminated against the infamous cartoons of Mohammed. Botros’s excurses on little-known but embarrassing aspects of Islamic law and tradition have become a thorn in the side of Islamic leaders throughout the Middle East.
Botros is an unusual figure onscreen: robed, with a huge cross around his neck, he sits with both the Koran and the Bible in easy reach. Egypt’s Copts — members of one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East — have in many respects come to personify the demeaning Islamic institution of “dhimmitude” (which demands submissiveness from non-Muslims, in accordance with Koran 9:29). But the fiery Botros does not submit, and minces no words.He has famously made of Islam “ten demands,” whose radical nature he uses to highlight Islam’s own radical demands on non-Muslims.The result? Mass conversions to Christianity — if clandestine ones.
The very public conversion of high-profile Italian journalist Magdi Allam — who was baptized by Pope Benedict in Rome on Saturday — is only the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, Islamic cleric Ahmad al-Qatani stated on al-Jazeera TV a while back that some six million Muslims convert to Christianity annually, many of them persuaded by Botros’s public ministry. More recently, al-Jazeera noted Life TV’s “unprecedented evangelical raid” on the Muslim world.Several factors account for the Botros phenomenon. First, the new media — particularly satellite TV and the Internet (the main conduits for Life TV) — have made it possible for questions about Islam to be made public without fear of reprisal. It is unprecedented to hear Muslims from around the Islamic world — even from Saudi Arabia, where imported Bibles are confiscated and burned — call into the show to argue with Botros and his colleagues, and sometimes, to accept Christ.Secondly, Botros’s broadcasts are in Arabic — the language of some 200 million people, most of them Muslim. While several Western writers have published persuasive critiques of Islam, their arguments go largely unnoticed in the Islamic world.
Botros’s mastery of classical Arabic not only allows him to reach a broader audience, it enables him to delve deeply into the voluminous Arabic literature — much of it untapped by Western writers who rely on translations — and so report to the average Muslim on the discrepancies and affronts to moral common sense found within this vast corpus.A third reason for Botros’s success is that his polemical technique has proven irrefutable. Each of his episodes has a theme — from the pressing to the esoteric — often expressed as a question (e.g., “Is jihad an obligation for all Muslims?”; “Are women inferior to men in Islam?”; “Did Mohammed say that adulterous female monkeys should be stoned?” “Is drinking the urine of prophets salutary according to sharia?”). To answer the question, Botros meticulously quotes — always careful to give sources and reference numbers — from authoritative Islamic texts on the subject, starting from the Koran; then from the canonical sayings of the prophet — the Hadith; and finally from the words of prominent Muslim theologians past and present — the illustrious ulema.
Typically, Botros’s presentation of the Islamic material is sufficiently detailed that the controversial topic is shown to be an airtight aspect of Islam. Yet, however convincing his proofs, Botros does not flatly conclude that, say, universal jihad or female inferiority are basic tenets of Islam. He treats the question as still open — and humbly invites the ulema, the revered articulators of sharia law, to respond and show the error in his methodology.He does demand, however, that their response be based on “al-dalil we al-burhan,” — “evidence and proof,” one of his frequent refrains — not shout-downs or sophistry.
Posted by: Diogenes - Mar. 26, 2008
About a month ago, George Weigel made public some reasons to think the new Jesuit General over-estimated the Society's deference to the Holy See. This provoked a heated and defensive reaction on the part of certain Jesuits, obliging Weigel to repeat, for the benefit of the offended parties, a lesson usually learned between one's thirteenth and seventeenth birthday:
the truth that criticism -- even wounding criticism -- is not always a product of ill will.What baffles your Uncle Di is that the Jesuits who castigate Weigel don't make clear why he was wrong to make reference to Partial Birth Abortion and "Pretty Boy & Jabba the Slut" and the rest. Is Weigel to be faulted because the Society denounces the Drinan legacy and gay campiness -- and he slanderously suggested the opposite? Or
is Weigel to be faulted because the Society embraces the Drinan legacy and gay gamesmanship -- and he slanderously suggested this to be a departure from the Ignatian ideal?Even if Weigel's a villain, these villainies can't both be true of him. Let's flip back a couple years to examine another prominent journalist who slipped into criticism of the Society. This is Andrew Sullivan, from his Daily Dish post of 10 July 2005.
Diametrically opposed to Weigel's ecclesial perspective, Sullivan is exercised by the upcoming Doomsday Doc forbidding the acceptance of homosexual seminarians.He's in a lather about the bigoted Pope Benedict and indulges in some coloratura hyperbole:
Later in the same post, Sullivan hastily reassures his readers that he intended no criticism of the contemporary Society of Jesus:
I don't think any reader of this blog would remember me having anything but respect for the Jesuits. In this country, they are becoming the underground resistance that will keep the decent church alive while Benedict spreads his brittle reactionaryism.
Sullivan is praising the Society for the very recalcitrance the Jesuit General emphatically denies, right? So was there an outpouring of white-hot Jesuit indignation protesting
Sullivan's claim that the Jesuits comprise "the underground resistance" to the Pope? If so, most of us certainly missed it. Well, lads, what about it? Are you critics of Weigel's libelous charge of Jesuit disloyalty willing to trash Sullivan for his?
[tip to Karen Hall ]
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
In the early 1990s, I was given lunch at the Roman headquarters of the Society of Jesus by two very—no, make that extremely—high-ranking Jesuits. The table-talk turned to a fascinating question: Are there permanent religious charisms in the Church? Most religious congregations die within a century of their founding; our Lord might delay his return for tens of thousands of years, so that we are the “early Church.” Given that fact and that possibility, could we, today, judge that there are permanent religious charisms in the Church, gifts of the Holy Spirit that will endure institutionally in religious orders? My interlocutors quickly agreed that the Benedictine charism was enduring; that something like the Franciscan charism was certainly a permanent feature of Catholic life; and that there might be something enduring about the Dominican charism (a considerable concession for Jesuits!). What surprised me was that neither of my hosts argued that the Ignatian charism could, today, be judged an enduring one—“we’ll see,” was the gist of their discussion of the permanence of their own community’s distinctive spiritual character. This not only surprised me; it saddened me. Because I thought then, as
I think now, that the New Evangelization proclaimed by John Paul II very much needs the distinctive combination of spiritual élan, intellectual heft, missionary zeal, self-sacrificing obedience to the Pope, and evangelical joie de combat that is the unique charism of the Society of Jesus.That 15-year-old discussion on the Borgo Santo Spirito was in the back of my mind when I wrote recently in this space about challenges facing the Society of Jesus and its new General, Father Adolfo Nicolas; that concern for the vitality of the Jesuit future framed my questions to the new Jesuit leader. For that reason, I am very grateful to the Jesuits—young, old, and in-between—and the friends-of-Jesuits who have thanked me for bringing into public discussion issues that are widely and urgently discussed among them. For that same reason, it is regrettable that some read my “Questions for Father General” as a blanket indictment, even condemnation, of the Society of Jesus—an interpretation that strikes me as counterintuitive, given what I wrote at the end of the column about my prayer for Father Nicolas’s success in his leadership of a “great religious congregation.” Still, columns being what they are, and readers being what they are, misunderstandings occur; I hope the context I describe above helps clear up at least some of the misunderstandings that have ensued.
The challenges I noted—the challenge to bring the truth of Catholic moral and social teaching into public life; the challenge to enhance the Catholic identity of Catholic institutions of higher learning; the challenge to live evangelical chastity in a culture saturated with various forms of eroticism; the challenge to Christological orthodoxy,at a time of intellectual confusion in the West and amidst a global supermarket of “spiritualities”—are obviously not challenges for Jesuits alone; every religious community, and indeed every serious Catholic, faces them. That they are challenges for Jesuits, though, is not a matter of personal opinion but of the public record. I might add that these are matters I have discussed with Jesuit friends for decades—including young men whose Jesuit vocations I have tried to nurture. My work in the 1980s to rescue the great Jesuit theologian of the American experiment, John Courtney Murray, from intellectual oblivion;
my work with the U.S. Congress to free a brave Lithuanian Jesuit, Sigitas Tamkevicius (now archbishop of Kaunas), from the Gulag; over a quarter-century of intellectual work with Jesuits ranging from Cardinal Avery Dulles to members of the Pontifical Gregorian University faculty—all testify, I hope, to my regard for the Ignatian charism.Like my column, my work with Jesuits has been an expression of my conviction that the Ignatian charism ought to be a permanent one— and my hope that the community which gave the Church such heroes as Francis Xavier, Edmund Campion, Robert Southwell, Isaac Jogues, Miguel Pro, and Alfred Delp might be renewed in the image of their radical fidelity. A.M.D.G.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Bishkek (AsiaNews) – On Good Friday a gang of vandals attacked and devastated the Blessed Teresa of Kolkata Church in Dzhalal-Abad, the second largest city in southern Kyrgyzstan and third in the country. Fr Krzysztof Korolchuk, a Jesuit and the local parish priest, said that they threw stones and broke the windows and tore off the notices of worship. Police is now investigating the incident. Despite the attack celebrations went ahead anyway the next day, Easter Saturday. Nina Shabel, a 55-year-old ethnic German woman whose ancestors were forcibly resettled to Kyrgyzstan under Stalin, was baptised. After the service believers gathered for the traditional Easter lamb meal.
On 18 March 2006 Pope Benedict XVI elevated the Church in this nation to the status of Apostolic Administration, appointing Jesuit Fr Nikolaus Messmer as bishop-administrator. Previously he had headed the St. Archangel Michael Parish Church, the country’s only Catholic church. Kyrgyzstan has a population of five million, 75 per cent of whom are Muslim and 20 per cent, Orthodox. Catholics are around a thousand.
On Easter Sunday, Fr Krzysztof Korolchuk held the Holy Mass in Osh, a town located in 100 km from Dzhelal-Abad. In Kyrgyzstan there are about six Jesuit and two diocesan priests aided by Franciscan nuns serving the country’s three Catholic parishes and its 30-odd communities spread around the country.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Nora Avery-Page Cronkite News Service
Mining magnate John Campbell Greenway helped found the city of Ajo and has a major roadway and high school in Phoenix named after him. His statue, sculpted by the man who designed Mount Rushmore, stands in a section of the U.S. Capitol that honors individuals chosen by their states. But some Arizona lawmakers say Greenway's statue should be brought home and replaced by one of late Sen. Barry M. Goldwater, whom they say would better represent the state in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. "No slight on Mr. Greenway, but Barry Goldwater is one of the most recognizable figures in Arizona history," said Rep. Peter Hershberger, R-Tucson. "Here is an individual who really represents, with his own spirit and personality, the sprit of the West and the spirit of Arizona." HJR 2001 would encourage the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress to approve the switch and return the Greenway statue. It also would ask the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission to raise private money to cover the cost of the Goldwater statue and bringing Greenway's home. The House approved the resolution 58-1 on Monday, sending it to the Senate. Rep. Albert Tom, D-Chambers, who cast the lone vote against, didn't immediately return a telephone message. Each state is allowed to donate two statues of bronze or marble of important figures to stand in the National Statuary Hall. The bronze statue of Greenway, designed by Gutzon Borglum, has stood in the hall since 1930.
Arizona's other statue is of Father Eusebio F. Kino, the 17th century Jesuit missionary.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
March 24, 2008
“I realize what I am going up against but I will confront my fate with my head high, with my back straight and the interior strength of one who is certain
about his faith.”
— Magdi Christian Allam.
Some voices in Europe and other places are presently criticizing the pope for his high profile baptism of Magdi Allam at the Easter Vigil. They assert that the pope is somehow taunting Islam and unnecessarily putting Mr. Allam’s life in danger, and perhaps the pope’s as well. I cannot know the pope’s mind. But I would like to suggest why he might do something so dramatic and frankly foolish in the eyes of the world:
I think the pope is making all kinds of points.
He wants to uphold the example of this man who has stood up to Islam already for many years.
He also wants to make an issue of the Muslim practice of assassination of those who convert out of it. Imagine the shame heaped on Islam if Allam is killed.
He wants to show Muslims that reasonable and rational people, the very best of Islam are ashamed of what Islam has become.
He wants to make a point to sleepy Europeans that Christianity is a faith worth dying for.
He wants to give all the world an example of Christ-like willingness to die for the good, rather than to kill.
He wants the world to know that it is superior to suffer violence than to commit it.
He wants to show the world the moral and spiritual superiority of Christ and Christianity.
He wants to show the world that the willingness to innocently suffer violence for one’s faith is not reserved to the earliest ages, but is a very present reality.
He wants to highlight that Christians throughout the world willingly suffer violence for their faith every day.
He wants to bring about religious freedom, a true liberation of personal conscience in the lands of Islam.
He wants to give the Muslim world an example of Christian virtue that they will notice.
Should Mr. Allam or Benedict lose their lives, he would want to offer martyrs for the sake of the Muslim world.
Finally, Magdi Allam, now on the world stage, may be safer than if he had not been in the spotlight. Who knows?
Associated Press - March 23, 2008 6:45 PM ET
MERCURY (AP) - Nineteen anti-nuclear protesters were cited for trespassing during an annual rally today outside the Nevada Test Site. They were among about 30 demonstrators who took part in the event sponsored by the Nevada Desert Experience outside the test site, 70 miles northwest of Las Vegas. A spokesman for the company that provides security at the test site says the 19 protesters were released after being cited by Nye County sheriff's deputies for crossing onto test site property. Among those cited was the Rev. Steve Kelly, a Jesuit who recently completed a five-month prison sentence for trespassing on an Army base in Arizona in November 2006. The Nevada Desert Experience has been holding the test site rallies around Easter since 1981.
"Sin is the things we fail to do, we don't live up to our responsibilities. Certainly theft, murder, rape, things people do are sinful and harm one another but - and this was the Apostolic Penitentiary's point - it's the more subtle ones where we fail through our self-centredness."
"It's about God's redeeming love, that no matter how far away we seem there is a loving God who has reached out,"
Saturday, March 22, 2008
KRAKOW, Poland (AFP)
Sister Anastazja's cookbooks include saucy little numbers like "The Drunk", "The Coquette" and the "Mother-in-Law's Breast", reflecting the wry sense of humour she shares with her Jesuit publishers."One lady wrote me with a complaint that I'd been disrespectful to a certain part of the female anatomy," she chuckles. "She must have been a mother-in-law." Polish Sister Anastazja signs her cookbooks in a bookshop of Jesuit Fathers in Krakow, on January 23.
"Many of my recipes come to me in dreams", she says, citing "divine inspiration" for her near-million copy sales status, an extraordinary success by Polish standards.With her porcelain complexion from decades spent over steaming pots, 58-year-old Sister Anastazja went a step further last month, becoming the first nun in Poland to release a DVD. Her 51-minute "Perfect Cakes" gives easy-to-follow tips on baking tarts she insists will turn out right every time, like her trademark "Nun's Secret" she says was revealed in a dream or the "Happy Highlander", drenched in spirits. Printing presses whir madly just down the hall from her ground-floor kitchen, where mouth-watering aromas clash oddly with the pungent smell of ink.
Upstairs her tomes are among thousands of others sold in the airy bookshop of the Jesuit Fathers' WAM publishing house. "Sister Anastazja has been cooking for us for years," says Father Henryk Pietras, director of the 136-year-old publishers. "We came to the conclusion her food is so delicious we should share this treasure."Her first tome, "103 Cakes of Sister Anastazja", was published in 2001 and the most recent hit the shops last year. The glossy, hard-covered books have become popular wedding gifts, as well as a hit with time-strapped women who say Sister Anastazja's instructions make recipes easy. Polish Sister Anastazja is pictured in the kitchen of WAM publishing house in Krakow, on January 23. "Many of my recipes come to me in dreams", she says, citing "divine inspiration" for her near-million copy sales status, an extraordinary success by Polish standards. "All told, about a million copies have sold," says Pietras proudly. Only books by the late Polish-born Pope John Paul II, the memoirs of his right-hand man Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz and J.K. Rowling's blockbuster "Harry Potter" series have sold more in Poland, according to publishers websites. "She creates a lot of recipes and she's extremely picky about the ones she'll publish. She checks each one about 15 times and we have to test it -- to eat it all!" says Pietras, who cites cheesecake as his personal favorite.
In heavily Catholic Poland, Sister Anastazja's success has sparked a wave of copycat publications by nuns cooking for other orders of Polish priests. Most notably, Krakow's Salvatorian Fathers, who run a rival publishing house established in 1998, have launched a series of cookbooks by their very own Sister Aniela. "So far, Sister Aniela is the only nun in Poland who has her own (culinary) TV programme," reads a line highlighted in red on the Salvatorian's website.The craze of 'nuns-tell-all' cookbooks has broken a centuries-old taboo by religious orders who maintained strict secrecy over their recipes, according to Pietras. But Sister Anastazja says, "cooking is a pleasure and it makes me happy to share my recipes -- I certainly don't won't take them to the grave." Born Krystyna Pustelnik, the nun says her love for kitchen work began when she lost both her parents to illness and was left an orphan at 17.
The first recipes she learned to cook, simple and wholesome peasant dishes like "zurek" sour soup and "galabki" cabbage rolls, remain her own favorites. And she confesses she never imagined she would be a best-selling cookbook writer -- or release her own DVD. "Really, I thought it would just be a kind of brochure," she says of her initial effort."My life hasn't really changed. Sometimes I have a little less time, but I make sure I have time for prayer -- it's the most important. The books are just secondary, really," she says.
By Foss Farrar
No specific date exists for Easter -- unlike just about any other holiday that comes to mind. Its date changes from year to year, based on complex calculations involving events of the heavenly bodies. This year's date of March 23 is about as early as Easter can occur, according to a local astronomy teacher and sources on the Internet. "The earliest it can occur is March 19; it's not going to do that again for a long time," said Cowley College astronomy instructor Todd Shepherd.
The last time Easter fell as early as March 23 was in 1913, and it won't fall that early again until 2160, Shepherd said on Friday. That's 152 years, more than a lifetime away, he added.Complex calculations dating back many centuries are used to figure the date of Easter, said Shepherd. Back then, the Roman Catholic Church came up with a "Paschal full moons" estimate. "Their estimate did not necessarily match up with the actual full moon," he said. Shepherd said he doesn't bother to discuss details of all this to his students. Instead, he teaches a simple rule that he says works 99.1 percent of the time. "Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox," Shepherd said. "That's as deep as I go because it gets very complicated." Thus, Easter's date depends on the relationship between a solar and a lunar event. And this year, the two events are occurring very close together, he said. The date of the vernal equinox -- the first day of spring -- can vary from March 19 to 22, he said. "This year, the first day of spring was on March 20; the first full moon following is this evening, March 21," he said. "So the Sunday after, Easter, will be March 23." The reason for all the computation by church authorities is that the Gregorian Calendar that serves as a standard for the world doesn't match up with the cycles of the moon, according to Internet sources."
The current Gregorian ecclesiastical rules that determine the date of Easter trace back to 325 CE at the First Council of Nicaea convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine," according to a Web site of the U.S. Naval Observatory."At that time the Roman world used the Julian Calendar." Julius Caesar put that calendar into place.
The Rev. Charles Seiwert, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, said he'd leave detailed explanations of how the Easter dates are figured to "a Jesuit astronomer." ( Christopher Clavius )But he offered a simpler explanation: "It very much followed the Jewish holiday of Passover and the seder meal that accompanied it. The church followed that timing." He said he was pleased that even though Easter comes early this year, the weather in south-central Kansas looks nice for Sunday. "We are extremely fortunate we didn't have cold, snowy weather in mid-March -- or flooding, like the state next to us," Seiwert said. "That means people can get out easily on Sunday for sunrise services."
Friday, March 21, 2008
Matthai Kuruvila, Chronicle Religion Writer
Friday, March 21, 2008
Under the vaulted ceilings of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Oakland, a revered tradition once forsaken has gained new life. About 300 Roman Catholics go there every Sunday to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass, a rite rich in symbolism that has been on the margins of Catholic life for more than four decades. But over the past year, decrees by
Pope Benedict XVI have given the traditional Latin Mass greater official standing in the Catholic Church, opening the door for some churches to go back to it. Now, at St. Margaret Mary's, grandparents practice the rituals of their childhood. Young couples are being married under a tradition they encountered only recently. People drive from all over the Bay Area - and beyond - to worship there. The priest says an elderly Modesto woman comes from Stanislaus County once a month by taxi. But the revitalized tradition is drawing controversy. Some question whether the traditional rite is too outdated for a church grappling with the needs of a diverse membership and facing unprecedented challenges, such as an increasingly interreligious world. Those challenges are underscored this week, which is Holy Week. Today's Good Friday service has been criticized by many Jewish groups, for example, because the Latin liturgy includes a prayer for God to "enlighten" Jews so they will "acknowledge Jesus Christ, the savior of all men."
The service "draws you in bodily by appealing to the physical senses, but it also provokes and draws in the soul." Angelo believes some churches have made faith too easy. "In some churches," he said, "there might be an effort to get more creative, the priest and the congregation try to keep people entertained, as opposed to holding to the tradition that God has passed down to us, which is infinitely rich." The Latin Mass played a pivotal role in shaping Christianity, said Frederick Parrella, professor of theology at Santa Clara University, a Jesuit institution.
Pope John Paul II opened the door a little in 1988, allowing parishes to worship using the traditional Latin Mass with the permission of a local bishop. Many local bishops did not, but the Diocese of Oakland allowed a traditional Latin Mass to be held at St. Margaret Mary's.
But on Sundays at St. Margaret Mary's, the pews are packed. Couples walk in with children, their daughters' heads covered in lace mantillas. Elderly retirees and yuppies sit next to each other. Generations of a family worship together, in Latin, following rituals scripted centuries ago. "I go because I'm a counterculture kind of guy, and to me the most counterculture thing is being a Catholic," said Rob Martinez. Dressed in all black, with seven tattoos (in mostly religious themes) and 11 body piercings, Martinez said that the traditional Latin Rite "is a very artistic, deep ... great expression of Christianity. It's been the Catholic Church's way of expressing worship for hundreds and hundreds of years."
52-year-old Chantal Sebire from Dijon, France, had wanted to die. For eight years she suffered from a rare and — her doctors say — incurable form of nasal cancer called esthesioneuroblastoma. Madame Sebire insisted that there was no reason why, since the disease was slowly killing her anyway, that doctors should not be permitted to hasten the process and assist her in committing suicide. But euthanasia is illegal in France. French law permits only passive euthanasia, which is removing feeding and hydration tubes when a person is in a coma or inducing coma and then removing the tubes.But in this nominally catholic country others disagree, especially the church.
“It isn't because a citizen says I want this that we should modify the law. The law is already quite open,” Jesuit Bio-Ethics Expert Patrick Vaspieren says.France's Prime Minister, Health and justice ministers have made it clear that they did not believe changes in French laws are needed, and the medical examiner is now looking into exactly how she died to determine if anything illegal may have taken place.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
By Dr. Deal W. Hudson3/21/2008
The questions asked by George Weigel about the future of the Jesuits shouldn't have been so shocking to Father Privett; they have been asked publicly, in both secular and Catholic media, for decades.
Father Privett not only attacked what he termed the "mean-spirited assault" of Weigel, but he was also sharply critical of the Denver archdiocese for publishing it. Father writes, The readership of Catholic diocesan newspapers deserves more civil, balanced, and professional fare than that served up and passed around by the Denver Catholic Register.I don't know of a single instance in the history of this country's Catholic Church when one diocesan newspaper attacked another by name. Weigel asked the new Jesuit Superior, Rev. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J., questions on four issues: Jesuit obedience, the Catholic identity of Jesuit educational institutions, the Jesuit attitude toward the Church's teaching on homosexuality, and the order's theological commitment to the "unique salvific role of Jesus Christ." Anyone even superficially familiar with the history of the Catholic Church since Vatican II would not be surprised by these questions. The issues of Jesuit obedience and Catholic identity were raised by the secular media in its coverage of the recent election of the new Father General.
In addition, the Vatican pressure that led to the resignation of Rev. Thomas Reese, S.J., from his editorship of America magazine got national attention.Father Privett's outrage suggests that he is unaware that Weigel is merely speaking aloud questions that are shared by Catholics around the world. He specifically charges Weigel with making unfounded allegations about two Jesuits in particular, Rev. James Keenan, S.J., and the late Rev. Robert Drinan, S.J. Wiegel puts both forward as examples of Jesuit attitudes toward basic Church teachings on abortion and marriage.
About Father Drinan, Weigel writes, "He did more than anyone else to convince Catholic legislators that the settled teaching of the Church on the grave immorality of abortion had no bearing on their legislative work."Father Privett's reply to Weigel: "His stunningly sweeping statement . . . lacks any supporting evidence." I'm sure that Weigel would be surprised to hear that he needed to document the career of Father Drinan, whom I call in my recent book the "Jesuit priest who invented the pro-abortion Catholic politician."
Perhaps Father Privett needs to be reminded that, after being elected to Congress in 1970, Father Drinan wrote in support of Roe v. Wade and Clinton's veto of the ban against partial-birth abortion. After being forced by John Paul II to leave Congress in 1981, Father Drinan continued as a pro-abortion lobbyist both within the Democratic Party and as head of Americans for Democratic Action.Father Privett also takes issue with Weigel's description of Father Keenan's highly publicized testimony before the Massachusetts legislature in support of homosexual marriage. Father Keenan's argument, according to Weigel, was " that the principles of Catholic social doctrine did not merely tolerate 'gay marriage,' they demanded it." But again, Father Privett objects: "He did not do so. Father Keenan testified against unjust discrimination against gay couples. He did not testify in support of gay marriage or approve homosexual activity."
What Father Privett does not make clear is that Father Keenan, a moral theologian at Boston College, argued for gay marriage on the basis of homosexuals' possessing a "right" to be married. Weigel is correct.The most sensitive issue raised by Weigel is the attitude toward homosexuality among the Jesuits. He rightly calls it the "third-rail" issue, as anyone who raises it can expect some kind of thrashing.
What must have provoked Father Privett is one example Weigel supplies from the Jesuits' California province: [I]t was not that long ago, after all, that the Web site of the Jesuits' California Province featured photos of "Pretty Boy" and "Jabba the Slut" in gay drag at a novices' party.Father Privett explains that these photos are not "gay drag"; rather, they were "taken at a Halloween party seven years ago at the novitiate" and were "mistakenly put on-line and immediately taken off for fear it would be malevolently misinterpreted by the likes of Mr. Weigel." Let me add to this discussion a story I heard, and verified, on a recent trip to San Francisco.
A graduate student at the University of San Francisco was rejected for a position in the resident halls because, as he put it, "Father said I do not have the right attitude toward homosexual conduct, as I disapprove of such conduct." After being turned down for the position, it was suggested by a Jesuit that he read Gays and Grays: The Story of the Gay Community at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish, written by Rev. Donal Godfrey, S.J., a professor at USF. On page 134 of Gays and Grays, Father Godfrey posits the question, "Is it less appropriate for gays to imagine Jesus as gay than for African Christians to picture him as black, Asian Christians as Asian?" This,shortly after acknowledging on page 132,"I will not feign academic objectivity: if such a thing really exists. I firmly believe in a new approach and a new vision in this area of ministry. In this I do have an 'agenda.'" Not surprisingly, the graduate student has been hesitant to pursue "some questions" he has about the USF Jesuit community's doctrinal approach to homosexuality, for fear that his questions might be wrongly construed as an "attack on the Jesuits." It's not difficult to see where he might have gotten that impression.
Local Catholics familiar with the situation at USF told me that this is not an isolated incident, and that some Jesuits in the community are deeply concerned. For one, the theologians at USF were offered the mandatum, in accord with Ex Corde Ecclesiae, but none responded to the offer.In fact, Sacred Heart Sr. Theresa Moser, associate dean at the University of San Francisco, urged USF theologians to adopt a stance of noncompliance: "'The appropriate strategy is to do nothing' by way of requesting a mandatum, she said, or, if one is offered, to 'very respectfully decline."' The questions asked by George Weigel about the future of the Jesuits shouldn't have been so shocking to Father Privett; they have been asked publicly, in both secular and Catholic media, for decades. Weigel's questions didn't surprise the Catholic residents of San Francisco, but Father Privett's outraged response did.
Pope Benedict approves 'heroic virtues' of Fr. Michael McGivney
By JOHN THAVIS
The sainthood cause of the founder of the Knights of Columbus has taken a step forward. On March 15, Pope Benedict approved a decree of "heroic virtues" for Father Michael McGivney, a U.S. priest who, after establishing the Knights of Columbus, worked as a pastor until his death at age 38. McGivney can be beatified if a miracle is attributed to his intercession. Canonization - a declaration of sainthood - requires an additional miracle. Supporters of McGivney's cause are hoping he will be the first U.S.-born priest to be canonized. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus at St. Mary's Church in New Haven, Conn., in 1882. The fraternal order for Catholic men has become the largest lay Catholic organization in the world, with more than 1.7 million members, sponsoring a wide range of educational, charitable and religious activities. He founded the Knights of Columbus with a small group of Catholic laymen, in order to strengthen religious faith and to help families overwhelmed by the illness or death of their breadwinner. In 1884 he was named pastor of St. Thomas Church in Thomaston, a factory town about 15 km from Waterbury. He fell ill during an influenza epidemic and died Aug. 14, 1890, probably from complications of pneumonia and tuberculosis. He also studied at Our Lady of Angels Seminary, attached to Niagara University in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and at the Jesuit-run St. Mary's College in Montreal.
It was hardly a job that Mr. O’Byrne, a former Jesuit priest, a Kennedy family confidant and a onetime speechwriter for Howard Dean, could have imagined 10 days before, when he was laboring in obscurity as the top assistant to the lieutenant governor, a job far down in the capital’s pecking order.Mr. O’Byrne has spent the last three and a half years directing Mr. Paterson’s career with the assurance of an aggressive strategist readying himself and his boss for more prominent roles in government. His skills have surely been tested: He had five days to oversee a transition after Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced his resignation, and now he must help negotiate a budget by the end of the month. The partnership is an unconventional one. Mr. Paterson is the casual and convivial heir to a Harlem political legacy, and Mr. O’Byrne is the no-nonsense and at times abrasive Irish Catholic from the Jersey Shore. Friends and colleagues say the contrast in styles is exactly what makes Mr. Paterson and Mr. O’Byrne mesh so well. “David, to a certain extent, needs a tough guy,” said Eric T. Schneiderman, a Democratic state senator who represents parts of Upper Manhattan. “Charles has helped channel his skills in a very productive way. They fit very well together, and it’s not something that you’d have predicted initially.” Even before he arrived in Albany, Mr. O’Byrne showed that he had few reservations about butting heads with powerful institutions. In 2002, the year he left the Jesuit order, he wrote an article in Playboy in which he described what he saw as hypocrisy and sexual dysfunction in the Roman Catholic Church. In the article,
he described the prevalence of what he called “boyologist” priests, ones who seemed, in his opinion, to take an unnatural interest in their young male charges. “I became aware that there was sex all around me — including relationships between Jesuits,”he wrote. “I came to believe that living with such contradictions was at the core of our training.” In other newspaper articles, he has been quoted as estimating that 70 percent of the priests in his peer group were gay. Mr. O’Byrne is openly gay himself. Whether his comments about the church will become an issue for the Paterson administration is, of course, an open question.
Catholics, the largest religious denomination in New York, make up 39 percent of the state’s population. “Certainly it’d be in the best interest of the governor to have a good relationship with us,” said Dennis Poust,the communications director for the Catholic Conference, the church’s official public policy arm in the state. He added that the conference was willing to look past Mr. O’Byrne’s past comments in order to have a productive relationship with the new governor. “We’d be looking to go into this relationship with a clean slate. And I hope that he’s willing to do that.” Mr. O’Byrne would not comment for this article. To this day, his 2002 article still stirs up resentment among Jesuits.
A member of the order who knew him when he was a member said Mr. O’Byrne clashed often with his peers. The Playboy article, (Disturbing) he said, “got very poor reviews even from people who are fond of Charles.”But the Jesuit priest, who asked for anonymity since he did not want to speak publicly of a former colleague, also said that Mr. O’Byrne was “very committed to various social justice issues” and that “he had a desire to be part of the progressive arm of the church and its allegiance to the poor.” Mr. O’Byrne, who now has the title of secretary to the governor, started his career in New York politics as a policy and communications aide to Mr. Paterson in 2004, and has demonstrated a willingness to spar, several associates said in interviews. “Charles is an extraordinarily bright guy. He is a different breed of the kind of guy you usually see mucking around in politics,” said
one Democratic associate who has worked closely with Mr. O’Byrne in Albany and asked to remain anonymous so he could speak candidly. “But if he played sports, he’d be accused of unnecessary roughness.”Mr. O’Byrne’s journey from a teenage volunteer on the city council campaign of his high school history teacher in Red Bank, N.J., to right-hand man to the governor of New York has taken many detours as he searched for a role that fit. He graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1984, and practiced law as a corporate litigator for several years at Rosenman & Colin, a New York firm. In 1988, he left to enter the priesthood.
Being a priest, he said in the Playboy article, was his “earliest ambition.” His first stop on the path to ordination was in the Archdiocese of New York, but he was expelled from his seminary program. He said in the Playboy article that the expulsion occurred after he complained about an atmosphere in the seminary that he thought “coddled” bigots.The Archdiocese said it would not comment on individual personnel matters, which it considers private. In 1989, he formally joined the Jesuit order, with which he spent 13 years.
In that time, he was ordained, earned two master’s degrees in theology and assisted at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on the Upper East Side.It was during those years that the Kennedy family came to rely on him during some of their darkest moments. He had been friends since law school with Stephen Smith Jr., the son of Jean Kennedy Smith, John F. Kennedy’s younger sister. He acted as a spiritual adviser to the family during the 1991 rape trial of Mr. Smith’s brother, William Kennedy Smith. In 1996, he officiated at the wedding of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette. And three years later, he said Mass at the funeral of Mr. Kennedy, who died when his small plane, carrying his wife and his sister-in-law, crashed into the Atlantic. The Kennedys have also come to rely on him for matters other than spiritual guidance. According to Mr. O’Byrne’s statement of financial disclosure for the 2006 calendar year (his most recent), he is a trustee for the Jean K. Smith Trust, the Kennedy Smith Foundation and the Smith Family Trust. He also lists gifts in excess of $1,000 and trustee commissions from members of the Smith family.
Of leaving the Jesuits, “There was nothing sudden or dramatic about my decision,” he wrote. “Instead of a last straw there seemed to be an accumulation of straws.” He is now a practicing Episcopalian.Mr. O’Byrne’s friends described him as someone who was always drawn to progressive politics, and so when he started working for the presidential campaign of Mr. Dean in 2003, it seemed like a good fit. Ethan Geto, who was Mr. Dean’s state campaign manager for New York, recalled that Mr. O’Byrne arrived “very eager to make a new life, extremely eager to make a break with his past.” Mr. O’Byrne proved himself a deft speech writer for Mr. Dean, a skill he carried with him to Albany. When the Dean campaign imploded in early 2004, Mr. O’Byrne found himself looking for steady work. Mr. Geto said he got a call from Mr. Paterson, who was then minority leader of the state Senate and needed someone to help with communication and policy work. “I said, ‘Boy, have I got the right guy for you,’ ” Mr. Geto recalled. Mr. Paterson hired him as a senior policy counsel and speechwriter in August 2004. Those who worked with him said he brought order to Mr. Paterson’s office, which had been known for lacking organizational discipline. Less than a year and a half later in early 2006, Mr. Paterson made Mr. O’Byrne his chief of staff. That he rose so quickly, associates said, was hardly surprising. In 1999, on the day Mr. O’Byrne conducted the funeral service for Mr. Kennedy, Peter Jennings of
ABC News asked Father Vincent O’Keefe, one of Mr. O’Byrne’s Jesuit colleagues, how Mr. O’Byrne was holding up. “He was preoccupied,” Mr. O’Keefe said in the television interview, “but he’s a very active man. He lives on this, and he can keep about 100 balloons in the air at once.”David Gonzalez and Serge F. Kovaleski contributed reporting from New York.