DPPL 43: 18th Century Missionary Expansion

STA altar at night smallThe DPPL speaks of missionary expansion in the 1700’s, but aside from the growing diversity in religious orders, it kept to a very Roman effort, on the whole:

43. The Catholic Reform strengthened the structure and unity of the Roman Rite. Given the notable missionary expansion of the eighteenth century, the Reform spread its proper Liturgy and organizational structure among the peoples to whom the Gospel message was preached.

Rome’s balkanization/”Protestantism” seems to have surfaced in the hundreds of splinters from the mainstream Benedictines, Franciscans, and other orders with roots in the Medieval times. The fruitfulness of missionary efforts seems to depend less on liturgy and spirituality, and more on the lived witness (or lack thereof) of the missionaries themselves.

In the missionary territories of the eighteenth century, the relationship between Liturgy and popular piety was framed in terms similar to, but more accentuated than, those already seen in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries:
• the Liturgy retained a Roman character and hence remained, at least partially, extraneous to autochthonous culture. The question of inculturation was practically never raised, partly because of the fear of negative consequence for the faith. In this respect, however, mention must be made of the efforts of Matteo Ricci in relation to the question of the Chinese rites, and those of Roberto de’ Nobili on the question of the Indian rites;
• popular piety, on the one hand, was subject to the danger of religious syncretism, especially where evangelization was not deeply rooted; while on the other, it became more autonomous and mature: it was not limited to reproducing the pious practices promoted by the missionaries, rather it created other forms of pious exercises that reflected the character of the local culture.

The Jesuits, as one might suspect, pushed the envelope of inculturation in Asia. It would have been interesting to see how their focus on finding God everywhere and on the Spiritual Exercises would have fared over a span of centuries rather than a few decades.

All of the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.

Posted in Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, post-conciliar liturgy documents | Leave a comment

Look Up, Look Southwest

Western European readers, you don’t have much time to catch this, but the moon crashes a close visual encounter with Mars and Saturn after sunset tonight in the southwest. Amateur astronomer Bob King has a nice blog post at Universe Today, whether you are just using your unaided eye, or can scare up binoculars or a small telescope.

That’s one of the great things about astronomy: you can do as deep as you like. You can just marvel at the movement of the moon and planets against background stars. The constellation Scorpio is to the left of the Mars-Saturn-Luna trio. It leaps off the comics page of the local newspaper and becomes a real association of stars that suggested “scorpion” to the ancient Greeks. Its brightest star was named for being close in color to the red planet, which the Greeks, as you know, associated with Ares, their god of war. Hence Antares.

Antares is one huge star. Check the comparison in this illustration from wikipedia:

red orange and sunWith binoculars, you can make out four ancient basins on the moon–dark patches from asteroid impacts four billion years in the past. The Sea of Tranquility: you know what that’s famous for, right? About now, the sun is shining low in the sky where Neil 255px-MAUROLICO_FRANCESCO2Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s footprints spot the landscape around the first human “base” on the moon. The Sea of Crises–the small round one near the moon’s limb–that was where the Soviets landed their last probe in 1976.

And if you’re going telescope-deep tonight. Mr King has some great targets for you to spot and ponder, including an old crater named for a Benedictine abbot and mathematician. It’s the crack of dawn on the moon at Maurolycus.

Posted in Astronomy | Leave a comment

Aparecida 71 – Employment

Another real problem in Latin America and the Caribbean is the lack of employment or of sufficient employment.

In paragraph 71, the bishops note the importance of this factor.

The economically active population of the region is affected by underemployment (42%) and unemployment (9%), while almost half is employed in informal work.

I would note the difficulty of determining underemployment and unemployment. For example, one web page on unemployment gives what it sees as a “World Bank definition. “Youth unemployment refers to the share of the labor force ages 15-24 without work but available for and seeking employment.”

The informal economic sector includes many people who do not work in a recognized workplace. Here in Honduras, it is not uncommon to find people selling in the streets. Every night a woman with her son walk through my neighborhood selling tamales or other food; every day a man sells vegetables and fruits from a wheelbarrow. There’s the woman selling papaya on a corner and a woman selling bananas out of the front room of her home. I’ve seen a number of Guatemalans selling nuts or bedspreads. There are the woman and kids who sell soft drinks or snacks on the busses. The informal economy pervades Honduras and much of Latin America. Where people can’t find work, they often seek small ways to get a little bit of money to survive.

Even formal work is precarious.

Formal work is subject to insecure employment conditions and to the constant pressure of subcontracting, which brings lower wages and lack of protection in the area of social security, preventing many from leading a decent life. In this context, labor unions loose their possibility to defend workers’ rights.

Even if there are good labor laws, the difficulty of enforcing them is compounded by corruption, pay offs, and a judicial system that is overwhelmed by cases.

But the bishops see a few positive signs.

On the other hand, positive and creative responses for confronting this situation can be observed among those affected, who have been undertaking a variety of initiatives, such as microlending, local economic support networks, and fair trade practices.

Microlending can help since the poor can often not find sources for loans that do not charge extravagant interest rates. The formation of cooperatives or other economic arrangements can be helpful.

The bishops also mention “fair trade practices.” Many who grow food or manufacture items for export don’t get fair prices. Sometimes this is compounded by “middle men” – called coyotes here in Honduras – who take their share of the profits, by import restrictions in some importing countries, or by the demand for low prices by consumers. Fair market stores and products have grown significantly in the last few years. Another practice that is not as well-known is “direct marketing” in which buyers in rich nations buy directly from producers in poor nations. There are many examples of this, including the direct export of coffee from San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala, through the New Ulm, Minnesota, diocese – an effort which benefits many small farmers.

Here is the USCCB translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

Posted in 2007 Aparecida document, bishops, evangelization, Guest Writers, John Donaghy | Tagged | Leave a comment

DPPL 42: Battling Superstition and Magic

STA altar at night smallThe Directory looks at some sensibilities that might be Tridentine, might be better considered anti-reformation, but they were the expressions of fallible human beings during an age in which the Church was losing political supremacy, and indeed, had already lost nearly everything in a few nations. There were institutional concerns as well about too much superstition and looking for magic among the faithful. How did the post-reformation Church address these? What role did piety play for and against these trends?

42. The age of enlightenment further delineated the separation of “the religion of the learned” which was potentially close to the Liturgy, and the “religion of the simple people” which, of its very nature, was closer to popular piety. Both the “learned” and the “simple people”, however, shared the same religious practices. The “learned” promoted a religious practice based on knowledge and the enlightenment of the intelligence and eschewed popular piety which they regarded as superstitious and fanatical.

Perhaps. Popular piety, at its best, appealed to the affect–not at all a part of our human nature to ignore or deny. Superstition and fanaticism is not unknown among those who embrace the liturgy, either.

On Jansenism:

The aristocratic sense which permeated many aspects of culture had its influence on the Liturgy. The encyclopedic character of knowledge, coupled with a critical sense and an interest in research, led to the publication of many of the liturgical sources. The ascetical concerns of some movements, often influenced by Jansenism, fuelled a call for a return to the purity of the Liturgy of antiquity. While certainly redolent of the cultural climate, the renewal of interest in the Liturgy was fuelled by a pastoral concern for the clergy and laity, especially from the seventeenth century in France.

Making connections to liturgy, especially in more recent centuries, was part of the institutional effort:

In many areas of its pastoral concern, the Church devoted its attention to popular piety. There was an intensification of that form of apostolic activity which tended to integrate, to some degree, the Liturgy and popular piety. Hence, preaching was encouraged at significant liturgical times, such as Advent and on Sundays when adult catechesis was provided. Such preaching aimed at the conversion of the hearts and morals of the faithful, and encouraged them to approach the Sacrament of Penance, attend Sunday Mass regularly, and to demonstrate the importance of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and Viaticum.

If recent misadventures of clergy and bishops give any indication, such efforts at moral conversion seem not to have totally been absorbed by seminarians.

Popular piety in a good light:

Popular piety, which had been effective in stemming the negative influences of protestantism, now became an effective antidote to the corrosiveness of rationalism and to the baleful consequences of Jansenism within the Church. It emerged strengthened and enriched from this task and from the extensive development of the parish missions. Popular piety emphasized certain aspects of the Christian mystery in a new way, for example, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and new “days”, such as the “first Friday of the month”, gained importance in the piety of the faithful.

And two looked to the Bible and the Mass to deepen faith:

With regard to the eighteenth century, mention must be made of the work of Ludivico Antonio Muratori who combined erudition with notable pastoral activity. In his famous work, Della regolata devozione dei cristiani, he advocated a form of religiosity based on the Liturgy and the Scriptures that eschewed all attachment to superstition and magic. The work of Benedict XIV (Prospero Lambertini) was also significant, especially his authorization of the use of the Bible in the vernacular.

The full document, the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, is online at the Vatican site.

Posted in Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, post-conciliar liturgy documents | Leave a comment

People, Alas, Are Devilish Enough

AsmodeusI don’t mean to beat the Urrutigioty/Groeschel dead horse, but I thought commenter Brian Gallagher had a useful observation:

EWTN has a phenomenal batting average for finding these guys. I’m especially impressed by the damnatio memoriae efforts they take to scrub these men from their history after a scandal. You might think it’d dawn on them that something is awry but no doubt they’re chalking it up to Satan.

I don’t know about EWTN’s record with “awry” guys. I don’t watch. I don’t count. I’m sure they rely more on the orthodoxy of their celebrities than morality. Myself, I’d rather go with the son who said he wouldn’t work in the field, then changed his mind and did.

I also don’t know who their remaining radio and tv personalities blame or don’t blame. But I have heard and read many people blame a certain supernatural imp for any number of bad things. Count me a skeptic on the blame game.

One significant point I’d like to address is this. I have no problem with a mature figure like Pope Francis talking about hell, the devil, and such. That has a context within the Spiritual Exercises and Jesuit training that I find is sound.

One of my early spiritual directors, when I pressed him on the matter almost thirty years ago, told me–urged me, really–not to focus on the dark side. Don’t name you-know-who, don’t emphasize it, don’t explore it, don’t talk about it. In my and his context, I think I understood where he was coming from.

It is important for people, especially Christian believers to own up to their personal faults and responsibilities. “The devil made me do it!” just doesn’t cut it. As Liam pointed out recently, the half-@$%ed apologies don’t impress or convince. (My term, not his.)

Good things go bad, and the first place I look is my own tendency to screw things up. Or I might lament the tendency in another. When bad things happen to good people (like EWTN–who I believe are basically good) it’s just human sin. Not perfect GLB’s and GLG’s getting tripped up by some supernatural despot.

And if we are observers, I think we feel badly for the failings of people who have messed up. We don’t give them a pass and blame someone else.

Side point: the scrubbing of tv line-ups and web sites of embarrassing stuff. Check the Psalmist’s view:

Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

God does the cleansing and washing. I don’t think we human beings have bleach quite strong enough.

Posted in Commentary, spirituality | 2 Comments

Fill of Football

I think I finally have my fill of football–at least for the day. I watched most of Sporting KC’s 3-1 loss last night. They didn’t look particularly sharp losing to a 2nd-from-bottom team. But after a year of watching Premier League, I have to say the gap is obvious. I think the average MLS side has two to five players who could compete in the EPL. Those players are able to pounce on individual errors in MLS to score what would be in England, preventable goals.

Which isn’t to say that EPL teams don’t get soft and sloppy from time to time. In the last game today, Chelsea looked a step above a good Everton team in talent. But Chelsea looked as casual as they did again Burnley two weeks ago. The difference is that Everton is a genuine first division side. Result: Burnley gets one good goal before the lion wakes; Everton had three which could easily have been five. Thanks to his defenders, and possibly his team being not quite in condition (three very late goals in three games), Tim Howard has what would be a very pedestrian goals-against average in today’s NHL–3.33.

That said, the Everton-Chelsea match was certainly fast-paced and exciting. The only thing it didn’t have was a nail-biter finish.

swansea city afcSwansea looked better than last week against a team that’s a little better than Burnley. Good Swansea was better. Bad Swans, not so bad. The game announcers liked Bony’s game a lot, but I thought he played a bit better last week. The Swans still make me nervous, even though they sit on a perfect start. Blogger Max Hicks thinks they are missing one key cog in the midfield machine. His diagnosis looks accurate to me after watching the second half of today’s match against West Brom. There’s a lot of finesse with the Swans. But Wilfried Bony is the only commanding physical player.

While I like Jonjo Shelvey’s work ethic, he makes questionable decisions in the heat of battle. Today, it was two or three long and off-target shots on goal. Sub Tom Carroll looked like a boy among men when defending. But I’m being nitpicky. Swans had more than enough for WBA. Routledge, what a goal. Chelsea next: that will be a true test of the team.

Man U sure looked brittle and vulnerable against Burnley, who have improved somewhat in the past two weeks. Of course, the competition has gotten easier. People were talking a lot, comparing LVG’s opening five matches compared to what the team drew last season. Is that team going to gel? I can’t imagine the young miss–or anybody else would have expected her favorite two sides to be outpointed by my lone favorite EPL team 9-4 after three matches.

Earlier this week, a few of the nbcsn commentators were discussing how a manager’s formation can change depending on whether his team has the ball or is defending. I was thinking about that a bit as I watched three matches today. Football has come a long way in my head since we scribbled old-style 2-3-5 line-ups on the back of junk mail envelopes on the edges of open lots in my neighborhood or at Scout Camp.

I think I’ve finally licked the flu. Back to work in a bit. Won’t be watching as much Premier League replay online this week. Maybe I’ll squeeze in a match tonight after dinner. My wife has acquired my stuffed sinuses and general ache via transfer. All she had to do was to wait out the transfer window, midnight tomorrow.

Posted in Sports | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Fr Groeschel Caught Up In Urrutigoity Scandal

With the curtain up on part 3 of the Carlos Urrutigoity soap opera at dotCommonweal, retired EWTN celebrity and supporting player Benedict Groeschel is put under an uncomfortable spotlight, post and commentariat both.

What constitutes piling on an elderly man, likely impaired by a serious injury, and now in retirement? How much do his errors need to be spotlighted to help us avoid future blunders on the part of bishops, watchers, and the rest of the Church?

The truth is the truth. Fr Groeschel has a certain rep more on the right in the Church. He was a go-to guy for bishops, and he came up empty in the smear Father U left across eastern Pennsylvania.

Posted in sex abuse, The Blogosphere | Tagged , | 2 Comments