Simulating Rosetta

Space simulation online has come a long way in two decades. I remember the very primitive sites in the late 90’s–attempts to render the real solar system as well as imagined ones. Fun to play with.

Michael Sadlon emailed me a link to his site’s Rosetta simulation. It’s one of the best places to experience a modern space mission as a probe is navigated past several stages to arrive at mission’s end. Great for interested students, amateur astronomers, or just the plain curious. The journey is fascinating as it unfolds. I notice it can be acquired as a tablet or surface ap.

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Reconciliation Lectionary: Isaiah 55, From The Heavens

mary-the-penitent.jpgThe conclusion of Isaiah 55 was recently a first reading for an ordinary Sunday. Like the other sections of this chapter, it has inspired much sacred music. Let’s read, then discuss, and perhaps offer a conclusion or two.

For just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

This is where Scripture scholars see the conclusion of the Second Isaiah tradition (chapters 40-55 in the modern Bible). It’s a fitting end to the section of the larger book as well as that lengthy reading for Easter Vigil and for the sacrament of Reconciliation.

I see this as a message of comfort and hope. Believers might assess their own efforts as flawed and failed, but God’s divine agency and omnipotence finds our stumbling blocks irrelevant. God’s will is supreme. We can choose to be part of it or not. We can drift away for awhile, but just as sure as weather patterns and the renewal of life on the earth, God’s persistence will win the day. And when we return to God, it will be fresh as a watered landscape in a desert.

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Journalist Madeleine Baran has a devastating four-part series that finished posting at MPR today. It’s not pretty, and it paints the last three Twin Cities archbishops in a very unflattering–but deserved–light.

I’m sure it makes Minnesota Catholics wonder about their leadership, their priests, and will the scandal of cover-up ever end? I can think of about two-hundred other American dioceses where the questions might get asked: have our bishops really cleaned up their act?

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Aparecida 60 – Economics and Globalization

As part of their effort to “see” the reality of Latin America, before judging, and making proposals for action, the bishops examine the economy.

The bishops see the economic situation of Latin America and the Caribbean in the light of globalization.

They begin this section, in paragraph 60, with Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks about globalization, delivered at the beginning of the Aparecida conference.

Globalization is about the inter-relationship of all parts of the planet:

In his Inaugural Address, the pope views globalization as a phenomenon “of relationships extending over the whole planet.

This is a human achievement. The bishops, at first, seem to see globalization as a good that brings advanced technologies, markets, and financing for the improvement of the continent, especially in terms of urban development and the presence of a middle class that is technologically literate:

[Pope Benedict] considers [gloablization]  an “achievement of the human family” because it favors access to new technologies, markets, and financing. The high growth rates of our regional economy, and particularly its urban development would not be possible without opening to international trade, access to cutting-edge technologies, the participation of our scientists and technicians in the international development of knowledge, and the high investment in electronic media. All this also entails the rise of a technologically literate middle class.

What is especially important for the bishops – in line with Pope Benedict – is the deep desire for unity which underlies the quest for globalization and globalization expresses:

Globalization likewise expresses the deep aspiration of the human race for unity.

But globalization has it shadow side, particularly monopolies and the primacy given to profit.

Despite these advances, the pope also points out that globalization “brings with it the risk of vast monopolies and of treating profit as the supreme value.”

In this light, globalization must be judged ethically, in particularly in regard to how it serves the human person.

Hence, Benedict XVI stresses that as in all areas of human activity, globalization too must be led by ethics, placing everything at the service of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God.

The remainder of this chapter will analyze the consequences of some aspects of globalization, particularly its economic aspects: 61: inequities; 62: concentration of power; 63: vulnerability of small businesses; 66: environmental issues; 67: free trade and other agreements; 68: limitations on public budgets; 69: concentration of income and wealth; 70: corruption; 71: unemployment and underemployment; 72: small farmers; 73: migration.

In the middle of this section paragraphs 64 and 65 call for a globalization of solidarity, looking on those who suffer.

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

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Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

Rab_Ne_Bana_Di_JodiIt takes a few years for Hindi language films to get to the public library in Iowa. I’m not yet one of the 50 million Netflixers–still watching movies the old fashioned way: putting discs into optical scanning bays on a player.

It seems there’s a nice quality to coming home from a hot Iowa day to watch Bollywood films in the evening with a fan humming in the background. Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi was pleasant romantic fare, a lengthy but enjoyable film that blends something of a self-made male Pygmalion with a secret identity twist.

Indian mega-actor Shah Rukh Khan plays Surinder Sahni, an ordinary nerdy guy who, within the film’s first ten minutes, lands himself in an arranged marriage with a woman he’s fallen in love with at first sight. Taani Gupta has lost her fiancé to an accident on their wedding day, and soon after, her father succumbs to a heart attack. But not before expressing his wish that his favorite student and beloved daughter join in marriage.

The start seems contrived, but the pacing is so rapid, one is launched into the meat of the film without much pause for thought. In the next two-and-a-half hours, Surinder deals with his situation: a wife who will keep his household, but who professes she will never feel love again. When Taani enters a dance contest, her husband, just wanting to see her dance, disguises himself and much to his alarm, is paired with her as a partner.

Think Clark Kent here: how could a guy get rid of his glasses and mustache and not be recognizable to his wife? I accepted it, because the plot in the film moves forward more on the untruth being lived. Surinder’s alter ego is a clumsy ladies’ man. But what happens when she begins to have feelings for her still-awkward partner? How serious is this one piece of deception to a relationship? It happens all the time in American media; in fact the lie drives most of the plots in sit-coms today. Of course, if people didn’t lie, there would be no reason for the particular episode.

My wife was wondering out loud about the eventual reveal. Would Taani object to being deceived? Or would love conquer?

If the script is a little too predictable, the acting skills of the leads pretty much cover it. The expected Bollywood dance scenes are fun and clever, and the music is catchy. I confess that’s one of my favorite aspects of Hindi filmmaking. There is some element of faith and religion in the film, a bit more than I’ve seen in other Indian work. The husband is devoted to prayer, and because of her losses, the wife is alienated from God.

I can recommend this film. There are good expressions of friendship and loyalty. Shah Rukh Khan is a superb actor. He does well with a role I would have thought out of character for him. If your American children can sit through Hindi with subtitles, it’s an entirely safe movie for watching. Awkward flirting is about as sexual as it gets. One scene with maybe a half-dozen mentions of the B-word.

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EG 256: Challenges To Religion

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdaleneIn our second of three posts to look at religious freedom in Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis criticizes those who wrongly assume all people of faith, even all people of the same faith, are alike.

256. When considering the effect of religion on public life, one must distinguish the different ways in which it is practiced. Intellectuals and serious journalists frequently descend to crude and superficial generalizations in speaking of the shortcomings of religion, and often prove incapable of realizing that not all believers – or religious leaders – are the same. Some politicians take advantage of this confusion to justify acts of discrimination.

This is likely correct, but I don’t think the Holy Father has the United States on his mind when he considers this.

Speaking of the arts:

At other times, contempt is shown for writings which reflect religious convictions, overlooking the fact that religious classics can prove meaningful in every age; they have an enduring power to open new horizons, to stimulate thought, to expand the mind and the heart. This contempt is due to the myopia of a certain rationalism. Is it reasonable and enlightened to dismiss certain writings simply because they arose in a context of religious belief? These writings include principles which are profoundly humanistic and, albeit tinged with religious symbols and teachings, they have a certain value for reason.


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DPPL 1b: Contradictory Attitudes

STA altar at night smallContinuing on yesterday’s look at the first part of paragraph 1, here the CDWDS notes the upheaval after Vatican II.

Following on the conciliar renewal, the situation with regard to Christian popular piety varies according to country and local traditions. Contradictory attitudes to popular piety can be noted:

  • manifest and hasty abandonment of inherited forms of popular piety resulting in a void not easily filled;
  • attachments to imperfect or erroneous types of devotion which are estranged from genuine Biblical revelation and compete with the economy of the sacraments; unjustified criticism of the piety of the common people in the name of a presumed “purity” of faith;
  • a need to preserve the riches of popular piety, which is an expression of the profound and mature religious feeling of the people at a given moment in space and time;
  • a need to purify popular piety of equivocation and of the dangers deriving from syncretism;
  • the renewed vitality of popular religiosity in resisting, or in reaction to, a pragmatic technological culture and economic utilitarianism;
  • decline of interest in popular piety ensuing on the rise of secularized ideologies and the aggressive activities of “sects” hostile to it.

The question constantly occupies the attention of Bishops, priests, deacons, pastoral assistants, and scholars, who are concerned both to promote the liturgical life among the faithful and to utilize popular piety.

The list is interesting, an possibly illustrative. Popular piety, as I’ve understood it, has been a grass roots development. I’m not sure the post-conciliar period can be totally blamed. First, believers experienced a great deal of upheaval in the West, dating back to the 1940’s: a shattering of Europe, disillusionment with religion, distrust of secular leadership, plus the modern developments of mass media, automobiles, and the flight from cities and their ethnic enclaves. Post-war young adults experienced many disruptions former generations didn’t: war, college, suburbs, cars, television.

Vatican II came along at the right time, if not late. But the post-conciliar years lacked a certain creativity in diagnosing and addressing problems.

And it might be said that perhaps the clergy “owned” devotional rituals a little too much. If the clergy abandoned the people, what is there to say? Maybe the piety wasn’t all that deep to begin with.


You can find the full document, the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (DPPL) at the Vatican web site.

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