So, Star Trek

The series' title as seen in its main credits.CBS has weathered a lot of obstacles, mostly self-inflicted, to bring the latest iteration of Star Trek to the small screen.

There was one huge positive in last night’s episode. The visuals were at least as good as the recent films, and about as far above The Orville as The Orville bested the NG/DS9/Voyager era. There was a sense of wonder both on the planet (and for a routine mission!) and in space. If this continues, there might be some hope. I can’t believe a big corporation would get visuals so right and get the essential element–storytelling–so wrong. Also, the opening credits were different for a Trek series, and I think I liked them.

I’ll also give this Trek braintrust some credit for something of a novelty: a multi-episode story told over the course of a “season.” There was something of that in DS9’s Dominion War narrative. But there’s some long story with the lead character Burnham envisioned from the start here.

But there are some wrongs. One biggie: going back to the “past,” placing the new series a decade before classic Trek. I wonder: are they angling for a Chris Pine guest appearance to lift sagging ratings in some far-off (or near) future? I’ll have to wait to see how the story unfolds, but I saw nothing in this episode that couldn’t have been written, say, a generation or two in the future from Picard.

This first episode wasn’t as awkward as Voyager’s* but it had some big holes. The lead character leaves the bridge in the middle of a crisis to consult with a mentor long-distance. If I caught the scene right, somebody light years away has seen a “beacon” set off by the Klingons. Maybe it was a sub-space broadcast as well as a bright light, but still … In Star Trek you can communicate in real time, but seeing objects across interstellar space? That usually takes decades or centuries.

There’s a binary star system that should be a lot more chaotic than two fairly neat rings of merging debris. Bad science on tv and in the movies is a big distraction. And a needless one, as one star could move this story as well as two.

Klingon corpses are “yelled” into the afterlife, as they are in Worf’s Trek. But in this iteration, the show’s braintrust has forgotten that dead bodies are considered empty shells and disposed of with no further ceremony. Somebody forgot to inform Klingons have no coffins.

I can imagine the show’s creators are eager to develop their lead character’s story line. But getting her to a crucial moment was awkward. There’s a clumsy disagreement with her captain that brings up some traumatic childhood moment–not what you’d expect from a Vulcan-trained human savant. It seems this conflict will drive the next eleven episodes. It’s fine to have a life-defining moment in a crisis. Writers need to work harder to help it make sense.

So, CBS wants trekkers to pony up $6 to $10 a month to watch this show online. I think UPN blundered on that point in the last generation hoping Voyager would launch a new network. Maybe it will work better this time. But I didn’t see enough to convince me. Pretty pictures I can get here any day. Science fiction writers in both long and short forms are lapping writers for big screen and small. For endless wonder where no one has gone before, I’m still taking the local option, like this one.

My final verdict: CBS needs to work harder to earn my entertainment dollar. But maybe they will.

*In a universe filled with water planets, they conjure a reason for a seven-year journey home that needn’t have happened.

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Aparecida 192-193: Challenges For The Priest

The bishops praised those who attended to the spiritual life in their priesthood. They identify three main challenges in paragraph 192:

192. A glance at our actual moment shows us situations that affect and challenge the life and ministry of our priests. These include the theological identity of the priestly ministry, how they fit into contemporary culture, and situations that affect their life.

And each of these are briefly noted in paragraphs 193 through 195. Let’s begin with theological identity:

193. The first challenge has to do with the theological identity of the priestly ministry. Vatican II establishes the ministerial priesthood at the service of the common priesthood of the faithful; each participates in the single priesthood of Christ, although in a qualitatively different way.(Lumen Gentium 10) Christ, High and Eternal Priest, has redeemed us and has shared his divine life with us. In Him we are all children of the same Father, and brothers and sisters of each other. The priest cannot fall into the temptation of regarding himself as a mere delegate or simply a representative of the community; rather he is a gift to it by the anointing of the Spirit, and by his special union with Christ the head. “Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God” (Heb 5:1).

If I read this interpretation correctly, a priest is a servant in between. Possibly a bridge between people and their God. Not the only bridge, but an important one in light of the priesthood they share with any baptized person. Also the particular God-given calling they have received for service.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Aparecida 191: Identity and Mission of Priests

Paragraphs 191 through 204 will take a more in-depth look at Holy Orders. Subtitle here: Priests, missionary disciples of Jesus Good Shepherd.

Let’s first read what their bishops have to say about the “(i)dentity and mission of priests” in Latin America and the Caribbean:

191. We are joyfully appreciative and grateful that the immense majority of priests live out their ministry faithfully and are a model for others, that they take time for their own ongoing formation, that they cultivate a spiritual life that encourages other priests, centered on hearing the Word of God and on daily celebration of the Eucharist. “My mass is my life and my life is a prolonged mass!”(Hurtado, Alberto, Un Fuego que Enciende Otros Fuegos, pp. 69-70) We also thank those who have been sent to other churches prompted by an authentic missionary spirit.

It’s good to begin with a note of affirmation. I like the emphasis on the spiritual life, and the connection of liturgy to it, and that priests are the best source of encouragement to their colleagues in orders.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Third Law

Newton’s Third Law governs our universe where objects and forces are involved. In the realm of human social interaction, people have yet to be quantified to the extent Asimov’s fictional psychohistory suggests, but there is often a result from the pushback of human versus human.

With the kerfuffle over Fr James Martin’s latest book and subsequent disinvite from a few elder sibling haunts, sales are nearly guaranteed to increase. I would bet that those sales aren’t from concerned Catholics reading the book to confirm what they hear on the ChurchMalicious site and other locations of interest. But I’d be sure that any loss in speaker income will be balanced off by increased royalties. HarperCollins must be scanning the latest hot-button issues and locating the next best seller topic for their author.

I noticed the president suggested NFL owners need to go “apprentice” on protesting players. I suspect more guys, not just blacks, will be “doing the Tebow” during pre-game ceremonies. Imagine if major league sports gave more leg room to fans. Still, it could be worse from the viewpoint of our corporate masters. It’s already getting worse, with the latest police bungling that resulted in the shooting death of a deaf man.

The missing element in all this among the detractors is the virtue of prudence. Sure, the theological virtues trump the cardinals. And love wins big over all. But that doesn’t mean the other virtues can be ignored or excluded from consideration.

This has been a very bad weekend for the screamers in our midst. Not only would it be good to calm down the human neighborhood. But it’s ugly watching people shooting themselves in the foot, then trying to chop it off.

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Aparecida 190: Retired Bishops

Today, a brief paragraph to remind all of us that despite retirement, one does not withdraw from active service as a disciple of the Lord Jesus:

190. The whole people of God should be grateful to retired bishops, who as pastors have given up their lives to the service of the Kingdom, being disciples and missionaries. We welcome them with kindness, and we draw on their vast apostolic experience, which can still produce many fruits. They still have strong connections to the dioceses that were entrusted to them, to which they are united by their charity and their prayer.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Aparecida 188-189: Bishops As Leaders of Communion

It is not easy to be the father of Luke 15, waiting for the return of the lost, maintaining the household of the just. Or those who think they are just. St John Paul’s counsel: the Church is both a home and a school. The task of a bishop is not to usurp Christ’s role as Judge. It’s a hot topic today: who’s in, who’s out, and what about speaking the truth to sinners, however insulting we might care to make it? The harvest isn’t quite here yet. The task of the bishop–and the missionary disciple–is to draw as many people close who need a good example and a clearer path to Christ.

Let’s read:

188. As shepherds and spiritual guides of the communities entrusted to us, we bishops are called “to make the Church the home and the school of communion.”(Novo Millennio Ineunte 43) As leaders of communion, we have the mission of welcoming, discerning, and fostering charisms, ministries, and services in the Church. As fathers and center of unity, we strive to present to the world a face of the Church in which all feel welcome as in their own home. For the entire people of God, especially for priests, we seek to be fathers, friends, and brothers, always open to dialogue.

It’s not easy to have this stance toward lay people. The advice here is good for non-bishops, too: seek union with Christ, and work at the needed virtues.

189. To grow in these attitudes, we bishops must seek constant union with the Lord, cultivate the spirituality of communion with all who believe in Christ and promote the bonds of collegiality that unite them to the college of bishops, particularly to its head, the bishop of Rome. We cannot forget that the bishop is principle and builder of the unity of his particular church and sanctifier of his people, witness of hope and father of the faithful, especially of the poor, and that his primary task is to be teacher of the faith, proclaimer of the word of God and the administration of the sacraments, as servants of the flock.

Good advice for people in families, too. Especially parents.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Music In The Rite of Marriage: SttL 216-218

Nine numbered sections in Sing To The Lord detail the thoughts and directives of the US bishops on liturgical music for weddings. As a pastoral musician I can tell you planning with engaged couples is a significant component of our service to the Church. Some of my colleagues find this a burden. I stand with those who find it a source of joy.

Sections 216 and 217 set the tone for what follows, and this reminder strikes me as significant:

The Church desires that a person’s wedding day be filled with joy and grace. (SttL 217)

Sometimes this is beyond our control. But when it comes to counseling couples, the bishops acknowledge a two-pronged approach: sound judgment and pastoral sensitivity.

The bishops remind us that it is the couple who enacts the sacrament: they vow to one another; it is not something extracted by the Church or clergy. As such, a couple should be engaged in the planning of the liturgy. Is it a problem when groom, bride, or both have no idea about liturgical music? The task falls to the church musician:

Since oftentimes the only music familiar to the couple is not necessarily suitable to the sacrament, the pastoral musician will make an effort to demonstrate a wide range of music appropriate for the Liturgy. (SttL 218)

Sometimes a couple does come with suggestions. These offerings may be less or more appropriate. More often today than thirty years ago, the engaged persons bring few or no ideas to their consultation with me.

If I don’t know the people well, I ask about their expectations for the wedding. Here are my usual questions:

  • Do you envision a high church affair: very dress-up, a certain formality, the importance of dignity?
  • Or do you see yourselves having a more laid-back celebration: something more loose-fitting and comfortable?

The answers give me good direction on music. It also puts a couple at ease if they know nearly nothing about music. It’s not like most people do this more than once in a lifetime, right? The other key observation I share with couples is this:

Music and readings can do one of three things:

  • They can suggest or allude to a quality in the beloved or in the relationship.
  • They can teach or form the listener about love, faithfulness, or the desired quality of the marriage.
  • They can say something about God.

Often, all three are in play for a church wedding. Most wedding homilies include some personal aspect of the couple. If a song reflects this also, and is otherwise appropriate for liturgy, that seems within bounds. Most Scripture readings–and weddings songs based on Scripture–speak of love, sacrifice, good faith, commitment, and other virtues and qualities to which a couple might aspire. And of course, anything about God–God’s love, praise of God, gratitude to God, etc.: this is certainly a good direction to consider.


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