Friday, January 27, 2012

My Take on the News: Reliquary Found; 'Kill or Close' Order From Washington; the Value of Silence

More posts about forcing Catholics to violate our conscience:
The Department of Health and Human Services vs. Conscience
This week I read about a discovery in Boston, an archbishop with good advice, and a reminder about the value of silence:
  1. Reliquary Found
  2. 'Kill or Close'
  3. Silence: Still Golden

1. Reliquary Found

"Reliquary?" It sounds like it might be a place where relics are dug up, and that's close to the word's meaning: but not quite.
  • Reliquary
    1. A container where religious relics are stored or displayed (especially relics of saints)
      (Princeon's WordNet)
    2. A container for relics
    3. A container, often made of precious materials, used a repository for sacred relics
      (Art 31 Vocabulary, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
    4. A novel (1997) set in and under New York City, involving
      • Decapitated bodies
      • A monster
      • Mole people
      • Dr. Whitney C. Frock
        • Evolutionary biologist
        • Mad scientist
Maybe I need to say this, given American culture's assumptions:
  • Relics aren't idols
  • Saints aren't little gods
  • Veneration isn't worship
I put a little more background near the end of this post1 It's probably not as riveting as a story about Mole people, a mad scientist, and the Mbwun monster. That may explain why so many folks have odd ideas about Catholic beliefs: which is definitely another topic.

The closest thing to the Catholic Church's use of relics that I can think of, offhand, in American culture is sports memorabilia. Apart from the occasional crackpot, nobody believes that a baseball autographed by Babe Ruth has magical powers; or that a jersey worn by Michael Jordan will imbue greatness on its current owner. But folks have been known to spend large sums of money to get items with some connection to a sports star.

Which brings up simony, idolatry, Mephistopheles, and a whole boatload of other topics.

From Boston: Good News; Bad News

"Forgotten religious relic rediscovered in New York"
Lauren Green, (July 25, 2012)

"Safely tucked away in a private room of the diocese headquarters, a mysterious masterpiece is causing quite a stir in Buffalo, N.Y.

"A rare religious relic, an intricate starburst tapestry, was recently rediscovered after being hidden for more than a century.

" 'We assume that something as elaborate as this had to come from the Holy Father.' says Monsignor James F. Campbell.

"That is the only thing he can be certain of.

"The tapestry contains a calendar of 365 relics of the saints, one saint's relic for each day of the year.

"And in the center of the roughly 2-foot-by-3-foot tapestry are what are supposed to be the relics of the actual crucifixion of Jesus: a piece of the Crown of Thorns, the sponge used to dab his lips, and a sliver of the cross itself, all woven into the cloth...."
Odds are pretty good that Pope Pius IX gave the reliquary to Bishop John Timon somewhere between 1850 and 1870. The Bishop's assignment was the then-new Diocese of Buffalo. Around 1900 a convent, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, on Buffalo's Main Street, got the job of taking care of the tapestry.

Which they did: but somewhere during the next century whatever documentation may have been with the reliquary got separated from the tapestry.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that it's in good condition, and that the Vatican has a reputation for meticulous record-keeping. Folks in Boston are probably hoping that headquarters can sort out details of the reliquary's history. has a photo of the cloth reliquary.

2. 'Kill or Close'

An American archbishop is acting like an archbishop. That is very good news:
"LA archbishop calls on Catholics to oppose HHS mandate"
Hillary Senour, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (July 25, 2012)

"Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles urged lay Catholics to defend the faith after the Department of Health and Human Services refused to reverse a contraception mandate set to take effect in Aug. 2013.

" 'In this case, the government is imposing a narrow, radically individualistic idea of religion,' Archbishop Gomez said in a column published this week in his archdiocesan newspaper, the Tidings.

"On Jan. 20, Department of Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the administration would not expand a religious exemption for employers who object to its 'preventative services' mandate.

"The policy, originally introduced in an Aug. 2011 interim rule, requires health insurance plans to cover contraception - including drugs that cause abortion - and sterilization free of charge.

"To qualify for a religious exemption under the policy, religious organizations must employ and serve primarily members of their own faith and must exist for the purpose of teaching religious values...."
I might be more shocked and discouraged about this latest decree from Washington, if it wasn't the sort of thing I've come to expect from America's national government. As it is, I think I understand some of the reasons that the Department of Health and Human Services wants to 'help' women kill their babies, and keep them from having 'too many.' I don't agree: but I think I understand.

Babies: A Reality Check

Babies have been defined as 'alimentary canals with a loud noise at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.' They're often inconvenient, not entirely compatible with an upwardly-mobile career success track, and an enormous blessing to anyone who bothers to notice.

I think one reason that America's government is trying to force its subjects into conformity on 'womens' health care' is that more and more Americans are noticing that those 'formless lumps of protoplasm' and 'products of conception' are people.

Most 'products of conception,' given time and attention, will grow into interesting, productive, adults. Some become members of Congress, and I've mentioned consequences of living in a fallen world before. Original sin and all that.

Politics, Religion, and Assumptions

In some social settings, there's a reason why one of America's rules of conduct is to avoid discussion of politics or religion. Topics like that can get arguments going, fast: and are best avoided when the point of a gathering is to have a pleasant time.

There's also the notion that being 'spiritual' means being 'so heavenly minded, you're no earthly good.' There are monastic orders which deliberately minimize contact with the outside world: but they're the exception in Catholicism.

We're supposed to be 'in the world, but not of the world:' and we're expected to make a difference:
"As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life. The manner of this participation may vary from one country or culture to another. "One must pay tribute to those nations whose systems permit the largest possible number of the citizens to take part in public life in a climate of genuine freedom."32"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1915)

"It is the duty of citizens to work with civil authority for building up society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom."
(Catechism, 2255)
That sort of thing is anathema to folks who think the Constitution should give them 'freedom from religion.' Again, I think I can understand why some Americans are scared silly at the prospect of people with religious beliefs getting involved in public policy.

I've discussed 'separation of church and state,' assumptions about religion, and crackpots, before:
As to whether or not it's okay to kill innocent people, the Catholic Church says that's not right. (Catechism, 2258-2283, 2302-2317)

America has an election coming up this November. I plan to vote: after taking a long, hard, look at what candidates said: and did. I don't expect to find a 'perfect' candidate. I'm hoping that there will be an acceptable one for each race in my area.

Moving on.

3. Silence: Still Golden

I suppose someone could take this headline, and assume that the Pope wants bloggers to be quiet and stop posting stuff. Actually, it's more about the value of silence. And reflection.

I'm an American, with the sort of intellectual twitchiness that seems to go with our culture. There's a reason why the boisterous American is a stereotype.

Here's what got me started about silence, Catholic style:
"Pope emphasizes need for silence in digital world"
David Kerr, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (January 24, 2012)

"Pope Benedict XVI believes that in a noisy world of constant communication people need silence more than ever.

"He outlined his thoughts in his message for World Communications Day 2012, which is entitled 'Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization.' The Pope's letter was released Jan. 24 at the Vatican press office by Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

" 'When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary,' the Pope says in a statement that will be read in Catholic churches around the world on May 20, 2012.

" 'This makes it possible to share thoughtful and relevant opinions, giving rise to an authentic body of shared knowledge,' he writes.

"Pope Benedict recommends making this interchange possible by developing 'an appropriate environment, a kind of "eco-system" that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.'..."
A key word here, I think, is "equilibrium." Finding a balance "between silence, words, images and sounds."

That equilibrium point is probably different for everybody. Some folks apparently find balance near the ends of humanity's various continua:
"EREMITICAL LIFE: The life of a hermit, separate from the world in praise of God and for the salvation of the world, in the silence of solitude, assiduous prayer, and penance (920)."
(Catechism, Glossary)

What the Pope is not saying is that everybody should be a hermit. One thing I like about the Catholic Church is that we're supposed to be different:
  • Bishops and priests
    (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 874-896)
  • Hermits
    (Catechism, 920-921)
  • Laity
    (Catechism, 897-903)
  • Nuns and monks
    (Catechism, 925-927)
That's not even close to being a complete index to what the Church says about being Christian. I've posted about the 1 Corinthians: 12 thing before. (June 1, 2011)

"Tied ... to Our Own Words and Ideas"

An English translation of Pope Benedict's statement is online at the Vatican's website:
The CNA article gives several excerpts, including this:
"...He [Benedict XVI] also observes that silence can allow other people to express their thoughts. In this way 'we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested,' and therefore, 'space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible.'..."
Quite a few folks have said that listening is a good idea:
"No man ever listened himself out of a job."
Calvin Coolidge (30th president of US (1872 - 1933))

"When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen."
Ernest Hemingway (US author & journalist (1899 - 1961))

"Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly."
Plutarch (Greek biographer & moralist (46 AD - 120 AD))

(via The Quotations Page)
Listening isn't the same as believing. Over the decades, I've listened to quite a bit that I didn't believe. And I stopped believing some things because I listened. Which eventually led me to become a Catholic. And that's yet another topic.

Exchange in the Marketplace of Ideas

I've mentioned the old phrase, "marketplace of ideas" before. Fairly often:
I think First Amendment guarantees of free expression are a good idea, partly because crackpot ideas don't last long when folks get a chance to discuss them. Provided that the playing field is level.

Maybe more important: a free, open, marketplace of ideas allows good ideas to get shared and discussed. Even if a society's 'better sort' don't like the ideas.

I've got more to say about McCarthyism, political correctness, and the 'good old days,' but that'll wait for another post.

Basically, I like living in a world where someone can share opinions: even if editors, educators, or Congress, don't agree.

"Overwhelmed," and Individual Differences

One more excerpt from that article:
"...Silent contemplation also 'immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbors so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, his message of life and his saving gift of the fullness of love,' he writes.

"Archbishop Celli summed up the Pope's message as reminding everyone that real communication involves pairing 'words and silence' so that people are not 'overwhelmed by the sheer volume of communication itself.'

"Monsignor Paul Tighe, Secretary of the social communications council, explained to CNA that the Pope's message 'reminds us that the relevance of silence is equally important within the context of a digital environment.'...
I think that "pairing 'words and silence' " is important. Last October, I decided to organize my online activity to give myself more time to think. (October 2, 2011)

I also recognize that many folks feel "overwhelmed" by the volume of information available online. I don't feel that way, myself: but I'm a fairly fast reader; and never 'grew out of' the sort of seemingly-insatiable curiosity that many four-year-olds show. ("Why Kids Ask Why," Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience (November 23, 2009))

And that's yet again another topic.

Related posts:

1 A little background on veneration, Saints, relics, and Catholic beliefs:
"VENERATION (OF SAINTS): Showing devotion and respect to Mary, the Apostles, and the martyrs, who were viewed as faithful witnesses to faith in Jesus Christ. Later, veneration was given to those who led a life of prayer and self-denial in giving witness to Christ, whose virtues were recognized and publicly proclaimed in their canonization as saints (828). Such veneration is often extended to the relics or remains of those recognized as saints; indeed, to many sacred objects and images. Veneration must be clearly distinguished from adoration and worship, which are due to God alone (1154, 1674, 2132)." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary)

"WORSHIP: Adoration and honor given to God, which is the first act of the virtue of religion (2096). Public worship is given to God in the Church by the celebration of the Paschal Mystery of Christ in the liturgy (1067)." (Catechism, Glossary)

"SAINT: The 'holy one' who leads a life in union with God through the grace of Christ and receives the reward of eternal life. The Church is called the communion of saints, of the holy ones (823, 946; cf. 828). See Canonization." (Catechism, Glossary)

"The patriarchs, prophets, and certain other Old Testament figures have been and always will be honored as saints in all the Church's liturgical traditions." (Catechism, 61)

"The first commandment condemns polytheism. It requires man neither to believe in, nor to venerate, other divinities than the one true God. Scripture constantly recalls this rejection of 'idols, [of] silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.' These empty idols make their worshippers empty: 'Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them.'42 God, however, is the 'living God'43 who gives life and intervenes in history" (Catechism, 823)

Catechism, 823, seems to contradict what the Church says about the "veneration" of saints. It doesn't. As I've said before, I have the authority of "some guy with a blog," and don't speak for the Church. I'm pretty confident about this, though:
  • The Saints aren't little gods
  • Veneration of Saints isn't directed toward "other divinities"
About that last point, of the 1,100,000,000 or so Catholics living today, a few may be confused about what Saints are. Some may think they're worshiping little gods. Off-the-rails Catholics being wrong about what the Catholic Church teaches doesn't mean that the Church is wrong. One more thing about relics:
"The Second Vatican Council recalls that "the Saints have been traditionally honoured in the Church, and their authentic relics and images held in veneration"(323). The term "relics of the Saints" principally signifies the bodies - or notable parts of the bodies - of the Saints who, as distinguished members of Christ's mystical Body and as Temples of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 3, 16; 6, 19; 2 Cor 6, 16)(324) in virtue of their heroic sanctity, now dwell in Heaven, but who once lived on earth. Objects which belonged to the Saints, such as personal objects, clothes and manuscripts are also considered relics, as are objects which have touched their bodies or tombs such as oils, cloths, and images."
(236, Veneration of the Saints and Beati, Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, Principles and Guidelines," Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (December 2001)


Brigid said...

Is the numbered list at the beginning supposed to contain links?

Your fingers have a cold? "One think I like about"

Another consonant misplaced: "Which eventually let me to become"

Missing end quote: "authority of "some guy with a blog, and don't speak"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


Oops. Yes.

Looks like it.


Oops again.

Fixed, and thanks!

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.