"And we have seen him, and he had no beauty nor comeliness" (Is 53:2). Was our bridegroom ugly, then? Of course not! ... It was to those persecuting him that he appeared ugly. If they had not thought him ugly, they would not have attacked him, they would not have beaten him with whips, they would not have crowned him with thorns, they would not have dishonored him with spit. They did all these things because he appeared ugly to them. They did not have eyes to see why he is beautiful.
To what eyes does Christ appear beautiful? The kind of eyes Christ himself sought when he said to Philip: "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not see me" (Jn 14:9)? They are eyes that need to be cleansed to be able to see that light, eyes that when even slightly touched by his splendor, are inflamed with love and desire to be healed and enlightened. That you may learn that Christ is beautiful, the prophet says of him: "More beautiful than all the sons of men" (Ps 44:3). ...
What do we love in Christ? His crucified limbs? His pierced side? Or his love? When we hear that he suffered for us, what do we love? We love his love. He loved us so that we would love him in return, and so that we might love him in return, he has come to us with his Spirit. (Augustine, Enar. in Ps 127, 8)
Back in 2006, I wrote an article in Commonweal that criticized some over-the-top attacks Republicans made on Bob Menendez during his campaign for U.S. Senate in New Jersey.
As a young man, Menendez had aided prosecutors by testifying before a federal grand jury and then at the corruption trial of his mentor, Bill Musto, the mayor of Union City, N.J. and New Jersey’s senior state legislator. The GOP claimed that for Menendez to have testified, he must have been in cahoots with the mayor, who was convicted in 1982 of racketeering for a scheme to take hundreds of thousands of dollars in payoffs from a construction company that was not-so-secretly controlled by organized crime.
The GOP accusation against Menendez was false, as I knew from having covered the investigation from its genesis while a cub reporter at the local paper, The Hudson Dispatch.
Menendez was among a group of young, up-and-coming politicos who looked up to Musto as a mentor. Musto was an old-school boss who helped the disadvantaged—the people who lined up outside his office everyday—in very concrete ways (in return for their loyalty).
Musto betrayed Menendez. He put his 24-year-old protégé in charge of the local school board’s finances, and then Musto and some of his long-time supporters proceeded to milk the school system by taking payoffs from a contractor hired to build additions on local high schools. The contractor found the money for bribes by putting in for phony cost overruns on the school job—some three-quarters of a million dollars worth.
The true nature of Musto’s dealings with the contractor took some time to emerge, but well before that happened, Menendez suspected something was wrong and began to cooperate with FBI agents who came calling. His conduct was exemplary, according to federal prosecutors at that time. It was emotionally difficult for him to turn on his mentor, and dangerous to testify against a construction company that was controlled by organized crime.
When I reported on Menendez in 2006, I focused only on the young man, not the U.S. senator. But I wrote in Commonweal that “Some of his dealings as a public official have since been questioned--and voters should consider if he has lived up to his youthful ideals.”
It’s hard to predict what will come of the charges announced against Menendez on Wednesday. The Justice Department accused him of accepting nearly $1 million in gifts and campaign contributions in exchange for doing various favors for a Florida eye doctor, including help with Medicare billing disputes and securing visas. I’m not sure if prosecutors will be able to persuade the jury that Menendez’s actions are significantly worse than other common unethical behavior on Capitol Hill.
But even in the light most favorable to Menendez—accepting his assertion that the gifts he took are legal because he and the eye doctor are close friends—his actions are unacceptable, especially for someone who started out his career in public life by standing up to corruption. It’s a great disappointment.
Flickering candle flames in chiaroscuro-drenched rooms. Sunbeams that stream through castle windows, casting clear patterns on the floor. Innumerable shots in the engrossing six-hour miniseries Wolf Hall seem to scrupulously define—even call attention to—to the sources of natural light that the tale’s 16th-century characters depend on. Of course, resonant visuals and careful historic touches are what you’d expect from pedigreed programming like Wolf Hall, an adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize–winning novels that airs April 5-May 10, as part of PBS’s Masterpiece programming.
But the meticulous lighting here amounts to more than just pretty cinematography and check-the-boxes historical verisimilitude: It contributes to one of the salient themes of the miniseries, which chronicles the rise of Thomas Cromwell, a blacksmith’s son who becomes the chief fixer for King Henry VIII. Amidst the power struggles and religious turmoil of Tudor England, Cromwell (Mark Rylance) is a lawyer whose level head and supreme competence become essential to Henry (Damian Lewis), especially when the monarch decides to get rid of Wife # 2, Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy). In the larger scheme of things, Cromwell is essentially a forerunner of the modern era. He is a capitalist—a player in an information economy—living amidst the dying embers of feudalism. He is a self-made man, surrounded by people accustomed to a rigid social order.
The luminous candle flames and daylight-channeling windows in the televised Wolf Hall, directed by Peter Kosminsky, underscore the contrast between Cromwell and his environment. Surrounded as we are by bulbs and glowing screens, it is hard to imagine functioning in the years before electricity. For Cromwell, such a dispensation was normal—and yet, in this telling, he is able to analyze financial and legal realities as efficiently as any accountant-turned-lawyer living in calculator-and-legal-database times.Read more
Episcopal installation Masses don’t usually involve teeming protesters, shouting matches, and popping balloons. But Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid’s did. Last Saturday, Barros was installed as bishop of Osorno, Chile, following allegations that he covered up for a sexually abusive priest who had been his mentor. “Barros, get out of the city!” chanted the demonstrators, waving black balloons. The bishop’s supporters tried to drown them out, brandishing white balloons. Some demonstrators attempted to climb the cathedral altar. The service was cut short, and Barros was escorted by police through a side door. Chile’s cardinals, along with most of its bishops, were not in attendance. Familiar with recent history, they knew it was going to be an ugly scene.
Four years ago, the Holy See found Fr. Fernando Karadima guilty of molesting minors, and ordered him to a life of “prayer and penance.” The Karadima case has been called the worst scandal ever to befall the Chilean Catholic Church. Karadima, now eighty-four, was once one of Chile’s most influential clerics. He ministered to the wealthy, and had strong ties to Chile’s elite. He developed a devoted following, molding the church’s future leaders. Four of his protégées, including Barros, later became bishops. Now, several of Karadima’s victims—once his devotees—say that Barros not only knew about the decades-old accusations and did nothing, but that he witnessed the abuse himself. Barros denies all of it, and refuses to resign.
After Barros’s appointment was announced in January, about thirteen hundred Chilean laypeople, including dozens of lawmakers, signed a petition seeking Barros’s removal. More than thirty clerics signed a letter asking the pope to reconsider his decision. Two Chilean bishops reportedly met with Francis to brief him on how difficult this has been for the local church. “The pope told me he had analyzed the situation in detail and found no reason” to remove Barros, the archbishop of Concepción, Fernando Chomalí, told the New York Times. Just before Barros’s installation service, the papal envoy to Chile announced that the bishop had his “confidence and support.”
Some had hoped that pressure brought by members of the pope’s new sexual-abuse commission—several of whom recently expressed grave reservations about the appointment—might persuade Francis to act, or Barros to resign. After all, just last month the pope said that “everything possible must be done to rid the church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused.” He even seemed to chide bishops who had used the excuse of not giving scandal to avoid addressing the issue. But yesterday the Holy See released a terse, curiously worded statement responding to the growing controversy: “Prior to the recent appointment of His Excellency Msgr. Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid as bishop of Osorno, Chile, the Congregation for Bishops carefully examined the prelate’s candidature and did not find objective reasons to preclude the appointment.” If this is Rome’s last word on Barros, then Francis should know that his decision has imperiled not only the Diocese of Osorno, but also his own reputation as a reformer.Read more
In honor of National Poetry Month, I'm going to be offering weekly recommendations of contemporary poets worth reading. Today, I'll start things off with Nate Klug, a young poet whose new collection, Anyone, has just been published by the University of Chicago Press.
In his Adagia, Wallace Stevens writes that "the poet feels abundantly the poetry of everything." To the poetic imagination, the world isn't described through poetry; it is poetry, at least when the world is seen most clearly and truthfully. Klug's work offers exactly this kind of reorienting of perspective, showing us the world in all of its particularity and with all of its resonances.
Klug, who has a Masters from Yale Divinity School and is a Congregationalist minister, has said that he only believes in God when he is writing, and his poems continually examine the relation between vision and writing, sensory perception and divine revelation. Take, for example, his poem entitled "Milton's God." (This and all subsequent poems can be found on the Poetry Foundation's website):
Where i-95 meets the Pike,
a ponderous thunderhead flowered;
stewed a minute, then flipped
like a flash card, tattered
edges crinkling in, linings so dark
with excessive bright
that, standing, waiting, at the overpass edge,
the onlooker couldn’t decide
until the end, or even then,
what was revealed and what had been hidden.
Are there still liberals willing to speak up for religious freedom? I don’t know whether the religious freedom bill passed and signed in Indiana last week—and now reportedly up for revision—is a good measure. I do know that, however one precisely balances out the pros and cons of the bill, it does involve religious freedom.
That was not the perspective of the front-page story in Saturday’s New York Times, which framed the bill as one more tactic for discriminating against gay couples. Conservatives opposed to same-sex marriage were “invoking ‘religious freedom’ as their last line of defense.”
No doubt some conservatives would invoke anything short of global warning as a last-line defense against same-sex marriage. But is it really beyond imagining that many conservatives and non-conservatives, too, might be genuinely agitated about religious freedom for its own sake? Certainly beyond imagining by Hillary Clinton, who was quick to tweet, “Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today.” Beyond imagining by all the technology, business, and sports and entertainment eminences now bullying Indiana with boycotts, not that these folks ever cared much (or knew much) about religious freedom in the first place.
The Times news story devoted almost two thirds of its coverage to these critics, far more than to any supporters or to Indiana’s governor. It did spare two paragraphs for a quote from Douglas Laycock, one of the nation’s foremost church-state scholars. “The hysteria over this law is so unjustified,” he said, rejecting the anti-gay sentiments being attributed to it.Read more
There’s never a dull moment at the Weal’s monthly events.
This past Saturday, we hosted a workshop on spiritual writing. The discussion was scheduled to take place at a bar in Brooklyn, but an unusually large crowd for an afternoon at a dive intervened. The Palm Sunday pre-gamers were apparently out in full force. Fortunately, our short journey to find another spot turned out to be great chance to catch up or get to know each other.
The workshop was expertly led by Commonweal’s Editorial Assistant Maria Bowler. We discussed over sundry craft beers the forms of spiritual writing, problems to avoid when writing, and practical advice on publishing. We read excerpts from Richard Rodriguez, Annie Dillard, and Christian Wiman. We learned that good spiritual writing can have a gritty side, and that metaphors and similes are often inferior to descriptive accounts. And we figured out (with the help of selections from Rowan Williams) that avoiding the cardinal sin of spiritual writing—speaking from the “armchair”—means including yourself among the condemned.
Maria began with a definition of spiritual writing that set the tone not only for her workshop but for the gathering itself: “Spiritual writing tracks the soul in relationship to something outside of itself.” All of us participated with each other—relating our selves those around us.
We hope that you'll join us at our next event. We’ll even buy you a drink.
The April 10 issue is now live on the website. The full table of contents is here, and these are some of the highlights.
Andrew Koppelman on keeping the “religion” in religious freedom:
[The American legal tradition of according religion special treatment] has become intensely controversial of late, reflecting a growing scholarly consensus that special treatment of religion cannot be justified. While some scholars would rule out all legal accommodation, the more common view would allow it in certain cases, but under another description. It is morally arbitrary to single out “religion,” the argument goes, and so a different legal category, such as “conscience,” should be used. A second and related objection is that the bounds of “religion” are so indeterminate that the term is meaningless—a term that European colonizers, for instance, used willy-nilly to describe whatever local practices somehow reminded them of Christianity.
The singling out of religion for special legal treatment, I will argue here in response, is appropriate, and precisely because religion doesn’t correspond to any narrow category of morally salient thought or conduct; as such it is a concept flexible enough to be accommodated legally while keeping the state neutral about theological questions. Other, more specific categories are either too sectarian to be politically usable, too underinclusive, or too vague to be administrable.
Read all of “Nonexistent & Irreplaceable” here.
Susan Wood reviews essays on ecumenism by the late Margaret O’Gara:
Although the church may not turn back in its commitment to ecumenism, O’Gara reminds us, echoing Pope John Paul II, that “no pilgrim knows in advance all the steps along the path.” Nor will that path be easy for pilgrims bent on the spiritual transformation that flows from collaboration: “they spend their time and talents on lengthy studies of positions they only gradually come to understand,” O’Gara writes with sympathy; “they endure the embarrassment and frustration that flow from the sins of their own church communion and from those of their dialogue partner’s church communion as well; and frequently their efforts are feared or suspected by members of their own church.”
Read all of “No Turning Back” here.
Also in the April 10 issue: William Pfaff writes on signs of dissent from America’s European allies, Richard Alleva reviews the film Leviathan, and Peter Quinn reflects on Baby Boomers “in the nightfall of old age.”
John Connelly, professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley, and a frequent Commonweal contributor, gave the annual Catholic-Jewish Engagement lecture at Fairfield University last week. Connelly is the author of From Enemy to Brother: the Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews 1933-1965, and his lecture touched on many of the personalities and themes from his award-winning book. Commonweal subscribers might remember his 2012 article, “Nazi Racism & the Church,” adapted from that book. What Connelly’s extensive research uncovered was the little known but pivotal role played by Jewish and Protestant converts to Catholicism in the Second Vatican Council’s abandonment of the traditional Catholic teaching of contempt for Jews. It was John XXIII who insisted the council take up the question, and in the council document Nostra Aetate (“The Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions”) the bishops denounced anti-Semitism and proclaimed that “God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues—such is the witness of the Apostle. In company with the Prophets and the same Apostle, the Church awaits that day, known to God alone, on which all peoples will address the Lord in a single voice and ‘serve him shoulder to shoulder.’”
Whether God’s faithfulness to his covenant with the Jewish people should also mean an end to the church’s missionary outreach to the Jews and a rejection of traditional supersessionist teaching is a notoriously thorny and complicated theological issue. That question has frequently been debated in our pages (see “What Christians Owe Jews,” February 9, 2015; “Getting Past Supersessionism," February 10, 2014). Doubtless the theological argument will go on. As a matter of history, however, the story Connelly tells is as fascinating as it is surprising. For the lecture, he focused on the life of Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher and the role he played in the drafting of Nostra Aetate.Read more
Tuesday's deadline in talks over Iran's nuclear program is fast approaching. Whether or not Iran will ship its stockpile of fuel is becoming a key element in the negotiations. A brief rundown from BBC news. Confused about which countries are friends or enemies with other countries in the Middle East? This graph at The Atlantic will make it all clear.
As the Senate takes their two-week spring recess, Loretta Lynch's nomination as Attorney General is further delayed. But the Republicans are in a bind. From the New York Times: "Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, now finds himself in the conundrum that has bedeviled his counterpart in the House, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio: Members of his party will vote no on Ms. Lynch but hope “yes” — that she will squeak through."
The Daily Show has a new host. He is 31-year old Trevor Noah, and CNN has a clip of his appearance on the show.
At the science magazine Nautilus, neuroscience can help us understand how music warps our sense of time. There are clips of music to boot.
Mark Noll reviews Matthew Sutton's book American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism at Books and Culture. Noll sets Sutton's characterization of how evangelicals treat the end times against Grant Wacker's take on Billy Graham.
While preparing a lesson about libel for my journalism students, I recently leafed through articles I had written on Gen. William C. Westmoreland’s libel suit against CBS News in 1984. CBS had accused the general of deliberately underestimating the enemy’s troop strength during the Vietnam war, thus giving a false impression that the war was winnable. Westmoreland, charging that his honor had been impugned by slanted reportage, file a defamation suit.
My recollection is that both sides fared poorly in the courtroom battle. The evidence demonstrated some shoddy journalism on CBS’s part, with outtakes showing that interviews were quoted very selectively. But the testimony from Westmoreland’s chief of intelligence also showed that he had delayed reporting a higher enemy troop strength to Washington out of fear it would be a “political bombshell.” Rather than submit the case to the jury, Westmoreland settled the suit without collecting any damages. One press room colleague said, that CBS "framed him for something he did."
Seymour Hersh’s article in the March 30 New Yorker, “The Scene of the Crime: a reporter’s journey to My Lai and the secrets of the past,” revisits the question of how important truths about the war were covered up. It’s a chilling piece in which Hersh recounts how he reported on the massacre at My Lai on March 16, 1968, when U.S. troops rounded up and executed women, children and elderly people. Returning to the scene of the crime, he visited a Vietnamese museum dedicated to the massacre and reports:
The museum’s count, no longer in dispute, is five hundred and four victims, from two hundred and forty-seven families. Twenty-four families were obliterated—–three generations murdered, with no survivors. Among the dead were a hundred and eighty-two women, seventeen of them pregnant. A hundred and seventy-three children were executed, including fifty-six infants. Sixty older men died.
Flannery O'Connor said of her short story "Good Country People" that Hulga, the "lady Ph.D." whose wooden leg is stolen by a Bible salesman, is forced to face not just the physical affliction the object represents but also a spiritual one, namely "her own belief in nothing." Albert Maysles, who died earlier this month and who with his brother David made seminal and semi-notorious documentaries like Grey Gardens and Gimme Shelter, depicts no loss of limb, literal or symbolic, in 1969's cinéma vérité landmark, Salesman. But the door-to-door peddler of Bibles who emerges as the central figure of the film confronts no less significant a crisis of the spirit.
Paul Brennan and the other salesmen of Salesman seem not to have grabbed viewers the way Big Edie and Little Edie Beale or Mick Jagger and the Stones at Altamont have over the years. But since Maysles's death Salesman has received a fair amount of mention and was even recently aired by Turner Classic Movies (it's also part of the Criterion Collection and can be streamed on Hulu). Pay no attention to synopses that make throwaway allusions to Willy Loman; consider Salesman an early prototype for David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. There's a similar adrenaline-and-anxiety-fueled mood, with manufactured optimism verging on self-delusion as the salesmen alternately hail and curse a system under which they're free to make money using nothing but their wits.
Of course, the big difference is that Salesman, shot with handheld cameras in black-and-white and ambient sound, isn't scripted drama. That the products being sold are the Bible, the Catholic Encyclopedia, the New Missal, and other Catholic publications adds a whole other component: The quartet documented by the Maysles seem obligated to place special faith in what they're peddling -- after all, these aren't vacuum cleaners.Read more
Tonight at Georgetown University the second annual IgnatianQ conference kicks off a weekend of lectures, breakout sessions, dialogues and keynotes that uniquely focus on LGBTQ issues and Jesuit values, aiming to create a community of people active in their faith, community and campus, who continue conversations. The first IgnatianQ (after ivyQ) was hosted by Fordham last year—created, planned and organized entirely by students. It grew from one conversation between two people on a roof to a three-day dialogue of 96 participants traveling from six different Jesuit schools to attend. And now it's in it's second year.
Bolstered by the University’s mission statement and the powers vested in academic freedom, the group of organizers approached the Theology department first with a 12 page proposal they’d carefully put together through months of weekly meetings, unsure and anxious about how well it’d go over. They not only received “overwhelming support” of the idea for IgnatianQ but also a keynote speaker, $300, and a room to hold meetings on campus—legitimacy. Soon enough many other departments signed on and they had enough money and backing to let real preparations for the conference begin. Anthony, one of the originators, remembers with slight disbelief meeting with the University vice president, who’d need to talk with the president (both priests) who’d need to approve the conference. “I told him ‘I pray that the politics of man do not interfere with the work of the holy spirit in organizing this conference’” Plainly, “Don’t let your reservations about the word queer get in the way of what these students need right now.” And they didn’t.Read more
In Wednesday's post I asked: what next for U.S.-Israeli ties?
Among the comments, J.P. Farry posted this grim but perhaps realistic analysis: "The reaction of so many Israelis to Obama's response to Bibi's election eve statement reflects their long-standing expectation that US Presidents are supposed to cut Israeli prime ministers "a lot of slack" given the tumultuous character of Israeli politics.
"We now know that almost every President since 1948 has experienced periods of frlustration with Israeli prime ministers But past presidents, by either their silence or direct statements, have never questioned the "good intentions" of Israeli leaders in pursuing a 2-state solution. Obama has just said he ls not going to provide this "cover"--even when Bibi offered him a second chance to indirectly and discretely testify to Bibi's "peace credentials." (At the same time, Obama's Chief of Staff, in addressing the J-Street Convention, referred to the need to end "50 years of occupation." -- The "O" word is not supposed to spoken in DC.--)
"Israeli leaders since the Oslo Agreement 20 years ago have been realists. Accepting a 2-state agreement poses security and political risks that maintaining "the occupation"--particularly as it now exists--would not seem to involve. Bibi, in his slip of the tongue on the eve of the election--admitted what no Israeli leader has previously dared to admit--the "status quo" (the "occupation") is the best of all probable world that the Israelis can hope for.
"Why not! The US has reconstructed the PA security forces so they are more effective in maintaining order on the West Bank; settlements can be incrementally expanded with limited and passing objections; Israeli intelligence agents have effectively infilltrated Palestinian society; and "international donors" (the US, EU and Arab League) provide over a billion dollars a year to alliviate the harshest economic consequences of the "occupation."
"At the moment, the Palestinians seem to have only one bargaining chip: the threat of another "Infitada." (It would seem inevitable that such an uprising would be treated as the projection of Islamic State violence and quickly and harshly suppressed by both the Israelis and Americans.)
"If Obama had remained silent--(or if he now agrees to publically sing "kumbaya" with Bibi)--we might be able to retain the tatered "hope" that a 2-state solution is within reach as soon as there is a Palestinian partner who shares Bibi's willingness to negotiate. Bibi's comments (and Obama's response) make it impossible for us to continue with this self-deception.
"Bibi's (and Obama's) candor present the Palestinians (as well as the Europeans and the other financial supporters of the Palestinians) with a changed diplomatic context. However it is not at all clear that the sudden interjection of candor into this implacable conflict will open up new avenues for the non-violent dismantling of Israeli's "best probable solution"-- the occupation.
"While candor is toxic for self-deception, it may only trigger the creation of new self-deceptions."
And if you're up for more, check out the Forward on what American-Israeli lobbying groups should be doing.... a bit of bury your head in the sand, maybe this will go away.
Fiction fans, you may remember Liam Callanan's short story "Exhibit A," which we had the good fortune -- and good taste -- to publish in Commonweal last summer. (If not, go ahead and read it now.) I'm pleased to inform you that our good taste has been validated by the Council for Wisconsin Writers, which has recognized "Exhibit A" with honorable mention for its Zona Gale Award for Short Fiction. Update: here's an exclusive quote from the judges' citation, guaranteed to make you want to read or reread: "Liam Callanan's 'Exhibit A' is an unlikely love story set among an animatronic Marie Curie and Tesla's coil. By turns bizarre and intimate, Callanan's story is a gem worthy of its own display in the Hall of Wonders."
If you liked "Exhibit A" (not to mention Liam Callanan's other writing for Commonweal), you'll be glad to know that it's included in Listen & Other Stories, Callanan's new collection of short fiction from Four Way Books. Milwaukee-area readers can celebrate its launch tomorrow night, March 27, at Boswell Book Company. If you should make it to that or any of the stops on the Listen tour --New Yorkers have two chances, April 19 and May 7 -- be sure to tell the author that Commonweal sent you.
This week, the Man Booker International Prize announced their shortlist for the £60,000 award, and the only American who made the cut was the poet, novelist and essayist Fanny Howe. Howe was nominated for her sixteenth book of poetry, Second Childhood, released by Graywolf press. As if we needed another reason to be curious about it, it also made Anthony Domestico's list of the Best Books of 2014,
Howe is a Catholic writer. She encountered the faith through her second husband's mother, and converted after they had divorced. Adding any adjective before "writer" can be dangerous, as though it classifies the work in a pre-determined way, but be assured Howe's poems, essays and fiction don't tip the scales into annoying piety, and it is the opposite of didactic. Suggesting that she's a writer who happens to be Catholic would ignore how faith shapes her work's subject and its form. Liberation theology presses on her imagination (in one of her novels especially, appropriately titled Saving History). In her poetry, her sense of time is especially distinctive. In her essay, "Footsteps Over Ground," she writes:
The calendar year for daily working life is the same for all of us, but there is a second calendar: the church calendar that refers to the birth, murder, and resurrection of Jesus, which is an absolutely archetypal story, a poetic rendition of any human life. The Mass, with its readings from the Gospel stories, and the the Eucharistic rite, repeated for centuries, is an account of the cooperation of transcendence with the ordinary. If it is an opiate, all the better.
In the liturgy's repetition, Howe finds a place to return to outside chronological time. Time is not a straight line or a circle, as we often hear, but a spiral. She writes what she calls spiral or series poems that return to the same place from another direction, as though the reader and the speaker were disoriented in a forest. In her essay "Bewilderment" she explains that these poems come from "my experience of non-sequential, but intensely connected, time-periods and the way they impact on each other, but lead nowhere."
Her poem "A Hymn" is an example, beginning with an epigraph by Dostoevsky that sets the tone for the bewilderment Howe is interested in.
When I fall into the abyss, I go straight into it, head down and heels up, and I'm even pleased that I'm falling in just such a humiliating position, and for me I find it beautiful. And so in that very shame I suddenly begin a hymn.
I traveled to the page where scripture meets fiction.
The paper slept but the night in me woke up.
Black letters were now alive
and collectible in a material crawl.
I could not decipher their intentions anymore.
To what end did their shapes come forth?
Read the rest of the poem at The Poetry Foundation. It will be worth your (strange, out of sequence) time.
The immensely learned Rita Ferrone has called attention to a recruitment video (in Spanish with English subtitles) that is very different in tone than that of Father Barron. I think a compare and contrast is in order.
What struck me most was the invitational quality of this video. The candidates are being invited into a mystery, not a clearly defined web of doctrinal propositions or a certain command and control structure. It inivtes to a kind of camaraderie of service, I think.
Read the editors' sane, balanced and forthright editorial on Netanyahu's election and the fall-out. Then read the comments virtually charging CWL with anti-S. Talk about swarming! [NB: I am not an editor! Didn't write it!]
Then look at Jodi Rudoren in Wednesday's Times about Israelis having a nervous breakdown over the Obama Administration's straight talking about the state of the two-state solution. The nerve of President Cool. "The president’s harsh words have been deemed by some to be patronizing and disrespectful not only to Mr. Netanyahu but also to the voters who rewarded his uncompromising stances with a resounding mandate for a fourth term." "Patronizing!" "Disrespectful!" Wow. Pots and Kettles!
Then here's a little something "Washington Sits Shiva for the 2-State Solution" from Mondoweiss (somethimes charged with being a self-hating J, akin to anti-S). "Israeli PM Netanyahu’s dismissal of the two-state solution in the last days of the election campaign in Israel is having a huge and beneficial effect on the discussion of the conflict inside the United States. Yesterday President Obama leaped on the PM’s comments at a press conference, stating severely that the two-state solution is not going to happen in the next “several” years, and we have to deal with that reality, and no one’s going to get anywhere by singing “kumbaya.”
What next? Your policy proposals.
Like most people who think it’s a bad idea to spray homeless people with water in order to move them along, I found myself rather surprised by last week’s news that the cathedral of the Archdiocese of San Francisco had been doing just that for the past two years. The archdiocese’s response was swift. The day the story broke it hired a crisis communications consultant, began dismantling the homeless irrigation system, and issued a statement that included an apology. Obviously when a Catholic church is discovered to have been regularly dousing the poor with water—for whatever reason—it has a major PR problem. Facing such a crisis, a church’s best bet is to admit the mistake, explain how it happened, and offer sincere apologies to the offended. In other words, stop digging. But that’s not exactly what the Archdiocese of San Francisco did, and that’s why it’s hard to accept the words it arranged in the form of an apology. How might it have been more convincing? Let’s count the ways.Read more
Featured right now on the website: Robert Mickens's latest Letter from Rome, in which he reports on preparations for Holy Week at the Vatican (Francis will "wash the feet of inmates at the Rebibbia Detention Centre on the outskirts of Rome. And, as in the past, some of them will be women"), as well as on new comments from Cardinal Kasper on mercy, expectations for the October synod, and Francis's feelings about clericalism ("he hates it!"). Read the whole Letter from Rome here.
Also, our editors on the electoral victory of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the "ugliness of democratic politics":
As happens all too often in democracies, Netanyahu’s scorched-earth politics won the day. ... However, building bridges to his domestic political rivals may be easier than repairing his relationship with the Obama administration.
Predictably enough, Netanyahu has already retreated from his pre-election rejection of a two-state solution and apologized for his remarks about Arab Israelis. How sincere his recantations are remains to be seen; the White House appears skeptical. Netanyahu’s credibility could hardly be lower. His cynical and expedient rejection of a Palestinian state made a mockery of the Obama administration’s efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Allying himself with congressional Republicans to sabotage negotiations with Iran put traditional bipartisan support for Israel at risk. Should the administration and its international partners succeed in striking a deal with Iran, Netanyahu’s opposition is now a foregone conclusion. In other words, although the U.S. commitment to Israel’s military defense is not in jeopardy, it seems clear that the interests of the two nations are beginning to diverge in important ways.
Read all of "An Ugly Business" here.