Friday, July 24, 2009

a brief word of clarification on the sanctuary lamp

I blogged, I guess a couple weeks ago, on the use of the sanctuary lamp in Lutheran churches. Some interesting discussion followed. Later I became aware of some disagreement on the matter from "Dan," who explained his concerns at his blog. Both his blog entry on this topic and mine are too far down to just refer the reader to them. So I thought it good to add another one here, in which I cite both. Please find his entry here. And please read, or reread mine here. I always welcome healthy, friendly, and reasoned discussion and dialogue among brothers, especially on matters of real importance.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Catholic Personal Success Coach

The other day I was listening to the local Catholic radio station, as I am wont to do. On this occasion the show featured an interview with a man who is known as an "author, speaker, and personal success coach." I listened as this success expert held forth on how we should take certain principles of success in the business world, and apply them to the family. For example, a principle such as "connecting with your teammates," which in the business world might mean being sure to have an effective staff meeting on a regular basis, was translated to the realm of the successful Christian family to mean that you should be sure to have dinner together at least two or three times a week, etc. Another example would be something like this: in the business world it is good to make sure your "team" has recreational time together, so a successful family ought to be sure to go on vacation together at least once a year. There was a whole list of similar analogies made. I don't recall them now. But the whole matter jumped out at me, as it were, and cried out for some general comments.

I find it funny, first, to see these "success coaches" employ such cheap tricks as holding up certain truths, or at least accepted truths, of one popular or valued realm of life, as analogy for success in another. We see it all the time. You can go to a motivational business seminar (which I once attended because I was urged by an employer, and was given a free ticket, and was curious), and see speakers use the analogy of the family to show you how to get more sales in your business. In the case of this catholic radio show, it was the same thing, only the analogy went the other way. Or sometimes you will see the sports analogy, like what it takes for a great football team to go down the field, and finally score a touchdown, as a way to convince an audience of how to grow in one's spiritual life. The possibilities for these "creative minds," who come up with strategies for success in life, are endless.

Not only does it strike me as contrived, but indeed, it betrays the truth that, though there are analogies that can be made in life, the best way to success in a given field of endeavor, or to fully appreciating one's vocation in any realm of life, is to see it on its own terms. There is probably something especially American about this fixation on the work place in our life, that a speaker would find it useful to employ it as an analogy for the family. But it is not particularly healthy. And as I say, it does not do justice to a true appreciation for the Christian family.

A discussion such as this ought not go by without mentioning that all too often this trend obtains in the pulpit as well. If you can't preach the gospel, based upon the pericope of the day, without using your own favorite thing in life as an analogy for whatever point you are trying to get across, then I'd rather not listen. Moments like that make me want to "tune out" if not actually walk out, and come back when the liturgy kicks back in.

Finally, this is an example of a trend whose true home is among the Evangelicals. Namely, the idea of setting up a handful of principles, or a set of steps, and promoting them as a way to a certain spiritual end. This is a view of sanctification which is particularly, and quite harmfully, egocentric, and works oriented. Dr. Hal Senkbeil, in my view, did a splendid job of trashing it in his book, Sanctification: Christ in Action. Please read it, or read it again.

Anyway, I've had it with motivational speakers in all areas of life, except comedy. Frankly, the only motivational speaker I appreciate is Chris Farley.

local heroes

Now this story could have happened anywhere. It happened that it took place in Milwaukee, a city which in my insignificant opinion is full of people whose willingness to do what it takes to help others in need seems built into its cultural mindset. In this case, visitors from Tennessee were found trapped in their SUV on the South Side, at about 22nd & Layton. And a group of bystanders stepped into a dangerous situation, and saved the woman, and her two young children.

The many problems of the city, such as the two recent murders right here in Riverwest (still probably my favorite part of town), must be faced by the community, but it is important, I think, to highlight spontaneous moments like this rescue. For they are significant of the true nature of the city. Milwaukeans have a strong work ethic; they love to celebrate; they are also eager to be hospitable, and to help out someone in need.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It was a relatively uneventful night,

and then all the power went out. Caused, I presume, by the thunder storms that went through, the entire building, as well as neighboring hotels, went black. This happened at 4:10 this morning, which is very significant, 410 being the year in which the Visigothic King Alaric entered Rome. No phones, Internet, or electricity. Within a quarter of an hour power was restored. All is well again in the hotel, and nobody seems too upset.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

On the Priesthood of Priests

I have been very much sidelined, at this point in my life, from the great non-spousal love of my life, which would be to be immersed in the Word, and in the work of Theology. This is a great frustration for me. Yet I must say that it is a true consolation to see that almost every time Father Larry Beane speaks or writes, it almost seems like God has made for a New Orleans version of myself. If you haven't already done so, please read Father Hollywood's latest blog post, and don't miss the discussion in the comments.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Why I Missed Latin Mass Today

This morning I was wakened by news that a friend was in need of a ride to the hospital. So I threw on some clothes, and not taking time to think, but going more on autopilot, I grabbed my psalter, a volume of Kafka, my beret, and almost left without my keys. With those vital items I hurried to his place. In retrospect, it was a bit comic getting my friend to the hospital. Imagine relying on me to find a hospital I have never been to, and trying to get there fast. I think I made him more sick just by my driving. Indeed, he did vomit before we arrived, though I can't say for sure whether it was me or his existing illness. After trying to find the hospital he originally suggested, we decide to just go to a large area hospital I knew, Saint Luke's, at 27th & Oklahoma. The staff helped him in at the ER, and I was required to wait in the ER waiting room for about twenty minutes before I could get in to see him. So, still in some ways on automatic, my hand reached for my psalter, and prayed some of the psalms for Lauds. Then a bit of Kafka's The Judgment. Let me tell you, dear reader, that neither prayer nor enjoying great literature is helped very much by having a silly children's show loudly broadcast on the TV in the room -actually all three TVs- a Dora the Explorer, or some such show. (By the way, since Fr. Weedon's recent blog post on the ubiquity of the TV screen in modern American society, I have recognized this more and more.)

My friend is still having tests done on him, x-ray, a CAT scan, etc. Please pray for him. I came home to get Ruth to work, then I will return to the hospital. Hopefully, he will be well enough to go home. At that point I will need to get some sleep for work tonight.

(I had a good time at Summerfest last night, and might just write a bit on that later.)