Monday, September 15, 2008

"Being Catholic Now"

Bobby Kennedy's daughter, Kerry Kennedy apparently wrote a book about "Being Catholic Now" and was interviewed on WBUR program On Point today.

I liked this comment someone left on the web site:

"As a non-Catholic, I actually find it problematic that someone would be Roman Catholic because of a commitment to social justice while simultaneously denying the doctrinal propositions of the Roman Catholic Church specifically or even Christianity more generally. Surely the doctrinal content of the Catholic Church is an important distinction between itself and other institutions.

To put it bluntly, if one is Catholic because of the sense of community but disagrees with the Church doctrinally, then they should join the Rotary; if they are committed to social justice but not the doctrine, why not Amnesty International instead of the Church? If one wants a sense of spirituality or connection to “the Almighty” but not worship of the Trinity, why be Catholic instead of Jewish or Muslim? At some point, we must accept the Church on its own terms rather than trying to make the Church in our own image.

For myself, while supporting many of the social stands of the Catholic Church, I am not Catholic because I cannot ascent to all of its beliefs, nor do I belong to a church whose beliefs I share if there is no practical application of those beliefs. Pope Benedict is perhaps correct that there should be a smaller, more committed Catholic Church if the Church is to survive as a single camp."

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Are we producers of music, or consumers of music?

Interesting article to read - This helps underpin the role of liturgical music...
Nature 454, 32-33 (3 July 2008) | doi:10.1038/454032a; Published online 2 July 2008

Science and Music: The ear of the beholder

John Sloboda1

  1. John Sloboda is professor of psychology and an honorary research fellow at the Institute of Law, Politics and Justice, Keele University, Newcastle, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, UK. He is the author of Psychology for Musicians (Oxford University Press, 2007).

In the last of nine Essays on science and music, John Sloboda argues that researchers must study music as people actually experience it, if they are to understand how it affects thoughts and feelings.

Thanks to technology, we have an unprecedented choice of music to listen to, and places and times to hear it. Music has never been more accessible.

CL young workers vacation

Well, there is nothing like a vacation that makes you have lots of afterthoughts [in the positive sense]! Although we talked about how we ought to engage our reality after we all go home, there is nothing quite like knowing I have experienced something and someone during the vacation, but can't really explain what. So, in order to sort out what I experienced, I'd like to share some thoughts. Please note that I do not mean to offend anyone - and please feel free to correct me if I am misguided (very likely considering I am not sure what I am talking about w.r.t. CL).

Am I trying to fit CL into the "old wineskin" of my experiences and worldview? CL encounter certainly mirrors that I learned through JPII's Theology of the Body - we know truth through our experience. In one sense, Giussani's words "The journey to truth is an experience" is very much in line with the phenomenology (modern philosophy that says that we can know truth from experience) that JPII used in his teachings. As I learn about CL and its proposal more, I hope to share the synthesis of these two thoughts with y'all, my readers (all 0.5 of you!). I am still trying to fit my experience to what I know, but I really can't! I guess I am having a new wineskin experience. In some sense, I knew already the ideas of everything that was talked about - but CL somehow formalizes and packages the thoughts and the experiences. The simple answer is that it is the mystery of Christ that I am encountering, but it's not quite enough of an answer. I realize that "how does CL fit in" is not the right question, but I am not sure what is the right question to ask about this encounter. hmm.

As someone reflected at the end of the vacation, it is amazing how much I am aware of mine and other people's imperfections to the point that they bother me. And yet, I appreciate how brutally honest these people are, in showing themselves to me. Despite all this, the nuggets of truth still shine brilliantly through our efforts and attempts to share Christ present, so these imperfections are.. ok! I must admit that during each opportunity to listen from Chris, my first reaction was always "ok... he is full of himself/ he is beating this one topic to death." [I mean no offense to anyone, especially Chris!!!] But then, these words will still immediately grab my attention, because they resonate with my experience. This is even though I can't quite say why they do, or understand really what they mean. I guess something touches my heart immediately although it does not engage my intellect as readily.

During other times, I am shocked by people's seeming immaturity and disregard for their well-being, reasonable boundaries, foul language, etc. And yet, I love all these people for them! - How is it possible to feel this way? Part of the issue is that I do a good job of hiding my weaknesses very well, and don't like to reveal them, because it don't feel they are edifying for the community. And perhaps it is really a recognition of my faults that bother me. I dunno. I agree that there is tremendous value to being honest about, and being able to share my imperfections, which I don't do very well. Why do I not like sharing them? because if I admit to them, they might be true, or become bigger than they should be! :) Also, the value comes if sharing my imperfections edify reality and people's relationship with Christ, but isn't it better to not advertise some things? Not that I don't share when appropriate, but they just are not something to flaunt. Something to chew on. hmm.

Two pieces of reflection that I will try to remember, thanks to Elena: where do we encounter Christ? where do we prefer to encounter Christ? I have been trying to answer that for the last two days. I really don't know. I prefer Eucharistic adoration and formalized liturgy in prayer, but that's not what this question is about. The right question seems to be "Do I really have a community that I can turn to?" I have to admit that in Boston, I did not. St. Ignatius group was nice, but I can't communicate my entire self, mostly because I didn't feel that people would understand. But with CL folks that I've known only for a few days, I feel that they do understand me.

As Elvi suggested, I may in fact be dodging reality of my social life whenever I choose to hang out with out-of-town visitors, or go on dates with people when I am out of town traveling. Attending the vacation had sort of the same motives underneath - I'd rather not hang out with Boston people. Why? 1. consider BCE, my choir. People are nice, but it is a very secular group. I constantly questioned "Am I in good company? or am I spending time with not-so-edifying people?" "Should I choose to spend time with those who help me on my journey instead?" Although we sing beautiful music and beautiful texts that allow the encounter with Christ, I don't know if people are open to it. Coming back from the vacation, I now feel that I should help the fellow choristers to have their encounter with the mystery through this participation in the music. 2. St. Ignatius - see above. 3. work - I spend time sitting at my desk. How should I engage these realities? 4. Lay Dominicans - am I just holding onto what I used to love 6 years ago? I think what my being friendly with out-of-towners reveal is that I identify with them much more so than other people in Boston. Granted, I have lived here only 1 year, but I think my need for community and love has grown much more since I have moved to Austin.

Where do I prefer to encounter Christ? U of Illinois Koinonia community? It was a rich place to grow up, but I have grown since then in the last 7.5 years. Am I holding on to this illusion of the "good old days?" no. That's not it. where, then? CL? I feel like I can be brutally honest about myself and what I feel with other CL folks, without trying to look polite or not cause ruckus or simply deciding to not care about my thoughts.

Other random thoughts.

Morning prayer: 1. We all tend to chant the psalms and the reading waaaaay too fast! It is difficult to understand or catch the meaning of the words when we pray the text that fast! I understand that we don't want to go slow, but this was beyond practicality! 2. Soft singing and singing in unity is important, but under-singing is not good - where you don't make enough sound to be phonating in a healthy manner, or can't really properly pronounce the words. Does anyone else agree?

Next time we go star-gazing, we need to bring a laser pointer, or an opaque tube with a flashlight, so that we can point at things better.

The games were more damaging to my body than the 1st day of hiking!

Most commercially available BBQ sauce is yucky!

It would have been nice to be not so clique-driven. The cliques were so dominant to a point that I, and other new-comers who are just checking out the group felt rather isolated from the rest of the people much of the time. Thank God for the Indiana group, my Midwest homies, with whom I felt very much at home (mysteriously)!

In conclusion:
The meeting with CL was mixed, but meeting with Christ through CL was awesome! Something about it (or at least how it was presented) makes me feel like CL is rather limited in repertoire or the choice of flavors it offers. Which is odd, because Albacete's writings don't give me that sense. This still makes me wonder how CL fits with my experiences and worldview. I see that CL seems to offer all the conduits to holiness in some people - I don't quite see that. The encounter, and the engagement of reality, and appreciating the mystery is certainly the basis of our relationship with God, but ... what is this missing thing I am trying to figure out?

Is it my experience with the Dominican order? The four pillars of Dominican life: prayer, study, community, and apostolate? Does CL not offer that? Is it the fact that CL is only 50 years old, and seems like it is still figuring out what it is, similar to the Community of St. John, about 30 years old, that is still trying to grow beyond the teachings of the founder? As compared to the Dominican order, which has been around for 800 years? How do I reconcile my Dominican-ness with what I experienced through the vacation? hmm.

Again, I appreciate any comments that might help me navigate through this encounter. thanks!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Obituary: Alfonso Cardinal Lopez Trujillo

The Economist has an obituary on the late cardinal:

I didn't know this person was most of a stickler for orthodoxy than then Ratzinger! (at least, that's my impression from the article)

Readers may want to comment and refute some of the anti-catholic comments people have left on the article.

Developing leaders for an aging society

a kick-off event to celebrate the partnership between the Heller School and Hebrew SeniorLife (HSL) to train leaders in the field of aging. Keynote Speaker John W. Rowe, MD, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, will be joined by an expert panel including Michael Festa, Secretary of Massachusetts Office of Elder Affairs; Len Fishman, CEO of Hebrew SeniorLife; and Alan Solomont, Chairman of Solomont Bailis Ventures. HSL is a seven-site network of senior housing and health care and the largest non-profit provider of senior housing and health care in New England.

I was debating whether to attend, but was encouraged by my mentor. After attending these types of events, I am realizing that I am getting better at schmoozing at parties and receptions.

Heller School of public policy just a got a new woman dean, so that is pretty cool.

Among Dr. Rowe's comments, here are some things to consider:
0. There is an utter lack of health care workers, now, and in the future. Even if medicare is well funded, access to medical care is still going to be a challenge.

1. organizations such as AARP push for the idea of generation gap and generation war, where young, middle age, and seniors will be fighting for resources. Yet, there is little evidence to support this idea. Grandparents are likely to support funding schools, middle-age people don't mind contributing to social security and medicare, since they already have invested in it. Given the ongoing shift in demographics, we may have to think about

2. People seem to love retirement too much - why should people suddenly stop working at a certain age? Older people may volunteer a bit more than younger people, but it is still not very much. We need a structure to retain talent and experience.

3. Inequality. Social scientist will argue that disparity in wealth is incredibly bad - economists will argue that it's not that big of a deal, as poor people can still get access to social programs, etc. The two camps apparently don't believe that the other side at all. Yet education affects future outcomes - education protects against Alzheimer's disease, but also HS grads are 2x likely to be disabled at age 65 than college grads.

4. Lack of talent: despite the importance of taking care of older adults, it is difficult to attract talent. The social perception is partly to blame, as people seek "sexier" jobs/industries, and consider work in aging "a waste." This occurs at the policy level, where educational funds/research are being focused mostly on brain develepment during 0-3 years of age, because people think "science says that brains can't learn after age 20" Garbage!!

The incoming dean, Lisa Lynch mentioned that scientists have to influence the policy discourse, because otherwise no one else will advocate real science in our stead.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Discussion on Liturgical music used during the papal visit

Few thoughts. 1. The prevalence of a lot of bad music in liturgy in the US is definitely indicative of bad music education in the US. If people never hear music that transcends, then how can they want it? Certainly this goes both ways - the church needs to lead in presenting the world with good music. In my town, there are churches that perform a Bach Cantata or hosts an organ recital every single Sunday. It is wonderful, but I am told that no one attends these events. What can we do? It may be a catch-22, but music ministers work with very limited resources in many parishes, including people who are willing to volunteer in making liturgical music.

2. Personally, I am not too keen on the 18-19th century 16-bar hymns that come initially from the Protestant tradition, that we consider "traditional Catholic hymns." We don't have a good excuse not to adopt "Shout to the Lord" and the like based on that argument. Many folksongs have become hymn tunes (Kingsford, O Waly Waly for instance) people now consider "traditional," but I imagine they were people objecting to their use back then. There are good music from other periods, both before, and those from this decade that are equally worthy of liturgical use (Pinkham, P, Bainton). Also, if we should only use music "tried and true" how could we have picked up the 4-part hymn tunes in that last few centuries for liturgical use, which we now consider "traditional"?

3. I am curious as to why people object to the use of a pianoforte during liturgy. Good piano-playing can be just a beautiful as a good organ-playing.

4. Mr. Reilly mentions the liturgy in London. They have a big "advantage" over American Catholics, in that the Anglican musical tradition has kept up some of our solemn liturgical traditions much better than we.

5. There should be more effort made to beautify (or "juice-up"?) novus ordo liturgy - why do not enough of us ever celebrate novus ordo liturgy in Latin, with Latin hymns and all, after all, that sounds like the orginal intent. The celebration of the extraordinary form ("Tridentine") is beautiful, but for many of us who never grew up with it, it feels as foreign as attending Byzantine liturgy (although it is much easier for a newcomer to follow Byzantine or Maronite liturgy than the old Latin rite from my experience). The celebration of Novus ordo in Latin that incorporates all the beauty of old Latin rite may be much more accessible to us young'ens.

Meditation on the 10th Station of the Cross

After reading Clarence Enzler's meditations:

"Jesus is stripped of his clothes."

I need to ask for help in being detached from desires of power, prestige and wealth. I ask myself "but why not?" These are not bad things, but they cannot be ends in themselves. Yet I find myself drawn to these things, even though such desires only cause strife. "I am working way too hard for this little post-doc salary!" "I want to be department chair!" These thoughts definitely don't help, yet i have hard time letting go of them - am I trying to look at my mentor as what I want to be? Rather than as a result of God leading the way? as an end to itself?


Communion and Liberation Group

I attended a C.L. meeting to check out the group:

About 13 of us were there. we read a passage from Luigi Guissani's book "How can we live this way?" and discussed it. The meeting was ~1 hr long. The discussion was pretty good. The C.L. movement was started in Italy, so many of the people there were from Italy. Many do medical research, interestingly enough.

Giancarlo Cessani, prof of public health, is giving a talk on the book next Saturday, but I will be in DC.

Would I go back? Sure why not?
Except I feel like I am joining way too many groups without being centered anywhere. I was just asked to be a liturgy person for the Lay Dominican pro-chapter of Greater Boston.

While I am very much led by Dominican way of thought, the CL group seems to fit me better at the moment.

Byzantine Liturgy and leavened bread - valid matter?

I made myself go over to the Melkite Catholic church across the street from work for Thursday noon mass. Other than the priests and the deacons, there were three of us attending. Now, how often do you see key signatures of 2 sharps and 1 flat at the same time? These are "major" keys with flat 6th - giving it very Arabic sound. most music ends on the 2nd note of the scale, adding to that effect.

I was a bit surprised that they used leavened bread for communion, which tasted more like cake.

Upon the checking some web sources, I found:
In the Latin church, one must use unleavened bread. Leavened bread is still valid matter, but not licit. (transubstantiation still occurs, but one is not allowed to use leavened bread). Grape juice, if properly preserved, may be used in extenuating circumstances

Eastern churches have used leavened bread for a while, apparently.

Now, I have been to celebrations where dinner rolls were used - I left quietly, in protest. Perhaps that was not a correct response on my part? I think I will end up at the same position next year. What to do? I am not sure if going to mass somewhere else is as easy as an option.
Proposed solution 1: buy and bring some unleavened bread.
Proposed solution 2: inform the priest involved
Proposed solution 3: not attend this liturgy

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Jean CJ d'Elbée "I believe in Love"

At the recommendation of a friend, I started this book on the teachings of St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Some of the things presented at the conference all led to the topic! There was a Catholic bookstore vendor who had this book with them at the conference. I imagine the book will become very popular.

Chapter 1: I am trying to reconcile with the idea that we give all our sins and pains to Jesus, and he gives us his body. It sounds like a bad deal, but then again that reflects God's love. And certainly, it is so easy to abuse our relationship with God! The book is also forcing me to think about St. Thérèse's contribution besides "the little way." I guess I haven't thought about the fiery intimacy with God as being her contribution.

Communion and Liberation

At the conference, i met two men from C&L. I just heard of this organization through briefly, but they were pretty interesting. I think I may go check out the group. Angelo Matera, the editor-in-chief, is from this group. I can't quite figure out their charism, but if it is reflected in, then it's cool with me!

Boston Catholic Men's Conference

I arrived at Boston College (the venue for the conference) at 7am, and helped collect tickets - I had a fairly boring job, other than the fact you get to see _everyone_ as they come in - sorts of makes me feel like I got to meet everyone!

I didn't get to hear much of Tarek Saab, but did get to hear all of Peter Kreeft. He spoke of things in his book "Ecumenical Jihad" but also that the "culture war" has been on since original sin, and won't end until the end times. He framed it in an interesting way: Culture of life is a culture that allows itself to be detached from this world, and focus on the next. Culture of death is that seeks happiness in this world alone, and want to create a utopia here. Culture of life actually embraces death ("unless a grain of wheat.."), while the culture of death embraces the continuation of this life. It's like a choice for an egg - will you stay in the shell forever, or embrace the death of the shell and hatch! Unfortunately, logic doesn't really work when we are dealing with the culture of death, because the issue is not that those who live in the culture of death don't understand the arguments, but their metaphysics is different. To fight this "dark magic," we need "white magic.", not arguments. That is, prayer and fasting.

The fight for souls occur most prominently in our education system, especially in the humanities, according to Kreeft. I found that statement inspiring, as a prospective professor, and it helps me affirm my call to this line of work. In my line of work, geriatric and aging research, we encounter two factions: "anti-aging, life extension" people, and people who work in hospice and palliative care. The Gerontological Society of America meetings have sessions on how to deal with this "stay in this world" "anti-aging" movements.

Kreeft also calls the modern professorship "the intellectual prostitution." Where we peddle knowledge for money. and Boston College as his "pimp." This was funny, but it points out that people don't learn to think in college - I realized that after 4 years of engineering, I knew nothing about how the world runs or how to write well. After 7 years of graduate school, I hope I know things a bit better.

Anyway, he put this much more eloquently.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Building consensus

So during my recent short-lived confusion between NCRegister and NCReporter, I noticed an Reporter article on "Catholic Kama Sutra" So I tried to enlighten the discussion in light of the Theology of the Body by commenting on the article. In the process, I noticed some really-out-there articles [shudder]. Regardless, do you think this is a good strategy to foster dialogue between the two camps that tends to stay away from each other?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Interlibrary loan fees
So I was requesting some articles through the Countway Library for articles from journals that Harvard doesn't subscribe to. They charge $18 for each article!!! This is crazy! I requested 7 today, which cost $126 !!! Fortunately, I don't have to pay for this out of my own pocket, but poor students do! I miss my school days when lnterlibrary loans were free..

Developing a science career

I had the opportunity to hear Peter Fiske speak today about career management for those of us PhD scientists. The talk was called "Diversify, Innovate, Create: Lab management from an Entrepreneurial Perspective." Peter Fiske has written career guide books for PhDs, both academic and non-academic areas, as well as career development columns for AAAS.

Couple things I learned: I have to take care of my self! noone else will care as much as me!

Some career development resources:

80:10:10 rule:
80% of your work should be doing your best work, etc.
10% should be spent on career development outside of your immediate work area- go to talks, learn new skills,
10% should be spent on promoting yourself and your work, and networking - conferences, etc.

PhD's have many transferrable job skills that we don't think about.

SBIR grants are sometimes much easier to get than regular grants. If you want to start something "commercial," the US government is still the best choice