Posted in category "Musings"

What happened to Mary Daly?

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 23, 2010 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, Dissent, History, Lesbians & Gays, Musings, Weirdos

Mary Daly, 81, died two weeks ago, mostly forgotten, certainly unshriven.   Carolyn Moynihan, deputy editor of MercatorNet, noted that Daly “seems to have departed this life as a kind of orphan herself. The New York Times obituary notes that she ‘leaves no immediate survivors’. No family on earth? No father in heaven? I hope it really was not like that for Mary Daly at the end.” mary daly

After her two first two books, which stood the Catholic world on its head, Mary Daly spun off into the ether, writing books with titles like:    Outercourse: The Be-Dazzling Voyage;   and Quintessence..Realizing the Archaic Future. Daly created her own language, but most people weren’t interested in learning it.   She lost her hold on the larger Catholic imagination.

In the 80s the lesbian herd moved past her, too, migrating on towards the mainstream–“Ellen,” “The L Word,” “Rachael Maddow,” “Suze Orman,” human rights, marriage rights and child rearing.   The labrys pendant was lost or forgotten. Daly was, too.

Mary Daly was the quintessential Irish Catholic girl. Born October 16, 1928, in Schenectady, NY, she went all through Catholic schools, and received a BA from the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY and a MA from Catholic University in Washington, DC. After earning her doctorate in religion from St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, in 1953, she went on to obtain two degrees from the University of Freiburg in Switzerland, since no U.S. institutions at the time offered theology doctorates to women.

Dr. Daly was hired as an assistant professor at Jesuit-run Boston College in 1967, when the school only enrolled men.   She started as a reformist, and her first book, The Church and the Second Sex, (1968) she argued that the Catholic Church was patriarchal in nature and had systematically opposed women for centuries. In response, the college attempted to dismiss her, but the support she received from students and the public kept her in the classroom.

As a student in the early ’70s at Trinity, an all-women’s college in Washington, DC,   I was thrilled about Mary Daly and her books.   “Someone speaking for us,” I thought as I picked one up, “someone speaking the truth about what it’s like to be a  woman in the Catholic Church.”

Sr. Joan Chittister reflected on Daly’s impact on history: “I learned how to look newly at things I’d looked at for so long that I was no longer really seeing any of them. Women need to thank Daly for raising two of the most important theological questions of our time: one, whether the question of a male God was consistent with the teaching that God was pure spirit, and two, whether a church that is more patriarchal system than authentic church could possibly survive in its present form. These two questions have yet to be resolved and are yet rankling both thinkers and institutions.”

Daly came out as a lesbian in the early 70s–when she was in her 40s. She began to study ancient cultures, and came to regard all major modern religions as oppressive to women, a view expressed in her second book, Beyond God the Father (1973). Her original critique of the Roman Catholic Church as a bastion of patriarchy was extended to the entire Christian tradition. She rejected Christianity’s focus on a monotheistic deity and what she attacked as its intrinsic patriarchy. She asserted that Christianity’s focus on Jesus Christ was just another dimension of its patriarchy–a Savior in a male body.

As Margaret Elizabeth Kostenberger explains, Daly’s “compete rejection of Scripture” on the basis of its “irremediable patriarchal bias” took her far outside the Christian faith. While other feminists called for the adoption of female or gender-neutral language for God, Daly attacked those efforts as half-measures that fail to take the “phallocentricity” of theism seriously.

Her famous dictum, “If God is male, then the male is God,” stood at the heart of her argument against religion. She accused Christianity of “gynocide” against women and suggested that all monotheistic religion–and Christianity in particular–is “phallocentric.”

“I urge you to sin,” she wrote to women readers. “But not against these itty-bitty religions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism–or their secular derivatives, Marxism, Maoism, Freudianism and Jungianism–which are all derivatives of the big religion of patriarchy. Sin against the infrastructure itself!”

In 1999 Professor Daly left Boston College after a male student threatened a lawsuit when he was denied a place in her class on feminist ethics. She had long limited enrollment in some advanced women’s studies classes to women only, maintaining that the presence of men there would inhibit frank discussion.

What happened to Mary Daly, that she imposed the same gender barriers in her classrooms   as she experienced? Daly went to Europe for advanced degrees because no U.S. Catholic university would accept a woman in a theology program. Years later, Daly bared men from her advanced courses in women’s studies because she felt their presence would have a negative impact on the other students.   Men, she said, “have nothing to offer but doodoo.”

It may be retribution, but it doesn’t seem right. How do you rail against a system of discrimination, and then implement it with glee yourself?

So I am left with a mystery to solve: why did Mary Daly, a “post-Christian,” continue to affiliate with Boston College, an unabashedly Catholic institution?   Love and hate are bound very closely.   Daly was never indifferent.

Perhaps it began with a girlhood hurt. Daly wrote about her intellectual formation in a 1996 article in the New Yorker “Sin Big,” in which she recalled being mocked by a male classmate, and altar boy, at her parochial school because she could never “serve Mass” because she was a girl.

“(T)his repulsive revelation of the sexual caste system that I would later learn to call ‘patriarchy’ burned its way into my brain and kindled an unquenchable Rage,” she wrote.

Daly described herself as a pagan, an eco-feminist and a radical feminist in a 1999 interview with The Guardian newspaper of London. “I hate the Bible,” she told the paper. “I always did. I didn’t study theology out of piety. I studied it because I wanted to know.”

So with all that, how could she in good conscience continue to teach at a Catholic university?

Here’s what I think: at BC,   Daly could   be an outlaw, get a paycheck, credibility for book deals, and still have the protective mantle of identity that gave her cachet: a professor at a highly regarded Catholic university.

She lived on the piercing insights she fearlessly raised 40 years ago. But Daly had ceased to be a theologian, and even her philosophical writing declined into self-important gibberish. She should have taken her own advice–a person becomes stagnant if they don’t move on. daly book

If you’re going to call yourself a Post-Christian, then be Post-Christian.   If you have moved on… move on, and stop clinging to institutions that you say you no longer believe in.

A man wrote the best epitaph for Daly that I have read:   “When I was in the seminary, attending class at B.C. during the eighties, Mary Daly was a joke. Imagine my surprise when, years later, as a purely cynical move to impress a feminist scholar, I cited Mary Daly in a paper, but was not able to put her work down. Although her work never persuaded me to abandon my beliefs, or my own thinking, Mary did push me to consider a whole world of concern that years earlier I would have dismissed as nonsense. Now, when I think of her, I do not think of a nut, or a totally whacked out feminist. I think of a pioneer, who, although not worthy of discipleship, is certainly worthy of being taken seriously as a thinker and a human being. I wish I had met her, although I’m not sure of how it would have turned out.”


How to Relax

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 26, 2009 | Categories: Faith, History, Musings

For the last several months I have been contemplating observing the Sabbath as a day without “servile” work: answering email, mapping out projects, running errands, getting a head start on the week–stuff I do every Sunday.

Beginning tomorrow, the Sabbath–Sunday– will be spent relaxing: nothing planned, nothing scheduled–just enjoying the day as it unfolds.

I have been very hesitant to make a commitment to a “work-less” Sunday. I wasn’t sure about how I felt about not being busy, organizing the day with a list of things to do and accomplish.

But the racing around didn’t make me feel better–it made me feel less.

Earlier this month, I had the chance to ask a fellow blogger, Benny the Bridgebuilder from Bulls, if he knew where I could get a copy of Cardinal Suenens remarks on stress and leisure. Suenens

Benny very kindly send me a pdf of the article How to Relax, which appeared on page 25 of the final commemorative issue of The Word, published December 2008.   The original article by Cardinal Suenens appeared in the August 1965 edition.

Here are some excerpts I found especially relevant to my situation.   It was almost as if Cardinal Suenens took some time to sit down and talk to me about my life:

“Modern life is lived at high tension; its pace is intense and nerves get frayed.   Whatever it costs, we must learn how to stop, when we need to, and draw a quiet breath. Many solve the problems of necessary recreation by taking more holidays.   This is a step forward. But we must still learn how to relax, how to avoid being unbalanced by amusements, how to measure how this rhythm of fatigue and repose in the required mixture.”

“In order to acquire this art, we must learn particularly how to take advantage of the little opportunities life has to offer and become children at heart again. We must not live at such an intensive, hustling pace that we no longer have time to – have time. To be relaxed makes one accessible to others.”

“We must learn, or re-learn, to have time. Our Lord himself did not want His Apostles to live in a state of perpetual tension. He urged them to “come away into a quiet place” – “rest a little”, He said to them on days after they had finished their apostolic missions.   In the wilderness and in solitude, He revealed to them the best of Himself and His message.”

“We stand in need of rest – in the ordinary sense of the word, and also rest in God.   We must find a place for Him in the bustle of the day; a place for private prayer, for slow and mediative reading. We need this ‘oxygen.’ It is one of our vital necessities.”

“We need to get our breath back. That is why the Church is so insistent on Sunday being kept as a holy day; a day for public worship, certainly, but also a day of rest.”

“We must detach ourselves from our work, but only in order to attach ourselves more firmly to the one thing needful. We must stop, like the Alpine climber who has reached a high peak, to take breath for a moment, admire the view, fill our lungs with fresh air and go on to the next peak.”

“Sunday is the day to halt so that we can resume our march with a firmer tread. Do not let us neglect to fix our gaze on the sky until we can see the stars there. We make much better headway here on earth when we have a sense of direction and move forward with a firm step on solid ground. Looking at the heavens is the form of relaxation we can least dispense with if we want to keep things in their perspective and make the world a better place to live.”

Leo Jozef Cardinal Suenens (1904-1996) served as Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel, Belgium, from 1961-1979. He was made a cardinal in 1962. Suenens was a leading voice at the Second Vatican Council.

In May 1969 he offered a passionate critique of the Roman Curia during an interview with Informations Catholiques Internationales. Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, a high official at the Vatican, demanded he retract his remarks. Suenens refused.

Ten years later, Cardinal Suenens reflected on the event and said, “There are times when loyalty demands more than keeping in step with an old piece of music. As far as I am concerned loyalty is a different kind of love. And this demands that we accept responsibility for the whole and serve the Church with as much courage and candor as possible.”

– Benny, thank you so much for sending me the article.   It really helped me.


Everything That Rises Must Converge

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 15, 2009 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Bishops, Dissent, Faith, Musings

Everything That Rises Must Converge is a story in  Flannery O’Connor’s  book of the same name. It is a  tale of nostalgia, prejudice, relationships, superiority,  resentment, and ultimately, the space between people who perceive the same thing differently. everything

The title is a quotation from Catholic theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who imagined an “omega point” at which the “rising” or evolving human being would meet God.

I see the rising as a metaphor describing the  struggle, debate and entanglement  of the many different  strands and tendrils of  thought, belief, and action over what it means to be Catholic. And, at the end, where the distances close as we  all meet in God.

The debate over Catholic identity  has exposed two extremes in Catholicism: what author and scholar George Weigel calls “Catholic lite,” meaning a form of faith sold out to seclarism; and what analyst and correspondent John L. Allen, Jr. terms “Taliban Catholicism,” meaning an angry expression of Catholicism that knows only how to excoriate and condemn.

In recent days there has been a very  public  exchange between Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of Providence,   Rhode Island, and Sen. Patrick Kennedy, D-Rhode Island, over the senator’s support of an amendment to the health care bill before Congress.   The amendment addresses public financing of  abortions.

In a letter published in the diocesan paper and on their website, Bishop Tobin wrote to  Senator  Kennedy saying, “For the moment I’d like to set aside the discussion of health care reform, as important and relevant as it is, and focus on one statement contained in your letter of October 29, 2009, in which you write, “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” That sentence certainly caught my attention and deserves a public response, lest it go unchallenged and lead others to believe it’s true. And it raises an important question: What does it mean to be a Catholic?” tobin_430

“Although I wouldn’t choose those particular words, when someone rejects the teachings of the Church, especially on a grave matter, a life-and-death issue like abortion, it certainly does diminish their ecclesial communion, their unity with the Church. This principle is based on the Sacred Scripture and Tradition of the Church and is made more explicit in recent documents.”

“But let’s get down to a more practical question; let’s approach it this way: What does it mean, really, to be a Catholic? After all, being a Catholic has to mean something, right?”

“Well, in simple terms – and here I refer only to those more visible, structural elements of Church membership – being a Catholic means that you’re part of a faith community that possesses a clearly defined authority and doctrine, obligations and expectations. It means that you believe and accept the teachings of the Church, especially on essential matters of faith and morals; that you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish; that you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly; that you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially.”

“In your letter you say that you “embrace your faith.” Terrific. But if you don’t fulfill the basic requirements of membership, what is it exactly that makes you a Catholic? Your baptism as an infant? Your family ties? Your cultural heritage?”

I cannot fault the bishop in the points he raises about being a Catholic and the questions he poses to Senator Kennedy publicly.   In his role as teacher and pastor he should do so.

However, what I am uncomfortable  is the reduction of anyone’s  Catholic identity to one issue – abortion. It seems to me that “pro-life” Catholics –bishops included–need to have the same unwavering commitment to feeding, clothing, housing and educating children and young adults; and keeping them out of wars and death row  prison  sentences.  

In a 2006 study by Elizabeth Oldmixon and William Hudson – When Church Teachings and Republican Ideology Collide: The Perspectives of Catholic Republicans in the House of Representatives, a sampling of Catholic Republicans justified not supporting Catholic Social Teaching by seeing its application to most domestic social issues as less authoritative than Church moral teachings on issues like abortion.

On March 10, 2006, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a “Statement on Responsibilities of Catholics in Public Life.”   The bishops were very firm and unqualified in their oppositionto abortion, but their remarks were not limited to this one issue.

“Our faith has an integral unity,” they said, “that calls Catholics to defend human life and human dignity whenever they are threatened. A priority for the poor, the protection of family life, the pursuit of justice and the promotion of peace are fundamental priorities of the Catholic moral tradition which cannot be ignored or neglected. We encourage and will continue to work with those in both parties who seek to act on these essential principles in defense of the poor and vulnerable.”

I really liked what  Kevin J. Farrell, Bishop  of Dallas   said in his May 17, 2009 commencement address at the University of Dallas, an independent Catholic University in Irving, Texas. “If and when others may disagree or have a different approach or have a different slant on Catholic teaching or belief, honest debate, not confrontation, true dialogue, where we seek to understand the other, not facile condemnation, should be the overreaching way we move forward together,” he said in his address. bishopandlazarus

Bishop Farrell posed the question, “What does it mean to be Catholic enough?” and offered several possible answers: “It means adhering to the magisterium of the church and taking very seriously the length, breadth and depth of Catholic tradition…It means taking very seriously the challenge which theologians in the church have always taken up – to face into and revere the contemporary culture and to relate revelation and our Catholic faith to that culture…It does not mean parroting words and phrases from one or another time and place in the church’s history as though that were the only way to speak of things divine and of things Catholic…It means being a leaven in a society that seeks insight, example and inspiration even as it claims to be postreligion, postchurch and post-Christianity.”

“It means being humble before God and each other, acknowledging that no one of us has all the answers to the question, What does it mean to be Catholic enough? We know well that no one of us can ever have all the answers. No theologian or professor or pope has ever had or ever will have all the answers to what it means to be authentically and fully Catholic.”


Reason, Revelation and The Catholic Mind

Posted by Censor Librorum on Oct 3, 2009 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Musings, Popes

During Pope Benedict XVI’s recent trip to the Czech Republic, the pope emphasized   that Europe had been deeply shaped by its Christian roots. Invoking his own background as an academic, he warned the Czech academic community against allowing a modern-day preoccupation with reason to cancel out faith. pope visit

“What will happen if our culture builds itself only on fashionable arguments, with little reference to a genuine historical intellectual tradition, or on the viewpoints that are most vociferously promoted and most heavily funded,” he asked.

In another address to Czech academics in Prague, the pope inveighed against the perils of relativism. He also underlined the need to mend “the breach between science and religion.”

Some young Christians said they felt alienated by the pope’s “moral absolutism” who appeared more intent on preserving the church’s traditions than an adapting to modern times.

“A pope’s visit should energize all Christians,” said Daniel Barton, 25, a youth leader in the country’s largest protestant denomination, “but I find his social conservatism quite ridiculous.”

“The Vatican and this pope have been absolutizing the traditions of the past without thinking of the reasoning behind these rules, which is what Jesus was fighting against.”

The very week that he returned, an editor of Zenit, a news agency specializing in coverage of the Holy Father, life in the Holy See, and events of interest to the Church, published an interview with Jesuit Fr. James V. Schall, a professor of political philosophy at Georgetown University in Washinton, DC. Fr. Schall is also the author of The Mind that is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays. The book was published by Catholic University of America Press in November 2008.   The book explores the habits of being that allow one to use the tools of faith and reason to explore all things seen and unseen. The mind

“It is characteristic of the Catholic mind,” states Fr. Schall, “to insist that all that is knowable and considered by us in our reflections on reality. ”

“It was Aristotle who warned us that the reason we do not accept the truth even when it is presented to us is because we do not really want to know it. Knowing it would force us to change our ways. If we do not want to change our ways, we will invent a “theory” whereby we can live without the truth.”

“The ‘primary’ source of the Catholic mind is reality itself,” said Fr. Schall, “including the reality of revelation.”   “The source of our knowledge,” he goes on to say, “is not a book but experience of being and living, an experience that will often include those whose lives are already touched by grace.” schallimage

Pope Benedict XVI is an intellectual, an academician who happens to be pope.   A bookish man, and probably the most conservation and ecologically-minded pontiff we have ever had, you would think he would be open to nature being a source of revelation of God and humanity–but he is not. He is stiffly fixated on homosexual sex and relationships as unnatural.

In his December 2008 address to the Curia, the Vatican’s central administration, the Pope himself described behavior beyond traditional heterosexual relations as “a destruction of God’s work”.

He said the Roman Catholic Church had a duty to “protect man from the destruction of himself” and urged respect for the “nature of the human being as man and woman.”

The pontiff added: “The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less.”

Can lived experience can be an instrument of God’s revelation? If so, what is God saying about the increasing openness and acceptance of loving gay and lesbian relationships and commitments? That is something for the Catholic Mind, including the Holy Father’s, to grapple with–not dismiss out-of-hand as a product of relativism.

I hope he picks up this book.


A Theology of Disability

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 1, 2009 | Categories: Faith, Musings

By the time theologian and sociologist Nancy Eiesland was 13 years ago, she already gone through 11 operations for the congenital bone defect in her hips and realized pain was her lot in life. So why did she say she hoped that when she went to heaven she would still be disabled? faculty_eiesland.jpg

The reason, which seems clear enough to many disabled people, was that her identity and character were formed by the mental, physical and societal challenges of her disability. She felt that without her disability, she would “be absolutely unknown to myself and perhaps to God.”

By the time of her death at 44 on March 10, 2009, Eiesland has come to believe that God was in fact disabled, a view she articulated in her 1994 book, The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability.” She pointed to the scene described in Luke 24:36-39 in which the risen Jesus invites his disciples to touch his wounds. disab-book.jpg

“In presenting his impaired body to his startled friends, the ressurrected Jesus is revealed as the disabled God,” she wrote. God remains a God the disabled can identify with, she argued–he is not cured and made whole; his injury is a part of him, neither a divine punishment nor an opportunity for healing.

I recall a lot of Bible stories about Jesus healing the blind, the lame, the disfigured, the possessed, the hemorrhaging. I don’t recall any stories of a man or woman running away when they heard Jesus was in the neighborhood, afraid he might touch them and change their condition. Just the opposite.   But did any melt into the crowd when they heard Jesus was coming down the street? We don’t know. The Bible only describes one group.

A lot of people think of homosexuality as a disability or sickness no one would choose not to be freed from, because of the loss, humiliation, vulnerability, and especially, the pain involved.

In a statement about a year before her death, Eiesland described how her experience of pain changed after an extended stay on medical leave.

“I return with pain,” she said, “but for the first time in at least five years I do not come back on pain killers, mood elevators, or other pharmacological means to dull the ache. I say these things neither to inspire, invite your sympathy or disapproval, nor to chisel into your life in any way. I offer here my experience of pain to remind us that for most of us pain will be an ordinary partner in an ordinary life. The social fiction that long-term pain ought to be treated with more and better drugs is an attractive one.

But even when it is severe and unremitting, I am persuaded that pain is a better friend than is the pain killer. As my life began to reveal, one never can be sure what else within you dies when you try to kill the pain.”

Read her whole statement here.


Ash Wednesday

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 25, 2009 | Categories: Musings

 I wondered how hard it was going to be to observe a full Ash Wednesday fast. The medication for my Lyme disease has upset the balance of my blood sugar, making it difficult to go more than a an hour or two without needing to eat.   It was going to be an extra challenge, beyond just going without food for the day. ashcross.png

I started the day at 4 am like I usually do. I had a small meal of bread and cheese with my medication, and resolved to make it to 5 pm for dinner.

When my body wanted to eat again at 7, I had a small glass of vegetable juice.   I had another one an hour later.   That carried me to 11 am, when I thought about lunch. Using an old trick from giving up smoking, before the desire to eat  started to take over  I thought of something else.  

When I felt a tinge of hunger, or my mind told me how good some food would taste, I focused on the purpose of my fast today – to live free of all the little hungers, urges, and wants that consciously and  unconsciously populate my  days.  

Around 1 pm I spent an hour at the gym on the treadmill and cardio machines, then doing weights and situps.   My body feels good with a good sweat, and when you work out you don’t want to eat.   I needed salt, so I had another vegetable juice.

The rest of the afternoon I spent working on a marketing campaign and answering email.  After all, Ash Wednesday is a work day for me, not a time apart on retreat.

I checked the clock at 3:30 – an hour and a half to go. My resolution wavered a second, but I resolved to go the distance.    

My wife called me from Tampa a few minutes before 5 pm.   When we hung up, she left for a reception and business dinner.   I put the phone down and walked into the kitchen to cook dinner. The day’s fast had ended.

I felt – lighter, calmer, gentler, less hungry.   I usually wolf down my food; tonight I ate slowly and savored every mouthful.   I paused for a moment for grace.

God must have helped me get through 12 hours without any food; when the day before I had a hard time managing 30 minutes  without a handful of cheddar fish or a container of apple sauce.



Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 8, 2009 | Categories: Arts & Letters, History, Musings, Popes

“What should we give up for Lent?” I asked my wife recently. But the usual choices–chocolate, dessert–weren’t appealing and  felt  superficial. In past times it seemed clever to combine Lenten “give-ups” with shaving off five pounds in time for the beach. Not this year.

Last year I promised to put $5 in the charity box every time I used a curse word. The poor box at church made out quite well by the end of Lent, with a big boost from one especially bad day at work which netted $50 before noon.

Once, about two weeks before Easter–when my resolution really starts to wobble–Lori and I were at a Friendly’s near Middletown, NY. That year, we had given up chocolate but not dessert. I noticed one of the sundaes included M&Ms candies.  

When the waitress came over to take our order I said: “I have a religious question. I gave up candy for Lent, but if I order the “M&M Sundae” does it…”I didn’t even get to the word “count” before she burst out: “It counts! It’s been tried before!   It counts!” friendly1.jpg

So much for “wiggle room” during Lent at Friendly’s.

I had to settle for the hot fudge sundae, and sneak sideways glances at my (probably protestant) neighbor in the next booth slurping down a sundae with M&Ms. It looked delicious. It was all I could do not to grab it and run out the door. There is something about sin that just makes things taste better, even though you (always!) regret it later.

The above all fell under the proscribed “give-ups” for Lent, but never impacted my spiritual life in any meaningful way. I justed felt deprived, and tried to turn it into a grace.

But three things converged this year to make me rethink my Lenten practices.

The first was receipt of a notice by Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry’s “Church in the 21st Century” announcing their spring series  would focus on “the riches of the Catholic tradition of spiritual practices.” One lecture in particular caught my eye. “Christian Spiritual Practices: Drawing from the Storeroom Both the Old and the New.” I made a note to explore what ancient practice I could use this Lent.

The second came to me from Zenit, the Vatican news service.   The February 3rd edition included Pope Benedict’s Lenten Message for 2009:

“Dear Brothers and Sisters!

As the beginning of Lent, which constitutes an itinerary of more intense spiritual training, the Liturgy sets before us again three penitential practices that are very dear to the biblical and Christian tradition–prayer, almsgiving, fasting–to prepare us to better celebrate Easter and thus experience God’s power that, as we shall hear in the Paschal Vigil, ‘dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy, casts out hatred, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride’ (Paschal Praeconium). For this year’s Lenten Message, I wish to focus my reflections especially on the value and meaning of fasting.”

You can read the message in its entirety here.  (For the record, I do particularly appreciate the Holy Father’s outspokeness for the protection of the environment, the disproportionate impact of environmental degradation on the poor, and his willingness to take the gloss off of some of Pope John Paul II’s favorites, including Fr. Marcial Mariel and the Virgin Mary apparations as seen by the six “visionaries” of Medjugorje.)

The third was stumbling upon an Ancient Practices Series book entitled Fasting by Scot McKnight, the popular Jesus Creed blogger and Anabaptist theologian. I thumbed through the book while I was browsing at Barnes & Noble on Friday. He inspired me to consider diferent fasts this Lent.

A search on Google led me to Carole Gardibaldi Rogers, a writer, poet and oral historian whose backgound is both Roman Catholic and Jewish. Her articles have appeared in the National Catholic Reporter, America and Commonweal, including one or two on fasting. Her book, Fasting – Exploring a Great Spiritual Practice, will be my companion guide this Lenten season. fasting-by-carole1.jpg

Besides the usual fasts on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and the abstinence from meat on Friday (when every cheeseburger in the world seems to jump in my face, and the scent of bacon wafts from every open diner door) I will resolve to clothe myself in the armour of the Lord and keep walking. But this year I plan to go beyond and make every Friday my weekly fast day.

This Lent, Lori and I also  decided to fast from spending money. That is, the spending on consumables–particularly those we love, like books, chocolate, going out to dinner,  tickets to shows and sport events,  antiques, stuff for the house, outdoor goods…anything. All discretionary spending will end for 40 days beginning Febuary 25th.  

The pain has already set in.   I’m going to miss the one New York Knicks basketball  game I was going to see this season – February 25th at the Garden against the Hornets.  

It will be interesting to see just how much discipline will be involved not to give my body and my imagination whatever it wants,  the moment it wants it. And discover just how much of my life is an impulse dedicated to the daily gratification of my wants and needs.

How hard is it going to be to get beyond them?  


Christmas Message

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 24, 2008 | Categories: Musings

The Wise still seek him… magi.jpg

Merry Christmas!   Nollaig shona dhibh beirt nuair a thagann si! (Happy Christmas when she comes) Joyeux Noel!

I would like to  offer a personal holiday  greeting and note of  appreciation to all who have contributed to  this blog in the last year.   Your presence has helped to make it fun, lively, provocative and shared–which is all a person can ask of religion.   Your  comments have helped me to reflect, explore and reach out–growing in faith and mind. I can ask for no more. Thank you all.   I will remember each of you with affection and gratitude  at Christmas Eve Mass tonight.

A special thanks  to my buddies, and the  angels who sat on my shoulders  this year as I wrote; including Thom, Michael Bayly, Benny the Bridgebuilder, justme, Christine, Nicole, Archangel, Katherine,  Kansas City Catholic, Terry Weldon, Polo, eric, Mary Ellen, Ed Murphy and Christina Bumgardner.

Merry Christmas and joy, always,



Wish Me A “Merry Christmas”

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 22, 2008 | Categories: Humor, Musings

For many years December was the month  I used to grit my teeth and endure hearing  “Happy Holiday!” “Season’s Greetings”–anything but “Merry Christmas.” Not anymore.

For the past several years, whenever someone offers a “Happy Holidays”  I smile and  say back to them, “You can wish me a Merry Christmas.”      

For too many years merchants have co-opted Christmas to move their inventory and run up the sales figures for the last quarter.

With each passing year Christmas decorations, lights and bunting go up earlier and earlier. It’s not even Thanksgiving and already fake Holiday/Christmas decorations are up in Penn Station in New York.   Advent hasn’t arrived, but plastic reindeer and Frosty the Snowman  are blinking away and loudspeakers  blast out tinny versions of Jingle Bells and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.   I have Brenda Lee going off in my head for the rest of the day.

Some Christians, afraid, anxious and guilty that non-Christians might feel “left out” and have their feelings hurt by Christmas, try to minimize the religious meaning of the celebration and turn it into some kind of secular gift-giving holiday.

These people need to get over it.

One of the most breath-taking, touching, and eloquent defenses of Christmas came in the 1965 Charles Schultz special: A Charlie Brown Christmas.   When Charlie Brown wonders aloud if he really knows the meaning of Christmas, Linus quotes this verse from Luke:  

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

And that is the message of Christmas: That God so loved us, he came to be with us, share our life, and bring us the warmth of His love.

May that message continue to shine–brightly–through all the seasonal glitter. charlie-brown-christmas-tree-medium.jpg


Happy 21 Today

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 14, 2008 | Categories: Lesbians & Gays, Musings, Politics

Lori and I celebrate our 21st anniversary today.

Our love and respect for each other has grown over the years and we are still very much in love.

Like other gay  couples, we have have said “I Do” to each other several times.   We started off with a domestic partnership in New York City on April 8, 1993; a marriage with a nondemoninational minister in Hawaii on August 27, 1998; and  a  wedding in Massachusetts with a justice of the peace on August 15, 2008. We celebrate all of   them with a fancy dinner and nuzzling, but our biggest anniversary, even beyond our legal wedding, is the day of our  first date   – November 14, 1987.

The amount of “I Dos” we have experienced started to border on the humorous to both us and our families. “How many times are you going to do this,” Lori’s mother asked after our Massachusetts wedding announcement. “Until we get a toaster,” I quipped back.   Lori’s younger brother and his wife and daughters  surprised us with a beautiful toaster after our vows in front of the justice of the peace. happytogether.JPG

Like other couples, we want the  emotional, cultural and one day, I hope, religious affirmation of our commitment of a life together until death do us part.   We also want all the legal protections and economic benefits of marriage. And yes, there is a seriousness, dignity and closeness that comes with the commitment of marriage.

On the front page of the October 30, 2008 edition of the Wall Street Journal was the article, “Why Just One Wedding Isn’t Enough For Some Gay Couples.” A lot of what other couples go through resonated in our own relationship.

“Daniel McNeil and Patrick Canavan joke they’ve been married four times–to each other.   The “I dos” started with a Washington, DC church  wedding in 1998. Since then, the two men, both 46 years old, have chased evolving laws across the U.S. to secure a civil union in Vermont, a domestic partnership in the District of Columbia and in August, a marriage in California.”

“Mr. Canavan met Mr. McNeil, a bubbly former Franciscan brother and math teacher, in 1994 at a   retreat for gay and lesbian Catholics. They moved in together and got engaged but wanted to demonstrate their commitment publicly. In October 1998, the grooms, in tuxedos, held a Catholic wedding ceremony at an Episcopal church congenial to gay marriages in Washington. The pair picked readings from the Bible and exchanged rings blessed by their Catholic priest, before family and 200 friends. They went to Spain on their honeymoon.”

“It was probably the best day of my life,” Mr. McNeil recalls, speaking of the marriage.

“When California allowed same-sex marriages in May, Messrs. McNeil and Canavan jumped at the chance. In early August they flew to San Francisco with their son and daughter for a ceremony with a few close friends in City Hall. The children acted as witnesses.”

“Mr. McNeil says the wedding felt more like a 10th anniversary. It doesn’t confer any additional rights for the couple back home in Washington. But Mr. McNeil says he now feels emboldened to check the “married” box on things like insurance and health forms.”

Lori and I are starting to say “wife” in describing each other  instead of   “partner” or “spouse.”  It’s still a little uncomfortable, but as we  say it we are getting used to it.    I checked “Married” for the first time in filling out forms at a new dentist.  

We are also in the process of adding each other as the beneficiary to our pensions.   As unmarried partners, we would not have been able to claim this benefit.  The additional monthly check will help the surviving parter to be more financially secure – peace of mind and assurance we are happy and grateful  to have as we grow old together.