Thursday, April 27, 2006

The DVC at BC

Last night I went with some of the other sisters to an excellent talk that was given at Boston College on the DaVinci Code. It was by a Professor Attridge from Yale, who specializes in Biblical studies and ancient texts. He recounted how he became aware of the DVC when he got a call from a group in Greenwich, Ct, who was looking for a speaker. He told them he usually speaks on topics like the Nag Hammadi texts, Gnostic Gospels, etc. They weren't interested in that but asked, "What about something exciting like---the Da Vinci Code!"

He gave a great talk on the claims made by the novel, like the claim that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalen and their bloodline still exists in the mysterious Priory of Sion, etc. In debunking it, he was so gracious and scholarly but at times just had to say that Brown's claims are "arrant nonsense."
Just one small point: the book claims that the name "Mona Lisa" is actually drawn from goddess worship. But Attridge said that Da Vinci's painting was called "La Gioconda," and the name "Mona Lisa" wasn't given it until a century later.

This article by Sandra Miesel has a lot more details.

Why is the DVC so popular? I think one reason is that it presents a philosophy of life that doesn't make any moral demands on anyone. If we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have to live by the moral demands of the Gospel: love God and our neighbor, self-sacrificing love, lives of integrity, justice and truth. Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him. Quite different from the curiosity of a conspiracy theory that doesn't call us to conversion.

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Book of Revelation

This week the Office of Readings begins a reading of the Book of Revelation. The first part of it contains letters to seven churches in Asia Minor.

The letters contain both praises and reproaches for the churches. Interestingly, some of them are reproached for false teachings. This book was probably written around the end of the first century, a time when we would consider the Church to still be in a state of pristine fervor. Yet, human nature is the same and problems occur in every time and place.

It's encouraging to read this, because it makes me at least realize that despite the problems the Church has today, we don't need to be discouraged about it. Jesus still walks with us today, just as he did with those Christians who lived so many centuries ago. And even if we hear his voice reproaching us for something, he does it with love.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Random Meme

Sr Anne Joan tagged me with a random meme, that is, 6 random things about me. So here goes:

1. I'm always trying to get organized but I never quite make it.

2. I have a weakness for chocolate.

3. I'm interested in eating healthy (note the contradiction from point 2). This point, however, comes from being a cancer survivor. I had a disease called hairy-cell leukemia but recovered from it twice (in 1994 and 1999). Now I'm doing fine.

4. St. Thomas Aquinas is my favorite saint, even though I'm a Daughter of St. Paul. St. Paul comes in second.

5. I belonged to the Catholic Evidence Guild before I entered the convent (in 1976). Once when I was giving a street corner talk in Times Square (yes, we did that), a crazy guy came up and slapped me in the face. It was my big martyrdom moment that I was really proud of: slapped for the faith! I've always said I would like to die as a martyr. (Realistically it's the only way I can see myself avoiding purgatory! Remember all the chocolate...)

6. I love to throw out junk and get rid of garbage. Now that I'm also overseeing maintenance of our Boston facilities in addition to my editorial duties, I can go and clean out something when I start to feel stressed out. I spend more time than I should hanging around dumpsters.

Well, that's it!

Good resources on DaVinci Code

The Ratzinger Fan Club blog has a thorough list of links for good information about the Da Vinci Code.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Easter Week

In Easter week, liturgically every day is another celebration of Easter. That's why the preface reads "on this Easter day" even though it's not Sunday.

In the ancient Church, the newly baptized (called the neophytes) wore their baptismal robes to the liturgy throughout this week, wearing them for the last time on Saturday.

Even though they took off their robes, they had put on Christ. We have too. Like them, we still live in the presence of Jesus every day, walking with him along the road of the Christian life.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Happy Easter!

From the Exultet:

This is the night
when Jesus broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave!

Here is a link where you can hear the Exultet proclaimed.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Triduum begins

Pope Benedict offered this thought today in his general audience to help us prepare for these most holy days:

Let us dispose ourselves, therefore, to celebrate the Easter triduum taking up St. Augustine's exhortation: "Consider now attentively the three holy days of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of the Lord. From these three mysteries we realize in the present life that of which the cross is symbol, while we realize through faith and hope, that of which the burial and resurrection is symbol" (Letter 55,14,24).

New Marian website

Check out this new Mary of Nazareth website; it has a lot of good material about Mary.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tridentine Mass rumors

Some rumors are going around that Pope Benedict may allow wider use of the Tridentine Mass, allowing any priest who desires to do so to celebrate it. Right now, the Church allows it only when the bishop of the local diocese approves its use.

The rumors said that the permission would come during Holy Week, so we'll see.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Jesus' Agony in the Garden

I've been reading some parts from Fr. Brown's book Death of the Messiah, which is a very long and detailed commentary on the Passion narratives. He said something I found quite interesting about the agony in the garden.
He said that the Greek word the Gospel of Luke uses for this is agonia, which our English word "agony" derives from. But the Greek has a different meaning. The agon was the place of an athletic contest and also the contest itself. Agonia meant everything that went into preparing for a great athletic contest, including the tension and the foreboding and endurance. So it has a different sense from our usual understanding of agony. The idea is that Jesus was preparing for a great trial that would cost blood, sweat and tears.

Related to this, Brown explains that Jesus' initial prayer was that he might be delivered from the trial: "Father, let this cup pass." But once he received the answer that he would not be delivered, he prayed more earnestly. Why more earnestly? Because knowing that he had to endure the trial, he prayed for the strength to carry it out.

The letter to the Hebrews expands on this athletic theme: "Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings to us, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross" (Heb 12:1-3)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The books of the Bible

This morning at breakfast we were talking about the discovery of the Gnostic Gospel of Judas, as well as new books appearing like The Jesus Papers, etc. Someone asked, "So how did the Church decide which gospels were real and which weren't?"

It's a great question and one that's very topical. By the end of the first century, there were many gospels circulating, perhaps even hundreds. The Church had to sift through them and discern which ones were truly inspired by God.

In doing that, the Church used three criteria:

1. Apostolic origin The writings that were accepted were associated with an apostle. For example, Matthew and John were believed to have been written by those apostles; Mark was connected with Peter, and Luke with Paul. Even if they weren't actually written by those persons, somehow being associated with an apostle made a writing more accepted.

2. The local Churches to which the writings were addressed.
The various local churches preserved the writings they received, and those that became more important naturally had more of their writings preserved, and they were given greater authority. For example, the church at Rome probably preserved the Gospel of Mark, the letter to the Romans and the letter to the Hebrews.

3. The rule of faith
The writings that were accepted had to accurately teach the rule of faith that the Church taught, which had been handed down by oral tradition. So the various gospels written by Gnostics were excluded, because they taught errors. The Gospel of Judas falls into that category.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Gospel of Judas

You may have seen some news stories about the discovery of an ancient text called the Gospel of Judas. I read the article in the New York Times, which seemed to suggest that this new discovery is something that could shake the foundations of Christian belief. Actually, it is nothing more than another text from the Gnostics. Gnosticism was an ancient heresy that rejected orthodox Christian beliefs and replaced them with supposedly secret knowledge reserved to an elite. The idea of being part of a special group "in the know" was one reason it attracted followers. Way back in the second century, St. Irenaeus wrote a long treatise explaining their errors (called "Against Heresies.")
Irenaeus may well have read this Gospel of Judas. So there's nothing new under the sun.

Amy Welborn has some links to more background on this.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Bishop Lennon goes to Cleveland

You're probably heard that Boston's auxiliary Bishop Lennon is going to Cleveland. Here he is at our jubilee celebration in 2004. Before he became a bishop, he was our chaplain for about ten years and has been a wonderful support for our community and mission during that time.
Our prayers go with him!

In picture from left: Sr Laura, myself, Sr Frances and Sr Susan)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

John Paul the Great

These past few weeks have been extra busy for me so I haven't done much blogging. But April 2 was the anniversary of Pope John Paul's death. What a privilege it was for all of us to have such a great pope for so many years! I truly believe he will go down in history as one of the greatest popes of all time.

During our pilgrimage to Rome in 1985, I had the privilege of taking part in a Mass in his private chapel. Before the Mass he knelt praying so intensely--he was totally absorbed in God.
On another personal note, much of my editorial work in the past ten years was occupied with preparing his writings for publication--encyclicals, apostolic letters, other letters and documents, and the various collections of his general audiences that we published. In particular, his work on the theology of the body is a milestone and I am very grateful for the small part I have been able to play in making it better know.

What are your memories and reflections about him?