From Rome to the World – via Colombo Friday, Oct 16 2009 

Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith obtained wide renown (and with some crowds, notoriety) in Rome and abroad as Secretary of the (Sacred) Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. He has since been appointed Archbishop of Colombo in his native Sri Lanka, with much speculation on what the move could mean.

Many “progressive” identifying Catholics and commentators saw this as a vindication of their convictions, with some crying that the “traditionalist firebrand” had been banished to far-off Asia, where his influence will be much diminished. Some “traditional” identifyng Catholics and commentators tempered this charge by saying that Abp Ranjith was simply the best man for the (formidable) job that awaited in Sri Lanka, a place where tensions between Muslims, Hindus and the Christian minority frequently spill over into violence and destructive vandalism.

With this in mind, see now how the next scene in this play is unfolding. Abp Ranjith has just issued a brief circular letter to the members of his diocese (priests, religious and laity) concerning liturgical practices. Bearing in mind that he was just recently the third-highest authority on liturgy in the material universe (after the Pope and the prefect of the CDW), this humble blogger thinks his letter is worth reading beyond the domain of his personal jurisdiction.

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Treasure in heaven Monday, Oct 12 2009 

A few years ago I met Br Paul Rowse, OP. This year he has professed Solemn Vows, and I believe is to be ordained deacon in December. Please pray for him and all the Dominicans of our province.

At that time (in illo tempore…) we were enjoying a lighthearted conversation when something came up, to which he replied “I have nothing in this world”.

It was a phrase which I have never forgotten. So simple, so easily misunderstood by children of this age (like you or I), and yet perhaps the single best reflection on the grace of evangelical poverty. It is to me a particularly appealing aspect of religious life, which no doubt surprises my friends (who see me surrounded by expensive gadgets, and well know my love of the latest computer, the greatest camera, the finest clarinet). The willingness to let go of material objects as objectives, and use them instead as mere tools for reaching the final objective, is true feedom.

All this came back to me before Mass today. This time it was in Portuguese (celebrated by a magnificent Jesuit missionary) so I did my best to participate by absorbing the readings in preparation. The first is from Wisdom (7:7-11, RSV-CE)

Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me; I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepters and thrones, and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her. Neither did I liken to her any priceless gem, because all gold is but a little sand in her sight, and silver will be accounted as clay before her. I loved her more than health and beauty, and I chose to have her rather than light, because her radiance never ceases. All good things came to me along with her, and in her hands uncounted wealth.

With a rush my heart was lifted to the clouds, a swirl of memories joining the gratitude of the moment. This passage describes better than I ever could one of the reasons I want to give the government of my own life back to God and serve him as a Dominican friar. To praise him in the Office and the Mass with my brothers, to bless his people with the most precious sacraments, and to preach his glorious love and the splendour of his eternal truth. The mere thought of these things fills me with an anticipation, an eagerness I can’t describe.

But beyond these, to contemplate in this life the mysteries by which I hope to be enfolded in the next. I have tried so many other things, and I simply cannot imagine a better way to use the gift that has been entrusted to me – myself.

Typhoon surprise Friday, Oct 9 2009 

Some of you may have heard about the typhoons (tropical cyclones, hurricanes) currently active in the western Pacific. One of them has spent the last week sitting on northern Luzon in the Philippines, basically making life miserable for thousands. Fortunately my extended family are a little further south, and live largely unaffected. The other one approached and landed in Japan early today, and has since passed through to the ocean again.

I first found out about the typhoon (presumably from the Japanese 「台風」”taifuu”) last night, from colleagues at the university. It had already been raining heavily for a week, though I did notice the wind getting stronger. By late afternoon the city office had sent cars around telling people to go home and shut themselves in, as the storm was intensifying. I remained to teach my class, but only one student appeared so we ended half an hour early.

This morning, I woke up at 6 to wind and rain beating on my building. I checked the weather alerts, and found a map of Japan marked completely red. Melor had just hit Aichi prefecture, and was expected to travel north-east directly up the middle of Honshu, the main island. This would have put Yamanashi square in its path, as well as keeping the entire island in its most intense area of influence. Naturally, the university issued an alert cancelling all classes for the day and encouraging students and staff to remain indoors.

This is when the unexpected happened. (more…)

On revisiting fixations Wednesday, Sep 2 2009 

This year I turn 24, and it seems that several of the people I grew up with have recently (or will soon be) married. I expect this often causes people as young as myself to properly reflect on youth for the first time in their lives. Or, at least, for the first time since leaving the bulk of it behind.

During high school I, like all teenagers, went through a succession of fixations. While attempting to nail down my own identity I identified with America (to my lifelong embarrassment), with Spain, with my idea of Israel and Judaism, and even with Russia.

It probably started when, at my English teacher’s encouragement, I read Dostoyevsky. I soon learned to read Cyrillic (it’s a lot easier than it looks), to sing the Soviet anthem (and still can), though I never subscribed to the political ideologies of modern Russia. From the early revolutions establishing Socialism, to the oppressive totalitarianism that sustained it, to the equally oppressive materialism that replaced it, I was never enchanted by Russian governing theories but rather my concocted idea of “Russian-ness”.

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Happy Anniversary, Americanos Sunday, Jul 5 2009 

I probably have far too much exposure to English over here. My perusal of blogs has had a noticeable impact on my linguistic immersion (after three months I should be a lot more comfortable with Japanese), and I suspect it’s because I spend so much time here reading… in English. On the other hand, there are no basilicas, no processions, no Eucharistic adoration, and sometimes not even Mass. If I didn’t have superb blogs like those of the New Liturgical Movement, WDTPRS and such I would either go mad or develop the liberalist infection.

And so, thanks to the many valuable, well written blogs from America, I have been totally unable to escape the fact that today is your celebration – it is 4 July, Independence Day.

Congratulations! Truly a day to celebrate the remarkable achievements of America for the sake of the world. Even now, where old Europe fears to commit her sons, she will gladly pay to send yours in her stead. American blood still pays for European security.

But as every year, I have been reading that America is “the best country in the history of the world” etc, and frankly I really must chime in. (more…)

Miraculous mechanical messiah merits remarkable robotic resurrection Sunday, Jul 5 2009 

So it happened – the successful popular revival of that late 20th century icon, the Transformers franchise. I’ve just watched the sequel moviefilm and despite the surprising criticisms, I found it excellent.

To get it out of the way, I’ll say that I actually sat back and noticed the almost unending action. The movie starts off with wire-fighting robots, explosions, and the “BOO YA!” moments form a consistent basis of the film. There were a few sexually charged scenes and some rough language, though of less crude standard than found on a typical American television programme. What really intrigued me though was the political and almost philosophical commentary that was going on.

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I Love Catholic Philosophers Thursday, Jun 4 2009 

There’s a great thread going on the Catholic Answers forum about the Thomist understanding of Truth and Falsehood. It is called “Calling all Thomists!“. Here’s an excerpt from the second post:

It is true that man has in his mind a concept that you called sock, which he or she invented. But when he actualizes a sock in reality, man is not truly actualizing an objective reality that is “Sock”, but rather that which best resembles the “idea” of that sock. So the objective reality of a sock is relative, thus enabling another person to convert it in to mittens; however the idea of a sock is still distinct from the idea of mittens, as in, you truly have an idea of that which you named sock. But there is no such thing as a objective truth that is “sock”, as in, something that exists for the purpose of going on your feet. The very thing that makes it a sock is only true in terms of it serving your subjective purpose.

Did you get that? Don’t worry, neither did I. Still, I love the fact that people can sit on the internet for hours and essentially debate the question “what is a sock?”

“Thomism” is the school of Philosophy based on the work of St Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican friar from the 13th century. Called the Angelic Doctor, he is the father of Scholasticism and arguably the most important mind of the second millenium (equalled by St Augustine, the most important of the first). I wonder if any of us will live to see the finest mind of the third.

Look out below! Wednesday, Jun 3 2009 

Look out below!

I submitted this slightly modified rendition of SNPD (Our Holy Father Dominic) for use by the LOLsaints site, and it’s just gone up today. Head over there and check them out. I assure you that the people behind the venture are deeply in love with the Catholic Faith, and use this, er, contemporary art form to widen exposure to high quality sacred art. As someone who grew up at the heart of the “internet subculture”, a three year video game addict (conquered by grace) and lover of cats, let me tell you it’s working. I can send these images to my “half-baked Catholic friends” and give them a chuckle with a spoonful of catechesis to boot.

LOLsaints, ho!

Japanese Arms Wednesday, Jun 3 2009 

I started this entry last week while procrastinating. I have for several weeks now found the arms of the ordinary of Yokohama to be quite interesting, and set out to translate the explanation of the imagery given in Japanese. Unfortunately, I’m not yet skilled enough to follow through. Instead, I started digging around the CBCJ site and looking at the other arms. Here are the arms of Bishop Umemura of Yokohama (my local diocese, suffragan of Tokyo).

Anyone who has seen a few “coats of arms” (which shouldn’t be uncommon even for Japanese) would immediately recognise the, er, contemporary style at play here. I thought this was just a one-off, until Fr Selvester over at Shouts in the Piazza (a magnificent blog focussing on ecclesiastical heraldry) posted the Arms of now-retired Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun SDB, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong. (more…)

I was wrong Wednesday, Jun 3 2009 

It’s three tests, not two. One of our teachers announced this afternoon that he’s holding a kanji test on Friday, which really isn’t that bad (compared to the material covered in the mid-session test on Thursday). On the bright side, I blew a hole through today’s progress test, despite missing three of last week’s four classes. Time to take the work seriously though.

Things are firming up regarding the second methodology. I may have to produce this survey online as well as on paper, since nobody I meet in person will be willing to take the survey online, and nobody I know in Australia can be arsed sending me paper in the mail (let alone before my deadline). Any suggestions for online survey sites that support English and Japanese, preferably without advertising?

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