I’m constantly frustrated by the way we approach education and youth, as though we’ve forgotten our grade school experience. Our culture looks at the immaturity of adolescent romantic drama, or social groups, and sees either an interesting social science experiment, or kids just being kids, etc. We dismiss it. We consider it to be something less important, less significant in the grand scheme of life, something you eventually get beyond when you grow up. But what could be more significant?
What we experience at recess is central to the human drama.
We long to be accepted and to be loved for who we are. We ask: Do I belong here? Am I accepted for who I am? Can I reveal what I truly feel without regretting it? Without being mocked? Without feeling stupid? Will anybody ever love me for who I am? This social pretense, is it permanent? Is it everywhere? Is there a place where I can belong as myself? Is there a person with whom I can belong as myself?
And her. I want to be near her. I want to think about her always. If only she would accept me, it wouldn’t really matter what anyone else thinks. But if only she cannot see me, what does it matter what anyone else sees? Will I always feel like this? Will I ever feel this way about anyone else again? How can I love someone else like this again? How could I live with this feeling again? Will I always have to feel this ache? Does anyone else feel this? Does anyone else understand me? Will anyone else ever feel this way about me?
What does this mean?
Ever since I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of liturgical music, I can’t help but cringe a little when, all too often, the music at mass instead resembles one of these videos.
I appreciate the enthusiasm. I do. But there’s a time and a place. As much as we may think that’s during the recessional, it’s really not.
True story: Once, for the recessional, a cantor tried to get the congregation to clap along. On 1 and 3. To “This is the Day That the Lord Has Made.” All I could think of was this video. I just about lost it.
In a liturgical setting, not every genre/instrument… fits. The goal of liturgical music is to create the right atmosphere, not so much to… stand out and be noticed.
I know you want to be a rock star. I get it. It’s just… mass probably isn’t the best place to kick start your career. Even though you’re trying really hard.
Sometimes, a song is just such a blatant import of something straight from popular culture. For example, I can’t listen to the verses in “Behold the Wood of the Cross” without thinking of the Gilligan’s Island theme song.
Unless a grain of wheat shall fall
Upon the ground and die
It shall remain but a single grain…
Here on Gilligan’s Island!
Anyone with experience knows this is not an exhaustive list. For those who can relate… any tips for coping?
As an avid reader of both David Weinberger and Pope Francis, it was very interesting to see those two worlds collide in Weinberger’s cross-tradition interpretation of Pope Francis’ message for World Communications Day.
First, Weinberger looks at Pope Francis’ initial characterization of the Internet:
The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God.
Weinberger calls this a “remarkable characterization” compared to all of the other ways Pope Francis could have started:
Not: The Internet is a source of temptations to be resisted. Not: The Internet is just the latest over-hyped communication technology, and remember when we thought telegraphs would bring world peace? Not: The Internet is merely a technology and thus just another place for human nature to reassert itself. Not: The Internet is just a way for the same old powers to extend their reach. Not: The Internet is an opportunity to do good, but be wary because we can also do evil with it. It may be many of those. But first: The Internet — its possibilities for encounter and solidarity — is truly good. The Internet is a gift from God.
While I agree with Weinberger, there is also something that is not fundamentally new. Even just looking at past World Communications Day messages over the past quarter century, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II both typically lead with the goodness of the new technology.
“I wish to consider the development of digital social networks which are helping to create a new “agora”, an open public square in which people share ideas, information and opinions, and in which new relationships and forms of community can come into being. These spaces, when engaged in a wise and balanced way, help to foster forms of dialogue and debate which, if conducted respectfully and with concern for privacy, responsibility and truthfulness, can reinforce the bonds of unity between individuals and effectively promote the harmony of the human family. The exchange of information can become true communication, links ripen into friendships, and connections facilitate communion.”
“New horizons are now open that were until recently unimaginable; they stir our wonder at the possibilities offered by these new media and, at the same time, urgently demand a serious reflection on the significance of communication in the digital age. This is particularly evident when we are confronted with the extraordinary potential of the internet and the complexity of its uses.”
“Many benefits flow from this new culture of communication […] While the speed with which the new technologies have evolved in terms of their efficiency and reliability is rightly a source of wonder, their popularity with users should not surprise us, as they respond to a fundamental desire of people to communicate and to relate to each other.”
“Technological advances in the media have in certain respects conquered time and space, making communication between people, even when separated by vast distances, both instantaneous and direct. This development presents an enormous potential for service of the common good and “constitutes a patrimony to safeguard and promote” (Rapid Development, 10).”
“Modern technology places at our disposal unprecedented possibilities for good”
“The extraordinary growth of the communications media and their increased availability has brought exceptional opportunities for enriching the lives not only of individuals, but also of families.”
“For the Church the new world of cyberspace is a summons to the great adventure of using its potential to proclaim the Gospel message.”
“With the recent explosion of information technology, the possibility for communication between individuals and groups in every part of the world has never been greater. Yet, paradoxically, the very forces which can lead to better communication can also lead to increasing self-centredness and alienation. We find ourselves therefore in a time of both threat and promise.”
Even on other technologies… Videocassettes and audiocassettes in the formation of culture and of conscience (Pope John Paul II, 1993):
“Let me say again, and with emphasis, that the audiocassette and the videocassette are gifts of God, gifts, we may say, kept in His treasury through all the ages until our time, kept — for us.”
And even pretty early on in the days of “computer culture” going mainstream… The Christian Message in a Computer Culture (Pope John Paul II, 1990):
“Surely we must be grateful for the new technology which enables us to store information in vast man-made artificial memories, thus providing wide and instant access to the knowledge which is our human heritage, to the Church’s teaching and tradition, the words of Sacred Scripture, the counsels of the great masters of spirituality, the history and traditions of the local Churches, of Religious Orders and lay institutes, and to the ideas and experiences of initiators and innovators whose insights bear constant witness to the faithful presence in our midst of a loving Father who brings out of his treasure new things and old (cf. Mt 13:52).”
Really, what they’re doing here is following the basic pattern of Genesis — first, the goodness of creation, then, the problem of sin.
So, the affirmation of goodness can be traced back to the Church’s earliest proclamations on the Internet and computer culture, in World Communications Day messages as well as in other documents. But, there is something that seems to have shifted about the Papal characterizations of what the Internet is. As Weinberger writes:
The Catholic Church put the “higher” in “hierarchy,” so it’d be understandable if it viewed the Internet as a threat to its power. Or as a source of sinful temptation. Because it’s both of those things. The Pope might even have seen the Internet quite positively as a powerful communication medium for getting out the Church’s message.
While the first two characterizations are more caricatures, the third is not. Certainly in some messages from Pope John Paul II, you can see more of an emphasis on the Internet as a tool for evangelization (though, keeping in mind that evangelization requires dialogue or personal communication and encounter — it’s still not a broadcast approach). It might be said that Pope Benedict XVI picked up on this, but further developed some thinking on relationships, and here Pope Francis picks up and focuses on the Internet as a way of encountering our neighbours. A more thorough analysis of other writings might be required to support that conclusion, but there does seem to be something new in Pope Francis’ emphasis.
As Pope Francis writes (emphasis added):
It is not enough to be passersby on the digital highways, simply “connected”; connections need to grow into true encounters. We cannot live apart, closed in on ourselves. We need to love and to be loved. We need tenderness. Media strategies do not ensure beauty, goodness and truth in communication. The world of media also has to be concerned with humanity, it too is called to show tenderness. The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people. The impartiality of media is merely an appearance; only those who go out of themselves in their communication can become a true point of reference for others. Personal engagement is the basis of the trustworthiness of a communicator. Christian witness, thanks to the internet, can thereby reach the peripheries of human existence.
As Weinberger puts it (emphasis added):
For the Pope, the Internet is an opportunity to understand one another by hearing one another directly. This understanding of others, he says, will lead us to understand ourselves in the context of a world of differences […]
If we frame the Internet as being about people being human to one another, people being neighbors, the differences in belief are less essential and more tolerable. Neighbors manifest love and mercy. Neighbors find value in theirs differences. Neighbors first, communicators on occasion and preferably with some beer or a nice bottle of wine.
Neighbors first. I take that as the Pope’s message, and I think it captures the gift the Internet gives us. It is also makes clear the challenge. The Net of course poses challenges to our souls or consciences, to our norms and our expectations, to our willingness to accept others into our hearts, but also a challenge to our understanding: Stop thinking about the Net as being about communication. Start thinking about it as a place where we can choose to be more human to one another.
That I can say Amen to.
I fell in love with this song 10 years ago in Ireland (a different but similar recording): Amhrán Mhuínse (The Song of Muínis)
I fell in love with the music — I never understood the lyrics. By chance, I scrolled past it in a playlist today, and it spoke to my heart, so I put it on repeat and decided to spend some time searching for an English translation.
*hand to heart*
If I were three leagues out at sea or on mountains far from home,
Without any living thing near me but the green fern and the heather,
The snow being blown down on me, and the wind snatching it off again,
And I were to be talking to my fair Taimín and I would not find the night long.
Dear Virgin Mary, what will I do, this winter is coming on cold.
And, dear Virgin Mary, what will this house do and all that are in it?
Wasn’t it young, my darling, that you went, during a grand time,
At a time when the cuckoo was playing a tune and every green leaf was growing?
If I have my children home with me the night that I will die,
They will wake me in mighty style three nights and three days;
There will be fine clay pipes and kegs that are full,
And there will be three mountainy women to keen me when I’m laid out.
And cut my coffin out for me, from the choicest brightest boards;
And if Seán Hynes is in Muínis, let it be made by his hand.
Let my cap and my ribbon be inside in it, and be placed stylishly on my head,
And Big Paudeen will take me to Muínis for rough will be the day.
And as I go west by Inse Ghainimh, let the flag be on the mast.
Oh, do not bury me in Leitir Calaidh, for it’s not where my people are,
But bring me west to Muínis, to the place where I will be mourned aloud;
The lights will be on the dunes, and I will not be lonely there.
A recent blogger meet up hosted by the Vatican received some attention for comments with which Techdirt readers would be familiar on copyright, attribution, and new media business models. For example, Italian blogger and author Mattia Marasco highlighted the importance of attribution, but said that copyright is “an old model,” when it comes to new media, and Dutch podcaster Father Roderick Vonhogen said that journalists will have to get used to their material being reused, but those who focus on quality will make it. The ideas are nothing new (and just some of many expressed at the event), but it’ll be interesting to see if the Vatican is listening. Marasco and Father Roderick are not Vatican officials, though in recent years the Pope and other Vatican officials have expressed concern over “an unduly rigid assertion of the right to intellectual property.” (The Holy See has, however, asserted its own right to protect the figure of the Pope, but it’s unclear what exactly that means.) The Vatican also announced an upcoming News.va website, which will make extensive use of social media and apparently use a non-commercial Creative Commons license (according to Father Roderick [33:40]). Not bad for a 2000-year-old institution. There was also a call for the Holy See Press Office to consider bloggers, when releasing advanced copies of Vatican documents. The meeting was intended to open a dialogue between bloggers and the Vatican, so it’ll be interesting to see what the Vatican takes to heart from the encounter and how they continue down the new media path.
The comments are on Techdirt.
This post originally appeared on Techdirt. For more general coverage of the Vatican blogger meeting, check out Ironic Catholic, Elizabeth Scalia, Hermeneutic of Continuity, CNA, Catholic Herald, etc. A recent...
It’s been over seven months, but I’ve been meaning to post a few things from my wedding last summer. I’ll start by sharing my more formal remarks from the reception. This part of the speech begins just after the toast to the bridesmaids and ends just before Heather joined me for the thank yous.
In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the main character, Marlow, spends the majority of the novel sharing a story with his fellow passengers on the deck of a ship on the river Thames. He relates this story in such a vivid and compelling way… but at one point, he trails off, overwhelmed at the impossibility of truly sharing the inner depths of his experience with another person outside of himself.
“It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream — making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that… absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that motion of being captured by the incredible which is of the very essence of dreams. . . .”
He was silent for a while.
“. . . No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence, — that which makes its truth, its meaning — its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream — alone. . . .”
“We live as we dream — alone.” Since I first encountered that line, it has never left me. Marlow said what I would have said, had it been possible for me to set my scattered thoughts in order. In those five words — we live as we dream — Marlow encapsulates that which is most profoundly agonizing about this life: our inability to share it totally with another.
Don’t we all long for unity in the depths of our hearts? Marlow was left to despair, because he thought it was impossible. And it may not be fully possible in this life… but there are some things in which we can find glimmers of that original unity which we all long to reclaim.
“The principal difference between someone dreaming and someone awake,” Pope Benedict said this past Christmas Eve, “is that the dreamer is in a world of his own. His ‘self’ is locked into this dreamworld that is his alone and does not connect him with others. To wake up means to leave that private world of one’s own and to enter the common reality.” It is “the truth that alone can unite all people.”
What is truth?
I strongly believe it is this: that “man… cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self.” (Gaudium Et Spes 24) It is in giving ourselves that we can find ourselves, that we can tear down those walls and bridge the gap between us. It is through gift that we find unity, find common union, find communion.
And what is love, but the ultimate gift of self?
“Love is not merely a feeling,” says JPII. “It is an act of the will that consists of preferring [constantly] the good of others to the good of oneself.”
And while I’m quoting popes, Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Ratzinger) wrote:
If an individual is to accept himself, someone must say to him: ‘It is good that you exist’ – must say it, not with words, but with that act of the entire being that we call love.
You are all here tonight because Heather and I love you, and because you have loved us. You have celebrated with us, you have comforted us. You have shared in our burdens and our joy, in our great triumphs and in our epic fails. You’ve put up with us, and you’ve stood up for us. You’ve given us life. You’ve showed us patience and kindness, and forgiven us when we may have been impatient or unkind in return. You’ve been there to laugh with us. Some of you have grown up with us, some of you have been grown-ups to us, and you’ve all grown on us a great deal. You’ve helped to shape Heather and I into the people we are today. You are our friends, our family — our community. You have given us so much: You have taught us how to love.
I’ve been told that this is our “special day.” I suppose it is… but this isn’t a celebration of couplehood; it’s a celebration of family. Whether through blood or other bonds, thank you for being our family. Thank you for showing us love, for showing us how to love, for giving of yourselves and for sharing your lives with us.
It is good that you exist.
So… we live as we dream, longing for unity… but the truth, that is love, can set us free. What does any of this have to do with marriage?
To get back to quoting popes… John Paul II wrote that “in this entire world, there is not a more perfect, more complete image of God, unity and community, than marriage. There is no other human reality which corresponds more, humanly speaking, to that divine mystery…” to that ultimate unity of three persons in one.
Marriage, I firmly believe, is a tiiiiny foreshadowing of that ultimate unity, a tiny glimpse of what it could mean to not live as we dream, but to be united; a tiny taste of Heaven… I know Heather and I will have hard times ahead. I hear the four stages of marriage are honeymoon, disillusionment, misery, and then — if you’re lucky — joy. (Heather’s asked if we could skip the middle two.) A mentor of mine always says of marriage that we shouldn’t hang our hat on a hook that can’t bear the weight. Heather, I know that I will disappoint you at times, that I will fail to love you perfectly, as you deserve, but I pray that you will remain united with me in this thought: it is your love, Heather, that shows me ultimately what it is to be loved; it is your love that leads me to the love that satisfies, as we journey together towards ultimate communion.
In the words suggested by St. John Chrysostom for such a moment: Heather, I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you, Heather, to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us. . . . I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you.
This day has been a long time coming, but it’s always felt like another big event. I don’t have any understanding yet how big it actually is. Preparing the apartment, it was a bit unreal to think that it would be home in a matter of weeks. It felt more like going to Australia in 2008 — new and exciting, but ultimately a short-term adventure. Or, preparing for this day felt kind of like preparing for a big concert at Hart House, even for the proposal — in the aftermath of these big events, things return mostly to normal… but this, this is a new normal. Weddings itself are pretty new to us. Lisa summed it up as she was planning Heather’s bachelorette, and said, “I’m fully planning this party based on Google searches.”
So, we wouldn’t be here today without your love and support to bring us here. We rejoice that you exist!
I had a bit of a moment yesterday.
It’s just that I’m so incredibly excited and energized right now. I’m starting to move on a variety of really cool projects and endeavours.
A little over a year ago, I claimed I was about to “up the diversity” on this blog. Better late than never. Here’s me committing to actually begin talking about a Catholic case for free culture. I have been giving it a lot of thought and making lots of notes, but I just need to get over the urge to write an essay instead of blog post so that I can start getting the ideas out.
The other theme I hope to explore in depth is the full potential of a true free culture approach to transform music. I’ve had some fascinating conversations with Nathan Simpson, Roman Verzub, Matt York and Josh Newman, and I’ve been putting the pieces in place at blaise.ca/music to start turning some of these ideas into action. I plan to expand on this at length in future posts.
I feel like these two ideas will be prominent themes in much of what I do in the next few years, and beyond.
Then, there’s the work I’ve been doing on the Drupal Creative Commons module and, more recently, the new Creative Commons Canada website (hope to have something to show soon…), among many of the other cool things I get to do through Alleyne Inc. My band is showing signs of life again, and I’ve been gigging on violin. I’ve also been part of a great team with the University of Toronto Students for Life, and I’ll be putting on another pops concert with the Hart House Chamber Strings in February. The day after that, I’m headed to Philadelphia for a week-long immersion course with one of the leading scholars on the Theology of the Body.
Oh, and I’m getting married next summer.
This may be over the top, but it’s the kind of crazy I’m feeling right now.
This is as close to pregnant as I’ll ever get.
I am teeming with desire, overflowing with a yearning to release this energy, to create something beautiful. So overwhelmingly fertile, I strive for that moment of giving birth in beauty. Overcome by the potential for real unity, I move forward with purpose and resolve, with being and intention, in search of the complete, of an expression of a truly generative love.
This is creativity. This is sex. This is beauty.
More to come…
Father Thomas Rosica is the founder and CEO of Salt and Light, which, aside from being a TV station, has a fantastic blog. He posts often, and I enjoy his posts. But sometimes, it seems like he just doesn’t understand the Internet. I hope the Catholic News Service just took his comments out of context, but listen to what he had to say about the Catholic blogosphere.
Wow. Okay, first a bit of context.
Regarding the “negativity,” Rosica drew heavy fire from many Catholic bloggers after his harsh criticisms of the pro-life movement a few months ago. He had an important point about mercy and compassion, and if you dig through the drama, there was a lot of really nasty stuff directed his way. But… isn’t that to be expected when you tell well-meaning (if often, err… uninformed) people that they’re doing the “work of Satan?” There was plenty to disagree with in Rosica’s post. It’s unfortunate that the conversation spiraled to such low levels — on both the part of Rosica and his detractors — but to extrapolate as if that’s an accurate depiction of “the blogs”? Come on. What Catholic blogs does Rosica read?
More importantly, there are some serious issues the Church faces with the communications revolution of the web, and Rosica is a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He’s not just any priest, but he has a special role in assisting the Vatican with these challenges. And there are huge challenges. Writer for the Catholic Register, Dorothy Cummings McLean, explains:
What we are seeing now is a communications revolution in that anyone and everyone can set up a blog and begin writing on Catholic issues. And depending on the material presented or the skill in presenting it, anyone can attract a large following. No endorsement from the bishops is demanded or even expected by the readers. This leaves the bishops–and traditional media power structures–in a situation akin to the invention of the printing press.
I have no idea how much of a player either Salt + Light or The Catholic Register is on the “Catholic blogosphere.” My guess is that their readerships are dwarfed by the readership of such blogs as “LifeSiteNews”–which has a large American following–”What Does the Prayer Really Say” and “American Papist”. From a Girardian perspective, such blogs have something that old media might want: huge readerships and fervent fans. Meanwhile, old media have something bloggers might want: funding and credibility. These longings might be setting up what Girard calls “mimetic rivalry.”
This is similar to the challenges that traditional news organizations are facing, or, well, traditional communicating-anything organizations. But Rosica’s suggestion? Oversight. Oversight?! I really, really hope that was taken out of context, otherwise someone needs to explain to him what a bad, bad idea that is before he embarrasses himself and the Church. Providing formation for Catholics in this matter in the way that the Church provides formation in general would make sense, but that’s not “oversight.” How would you even begin to provide official mechanisms of oversight for Catholic websites and blogs?
The only solution is to participate in the conversation — not to try and regulate it. This needs to be done on a diocesan level, like Boston Cardinal O’Malley or New York Archbishop Dolan have been doing. The Archdiocese of Toronto has an excellent blog as well. As Dorothy explains:
How to respond to the Catholic… blogosphere? Looking at the popularity of “Father Sean’s Blog”, the blog of Boston Cardinal O’Malley, it might be a good idea for the CCCB to begin their own blogs or endorse their favourite blogs. The dream of an episcopal stamp of approval (or even funding) might inspire some bloggers to mind their manners.
Bishops and clergy need to engage with Catholic bloggers, to set a good example, to encourage charity, truth and hope — not to enforce it. You simply couldn’t. I really hope Rosica’s choice of wording was just an incredibly sloppy misstep as opposed to anything remotely resembling a plan. Because that would be a terrible plan.
The Catholic Church knows a thing or two about evangelization. It ought to be at the forefront of social media, not fumbling around like a tired old media giant trying to be an information gatekeeper. It knows better. Fr. Rosica, please don’t suggest “oversight” as a way forward. If it’s a suggestion, ditch it, and if it’s a talking point, drop it.