Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fiat Ka-Boom et Ka-Boom Erat

Hunter Baker is the Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at Union University. His work regularly appears on the commanding heights of contemporary Christian thought in journals such as First Things and Salvo. In a recent issue of The City, I came across a passage that stopped me cold (emphasis mine):
"In the 1960s, two astronomers, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, discovered that when they used a radio telescope, they heard a constant sound in the background. It seemed to come from everywhere, and they couldn't get rid of it. Eventually, they came up with the theory that the sound was the reverberating echo of radiation created by the massive explosion associated with the creation of the universe. Think about that. The moment of creation still with us even now -- a sound so incomprehensively [sic] powerful that it continues to be heard."
To be fair, Mr. Baker's article was titled Thoughts on the Age; it did not purport to be scientific in any way. Nor was the quoted passage his main point, but merely illustrative of a much larger point -- The Point if you will -- namely that the Resurrection of Christ changed everything and the change continues to this day.

He does not cite his source, so we're left to conjecture about how or whether he filtered this information, or if he just misunderstood it. But more to add to his point than to nitpick his illustration, the evidence of the Big Bang discovered by Penzias and Wilson is much more dramatic in scale than that of a sound that "continues to be heard".

Penzias and Wilson reported "noise", which is engineer's parlance for static - undifferentiated radiation. At first, they disbelieved the universal direction of this "noise" thinking that their equipment was faulty, that their microwave receiver horn antenna (pictured below) had bird droppings in it, or something else. When they eliminated all the possible variables and remade their observations, the "noise" was still there - no matter where they aimed the horn - no matter what they did. It was unshakably present in every direction at about 3 degrees Kelvin: that's HEAT (or the near absolute lack of it) not sound! And it is that radiation at that wavelength that provides the nearly universally-accepted evidence of the Big Bang. The rate of expansion of the universe is known. The temperature of the background radiation is known. That makes the rate of the red shifting from light to heat known. The trap closes around a single explosive event about 13.7 billion years ago.

Is that a distinction without a difference? Maybe. After all, the Bible says Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant whose "sprinkled blood that speaks (continues to be heard) more graciously than the blood of Abel". But in my mind, the red-shifting of supremely intense light to low-grade heat shows that turning around the arrow of time points to one, inescapable Source. How great Thou art.

Friday, October 29, 2010

An Open Letter To Politicians

We are Catholic and we are American. You will be in our prayers and we promise to pray for you as you serve us. Our nation is struggling financially, yet we still have hope that things will get better. Yet, we believe that the nation's recovery should not come at the cost of the principles that have made our nation strong. While the economy is extremely important, we can not abandon the ideas that define us as a nation and expect to be a great society.

With that being said, we have quite a bit to ask of you.
Our hope is you will consider our words carefully.

* We are Catholics first. We may be Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, etc. Many of us do not claim a political party. Regardless, we will never abandon our faith for the purposes of politics. Being Catholic is not defined by political party affiliation.
* As elected representatives, you work for us. We do not work for you.
* Abortion isn't just another issue. It is the primary issue, unlike any other of our time.
* We will not ignore other attacks on life and family - euthanasia, fetal stem cell research, cloning, same-sex marriage, torture, etc.
* We will not forget the poor, the disenfranchised, immigrants, the elderly, the young, the disabled or any other group that society might not champion. Nor will we allow you to forget them either.
* We take our responsibility to be good citizens very seriously.
* We will look past the rhetoric, the slogans, and the ads. We will look for integrity, character, ethical behavior, and honesty.
* We expect that you will see your position as a great responsibility to serve and not one of mere authority.
* We ask that you implement policies that protect life, family, true freedom, and just laws.
* Our country needs you to be holy. If we are to start to rise again, then common sense dictates our leaders become examples for us to rally around. Being holy is the only option.
* If you are a Catholic, you have a special obligation to follow the Church's teachings, in addition to your obligation to defend and uphold the Constitution. Neither are optional once you are in office. The "personally opposed" argument is a smoke-screen and we see right through it.
* Please don't abandon your faith in order to win an election, make a political deal, stay high in an opinion poll or make money. It is not worth it for you or us.
* We will encourage our fellow citizens to vote and to give you their feedback and opinion.
* We appreciate your service to our country and to us. We promise to pray for you, support you, challenge you, and expect a lot from you.

"It must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility towards the common good."
—Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

"For the Christian people of America conversion to the Gospel means to revise "all the different areas and aspects of life, especially those related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good." It will be especially necessary "to nurture the growing awareness in society of the dignity of every person and, therefore, to promote in the community a sense of the duty to participate in political life in harmony with the Gospel.""
—Pope John Paul II

Thank you and God Bless,
-Marcel LeJeune - Aggie Catholics
-Kevin Knight -
-Matt Archbold -
-George Sipe -
-JC Sanders -
-Mark Shea - Catholic and Enjoying It
-Brandon Vogt - The Thin Veil
-Elizabeth Scalia - TheAnchoress
-Dan Lower - Keyboard Theologians
-Why I Am Catholic

Other Signatures:
-Renee Aste - Lowell Massachusetts
-Adolfo Rodriguez - Covington, LA
-Brett Powers - Richland, WA.
-Mickey Jackson

If you would like to add your name to this list. Please leave a comment below.
Feel free to re-post in other places. (h/t Aggie Catholics)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Welcome Iranian Visitors!

I was happy to find I have had 6 visitors from Iran in the past few days. I have no idea what brought them here - maybe the cool space posts. Anyway, it was nice to have you, especially if you are Christians or curious about Christianity. The Catholic faith is no stranger. Persia was evangelized early in the history of the Church, the second century. Its first patriarch was St. Maruthas.

Notwithstanding its protestations to the contrary, the Islamic Republic of Iran persecutes its religious minorities, not least its Catholic citizens. St. Maruthas, pray for us.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Caveat Ecclesia

The Last Judgement. Jean Cousin.

Caveat Ecclesia

Consider before you brandish your sword:
Judgment begins in the house of the Lord.

It's tempting to be discouraged by the revelations of abusing priests. It seems like it will never end; first the US, now Europe. What's next?

Well, what's next is a Bride without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish, but the process is not painless. Jesus is cleaning house, overturning the money changers' tables, setting wolves upon the hireling shepherds. Yes, it's upsetting but it's so necessary to the final purity of the Church. It's best to present ourselves humbly "to see if there is any wicked way" in us.

So be of good courage, Christian Soldier. The judgment begins with the Church but it doesn't end there.

Just Too Cool not to Pass On

The final image of the progression out to the "edge" of the known universe is a bit misleading. The mere fact that I had to use the word "edge" is evidence of the difficulty. Mathematically, the universe is finite but unbounded; it has no edge. It's that unboundedness that's hard to envision. You can think of it as a sphere similar to that image but it's not spherical - it's more like a 4-dimensional sheet stretched over a curved surface - maybe that of a sphere, maybe something more complex. Does that clear it up for you? You're welcome.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lift up the Hands that Hang Down

We all grow weary in prayer. I always feel like I'm pooping out before I get to the finish line. My mind wanders in spite of me. It seems such a waste of time. But occasionally, I will get a burst of new energy, my mind quits balking against me and clears. I can pray with intensity and focus. And I can keep quiet for a bit and let the Beloved do the talking, deep calling unto deep. It's then I know: someone has prayed for me.

It's truly humbling to know that. And it obliges me to comfort wherewith I have been comforted. So I turn to praying for others. If I don't know a specific need, I just pray in thanksgiving for their gifts and callings in the Body of Christ.

How about you? Is there someone on your mind and you don't know why? Take that person to your oratory. You might be God's instrument for his salvation that day.

Are you bugged by that priest who ad libs his way through Mass? Have you held up his hands in prayer? He may be bearing a cross you would not dream of asking for.

Prayer is the place we can fulfill our obligation to "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" - both at the same time. Thanks be to God for his manifold mercies! He actually makes it simple for us - even a bit easier when someone is holding up our hands.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Speaking Truth to Power

A 24-year old man afflicted with leprosy

The first reading in today's mass is the story of Naaman being healed of leprosy. For the purposes of the liturgy, it concentrates only on Naaman bathing in the Jordan and returning to give thanks. There is an interesting backstory, though.

When Naaman presented himself at Elisha's house, the prophet sent his servant out to give the instruction to bathe seven times in the Jordan. Now Naaman was a bigshot, the commanding general of King Ben-Hadad's Syrian army and possibly second only to the king himself. He expected to be tended by other bigshots - by King Joram of Israel to whom he had gone first, and at least by Elisha personally when he was sent there. Nope. A scruffy servant directed him to go take not one bath but seven. So he was about to take his bruised ego (and his ravaged body) back to Syria. But a servant asked him, "Father, if the prophet had bid you do some great thing, surely you should have done it: how much rather what he now has said to you: Wash, and you shall be clean?"

Naaman almost missed the greatest blessing of his life because he was putting his ego above the simple Word of the Lord. That servant was probably risking his life to speak without being spoken to. But his apparent love and compassion for his master overcame his fear and he spoke the truth in that love, Let us pray the people around us will love us enough to arrest us when we're about to be hoist with our own foibles. And let us pray that when it is our turn to correct another we will receive grace to do it lovingly, knowing we are afflicted also and in need of healing.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

“Like the early Christian martyrs, like Christ himself in Gethsemane, the laity of Europe was praying for help against those who would kill them happily, and kill them horribly, in hatred of the Faith.”
Dr Kevin Johnson, The Rosary. (h/t Catholic Phoenix)

That Turkish invasion of Europe is now nearly complete. It took a few centuries but European lassitude accomplished what Ali Pasha and his fleet could not. The invaders have formed insulated colonies from which they are able to conduct forays into the general population with near impunity. The center of these colonies are the rabats, citadels from which imams preach their messages of subjugation through jihad. And the people of Europe have largely stripped themselves of the vigor and virtue to resist. There are few who consider the Faith something worth dying for. But they need not be killed except for the most symbolic of reasons. They will merely lie down and accept the humiliation of dimmhitude.

There shouldn't be any doubt about what that proposed "cultural center" at Ground Zero in New York is about. It is a attempt at rabat triumphalism. May Americans have the moral courage to pray, to repent of our national sins and to humble ourselves beneath the mighty hand of God, that He may lift us up in due time. And may Catholics pray for the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary, whose feast is celebrated today because the Holy League, led by Don John of Austria, and the whole of Christendom, led by Pope Pius V, prayed the rosary without ceasing until the Battle of Lepanto was won.See Also:
Canterbury Tales "Become a Catholic Two-Percenter
Eric Sammons "You Shouldn't Have Done That"
New Theological Movement "How to pray the Rosary Well"

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Gotta get back to the garden

One of today's recurring themes is respristination, the restoration of the Earth to its pristine state, the garden of Eden. This idea finds artistic expression in Joni Mitchell's song Woodstock:

We are stardust,
Billion year old carbon
We are golden,
Caught in the devil¹s bargain,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Well, we left Yasgur's farm looking like something other than a garden, let alone the garden. But at least we got an anthem to go with our arrogance. Yes, arrogance because we will never get ourselves back to the garden; its gate is guarded by a cherubim, one of God's throne angels, with a flaming sword no less.

The notion of getting ourselves back to the garden is expressed in a number of ways socially and politically. Some are benign, even a little silly, like holding hands across the country and thinking peaceful thoughts. Others ally themselves with the secular religion of the age and even have the sanction and power of government - aggressive global warming environmentalism and human embryonic stem cell research advocacy are examples. Those who have a form of godliness (we are stardust; we are golden) while denying its power (we are billion year old carbon) will inevitably lay hold of the only power that poses a credible challenge to real power: the power of Satan, though they scoff and call it reason. Reason divorced from faith says we can apply the same failed thinking by new techniques and get breakthrough results - a frontal assault on that flaming sword. It's a Pelagian attack to the rear, of course, but the arrogant will never learn. "Until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."

The garden of Eden is closed forever. God's mandate to Adam and Eve (and to us) was
"Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." The garden was to be the starting place, and the whole earth was supposed to look like it. That opportunity is lost forever. Now we are on a pilgrimage to the City of God. It is there we will find the Tree of Life, not here. Here we will have to put up with the taunts of the grinning serpent, "Has God truly said..." Like I said, the arrogant never learn.