Sunday, June 12, 2005

America

It's been a while since my last post, and I can honestly say that much has happened in the meantime to my relationship to the Church. I've been asked by my local parish to try to bring into the church more of the young people moving into our neighborhood (Williamsburg in Brooklyn). To that end, a small group of us are talking about showing movies on a monthly basis and hosting a yoga class (which I will teach in the Sivananda-style that I was trained in). The parish has also brought up the possibility of hosting artwork by some of the many artists moving in (my wife Dess is one such artist, as well as a Catholic). For the movies I suggested we start with an old favorite of mine, a Danish film by Carl Dreyer, "The Passion of Joan of Arc".

What I could say about all this would be very long, and would have to include my reservations about it; I need to leave a fuller discussion for later. I will only say for now that building a dialogue across an empty and sometimes unfriendly expanse means a lot to me.

Quite separately from all this, I've started visiting Fordham University's Jesuit community, and attending Masses there at lunchtime, before daily mass is suspended for the summer. Fordham has always attracted me in principle, but I was moved specifically because several weeks ago the front page of the New York Times, a paper I read daily, reported that Vatican pressure had forced the resignation of the chief editor at America magazine, a Jesuit weekly. I grew up Catholic but I can't remember ever hearing about America. I have found it to be a wonderful resource, as it advertises itself, for the thinking Catholic. To read it is to grow close to the Church in a way that I have often felt missing. In other words, you can't get close to something or someone if you can't speak honestly to them; or if you aren't allowed to speak to them about the painful things in the relationship. Intimacy will be literally impossible. So I thank America for offering me a path toward a fuller relationship with my Church.

I've read recently that something like 300 craters on the moon are named after the Jesuit priests who discovered them. So perhaps it's no accident that a year after starting to do astronomy, and exploring craters on the moon, I'm finding out so much about the Jesuits, some of whom have left their names on these basins (one of the most famous of the moon's craters is named, for instance, after Father Christopher Clavius, a contemporary and friend of Galileo). One thing that impresses and even surprises me is the Jesuits' deep love, not only of astronomy, but of all "secular" subjects, as joyful things in themselves -- a love that gives itself without asking how these things are related to faith.

At the same time, I have started reading another magazine, Commonweal, which I had heard about and used for research years ago. It's perhaps better known than America, and it's done by lay Catholics. Their May 20 editorial, Scandal at America, is a good place to start if you want to understand the affair with Fr. Reese and his resignation.

America and Commonweal are places I can link to without reservation. On my blog I have linked to sites or works that I heartily disagree with, so I take a special joy in recommending these.

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