Thursday, August 7, 2014

Notes on Christianity in the Republic of Georgia

This summer has been our first opportunity to live in an Orthodox country and I wanted to share some of our experiences and observations about Christian life in Tbilisi and Georgia in general.   Christianity has deep roots in Georgia that extend all the way back to the original Apostles.  Georgia was first evangelized by Andrew and is the final resting place of Matthias (the one who was chosen to replace Judas)—his tomb was once in a church around which a military fortress was built, now only 4 miles from the Turkish border, but the church was razed by the Ottoman when they took the fort and only a cross inside marks St. Matthias’ grave.  Georgia has been attacked by many powers.  The Turks alone have gone to war with the Georgians over 300 times trying to take and occupy the land.  In the southeastern part of the country we visited a monastery—Davit Gareja—where the Persian army entered and slaughtered all the monks on one Easter Sunday.  We have also visited another monastery—Gelati—in the central region of the country that saw monks fall to the same fate at the hands of Arab armies.  Both monasteries contain the monks’ relics and are truly beautiful, located on mountain sides or in the desert.  The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mksheta, the old capital, is built over a grave that contains the robe Christ wore while carrying the cross to the crucifixion, not the burial cloth, and came to Georgia from a Jewish man named Elioz who returned from Jerusalem to Mksheta.  The robe ended up with his sister who was buried with it and the cathedral rests over this space.  The church is beautiful and incredibly peaceful, you recognize that you are in a holy place when you enter there.  Even with all this history, the contemporary Christian life in the country is not strong.

What is the best way to describe the contemporary Christian life in Georgia?  When one remembers that the Soviet occupation lasted from the early 1920s until 1991, there will be a long and difficult recovery period.  But the Georgian Orthodox Church seems to be clinging to political power and continues to be very nationalistic.  The prevailing mentality wishes to block all other religious expression (there is not a legally recognized constitutional right to change religion) and to propose the Orthodox faith through the dominance of culture thus making it the only possible option.   New churches are being constructed and old churches are being restored, but other than at a formal level, the Orthodox Church does not have a cultural presence.  In a sense, it is like the situation Giussani described in The Risk of Education where Italy in the 1950s had many people attending Mass, but few saw a place for Christ in their lives.  Faith had become a formality and was almost meaningless in individual lives.  This is the case here.  But the situation is much weaker than in Italy as only 8% of the population is faithful to the Orthodox religion.  There is a catechesis crisis as very few their faith and superstitions are abundant.  In some ways, the Church teachings seem to conform themselves to the dominant political culture rather than being faithful to the Gospel; maybe I am wrong but this is what our experience suggests.

Tomb of Apostle Matthias
The Catholic Church has endured suffering with almost all of its parishes being taken by the communist government and given to the Orthodox.  The Marxist government only allowed the Church to maintain one parish in Tbilisi and all the others were confiscated.  The Catholic cathedral in Tbilisi was appropriated by the state to use for storage.  When communism ended, the government allowed the Church to re-gain the cathedral but the other parishes continued to be in the hands of the Orthodox.  Even the beautiful gothic cathedral of Batumi remains under Orthodox control.  It is strange to visit these appropriated churches because the Orthodox have maintained frescos, some of the statues (probably those that could not be removed!) and confessionals (some turned into small gift shops) that are out-of-place in  an Orthodox-style place of worship.  The architecture is classically Catholic—Latin cross plan with side naves separated by columns rather than Greek cross which is typical of the Orthodox Church—and the buildings have Latin inscriptions indicating their Catholic name.  These are parishes that have been stolen by the Orthodox who now do their best to block the Catholic presence in Georgia. 

The Catholic Church is not pursuing the return of its lifted parishes but trying to build new parishes to replace the ones that were stolen.  The Church has been successful in building a new beautiful parish in Batumi although it is already too small as the Sunday Mass crowds are too large for its seating capacity.  In Kutaisi, the Church is meeting in a house and cannot receive the authorization to build a new parish because the local mayor has received pressure from the Orthodox Church and will not sign the authorization permit.  The Church has invested much time in gaining approval for all the necessary components for this construction project, but although everything else has been approved, the project cannot start until the mayor signs the paper.  Ironically, the historic Catholic Church in Kutaisi, now in Orthodox hands, is named for the Immaculate Conception and the local hierarchy has built a theological college outside its doors.  After taking the only Catholic parish, they are refusing to allow the Catholic Church to replace it. 

Davit Gareja (on the border with
While the Orthodox hierarchy and religious never ‘officially’ threatened the Catholic faithful with violence, this is not true for the Georgian Orthodox faithful.  In 2002, the Catholic bishop led a pilgrimage to a monastery which houses the tomb of St Nina, the saint who brought the Christian faith to Georgia sometime around the fifth century.   When the group was approaching a city they were to pass through on their way, they were first stopped by the police who checked everyone’s id.  Next, the local Orthodox religious showed up and harassed the group.  After they left, a group of laypeople armed with baseball bats and other instruments of violence came and physically threatened the pilgrims if they stepped inside the town.  The bishop was amongst the faithful and decided to end the pilgrimage.  The Georgian Orthodox said that Catholics were not welcome even to pass through their town.  The police and Orthodox clergy were complicit in this threat which they unofficially sponsored.  The local Catholics were ashamed to be Georgian on this day.

Another instance of Orthodox antagonism to the Catholic Church happened in 2003 when the Nuncio came to Tbilisi to sign a bilateral agreement between the Georgian government and the Holy See that would protect freedom of religion and that had been in the works for a long time.  On that day, hundreds of people flooded the streets, including Orthodox priests and a bishop, protesting this signing, saying that they did not want the Catholic Church in Georgia. The Patriarch and the Orthodox hierarchy were behind these protests, which had obviously been planned in advance, but claimed that they had nothing to do with it, that it was the ‘natural’ reaction of the faithful.  The Nuncio and the Vatican were extremely disappointed about this last minute turn-face of the Georgian government.  In a later note published on the Osservatore Romano, the Nuncio publicly expressed his disappointment and accused the Orthodox Church of spreading false rumors about the Catholic Church and the proposed agreement with the Georgian government.  John Paul II suffered greatly because of this ‘betrayal’.

This animosity is still present and we have had only a slight experience of it.  Last Saturday, we hired a taxi to bring us to Kakheti, the wine region of the country, where we would visit some cities and Orthodox churches.  This was a long day as we were picked up in Tbilisi and drove around the region and returned to our apartment fourteen hours later.  The sights were beautiful and when we were at the furthest point from Tbilisi, we passed Telavi to visit the Alaverdi Cathedral, a grand picturesque church surrounded by a stone wall and the Caucasus Mountains in the background.  Our taxi driver accompanied us inside as we walked toward the church; at the main door, we were met by the two young men wearing black shirts (maybe seminarians, servers, or church volunteers) who slammed the huge door in our face and said that we were not enter.  Ironically, they knew nothing about us other than that we were not Georgian (it would not have mattered even if we were of a different orthodox faith, the thing that mattered was our nationality).  After a few moments they walked away, but waited by the entrance in the city wall surrounding the cathedral for us to leave.  In any case, this was the only time in Georgia where we were in any way threatened.             

Icon from Orthodox Church in Tblisi
After the Soviet oppression of the Church, the Catholic population is small and has yet to recover its previous numbers.  The local clergy and bishop are beautiful people who have a great humility and receive foreigners with great affection.  We have spent most of our time attending the small Catholic Cathedral in Tbilisi and have been fortunate to get to know the bishop and local priest.  The bishop asks people to call him Fr. Giuseppe rather than ‘Your Excellency’ or ‘Your Grace’ and actually has worked on the Cathedral renovation with his bare hands.  He has a difficult task in his ecumenical meetings with the Orthodox hierarchy who make life difficult for Catholics.  For example, they do not even recognize Catholic baptism and make life hard for those families where one member is Orthodox and the other Catholic.  Yes, Bishop Giuseppe has a challenging assignment but he may be the perfect person appointed to this task.  I believe that under his leadership the Church has a bright future in Georgia.

After being in Tbilisi for only six weeks, I am in no way an expert.  However, the Orthodox Church, like much of Georgian culture, is not seeking beauty and does not seem to know how to respond to the contemporary world.  It is tied up with nationalism that somehow sees Christianity as connected with the Georgian ethnicity and has a great fear of other Christians.  While this is true of the present, the future may be different.  When one goes to a daily Mass, there are frequently Orthodox visitors who sit in the back pews and are actively engaging the Church.  There are even young Orthodox clergy who attend.  Perhaps they recognize that something is wrong in the orientation of their leadership.  When this generation comes to lead the Orthodox Church, there may be a renewal in Catholic-Orthodox relations.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On Socialism

“In the same way, if he had decided that God and immorality did not exist, he would at once have become an atheist and a socialist.  For socialism is not merely the labor question, it is before all things the atheistic question, the question of the form taken by atheism today.  The question of the Tower of Babel built without God, not to mount to Heaven from earth but to set-up Heaven on earth.”

The Brothers Karamazov

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It's a Girl! The Three Deadliest Words in the World

A must-see documentary that will be released in 2012.

This is a synopsis from the official website:
"In India, China and many other parts of the world today, girls are killed, aborted and abandoned simply because they are girls. The United Nations estimates as many as 200 million girls are missing in the world today because of this so-called “gendercide”.

Girls who survive infancy are often subject to neglect, and many grow up to face extreme violence and even death at the hands of their own husbands or other family members.

The war against girls is rooted in centuries-old tradition and sustained by deeply ingrained cultural dynamics which, in combination with government policies, accelerate the elimination of girls.

Shot on location in India and China, It’s a Girl! explores the issue. It asks why this is happening, and why so little is being done to save girls and women.

The film tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry-related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters’ lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son. Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against this injustice."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Faith Is Culture

First, we must state that faith itself is culture. There is no such thing as naked faith or mere religion. Simply stated, insofar as faith tells man who he is and how he should begin being human, faith creates culture; faith is itself culture. Faith's word is not an abstraction; it is one which has matured through a long history and through intercultural mingling in which it formed an entire structure of life, the interaction of man with himself, his neighbor, the world and God.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -1993 Talk in Hong Kong Titled "CHRIST, FAITH AND THE CHALLENGE OF CULTURES"

Monday, July 4, 2011

François Mauriac: Paris Review Interview

"No, the crisis of the novel, in my opinion, is of a metaphysical nature, and is connected with a certain conception of man. The argument against the psychological novel derives essentially from the conception of man held by the present generation, a conception that is totally negative…. Today, along with nonrepresentational art, we have the nonrepresentational novel—the characters simply have no distinguishing features…. I believe that the crisis of the novel, if it exists, is right there, essentially, in the domain of technique. The novel has lost its purpose. That is the most serious difficulty, and it is from there that we must begin. The younger generation believes, after Joyce and Proust, that it has discovered the “purpose” of the old novel to have been prefabricated and unrelated to reality."

“The crisis of the novel, then, is metaphysical. The generation that preceded ours was no longer Christian, but it believed in the individual, which comes to the same thing as believing in the soul. What each of us understands by the word soul is different; but in any case it is the fixed point around which the individual is constructed. Faith in God was lost for many, but not the values this faith postulates. The good was not bad, and the bad was not good. The collapse of the novel is due to the destruction of this fundamental concept: the awareness of good and evil. The language itself has been devalued and emptied of its meaning by this attack on conscience. Observe that for the novelist who has remained Christian, like myself, man is someone creating himself or destroying himself. He is not an immobile being, fixed, cast in a mold once and for all. This is what makes the traditional psychological novel so different from what I did or thought I was doing. The human being as I conceive him in the novel is a being caught up in the drama of salvation, even if he doesn't know it.”

Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 2, François Mauriac

See Also: Evelyn Waugh & Graham Greene

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Writer's Great Danger...

The writer’s great danger, from which his profession always separates him only by a hair's breath, is the vice of vices, the essence of original sin, which is also the cause for the downfall of Cenabre, Ganse, and Ouine—the Sin of Eve in paradise and of all her guilty children: curiosity, or, expressed in a more theological way, knowledge without love, the kind of knowledge that is not paid and vouched for with one’s existence and suffering, the forced anticipation of the vision God wants to bestow through grace but into which impatient man bites as he bit into the forbidden apple.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Three Signs of Cultural Decay: The Anthropological Crisis

A friend relayed a story of a meeting at the school where he teaches that covered changes in the library. Surprisingly, the focus was on introducing and adding new technology that would serve to entertain the students. It was as though books were forgotten as a relic of the past. I have heard similar rumors at the university where I teach that the library would stop collecting physical books and focus on adding electronic copies that students can check-out electronically and read on their computers. It may be a less expensive option for administrators, but it will make it harder for an education to be an introduction to reality and work as a tool for our freedom. This is a sign of a crisis where we fail to understand our needs and desires.

A Country Without Libraries by Charles Simic | NYRBlog | The New York Review of Books

The proposal to make search engines neutral may sound good at first glance, but it gives the government the ability to determine the results you see when you conduct a search on Google or Bing. Although the searches online are biased and work to increase the revenue for Google or Microsoft, allowing the government to make these decisions is a dangerous precedent that would further increase the cultural power that prevents us from understanding our humanity.

SHEFFIELD: Google gets hammered by monsters it created - Washington Times

David Foster Wallace has some interesting thoughts on what is wrong in our cultural environment, but he does not understand the answer. His thoughts are similar to Walker Percy in his understanding of where we are moving as a country.
‘A Frightening Time in America’: An Interview with David Foster Wallace by Ostap Karmodi | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

Monday, May 23, 2011


"In the same way, if he had decided that God and immorality did not exist, he would at once have become an atheist and socialist. For socialism is not merely the labor question, it is before all things the atheistic question, the question of the form taken by atheism to-day. The question of the tower of Babel built without God, not to mount to Heaven from earth but to set up Heaven on earth."

"The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular."

The Brothers Karamazov

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Communion and Liberation Easter Poster

""If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (1 Cor 15:14-15). The Christian faith stands or falls with the truth of the testimony that Christ is risen from the dead. If this were taken away, it would still be possible to piece together from the Christian tradition a series of interesting ideas about God and men, about man's being and his obligations, a kind of religious world view: but the Christian faith itself would be dead. Jesus would no longer be a criterion: the only criterion left would be our own judgment in selecting from His heritage what strikes us as helpful. In other words, we would be alone. Our own judgment would be in the highest instance. Only if Jesus is risen has anything really new occurred that changes the world and the situation of mankind. Then He becomes the criterion on which we can rely. For then God has truly revealed himself."
Benedict XVI

"The 'event' does not indicate merely something that happened and with which it all started, but what awakens the present, defines the present, gives content to the present. What we know or what we have becomes experience if what we know or have is something that is given to us now-there is a hand that offers it to us now, there is a face that comes forward now, there is blood that flows now, there is a resurrection that happenes now. Nothing exists outside this 'now'! Our 'I' cannot be moved, aroused, that is, changed, if not by something contemporaneous - an event. Christ is something that is happening to me. Now, in order that we know - Christ, the whole question of Christ - be an experience, there has to be a present that provokes us and arouses us. It is a presence as it was a presence for Andrew and John. Christianity, Christ, is exactly what He was for Andrew and John when they followed him. Imagine when He turned around, how they were struck! And when they went home with Him...It has been just like this up to now, up to this moment."
Luigi Giussani

Way of the Cross in the Heart of the City

As for many years, this Good Friday hundreds of people around the world will walk through the hearts of their cities commemorating our Lord's passion and death in Ways of the Cross organized by the lay Catholic Movement Communion and Liberation.
Millions of people carry their daily cross, but most of the time they are dreadfully alone: if God exists, He has nothing to do with their daily life. This is the real cross of every day, the cross of a person abandoned to himself, to his innermost need for genuine love, truth, beauty and justice. We need the presence of “God with us”, Jesus every day. And Jesus, because of the sacrifice of His cross and His resurrection, dwells among us, every day.

The Way of the Cross wants to help us follow Jesus and fix our gaze on the event of His passion in preparation for the joyous celebration of His resurrection.

In the United States, Ways of the Cross will be held in the following cities: Boston, Broomfield, CO, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Montgomery, AL, New Bedford, MA, New York City, Oklahoma City, Rochester, MN, Sacramento, Salem, OR, San Joseph, MO, San Diego, St. Louis, Washington,D.C.

For more information on locations and times visit the website

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Southern Writer: Walker Percy

Walker Percy is a Catholic novelist and philosopher who devoted his life to examining how assumptions concerning application of the scientific method have led to an increased alienation. He also saw how this reduction of reason provides the foundations for the modern culture of death. In the Thanatos Syndrome, he wrote "Do you know where tenderness leads? leads to the gas chamber.... More people have been killed in this century by tenderhearted souls than by cruel barbarians in all other centuries put together." This statement is very similar to Flannery O'Connor's "When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced labor camps and the fumes of the gas chamber." These two Southern writers published almost identical observations independently of each other. Percy is very different from O'Connor and he did not publish his first novel until he was in his forties. He was a medical doctor educated at Columbia and came from a family with a rich Southern heritage. His work is valuable as Percy saw the dangers that were created by the modern cultural transformation: the reduction of what it means to be a person. We were less able to recognize the uniqueness and unrepeatability of each person and the consequence was alienation. Percy's strength was that he spent years considering the cultural change that led to our current reality. As a novelist, his work is worthy of attention.

Here is a very brief collection of four interviews with Percy available online, a lecture he gave, and a lecture about one of his works.

(Self-interview) From "Questions They Never Asked Me" by Walker Percy
Q: Do you regard yourself as a Catholic novelist?
A: Since I am a Catholic and a novelist, it would seem to follow that I am a Catholic novelist.
Q: What kind of Catholic are you?
A: Bad.
Q: No, I mean are you liberal or conservative?
A: I no longer know what those words mean.
Q: Are you a dogmatic Catholic or an open-minded Catholic?
A: I don't know what that means, either. Do you mean, do I believe the dogma that the Catholic Church proposes for belief?
Q: Yes.
A: Yes.
Q. How is such a belief possible in this day and age?
A: What else is there?
Q: What do you mean, what else is there? There is humanism, atheism, agnosticism, Marxism, behaviorism, materialism, Buddhism, Muhammadism, Sufism, astrology, occultism, theosophy.
A: That's what I mean.
Q: To say nothing of Judaism and Protestantism.
A: Well, I would include them along with the Catholic Church in the whole peculiar Jewish-Christian thing.
Q: I don't understand. Would you exclude, for example, scientific humanism as a rational and honorable alternative?
A: Yes.
Q: Why?
A: It's not good enough.
Q: Why not?
A: This life is much too much trouble, far too strange, to arrive at the end of it and then to be asked what you make of it and have to answer "Scientific Humanism." That won't do. A poor show. Life is a mystery, love is a delight. Therefore I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for nothing less than the infinite mystery and the infinite delight, i.e. God. In fact, I demand it. I refuse to settle for anything less. I don't see why anyone should settle for less than Jacob, who actually grabbed aholt of God and wouldn't let go until God identified himself and blessed him.
Q: Grabbed aholt?
A: Louisiana expression.

(Thanks, Fr Carucci for showing me this interview)

C-SPAN has Percy's lecture "The San Andreas Fault in the Modern Mind" which was given May 3, 1989 is available online in its entirety.

Four Interviews with Percy:

1 Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 97, Walker Percy "Probably the fear of seeing America, with all its great strength and beauty and freedom—“Now in these dread latter days of the old violent beloved U.S.A.,” and so on—gradually subside into decay through default and be defeated, not by the communist movement, demonstrably a bankrupt system, but from within by weariness, boredom, cynicism, greed, and in the end helplessness before its great problems."

The Modern Prognosis: An Interview with Walker Percy "The trouble is the sciences for the last two hundred years have been spectacularly successful in dealing with subhuman reality, subhuman creatures, chemistry and physics of matter, and with extraordinary progress in learning about the cosmos; but also an extraordinary lack of success in dealing with man as man, man qua man. I think it's very curious--here the scientists know a tremendous amount about everything except what he or she is. Despite the extraordinary successes of science, we do not presently have even the rudiments of a coherent science of man."

Doubletake Interview "Also: writers are the "Protestants" of art, with nothing but their Scripto pencils and Blue-Horse tablets; painters are the "Catholics," with concrete intermediaries, clay, paint, models, fruit, landscape, etc. This is why writers drink more and painters live longer."

4 Orthodoxy Today Interview "The nihilism of some scientists in the name of ideology or sentimentality and the consequent devaluation of individual human life lead straight to the gas chamber."

Friday, March 4, 2011

The King's Speech

The Italian weekly newsletter ClanDestino Zoom, published a very good commentary on the recent Academy Award Winner Picture The King's Speech.

Below is a translation in English:

W Colin Firth who, in a wonderful movie, make us love the father of Queen Elizabeth and with him an important piece of European History.

The duke of York, second son of George V, King of the United Kingdom, unsucessfully consults many specialists for the stammer that has been affecting him since childhood, until he meets Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist. The relationship between the two is not easy and immediate. "Stammer is not a physical problem, " sustains Lionel, pressing the duke to know its causes. Despite this and with great fear, after the death of his father and the abdication of his older brother, he becomes King George VI. He cannot refrain from talking to the people and radio has become the most effice means of communication. "Forget everything else, just say it to me, a friend." These are the words Lionel tells the King before the beginning of the speech in which he announces to the English people that England has declared war to nazi Germany.

What makes it possible to face everything, the impossible, the scary, the bitter delusions, the rightful fears, the anguish, the weaknesses, limits, and anxieties? King George encountered and chose, first with rebelliousness but then with tenaciousness, a friend, someone who showed him that behind the huge microphone of the 1930s there wasn't an enemy from which to run away.

You can find the Italian text by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Aesop: The Wolf and the Shepherd

Aesop and a Parable for Today

A WOLF followed a flock of sheep for a long time and did not attempt to injure one of them. The Shepherd at first stood on his guard against him, as against an enemy, and kept a strict watch over his movements. But when the Wolf, day after day, kept in the company of the sheep and did not make the slightest effort to seize them, the Shepherd began to look upon him as a guardian of his flock rather than as a plotter of evil against it; and when occasion called him one day into the city, he left the sheep entirely in his charge. The Wolf, now that he had the opportunity, fell upon the sheep, and destroyed the greater part of the flock. When the Shepherd returned to find his flock destroyed, he exclaimed: "I have been rightly served; why did I trust my sheep to a Wolf?"

(Aesop's Fables are public domain and available free online)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Review: Lapsed Agnostic

It is rare to find a book that presents a personal account describing the misunderstanding and suffering caused by the Irish Church's failure to understand today's cultural reality. John Waters, a columnist with The Irish Times, describes a journey that originated in a Catholic childhood, following the promise of freedom in the pop culture that led to his rejection of the faith, and his long and difficult return to the Church. Waters offers Lapsed Agnostic as a long voyage that addresses the cultural reality in Ireland where the Church leadership failed to respond to the challenges modernity presented and reduced the Christian message to morality and political dominance. The Irish Church never developed a coherent response to the Enlightenment and after independence was satisfied merely preserving external political realities. The local church dominated society in a way similar to the British colonial experience where it sought legal positions and moralistic behavior and was unable to show how Christ mattered to daily life. The dualistic tendencies that weakened the entire West were particularly destructive in Ireland and the life proposed by the Church was unattractive compared to the freedom promised by rock musicians and the wider pop culture. Waters followed the road where he thought he would find happiness and left the faith to embrace a life of 'freedom,' but this promise failed and ultimately led him to alcohol as a means to survive. He lived through the destruction of traditional culture and had nothing but superficial ideas to replace what was lost. His human needs were present but unfulfilled and he drowned his heart in drunkenness. Eventually he found his way to AA and rediscovered his faith through a long and difficult process that required him re-think his relationship with Christ and re-enter the Church. This process was particularly painful as it required him to discover where the Irish Church had reduced the faith and had failed to propose Christ. The cultural problems are still present in Ireland and Waters tells how he has difficulty talking to people who ask him questions about what he believes because they normally come from ideological positions that are unable to comprehend his responses.
This is a beautiful work where the author places before us the reality of his childhood and the consequences of a faith that is unable to generate a culture. “The Irish Church has not yet woken up to the scale of the anthropological and existential crisis that besets Irish society precisely because of the particular nature of its historical faith experience and its recent rejection of this.” The outcome was the people leaving the Church and embracing a shallow culture that left them unable to deal with the problems of life. Yet, the answer for Ireland remains Christ and Waters own experience shows why this return is the only response that corresponds with the human heart. Ireland has suffered a loss of its tradition and is hungry for something that can address our reality now. This can only come from an encounter with a Presence that is able to generate a culture.

John Water's recent column in The Irish Times: Freedom at Last to Think for Yourself

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Only a beautiful theology...

There is in the time of the Church no historically influential theology which is not itself a reflection of the glory of God; only beautiful theology, that is, only theology which, grasped by the glory of God, is able itself to transmit its rays, has the chance of making any impact in human history by conviction and transformation.

Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Handmade with Love: support local craftspeople!

As my husband and I are trying to avoid buying things made in China whenever possible (and it's becoming harder and harder but we are doing our best!!) we are discovering a universe of people, mostly stay-home moms, who love to use their artistic talents to make personalized and one-of-a-kind gifts. These gifts might be more expensive than what you find in the stores, but they are so much better and much more beautiful than any mass produced item that is sold all over America (and the world). It's absolutely worth it! We are happy to spend some extra money, get a wonderful gift, and support an individual family. In this way, we allow mothers to make some money while staying home with their children, something that in our society today seems very hard to do because one income is often not enough.

My husband and I were looking for a special gift for our goddaughter's first birthday and I thought about a friend of mine from college, a stay-home mother of two who paints, sews, and does many other wonderful crafts. We ended up commissioning her an icon of our goddaughter's patron saint. It was the best gift ever! You can see this and other works on her blog "Santi Amici" (Saints friends).

Another crafts-mother I recently got to know and appreciate makes the cutest girls' dresses from adult t-shirts bought at thrift stores. You can see some of her creations at Kristi Bee.

I suggest that you look around, ask your friends, and do some internet searches and see what people around you (or faraway as my friend in Italy) are doing, you will be surprised! Please support local craftspeople and their families!