BY STEFAN GIGACZ
Five hundred years after his death, Shakespeare's tragic anti-hero Richard III ("my kingdom for a horse") is back in the news with the discovery of his skeleton.
But as Mark Shea notes, "it's tough to be the victim of the greatest butt-kissing hatchet job in history done by the greatest poet in the English language".
And while many academics argue that Shakespeare was himself a Catholic, Cristina Odone at the UK Telegraph is demanding that the king's bones should also be given a church burial:
Richard III may have been a murderer, or he may have been a much-maligned monarch. He was certainly one of the most controversial kings in English history, the last Plantagenet, and afflicted by scoliosis. He was also a Catholic. Now that his remains have been disinterred, he should be buried in a Catholic church with Catholic funeral rites.
Anything else would shock him. He wouldn't recognise the unfamiliar rites of an Anglican state ceremony. He'd regard the established Church as sacrilegious, the work of a hateful Tudor who'd taken the divine right of kings too far.
Fr James Martin SJ adds that he has found the whole saga fascinating:
For it serves as a gentle reminder that "legendary" location often prove to be "factual." When I was in the Holy Land I was reminded several times by guidebooks that "legendary" or "traditional" places for an event are often later found to be based in fact, for several reasons.
First, people in antiquity (and in the middle ages) didn't move around as much, and so when pilgrims would return later on, it was easy for locals to point out where something happened. If they didn't know, their parents, who did know, would have told them. In other words, those returning to Galilee in the decades after Jesus's death would have been told by locals, "Yes, that miracle was done right over there."
Second, these were extraordinary events, and thus more likely to be recalled. Finally, we underestimate the accuracy of oral traditions. So for many years Richard's body was "thought" to have been located near a church near Bosworth Field, and here it is.
For many years St Peter's tomb was "reputed" to be under St. Peter's dome, and there it was. The next time someone points out a "legendary" site of a special event, don't dismiss it: pay attention.
On another level, after American ex-atheist and Catholic convert Jennifer Fulwiler gave a talk recently, two women approached her to tell their story:
They explained that they are both cradle Catholics who have gone to Mass pretty much every Sunday for their whole lives. They love their faith and are proud to be Catholic. And they both use artificial contraception. They explained that they had not fully understood that the Church was serious about this teaching...
Neither Amanda nor Laura had heard anything about the topic in their many years of Catholic school and religious formation classes. And so for all of their married lives they'd used various forms of contraception, never questioning how it might jibe with the doctrines of their faith.
But, Fulwiler continues, more and more Catholic women are awakening to what the Church teaches:
I see women who are beginning to see that artificial methods of birth control come with their own problems, and whose gut instincts tell them that there just might be some truth to this idea that contraception has not been a good thing for us. In short, I see a generation of Catholic women who are poised to reject the lies of secular culture and embrace the fullness of their Church's teaching, but who will need a lot of help to get there.
Reading this inspired me to look up John Billings who with his wife Evelyn developed the Billings method of natural family planning. And it turns out that this year marks the 60th anniversary of Billings' 1953 discovery of the physiological basis of their method.
So I googled "60th anniversary Billings ovulation method". Nothing that I can find! No man is a prophet, etc. I guess that also helps explain why Amanda and Laura never heard anything about the method. Seems that it's not just Catholic Social Teaching that is the "Church's best kept secret".
Speaking of anniversaries, I was also going to mention that this month marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of work on the drafting of the document that would become the Vatican II Constitution on the Church in the World of Our Time, Gaudium et Spes (GS).
But it's a document that doesn't seem to impress Professor Tracey Rowland who analysed it this week in a post ominously entitled "The good, the bad and Gaudium et Spes"!
Professor Rowland writes:
It is easy to be critical of Gaudium et Spes as a document pushed through at the end of the Second Vatican Council when the Holy Spirit was out to lunch or the Conciliar fathers had eaten rather too much lunch and were not fully awake. As one of my students once remarked, “Were they all on Prozac?”
Actually, no, Professor Rowland hastens to answer, before launching into her critique:
At its worst, Gaudium et Spes became an excuse for correlating, and even accommodating, the faith to the culture of modernity. It became, in other words, the license for what we now call the “spirit of the Council” — the practice of identifying fashionable trends in the secular culture and tying the faith to them in a pathetic marketing ploy.
This is what Ratzinger called the practice of presenting the Church as a poorly managed haberdashery shop constantly changing its windows to lure more customers.
I'm feeling a little bit stunned, or perhaps depressed, at this point but fortunately she does go on to say that:
At its best, on the other hand, Gaudium et Spes served as a foundation for the theological anthropology advanced in John Paul II’s Trinitarian encyclicals—Redemptor Hominis, Dives in Misericordia, and Dominum et Vivificantem—and his more famous catechesis on human love.
All that could raise quite a discussion. Still, it's worth mentioning that Msgr Pierre Haubtmann, the editor of the final drafts of GS, was no intellectual slouch, holding three doctorates in sacred theology, scholastic philosophy and sociology.
And he and his team, many of whom also worked on Lumen Gentium (LG), certainly did not compile the document over coffee and croissants as is evident from even a quick glance at Haubtmann's conciliar archive, the mere inventory of which totals nearly 200 pages! Moreover, it took around 34 months to complete GS compared to around 22 months for LG.
While on the subject of Catholic Social Teaching, environmental engineer Geoff Lacey is calling for Sustainable Economics in a new post at the Social Policy Connections website:
In recent years, I have taken part in a lot of discussions about sustainability. I have found that many people agree we must work towards a profound transformation in our culture and in its patterns of production and consumption if we are to find a way out of the present environmental crisis. People then raise one particular urgent question: can there be a different kind of economy that will be sustainable, and will it work?
Still in the ecological arena, WWF worker Dekila Chungyalpa talks about a new Sacred Earth program to get religious leaders involved in conservation issues in this interview at New Scientist.
Meanwhile, in the UK, following the British parliament's vote on same sex marriage, Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith reflects on the challenges of defending Catholic teaching against accusations of bigotry:
Are you a bigot? It seems I am in the eyes of some tweeters who accuse me of ‘disgusting bigotry’. The word bores me, so I automatically block anyone who uses it, and cannot thus find the tweets in question. That does not matter.
The person who uses the word ‘bigot’ does not say anything interesting; he or she merely hurls an insult, and as far as I can see the only reason anyone has ever called me a bigot is because I am a Catholic. For them Catholicism equals bigotry; but that is not really a very profound point. It is merely a way of saying that they do not like Catholics, and an attempt to hurt our feelings.
People need to be careful about stirring up religious and sectarian hatreds. Hence, let us do away with the word ‘bigot’. It was disappointing to see the word feature in an article by Polly Toynbee recently and in the headline to the article.
“The gay marriage debate has uncovered a nest of bigots,” screams the headline. Those who voted against gay marriage were not bigots; they were people Polly Toynbee does not agree with, as is her perfect right. But to use this insulting word in this way is generates only heat, never light.
For something completely different, the Faithworks blog at the US Catholic Relief Service links to interviews with the Catholic Harbaugh brothers, John and Jim, whose teams fought out last week's Superbowl XLVII.
Finally, with Ash Wednesday coming up this week, Damien Brennan reflects on the challenges of trying to live simply in the wake of a family visit to Cambodia:
We were close to the daily lives of people living in villages and along the roadsides as we traversed Cambodia by challenging road travel. We were often in the throng of children heading to or from school, sometimes three small children precariously sharing an oversized pushbike on narrow, crowded and treacherous roads.
We stopped regularly to look at the food growing in the fields or at the plethora of roadside markets. We talked with people when we could. We observed simple one or two room dwellings built on poles with eating and family space underneath. Small earthen ovens were nearby in the open.
Most dwellings had a small dam at the front with ducks or hens. Some had on their tiny acreage a cow or a goat for milking. As far as possible these country folk appeared self-sufficient, even if it was only in a very rudimentary way. I do not romanticise this existence.
These recent experiences close to home have reminded me of that old religious concept of ‘penance’. It may not be such a bad thing after all. It can be challenging to do without or to jettison whatever has become an overindulgence for us – positional power, material possessions, status and image, food, grog, sarcasm or cynicism, dependence on social networking, or narcissism. In these recent days some of us have become increasingly aware of the penitential acts we owe to our natural environment – from taking it for granted.
And for more on Ash Wednesday, try tuning in late Wednesday evening to Fr Don Miller OFM, vocation director for the Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, who will explain Lent's "deeper call to conversion" in a live online chat here.
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