Monday, October 31, 2005

All Saints From The Golden Legend (1260):

"The second purpose of the feast is to supply for omissions. We have in fact omitted many saints, not celebrating feast days or making memorials of them. Indeed we could not have feasts for all the saints. For one thing the number of them has multiplied until it is almost infinite. Besides that, we are weak and because of our weakness could not put up with so many celebrations.... Therefore the Church with good reason has ordered that since we cannot solemnize the saints one by one, we shall at least honor them generally and all together."

What delightful thoughts. We celebrate All Hallows' because the number of people God has brought to Himself is surely near to infinite; and who could possibly take all that partying?
Neo-Nazi Girl Singers Not Homeschooled

Some of you may have seen yet another example making the media rounds of Horrible Homeschooled kids, apparently making Reich's "ethical servility" point in spades. These girls are little white supremacist tykes (rapidly approaching the point where they're no longer victims of this vile ideology but responsible perpetrators), who have been reported, on their mother's say-so, as being homeschooled.

HE&OS blogger Daryl Cobranchi, however, homes in on key points in an interview with the mom to find that they aren't and weren't homeschooled. They're currently enrolled in public school; and at the time they were "homeschooled," they were actually enrolled in a charter school (which was a public school, last I looked) but the mother just refused to use the required state-issued curriculum and gave the girls her own white-supremacist oriented materials. And the state school decided (according to her) not to do anything about it.

Which should make a couple of points for us. First, there's nothing magical about public school that will prevent kids from being abused, physically, psychologically, or spiritually. Second, folks are amazingly quick to jump on claims that children are "homeschooled" in these scare stories, without further inquiry. It's still conventional wisdom, for instance, that Andrea Yates homeschooled the children that she murdered, though all of them were under mandatory school attendance age (first grade in Texas), and it was summer vacation when the crime took place anyway. The book written on the case a few years ago did mention that it was incorrect to say she homeschooled them; but the stick has just been too good for whacking homeschoolers with and shows up in seemingly every story on the case.
HFH Patristics Reading Group: St. Ignatius' Epistles to the Trallians, Philadelphians, and Smyrnaeans

Discussion hasn't been thick on the ground for Ignatius, so we're going to blaze through three epistles at one go: the Epistles to the Trallians, Philadelphians, and Smyrnaeans. If this is moving too fast for anyone, speak up.

These three hit the familiar themes of the obligation to obey one's ecclesiastical superiors:

"In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church." (Trallians)

However Ignatius also reminds his readers that

"Good, too, are the priests; but the high priest is better, to whom was entrusted the holy of holies; and to him alone were entrusted the secret things of God." (Philadelphians)

More on the linkage between the hierarchy and the sacraments:

"Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. Nor is it permitted without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate the agape; but whatever he approve, this too is pleasing to God, so that whatever is done will be secure and valid." (Smyrnaeans)

And in the Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, a discussion of the Eucharist as a sign of unity as well as being the Real Presence of Christ:

"Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God.... They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus christ, Flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes."


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas

If you're not a member yet, sign up. If you need more encouragement, ponder the fact that the Worship hymal, aka Hootenanny Mass Songbook, was not in fact as bad as it could get, but has exceeded itself in the newly minted Worship III, to be found soon on a folding chair near you.

As cold comfort, I see that our Evangelical brethren have their own version of our musical woes, though their musical sufferings are imposed from within each church, while Catholics suffer at the hands of liturgical and music ministers who know what's good for us and greedy publishers who make their living off dumbing down our liturgy in new and copyrighted ways every few years. In both cases, however, there seem to be some generational issues, with certain no-longer-so-young persons having very firm ideas about What Youth Want.
The S-Word

Whenever a new acquaintance discovers that you homeschool, don't you cringe or stiffen just a little bit in anticipation of the question: What about socialization? Now more frequently asked with genuine interest (perhaps your interlocutor is considering homeschooling), occasionally with genuine concern for your children's wellbeing, irritatingly often with the air of "Here's why what you're doing is so wrong."

My favorite incident was the pediatrician who grilled me incessantly on why homeschooled kids couldn't be getting enough you-know-what, and she could never homeschool because (as she mentioned several times) her own child was so very social and friendly. Never mind the obnoxious implication that my own children must be introverted antisocial hermits; at the time of the interrogation, I was a captive audience in a hospital bed, having just had a c-section, trying to get an hours-old infant to latch on properly, and really not feeling up to the full-court defense being called for. Maybe she figured she only had a limited time to make sure I didn't repeat my awful educational mistake with this new child.

Volumes have been written on the s-word. Robert Reich, he of the mandatory two-week reeducation camps for homeschooled kids, is all about the s-word; he just has a fancy name ("ethical servility") and a theory that would permit government intrusion into the most private matters of personal belief and childrearing. But boiled down, it's just "they can't really be socialized, can they?"

No volumes here; just a few scattered thoughts that have occured to me over the years.

Invincible Ignorance

First, the odd phenomenon I like to call "invincible ignorance." An opponent of homeschooling tells you homeschooling is a bad idea because the children aren't socialized; kids have to be around other people. You answer with the usual raft of counter-examples; the zillion group activities your children are involved in, their close friends from the neighborhood or at church or in your hs'ing support group; their many friends and acquaintances of different ages whom they never would have met in an age-segregated school setting; their volunteer activities; the studies showing, on every conceivable measure, that homeschooled kids are at least as "socialized" as school kids. You thoroughly deconstruct the fantasy of the homeschooled kid slaving over textbooks at the kitchen table and gazing out the window at the happy busful of kids going off to school.

Your friendly foe nods throughout; sure, that's all probably true. "I still don't think," she says, when you've exhausted your ammo, "that it's good for kids to be so isolated. They need socialization."

Growing Up Weird

Here's another you've heard. "Kids need to be socialized or they grow up weird. My cousin's sister-in-law homeschools, and her kids are really messed up." The Argument from Weirdness shows up more and more often as homeschooling becomes more common. Okay, maybe our kids are a little weird. But let's remember that homeschoolers are self-selected for weirdness. This city, whose unofficial motto on a thousand bumper stickers is a clarion call for Weirdness, not coincidentally is renowned for its large and diverse homeschooling population.

Remember all the kids in your class who were weird? Some of them were weird and popular. Most of them were weird and weren't, and if you have a soul at all you felt sorry for them in school. So surely it will be a relief to think that a lot of them are being homeschooled now. The geeky brain who was bored all the time, the slow kid who never seemed to catch on, the fat kid who was withdrawn and wrote poetry a lot, the kid from a religious family who had to be excused from sex ed and from science class during the chapter on evolution and from P.E. when square dancing was being taught. Orthe kid with some medical condition or disability, not like the ubiquitous normal-looking "kid in a wheelchair" who shows up on every other page of modern textbooks to show that we never never discriminate, but was autistic or had psychological problems or was a burn victim. Remember how they were treated by the kids, and sometimes by the exasperated teacher?

Anyone whose first thought is "those are the kids who need to be in school getting socialized the most!" has forgotten what it's like to be a kid. Let's ask ourselves: did those same kids, in high school after a decade of "socialization," really seem much happier, better adjusted, and more popular?

At its best, the Argument from Weirdness forgets that kids and families that don't fit the mold are more likely to homeschool, so the strangeness of homeschooled kids isn't necessarily a result of not being in school. At its worst, it's a version of the "cut down the tall poppies" attitude that excuses inhumanity in the name of "making a man out of the lad" (a hundred yeas ago) or Mainstreaming to Promote Equity in Diversity (in today's ideologispeak).

And one last thought: what's wrong with weird? If, as in the words of famed educator and Central Texan Peggy Hill, "being different is the most wonderful thing in the whole wide world," why do we Celebrate Diversity of the racial, ethnic, and orientative sort, but panic at the thought of kids growing up with diverse personalities?

E Pluribus Unum

Which brings us to the socialization-as-diversity-training argument. The popular form (which Reich has only refined to its inevitable totalitarian outcome) goes like this: In public school, kids will meet and interact with all sorts of different kinds of kids. Rich and poor, black and white and Asian and Hispanic, of various creeds and national origins, together in the great melting pot. Homeschooled kids don't get to do this, which is a disaster for civic polity.

My thoughts on how likely cultural diversity is to survive when the melting is forced, I've dwelt on before and won't repeat now. Instead let's look at two facts on the ground.

First, public schools aren't actually like that. My own public school experience was in a part of the country sometimes nicknamed "Silicon Gulch," where we were all living in suburbs newly carved from the Central Texas hills so our engineer parents could have an easy drive to work. "Diversity" was a matter of whether your parents worked for Motorola, IBM, or Texas Instruments. The schools were lily-white, with a sprinkling of Indian and Asian kids. In a city one-third Mexican-American and another third African-American, I never met a black or hispanic kid until college. When touring our highly rated local elementary school (in our consideration of options for Offspring #1), the landscape was the same that I remembered growing up: middle-class Anglo with some Asian and Indian. Turns out that our city, a blue speck in a sea of electoral red, is still one of the most segregated places in the country, with a redistricting of the schools a few years ago exacerbating the situation. Jonathan Kozol's recent book extensively examines the horrific de facto segregation of American schools by race and class.

Even where some ideal school with the lauded diversity exists, where did the idea come from that kids would come to respect and celebrate difference, growing up in harmony with others different from themselves? For Pete's sake, the preppies and the goths and the jocks won't even talk to each other. It's been a worry for years that, even when schools were less segregated due to busing, the black and white kids kept to themselves. Kids who might want to "cross the lines" of race, ethnicity, and money are held back by social pressure from the same large groups who are supposed to be "socializing" their age peers.

Second, the whole diversity argument depends on the obviously false assumption that homeschooled kids would by in public schools if not at home. But this is not the case: most would be in private or parochial schools if homeschooling were not an option. The "Christian Soldiers" family of the New York Times article, meant to frighten mainstream America with their cultural isolation and high-octane religiosity, would, if homeschooling were outlawed, be in a small unaccredited Christian school with the other children of their little community. My crunchy-granola John Holtian friends would have their children in one of the several alternative progressive schools. My Catholic friends would be making the diocese miserable with their obtrusive and thoughtfully critical presence in the parochial schools. Unless we're prepared to shut down the private schools, or enforce mandatory state-sponsored diversity on them--which Reich's arguments would seem to require, and which the Supreme Court has decisively nixed--it does no good to blame homeschooling for taking children out of the diverse public schools of our imaginings.

More to come....

Friday, October 28, 2005

Come on, everyone, give the Pantocrator a hand This one caught me off-guard (scroll down to "Proposition 21").

"Proposition 21: Applauses in the Eucharistic Prayer. The Eucharistic prayers could be enriched with applause, not only after the consecration, but also in other moments, as foreseen in the Eucharistic prayers for the celebrations with the children and like it is made in various countries."

And after remembering recently how my dear Grandmommy taught me not to applaud in church, too. It seemed for a moment that some bishops at the recent Eucharistic Synod had just lost their marbles. I'm all for "inculturation," but not if the culture we're talking about is a Vegas lounge act.

Fortunately, some commenters discovered that a mistranslation was to blame, and the proper word was not "applause" but "acclamations," in the liturgical sense. In fact there's already a commonly used acclamation in the Eucharistic prayer; namely, "My Lord and my God" at the consecration.

The source of the mistranslation seems to have been the Urbi et Orbi blog, which currently features an amateurish attack on theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (taken from the pages of the scurrilous New Oxford Review, the folks whose ads First Things won't run and who recently let us all know that Scott Hahn is a heretic). Hadn't known about that blog before; won't be checking it out again.

Anyhow, at least I won't be asked by the Vatican to show God my personal approval of His performance during the liturgy.


Friday, October 14, 2005

HFH Patristics Reading Group: St. Ignatius' Epistle to the Magnesians

Here's my favorite part from the letter to the Magnesians:

"It becomes you not to presume on the youth of the bishop, but to show him all reverence in consideration of the authority of God the Father: just as even the holy presbyters, so I have heard, do not take advantage of his outwardly youthful appearance, but yield to him in their godly prudence: yet, not to him, but to the father of Jesus Christ, the Bishop of all."

And here's the most confusing part:

"Christianity did not base its faith on Judaism, but Judaism on Christianity, in which every tongue believing in God is brought together."

Anyone have any thoughts?

Magnesians has a lot to say about the threefold ministry, and especially about bishops. From Quasten:

"We obtain from Ignatius' letters a vivid picture of the hierarchical
dignity and prestige accorded a bishop in the midst of his flock. St. Ignatius mentions nothing of the prophets, who prompted by the spirit were still going from one Church to another, as described in the Didache. A monarchical episcopate reigns over the communities. We all but see the bishop surrounded by his priests and deacons. The bishop presides as god's representative, the priests form the apostolic senate and the deacons perform the services of Christ....The bishop is above all the responsible teacher of the faithful, and to be in communion with him is to be safeguarded against error and heresy.... The bishop is according to Ignatius also the high priest of the liturgy and the dispenser of the mysteries of God. Neither baptism, nor agape, nor Eucharist may be celebrated without him."

This very clarity of the existence of the threefold ministry and the bishop's role led in the past to suspicions of inauthenticity in the epistles. Quasten again:

"The authenticity of the Epistles was for a long time questioned by Protestants. On their view, it would be unlikely to find at the time of Trajan the monarchical episcopate and so clear cut an organization of the hierarchy into bishop, presbyter and deacon. They suspected the Letters of Ignatius of being a forgery, made with the very purpose of creating the hierarchical organization. But such a falsification is incredible.... [T]hey are generally accepted as genuine today."

Now in Calvin's defense, only the long recension was known in Calvin's day, and since it contained interpolations that were unquestionable of later date, it's not entirely unreasonable for early Protestants of Calvinist sympathies to suspect the authenticity of the letters. If the modern scholarly consensus that the short recension is authentic causes any problems for Presbyterian or other Calvinist theology, I'm not aware of it. Though I admit to being curious as to how the demonstrated existence of bishops in A.D. 100 now co-exists with the Calvinist position. Since I don't know any stupid Presbyterians, I assume there's some theology that deals with the issue.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Habemus Felem!

At long last, the new kitty has joined us. It seems that the animal shelter was able to evacuate the dogs before the hurricane whacked the Galveston area, but couldn't get the cats out in time, so the owners just hunkered down with the felines and waited it out, despite the mandatory evacuation order. Fortunately the Bay Area didn't get the full brunt of the storm after all, or there might not have been any cats, or shelter, left at all.

Home at last. Offspring #1 adores her; she tolerates the enthusiastic affections of Offspring #2 ("For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon"--Christopher Smart); and except for an unfortunate proclivity for early-morning toe-pouncing, she's quite suitable for adult company.

Of course we went ahead and named her Rita.
Hat Tricks
A first, in my nineteen years as a Catholic: last Sunday I was banned from entering a church because of a dress code violation. What flip-flops, t-shirts, and shorts in my callow teenage years had failed to achieve, a little straw bonnet managed to do.

Offspring #1 had been on a CampFire campout over the weekend and gotten home early Sunday afternoon, and then we had to zip over to the Hindu Temple to see the daughter of a dear friend performing a traditional dance as part of their yearly festival (and let me say that I would be all for liturgical dance if it were a gorgeous classical art form like Hindu dance). Sensing that our visit to the Temple probably wouldn't count as fulfilling the Sunday Obligation, and the hour growing late, we drove to the late Spanish mass at a nearby parish, our own parish not having any masses after one o'clock.

Now let me say that everything I know about proper behavior in church I learned from my maternal grandmother of blessed memory, who had been a proper Congregationalist before marriage and became an even more proper Episcopalian thereafter. Thanks to her, I sit quietly, don't cross my knees, and frown a little bit when people applaud in church. And as I've grown older, I've begun to wear hats in church. Nice hats; not mantillas or chapel veils, but not baseball caps either. It seems to me that in the trad-vs-mod Catholic infighting over head coverings, women have lost sight of the fact that, however you interpret him, St. Paul has unarguably given us ladies a green light to deck ourselves out at mass. Not that I have the daring or carriage to attempt one of the millinery confections in the photo above; but a little narrow-brimmed straw hat with a band, or a red felt one for espcially good moods, frankly makes me happy.

Unfortunately it didn't make the usher (sorry, "hospitality minister") at St. L.'s happy. As Offspring #1 and I tried to enter, the gentleman blocked us and gestured at my head. My hat? He nodded, and motioned for me to take it off. I can't wear a hat to mass? I asked, incredulous. He smiled apologetically in agreement. There's nothing wrong with wearing a hat, I explained; only men have to take off their hats at mass. It was no good. I made another try for the door; he stepped in front of me, and gestured, more sternly, at my hat. People were slipping past us, staring. I was starting to blush, and was really regretting having no Spanish at all. Finally I acquiesced, doffed my hat in shame, and the usher smiled pleasantly and motioned us to go inside.

Once in, I glanced furtively around. A quick survey of the assembly revealed no hats, but there were a few mantillas on older women. So it wasn't the head covering, it was just the hat. Suddenly the cold thought came to me: maybe Catholic women didn't wear hats! Maybe I was mistaken in extrapolating from my Episcopalian grandmother and Baptist friends; maybe I had been in error all this time, and everybody else was just too nice to tell me I was supposed to be removing my hat at mass. No--I remembered the drawings in Offspring #1's 1948 Catholic Picture Dictionary, with the women in their Jackie O. pillbox hats ("churching") and brimmed bonnets with wide bows ("communion"). I felt a surge of relief at the thought of those little ink-drawn illustrations. My only possible sartorial offense was my open-toed sandals, and nobody seemed to care about those, though Grandmommy was certainly shaking her head from Above.

Anyhow, I phoned the parish office the next morning to ask about their, uh, dress code... "Our what? We don't have a dress code." Laugh. "Anything goes." I bit back the reply that sprang to my lips and pressed the particular issue. So, ladies can wear hats? I mean, not a gimme cap or anything, just a normal church hat type thing? Yes, of course. I had apparently just run into a particularly enthusiastic, but misled, usher. "Hospitality minister," she corrected me.

What a relief. Saturday, I'm going hat shopping.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Slovenia? No problem.

Find the European countries. This cute little game works best if you decrease your screen resolution; otherwise it can be a bit of a pain setting Luxembourg down in the right place. For those of us who spend our homeschooling hours excessively in the Middle Ages, check out also the game of English counties. Just the thing for the excessively Eurocentric and Anglophilic homeschooling household. I mean, how can you follow the Wars of the Roses if you can't find Kent or Hertfordshire?

(Hat tip to FOB Amy)