“Just another guy with a blog.  No big whoop.”

November 25, 2008

A Debate Worth Hearing

Let Me Know What You Think

Post a comment to let me know if you prefer the wider format for this blog, or the more narrrow version I've been using recently. I see pros and cons each way, but since this place is for you, please let me know which style you prefer. Thanks.

BTW, don't forget: To post and read comments, you must click the post title. (Clunky, I know, but it's a glitch in Blogger that I and my techy friends haven't yet figured out how to fix.)

Further Evidence That I'm Not So Good At Predictions

Shortly before the election of Cardinal Ratzinger to be Pope Benedict XVI, I posted this little aside. You'll notice that the one, glaringly obvious possibility that I completely missed was that the new pope would choose the name Benedict. Read on, and you'll see why that means anything. 

Oh, and by the way, I am not a proponent of or an apologist for the alleged Prophecies of St. Malachy. But it is an historical curiosity that contains more than a few very interesting connections with the popes who've reigned since St. Malachy issued these predictions.

I wrote:

Some people deride the 
Prophecies of St. Malachy as forgery containing simple pious nonsense, while others fervently believe them to be accurate, if obscure, clues about all the popes from Malachy's day to the end of the world. Then there are those, like myself, who are somewhat skeptical but also willing to be convinced that they are, in fact, genuine predictions made by the Irish saint.

We may delve more deeply into these prephecies on this weblog, but for the moment, I wanted to post a few thoughts about his Latin motto pertaining to this next pope: Gloria Olivae or Glory of the Olive.

That's all he wrote. Literally. So it leaves hardly anything upon which to base speculation about what this phrase means.

I was being interviewed on a large AM talk radio station in Ohio a few days ago, and this issue was front and center in the host's and the callers' minds. On the show, I offered the following possibilities for understanding the meaning of "Gloria Olivae" [again, assuming for the sake of discussion that these statements about the popes by St. Malachy are in some way authentic and meaningful].

1) "Glory of the Olive" could refer to a Jewish cardinal or bishop being elected pope. In Romans 11, St. Paul descibes the Jews as a cultivated olive tree, and those Jews who, at the time of Christ, willfully rejected Him, are depicted by St. Paul as branches of that olive tree that were "snapped off." Gentile believers are likened to branches from a wild olive tree that were grafted on to the cultivated tree (i.e. Israel). The only current cardinal I am aware of who is Jewish by ancestry is Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, the retired former archbishop of Paris. His election seems to be a major long shot, but when it comes to papal conclaves, expect the unexpected (e.g. the election of Cardinal Karol Wojtiya)

2)  "Glory of the Olive" could refer to some spectacular peace or peace initiative that would transpire during the reign of the next pope. I am under the impression, though, that the symbol of an olive branch as a connotation of "peace" is of relatively modern origin. Therefore, it may be purely anachronistic to assume that this refers to peace.

3) "Glory of the Olive" could refer to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem (in this case, Archbishop Michel Sabbah, a Palestinian) being elected. The olive tree is a frequent symbol in Scripture, and the Mount of Oilves overlooking the Old City, is the location of such momentous events as Christ's weeping over Jerusalem, His Agony in the Garden, the Great Commission, and His Ascension. This, too, seems to me to be a long shot, in part because Archbishop Sabbah is not a cardinal, and it seems likely, if not certain, that whoever is elected will be one of the 115 cardinals who enter the conclave on March 18th.

4) "Glory of the Olive" could refer to a member of the Order of St. Benedict being elected pope. A branch of the Benedictines has been known historically as the "Olivetans," I haven't researched whether any of the cardinals who will vote in this conclave are Benedictines (techincally, when a religious is consecrated a bishop ordinary he becomes a member of the secular [i.e. diocesan] clergy), but even if there are none, it's possible, though not likely, that a man who is not a cardinal could be elected. I think this fourth understing of "Glory of the Olive" is the least likely.

I will try to post more on this general issue. I suspect that some who read this (and I'm thinking of a few in particular) will chime in with the obligatory “the prophecies of St. Malachy are a medieval forgery, not to be taken seriously,” etc. That's okay. It seems to me thatif nothing else, these alleged prophecies are an interesting topic for discussion. (Originally written on April 11, 2005.)

Nostradamus I Am Not

About three and a half years ago, I made a few predictions about Pope Benedict's pontificate.  It's interesting to see how things have panned out thus far. I think I was pretty accurate on #2, so-so on # 3, and way off the mark on # 4. I certainly wish the Holy Father ad multos annos, so I hope I wind up being waaaay off the mark on #1.

1) His reign will last less than ten years, perhaps as few as five. That's a no-brainer, of course, since the pope is already 78. Declining health as the result of advanced age combined the crushing weight of his duties of office will take their toll sooner rather than later.

2) Because his reign will be relatively brief, and I believe the pope is keenly aware of this, his will be a papacy marked by much decisive action. He will travel less, perhaps much less, than Pope John Paul II did, and he will likely write fewer encyclicals, simply because he won't have the luxury of 26 years in which to pen the torrent of important works that his predecessor did. By "action," I mean that Pope Benedict will actively confront heresy and dissent, he will rebuke as well as coax, and he will make a series of stunningly good episcopal appointments, especially in the United States.

3) The media campaign of criticism and carping won't die down; it will continue and increase in sharpness. The secular media will be aided in this effort by dissident Catholic groups and dissident Catholic leaders: Curran, McBrien, FOTV, etc.

4) There will be a growing "good-cop" "bad-cop" juxtaposition between Benedict XVI and John Paul II.

Just Some Pet Peeves. No Big Whoop.

Ever notice how some words seemingly all of a sudden become buzz words, and everyone is using them? For example, "utilize" was a perfectly respectable word years ago, but in the late 1980s or thereabouts, it suddenly became the ubiquitous replacement for the less flashy "use." You couldn't just "use" a tool or a software program, no, you had to utilize it.

The same thing happens, now and then, with pronunciations of words. I remember when CNN led the charge of showing how enlightned, sophisticated people pronounce "negotiate." The traditional ne-go-shee-ate didn't cut it anymore. Now, it was ne-go-see-ate. Nego-see-ations replaced negotiations, etc.

Well, I was just sitting here, apropos of nothing, thinking about the latest crop of buzzwords, catchphrases, and whatnot that I don't like and try like heck not to use, just out of principle. Here are some that come to mind. I'll add more as I think of them:

Having said that . . .
It seems that very few people these days can string two sentences together, in print or verbally, and not use this one. They seem to forget that
everything you say after the first thing you say includes the reality that you said what came before.

If you will . . . is another broadcast news-driven catchphrase that has crept into the popular discourse where it has no place. I hear television and radio reporters sprinkle "if you will" so liberally into their reports, that I'm convinced that it's just another "ummm" or "ahhh" to fill space between thoughts. It's the equivalent of saying "as it were." Just imagine how quickly annoying it would become if everyone on TV, and then everyone else, started saying things like, "Well, my opinion about this, as it were, is that we need to rebuild New Orleans, as it were, as quickly as possible." Our heads would all explode. Ditto for this particular catchphrase. It's lame and unnecessary, if you will. 

Don't even go there . . . or its abbreviated version: "don't go there." Everyone uses this stilted phrase, and I mean everyone. It's cute when a Southern-type person employs this bit of homespun charm, but when anyone else trys it on, it just doesn't work (think Robert Bork's beard or Richard Reich's political philosophy). It's about as lame as "You go, girl!" and for the exact same reasons.

You go, girl! . . . See above. This is always and everywhere lame. No exceptions.

Dude . . . I can understand why my 11 year old son Theodore and his cronies use "dude" hundreds of times a day in their 11-year old discourse. No problem. When I was his age, we employed "boss" and "tough," and other slangisms with abandon. But the difference is, our parents didn't.Those words belonged to the world of adolescents. Everyone understood that, and any adult who, back then, made a habit of saying things like, "Hey, Herb, that new sports jacket you have on today is really boss," would be unlikely to succeed in the world of adults. The problem with "dude" today, as with "cool," is that although these are completely good and useful words for kids, teens and even to some extent young adults, they sound lame coming out of the mouth of a 50 year old. Any 50 year old uttering phrases such as, "Dude! How cool is that!" when the office's new color copier has been installed is just a middle-aged hipster wannabe. Pretty much like the 50 year old woman who dresses like she's 17. It doesn't work.

How cool is that! . . . see above.

Sort of . . . This one, I am pretty sure, filtered into parts of the American mainstream via highbrow British actors and celebrities who appear on TV here in the States. I'm not talking about "Benny Hill" or "The Office" (the latter show I really, really enjoyed). I'm talking about the Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson types -- beautiful British people with good teeth and nice clothing -- musing about this or that while being interviewed by Larry King or Charlie Rose. "Well, Larry, I got this sort of inspiration for my role as I was watching this sort of BBC documentary of . . . ." Whatever. When I hear U.S. celebrities like Tom Cruise or Katie Couric affect this Britishism, I laugh. It's okay when Emma Thompson says it, but it's lame in the extreme when coming out of pretentious American mouths.

He (she) just doesn't get it. . . . This is code for "he (she) just doesn't agree with me." And it seems the biggest offenders with this catch phrase tend to be political commentators. The claim that so-and-so just doesn't get it, in addition to being an insult to so-and-so's intelligence, also comes across as a smug reassurance to the reader that, although so-and-so is too dense to get it, I, on the other hand, (and here the blogger's nose rises an inch or two higher) am sufficiently enlightened and sophisticated to 'get it.'" And if you disagree with me, well, then you just don't get it. Got it? :)

On the Phenomenon of False Compassion

And so, this is Christmas

Our culture, commandeered as it has been by the vehement forces of consumerism and secularism, has robbed us of the true meaning of this great feast, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us.

Makes me sad.