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Bulletins from the Human Side

Titanic lesson: More sorrow than sin in the world


We gaze together at the seas long smoothed over at the place where the RMS Titanic went down a century ago. Like the psalmist who sang “Out of the depths I have cried unto you, O Lord,” so the Titanic still cries out to us from the depths of the iceberg-crowned waters, a thousand and more voices speaking to us of the wounds of loss that a hundred years of solitude on the sandy floor of the Atlantic have not healed.

Water is the medium of true Mystery, carrying to us the voices of the lost passengers from the wreckage strewn like the pearls spilled out of a dowager’s purse across what the marine investigators term the “debris field” of the great vessel.

Even as collectors try to scoop them up, these objects testify that this is not debris but rather a human field. These little fittings of ordinary life – razors and combs, pens and buckles and brooches – whisper of their owners, bringing them to life so that we stand on the deck next to them, knowing what they do not of the destiny that will suddenly engulf them along with plans and dreams not far different from our own.

Reform of reform out of sync with Easter season


The Easter season, as we observed in the last Bulletin, is set, as is Passover, to the rhythm of the universe, to the springtime moon's throwing off its shadow, the symbol of our overcoming death with new life.

The powerful underlying theme of the season is our need to surrender old and deadened images of ourselves and our lives to embrace new and fuller spiritual realizations of our resurrected life. We must, as the association of eggs with Easter signifies, peck our way free of the shells that contain us if we are to be born to the resurrected life.

The sad, secular substitutes for Easter


Perhaps no period of the year -- not even when Christmas is reduced to XMAS -- tells us better how impoverished are the sad, searching celebrations presented as stand-ins for Passover and Holy Week.

Like a journeyman basketball player who lacks the magic of Michael Jordan in his prime, these events, sent in as subs, lack the Mystery generated spontaneously by these feasts whose date is set by the first full moon after the spring equinox. They are born, so to speak, from the inexhaustible symbols whose energy affects the tides of the oceans as well as those that rise and fall within us.

The dating of these feasts flows from the ancient practice of attempting to coordinate the lunar and solar calendars, symbolizing the two modes of eternal life. At the vernal equinox, when dark and light are in balance, the sun and the moon stand across the sky from each other. The moon, as Joseph Campbell once explained to me, "represents engagement in Time, like throwing off death, as the moon its shadow, to be born again. The disengaged sun represents the Eternal, the moon's source of light and the source of light for all of us who live in Time."

Bishop Robinson and the redemption of Eros


The blessed bishop from Australia who talks such good sense about human sexuality is a Robinson by name and by myth. For he is a Robinson Crusoe, building a ship with the help of Friday, avatar for all of us, that will allow the church to set sail into the deep of human sexual experience.

The bishop wants the church, in the phrase from the Pentecost season, to "speak an entirely new language" about sexual acts, but he understands that he must phrase his invitation in an old-fashioned vocabulary of legal distinctions and regulations that has become the institution's native and sometimes forked tongue.

'Downton Abbey' is more myth than Masterpiece Theater


"Downton Abbey" has attracted so many fans that PBS showed it twice on Super Bowl Sunday so football fans would not miss an episode.

The series about the parallel lives of the downstairs servants and the upstairs aristocrats, like the Orient Express on which some long to ride and at which others prefer to hurl stones, has stirred reactions out of proportion to its Masterpiece Theater origins.

A sunken cruise ship, a missing couple and a Religious Mystery


We all feel that we know Barbara and Jerry Heil, a Catholic couple presumed dead after the cruise ship Costa Concordia, like a prehistoric creature too clumsy to escape its adversary, heaved its wounded bulk one last time before turning on its side and dying in the shallow waters off the Tuscan coast.

Jerry and Barbara Heil are remembered by their grieving fellow parishioners at St. Pius X Church in White Bear Lake, Minn., as "quiet kindly people deeply involved in the congregation."

Who knew an Irish seminary could be so much like a prison?


NCR received a letter from Msgr. Hugh G Connolly, president of Saint Patrick’s College Maynooth, the national seminary of Ireland. Msgr. Connolly objected to this web column by Eugene Kennedy.

Msgr. Connolly requested the opportunity to respond to Kennedy’s column. To meet that request, I am printing in full Msgr. Connolly’s written statement that gives his account of the changes at the college: Maynooth seminary head objects to Kennedy’s portrayal

Dennis Coday,
NCR Editor


In a story likely to be unsurpassed as what psychologists term an "unobtrusive measure" of what is wrong with the Catholic church in Ireland, its venerable national seminary at Maynooth has decided, according to The Irish Catholic, to "separate the seminary environment from the wider university community."

The new year and the mystery in the mundane


The cackling and cawing of the media birds of prey stripping the Iowa cornfields clean blurred the weekend of our transition into a new year. Yet their departure from Iowa in a noisy fluttering wedge to disturb the peace elsewhere reminds us, as does this steep path of descent from the craggy peak of one year to the lush foothills of another, of the Mystery that swirls around this familiar passage.


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In This Issue

October 24-November 6, 2014


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