religion

Blessed Are the Brief

This past week, Pope St. Francis conducted a not-so-brief interview with La Civilta Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit journal. Ranging over 11,000 words in length, the Pope divulged his preference in music and film as well as his real thoughts on where to take the Catholic church. He stated, “We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”  He went on to say, "We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible … We have to talk about them in a context." For progressive young religious people like me, hearing the Pope say that religion should be about compassion, and mercy, and creative connection is falls on welcome ears. But judging from the (very brief) sermon I heard this morning at mass, I'm not sure the rest of the U.S. clergy thinks so. It's as if they gave the "Blessed are the meek" idea a taciturn spin: blessed are the brief.

The sermon was not more than five minutes long, and consisted of the rhetorically stunning offering that - get ready -  the Pope's comments were in line with the Church's long-held positions on sexual politics.

That was the beginning. And the end.

I was stunned. These are some of the most interesting statements, any major religious leader has made in decades, yet many priests kept it inaudible. According to the Boston Globe, the US bishops and Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, Boston’s archbishop declined to comment about the statements the Pope made in his interview.

If the Catholic church is going to at least try to give the semblance that it is a hierarchical, matrixed, top-down institution, it has to act like one. When a CEO of a major corporation releases a statement, his or her PR people fall in line. That didn't happen today in the Catholic church, and it looked horrible. The sort of silent mutiny said droves in itself, and it was disappointing.

In today's hypervocal world, the brief are blessed on Twitter. Or Tumblr.

Not the pulpit.

On Praise

The persistance of what is proper...

Somewhere in the whirl of my 20's and the clangor of work or whatever, that very quiet but very dainty voice of praise had slipped out of habit. The voice I learned to pray in, the world that understood the world as my introverted eyes saw it.

This happy sense or secret that what God made was enough. And would always be. 

That came through to me this evening, fixing dinner in the quiet silence of our house: our lifestyles should be built on praise. Our moments, quiet thank-yous. The very architecture of our concerns - symmetry. Besides, there's actual chemical benefits to the psychology of gratitude. So that's peace. And praise.

Romeo + Juliet, Revisited

It's been almost fifteen years since director Baz Luhrmann re-made Romeo and Juliet. I loved it at the time, but didn't realize how prescient it was. Although it was made in the nineties, and was supposed to be about Europe, I realize it looks a lot like the Americas in 2010.
The re-make takes place in a vaguely Latin-ate place of neon crucifixes and low-riders. The technical scene is Italy, but barons get around in private helicopters as they do in Sao Paolo, and shirtless, aimless twenty-somethings hang out on the beach as they do in Miami or Los Angeles. Gangsters sport the Virgen de Guadalupe on their vests, and walk around in silver-spurred boots.
The Romeo + Juliet world looks like Shakespeare's, but with a charged,  electro-twist:

The word "Catholic" means universal. This scenario is now universal throughout our hemisphere: feuding families monopolizing cities, from New Jersey to Nuevo Leon. Maybe in Shakespeare's time feuding families traded other goods, but in the post-Bush, pre-Santos Americas, the Capulet - Montague feud just looks like two warring drug cartels.

If the Church was what "universalized" our hemisphere 500 years ago, are drugs our new church? Is cocaine the new communion?

Eucalyptus Trees and their Cool Water…Cologne?


“Out of the entire natural world, ants and eucalyptus trees are the creatures that emit the most pheromones,” my friend Jairo told me this morning.

“And ants are blind,” he reminded. “They move simply by following each other’s smell.”

If humans were more like ants, would we fall in love only under eucalyptus trees? That could be a whole cottage industry: the Cool Musk of eucalyptus trees.

Buy it now: the olfactory of God, for only $13.99.

The Beats of Balkan Beat Box

If only politics sounded like this.


Tomer Yosef of Balkan Beat Box is an Israeli punk rocker who sings the Levante as he hears it: as a frenetic and happy mix of made of klezmer, Roma, and Arab sounds, spiced with dub and reggae. This is the joy of brassy Sunday afternoons; full skirts and full futures. Of excess as a source of joy.

On stage, Yosef is the bright-eyed, bronze musical director of a pre-electronic Eden, screeching in an ecstatic symphony of minor-toned screams.

Prime Minister of his own sonic homeland…

What if the leaders of the Middle East could remember themselves like Yosef does? Cuz those are some great beats, those Balkan beats.