Four Articles and a Poem

9:38 AM

Weekly, I post four articles that I found significant, meaningful and a poem. Our lives are enriched by seeing better. One article likely will come from the world of photography, a discipline that is about seeing. Another article will come from the world of technology, hence seeing something of the future. Another article will take up some aspect of our life together, seeing more clearly the other. Another article will be directed to faith, seeing the unseen. Finally, the weekly post will conclude with a poem, because poetry is about seeing words whose arrangement allows us to see anew.
  1. A Common Date for Easter? There are many things that we take for granted in life, not knowing all that happens behind the scenes. For most folks, to know the date of Easter is simply to look at a calendar without awareness of the details behind establishing this movable feast. In general, it can be said that Christianity, since the Council of Nicaea in 325, celebrates Easter on the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox. Good so far, right? Well, if you live in Chile or Australia, Easter is celebrated in the fall. Let's add a more interesting wrench that is invisible to many of us in the West: Orthodox Christians routinely celebrate Easter, while calculated by the same formula, on a different day. How can that be? Well, the move from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1582 eliminated 10 days in October for those of us in the West. This skipping of 10 days was not observed by Eastern Christianity. Hence, more often than not, the East and the West have different dates for Easter. The article cited explains: "Sometimes they still coincide, as they did in 2010, 2011, and 2014, and will again in 2017, but not after that until 2025. Often the two are just a week apart but can be much farther apart, as they were in 2013 (March 31 and May 5), and will be in 2016 (March 27 and May 1), and 2024 (March 31 and May 5)." Pope Francis has been talking about aligning the date for Easter as a sign of unity with Orthodox Christians. The article mentioned above by Fr. Ronald Robertson, C.S.P. indicates the progress made with the Orthodox to join our calendars. Fr. Robertson explains why it may be difficult for the Orthodox to join their date with our date in the West. Hence, the most realistic way forward may well be to calculate our date based upon the date of the East. If this should occur, and it would be a great sign of unity, there will be all sorts of unintended consequences, like disruptions in the timing of school's spring breaks. It will also prompt a question for the Protestant community if they will join in seeking a unified date for Easter. In any event, this dialog is happening, and, while it may create some discomfort, it would be a significant step toward Christian unity.
  2. Free college is not enough: The unavoidable limits of the Kalamazoo Promise. Professor Tim Ready of Western Michigan University (formerly of Notre Dame's Institute for Latino Studies) wrote a blog for the Brookings Institute that evaluates the Kalamazoo Promise and explores broader issues of social mobility and education. This data is important for communities across the U.S. and beyond. Chile, for example, is amidst the fourth year of student protests demanding free higher education. The article, while short, is packed with links. I learned about the post when Kalamazoo's public radio interviewed Prof. Ready. It is long established that education is the key to social mobility. Prof. Ready concludes that, while a free college education helps social mobility, in and of itself, it is not enough; the help arrives too late in the educational process for many students.
  3. When the End of Human Civilization is Your Day Job. Esquire Magazine's John H. Richardson introduces us to climate scientists and how they face the challenges of their work and the challenges to it by those who deny climate change. Underneath the empirical demands of science are hopes and fears about our future on this planet. While the article does not raise faith issues, I would love to know something about what these scientists believe.
  4. "Let's Not Be Afraid To Say It – We Need Change, We Want Change": To Poor and Powerful Alike, Pope's Watershed Call for "Justice." Rocco Palmo,the scribe behind Whispers in the Loggia, a favorite blog of many priests and bishops, points to an address by Pope Francis in Bolivia as "a bombshell text that immediately takes its place among the handful of truly landmark addresses of this pontificate." While much of the press coverage of the Papal visit to South America looks at Evo Morales' gift of a sickle and hammer cross and the coca leaves that assisted the Holy Father at high elevation, Palmo directs our attention to this wonderful text. Take some time to prayerfully read it.
And, finally, for our poetry. Today is the feast of St. Benedict. My mind is drawn to the final paragraph of Alisdair MacIntyre's After Virtue, a work of philosophy. So, let us conclude today with poetry in a philosopher's prose.
It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman Empire declined into the Dark Ages. None the less certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead—often not recognising fully what they were doing—was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct [one characterized by moral incoherence and unsettlable moral disputes in the modern world], we ought to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict. (After Virtue, pp. 244-5

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