discovering that they are loved by God…

Ed. Note: This marks my 500th post on this blog. I probably should figure out my organizational structure soon!

Discovering that they are loved by God, people come to understand their own transcendent dignity, they learn not to be satisfied with only themselves but to encounter their neighbour in a network of relationships that are ever more authentically human.
Men and women who are made “new” by the love of God are able to change the rules and the quality of relationships, transforming even social structures. They are people capable of bringing peace where there is conflict, of building and nurturing fraternal relationships where there is hatred, of seeking justice where there prevails the exploitation of man by man.
Only love is capable of radically transforming the relationships that men maintain among themselves. This is the perspective that allows every person of good will to perceive the broad horizons of justice and human development in truth and goodness.

From the opening of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. You can buy it from or view it online.

An Introduction to Opus Dei

by John L. Allen

Opus Dei, literally “The Work of God”, is a personal prelature of the Catholic Church. It’s like a diocese, but not. It’s like a religious order, but not. It is an organization of both lay people- men and women- and priests dedicated to the sanctification of work. In other words, it promotes living in the secular world but dedicating the work done in that world to God. The members of The Work, as it can be referred to, are not “religious” in the sense of monks or nuns. Except for the priests that provide sacramental-spiritual care for the organization, everyone is still a normal, everyday lay person. For that reason, it can’t be a religious order.

They are like a diocese in that they have a prelate who is the spiritual head of the entity, but they have no territorial bounds (hence “personal” in personal prelature). Members of Opus Dei are fully under the spiritual care and judicial governance of their local (and territorial) bishop, but in the additional matters that Opus Dei is involved with, they are under the spiritual care of their Prelate. More on exactly what that means will come later.

I say this as an introduction because I’m starting to research more about this group. They are seen in a very negative light by the recent Da Vinci Code works (which most of the “facts” presented by the book or movie are completely untrue) and so I wanted to dive deeper into the only personal prelature of the Church in order to find out what they are really about.

To start this process, I purchased two books: Opus Dei : An Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church by John Allen, Jr. and The Way by St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei. John Allen’s name may sound familiar from his work with National Catholic Report and CNN as their Vatican expert. He was also the reported that visited Austin and quoted me in one of his weekly column. Knowing John Allen’s work and from what I had heard, his book is literally the most in-depth and objective report written regarding the organization. The Way is considered a foundational text containing 999 little proverbs that St. Josemaria wrote in light of the spirituality he sought to institutionalize through The Work.

I read the John Allen text during my New York trip- mostly in flight and in the late night hours before bed- and was really impressed by his description. I would suggest this book as a starting point for someone who wants to know a bit about every aspect of the group, albeit this is someone who is not involved with Opus Dei talking. The only problem I had with the book is that the case studies were a bit more than I cared to read. I’m more of a nuts and bolts type of person and if after reading the first case study and the start of the second, I think I understand the opinion presented, I’d rather move on.

I have not looked much at The Way, but that shall come. It is organized into various topics such as “character”, “study”, “direction”, “forming the spirit”, “the love of God”, etc. One example of these proverbs come from the chapter regarding study: “332. There is no excuse for those who could be scholars and are not. … 355. People engaged in worldly business say that time is money. That means little to me. For us who are engaged in the business of souls [of which I read would be all Christians], time is glory!”
As I read up a bit more about The Work, I hope to share more of my insights along to you.

god, country, notre dame

by Theodore M. Hesburgh

As I mentioned before, if a book leaves me thinking about it for a good time following or leads me to tell everyone I encounter that they must read the book, it will get five stars in my book.
This is the life story of Father Ted Hesburgh, CSC, former president of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. In addition to living the life of a priest at Notre Dame, he was an international player in atomic energy politics, founding member of the Civil Rights Commission and has met more Presidents of the United States and Popes than I could name (maybe not true, but point the same).
One particular story that stuck out for me was when one of the Presidents asked him what he could do to help repay Fr. Hesburgh for all of his work. The good priest said to fly in the fastest plane in the world, at the time being the SR-71. The request was denied at first since the military does not allow that. Without hesitation, Fr. Hesburgh replied that the military works for him.
The section of the book telling about his life as a priest impacted me the most. First, he tells of what the Holy Cross seminary experience was like. Then he tells of his experiences as a simple priest at ND. The discussion of this is some of the greatest vocational material I’ve read. Perhaps, this might because it wasn’t written to be vocation material. Just a priest doing what he was ordained to do.
Fr, Hesburgh is obviously a very intelligent person able to discuss the finer points of almost any topic. In the context of the book, there is a little bit of something for everyone.

“the power and the glory” review

by Graham Greene, John Updike

The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene, is a story of an old “whiskey priest” trying to escape capture in old southern Mexico. The State had outlawed God. Churches were closed and destroyed. Priests either had to marry, by law, or be killed, almost all opting for death. The Padre finds himself being the only priest, surrounded by the spiritual needy and the demons of his own life, trying to make sense of everything.
I found this book to be a quick read that I found to be thought provoking. I’ve heard much about this work before sitting down and reading it. I expected the internal conflict within the priest to be greater than what it was. His struggle, while very real, was a struggle between his thought and his action. His thought did not seem to battle itself—he seemed clear that he was a bad priest, that is, a horrible priest not worthy of the title. However, through his actions, he helped the faith of the people whom he admitted he failed in saving.
Looking at the whole of the book, it reminds us that martyrs may not be the ones you expect. Those who are completely unsure of his place in life or of his faith may be asked to sacrifice it all. Those who continue the walk of Christ despite the painful death it will cause is a martyr. They may be lacking in faith and devotion, but there is something holy in the unexpected martyr that, in many cases, speaks loudly to people facing the same crisis of faith.
The work is very good, but I cannot give it five stars. To get five stars, a book has to keep me thinking about it days after I finish reading it. This one was close, but not quite.


envisioning information: multiples and colors

“There is nothing as mysterious as a fact clearly described.”

An interesting point made by Tufte is that “comparisons must be enforced within the scope of the eyespan”. For those readers who do not have this book, there are four separate maps of China with red dots of varying sizes indicating the number of poets born in what location during each of four dynasties. Since these maps extend two pages in the book, they are not a good tool for comparisons.
Can’t a comparison be displayed in two separate locations and still be a comparison?
Let’s ignore numerical data, as that would clearly be able to be compared outside of a single eyspan. What other types of data can be displayed and compared in separate locations? In many cases, dimensions of the data can be compared. For example, on the two-page example, it is quite difficult to compare different dynasties in terms of exactly how many poets were born in a single area. However, it is not as difficult to compare that the Ming dynasty had a much greater concentration of births along the coast as compared to the Tang dynasty.
We should be careful to say when something can or can’t be done.
Small multiples would be well used for displaying the progression of one’s facial expression during a class. In lieu of a video or animation, we could capture 9 still photographs of an individual’s face- once every ten minutes for the standard 90-minute class. Looking at the presented information, we can determine if the material led to excitement, boredom, shock or another one of the human emotions we express through our faces.

Do no evil.

In addition to being the motto of Google, this is also the credo of information designers. When adding color to information displays, the first question that should be asked “does this help or hurt the presentation of information?”
Colors should interact on a level that allows the consumer to see the data, not the colors. Color should enhance the data, not confuse it. For example, the colors on a CapMetro system map are designed to allow information consumers to follow bus routes on the map. However, there needs to be more care taken in high-traffic areas, such as downtown and the UT campus. In those areas, the multiple colors detract from the information to be conveyed, making it difficult to follow a bus route. In these cases, they should consolidate the lines and reduce the number of objects on the map.
A theme that is constant is that information must be presented in ways that would not confuse the intended consumer. If the data is confusing, it is not useful and the purpose of information, in most cases, is to be useful.

writing with style: conversations on the art of writing (2nd edition)

by John R. Trimble

I highly suggest this “writing manual”. I purchased this book for a class a few years ago and read it, yes read it, while commutting on my beloved Route 1 (which is now Routes 1L and 1M, but that’s not the point).
The style of book led itself to be read as a book, not as a reference work. Tremble takes the reader through the entire writing process and includes the very helpful “sometimes you need to break the rules”.
Overall, it is a very good book and I would suggest it to anyone who would like some advice on how to write.