Jeff Geerling's blog

Pope Francis is not the anti-Benedict

It seems the media has taken every opportunity to spin Pope Francis' words as being veiled criticisms of his predecessor's own words, especially when it comes to liturgical and theological topics. While it's great seeing the media show meager support at times, rather than destructive criticism for a Pope at every turn, it's misguided and not really that helpful.

All the press is saying is that what makes Catholicism Catholic (liturgy, ritual, priesthood, catechesis, etc.) is irrelevant, and we should worry more about the poor and such instead—and they're taking many translated quotes from Pope Francis out of context to support their theories. This horse has been beaten to death by many well-intentioned cafeteria Catholics throughout my lifetime, and I'm quite sick of it.

James over at the Forum has written about this a few times, and his most recent post, "Criticism" of Benedict in Rio? is spot-on:

Ever since Francis was elected, the media has been relentlessly billing him as the anti-Benedict. [...]

I can't agree that a problem dogging the Catholic Church over the past forty years has been "intellectualism" or "rigid formulas". If anything, we've traded in the intellect for the purely sentimental, even saccharine. For two generations and counting, Catholics have been reared in an anti-intellectual ethos, from schools to liturgy. Have you been to a typical Catholic parish recently? It's almost all touchy-feely: name tags, silly songs, hand-holding, Father Personality and his cringeworthy jokes, backslapping, high-fives, no substance, etc. It never ends. And having attended Catholics schools for most of my youth, I can't say that "intellectualism" was a cause for many of my peers leaving the Church (which many of them did). We simply weren't taught the essentials of the faith. Period.

Go read the full post—every word rings true for faithful Catholics in my generation. From what I've seen, Catholic parishes in the U.S. have been anything but intellectual, clerical, etc. If anything, we need to go back to our liturgical and catechetical roots to find our faith and a true relationship with Jesus before we can presume to be of any assistance to the poor or others in need!

Steubenville 2013 - Chosen

This weekend, I'm down in Springfield, MO, photographing the Steubenville St. Louis Mid-America youth conference (which is on its second weekend—more than 6,000 teens participate in this event!).

Steubenville 2013 - Chosen Logo

I'll be posting my pictures in near-real-time to Flickr (on stlyouth's photostream — here's a link to all the pictures from the weekend), and I'll hopefully have time to do a writeup on the gear I'm using—two Nikon bodies (including a rented D7100!), two Eye-Fi cards, and a 4G hotspot.

Here are two of my favorite shots from the tonight (Eucharistic Adoration is always a highlight):



You can follow along the entire weekend on the OYM's Live Blog, or via any of the OYM's various social media accounts (listed in the right column of the live blog). Jennifer Brinker, of the St. Louis Review, has already written a story about the use of social media during the conference which is worth a read. She and photographer Sid Hastings will be working some stories throughout the weekend (it's always fun to shoot alongside a more seasoned photographer!).

Copyright, the USCCB, and Evangelization

The USCCB continues to wield copyrights for and squash evangelical uses of Vatican-issued texts that are of critical importance to the Church's mission of evangelization.

Brandon Vogt decided to post the Holy Father's latest encyclical, Lumen Fidei, to his blog in formats that are accessible to the masses (epub, kindle, etc.), but was quickly made to remove these downloads from his blog because of a copyright claim by the USCCB.

Obviously, Brandon doesn't own the rights to the text—and he also obediently complied with the takedown request. However, time and time again, I have noticed that lay faithful (and heck, even diocesan organizations—I experienced this three times while working in the curia, and many more times since!) have had their innovative evangelical initiatives deflated or outright squashed by the USCCB's publishing wing. (Examples: Integration of the Catholic text of the Bible, Catechism, and mass translations in parish, diocesan, and organizational websites and apps (too many times to count), Flocknote's Catechism in a Year email list).

To be clear, I have no issue with the Vatican's and USCCB's rights to the texts of the faith (encyclicals, scripture, catechisms, teachings). I have issue with the fact that, any time someone demonstrates evangelical initiative, the first (and usually only) official Church response is: "stop that, you're stealing a copyrighted work." It should be more along the lines of: "you're trying to do something awesome—we'd like to help you, here's how you can do it without violating our copyright."

I have made myself heard on these issues many times. It's time to double our efforts, in prayer and in spreading the word, towards setting the sacred text of the Bible and the great evangelical tool of the Catechism free in the English language.

Further Reading

[Update: It looks like there's another casualty from the fallout of this recent copyright battle—Jeff Miller's 'The Weekly Francis' eBook compilation project, which took all the writings/speeches of the pope and compiled them into one easy-to-digest document. I understand why Jeff had to stop, but I wish he wasn't compelled to do so.]

The New Shiny

I recently read a very good interview with Jason Fried on The Great Discontent, and one of the answers towards the end of the interview struck me:

The other advice is to focus on one thing. I see a lot of entrepreneurs build something and then move onto the next thing and the next thing and the next. Building something is only step one. It’s not that hard to put something out there. Building on top of that to maintain and improve it is actually the harder thing to do. Anyone can release something, but it’s much harder to polish and refine it over time once it’s out there.

I admit I've been tempted by this same thing many times—trying out new idea after new idea, leaving the old to gather cobwebs in a closet. Lately I've been refocusing on some of my older, mildly successful projects, like my Hosted Apache Solr service and Server (they're not that old compared to other mature services, but they're old for me).

Later in the interview:

Creating things that are lasting is what great cultures do. When you travel in Europe and see structures that have been around for hundreds of years, you think, “This culture cared to make something that would last forever.” What are we creating today that’s going to last for 20, 50, or 100 years?

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis - Nave Photo by Jeff Geerling

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis (pictured above) was built and its interior artwork completed over the course of more than 70 years. It would not be the masterpiece it is today (one of the largest collections of mosaics in the world!) if the artisans had given up after finishing the rough brick and concrete shell of the building. Still today, parts of the façade are rough hewn stone, waiting for a chisel to refine the building further.

Instead of progressing from one new idea to the next, over and over, hoping to strike it rich with one, why not spend some time taking one of your good ideas and making a truly beautiful product, carving out the details that take the product from something good to something great, and showing your customers that you truly care about them and what makes their lives better.

I love the products I use from developers and small companies who truly put themselves into the polish and functionality, rather than a bunch of random features and bugfixes that simply sell the product. Companies like Panic and Toggl make products that are now beautiful and functional tools that work exactly how you expect, through thousands of incremental refinements.

This level of polish takes time and patience—don't ruin your great idea by abandoning it too quickly.

CNMC Boston - Website up, registration open

CNMC Boston 2013

I don't know yet whether I'll be able to attend this year's Catholic New Media Celebration, which is being held on October 19, 2013 in Boston, MA. If I can't make it, it will be the first time since CNMC 2009 (San Antonio, TX — where I met this guy) that I'm not in attendance (and the first time since 2010 that I haven't presented at the conference!), but even so, I'll be watching from afar and praying for those who are able to attend and continue spreading the seeds of faith on the fertile (but rocky) ground of the Internet!

If you're a Catholic, and you're involved with evangelization, marketing, blogging, podcasting, or spreading the faith in any way, this is a great conference. Early-bird registration is only $99, and even if you can't attend physically, they offer a virtual ticket for the same price (which gets you all the audio and slides from the event, along with some other bonuses).

A few of the best books I've read in a long time [Rinzler's Making of Star Wars]

I recently noticed the video below on the official Star Wars YouTube channel, and I immediately popped over to to put The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi into my wish list (it's set for release on October 1, 2013!).

I've read both of J.W. Rinzler's other existing Making of Star Wars books (Episode IV, Episode V), and I thoroughly enjoyed both of them (read my review of The Making of The Empire Strikes Back here). I can't imagine Episode VI's book being any worse!

Everyone who grew up watching Star Wars should have a read through these books. The stunning, full-color images alone are worth the $50—the incredible amount of information contained in the interviews, stories, and script notes make the books worth even more, in my opinion. It makes re-watching the movies an entirely new experience—again.


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