Why the name?

"Holy Conversation" does sound like an exceptionally pious name, even for a parish blog. And we can't guarantee that everything here will meet the high standard the name implies. But the phrase comes from the story of our patron saint, and we think it fits. Here's why.

St. Scholastica was a sixth-century abbess who, according to the Dialogues of Pope Gregory I, used to meet once a year with her brother, St. Benedict. On the last occasion they were together, they spent their time "satisfying each other's hunger for holy conversation about the spiritual life."

We hope that this blog can become a place where the members of our parish can find a taste of the companionship and conversation that Scholastica and Benedict enjoyed so much. Welcome!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On Prof. King's Papyrus

The headlines, as usual, are sensational: “Shedding new light on Jesus’ marital status?”; “A faded piece of papyrus refers to Jesus’ wife; Historians believe it is authentic; may reignite debate.” 
The article that follows, published in today’s Post-Gazette, was written by Laura Goldstein of the New York Times.  It concerns a tiny piece of papyrus in the possession of Prof. Karen L. King, an historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School.
The papyrus fragment includes a text in Coptic (an Egyptian language written with Greek characters) including the phrase, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife . . .’”  A later clause says, “She will be able to be my disciple.”  As far as Prof. King and other scholars can determine, the papyrus dates from the 4th century.  She guesses that it may have been copied from a 2nd-century text.
Back to the headlines.  None of them is actually wrong, although the first is certainly misleading, saved only by the question mark at the end.  As the article points out, Prof. King “repeatedly cautioned that this fragment should not be taken as proof that Jesus, the historical person, was actually married.  The text was probably written centuries after Jesus lived, and all other early, reliable Christian literature is silent on the question, she said.”  Just so.
What this text tells us is that its writer portrayed Jesus as having a wife.  That is interesting as a reflection of the author’s outlook, but does not constitute strong historical evidence that Jesus was actually married.  In this regard, the present discovery is much like the “Gospel of Judas” that was brought to public notice in 2010.  That document, apparently produced within a 2nd century Christian community influenced by gnosticism, has Jesus commend Judas as his best disciple.  For more on that document, on gnosticism, and on how we should regard such finds, see this article that I wrote at the time.
To the headlines again.  There can be no disputing that “a faded piece of papyrus refers to Jesus’ wife.”  That “historians believe it is authentic” is true as long as we read the article and see that here “authentic” means “actually a 4th century scrap rather than a much more recent forgery.”  “Authentic” does not imply, as we saw Prof. King emphasizing, that the document is accurate in seeing Jesus as married.
Finally, the “may reignite debate” headline.  This one is undoubtedly accurate—anything will get people arguing again over things we think important enough to argue over.  According to Ms. Goldstein, the papyrus could spur debate over whether Jesus was married, whether Mary Magdalene was his wife and whether he had female disciples.  She notes that debates on these questions seem “relevant today, when global Christianity is roiling over the place of women in ministry and the boundaries of marriage.”
I think it safe to say that the new find will become an occasion for more discussion on these issues.  I don’t believe that it has anything new and substantial to bring to that discussion. What we might say about the questions themselves is perhaps matter for future blog posts!
A final note, for the sake of accuracy.  Ms Goldstein says in the article that discussion “is particularly animated in the Roman Catholic Church, where despite calls for change, the Vatican has reiterated the teaching that the priesthood cannot be opened to women and married men because of the model set by Jesus.” 
It is a mistake to say that the Catholic Church says that the priesthood cannot be opened to married men.  There are married Roman Catholic priests—generally men who were married Anglican or Episcopal priests and who joined the Catholic Church.  Celibacy for priests is a matter of discipline in the Catholic Church, not a matter of doctrine.  Theoretically, the Church could modify this discipline at any time.   
On the other hand, Pope John Paul II wrote in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis in 1994 that, as a matter of doctrine, “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.”

                                                                                                  © 2012 Andrew K. Bechman

Monday, September 17, 2012

Youth Ministry Roamin' Catholics

 Roamin' Catholics help Catholic Charities Sept. 15.
 Roamin' Catholics help out in the Hill District.

A mornings work for our Roamin' Catholics in Millvale!

Thanks to Jamie Dillon for the pictures!

Friday, September 14, 2012


As you realize, both choirs have begun this new 2012-2013 season at the beginning of September.
It is NEVER TOO LATE TO JOIN!  Seriously, we'd love to have you come on board for either the Contemporary Choir or the SATB (4-Part) Choir.  The Contemporary Choir rehearses generally every other Tuesday evening from 7-8:45 p.m.  The SATB (4-Part) Choir rehearses every Wednesday evening from 7-8:45 p.m.  Both choirs sing on Sunday morning, the Contemporary Choir at the 9 a.m.
Liturgy and the SATB Choir at the 11 a.m. liturgy.  The choir year lasts from the beginning of September through the first week of June.

Both groups are wonderful faith communities to become a part of.  Both groups are comprised of fun and caring people.  Generally we start accepting members from high school age through advanced
(but we're not telling) age. No audition is necessary, a real plus for those who are shy.

If you might be feeling the slightest inclination to join, or at least inquire, you can contact me after
the 5 p.m., 9 a.m. or 11 a.m. weekend Masses.  Or, you can call my office at 412-781-0186 (x17).
And finally, you can email me at patbakercdp@saintscholastica.com.

I truly hope to hear from somebody (or countless somebodies) out there in the parish!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The End of the Year is Coming!!

It's almost that time of year again.  Remember all contributions donated thru
December 31, 2012 will be available as a deduction on your taxes.  Please contact me after January 14, 2013 for your end of the year statement.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Fr. Ken's homily--August 26, 2012

It is available for download from MediaFire here.
After downloading, you may play the file using a media player of your choice.  It is a WMA file.

Fr. Ken's Homily--12 August 2012

It is available for download from MediaFire here.
After downloading, you may play the file using a media player of your choice.  It is a WMA file.

Wonder Bread--29 July 2012

Fr. Ken's homily for July 29, 2012, the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
It is available for download from MediaFire here.
After downloading, you may play the file using a media player of your choice.  It is a WMA file.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Catholic Teaching and Labor Unions

After initial suspicions in the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII wrote in support of unions in his 1891 encyclical On the Condition of Labor.  In the United States, the Church saw supporting unions as one practical way of helping the many Catholic immigrant families who had members working in industrial jobs. Pittsburgh’s Msgr. Charles Owen Rice was one of many “labor priests” of the 1930s and following decades.

As many Catholics have moved to the middle class or professional status, some of our practical commitment to labor rights seems to have waned. But the principles underlying the Church’s support of workers remain and, if anything, the need for commitment to them seems to have increased.   

Here is how Pope Benedict put it in his 2009 encyclical, Charity in Truth: “Through the combination of social and economic change, trade union organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labor unions. . . . The repeated calls issued within the Church's social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for the promotion of workers' associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.” (no. 25)   

The words of the U.S. bishops in their 1986 letter Economic Justice for All have lost none of their urgency: “No one may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself. Therefore, we firmly oppose organized efforts, such as those regrettably now seen in this country, to break existing unions and prevent workers from organizing.” (no. 104)

I have been surprised to learn that many Catholics are unaware of this teaching.  Are you?