Statement of the German, French and Swiss Bishops on their Study Day in Rome ahead of the Family Synod

Screenshot 2015-05-27 at 12.23.32 PMFew documents by the German Bishops’ Conference have drawn as much international interest as the press release dealing with the study day of French, Swiss and German bishops in Rome on Monday of this week. The press release is available in German and French.

Given the interest, I have done a (quick and dirty) translation of the three relevant paragraphs that summarise the outcomes during my lunchbreak today, trying to stick as closely as possible to the – in parts very dense – actual wording of the press release:

Deliberations toward a Catholic hermeneutic of the Bible on the basis of Jesus’ words on marital divorce were the topic of the first part of the study day: Jesus’s words on marriage and divorce must be interpreted within the context of his preaching overall and the tradition of the Church. According to the [Dogmatic] Constitution on [Divine] Revelation in the Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum (no. 8), understanding tradition constitutes a form of historical progress, based on the study and contemplation of the faithful, their comprehension of spiritual matters and the propagation of the magisterium.

Following on from this, the second part included deliberations towards a Theology of Love, which understands sexuality as a precious gift from God to express love. A further development of the theology of love is required, one that connects  and integrates new insights of anthropology and sociology.

The third part of the study day dealt with the challenge of accepting the gift of your own life and understanding one’s biography also in theological terms: In a socially highly complex and pluralistic society, the individual is given more responsibility for his or her lifestyle. Biographical developments have consequences for the moral view on life. Marriage and family have to react to this.

Feel free to suggest corrections or leave a comment below.

Die zehn besten Apps für Kinder auf dem iPad und iPhone

Der richtige Umgang mit Smartphone und Tablet: Für Eltern kleiner Kinder eine Riesenherausforderung. Doch mit ein paar richtigen Apps läßt sich die Fantasie und Kreativität des Nachwuchses pflegen und fördern.

Die europäisch orientierte und mehrsprachige Website “Family and Media” hat eine gute Liste zum Thema erstellt für alle, die mit iPhones und iPads unterwegs sind: Von angehenden Meisterköchen im Alter von 4-10 Jahren bis zu Zeitreisen mit der “Time Machine”, für geistig Junggebliebene jeden Alters. Hier ist die Liste, die in englischer, spanischer und italienischer Sprache verfügbar ist.

Dinosaur Zoo is one of the recommended apps (Image: Developer)
Dinosaur Zoo ist eine der empfohlenen Apps (Image: Developer)

Day 153 of the Great Big 10k Marathon Swim Adventure: Slacking off and cultivating mental toughness

(CC Image via BK/Flickr)
(CC Image via BK/Flickr)

If you are anything like me, you will have days when you try and find an excuse for slacking off or leaving the pool/gym/track/bike early. It’s cold, it’s early, there is too much work on, too many appointments, too much travel, too little sleep. On and on.

Stuff that!

Part of this “Great Big Swim Adventure” is to tell the little demons to shut up. To develop and cultivate the mental toughness required for swimming well. And for anything else in life that is worthwhile. On the website Swimswam, Olivier Poirier-Leroy just posted what he sees as the 5 Habits of Mentally Tough Swimmers, including welcoming the hard stuff, keeping cool and not getting lost in what others are doing.

Check out the full list and points there, it is great. Well, at least in theory. What about the practice? Today was a case in point. Though I plan to swim between 4 and 5k every morning, I put in an underwhelming 3.5k.

  • 200m freestyle warmup in 3:13
  • 1000m free in 16:13
  • 150m free in 2:27 (then had to interrupt to change lanes)
  • 1000m free in 17:10 (slacking off again!)
  • 100m kick drills
  • 100m butterfly kick drills
  • 3x50m butterfly sets at about 55″ each, with a 20″ break in between (that was tough)
  • 200m freestyle with pullbuoy (working on intermittent breathing)
  • 250m free with pullbuoy and paddles (working on stroke)
  • 100m back and breast to cool down

Sure, I had to be at work even more early than usual, (I am drowning – get it? – in work, haha). But would another 500m really have made a difference? Of course not. I would still have been more than an hour early for work anyway. And yes, sure, I put in some butterfly sets that hurt. But I wimped out on those too, doing one less than I had planned.

So my three rules for cultivating mental toughness are along these lines:

  1. Set realistic goals and stick to them. If you ever When you drop the ball, pick it up again wherever you left it and carry on. For me, cracking the 1k in under 15 minutes was a major goal on this adventure so far. The 10k is the final one – and a realistic one too. I could just swim it right now, though badly. And I want to do it well.
  2. Take the long view. That includes not getting distracted by things that appear larger than they are just because they are close/nearby – like a looming appointment or chores. It also means being aware of why you are doing this in the first place and just how much you are getting out of this.
  3. Swim to live, don’t live to swim. Swimming is an admittedly awesome tool to help you be a more fully rounded person. Someone that is happy, healthy and sane. But that is its purpose. It is not a purpose in and of itself. I wish someone had explained that to some of the over-ambitious Moms and their “prodigy” swimmer kids when I was little. Thankfully, my parents never were that way; and I hope I am not like that with my own children.

Wimmers Woche: Ein Heiliger, den wir brauchen

Ein Wandgemälde von Erzbischof Romero an der Universität von El Salvador (CC Image von Pedro Nonualco via Wikimedia)
Ein Wandgemälde von Erzbischof Romero an der Universität von El Salvador (CC Image von Pedro Nonualco via Wikimedia)

Wenn Óscar Romero in wenigen Tagen selig gesprochen wird, dann ist die bis jetzt wichtigste Heiligsprechung des 21. Jahrhunderts einen Schritt weiter. Die wichtigste? Ja. In mehrfacher Hinsicht personifiziert ausgerechnet der 1980 erschossene Erzbischof von San Salvador die Kirche und ihre Zukunft, auch wie sie Papst Franziskus einfordert. Zwei besonders bemerkenswerte Aspekte dabei:

Erstens kann Romeros Heiligsprechung die Knoten vermeintlicher Widersprüche lösen, welche auch im deutschsprachigen Katholizismus für Lagerdenken und Spannungen seit den 1980er und 1990er Jahren sorgen. Etwa bei der Einordnung der Befreiungstheologie, wo der moderate Konsens doch klar scheint: Insofern sie den Kampf gegen Armut und für Gerechtigkeit beschreibt, ist sie katholisch; dagegen sind kruder Klassenkampf und marxistisches Ideologisieren es nicht. So argumentiert auch Vatikan-Kenner John L. Allen.

Zweitens kann Romero ein Schutzpatron der Armen wie der unterdrückten und verfolgten Christen der Gegenwart werden. Romero war nicht nur selber Blutzeuge. Seine Predigten als Erzbischof wurden beliebte Radio-Sendungen, die sich gegen die Militär-Diktatur El Salvadors richteten; seine Bistumszeitung veröffentlichte jede Woche die Fälle von Verfolgung und Folter von Katholiken.

Ist das nicht ein Heiliger, den wir brauchen? Das Blut abertausender Märtyrer klebt an den ersten Jahren unseres Jahrhunderts. Zu viele, um sie zu zählen: Die einen meinen, “nur” jede Stunde werde ein Christ ermordet. Andere rechnen vor, dass es alle fünf Minuten passiere, wie John Allen drastisch beschreibt.

In einer solchen Zeit brauchen wir Romero. Er ist eine Figur, die scheinbare Widersprüche in sich auflöst, weil sie diese in sich vereint: Ein mutiger Volksbischof, der geistliche Begleitung vom Opus Dei bekam und enger Freund progressiver Jesuiten war. Die personifizierte Medizin gegen Ungerechtigkeit, Feigheit und Zaudern. Ein Vorbild für die Zukunft der Kirche – und viele Katholiken heute.

(Crosspost des “Standpunktes” auf katholisch.de)

Day 146 of the Great Big Marathon 10k Swimming Adventure: First Impressions of the Garmin Fenix3 (not just) as a swimmer’s watch

Lots happening on the Great Big Swim Adventure and I haven’t had time to blog!

First off, an overview of today’s workout:

  
As you can see, I am finally able to post data from my Garmin Connect account again! Yay. No, not because I bought a new connection for my Garmin Swim watch. Instead, I upgraded the watch itself. Behold, my new timepiece and training computer: The Garmin Fenix 3. A very nice birthday present from the love of my life.

  

  

There are plenty of reviews out there of this watch. Most of them are rubbish. However there is one that is comprehensive and outstanding, click here to check it out, it’s by the highly recommended DC Rainmaker.

Now, suffice it to say, the Fenix 3 has more features than I will likely ever be able to use. But yes, I will use two of the features very often:

  1. pool swimming
  2. open water swimming

But just how good is the Fenix 3 as a swimmer’s watch? After the first few training sessions, here are my initial impressions:

  • For pool swimming, the automatic stroke recognition, lap counter, drill timer, rest and lap timer etc. is very reliable and the same as that of the excellent Garmin Swim (it does not identify my butterfly for some reason, but that might be due to my technique).
  • The display can be set up in a variety of ways for your activities, in just the way you like it – and in all cases it’s excellent to read, even under water.
  • What I dislike: Some of the cool features for running, such as an alarm after a certain distance, are not available in the swimming function. A software update will hopefully address this minor quibble. (Bloody preferential treatment of runners!)
  • The battery lasts for a week or so with heavy usage, including blue tooth and WiFi sync.
  • The GPS works well, but since it is still too cold for outdoor swimming, I have not been able to test the Open Water swimming function.
  • Since the best swimmer’s watch is the one you always have with you, this matters: The Fenix 3 looks good enough to wear as an everyday watch, even for casual business attire (unless you have tiny wrists. It’s a big watch.) In fact, it is far more attractive than the oddly-shaped and somewhat dated-looking Apple Watch and most Android smart watches out there. At least in my opinion.

More on the watch in the next updates to the Great Big Swimming Adventure…stay tuned.

 

Bavarian Bishop Oster slams German Catholic lay organisation: This is no “longer biblical and attempts to instrumentalise Pope Francis”

The – by any objective standard – radical demands of the German Catholic lay organisation “ZdK” (Central Committee of Catholics) to change the definition of marriage and family, bless homosexual couples and “develop new forms of liturgy” I reported about so far have largely gone underreported and uncommented by German language media.

Let that sit for minute: The peak lay organization demands a change of Catholic doctrine. And no one bites.This is perhaps indicative of

  • a disinterest of the general public in the moral positions (let alone the claim to authority) of the Church;
  • an arguable irrelevance of the ZdK (which is not a democratically elected body) to the vast majority of Catholics and  broader society;
  • an impression that the already public and entrenched struggles ahead of the family synod are running their course.

For the record: I don’t necessarily think any of these points are true. But I do think they warrant further investigation.

2015-05-12 09_29_59-Bischof Stefan OsterIn any case, now the young bishop of Passau, Stefan Oster, has heavily criticised the resolution on his Facebook page and waded into the demands that the ZdK has unanimously voted for. He accuses the ZdK of basically forfeiting biblical teaching on humanity and revelation. It does not get much more serious than that. Actually, it does: He also accuses the organisation of attempting to instrumentalise Pope Francis.

I will keep an eye on this story and the wider issues ahead of the family synod over the next few days and weeks.

Why Germany’s peak lay body is demanding blessings for homosexual couples ahead of the family synod in Rome – and others are attempting the opposite in a “Filial Appeal”

Screenshot 2015-05-09 at 11.24.55 PMAlthough it is still a few months away, tensions are rising further ahead of the synod of the family. Today, the peak body of German lay Catholics, the aptly named “Central Committee of German Catholics” (ZDK), called for the blessing of homosexual couples. As part of a resolution about “Building bridges between the magisterium and life (lebenswelt) – Family and Church in the World of today”, the ZDK calls for

  • a change of and further development of Church teaching,
  • including an acceptance of artificial birth control,
  • a re-definition of the words “marriage” and “family” to include non-married and,
  • apparently, homosexual couples (who are to be “blessed”).
  • Furthermore, an admission of remarried divorcees to communion.
  • …and a lot more. Here is the full text of the resolution in the original German version.

The stated purposes of the ZDK include: To represent Catholic interests, be a voice of the lay faithful, and make suggestions for apostolic works. (Source) The “Central Committee” is mostly paid for by the Association of the German Dioceses: In 2010, about 2 million Euros – that’s 84 percent of the total annual budget – came from their coffers, which in turn are tax payer-supported.

Screenshot 2015-05-09 at 11.24.17 PMAt the same time, over 228,000 people have so far signed a petition called “Filial Appeal” to Pope Francis asking him to uphold the Catholic teaching on the family and marriage against the very “further delevopment” that the ZDK calls for. The document fears “widespread confusion arising from the possibility that a breach has been opened within the Church that would accept adultery—by permitting divorced and then civilly remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion—and would virtually accept even homosexual unions”. The “Filial Appeal”, which is based in Rome, appears to be a collective action by several traditional and conservative movements. The only information I could find by doing some basic research was on their website.

We are in for one hot autumn, and it is only just spring here in the Northern hemisphere.

Day 136 of the Great Big Marathon 10k Swimming Adventure: A portrait of the swimmer as a middle aged dude

(Image CC/Public Domain via Pixabay)
(Image CC/Public Domain via Pixabay)

Imagine you are sitting at your desk, at a window. Outside, rain is softly falling from light grey skies, soaking the grass and the road and the trees and shrubs and roofs and cars and people. A cold, wet spring day. You are stuck at your desk, working on the chapter of a forthcoming book. Your back is sore from sitting too much all week. Your legs are restless from not swimming for several days. But you are still eating like you were swimming 5k a day, and are starting to feel grubby.

That is all.

A portrait of the marathon swimmer as a middle aged dude.