April 30, 2003

Today's Hilarious Line

Above is a picture of a helium party balloon (not a monstrance from the 70's)...
-Mark at Minute Particulae
Interesting article on gay marriage by Stanley Kurtz.

From Hitler's library:
The sentence not only caught Hitler's attention—beneath it is a thick line, and beside it in the margin are three parallel pencil marks—but was echoed two years later in one of his monologues. "Mind and soul ultimately return to the collective being of the world," Hitler told some guests in December of 1941. "If there is a God, then he gives us not only life but also consciousness and awareness. If I live my life according to my God-given insights, then I cannot go wrong, and even if I do, I know I have acted in good faith."

Wow...is there a better case to be made for not trusting oneself?
On Rejecting the Modern

I'm about 2/3rds of the way thru TC Boyle's "Drop City". It is compulsively readable, I care about the characters and what happens to them to the point that it has become almost soap operic (if that's not a word it should be). I have to know what happens next. The characters seem so real I was tempted to pray for them. Boyle's book tells the truth. He doesn't glamourize the sex or the drugs - quite the contrary he portrays the characters sympathetically while showing the perniciousness of their lifestyles (at least so far).

But I tend to feel a bit grimy after reading it. It's not unduly salacious, it's certainly no worse than the average modern novel although because it deals with hippies it does deal with sex. Billy Graham once remarked how "unclean" he felt after watching some movies, as if he needed a bath (I suspect he's not talking about Deep Throat - probably not even something R-rated.) G. Gordon Liddy protects his indomitable will by never drinking alcohol and, more oddly, by rejecting many kinds of music. He likes Abba, and martial band music. Modern music brings him down, he says, leaves him suspectible to weakness.

So....after reading a few chapters of "Drop City" I considered how different I felt compared to after a recent viewing of the '40s movie "The Bishop's Wife" starring David Niven, Loretta Young & Cary Grant. The movie was as uplifting as the Boyle's book was enervating/squalorous. Does one type of entertainment cleanse the palate for the other? Would a steady diet of either be a grind? If the purpose of art is to break out of oneself then Boyle's book was effective. Viktor Shklosky said that defamiliarization was what literature is all about. "Habit devours objects, clothes, furniture, one's wife and the fear of war... art exists to help us recover the sensation of life."

Ideally, of course, what is good for you would also not be attractive to you but we know that is not so. (Check the sales of cigarettes). Further, Fr. Jim Tucker quotes Chesterton as saying, "To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it."

On the other hand, being Catholic means not being a Puritan. And so the Terry Teachout's of the world (movie critic for Crisis magazine) would be underwhelmed by the idea of rejecting modern movies. Similarly our own Amy Welborn is surely richer for having engaged the culture, for being able to speak to the culture via her reading of David Lodge, TC Boyle and others.

I guess, as is often the case, it depends on the individual...

April 29, 2003

When Pigs Fly...

John Steinbeck signed his letters with his personal "Pigasus" logo, symbolizing himself 'a lumbering soul but trying to fly.' His Latin motto Ad Astra Per Alia Porci translates 'To the stars on the wings of a pig'.
Weekly Standard article on Malcolm Muggeridge

Haven't read this yet but it looks very interesting.

April 28, 2003

Sun/Son

Indefatigueable Son!
from morning exult
to evening vesper,
undefeated, untied
by clouds by death
the winsome ever-last sky
sing'd-leaves from the sun-vation.

Lifecycles of a Christian*

Conversion/Reversion:
The sky is bluer, the ah-ha feeling of being "onto something" is perceived, the gratuitness of it is intuited and gratitude the result. In hoops they call this a "look-what-I-found" rebound. Unmerited grace.

Pratfalls:
At some point the gift may become devalued in our eyes either because:

a) it is ubiquitous, and we scarce appreciate what is common (albeit the Crucifixtion is the cure for this ailment) or

b) we begin to think we merited it and cast judgment upon others. If I figured this out (be it faith itself, a cure for alcoholism, the authority given to the Catholic Church, a given doctrine, etc..) then surely you should be able to. This false humility, the humility of "hey I'm nothing special so what's your problem?" is pernicious. If I can get a rebound, why can't you?

c) doubt that the gift was received in the first place.

Wisdom, i.e.Conversion/Reconversion again.

Rinse & Repeat (the conversion part!)

* - your mileage may vary
The Balm of Gilead... (or "Boy, I Needed That")...via Amy Welborn

Mercy, of course, is another word for the compassionate, forgiving love of God.

Do you believe in it?

I don’t mean in general – I mean in particular. Do you believe in it for you?

Doubt is a part of almost everyone’s faith, and when we think of Thomas, we usually think of it in terms of doubting the possibility of the truth of various tenets of faith. But in the context of Divine Mercy, we might take it to a deeper level. How tempted are we to doubt that most basic tenet of faith – the one that tells us in words and in the figure of Jesus Crucified and Risen, that Mercy is ours?

What pain, what difficulty, what suffering we put ourselves through because we close ourselves off to God’s mercy. For some strange reason, we decide that we know better than God: God may have said that we can be forgiven, but in our strange, masochistic pride, we decide that we can’t. God must be wrong.

Sin is a terrible thing with terrible consequences. When we have done something wrong, we stand looking in horror at what our selfishness has unleashed. It seems impossible that we could ever be forgiven. We will not believe it, we say.

But perhaps, we need to be more like Thomas. We need to confront our doubt and put our fingers in Jesus’ side. We need to contemplate Jesus crucified and consider why he is there. Is he there so we can continue to beat ourselves over the head or be buried under our own crosses? Was he just wasting his time so we can continue our frustrated, angry, mournful journeys, letting sin define who we are rather than God’s love? Or are we willing to really embrace the gift of our baptisms, which is the victory over sin and death? Are we free in Christ or does sin still have power over us? (Romans 6)

We are called to embrace Mercy – God’s mercy on us, God’s mercy on the world, an unbounded mercy that we are invited to share.

Like Thomas, we doubt. We doubt that God could have really meant to include us and our specific wretchedness in his embrace. We doubt that Jesus crucified really and truly has anything to do with us. We doubt that the promise of resurrection can be fulfilled in our spirits, chained down by sin, right here and right now.

But it is never too late. Never too late to join our voices to Thomas’, and say “My Lord and My God.” Never too late to turn our hearts and pray, as often as we need, “Jesus, I trust in you.”
--Amy Welborn

And an 'Udder ...via Particulae

The proud cannot bring themselves to hold out empty hands to God, they insist on offering virtues, good works, self denials, anything in order not to have nothing. They want to be beautiful for him from their own resources, whereas we are beautiful only because God looks on us and makes us beautiful. God cannot give himself to us unless our hands are empty to receive him. The deepest reason why so few of us are saints is because we will not let God love us. To be loved means a naked, defenceless surrender to all God is. It means a glad acceptance of our nothingness, a look fixed only on the God who gives, taking no account of the nothing to whom the gift is made.
--Ruth Burrows
This looks interesting. Apocalyptic conference via Bill Cork.
Commonweal Article on Work

I'm not normally a reader of Commonweal but I requested a free copy back when Amy Welborn was published there. It finally arrived last week. And there was an interesting article entitled "Something Missing" about a raft of recent books about the battle to integrate our work and spiritual lives.

The three books reviewed were, "Forgetting Ourselves on Purpose: Vocation and the Ethics of Ambition" by Brian Mahan, "On-the-Job Spirituality: Finding God in Work" by Marianne Roche, and "Rethinking the Purpose of Business: Interdisciplinary Essays from the Catholic Social Tradition", by Cortright and Naughton.

Excerpts:
Yes, we are eloquent talking about work abstractly and theoretically - about how work enables us to participate in the process of creation, about how all work is holy. We are also eager to warn people (simultaneously) how bad it is to exploit the poor and make decisions solely on money. In between these two poles - neither of which resonates with the experience of most working people - we are less good at helping them see and react to the world they actually face.

How do we decide which employees stay and which don't, in an age when ruthlessness is 'in'? How do we know how much money is enough for us? When should we stay working for a company we dislike, and when is it time to get out? Does it matter what career we choose? The old Catholic 'observe, judge, act' paradigm for interacting with the world only goes so far as a model, and is no longer common parlance in any case. It's clearly time for some new tools...
*
Marianne Roche's "On-the-Job Spirituality" is like reading a cookbook by someone who has sworn off food. "I have struggled with and ultimately abandoned this American value system," says Roche, a lawyer who gave up that career (temporarily, it appears) to work as a shelver in a bookstore.
*
Stakeholder theory says companies are responsible to other consistuencies besides their shareholders: employees, customers, suppliers, and even society as a whole. Alas for its proponents, stakeholder theory remains just that: a theory that no business has ever managed itself by for more than a day or so.

--Thomas Baker, March 14th issue of Commonweal

April 27, 2003

Interconnectivity

An Irishmen with no tale to tell is like... an incomplete simile. (Whew!). Fortunately, my friend Ham of Bone has more stories than any ten Irishmen.

By way of background, Bone made $35,000 in the year 1992 and spent $3,700. That's as shorthand as I can get in communicating his frugality. Needless to say, that year he learned to like peanut butter and Cheerios. For dinner. Often.

His desire was mine, only trebled: that being to purchase his freedom, to achieve financial independence. His singlemindedness awed me. He really ought to have been on the cover of Money magazine as "Saver of the Year".

Perhaps the most amazing twist in all this is that he ended up getting married (dates consisted of a library-rented movie and Jiffey-Pop). One of my favorite stories after he got married was when he decided to try to save $10 a quarter by not flushing the john. This was "his" bathroom and he used it only to urinate (just so you won't be completely grossed out). The denouement for that little episode was when his mother-in-law dropped by unexpectedly and decided to take a smoke break in there. Needless to say, she was underwhelmed by the odor. Needless to say his wife put a stop to that saving strategy, pronto.

Bone bought a Geo Metro because it got a gadzillion miles to the gallon. He signed up for the GM credit card, which offered like 1% of your charged amount towards the purchase of a new car. He dilligently bought everything on credit - groceries, $3 cafeteria lunches, gum, etc... and managed, over the course of something like eight or ten years, to earn $3,000 off towards the purchase of a new car, which, natch, was to be a Metro. He wheeled and dealed and then pulled out this ace in his back pocket and watched as the salesman's jaw thudded against the floor. He bought a new car for something like $3,800.

He planned to drive this Geo Metro for ten years or more before buying another one but recently learned the tragic news that the Metro was dead-O. No more Metros were being built due to small sales. Bone was crushed.

And so the point of all this is to consider how tremendously interconnected we all are. He is not going to be able to drive the car of his dreams simply because it wasn't the car of very many other people's dreams.

I think likewise in the spiritual life we are much more interconnected than we imagine. Our spiritual poverty is partially (I'm trying not to make excuses here) a reflection of our neighbor's spiritual poverty. When Jesus breathed on the apostles and gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit, it was they who were given the charge of breathing that Life upon others. To the extent they (we) fail to do so, so withers the Spirit upon the earth. But with God all things are possible.

April 25, 2003

Children, Have You Any Fish?*

"Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk?"
-Peter, Acts 3:12

* John 21:5
Spring

A new revelation of the sun
stare I squirrelly-eyed at the quality of light
uncomprehending,
the winter stone rolled back.
The Downside of Humility

My friend Hambone wasn't at work today, he took the day off and spent it finishing a screen play in a cheap motel drinking Early Times, the drink of Walker Percy (as if inspiration were transferable). There is a contest for would-be screenwriters with a May 1st date and he is attempting to play that lottery.

He got his sixty-day notice a couple weeks back. Part of the reason he received it was his own heavy-handedness, his insistence on doing things his way (almost always the right way, but not his bosses way). I wonder if I could not have trimmed his sails in some way, told him to back down a little.

Now he is humbled, but I miss his old arrogance, his old swagger. I used to think that humility in other people is the most attractive thing, but this sort of humility I would fain see pass.

April 24, 2003

SNL, Consumerism & Walker Percy

I've been reading with interest and amusement the ongoing dialogue between two St. Bloggers (let's call them "T" & "S"). It is probably uncharitable for me to enjoy it so; their volleys sometimes approach the tenor of the old those old Aykroyd-Curtin sketches on SNL. (Rule of thumb: The good posts begin by declaring their undying respect of the other.) But regardless, just look at the quality of comments they get! Chris Burgwald writes: "I think Congar and de Lubac are better Thomists than G-L, in that they have appropriated both the letter and the spirit. Take G-L's Predestination, for example... while he is exact in his replication of Thomas' letter, I'm not sure if Thomas' overall intention is as exactly reproduced." Marvelous. Way above my pay grade. (By the way, Particulae is joining the fray with a post nuancing Steven's nuance concerning the uniqueness of the human).

But I digress. Steven recently blogged, "And there is a 'knowing about God' that serves the human purpose that all knowing can serve, namely, "'Look at me! Look at me! Look how very, very clever I am!'"

His comment reminded me of what Walker Percy wrote in The Message in a Bottle. He explained how moderns have been so enveloped in consumerism that they can't really see things, they must consume them and be applauded for the wisdom of their consumption.

Excerpts:

The highest satisfaction of the sightseer (not merely the tourist but any layman seer of sights) is that his sight should be certified as genuine.... The worst of this impoverishment is that there is no sense of impoverishment...

On tourists experiencing the natives:

"This is it" and "now we are really living" do not necessarily refer to the sovereign encounter of the person with the sight that enlivens the mind and gladdens the heart. It means that now at least we are having the acceptable experience.

On the layman's relation to natural objects:

The highest role he can conceive himself as playing is to be able to recognize the title of the object, to return it to the appropriate expert and have it certified as a genuine find....This loss of sovereignty extends even to oneself. There is the neurotic who asks nothing more of his doctor than that his symptom should prove interesting. When all else fails, the poor fellow has nothing to offer but his own neurosis. But even this is sufficient if only the doctor willl show interest when he says, "Last night I had a curious sort of dream; perhaps it will be significant to one who knows about such things. It seems I was standing in a sort of alley--" (I have nothing else to offer you buy my own unhappiness. Please say that it, at least, measures up, that it is a proper sort of unhappiness). Now that is neurotic.

Card-Collecting as a Subspecies of Sovereignty-alienation
I used to collect baseball cards as a kid. Had thousands. And some of my favorite cards were those of scrubs, like a 1971 card of some catcher for the Braves who had his mitt out and it looked, I swear, like he was holding a pie of some sort. (The photography not being what it is now). Another was a 1972 card of some pitcher for the Rangers who looked exactly like one of my teachers. I became more and more enamoured of star cards. Then, by the 80s, my interest became commoditized. I wanted some obscure rookie card because he might be a big star. The value I placed on an individual card was what a baseball card magazine said it was worth. How sad.

So don't give up your sovereignty to the experts. Follow your bliss. Collect the baseball cards YOU want, regardless of market value. Collect the paintings and poems YOU like, not what experts say. And when you walk in the woods don't try to name that wildflower - instead see it.
Resisting the Urge... to Pun this Title

One of the benefits of the semi-anonymity of this blog is that I can address subjects like lust, strictly for the benefit of the reader of course. (This post may end up PG-13, so don't wake the neighbors or phone the kids.)

Two anecdotes, which I hope to tie up at the end:

The first anecdote involves the time I received a gift certificate for a free massage from a licensed massage therapist. As is my wont, I googled "massage therapy" and read about the benefits that might be conferred. Of some interest was a FAQ about what to do about....unwanted arousal. (Whew, I avoided the e-word). The massage therapist jocularly answered that "those things happen" and that they "don't last".

The second anecdote involves the story of our Dominican priest told about two monks. They were walking out in the desert (this is probably apocryphal), a very old one and a very young one. They came to a rather large mud puddle, before which stood a lady-of-the evening / painted lady / member of the world's oldest profession, etc. She apparently had no way to cross without getting knee-deep in mud. The elder monk picked her up, carried her over the mud puddle and then set her back down. The monks continued on their way. The young monk couldn't believe he had touched a woman like that, but he couldn't find a way to bring up the subject. Finally it got to be too much and many hours later he said, "Do you know who you carried over that puddle? Did you see the way she was dressed?". And the old monk replied, "I carried her over a mud puddle. You've carried her all afternoon."

I think the point of these anecdotes is that these types of thoughts do go away. They are best brushed off and given as short a shelf-life as one can manage. Our Dominican priest acknowledged that if you are told not to think about a white elephant, you will, of course, think about a white elephant. So he suggested that the best thing to do is to look back after the carnage has been wrought (if there is any carnage) and consider, truthfully, how much consent you gave to the thoughts. Sin cannot occur outside of the will, and the body will react as the body is wont, without conscious control. (Thank God! Can you imagine what a pain it would be to remind ourselves constantly to breathe?).

Good advice. I think the experience of fasting from food is also a help. Why? Because in fasting one recognizes hunger pains and practices ignoring them instead of serving them. They, too, "go away".

Finally, Bishop Sheen once said that his struggles with his celibacy were least intense during periods he was closest to Christ.

April 23, 2003

Quote I recall, though not its source

Love is a sort of seventh day, so thinking can rest.
What's in a Name?

Happy Administrative Assistant's Day! They used to be called secretaries but that became imbued with negativity and the solution was, as is typically the case, to change the name.

And in this case I think it works. Why? Because it is has a lot of syllables in it! The way to throw off the critics from heaping scorn your way is to make sure your tag is polysyllabic. For example, how many people are going to take the time to say, "Damn Administrative Assistant forgot to make that call!". Much easier to mutter, "damn secretary forgot to make that call". The "-ary" ending is also less impressive than the "-ant" ending. (Cary without the Grant would've been far less successful).

Perhaps this was part of the thinking behind the term "African-Americans". The word "colored" was perfectly fine until bigots began to tinge it with negativity. "Blacks" apparently suffered a similar fate, although its symmetry with "whites" would imply equality. It's too easy to curse blacks but takes too much time and energy for the bigot to say, "African-Americans are blah-blah-blah".

I'm not sure my theory is correct though. "Flight attendents" has the same number of syllables as "stewardesses". Perhaps that change was made because "stewardesses" sounds too feminine.

April 22, 2003

Excerpt from Barbara Carmen article in the Columbus Dispatch:

Strickland's devotion to St. Patrick is personal.

'My grandparents were married seven years and were childless. So they made the pilgrimage back to Ireland to pray at Craugh Patrick,' she said.

The prayers --atop the rocky peak where St. Patrick is said to have fasted and chased the dragons, demons and snakes from Ireland -- worked.

'My father was conceived on the boat home," Strickland said.
It's All About Evolution...

...says John Derbyshire in this NRO article on leftism & snobbery.
OJEND*...they just get replanted. This from 1/20/01

It seems unfair to be denied knowledge of the fate of my great-grandfather James Smith, to have no grave to visit or memory to perpetuate. The local library is vast and the internet more so, and they provide answers to nearly any non-metaphysical query I have will to summon. Yet neither the library or the internet ameliorates the great question of James Smith. I feel the infantile right to answers, like a child who demands to know why the sky is blue.

I sometimes treat knowledge different from other forms of endeavor, as if it required neither exertion or Inspiration, as if it were something competely different from physical fitness or wealth or goodness – as if knowledge in this internet age was somehow exempt from our ruthless dependence on God and effort. James Smith, like Ahab’s whale, haunts like the key to an unsolved puzzle.

Just as I cannot know the date of my death or the end of the world so it seems I will never know the fate of the father of papa. That seems unlikely to the extreme – I remember Papa like it was just yesterday – a figure nearly as close to me in my childhood as my own father - bigger than life, bringing Sports Illustrated and the glow of universal popularity within the family. He was a celebrity before the cult of Celebrity, a godfather figure of respect and affection. So how strange that his own father, flesh of his flesh, be as obscure to me as Cain and Abel! We are all a hundred and fifty years from complete obscurity.

The absence of family history creates a want for it; nature abhors a vacuum. Smith is a name without meaning; I imagine James Smith could give it the meaning. In 1913 there was a flood. Did he perish in it? James Smith, is not only without history but without nationality. He could be Irish, English, Welsh, Scottish …..

Neuroscientists, two decades later, have at last answered the question I posed in my high school research paper, “Intelligence – Heredity or Environment?”. We are victims/victors of heredity to a degree scarcely imagined twenty years ago. They tell us our brain is undeveloped film with an IQ pre-determined which can only be “developed badly” by a poor environment. But the limit is there. A neuroscientist can measure our brain waves and tell within thirty seconds our IQ – no need for a test. However, no one is rushing to get this done since it is antithetical to everything we hold dear – that we are products of our own hard work and effort.

Given this knowledge our relatives loom larger in our consciousness knowing that if but… for…. this one thing…we could be them. I imagine my uncle Bob, praised by my grandmother as a sweet and charitable person, but who was an alcoholic and was left at the altar because of it. I could be him, but for a lot more alcohol and charity! There is my uncle Dan, charismatic, athletic, smart, scratch golfer, I could….nevermind. But the idea is that though we be different as snowflakes, we also have certain characteristics that could be directly gifted from our parents or ancestors, and so we seek the symmetry and to find them…because we need, above all, a reason.

* = Old Journal Entries Never Die
Love songs ain't what they used to be

"The ascendancy of rock has occurred simultaneously with the decline of the love song. As most observers can attest, love songs over the last fifty years have become less about the beloved and more about the lover: that is, the emphasis has shifted from the "other" to the "self". A study titled "Individualism and Alienation in Popular Love Songs" also makes the case that modern love songs reflect an increasing social alienation:

'Most romance lyrics, on the other hand involve only one side of the relationship, the lovers, their pain, impairment, and constriction of vision. The finding of fewer instances of lyrics that imply a mutual love relationship in the last forty years than in 1930-1960 suggests that alienation is increasing in romance lyrics.'"


Via El Camino Real scroll to post Love Songs and Popular Culture
Belloc's Epitaph

I challenged and I kept the Faith,
The bleeding path alone I trod;
It darkens. Stand about my wraith,
And harbour me, almighty God.


"Verse is the only form of activity outside religion which I feel to be of real importance; certainly it is the only form of literary activity worth considering." -H. Belloc
Poetry Readings

Dylan has a cool post entitled Ars Poetica in Prose. There is an artsy bar on the OSU campus (frequented by leather-clad lesbians) that has open mic poetry night. Most of it is pretty bad and pretty liberal. (I'm not inferring they are the same thing.) Three of us go once a year and Hambone graciously reads my stuff. I still recall one of the poems beginning, "Bad poetry / ain't kilt no one yet /...". as if to numb them for what was to follow. I take modest satisfaction in knowing that that sequence of words had never been spoken in the long august history of the poetry readings there. Then, on another occasion, my friend read a pro-life poem that started out seemingly pro-choice but emphatically made the pro-life point at the end. It was met, surprisingly, by not just jeers but also cheers. One guy even came over and said he voted for Alan Keyes. Go figure!

April 21, 2003

No Surburban Stereotype Here

Ran into ye olde Brit today. She's a local used bookstore owner, eccentric as the day is long. A Baptist who flew in the British lady air force back in the 50s, she found herself (mis)planted here and longs to save enough money to retire to Washington state. (She says she took a hit in the stock market, like everybody else).

Her prose has a sort of "English as a second language" quality that I find fascinating. It is a collection of non-sequitors, haikus and Orwellian overtones that require diligent study to unearth the meaning. She's intelligent and well-read so it is all very puzzling. Speaking with her does not result in this sort of confusion.

Truth be told, I most enjoy the large placards on her front lawn. Today's offering: "City Flooded my basement! Neither response or call. Peace, Harmony and Productivity!" The other side disparaged a local mayoral candidate, at least I think that was the intent.

She sounds crazy but she really isn't. She is perfectly lucid in normal conversation. I've not yet worked up to how to say, "where did you learn to write?"

But vive le difference. She makes the lives of commuters a little more interesting, and for that she deserves a shorter Purgatory.
Where did my detachment go?
Note to self: elation is not the proper feeling for the ending of Lenten restrictions & proscriptions.

April 20, 2003

Happy Easter

Our pastor read the Easter sermon of St. John Chrysostom today...a consoling one!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
Death of a Good Priest

Msgr Colby Grimes, the priest who officiated at my wedding died on Good Friday. He was 50 years old. I'll never forget the reverence with which he said Mass. He bowed low during the words of consecration and paused a few seconds between each word: "This.....Is.....My....Body". It was arresting and unique and audacious. Flannery O'Connor once said that she had to write stories of grostesqueness because that's the thing the modern reader can grasp. Perhaps Msgr. Grimes felt that he had to say the words with such long pauses in order to allow the reality of the Real Presence to sink in to a congregation who easily loses their way.

One of his dreams was to meet the Pope. It's not easy for a parish priest to meet the pope, but he put his name on the list at the first possible chance and something like seven years later it happened.

When he was in the hospital the first time I sent a get well card and expressed my appreciation for the reverence with which he said Mass. He was not somebody I really wanted to run into for fear of ruining things. First, in the unlikely event he not live up to my image of him. (Heroes are fragile things). Second, and far more likely, that I not live up to mine. Still, I went back once to the old parish after we were married and I ran into him before Mass. He gave me a huge smile, handshake and we chatted.

Journal entry dated June 2000:
....First there was the sad news that Msgr. Grimes, a personal hero (i.e. the person I’d most like to be like) has leukemia. He was not only a bridge to Steph & my wedding, but he promised to ever be there in case of difficulty. One finds comfort to have a personal fire extinguisher behind the glass & the “break glass in case of emergency”. Now he may be on his way to a far better place – heaven.

The Dispatch article:

Grimes was known for his straightforward style and his compassion and selflessness. Even as his body reeled from chemotherapy, he visited sick youngsters at Children's Hospital.

***
Even when he was sick, or on vacation, Grimes celebrated Mass, she said. Once, she stopped to see him at his home when he was ill and he had set up an altar on his dining-room table.


Earlier Dispatch article.
Samstag
Spent Saturday in the nascent sun drinking Warsteiners with my brother and helping him put together the parts of a rather elaborate swing-set set. Then we had an aperitif and cursed Montaigne, blaming the world's skeptism on him. We sat trading witicisms just as our ancestors did in County Sligo, engulfed in the smoke of a turf fire equivalent (a couple fine hand-rolleds).

But I shamelessly embellish. Actually we talked about our jobs and watched in disbelief as our little four year old nephew began dismantling the neighbor's stone fence. We sat dumb - "is he really doing what I think he's doing" - before calling down from the high deck upon which we were seated and telling him to stop, like voices from heaven correcting a miscreant. And he stopped.

April 17, 2003

Online Way of the Cross.
It's a Physical Universe After All
Fr. William Most on the distinction between physical evil & moral evil:

A world without physical evils, if a material world, would have to be comprised of one miracle after another, simply because material things can go to pieces, can come apart, can slip, as common sense testifies. Now it is not really rational for God to work miracles routinely, for a miracle is extraordinary, and the extraordinary cannot become ordinary.

April 16, 2003

Poetry
The Irish have a fatalistic, morbid streak to which I occasionally succumb to...

Tis not ours to know beyond

“Es regnet!” we called
our bellies full of German laughter,
“It is raining!” we called
like impish stewards.
Bare we knew the trouble ahead,
the horizon fixed at twenty blessed miles.

***

Survey of Stones

the sunny hill brought forth
a bitter fruit –
a hailstone of tombstones
grey with eager miens and jaunty minders
from thick tree roots gestated.

I looked upon the sober dates they cried
‘what have you to show! I lived far less than you!”

'Are you like me?' asked the Federalist
gowned in Resurrection palms
and atrophied script.

'Are you like me?' asked the Victorian
draped in frank and maudlin prose:
"as you are now, I was once."

'Are you like me?' asked the Modern
impersonal as marbled ice
giving nothing but emptiness.
Kairos guy struggles with his conscience concerning Lenten regulations. Our Dominican father has spoken about this before; I believe it was to allow exceptions such as the situation he described but I can't recall. I remember going to a rehersal dinner at an area Dutch kitchen (run by the local Mennonites, a subspecies of Amish) during a Lenten Friday. Not having the broasted chicken at the Dutch Kitchen is like going to an Irish pub and skipping the stout.

Personally, I wrestle with items like this occasionally, which I imagine always gets big guffaws in heaven. Why? Because I could see them saying, "you sure are awfully concerned about this potential very venial sin...we wish you'd just treat your [boss, stepson, etc..] with more charity". In that sense, my preoccupation with having the right position on the Iraq war is disingenuous given that whatever degree of sin that might be imputed to me would be significantly less than what I inflict on myself by my failure to radically love others.
Quote Corner
"...one of the most powerful examples of that is the Christian belief (spelled out in St. Anselm's terrific treatise Cur Deus Homo) that the Incarnation and Crucifixion were God's way of marrying justice and mercy, being both fully just and fully merciful. In the words of the Psalmist, "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Psalm 85:10).

--Eve Tushnet, via Hernan Gonzalez, via Camassia


***

Even in this age, in which moral precepts are widely undervalued, great importance is attached to 'self-improvement'...We seem to take it for granted that there are steps that we can take to enhance our lives. In such a culture, the idea of being saved by another is likely to be unpopular...Yet we cannot cure ourselves; we need to look to another for that service. There is a simple workd that summarizes the whole earthly career of Jesus. It is the Greek preposition hyper, usually translated "for the sake of."

The condemnation of Jesus was not an accident, but happened for our sake. Perhaps we cannot understand how it is that the life of Jesus was a remedy for our sins, but this is what we believe. Jesus lived and died and rose again so that we might have life more abundantly.

--Fr. Michael Casey, O.C.S.O.

April 15, 2003

Jesus, the Pharisees & Muslims

Good review of Bernard Lewis & his book "What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response".

Throughout the Middle Ages, the Islamic Near East was the mightiest military, economic, political, scientific, and cultural power in the world. The majesty of the Islamic empire seemed to confirm the Prophet’s claim to have completed and surpassed the messages of Judaism and Christianity. The infidels of Europe, it was thought, could have nothing of significance to teach Muslims. How much less could they represent a threat?

The early signs of Europe’s rise were therefore ignored. Secure in their assumption of superiority, Muslim diplomats never bothered either to learn European languages or to post permanent ambassadors in European countries.


The mindset that "I can't learn anything from them" is the same one the Pharisees might've had towards Jesus. "I can't learn anything from him," they probably thought, because they were the chief priests and the leaders and he was from Galilee (of all places!) and he should be coming to them. Perhaps if it were more widely known that he was born in Bethlehem the chief priests would've been more humble. Interesting that God doesn't like to provide a "smoking gun" - one must come by faith. It would perhaps not require much faith from the Pharisees if Jesus had been known to have been born in the city of David, from whence the Messiah would come. Coupled with the miracles, his role would've been perhaps too clear for a proper environment of faith.
When Do You Win a War But Have Nothing To Show For It?
...when the reason you went to war was simply carted across the border into Syria. Which is probably where the WMDs are now.

I think I'm going to be sick.
The Narrow Path to Our Hearts
Nice meditation on the strategy of Jesus at Disputations with regards to the Jewish leaders.

He also touches on whether part of Jesus's agony was that more Jews didn't follow him. It has been said that if there is a strong enough reason for suffering, you can endure anything. To the extent it seems meaningless it is much less bearable. Someone told that they can save their child by suffering some trial will suffer it more easily than a trial that has lower stakes. In this way, the Passion works against the notion of Universalism - if it is true that some will not be saved, then Christ must've been thinking of them too. As the Good Shepherd, he would forsake the 99 for the lost one. Was the "I thirst" on the Cross also a thirst for souls?

Fulton Sheen once said he thought maybe the agony in the garden was a sort of "making holy" all mental suffering and mental illness, while Good Friday represented the making holy of all physical suffering & illness.

April 14, 2003

In Search of Balance
...I was also disturbed by some of my ultramontane friends (particularly converts) who put down any attempt to think through the nature of just war in the present day because the pope said no. They're in danger of what someone called "creeping infallibilism." The Catholic Church is a more subtle and complex organism than that.

Theologically creative ideas tend to come from below, to be tested by those high and low, who may or may not get the answer exactly right, and eventually to be approved or not by the high. The Catholic is committed to the belief that the final judgment is correct, but not to the belief that every judgment before that is.
—David Mills
(via Amy)
They Ain't Heavy, They're Our Bishops

Excellent, excellent point from the Contrarian, via Disputations:

I am no leftist and I usually disagree with most pronouncements and press releases on social justice issues that emanate from diocesan chanceries and bishops' conferences. Yet, I am not particularly perplexed or angered by those pronouncements with which I disagree so long as they flow directly from a belief that ... "if God took flesh, then this has social implications" and not out of allegiance to purely secular ideologies as a substitute for lapsed faith.

Bishops are not exempt from the powerful undertow of culture, the relentless pull of the Zeitgeist. That is precisely the dilemma we face, in trying to discern whether their statements flow from the lapsed faith of the elites (they are know to hobnob with the Georgetown set and acquire some of their politics that way), or whether their statements reflect a greater understanding and development of the social implications of the gospel. Tricky business indeed.

Here is an eye-opening read concerning the American bishops. But, as the mutual funds say, past performance does not predict future results. In other words, even if the bishops (as the book argues) have been unduly influenced by American culture in the past, that does not predict whether a given statement made now, or in the future, is of lasting worth. In that sense you have to look at every statement as if there were no past, which isn't easy given the validity of the old saying: "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me". I actually have much sympathy for the bishops, seeing in their weakness (i.e. a lack of faith & courage) a reflection of myself.
Syria Next?
I'm not sure why we are rattlin' the saber against Syria unless we really intend to use it. Making a public demand of an Arab country like Syria seems counterproductive, doesn't it? Reverse psychology would surely work better - say to Syria, "do the wrong thing! Hide Saddam and his weapons!" That may actually get them to come clean. Israeli intelligence reports that the weapons of mass destruction were carted to Syria before the war, much as his planes were moved to Iran to avoid their destruction.

All of this, of course, presumes we are not serious about going into Syria. If we are, then it is understandable to make our greviance public first....

April 13, 2003

Beware the 'Rebound Effect'
If each action has an equal and opposite reaction, beware the tendency that I sometimes experience. After periods like Lent, when I more closely guard my thoughts, rebuffing feelings of anger, there seems to be a period of "negativity rebound" where the spiritual blessings acquired are squandered. One tends to become acclimatized to a certain amount of prayer; when it decreases there is a 'withdrawal' period as there would in whenever you experience a loss of time with your loved one.
CCC 2847
The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man, and temptation, which leads to sin and death. We must also discern between being tempted and consenting to temptation. Finally, discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a "delight to the eyes" and desirable, when in reality its fruit is death.

God does not want to impose the good, but wants free beings. . . . There is a certain usefulness to temptation. No one but God knows what our soul has received from him, not even we ourselves. But temptation reveals it in order to teach us to know ourselves, and in this way we discover our evil inclinations and are obliged to give thanks for the goods that temptation has revealed to us."
-Origen quoted in CCC 2847

April 12, 2003

Particulae
Minute Particulars has a particularly (couldn't resist) interesting piece entitled "The Union of Wills...Not Opinion":

The modern conflation of consensus of opinion with concord, the union of wills in the love of a common object, has, ironically, spawned both breezy relativisms that cannot consistently object to any affront to human dignity and rigid objectivisms that often exclude different approaches to the same truth.

Great thought. St. Blog's has been a real eye-opener for me, as far as manifesting the variety of opinion out there. I thought, naively I suppose, that orthodox Catholics thought pretty much the same. Au contraire! We've seen the splits in St. Blog's over the war and the "Situation" to name just two, but also over a variety of more or less academic matters.

Part of this I think may be a case of natural contarianism; everyone wants to be thought an "independent thinker". The very fact that we are practicing Catholics in a post-Christian age suggests a native contrariness in us. But even without that characteristic there is always a drive towards division, if not over the major things than over the peripherals. We could see this happening writ large in the Protestant world. Thirty years ago the Baptists would not speak to the Methodists, and their differences would surely seem small to a Catholic. The fact that there are now non-denominational churches is an understanding that there are bigger challenges out there than the Protestant next door - like secularism and atheism.

I sometimes imagine an even greater unity with my spouse & stepson if they converted to Catholicism but I shouldn't look at it in that light but in terms of the benefits they would accrue in entering Christ's Church. Charity is something one can never, it seems, relax in practicing. Not even among fellow Catlickers!
Old Journal Entries Never Die... circa '99
Ahhh….on the road at last. I am passing thru the metropolis of Shade, Ohio, which thoughtfully erected a sign announcing themselves but I look in vain for a town, or a sign saying "Leaving Shade" until I realize that maybe the other side of the sign said "Leaving Shade".

Country folk have the capacity to surprise. One apparently sane person planted a road sign in his front flower bed, just between the tulips and pansies. It is a big Route 33 sign. Whatever works... At the local McDonald's there is an old guy dressed…for what I'm not sure, but he sure is dressed for a Monday morning. He is wearing a western suit, light beige in color, with matching white-piped pants and an expensive looking white cowboy hat. Does boredom lead people to these things? I go by houses with the Ohio River literally in their backyard, and on the other side of the bank a big nuclear power plant. These folks must be compartmentalizers on the scale of Clinton. I guess they can say, "I just look at the river, don't pay no mind to those Chernobyl towers".

I like the signs of small towns - saw one outside a restaurant that said, "Welcome. God food." Probably good too. Along the same lines in Racine, Ohio one said, "Free!!! Heart transplants from Jesus." Another announced, "We now have soft-serve ice cream." What's next, whipped cream? Save that for the new millenium.

April 11, 2003

Movie
Yesterday I watched the movie “Monster’s Ball” starring Halley Berry & Billy Bob Thorton. I try to stick to Westerns or “Black & Whites” - i.e. 40s/50s movies, so this was rather a shock. There was gratuitous & sudden violence (like an electrocution) and gratuitous & sudden displays of flesh. But around those craters there was a heckuva a good story. The loneliness of going to an old folk’s home was dramatized perfectly; I can think of few things more terrifying than that vision of autonomy stripped, of banality imposed. Thorton was dead-on: I’ve met a few blue collar, straight shooters like him in my life and he portrayed it pitch-perfect. The plot was about love overcoming prejudice, and I could cynically say that it was lust overcoming prejudice. Halley Berry overcoming male prejudice is sort of like a 7-footer succeeding on a high school basketball team.
Today at Vespers my heart almost broke. It was 7:15pm, the sun streamed in the unbearably beautiful church and it touched memories barely extant. There were eight or nine souls already tending the beautiful liturgy and I felt a longing for all the saints that surrounded me to pray for me – St. Dominic, St. Ephraim, St. John, St. Judas Thaddeus, St. James…
Thanks go out to Hernan Gonzalez who provided me with a modified comment feature, a vehicle to effortlessly send email. I've resisted having the usual Haloscan comments because a) they screw up 9 out of 10 times b) promise to more completely addict me to blogging (I'd be checking for comments every ten minutes) and c) have a chilling effect on the more self-indulgent posts such as those titled "Old Journal Entries Never Die...", "Fictional Forays" and, of course, the poems. Self-consciousness, after all, is the ruination of blogging.
Friday five
via Fructus Ventris & Dylan

1. What was the first band you saw in concert?
The band "Yes" at Miami's Millet Hall, 1983.

2. Who is your favorite artist/band now?
Gaelic Storm

3. What's your favorite song?
Adeste Fideles

4. If you could play any instrument, what would it be?
Fiddle.

5. If you could meet any musical icon (past or present), who would it be and why?
Musicians, like painters, are most interesting for their art. I guess David the harpist. But he was famous for other things too.
Restraint, RIP
I've been lately pondering the increasing political polarization of the news biz. We see left slant (like NPR) or right slant (Fox News). The three networks undeniably lean left and have for years. I wonder if it has always been so, or if it is more a product of the 60s when restraint, in all its forms, went out the window?

Because it does take restraint to write for a television news show and not slant it. Blogdom is a "celebration" of lack of restraint, a venting of things you can't say in polite company. And you also notice the lack of restraint extends to never letting the other guy get the last word. (Bill O'Reilly cracks me up on this score - he's always saying, "I'll let you have the last word" but half the time he will sneak in a couple words thereafter).

I embrace the emergence of Fox News and conservative talk radio because I am a conservative and because it provides another point of view. But the shame of it is that so few even try to be objective. The notion of an "honor code" that used to define more chivalric wars (i.e. don't kill civilians) also used to define the journalist profession - they were bound to describe, with equal enthusiasm, both sides of an issue. But now that code appears more and more moribund.
I'm adrenally tired due to the war, the 24-7 news cycle, the constant notion that I may be "missing something". Call it data smog or information overload, but I'm ready for some bible reading. And to listen to the birds sing in the morning.

Two quotes; I don't recall who said them:

There's more to life than increasing its speed.

The problem with instant gratification is that it's never quick enough.

April 10, 2003

This just in...
Congrats to two bloggers getting married, announced here. May all their posts be happy ones!
Helloooo!
Disordered Affections is inducing house envy.

Not that I'm not proud of my castle.
Anybody know what happened to Raed?

April 09, 2003

Interesting/scary quote from The Challenge of Peace by the U.S. Conference of Bishops

"Pope Paul VI called the United Nations the last hope for peace.The loss of this hope cannot be allowed to happen."
Neo-cons versus Realists
The debate in the US over the nature of a post-Saddam Iraq pits democratisers (most often those of "neoconservative" views) against pragmatists (usually "realist" by school). Many realists, like Henry Kissinger, support the removal of Saddam's regime but oppose a protracted high-profile US-led occupation of an Arab capital and an attempt to impose democracy on peoples who do not know or want it.

The biographies of contemporary Islamist terrorists show the majority to be well-educated, semi-westernised young men on the periphery of traditional societies. Force rapid change on such societies with revolutionary ideas like liberal democracy and globe-spanning market economics, and the result will be an accelerated dislocation that will produce more terrorists, not fewer.
--More here

The coming experiment is going to be fascinating. Scholar Bernard Lewis is optimistic. I think Belloc might've been less so. Paraphrasing Daniel Patrick Moynihan: the great conservative truth is that culture swamps politics. The great liberal truth is that politics changes culture.
Books & Presidential Candidates
Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey....readily offered that his favorite book was Walker Percy's The Moviegoer, a novel that depicted the aimless existence of a soldier-turned-stockbroker named Binx Bolling. His answer may have revealed too much. The New York Times' Maureen Dowd pounced, claiming Kerrey's confession would worry voters, given that Percy's work was an "anthem of alienation" about a war veteran "out of touch with the rest of America." As The New Yorker's Elizabeth Kolbert later put it, with 20/20 hindsight, "Here was a man proposing himself as the next leader of the free world while apparently identifying with a character who, to all outward appearances, seems to have completely lost his sense of direction." Ouch.

Kerrey holds no grudge against the press for engaging in such psychoanalysis. In fact, he says, there was some truth to it.


--Brent Kendall
Updike Quote
There should always be something gratuitous about art, just as there seems to be, according to the new-wave cosmologists, something gratuitous about the universe. Art, out of its own freedom, should excite and flatter our sense of our own. Professionalism in art has this difficulty: To be professional is to be dependable, to be dependable is to be predictable, and predictability is esthetically boring - an anti-virtue in a field where we hope to be astonished and startled and at some deep level refreshed.
--John Updike
Matthew 18:33

self-pity
the easiest of emotions,
"it’s their fault"
fits like a glove
Into your wound you fly.

pity for others
the most difficult of emotions,
"it’s their fault"
may fit like a glove
but into their wound you fly.
Quote Wednesday
Does your mind desire the strength to gain the mastery over your passions? Let it submit to a greater power, and it will conquer all beneath it. And peace will be in you—true, sure, most ordered peace. What is that order? God as ruler of the mind; the mind as ruler of the body. Nothing could be more orderly.
--St. Augustine

We would remind [such] people that it is the law of nature that all things must be of gradual growth...
--Pope John 23rd

The law of correspondence with Dr. Coulton is the survival of the rudest.
(aka blogdom?)
--H. Belloc, from Pearce's "Old Thunder"

God Bless Our Troops
--sign outside a Columbus strip club

If you want a committed man, visit the mental hospital
--sign seen outside cheap motel on drive to work

April 08, 2003

Targeting Journalists?
It was early. I was still squinting from the light and from disconnection from the dream state. But I believe I heard a BBC reporter, indignant over the bombing of the Palestine Hotel which left at least one reporter dead, asking:
Is the U.S. military targeting journalists?

If accurate, this sort of cynicism is this side of surreal. I get the same feeling when I hear people say dismissively, "any chemical weapons found will have simply been planted by the U.S.".

The spokesman calmly denied the allegation. It would've been funny to hear him flippantly say:

Thank you for your question. President Bush yesterday signed an executive order eliminating journalists, especially those hostile to the Bush Administration. Given our "smart bombing" technology, we hope to be able to strike London's BBC with a minimum of civilian casualties.
All You Need Is Love
In college I was disappointed when I got higher than a 95% on an exam. It meant I had over-studied. Time was a precious commodity, not to be wasted. My goal was to do enough to get the "A", not to surpass that out of any love for the subject matter.

How different this is from the spiritual life! Admittedly, there is and always has been a "test" aspect to it. Our first parents were tested in their obedience to God concerning the forbidden fruit. But that aspect was changed in some fundamental way with the New Covenant. It became a cooperation with God, Emmanuel or 'God with us'. Ideally, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit means doing the right thing is a byproduct of love for Him, rather than surviving the test... I have no ambition for a higher place in heaven, but I should have a desire to love Him more nearly.
Shellynna comments on the Pope on Disordered Affections:

He's got a more universal view. We don't understand what he sees, or how he sees it, but for the most part we can trust it. If it were a different, obviously less holy, less God-centered man than John Paul II, I'd probably be criticizing him, too. As it is, I'm willing to trust.

Makes sense to me.
How does the Christian's life of prayer depend on the Holy Spirit?
1. St. Paul teaches that Christians need and receive the special help of the Holy Spirit to pray as they ought: "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God" (Rom 8.26-27).

2. This passage is frequently taken to mean simply that the Spirit causes us to ask as we should and stirs right desires in us. There seems no reason, however, for excluding a more straightforward meaning of the Spirit "himself intercedes for us."

3. We have good grounds for thinking of ourselves as having distinct personal relationships with each of the three divine persons (24-C). The Holy Spirit is the gift given by the Father to those who ask (see Lk 11.13). The General Instruction to the Liturgy of the Hours teaches: "The unity of the Church at prayer is brought about by the Holy Spirit, who is the same in Christ (See Lk 10.21), in the whole Church, and in every baptized person."

According to the promise of Jesus, the Spirit comes and remains (see Jn14.16-18). He is not only with us as a principle, but present in person. The children of God are not left in loneliness like orphans. The Spirit instructs (see Jn 14.26). He defends and guides (see Jn 16.7-14; Gal 5.25). Because of the presence of the Spirit, we have a concrete realization that we are children of God (see Rom 8.16). We cry out to God: "Father!" (see Rom 8.15). The Spirit makes up for our infantile condition by helping us in our weakness (see Rom 8.26-27). He takes a personal interest in our growth in the Christian life (see Eph 4.30).

4. The work of the Spirit in the Christian's life of prayer might be explained as follows. Prayer is the basic act of Christian life. It is normally a work of living faith--in other words, a work of charity. In praying, God's children act toward him according to the divine nature which he has begotten in them through the gift of the Spirit, as St. Paul also teaches: "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom 8.14-16). However, as undeveloped, embryonic children of God (see 1 Jn 3.2), we are not yet capable of acting fully by ourselves according to the nature we have from the Father; we do not yet "see him as he is," that is, experience the fullness of divine life.

5. The Spirit, who "is the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son," therefore somehow mediates our relationship with them, supplying what we simply cannot supply ourselves, as a pregnant mother mediates her unborn child's relationships with its human father, with other people, and with the world at large, doing for it what it cannot yet do for itself.

6. Prayer is the fundamental category of Christian life, and the Christian's life of prayer depends on the Holy Spirit in the way explained. Therefore, the Christian's entire life is supplemented by the work of the Spirit.

7. Hence, the fact that the whole of Christian life is lived in the Spirit in no way means that the Holy Spirit fulfills any of the Christian's human responsibilities. Rather, just as Jesus' communion as Word with the Spirit is no substitute for his faithful fulfillment as man of his personal vocation, so Christians' life in the Spirit leaves them with undiminished moral responsibility.

Christian Moral Principles --Germain Grisez

April 07, 2003

Best Excuse I've Found Lately to Drink Before Noon
We plopped down in the living room, and I asked him why he hadn't brought his gas mask, chem suit, and Kevlar. "I wore Kevlar in the Balkans once," he said, "but it made me feel like a counterfeit, so I ditched it." Despite this cavalier disregard for safety, I was so grateful for the company that I offered him a Welcome-To-Kuwait shot of "Listerine" (as it is known by Kuwaiti customs officials). "I don't usually start this early," said Hitchens with feigned reluctance, "but holding yourself to a drinking schedule is always the first sign of alcoholism."
-Christopher Hitchens quoted here via Amy Welborn

On the other hand, if you follow a schedule slavishly in every other area of your life, why should drinking be exempt?
Prayers
I'd appreciate your prayers for my friend Bone who is suffering through numerous trials (recently laid off, wife has thyroid tumor - the doctor thinks it's benign but now's a good time for Heisenprayer). I've written about him here in the past, here and here. He is a colorful guy, a devout Christian, has four small children.
Poetry to Order via the UK Guardian
At Books Unlimited we're so smart we can tell what mood you're in and what would make you feel better. Simply do our test and we'll find you some poetry to soothe your mood.

April 06, 2003

I love caption contests! Via Disordered Affections
Playing Devil's Advocate...an apologia for pacifism

Another way to look at the war is in a "Pascal's Wager" sort of way. Worst case, if we would've followed the Vatican's approach, we would not have fought the first Gulf War. Saddam would rake in the oil revenues of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and be able to buy nuclear weapons. He would own the Middle East. Millions are killed. (Again, this is the worst case scenerio).

We know the soul is infinitely more valuable than the body. And so Judgment Day comes and the accounting. Any fault imputed to you for your failure to act (i.e. to advocate war) would be mitigated by the following of the Holy Father's counsel. Whereas if you had taken the opposite approach and acted, you would be under even greater judgment for having spurned his counsel. For the Christian, there seems to be no cost, in strictly spiritual terms, of failing to go to war while there is a great cost if you are wrong. Were the early Christian martyrs wrong for leaving their children orphaned? I think not.

If one really and truly believes this life is merely a short stay at a bad motel and that heaven awaits, then one sees the soul as of infinite worth, the body little. All Christians were pacifists for the first couple hundred years. It might've been when they realized that the Second Coming was not going to be tomorrow exactly, that Christians became more "practical" in accomodating ourselves to the "real" world. Or perhaps it was a realization that every era is different, and that there is a time for war and a time for pacifism.
Byzantine Catholic prayers.

April 05, 2003

Lots of Interesting Reads
Review of new book on the King James translation.

Adam Nicolson has a great deal of fun with the absurdities of subsequent translations, all of which is quite deserved; the 18th-century translator who replaced Peter’s ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here’ with ‘Oh, sir! What a delectable residence we might establish here!’, or the insanity of the New English Bible, improving the simple and beautiful ‘Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and yee shall finde’ into ‘Shoot the net to starboard, and you will make a catch.’ These bathetic and inadequate updatings are very funny, but it is important to understand why they are so hopeless. The King James Bible came to demonstrate and embody the principles of expressive English, and any deviation from it can never hope to rival its beauty and perfection.
***
NY Times review of book on early Christian thinkers, aka the Fathers.
***
WSJ opines on the Pope.
****
Eye-opening piece from Bernard Lewis.
[It was] often expressed by Osama bin Laden, among others, that America was a paper tiger. Muslim terrorists had been driven by such beliefs before. One of the most surprising revelations in the memoirs of those who held the American Embassy in Teheran from 1979 to 1981 was that their original intention had been to hold the building and the hostages for only a few days. They changed their minds when statements from Washington made it clear that there was no danger of serious action against them. They finally released the hostages, they explained, only because they feared that the new President, Ronald Reagan, might approach the problem "like a cowboy."
Muggeridge Conference
This looks very interesting. The difficulty will be enthusing my wife about it. Perhaps a gathering of St. Bloggers?
      

      Opening Day, Cincinnati Style

      Pageantry tossed from the skies passed
      Down from Abner to present she holds
      the ancient lineage long the strands
      of confetti that reign down on this
      her feast and followers of the world's eldest
      know that Tradition is darned in our socks
      Inbred in our ground balls.

April 04, 2003

Reading Huizinga's Waning of the MIddle Ages and it's somewhat disabusing me of my benign view of that period. Especially given art like this.
Sitemeter sez....

It seems gauche to monitor sitemeter, narcissistic even, but* it's hard to overlook the increase in traffic created from a recent link from Ad Orientem, not seen since a year ago link from the queen, Amy Welborn. (I can see the epitaph on my blogstone: Was once linked by Amy Welborn).

Seems Mark's a heavyweight contenda', based on the number of referrals. Dorothy Day can't be too happy about that. :) Sorry, couldn't resist. I must say there is something charismatic about certainty of opinion, be it wrong or right. Day's politics and economic sense are opaque to me, but I'm too awed by her holiness to object. It's sort of like an eccentric family member, you love them despite their eccentricities. (Disclaimer: I'm sure Mark loves Dorothy Day too but just objects to her politics & economics).

Part of the reason I so like Hilaire Belloc is that he was a prophet about so many things. He abhored communism and untrammelled capitalism, which seems to me gets it just about right (and he saw capitalism at its worse, when monopolies and oligarchies ruled).

* -see title of this blog
"Recovering a sense of the dignity of the human person is a prerequisite for Christianity. Recovering a sense of the natural is a prerequisite of the supernatural....Aristotle said that it was lunar and solar eclipses that most spurred wonder and led on to that quest for God called philosophy."

-excerpts from essay from Ralph McInerny in Crisis
APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

--TS Eliot excerpt from The Waste Land
Accepted Suffering
"One has to accept sorrow for it to be of any healing power, and that is the most difficult thing in the world...A priest once said to me, 'When you understand what accepted sorrow means, you will understand everything. It is the secret of life.'"
-- Maurice Baring, via Pearce's Old Thunder
No Blarney?
The following was obtained from an article in a scrapbook at the local historical society. It concerns my great-great grandfather who died in 1914 and who, after first emigrating, had no nearby church:

Rev. James P. Ward, who preached the funeral sermon, said: "Mr. Cogan was known to walk from Glynnwood to Piqua to be present at the divine Sacrifice of the Mass." It was his earnest zeal that prompted him to have a church close at hand, and he with others of the same sturdy faith united their efforts and established a pastorate at Glynnwood..

I checked a map and even as the crow flies the distance between Glynnwood and Piqua is thirty miles!

I went to the Ohio Historical Society a year or so ago and they have a village, like Greenfield Village in Michigan, that is a recreation of life a century ago. The church (of course) is a politically correct one. No cross adorns the chapel lest a non-believer in Christ be offended. (It's a bit difficult to suspend disbelief and think you are back in the 1850s when the chapel has a beautiful stained glass window - of the symbol for Ohio!). The "pastor", or the one who played one in this gig, related how services were often three hours long but that we should not suppose they to be more pious than us - no, this was simply their only social outlet and they milked it for all it was worth. I've noticed this increasingly tendency to believe that there are no real differences between eras or even people within an era - (i.e. George Bush is the same, more or less, as Saddam Hussein.) It is part of our culture of anti-haiography to tear saints down; even Mother Teresa had a dectractor in Christopher Hitchens.

But I ask...if you look around at the great variations in nature, the fact that there are imbeciles and geniuses, there are Tiger Woods' and T O'Rama's...shouldn't that suggest that there are degrees in holiness? Why should saintliness be exempt from the normal pattern of great variation within a species, and why should not cultures, as collections of peoples, not be similar?

April 03, 2003


A friend wants to move to Yuma, AZ, where it is said that over 300 days a year are sunny and where we would "not have to feel so uptight" about a day like today, with its accompanying vague sense of unease for not having extracted from it all its profligate goodness. A freakishly warm, sunny day in Central Ohio in early April induces a giddiness such that folks from down south might say, "act like you've experienced a sunny day before!".

Nancy Nall writes: It's spring, honest and truly. NN.C Central is now updating with an open window inches from my right elbow, a glass of Cote du Rhone a few inches closer, and a nice mushroom risotto digesting somewhere else on the triangulation plane. Plus, I rode my bike for nearly an hour after work. I'm SuperBlogger again, my euphoria tempered somewhat by the certain knowledge that my Australian equivalent is slipping into seasonal depression as we speak. To her I say, chin up, sheila! Life is one big wheel.
Someone translated my blog into German here. Ye olde blog looks a heckuva lot smarter auf Deutsch. Maybe I'll throw in an occasional mißdeutet or enthält just for the spice.

German was the language of my youth, at least for three years in high school. Third-year German consisted mostly of kreidekriegs, or chalk-wars, because our teacher (sadly) could not maintain discipline and John, Eric and I were the Husseins of the classroom. I'll never forget John heaving a water balloon and watching it splatter against the chalk board, an affront both audacious and mendacious. The dear Fraulein soon fled the teaching profession. But perhaps I digress...
Quote Thursday
Faith begins at a naive level, with a lot of self-interest mixed in. With time, our act of trust is purified as the barriers between us and God are dismantled. No matter how mixed our motives for approaching Jesus, once we place ourselves in his hands, we can be sure that whatever imperfections are there will be gradually leached out.

When St. John presents his series of 'signs', he is at pains to portray the hopelessness of the situation. The man by the pool at Bethesda had been infirm for 38 years - any prospect of a cure was out of the question. This should encourage us greatly. Even when we consider that our situation is so tangled that no resolution is possible, there is ground for hope. God alone knows how to 'write straight on crooked lines' to bring forth from chaos a world of order and beauty.

--Fr. Michael Casey, O.C.S.O. Return to the Heart

But he knows hardly anything yet wants to think that he knows all that there is to know. This seems to be a common defect in those who have been bred up on physical science. And I think the reason is that physical science tells one a lot of facts, but nothing else.. He can explain quite clearly something which he has been dogmatically taught - such as a third rate materialism of modern English physical science, but he can't explain the problem let alone the solution of the religious appetite in mankind.
--H. Belloc

April 02, 2003

Scamming the Nigerian scammers...so I don't have to.
          Sun o' matic*

      Two o'clock escapee
      released from the fluorescence
      Exultantly she holds the sky
      Singing hymns of jubilo!
      Palms abut the jutting cirrus'
      marvels, turns she to companions:
      "Resiliancy, thy name is Spring!"

* - written after witnessing a young woman spontaneously break into joy at the sight of the sun upon leaving her place of work.
David Mills on Islam
Pelagianism is said to be the English heresy (Pelagius was British) and the English dislike theology, or at least metaphysics, and so Islam in its modern form might well appeal to them. It's all very practical and directive, makes your salvation a matter of works it spells out for you, works you can do and know you have done them (none of this Christian concern about whether you've hated your brother in your heart, as long as you've done your duty to him), and doesn't worry about your heart at all, and not much about your mind. It's very English, in some ways.

And I think that in Western European societies, in which Christianity seems so played out and what is "Christian" not much different from what is "secular" (in having high divorce rates, for example), Islam can offer the same blessings or benefits (a vision of stable marriage, for example) as Christianity but seem like a fresh thing and a new deal. And as an identifiable and only partly enculturated community, it will seem to be more successful than Christianity at those things (in having low divorce rates, for example). I have heard people speak in a hazy, wistful way of the wonderful life of Muslim families, when they themselves wouldn't tolerate the life for a second.

Above all, the Islamic life seems to offer order and the resulting benefits of tranquility, stability, and secure status in societies in which most people live disordered lives, who are therefore untranquil, unstable, and insecure. I am told this is the great appeal of the Black Muslims in prisons and slums. Prince Charles may love the ghastly Parker-Bowles, but given the life he has lived so far he must wish at some level for order. His writings on architecture and liturgy suggest this. At least he must wish (I hope he does, for his soul's sake) for a life without adultery.

My friend also noted that... "In Amsterdam last year, the No. 1 male name for babies was Mohammed."

This is what happens when societies stop having children, which is to say, when they give up on life.
—David Mills


George Will has said that "what the government subsidizes, you'll have more of". A corollary might be: What a society values you'll have more of. I've been told that back in the 1940s priests were extremely well-respected. Perhaps too much - they drove the best cars, ate the best food. They were portrayed favorably in Hollywood (ala "Going My Way"). And this "value" placed on priests meant there would be more of them. And there were. But now many not even don't respect priests but look at them as if there were something wrong with them. Result: less priests.

Similarly with children. I heard a talk show host recently say the cut-off is three children. When he had his fourth he became almost a pariah - people looked at him like he was wierd and gave him disapproving looks. How sad! Those folks should be our heroes, those who buck societal trends and have the strong faith that accompanies it. May we value children so that we have more of them. As I tell my Protestant friend (who has four children) - "you're more Catholic than I!"
Missing the Mark
I began reading Tom of Disputation's post and was ready to object but he anticipated me. He wrote that "everything has a catch".

Tom refers to the convicting passage in 1 John 3: "No one who remains in him sins; no one who sins has seen him or known him." St. Paul, with a stunning matter-of-factness, writes in Romans 6 that we are dead to sin, definitionally: For sin is not to have any power over you, since you are not under the law but under grace.

I recall listening to a Baptist minister on the radio who asked a large crowd to raise their hands if they've gone the last month without sinning. No one raised their hand. Then he asked, "the last week?". Maybe two people raised their hand. "The last day?". Again, hardly anyone. He preached against this notion of sin, this notion that it is impossible to even go through a single day without sinning. This notion that Christ didn't sin because He was God, and we really can't follow his model. The minister said that he sometimes goes a month or so w/out sinning, a clarity that I found worthy of envy. Especially when sinning in one's thoughts is often a very difficult judgment call.

Sin can be hard to grasp for me, especially the aforementioned but also the "sins of omission" category. How much charity is enough? In strictly monetary terms, the OT had an answer: 10%. Given the limitlessness of the NT, that answer must now be made according to one's conscience. And, if you are a rich American (which is pretty much redundant), then one's conscience may be afflicted. But if God afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted, then how is anyone comfortable? Ultimately I recognize the impossibility of my salvation, while nurturing hope since with God all things are possible.
Belloc on the Islamic Threat
...excerpts written in 1938
Islam has survived, and vigorously survived. Missionary effort has had no appreciable effect upon it. It still converts pagain savages wholesale. It even attracts from time to time some European eccentric, who joins its body. But the Mohammedan never becomes Christian. No fragment of Islam ever abandons its sacred book, its code of morals, its organized system of prayer...

In view of this, anyone with a knowledge of history is bound to ask himself whether we shall not see in the future a revival of Mohammedan political power, and the renewal of the old pressure of Islam upon Christendom....

These things being so ([the military impotence of Islam]), the recrudescence of Islam, the possibility of that terror under which we lived for centuries reappearing, and of our civilization again fighting for its life against what was its chief enemy for a thousand years, seems fantastic. Who in the Mohammedan world today can manufacture and maintain the complicated instruments of modern war?

Cultures spring from religions; ultimately the vital force which maintains any culture is its philosophy, its attitude towards the universe; the decay of a religion involves the decay of the culture corresponding to it - we see that most clearly in the breakdown of Christendom today.

That culture [Islamic] happens to have fallen back in material applications; there is no reason whatever why it should not learn its new lesson and become our equal in temporal things which now alone give us our superiority over it - whereas in Faith we have fallen inferior to it.


-- Hilaire Belloc, 1938, The Great Heresies

April 01, 2003

It's Islam, Stupid
The old saw goes, "the rich are different from us - they have more money". Well unlike the rich, Muslims really are different from us.

This article, via Disordered Affections, underscores the root issue that I've been starting to gain a clue on - what if they don't want freedom, democracy, etc?

Muslim countries mostly fall into two groups: those whose populations hate the U.S. & freedom (freedom meaning the opposite of a theocracy) and those whose leaders hate the U.S. & freedom. This "damned if you do, damned if you don't scenerio" means we'll undoubtedly be left with either a puppet regime that the people will loathe and eventually overthrow (ala Iran) or an evil regime which is what we're trying to get rid of. We could hope for a less evil regime; Iran's leaders look like saints compared to Saddam & his thugs. On the bright side, anyone is better than Saddam and less likely to acquire & use WMDs. But messy business all around.

Ex-Pres filling in for current Pres

Back from a day at the ol' ball orchard. The 10-1 loss was not pleasant, although I go to baseball games for aesthetics, like a ballet dance. No one goes to the ballet for the plot do they?

Actually, I go for the same reasons Mike McConnell (WLW radio talk show host) goes:
1) Sun
2) Beer
3) the Game

I usually keep score, mostly because I like being able to report what Larkin did earlier in the game and as an excuse to draw diamonds. Paul Dickson writes, "The world is divided into two kinds of baseball fans: those who keep score at the ballgame... and those who have never made the leap." Something tells me Paul has too much time on his hands.

Yesterday's game was a nice relief from war news anyway.

Stadium Beefs
Okay the park is a baseball park, real grass, etc. But what bothers me are two things:
1) Size of seats. I'm 5'11'', 210 (but reportedly look 170) and my father is bigger. We are collectively way too big for these seats.
2) Advertising uber alles. It spoils the rural ambiance of the game to see every unmarked space urging me to "run like a Deere" or "buy Pepsi". There was an olde-fashioned clock that was a copy of the one at old Crosley Field (1914-1970, RIP), only this one had the name "Subway" on it. Give me a break.